AIRE BakRaft Review
I’ve been using the AIRE BakRaft Expedition for a couple years now and want to share my thoughts about their strengths and weaknesses. First and foremost, these revolutionary ultralight kayaks are easier for hiking into rivers, portages, and international travel.
- Weight*: At just 10 lbs this is by far the lightest inflatable kayak on the market
- Size: When deflated and rolled this boat packs into a nice small package
- International Travel: This boat can be packed in a bag with your PFD, helmet, dry suit, paddle, river shoes, and safety gear and still weight less than 50 lbs
- Hiking In: This is the only inflatable kayak that can be hiked into a multi-day whitewater run with a reasonably weighted pack
- Slipperiness: The material slides over rocks better than any other inflatable fabric
* Its incredibly low weight is its superpower
If you are hiking into rivers or traveling internationally this boat should be at the top of your list. Some of you will throw packrafts out there as similar but they are different beasts. I understand that packrafts can run whitewater and I’ve seen plenty of videos of paddlers on challenging whitewater, but for whitewater the AIRE BakRaft is far superior - especially when carrying overnight gear.
This boat also does really well on super steep, low water lesser known rivers with a lot of wood and/or portages like the Middle Fork of the Hood River. Inflatable kayaks are great for jumping out of just before logjams and this light weight boat is great when there are a lot portages.
- Durability: If you’re running shallow, rocky rivers you will occasionally tear this boat
- Design: The shape of this boat is somewhat uninspired and dated
- Big Water: This boat gets thrown around and flips easier than other inflatable kayaks on big volume rivers
- Outfitting: The seat, tie down straps, and knee braces are adequate but could be better
Although it can tear when hitting rocks it's surprisingly durable considering its ridiculously low weight. Since it’s fairly easy to field repair and AIRE really backs up its products I’m personally fine with the durability.
I am somewhat disappointed with the design. For smaller volume rivers with big drops it would be better to have more volume in the bow and stern. When doing multi-day trips the equipment is usually stored in the bow and stern and more volume is needed to help the boat perform well with that equipment.
The only reason I would want diminishing tubes for the bow and stern would be to run big volume rivers without multi-day gear. Most whitewater rivers that require a hike-in are low water, multi-day trips so I would rather see this boat designed without diminishing tubes. With more volume in the bow and stern this would be the ideal boat for rivers like the Chetco, Escalante, Minam, Big Creek, and other multi-day trips require a hike.
I applaud AIRE for innovating with new materials and new manufacturing processes. The BakRaft is a unique boat in its own class that opens up more rivers to more people. As this new class of kayaks evolves I would be I would like to see more durability, better boat design, and improved outfitting. I would happily take a boat that is 5-10 pounds heavier with these improvements.