AIRE's BAKraft. Photo by Amanda Nichols.

The BAKraft’s lines give away its IK heritage. Photo by Amanda Nichols.

AIRE BAKRAFT

(aire.com, $1,299)

Long time raft and inflatable kayak manufacturer AIRE enters the packrafting game with after a two-and-a-half year design collaboration between AIRE founder Greg Ramp and BAKraft founder Cory Walker. The result is essentially a highly portable IK, from its shape right down to the self-bailing floor.

A proprietary fabric helps bring the total weight in down to an impressive six pounds, five ounces, including a multi-functional backrest which also serves as a day-trip- sized drybag and pump. The inflatable floor keeps the boat from folding in waves, and drains a completely swamped cockpit in seconds. It also provides a welcome cushion when bouncing along a rocky river bottom (standard procedure for packrafting expeditions). The BAKraft features an ultralight version of AIRE’s signature two- layer bladder-in-shell design, so if too much low-water abuse punctures the outer shell, the inner urethane bladder can be patched.

On the water, the boat proved capable and forgiving. We sent one first-time paddler through several Class III rapids; he came out grinning, and upright. The main drawback for the BAKraft–as with many packrafts–is a lack of gear storage space. The backrest bag helps, but an overnight paddler would likely need to tie a bag across the bow or place it on the floor. Nonetheless, the BAKraft fits the packrafting bill: it’s light, tough and surprisingly capable.

–This review first ran in the June 2015 issue of Canoe & Kayak.

–See more on our PACKRAFTING HOMEPAGE.