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Advanced Elements PackLite Review

Getting on the water miles from any roads has never been easier than with this extremely portable kayak
Advanced Elements PackLite
Photo: REI Co-op
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $330 List | Check Price at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Extremely portable, maneuverable, stable, easy set up
Cons:  Low durability, poor tracking, weight doesn’t include pump or paddle
Manufacturer:   Advanced Elements
By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Jul 16, 2021
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55
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 14
  • Handling - 25% 4
  • Comfort - 25% 4
  • Ease of Set Up - 20% 7
  • Portability - 20% 9
  • Durability - 10% 3

Our Verdict

This shockingly lightweight and extremely portable kayak is an obvious choice for backcountry, hard-to-reach waters. The Advanced Elements PackLite weighs just over 5 pounds in its bag and can quickly be stuffed into a backpack and taken on your next overnight adventure in the wilderness. While it isn't our first choice for smooth tracking and efficient paddling, you just can't beat the portability this model offers when trying to get out to those remote locations. We had some concerns about durability but were saved by the quality repair kit. This boat is easy to set up, simple to use, and surprisingly stable for its size, and we love being able to paddle where no other boats could even come close.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Top Pick Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award   
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$540 List
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$314.19 at Amazon$278.22 at Amazon$141.39 at Amazon
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Pros Extremely portable, maneuverable, stable, easy set upHandles well, high durability, fast, stable, fabric is water resistantComplete package, doesn't soak up water, spacious, can paddle solo alsoEverything included, affordable, durable, easy backpack carry, everything becomes part of the kayakVery inexpensive, everything included, low and stable
Cons Low durability, poor tracking, weight doesn’t include pump or paddleHeavy, floor difficult to inflate, hard to drainSmall paddle blades, unimpressive attachments, materials less durablePoor paddle, rides high, blunt bow, fabric retains water, difficult to drainNot durable, pump is inefficient, average portability
Bottom Line Getting on the water miles from any roads has never been easier than with this extremely portable kayakWith excellent handling, a long lifespan, and great comfort, this kayak will go the distanceEverything you need to get out on the water with a friend or by yourself for a great priceFor a decent kayak at a fraction of the cost of the competition, we love this backpack yak from SevylorWhat it lacks in finesse and durability it makes up for with a shockingly low price tag and decent handling
Rating Categories Advanced Elements P... AdvancedFrame Intex Excursion Pro K2 Sevylor Quikpak K5 Intex Challenger K2
Handling (25%)
4.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
5.0
Comfort (25%)
4.0
8.0
6.0
5.0
4.0
Ease Of Set Up (20%)
7.0
5.0
7.0
6.0
6.0
Portability (20%)
9.0
6.0
6.0
7.0
5.0
Durability (10%)
3.0
8.0
4.0
6.0
2.0
Specs Advanced Elements P... AdvancedFrame Intex Excursion Pro K2 Sevylor Quikpak K5 Intex Challenger K2
Measured Weight (boat and storage bag only) 5.25 lb 33.25 lb 34.6 lb 23.4 lb 27.5 lb
Capacity Single; 250 lbs Single; 300 lbs Tandem; 400 lbs Single; 250 lbs Tandem; 400 lbs
Kayak Size (length x width) 7' 6" x 2' 11" 10' 3" x 2' 9" 12' 6" x 2' 8" 10' x 2'8" 11' 5" x 2' 11"
Packed Size (length x width x height) 14" x 12" x 7" 33" x 16" x 15" 26" x 19" x 19" 22" x 17" x 9" 28" x 18" x 12"
Included Accessories Repair kit Repair kit Paddles, pump, repair kit, GoPro/phone mount, fishing rod holders, and pressure gauge Pump and paddle Repair patches, pump and paddles
Material/Construction Polyurethane-coated ripstop polyester Aluminum ribs in bow & stern, PVC-coated polyester 3-ply PVC vinyl laminate with polyester core Heavy duty polyetster bottom, 24-gauge laminated PVC 30-gauge PVC vinyl, I-beam floor
Features Rubber-molded handle, mesh carry bag doubles as onboard storage, accessory D-rings Adjustable backrest, bungees, pressure relief valve in floor, skeg Adjustable backrest, drainage hole, foot braces, carry handles, fishing rod holders, phone/GoPro mount, skeg, tracking fin, converts to solo boat Backpack carrying system turns into seat , storage area, bow and stern bungees, accessory D-rings, spray skirt, skeg Bow & stern grablines, cargo net, skeg

Our Analysis and Test Results

The PackLite is a 5.25 pound, single-person inflatable with a 250-pound capacity. It's made of polyurethane-coated ripstop polyester and, importantly, comes with a repair kit.

Performance Comparison


With all the places you can take this ultralight kayak, you may be...
With all the places you can take this ultralight kayak, you may be the only one on the water!
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Handling


The PackLite is not the easiest boat to paddle, mostly due to a lack of features to keep it so portable. It is fairly wide, making it more stable than we had expected, but it is quite short and has no skeg. This keeps the boat highly maneuverable and able to turn on a dime. While this can be frustrating for a novice kayaker, the experienced paddler can get the hang of this vessel that handles like a playboat.


Now for the not-so-great news; the cockpit is open, and the whole thing rides so low in the water that it's not ideal for anything rougher than flat, calm waters. The seatback doesn't attach to anything and isn't very helpful, acting instead as a kind of marking point of where to sit rather than an actual supportive structure. Being so wide also makes foot and leg placement a bit of a guessing game as you try to figure out where is the most comfortable and efficient placement for paddling what feels not too far off from a pool floatie. The PackLite also claims a capacity of 250 pounds, but when a 220-pound man used it, he had to stop it from folding in half by bracing against the bow with his legs, and even then he rode very low and took on water with even the slightest of waves. Unless you're planning to take this kayak backpacking, on an international trip, or to other remote locations far from your vehicle, we much prefer the handling of just about any other kayak.

Loaded down with this 6'1", 220lb tester, paddling was a bit chaotic...
Loaded down with this 6'1", 220lb tester, paddling was a bit chaotic - "like being in a big pool floatie!"
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Comfort


While we don't hate paddling this tiny watercraft, it certainly isn't the most comfortable boat we tested. The seatback is alright but won't support a reclined paddling position. We appreciate the increased stability the wideness of this boat provides, particularly because shorter boats can often be quite tippy. Smaller testers found this vessel more comfortable to kayak in, though everyone who tried it went through a period of trial and error to find their most comfortable and effective position.


Having a lower capacity than most other single-person boats means less space for gear and limits the size of the person who could comfortably use this kayak. The PackLite struggled to fit someone 30 pounds below the advertised weight limit during our testing. Additionally, being one of the widest of all the single kayaks in this review at 2'11", our paddlers found they had to adjust their strokes to accommodate this additional girth.

Another less-than-optimal feature affecting comfort is how you inflate the floor. Unless you have the right adapter, which is NOT the same as the one used for the larger valves on the body of the boat, the floor is inflated using your mouth. This makes it difficult to reach the appropriate pressure. For us, this most typically resulted in a feeling similar to sitting on a floating pool mat, as we could feel every small wave we passed over. Overall, this isn't a kayak we'd feel comfortable or confident taking on long journeys or over rough waters, but we also don't think that's the major selling point of the PackLite.

Just enough space for a 5'1" woman and her 50lb dog, but not much...
Just enough space for a 5'1" woman and her 50lb dog, but not much else!
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Ease of Set Up


With just three reasonably small chambers and a little seatback to inflate, setting up the PackLite is a relative breeze. No pump is included with this kayak (although Advanced Elements sells them), and an after-market pump is also not included with the weight or packed size of the boat. The waterproof material is also quite easy to clean when you're ready to pack up. And though it has no scupper hole to drain water while you paddle, it's extremely simple to get all the water out when you're finished by inverting this ridiculously lightweight kayak. Deflating and packing is just as quick and easy as setting up — and as a bonus, the stuff sack becomes an on-craft storage space while you paddle and is front and center when you're ready to move out to your next epic paddle spot.


The instructions for inflating the PackLite are unnecessarily in-depth and complicated. They also request a specific pressure to which you should inflate your vessel without including any instrument to measure this. We found that the valves' style is quite easy to accidentally open as we detached the pump, letting a bunch of air out that we then had to repump. And the PackLite book of instructions recommends filling the floor with a pump, but even with four separate, standard and kayak-specific pumps on hand, we didn't find that the correct adapter was readily available. We resorted to using lung power, which was rather cumbersome. Advanced Elements has several types of pumps available for purchase on their website that include many adapters, one of which is presumably the correct one for this valve.

Inflating the floor by mouth is quite a chore, and this hose stays...
Inflating the floor by mouth is quite a chore, and this hose stays out in the open even while paddling.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Another minor complaint is the specific size the PackLite has to be folded to fit into its small carry bag. However, with a little practice, this isn't too much of an issue. At the end of the day, despite our initial hiccups, we found that this little boat is pretty quick and easy to set up and pack away.

Get out and explore new places with the highly portable PackLite!
Get out and explore new places with the highly portable PackLite!
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Portability


This is where the benefit of owning the PackLite shines brightest. Weighing just 5.25 pounds in its bag, this kayak is far and away the lightest kayak we tested. It's not only the lightest but also the smallest, both inflated and packed up, which is probably the reason you're considering buying it in the first place. At just 7.5 feet fully inflated and barely over a foot on its longest side packed up, the PackLite is just begging to be taken everywhere with you. Though it doesn't have any bow or stern handles like most of the other kayaks in this review, at such a minuscule weight, you don't even need them.


We don't have many bad things to say about our ability to get this boat anywhere with minimal effort. Our biggest complaint was that we still had to provide the pump and paddle and find ways to pack that out to remote locations. And, of course, the weight of those items isn't included in the overall weight of this kayak, so don't forget to add that when you're counting each ounce. Truly though, if you want a kayak you can toss in your luggage and take to South America or stick in your backpack and enjoy solitude 20 miles into the backcountry, you'd be hard-pressed to find a reason the PackLite wouldn't be an excellent choice.

Even with a paddle and pump, the PackLite is small enough to take...
Even with a paddle and pump, the PackLite is small enough to take just about anywhere!
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Durability


Advanced Elements advertises this little kayak as having ripstop, "eco-friendly" polyurethane. We're not sure about how eco-friendly it is, but we certainly tested that claim of "ripstop." The first time we took the PackLite out on the water, it ripped a sizeable hole from contact with the side of a dock. By using the included repair kit with detailed directions, however, we had no problem patching the tear and continuing to use the kayak for many more adventures. Carrying the repair kit with this thin, lightweight kayak is a must.


We had questions about the longevity of the seams on the PackLite, as they stick out at 90-degree angles from the boat just like those on your favorite river floating tube. We also noticed that the fabric became discolored in patches during use. While we didn't experience any direct issues with either of these complaints during our testing, it does raise certain questions about the lifespan of this boat. One problem that did arise (aside from the initial tear in the hull) was that the tube for inflating the floor cracked in half after we rolled the kayak up the first time. We were able to salvage it by simply discarding the broken piece and jamming the valve onto the new, shorter end, with no additional difficulties. And honestly? We thought it was a little too long to begin with. So after a few initial snafus, we felt the PackLite stood up about as expected for what we put it through.

Ripped on the first use! We are glad the patch kit is legit and...
Ripped on the first use! We are glad the patch kit is legit and worked like a charm to get us back out on the water. This only happened once during a full season of testing.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Value


Despite fewer materials used in construction, the PackLite isn't a particularly inexpensive boat. That said, it provides some quality engineering so you can access some decidedly far-flung and isolated spots. We think the value of that level of access is hard to underestimate if you're an adventure-seeker. However, if you just want to get out on the water down the street or a couple of hours drive away, the PackLite probably won't hold the same value for you.

Value is in the eye of the beholder. If you want to hike to...
Value is in the eye of the beholder. If you want to hike to less-traveled lakes, this model is perfect. If you want higher paddling performance on local lakes, another model will suit you better.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Conclusion


While the Advanced Elements PackLite doesn't provide the best paddling experience, we love the possibilities it brings to our adventure opportunities. Being able to kayak a middle-of-nowhere lake or being prepared to kayak at any time because carrying this boat is hardly unnoticeable in a backpack really amps up the expedition potential. If what you crave is to paddle new spots in solitude, then we think you'll love the freedom you'll get in this absurdly lightweight and easy-to-use watercraft.

Even when it was out of commission our canine kayak tester approved...
Even when it was out of commission our canine kayak tester approved of the PackLite.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Maggie Brandenburg