Advanced Elements Packlite Review

Bottom Line:

The Advanced Elements Packlite is perhaps the most portable boat of all time. It’s an ultralight kayak that’s easy to pack and unpack and seems to be the ideal choice for anyone keen to paddle ad hoc.

However, reviewers raise concerns that this incredible portability – you can legitimately carry it on your back for long distances – is only possible thanks to a few missing features. In particular, this inflatable kayak is fairly easy to damage, reports say, and it’s certainly not a performance vessel.

However, experts claim that if you’re looking for a second kayak to inflate and float on the go, it’s good value – and it comes from a reputable brand.

Price Comparison:

6.0

EXPERT RATING

based on 3 reviews

Performance Ratings:

  • Handling
  • Stability
  • Comfort
  • Onboard Storage
  • Portability
  • Durability

Specs:

BrandAdvanced Elements
Size (length x width)7'6" x 2'11"
Weight5.25 lbs
Capacity250 lbs
MaterialPolyethylene

Comparison to Similar Kayaks:

Advanced Elements Packlite Advanced Elements Expedition Elite Advanced Elements Island Voyage 2 Sea Eagle RazorLite 393rl Sea Eagle 380x Explorer
Expert Rating
6.0
8.3
8.1
7.9
7.9
Size7'6" x 2'11"13' x 32"11'2" x 37"12'10" x 28"12'6" x 39"
Weight5.25 lbs42 lbs31.5 lbs35 lbs40 lbs
Handling4.88.88.38.67.8
Stability6.39.08.56.98.7
Comfort6.37.97.57.57.3
Onboard Storage5.07.87.78.76.9
Portability8.58.38.88.58.0
Durability5.08.37.57.58.8

Advanced Elements Packlite Review

Reasons to Buy:
  • Extremely lightweight
  • Packs down easily into a bag provided
  • Reasonably stable for its size
  • Works well with Advanced Elements paddles and pumps (sold separately)
  • Fairly comfortable on calm waters
Reasons Not to Buy:
  • Not very durable
  • Not always easy for novices to move
  • Zero onboard storage

Performance of the Advanced Elements Packlite

It’s plain to see that experts believe the Advanced Elements Packlite inflatable kayak triumphs in at least one category – portability. It’s clearly called the “Packlite” for a reason, as it might be the lightest kayak on the market. It’s perfect for carrying long distances and on public transport or for going kayaking in most remote locations.

Reviewers praise the ease of setup highly, claiming that the kayak is likely ready to go within just ten minutes of you getting started. It also seems to be just as easy to let down, dry out, and pack down again into the bag provided.

A word of warning – this kayak doesn’t arrive with a pump or paddle as standard. That said, reviewers claim Advanced Elements’ leading accessories more than fit the bill if you’ve already bought them.

What the Packlite kayak does arrive with is a mesh bag and a puncture repair kit. This seems to be a fairly popular inclusion, as the durability of this boat is less than favorable. The mesh carry bag doubles as an onboard storage bag which is nice.

Experts seem to agree that to get the level of portability you experience from the Packlite, you need to sacrifice most other aspects. So don’t expect any unique features.

There’s also zero specific onboard storage (though you can bring some kit onboard with you if you’re within the weight capacity), though one reviewer claims a workaround for this is to simply use the backpack provided as an on-deck gear bag.

The handling and tracking seem to divide opinion. Some experts feel that it turns and moves reasonably well, provided it’s reasonably weighed down, while others are concerned that novice paddlers will find moving the kayak too much of a hassle.

In terms of stability, the Packlite inflatable kayak doesn’t get much in the way of feedback, but the little it does is fairly positive, in favor of its handy shape and girth. That said, it’s drawn comparisons with pool lilos!

Comfort is an aspect that really divides opinion. Some reviewers feel this is a nice, soft boat that you can relax on while floating along, while others claim that it takes a long time to get comfortable and adjust. Your experience may vary, it seems.

Durability, as mentioned, seems to score fairly poorly. That’s because some testers have experienced the fabric of the vessel tearing. It’s built with three air chambers, but the kayak still gives off the impression of a “spare” inflatable you’ll probably do best keeping in reserve.

Experts agree that the Packlite kayak performs best when it’s on flat and calm waters. It’s built for Grade II whitewater, but few people seem to recommend you risk it!

For the price tag, the Packlite seems to be great value for the sheer portability you can expect out of the bag. That said, it’s unlikely to be an enduring choice if you’re looking for a reliable, primary kayak to take you on rough-and-tumble adventures.

Expert Reviews of the Advanced Elements Packlite

4.8Gear LabThis is an amazingly lightweight kayak that's a breeze to set up and to pack away for carrying around. It's not the best at tracking and paddling, and while the durability isn't great, the repair kit provided more than helps. It's honestly pretty stable, too, though you're absolutely paying for the convenience in the portability here.Read more
7.5Austin KayakThis extremely compact boat is the perfect ultra light kayak for paddlers who want to keep their boats with them at all times. It's perfect if you find somewhere you'd like to paddle, as you can just pop the kayak out, inflate, and take to the water. There's no paddle or pump provided here, but I can't fault the portability.Read more
7.2Suzy Allman (My Harriman)The Packlite kayak is pretty much in a class of its own - it pumps up ready to go in six minutes, and it won't weigh more than six lbs total with paddle and pump. It's a wonderfully portable boat, but it really isn't built for all waters. I think it's comfortable enough, and you're getting great value from a brand that many, many kayakers trust. It's a nice little secondary kayak for the money.Read more

Handling of the Advanced Elements Packlite

Expert Rating: 4.8

4.0Gear LabThis kayak isn't exactly feature-rich. That means it's more portable than most, but it lacks some handling features to help it compete with the pack. That said, its short and wide build means it's easy to turn, though it doesn't feel like a great fit for a beginner on the waters. There's no skeg to fall back on, either. It doesn't tell well at all on rougher waters as the cockpit's wide open - and despite good intentions with the seat back, I was left drifting around on what's pretty much a glorified floatie. It's good for calm, still waters - but for anything rougher, and for heavier paddlers, look elsewhere.Read more
5.5Suzy Allman (My Harriman)For all it's an Advanced Elements kayak, it really lacks that special "glide." It's very comfortable to paddle, but I found that weighing the vessel down at the front helps with rotation and drift. Beyond this, I really have to push through water - I find it an effort to keep up with other boats. It's not very hydrodynamic, but it'll do for smaller ponds and creeks that are reasonably calm. This isn't the boat for you if you're looking to cover long distances or hit high speeds.Read more

Stability of the Advanced Elements Packlite

Expert Rating: 6.3

6.0Gear LabThe Packlite inflatable kayak is impressively stable despite its size and the fact it's not the easiest for most to handle. It has issues with durability which may lead to wobbliness out on the water, but these are easy to fix. If you're used to floating on a pool lilo, you likely won't have many problems.Read more
6.5Suzy Allman (My Harriman)That lack of "glide" in the kayak means I never felt I was ever on top of the water while paddling. However, provided you're paddling calm waters, you should keep straight and level. I have no complaints regarding the stability of the Packlite despite its lack of prowess. I wouldn't recommend taking the kayak out on fast-moving waters or strong winds, though the boat is rated up to Class II.Read more

Comfort of the Advanced Elements Packlite

Expert Rating: 6.3

4.0Gear LabIt's certainly not the comfiest kayak out of the gate, but I don't despise paddling it along. There's no way for me to recline to paddle due to the seating, for example. That said, it does seem to test well with paddlers of smaller stature - even if everyone we approached stated that finding that "sweet spot" for comfort took time and effort. The weight limit advised seems to overshoot by around 30 lbs - which means you're really going to need to account carefully for anything you bring onboard. The inflation setup, unfortunately, sometimes makes for a fairly uneven floor, which means you feel every bump.Read more
8.5Suzy Allman (My Harriman)The Packlite is pretty impressive on the comfort front, especially as I had zero issues with keeping dry on my travels. It's actually reasonably comfy to just sit in, set alone paddle and float along. It's surprisingly nimble once you start moving. I think it's great for a relaxing float across some still waters.Read more

Onboard Storage of the Advanced Elements Packlite

Expert Rating: 5.0

4.0Gear LabYou can use the kayak's backpack as storage onboard, but as a "bare bones" inflatable boat, there's not much more to speak of in terms of keeping accessories onboard. You lose a lot of features such as these to keep a kayak portable.Read more
6.0Austin KayakThere's tons of capacity onboard here, with a max weight limit of 250 lbs! That's enough for me and a bit of gear, so I think this translates well for most paddlers. There's no other storage options onboard, however.Read more

Portability of the Advanced Elements Packlite

Expert Rating: 8.5

7.0Gear LabThe main selling point of the Advanced Elements Packlite kayak is its incredible portability. It's easy to get water out and pack away when you're finished paddling, and I also love the fact that you can use the sack itself as a storage space when on the water. It's one of the lightest kayaks I've ever tested, and it's pretty small, too. It's absolutely built for carrying around, though be warned - there are no handles (not that you'll need them). The only real downside to this boat's portability is the fact I need to pack the pump and a paddle separately - there's neither provided, and you certainly can't get it all in one pack. That said, you cannot beat this boat for portability right now.Read more
9.0Austin KayakThis kayak packs down amazingly light and small. I find it really easy to keep with me in the car, and it's a real bonus if you're going backpacking. At four lbs only in weight, it's never a strain. You'll need to pack the pump and paddle you'd wish to use separately.Read more
9.5Suzy Allman (My Harriman)You can take this kayak pretty much anywhere you like. I think it's great for taking with you on long walks, or if you're needing to travel on public transit. Just pack it all up and away you go. A word of warning, however - you're probably going to need some extra space if you want to take a pump with you. Otherwise, I find the bag's big enough to take some refreshments with me, too.Read more

Durability of the Advanced Elements Packlite

Expert Rating: 5.0

4.0Gear LabDespite the "eco-friendly" and "ripstop" credentials of its polyurethane build, this kayak tears easily and doesn't give much confidence otherwise. The saving grace here is the fact the repair kit is easy to pack alongside and grab whenever you spring a leak. Beyond tears, watch out for the inflation tube - mine cracked after my first rolling-up. Otherwise, I'd keep a close eye on those fabric seams - they don't seem built to last!Read more
6.0Suzy Allman (My Harriman)The boat's built with three separate air chambers which adds to the durability, and it's clearly been tested for scratches and tears, too.Read more