No Packlite Review

First of all, to preface this post, I would like to reaffirm my complete satisfaction, and total enjoyment with my original AdvancedFrame kayak. It still serves me very well, and I have nothing but good things to say about it.

However, as I’ve said many times before, I’m not one to hide the true facts, should I be less than pleased with a product that I have purchased, even if it’s from the same manufacturer that I have had great experiences with.

Unfortunately, this is the case with the newly acquired Packlite kayak, that I had such high hopes for. I had even stated on my blog that there would be a new series of posts highlighting ‘Remote Lakes’, but that is not going to happen. Before it even got out of the gate, it became very clear that this product is just not up to the task.

As I mentioned in one post already, the first time that I inflated the Packlite, I found that it was slowly losing air. Now, I do understand that some might think that it was over-inflated, and here is my stance on that issue.

I’ve been using my first inflatable kayak for a few years now, and I’m quite familiar with the inflation process. Yes, the Packlite is a more lightly built kayak, and more care should be taken when inflating it, which is exactly what I did. I purposely under-inflated it the first time that I set it up, so that I could become familiar with the less substantial nature of this light-weight.

Keep in mind, if this is a first kayak for some people, they might not take such precautions. However, even with the care I took inflating it, I found an air leak before the kayak had ever seen the water, or even left my living room. This was quite disturbing to me, partly because this was no ‘cheap’ inflatable, it cost me a total of $422.47CAD to buy this kayak.

Still, I was determined to give this new light-weight kayak a chance, to see what it could really do. Since we had a late spring, and some very inclement weather early in the spring, I didn’t have an opportunity to do a ‘Remote Lakes’ post, and I knew that our annual Spring Trip was coming up, so this would have to be the first use for the Packlite.

As well as the ‘Remote Lakes’, I had also intended to use the Packlite as a ‘trailer’ kayak, to hold all the cargo I would need to go on an extended camping/paddling trip with my son and my brother. I made some modifications to the kayak, in order to be able to attach it to the rear of my AdvanceFrame kayak, and tow it behind, since the AdvancedFrame does not have enough space to hold enough cargo for longer paddling trips.

We have now completed our Spring Trip for 2014, for which there will be a long post, or possibly two posts coming up after this one. There will be pictures and videos of me pulling the Packlite as a trailer and, I will say that this idea did work out better than I had expected. The Packlite pulled fantastically, and I found it to be easier to paddle than I expected. There were some issues with the connection, or the ‘trailer hitch’ so to speak, but these things need to be worked out by trial and error and I made adjustments to allow us to continue on our trip.

I had promised a review of the Packlite, after I had taken it on a ‘Remote Lakes’ paddle but, during our Spring Trip, I have now decided that this ultra-light kayak will not meet my expectations for such adventures. In my opinion, it’s just not reliable enough.

Even being as careful as I could be with the inflation of this ultra-light kayak, it still continued to fail, and I found myself, desperately, trying to fix it along the way, so that we could make it back to the starting point.

The Packlite was a complete, and utter, failure in my opinion and, to me, my opinion is the only one that matters. After the first leak, I was hoping that I was wrong about this, and I did really want this kayak to work out, but I can’t deny the reality of it all. As such, I would not recommend this ultra-light kayak to anyone, for anything more than very light, close to shore use, or even pool use.

My son, who also paddles a more substantial inflatable kayak, noted that the Packlite actually looks very much like a cheaper inflatable, due to the shiny appearance of the clear plastic on the bottom and insides of the main tubes. He suggested that these areas should have been made grey, the same grey as is on the hulls of the more substantial kayaks, and I don’t disagree.

Still, a colour change would not have been the saving grace for the Packlite. It must be treated like eggs, and I can’t take something like that into a remote lake, where I need to depend on my equipment to, not only perform well, but also to get me back to where I started.

None of the failures of the Packlite were due to any modifications that I had made to it. I know that it my own mind, and that’s all that matters to me. In fact, none of the failures happened anywhere near the modifications that I made.

At the end of our Spring Trip, the Packlite actually became the butt end of a lot of jokes among us, even though it did manage to struggle all the way through to the end, with a lot of help. Half inflated, it felt like a sea anchor that I was pulling near the end, and all I wanted was to get back to shore and be done with it.

I might try to fix it up a bit and flog it to someone with a pool, or as a beach toy, but I certainly won’t be advertising it for use on remote lakes etc. It just can’t handle that kind of use, with any kind of dependability. An expensive lesson learned.


10 responses to this post.

  1. Very good review!
    You are right your product review and your experiences, you opinion is the one that matters.


    • Hey Wild_E, good to see you again. I really dislike having to give unfavourable reviews, since I like to think that I do enough research on products before I buy them. However, in this case, I had already had a fantastic experience with the first kayak I had purchased, so I went ahead and bought the new product without waiting for others to comment on its quality. Like I said, a lesson learned.


  2. When you say the Packlite was “failing”, is that because it kept getting punctures? Or did you mean that the valves were faulty?
    I got one from Advanced Elements recently and I have taken it out twice now with no problems. It inflates to the right pressure and stays inflated. Accidentally sat into it on some sharp rocks on one trip, and still no problem.
    If it was a valve problem, you should go back to Advanced Elements for a warranty claim, they are pretty good with that sort of thing.
    I was thinking also, if the AdvancedFrame is not big enough for all your gear, have you considered the AdvancedFrame Expedition? I LOVE the expedition, it is so fast on the water. Or the AdvancedFrame Convertible, which has heaps of storage room when going solo. It’s not as fast as the Expedition when paddled solo, but it’s still surprisingly fast.
    Anyway, looking forward to your spring trip posts!


    • Hey Emily;

      Thanks for your input. I really appreciate other people’s experiences. Yes, I do know that AE is very good at solving issues regarding failures in their products, however, I don’t believe that the failures that I had with the Packlite would be fixed by replacement. I’m glad that you have had no problems with your Packlite, and I don’t discount the fact that I may have just gotten a ‘bad’ one, but I tend to make decisions and stick by them. I use these kayaks in very demanding conditions, and I don’t go easy on them. However, I do expect them to perform as advertised, and the Packlite just didn’t make the grade. It would perform well if used very cautiously, but that’s not good enough for me. I go into very remote, and rugged locations, and I need my equipment to function as advertised. I do think that advertising the Packlite for remote lake use is far fetched to say the least. I wouldn’t trust this kayak if my life depended on it, and that is not far from the truth.

      Yes, I have considered the Expedition and, as I’ve said many times before, I just love my AdvancedFrame kayak, so this is not an issue with all the products that AE makes. My intention for the Packlite was to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. I would pull it as a cargo trailer, and I would use it to explore remote lakes. I have to say that it did pull very well, beyond my expectations, as a trailer, but the issue of durability was unavoidable. It is just not durable enough for me to take it into remote lakes, as I had intended to do. Anyone who follows my blog will know the conditions I paddle in and it’s not hard to see why I need durable kayaks. The AdvancedFrame makes the grade, the Packlite doesn’t, it’s as simple as that.


      • So it was punctures you were getting?

      • Emily;

        All the failures I encountered were material failures, not caused by outside punctures. These failures, in my opinion, could have been caused by a number of different factors, including; inadequate design, faulty manufacturing, or some kind of manufacturing inconsistency caused by faulty equipment, allowing sub-standard units to pass through undetected.

        I worked in the manufacturing industry for 35 years, so I know how easily this can happen, and I know that it does happen all the time. Like I said before, I could have just gotten a ‘bad’ one but, knowing what I know now, I would never trust another one to get me in and out of remote lake situations.

        I really never got the chance to test the Packlite’s resistance to actual outside punctures, because I only paddled it, by itself, once, while we were on our camping trip, so I can’t comment on the puncture resistance performance. It did seem to handle okay, using short choppy strokes, and I was planning on designing a removable tracking fin for it, but all that is moot now.

        Keep in mind, I have no ulterior motive for posting my findings. As I’ve said, I love my AdvancedFrame kayak, and I’m sure that most of the other AE kayaks are fantastic too, I just don’t think that the Packlite is one of them. My only intention for posting my findings is as information for anyone who wants to read it. Take it or leave it, it’s all fine with me. I just don’t think that things should be swept under the rug if they are not seen as positive.

  3. I am very sorry to hear about the issues you are having with your kayak. We would love to have the opportunity to exchange the kayak for you, or offer you a full refund.

    Advanced Elements
    Customer Service Manager
    707-745-9800 ext. 7013


    • Hi Richie;

      Thanks for contacting me. There are a lot of issues here that caused me to react the way that I did. However, I’m not the kind of person to hang on to negative feelings too long, life is just too short for that. As I said in one of my blog posts, I really did want the Packlite to work out, and I would never, I mean never, make up lies, or misleading information regarding a product, unless it is truly the experience that I had with that product.

      I didn’t feel that it was my place to ask for any kind of restitution, since I had already made some modifications to the kayak, because I had a trip coming up, and the mods had to be done soon. I’m all about taking responsibility for myself, and the things that I do, but I’m totally convinced that nothing I did contributed to the demise of the Packlite. Sure, anyone can claim over-inflation, but what about the strength of the welds? Can I claim that they were not strong enough? Could I possibly suggest that there may have been a manufacturing equipment malfunction, that allowed a certain number of less than ideal units to sneak through the process?

      For all intents and purposes, I don’t believe that replacing the Packlite would solve anything for me. I’ve lost confidence in this product, so I’m not going to try it again. If you want to refund the purchase price of the Packlite, then I’m not going to say no, I’m a retired senior on a fixed income, and I had to save for a while to purchase the Packlite. You can refund my money at your discretion. I’m not going to bash AE at all, either way, in fact, I love some of the products you guys make. As I said in my blog, I just purchased another AE kayak, so I don’t have it in for you guys or anything like that. But, I am going to report my true findings when I purchase a product, as I said right from the beginning on your forum. I’m okay with whatever you guys choose to do.


      • Posted by Linda G on August 8, 2014 at 10:45 am

        Oh brother. What I’ve learned from this post is that Advanced Elements stands by their product, and goes out of their way to fix problems with their kayaks. Sounds like a good company to me. Looking forward to trying this kayak.

      • Yes, Linda, I agree with you 100%, and I’ve said so in other posts. However, there was more to this story that was left unsaid, and will remain that way, since this is now long gone and forgotten. AE is a great company, and I have two kayaks from them that are superb, the Packlite isn’t one of them. They did, eventually, give me a refund, and that was not unexpected, since I knew that they do stand behind their products. The issue was never about AE being a good company for me, it was about a product that I felt did not deserve to be in a lineup of fine inflatable kayaks, and was further exacerbated by the way they initially responded to my complaints. To this day, if anyone asks me where to find a good inflatable kayak, I will not hesitate to recommend Advanced Elements, just not the Packlite.

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