Don’t let the goofy appearance of the Klymit LiteWater Dinghy (LWD) fool you. This oddly shaped inflatable boat is masterfully designed for flatwater use even though it looks much different from other packrafts. Priced at $169, it provides an enormous amount of value and should definitely be on your shortlist if you’re looking to get into the mellow side of flatwater packrafting. It also makes an awfully good pool toy if you’re also looking for a packraft that can do double duty at the beach or the pool!
The first thing you notice about the LWD is that is has a suspended floor and lower side walls compared to more traditional packrafts and inflatable kayaks that have a floor in the bottom of the boat. While this has pros and cons, it’s really a design breakthrough in terms of ease of use and durability, as I discuss below.
Suspended floor/low side walls
How could you design a packraft that was easy to launch and land, while being highly resistant to sand and gravel abrasion? The answer is simple: drop the height of the sidewalls so it’s easier to get into and out of and raise the floor up off the ground since packraft floors are so susceptible to damage on sand and gravel beaches. Both of these are huge benefits in terms of ease of use and added durability, since the launch and landing phases of a packraft are where most of the wear and tear occur. Other packraft makers recommend launching or landing their boats in deeper water before climbing over the side to prevent damage to the floor, which is unrealistic in most circumstances.
Klymit took durability even further, by making the top of the LWD identical to the bottom. For example, if you flip the LWD over to the blue side, you’ll see that it’s the mirror image of the orange side. If you damage the orange side or wear down the fabric, you can simply flip the boat over and continue using the boat. Having the two sides be mirror images of one another also results in a much less expensive fabrication process and excellent affordability.
While the sidewalls of the LWD are high enough to keep you in the boat, they do ship more water than packrafts with higher sidewalls and more conventional floors. This isn’t a big deal if you don’t mind getting wet in warm or hot weather, but can lead to discomfort or hypothermia in colder weather. I can’t emphasize this enough. You probably don’t want to use the LWD for paddling very cold water or in cold weather without a dry suit and extra thermal layers.
While the floor of the LWD is suspended off the surface of the beach, it still comes into contact with the water when you’re paddling. If you’ve ever paddled on an alpine lake, the water can be very cold and radiates through a packraft floor, making it necessary to insulate your bum with a foam pad. However, extra insulation is not needed with the LWD because Klymit includes an inflatable seat that lifts your bum off the surface of the water. The seat has a separate inflation value and must be blown up by mouth, preferably before it comes in contact with potentially “dirty” water from a natural water source.
The LWD is shaped like an arrow and not an oval or a donut like most other packrafts. This makes it easy to paddle straight on the water, with very little of the back and forth yaw found in rounder boats that prefer to spin. Turning the boat is still easy though with a simple side stroke. The low side walls also provide a noticeably smaller wind profile in breezy weather, good for paddling across larger bodies of water such as lakes.
The LWD has 6 attachment points distributed symmetrically around the boat, that you can attach cord to. While you can lay a backpack perpendicular to the bow, I prefer keeping my pack between my legs when paddling because I feel it provides better stability. I have also been experimenting with the use of drift sock to slow drifting while fishing and those attachment points and the variety of positions available have been invaluable for this purpose.
Inflation/Deflation and storage size
The Klymit LWD is inflated with a modified waterproof drybag that is included with the boat and can be used as a packliner to keep the contents of your backpack dry or as convenient deck bag. The output nozzle of the drybag fits on the LWD’s intake valve and it takes just a few minutes and about 14 bagfuls of air to inflate the boat. The intake valve is a one-way valve, so if the inflation bag accidentally pops off during inflation, the air you’ve already added to the boat won’t escape.
When placing an inflated LWD on cold water, the air in the boat will decrease slightly in volume. This is just physics. But there’s no way to fill the boat with more air if you’re on the water, without paddling to shore and topping it off. Not a show stopper, but you might want let the boat sit on cold water for a bit and top it off before leaving on an extended paddle.
The LWD also has a separate deflation valve, really just a cap over a big hole, that lets you rapidly deflate the boat and roll it up for storage.
Once deflated, the LWD can be rolled up and stored in your backpack. If it’s wet, you can also store it in its inflation packsack, which is a great way to keep it segregated from our dry clothing and gear. In terms of volume, it’s about the size of a watermelon or an Ursack (shown above)
The Klymit LWD is covered with a burly 210 denier polyester with a single welded seam running joining the top of bottom half of the boat. The polyester cover is very durable and I haven’t noticed any scratches or fabric abrasion despite numerous rough launches and landing on sand and gravel beaches and collisions with hidden logs. I still recommend storing the LWD inside your backpack for the added protection, especially if you plan to do any bushwhacking which tends to destroy uncovered and protected gear. A patch kit is included.
The Klymit LiteWater Dinghy is a real design departure from other flatwater packrafts with low side walls and a suspended floor that make it easier to land and launch, while improving long-term durability. Despite its cartoonish-looking appearance, it’s a remarkably well designed product that is easy to paddle and quite stable on flatwater and mild waves. With six external attachment points and a weight rating of 350 pounds, it’s easy to secure additional gear to the LWD or add additional capabilities to it. Weighing 38.5 ounces (on the SectionHiker scale), the LWD has become a frequent companion on my backcountry fly fishing trips when I hike into remote alpine ponds to go fishing and has added an entirely new dimension to my backpacking adventures.
- Inflatable seat cushion insulates your bum from cold water
- Arrow shape tracks well when paddling
- Low side walls present low wind profile in breezy conditions
- Six tie-down points at front, middle, and rear of the boat
- 210 denier polyester fabric is durable and abrasion resistant
- Easy to inflate. Waterproof rolltop inflation bag included.
- Relatively inexpensive
- Lack of back support makes it a bit tiring to sit up straight when not actively paddling.
- Weight: 35 oz / 992 g (38.5 oz on the SectionHiker scale, plus 3.7 oz for the inflation dry-bag)
- Dimensions: 76 in x 45 in / 203 cm x 114 cm
- Pack Size: 4.5 in x 9 in / 11.43 cm x 22.9 cm
- Inflation: Inflation Stuff Sack/Dry-bag Included
- Capacity: 350 lbs / 158.8 kgRaft
- Raft Rating Class 2: Klymit recommends the LWD for conditions of mild flat water to small waves.
- Fabric: 210 D ripstop polyester top and bottom
Disclosure: Klymit provided Philip Werner (SectionHiker.com) with a sample LiteWater Dinghy for this review.
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