Now & The Future of Bikerafting: Unpacking the 2023 Bikeraft Guide Survey Results

“A packraft is like a giant key that gets you into places. When the road ends and you can no longer ride your bike, you blow up your boat and continue down that river or lake, seeing things you’d never see if you only stuck to the trails and roads.” –Doom

Bikerafting—the combination of biking and packrafting—makes a lot of sense for the multi-sport enthusiast. But, since the first-documented bikerafting expedition in the late 80s, it has stayed a relatively niche sport. Lizzy Scully dives into the data with an overview of the history of bikerafting, the most avid participants of the sport today, and a breakdown of the April 2023 Bikeraft Guide Survey Results. Read on for inspiration and information about who and where to turn to get your feet wet in this creative genre of exploration. 

Introduction: Another Very Brief History of Bikerafting

Adventurer and writer Roman Dial embarked on the first documented bikerafting mission – a 10-mile mountain bike-raft-hunt trip to the Alaska Range – in 1987. By the 1990s he managed to rope a few other buddies into his wild Alaska adventures. And by 1996 they garnered the first real media attention for the sport when he, Carl Tobin, Paul Adkins, and photographer Bill Hatcher bike-packrafted 775 miles from Canada to Lake Clark, a trip they documented in a ground-breaking National Geographic article.

That one-off could have been chalked up to a few crazy people doing something no one would ever repeat. But then Dylan Kench and Revelate Designs owner, Eric Parsons, started doing some of Roman’s routes in the 2000s, along with their own, now-infamous, Lost Coast “North” tour from Yakutat to Cordova in 2008. Alpacka Raft CEO, Thor Tingey, calls that trip one of the most “inspiring bikerafting adventures” of the sport. “It’s the trip that everyone who goes bikerafting really wants to do.” It garnered more attention for this growing mixed-discipline style of adventuring.

But it wasn’t really until the late 2010s that people other than the most elite adventurers actually paired bicycles and packrafts. And they did, in large part, because of Alpacka. The 23-year-old packraft company popularized bikerafting with articles like A Brief History of Bikerafting, and videos such as The Caribou Packraft – Bikerafting the Southern Utah Desert. And they launched a bikeraft-specific packraft in 2018. Founder Sheri Tingey designed the Caribou specifically for bikerafters, with help from prominent multi-sport adventurers Steve “Doom” Fassbinder and Bjorn Olson, among others. Stay tuned for a long-term review of the Caribou from Spencer Harding in the near future.

But It’s Still a Niche Sport, Right?

Yes, but… Even with that burst of interest and subsequent sizable growth in packrafting that occurred post-pandemic, bikerafting is still a niche sport. So niche, in fact, it’s unlikely most people reading this will have ever seen someone bikerafting, let alone tried it themselves.

I asked friends from Sweden to Florida, along with various people in the bikepacking and packrafting industries, what they thought about the progress of bikerafting as a sport. Responses were mixed. Eddie Parks, in customer service at Revelate Designs, says he hasn’t noticed any uptick in people requesting gear for bikerafting: “Customers aren’t asking. I’ll occasionally use a packraft as a reference for what our harness can be used to carry, but that’s usually the end of that conversation.”

Karlos Bernart, the founder of the ultra cycling advocacy group, SingleTrack Samurai Productions, hasn’t planned a single bike and packrafting-focused trip for the public because there doesn’t seem to be an interest. As he says, “I have a thousand ideas and only myself and a couple of friends to do them with. Florida is tough. It took me a long time to get folks to ride something other than singletrack and to encourage them that they would survive without the support and a feed zone.”

Maybe growth is impeded because the sport is hugely challenging? Of that iconic Lost Coast bikerafting trip we mentioned earlier, Thor adds that it remains out of reach for most people, “That’s still a really hard trip, weather dependent, and it’s remote. It’s spectacularly beautiful, but there are logistical challenges to getting it done, as very very accomplished adventurers have been stopped.”

While he thinks we will start seeing more established routes, the sport doesn’t follow the same trajectory as packrafting or bikepacking. Thousands of people ride the most popular long-distance trails each year, and hundreds flock to the most popular packrafting rivers. But bikerafting hasn’t seen a coalescence around certain routes yet (for inspiration, check out this piece about bikerafting the San Juan River, and this piece stitching together 300 miles of Iceland’s coast).

Andy Toop, owner of Backcountry Scot, says this is because people who want to pair bikes and boats need to acquire and be proficient in a wide range of skills (cycling, backpacking, packrafting, navigation, etc). He says: “I draw on over 20 years of outdoor experience in kayaks and canoes, commercial rafts, and almost 10 years in packrafts, being in the mountains on feet or bicycle or rope, backcountry skiing and snowboarding, and still have ‘Oops’ moments.”

“You definitely need to be unconsciously competent with both bicycles and packrafts before you put them together and become consciously incompetent at it,” he adds with a laugh. Bikerafting is hard and the learning curve is steep. When you think you’ve got it dialed, you’ll get something wrong the next time you transition because something different has happened.

On The Other Hand… Bikerafting Is a Thing

Out of the 1090 respondents of our April 2023 “Do You Bikeraft?” survey, slightly over one-quarter have bikerafted. Knowledge of the sport appears to depend on where you are in the world, who your friends are, the social media platforms you follow, and the publications you read. For example, if you read The Radavist, you’re probably familiar with bikerafting. But do an online search for “bikerafting” on Outside online, and you’ll find zero results.

Likewise, if you follow TheBikeraftGuide on Instagram or Bikerafting Revolution on Facebook, you’re much more likely to have tried bikerafting. In early June, we did a one-question survey targeting people who follow those pages. Results differed from our survey of the general outdoor population, with 75% of the 142 respondents having tried bikerafting. More interestingly, one-quarter bikerafted more times than they could count.

Diving in a bit deeper, we figured out that where you are in the world also appears to make a difference whether or not you know about bikerafting. It both correlates to who you know in those places and the media multi-sport adventurers publish out of those places.

Alaska is a hotbed for bikerafting media (the #1 place where people report having tried bikerafting in our survey and where interest is highest). This is unsurprising as it’s the birthplace of modern-day packrafts and packrafting. As well, some of the most well-publicized (if not often done) bikerafting routes have been done there by the likes of Roman Dial, Mike Curiak, Steve Fassbinder, Bjorn Olsen, Kim McNett, Eric Parsons, Dylan Kench, Brett Davis and others.

Our survey results also illustrate that if you’re from many regions of the West (Colorado, Utah, Oregon and California), Canada, New Zealand, or Scotland, you are also more likely to be familiar with bikerafting and/or have tried it. Surveys done in 2017 and 2019 by the American Packrafting Association (APA) and a 2022 Packrafting Association of New Zealand (PRANZ) survey support our results. As well, these results are predictable considering most of the media being created also comes out of these places.

The Influence of Social Media & Online Publications

Social media and online publications also drive the sport’s growth. Both our survey and discussions with numerous bikerafters and business owners illustrate this influence. One-third of survey respondents learned about bikepacking, packrafting, and bikerafting on social media, while one-half learned about these activities via outdoor publications (mostly online, but a few via print publications), and one-sixth learned via word of mouth.

Thor’s perspective reflects the survey results: “I think it’s a pretty healthy mix of friends doing, seeing cool trips on social media including blogs and forums, reading about it in traditional media including The Bikeraft Guide, and as an add-on to the much larger community of bikepacking.”

Indeed, adds Deane Parker, the founder of the Adventure Channel. Deane has watched the Kiwi bikerafting community grow since releasing his numerous award-winning films, including his first, “Waiau-Toa Odyssey” in 2007: “Back then no one had heard of bikerafting. I’m regularly hearing from folk that say they watched one of my films and bikerafting inspired them to explore a new route or even just consider the possibilities of a packraft strapped to a bike,” he explains. “I’ve led a few workshops, and it still blows my mind that bikerafting is now legit with its own niche community. There’s online content and even a published guide about this quirky offspring of packrafting.”

And the PRANZ survey provides some good evidence for Deane’s claim: “Out of 338 people, 50 ticked the box to say that bikerafting is their primary use of a packraft. That’s almost 15 percent! In New Zealand, a small country of four million, that’s impressive.”

And what happens when people see this media? Thor thinks people pick up bikepacking as they see it as a cool way to explore. And, “once they start there, they start looking for adventures, which turns them onto bikerafting.” Opportunities abound when you start pairing bikes and boats because you can “turn the blue lines on maps into trails.” And you can do that in creative, human-powered ways that feel wilder and get you further afield, even if you’re simply exploring your own backyard. Former Surly employee and the person most credit with bringing fat bikes to the mass market, Dave Gray, lives in Minneapolis but still gets out urban bikerafting every chance he can get. He recently penned us an email to share photos and his latest exploits.

“The Mississippi has been in flood stage for a month,” he wrote. “So I took several opportunities to commute to the museum [where I work], via the river, with my Surly Travelers Check strapped to my old Llama. During my last four amphibious commutes, I was the only one on the seven-mile section of water between my launch and landing. The water is receding, now. And the flow is down. But I’ll probably get another bikerafting session in before my paddleboard becomes a more suitable option.”

No doubt, agrees Kokopelli Packraft owner Kelley Smith: “More people are trying to get out and do adventurous things. And the fact that people are realizing they can do these trips fully self-supported, without a shuttle intrigues them.”

Alejandro Strong, the owner of the guide service Packraft Maine, sees this happening in the far Northeast state where he runs bikerafting courses: “When I tell people about bikerafting for the first time they are excited by the idea of adventuring with less impact from cars.” Bikerafting, he adds, allows people to connect with the adventure-near-home movement that is also taking place in bikepacking and other adventure sports.


In Europe, urban bikerafting is gaining in popularity in exactly this way. People there focus more on small-scale adventures, as Europe does not have the big wild areas of North America. Avid Czech Republic bike-packrafter Jan Dzansky notes the increase in posts and articles covering the sport and the focus of those articles. “From what I perceive, bikerafting has completely moved from unsupported expeditions in no-man’s land to backyards,” and subsequently, “many weekend trips here take place in the vicinity of big cities.”

“The micro adventures [have a lot of potential],” adds Packraft Europe’s Seon Crockford. “Our own backyards can be explored in unique ways.” And in Europe, it’s a natural progression as many people already utilize bicycles for daily commutes.

Sven Schelling, owner of Anfibio Packrafting agrees, adding: “I think we will evolve into a regular leisure activity, just like packrafting has been, less of hardcore adventures, certainly little whitewater. The concept fits well into the trend of our time: independent, individual, special, self-sufficient, mobile, spontaneous, short, but intense. The attraction lies in discovering and recombining local destinations. There is new territory waiting for everyone. The future and greatest potential of bikerafting is ‘en miniature’ – micro-adventures.”

The United Kingdom

On the other hand, not all bikerafting across the pond focuses on city-based adventures. A group of Scots are extremely active, both traveling internationally and nationally, and share their stories widely on social media. And from what we have observed over the years, their influence is significant.

Scotland-based professional adventurer, Huw Oliver, has watched the sport grow in his region, evidenced by the people taking courses and renting packrafts for bikerafting from Backcountry Scot, the shop where he works and guides. He also believes that most people are introduced to the sport visually.

“They see a photo or see the gear in real life, and the whole setup just looks so quirky and intriguing that you can’t help but ask about it,” he explains. “That conversation then leads to so many open possibilities for new adventures — paddlers get excited about adding a bike to their trip, and bikers get excited about adding a boat!”

Huw and his partner, Annie Lloyd-Evans, both create copious media (photos, videos, and stories) from their adventures. Annie’s amateur films have garnered tens of thousands of views. Another Scottish adventurer, Lee Craigie, has clearly raised awareness for the sport as the founder of the Adventure Syndicate and Scotland’s ”Active Nation Commissioner,” the official representative of walking, cycling, and physical activity across the nation. She often does big bikerafting adventures shared widely across Scotland through engagement campaigns she plans. Plus, two films featuring her, “Bikepacking… But Not As You Know It!” and “Cape Wrath by Fatbike & Packraft,” have together amassed 176K views online.

So What’s Next?

The sport of bikerafting is growing and evolving, if not at a breakneck speed, at a steady pace. In the two short years since we’ve published the first and second editions of The Bikeraft Guide (our comprehensive how-to, stories about, and history of bikerafting tome), we’ve sold 3,000 copies and more people have paired bikes and boats or want to pair bikes and boats.

Thor Tingey sees it in packraft sales since the pandemic. While it’s hard to say exactly what percentage of the uptick has to do with bikerafting, he says: “The Caribou is one of our best sellers, and bike tie-downs are by far our most popular add-on in the Custom Lab. So people are definitely seeing bikerafting and showing interest.”

A few other companies recently joined Alpacka in creating bikerafting-specific products. Stikine packrafts launched a bow protector in 2022, and Kokopell just launched waterproof bike bags to complement their bikerafting-friendly boats.

“The sport has grown to the point that we decided to make the Durango Bike Bags to allow people to more easily bikeraft with packrafts,” Kelley explains. Kokopelli has more recently embraced and strongly promoted the sport of bikerafting. Why? It just makes sense, explains Kelley. “If we can enable people to get outside, and venture further more easily and readily, that would be awesome. Access to water, rivers especially, is a unique thing. So the fact that people are looking to combine sports and create new lines outside is something that we’re stoked to be a part of.”

Survey Results

Finally, the results you have been waiting for! But first a few notes…

Audience Overview: We had a total participation of 1090 respondents to our April “Let’s Go Bikerafting! Survey. The audience consisted of bikepackers, packrafters, and general outdoors women, men and non-binary individuals. Most of the audience was male and white, per usual in outdoor spaces. And more than half earn well above the average American income and have a college or other advanced degree.

Targeted Audience: We targeted people primarily on Instagram, but also on Facebook and via email. The sponsoring companies that posted most often during the campaign and likely most influenced the survey results were Kokopelli Packraft, Four Corners Guides, The Bikeraft Guide, The Radavist, and Sockdolager Equipment/Dan Ransom. These entities also have the biggest packraft- and/or bikepacking-focused audiences. Additionally, Four Corners Guides & The Bikeraft Guide sent various emails out to the 3000 people, and Kokopelli provided the most engaging story that gleaned 18.3K views and 775 likes. All other campaign-sponsored reels combined had 1981 likes and 32,722 views. Aqua Bound, Stikine Packrafts, and Titan Straps likely had less of an influence on the survey results, as they posted infrequently and their audiences are small and/or much less focused on bikepacking, packrafting, and bikerafting audiences.