I participated in the past in the European, Nordic, Swedish, and Finnish Packrafting Meetups, and here are a few impressions from those events.

European Packrafting Meetup

On April 29th, 2019, it was again time to fly to Slovenia for the annual European Packrafting Meetup and to visit a view of other places in Slovenia. I have already in the previous years at the Packrafting Meetup in Slovenia and decided this year to make a short sightseeing tour of the neighbourhood but also to Piran, Ljubljana, and the Vintgar Gorge.

European Packrafting Meetup 2018 Slovenia Soca

I have made a reservation for a rental car in advance so I just had to pick it up at the airport in Slovenia. I paid around 180 EUR for one week inclusive full insurance and a second person being able to drive the car. The trip to Camp Liza in Bovec took around 2 hours. There we checked in and pitched our tent in the area which was already reserved for us and also purchased firewood for 5 EUR so we could boil water and grill sausages.

We were not that lucky with the weather during this year’s meetup and after 3 rainy days on the campsite, we decided to take an apartment in Bovec which was located just next to the local grocery store. The rooms were very clean and we were able to dry our camping and packrafting gear during the night in the apartment since we tried to avoid not exceed the weight limit. The price of the apartment which we found on booking.com was also reasonable and we paid around 35 EUR per person.

Whitewater Rescue Technician Course

I decided to participate in the Rescue3 Europe Whitewater Rescue Technician Course which took place before and after the European Packrafting Meetup. For this course, I ordered new safety gear. A life jacket, throw rope, knife, and a whistle.

Rescue 3 Europe - Whitewater Rescue Technician Recreational Course

European Packrafting Meetup

We had plenty of workshops during the meetup ranging from Whitewater Technics, rope throwing, Eddy turns, or First Aid basics. The workshops were held by volunteers and I think they are quite useful to improve or refresh your packrafting skills.

We had a couple of presentations during the meetup. There was for example Gabriel from Outventurous who was talking about his trip to Greenland.

Besides the presentations, there were also a few other events. There was a raffle where many of us won small prizes such as T-Shirts or vouchers. The raffle was part of the BBQ party which took place on the last evening of the meetup. Moreover, there was a video evening where we watched videos about river conservation.

Kobarid

One of the meetup days was very rainy and the zipper of my drysuit broke so I decided to look for alternative activities that are not water-based. I took the car and drove to Kobarid to visit a museum about the First World War as I am also interested in History. Moreover, I visited the Trenches which have been built during the First World War war.

What I have learned was that the whole Soca Valley was basically a battlefield. On one side there were the Italians and on the other side, the Austrian-Hungarian Empire allied with the Germans.

The Italians lost the battle in the end since the Germans bombed the whole valley with gas and then moved into the area with their infantry. The battle was won after only 3 days. Below you can see one of the remaining trenches from the First World War.’

Kobarid

Piran

After the European Packrafting Meetup, we decided to drive to the Adriatic Sea. After hours of driving, we were always excited to see the Mediterranean Sea opening up in front of us. And it was the same when we got closer to Piran – suddenly there was the Adriatic Sea.

Once we parked the car we walked into the city centre, taking pictures, and decided to have lunch in one of the many small restaurants. After lunch, we walked along the coast and took pictures and videos of the raging sea. Far away we were also able to see the Julian Alps covered with snow and Container Ships travelling to Kopper – which is probably the most important harbour in the area.

Piran reminded me a bit about Venice – the tower with the clock and the lion with the book were probably signs that Piran was influenced by Venice. Konstantin told me that the book of the lion indicates if the building with the lion was built during the war (closed book) or during peacetime (open book).

We also visited two churches, one of the churches has a 46,45 meter-high bell tower with 146 steps and concluded the day with ice cream before we jumped into the car to drive back to Ljubljana. On the way back we were also able to see the salt plants in the sea which was also quite impressive.

Ljubljana

Once we reached Ljubljana with our car we dropped off Tom and looked for our own apartment where we left our bags before we explored the city.

The most impressive places to visit were the bridge with the dragon (there is a legend that a dragon lives under the castle) and the castle where we had a great view over the city and towards the Julian Alps.

The castle has been greatly renovated after the Second World War and is now a highlight for tourists and locals with a coffee place, restaurant, museum, and souvenir shop. If you are too lazy to walk the hill up to the castle you can also take the cable car which costs around 2.20 EUR one way.

At the castle, we found a model that explained different parts and sections of the castle. From the castle, we had a fabulous view over Ljubljana and towards the Julian Alps.

Once we walked down the hill from the castle back to the city we decided to have Falafel in an Arabic Restaurant. The meal was very delicious and not too pricey (around 7.50 EUR).

Ljubljana reminded me a bit of Turku in Finland since it also has a river that flows through the city. There were many old buildings, shops, and restaurants too.

Vintgar Gorge

I decided to visit the Vintgar Gorge which was just a 35 min drive by car from the airport.

The Vintgar Gorge can be entered from two sides and the entry fee was 9 EUR. I also had to pay 5 EUR to park my car. However, I would say that the visit was worth the price.

The Vintgar Gorge was found in 1891 and was opened to the public in 1893 and tourists can walk over a trail that has been constructed. The highlight is the 16m high waterfall Sum which is also one of the highest waterfalls in Slovenia.

Nordic Packrafting Meetup

The first Nordic Packrafting Meetup was organized by the Swedish Packrafting Association.  In the past, I have always joined the Swedish Packrafting Meetup but since packrafting became more popular in other Nordic countries the idea came up to have one single meetup every year either in Finland, Sweden, or Norway.

I travelled to the Nordic Packrafting Meetup with the ferry from Turku to Stockholm and then it took another 5-hour drive to the place where the meetup took place. 

The deliverance team put a lot of effort and time into setting up the Deliverance saloon. There were heated Tipis and we got warm meals.

The area where the meetup took place was a good selection as well as there were many rivers to choose from and we divided into groups so those who had less experience paddled together while others who had more experience took a more challenging rapid. In the past, we all paddled together and stayed overnight in different places. While staying in different places is a bit more adventurous, staying in the same camp offers the possibility to arrange more.

What I really like about those roundups are the workshops, where you can learn new skills or improve your existing skills. I always thought that I can handle a class 3 rapid but, to be honest, I still need to exercise much more such as proper eddy turns but also swimming in white water and self-rescuing. Mark, Seon, and Jeremie offered safety and paddling workshops.

There have also been situations where paddlers needed to be rescued. I was one of the paddlers. I went down a class 3 rapid and ended up in a hole. Luckily, I was able to get out. I just stayed calm and waited to pop up again on the surface. Basically, I didn’t know underwater where the surface was.  In another situation, two other packrafters capsized and one of the packrafts got stuck in the middle of a rapid while the other packraft ended up on the other side of the river. 

Swedish Packrafting Meetup

Henrik from the Deliverance Team organized the first Swedish Packrafting Round-Up in 2016 at the river Voxnan in Sweden. After a 4 hours drive from Stockholm we arrived at the starting point. We were 20 people from different countries.

On the first day, Henrik welcomed everyone and gave a short briefing. While the others were still pitching their tents me and a few others went already for a short paddling session on the Voxnan.

The next morning Henrik briefed us about the trip and meeting points and then we did a last gear check before paddling down the rapid with our packrafts. The most exciting part which most of us enjoyed was probably the canyon which we had to scout before paddling through it. We had a lunch break at the dam. In the Nordics, there are a lot of pine trees and there might be no need to take gas with you when you have a twig stove and there is no fire warning. Ben who has been sent from a packraft manufacturer showed us how to fix a packraft. In the afternoon the Deliverance Team welcomed us to the spot where we spent the second night with a pirate flag.

Some of us continued the next day to Camp Vinströmmen – The wine rapid. – where we also tested a few new packraft models such as self-bailing packrafts.

During the Swedish Packrafting meetup in 2017 we were packrafting 2 rivers and a third one after the official event. As usual, we were lucky with the weather and enjoyed the sunshine. The nights, however, were still quite chilly.

Highlights of this meetup were that Jacob (Urbanpackrafter) got a birthday cake and the Surströmming tasing. There was also some ice on the river where we took some pictures with our packrafts on top of it. We also had a small incident. Francis capsized with his packraft and had to walk while the packraft was floating down the river. The Round-Up in 2018 was quite similar to the one in 2017.

Finnish Packrafting Meetup

The first Finnish packrafting meeting in 2014 took also place at Kymijoki and was organized by Jaakko.

We met at the Kuovinkallio shelter around 6 p.m. on Friday night, where we pitched our tents and gathered around the campfire to grill sausages while others had been paddling for an hour.

The next morning we drove our cars to a parking lot near the bridge in front of Alhonhaara Hirvivuolle, where we wanted to end our meeting, and returned to the Kuovinkallio shelter with our “shuttle taxi”. Then we inflated our packrafts.

The Ahvionkoski rapids were our biggest challenge on this trip, and a packrafter with the Alpacka Scout-Packraft managed to capsize in these rapids. We first explored the rapids before we went in with our packrafts.

Our second camp at Moronvuori Hut was in Valkmusa National Park – a 2km hike from where we left the Kymijoki River. After we pitched our tents, some of us went to explore Haukanvuori Rock. From there we also enjoyed the beautiful landscape. Back in camp – our hut provided firewood and plenty of opportunities to dry our things. Then we sat by the fire and the party lasted late into the night.

We had a clear sky with the moon and stars over my test. The next morning some grilled bacon over the fire. We also found beautiful colored leaves. Probably one of the last weekends before the leaves all fell from the trees.

Back in the river, some of us tried our wind paddle sails even though there was little wind. Some of us took the opportunity to take some final photos when we arrived at the bridge in front of Alhonhaara Hirvivuolle on Sunday, where we parked our cars the day before.

The second packrafting gathering in 2015 was organized by Korpijaakko and took place in the Helvetinjärvi National Park. The weather was quite mixed on Friday and we also had heavy rain on the way to the National Park but Saturday was a perfect packrafting day with clouds and sun. We paddled in different lakes so there was quite a bit of hiking included. The scenery itself was beautiful with leaves changing their colors into autumn mode. Probably, the paddle trip would have been even more colorful in 1-2 weeks but it was still great.

Once we arrived on Friday at the National Park we pitched our tent and enjoyed a nice evening at the fireplace talking about the upcoming trip, gear, and other stuff. Saturday morning we woke up quite late (10 am) and once we crawled out of the tent we saw 2 other packrafters already returning from their morning fishing trip with their packrafts and 2 pikes.

There was a well nearby where we got our freshwater to prepare tea and coffee. After having breakfast we dried our sleeping bags and pads and packed.

Saturday was also quite windy so we were able to use our Windpaddle sails on some parts of the trip. The mix of sun, clouds, and wind made it very pleasant to paddle especially since we were wearing drysuits. We did a lot of lake hopping, which requires jumping in and out of the packraft and also walking through the wilderness with your packraft and having breaks in between.

At the end of our paddling trip, we lid another fire where we prepared our “late lunch”. Then it was already time to pack our backpacks and to walk back to our starting point.

The Finnish Packrafting Gathering 2017 took place from 6.10. – 8.10.2017 in Karkali Strict Nature Reserve in Southern Finland and was again organized by Jaakko. The starting point was at the Karkali Strict Nature Reserve – 15 km from Lohja.

From Karkalinniemi we paddle 20 km to Korpudden. In between, we take a break to see a particular 300-year-old oak named Paavolan Tammi.

In Korpudden’s safety, we set up our tents, prepared a campfire, and omitted four other participants who join us for a few hours.

The last day was a little rainy and windy and we paddled the Mustionjoki conflicts (one of the “100 pearls of nature”). We waged one ruin, in the other the well not much war, and heard some dams. The distance on that day is 20 km. There were no rapids general the entire trip until we had parked our cars in Karjaa where we belong.

The Finnish Packrafting Meeting 2019 took place from October 4th to October 6th at the Kymijoki river. Some of us met on Friday evening in a Lavvu in Lustkallio / Kuovinmäki near Ahvio, while I didn’t get there until Saturday morning. The main rapids that we paddled on these days were the Ahvionkoski and an expressway in front of Honkasaari, where we also had our lunch break.

We spent the second night in a Laavu near Muoronvuori (near Valkmusen National Park), a 1km hike from the river. There was also a heated hut where some of us used to dry our clothes (e.g. dry suits) at night. During the night we had temperatures around -2C. The next morning we split the group as some of them parked their cars in different places. I kept paddling on Kymijoki until I reached a dam where some of us parked our cars. When we got to the cars, we drove to Pernoonkoski near Kotka, where some of us showed our technical skills.

The Finnish Packrafting Gathering 2017 took place from 6.10. – 8.10.2017 in Karkali Strict Nature Reserve in Southern Finland and was again organized by Jaakko. The starting point was at the Karkali Strict Nature Reserve – 15 km from Lohja.

From Karkalinniemi we paddled 20 km to Korpudden and stopped in between to see the famous 300-year-old oak named Paavolan Tammi.

In Korpudden, we set up our tents and prepared a campfire. The last day was a little rainy and windy and we paddled 20 km on the Mustionjoki (one of the “100 pearls of nature”). There were no rapids on the entire trip until we reached our cars in Karjaa.