Packrafting Meetups in Europe

Rinka Falls - Slovenia

Some impressions from the European, Nordic, Swedish, and Finnish Packrafting Meetups which I attended.

European Packrafting Meetup

European Packrafting Meetup 2018 Slovenia Soca

On April 29th, 2019, it was time to fly to Slovenia for the annual European Packrafting Meetup and to visit a few other places in Slovenia such as Piran, Ljubljana, and the Vintgar Gorge.

We have made a reservation for a rental car in advance, so we just had to pick it up at the airport in Slovenia. We paid around 180 EUR for one week inclusive full insurance and a second person driving the car. The trip to Camp Liza in Bovec took around 2 hours. First, we checked in and pitched our tent in the area, which was already reserved for us and purchased firewood for 5 EUR to 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, located just next to the local grocery store. The rooms were spotless, and we could dry our camping and packrafting gear during the night in the apartment since we tried to avoid exceeding the weight limit on our upcoming flight. We paid around 35 EUR per person for the appartment.

Whitewater Rescue Technician Course

Rescue 3 Europe - Whitewater Rescue Technician Recreational Course

I participate in the Rescue3 Europe Whitewater Rescue Technician Course before the actual European Packrafting Meetup. I ordered new safety gear for this course – a life jacket, throw rope, knife, and a whistle. I would say that the course was beneficial, and I would recommend such a course to anyone before paddling in whitewater.

The Meetup

We had plenty of workshops during the European packrafting meetup where we had the opportunity to improve our skills in whitewater paddling and doing eddy turns, throwing ropes or first aid basics. Volunteers held the workshops, and I think they are quite useful.

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, such as a raffle where many won small prizes. 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

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. So, 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.

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 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.

Piran

After the European Packrafting Meetup, we decided to go to the Adriatic. After hours of driving, it was nice to see how the Mediterranean suddenly opened up in front of us.

After we parked the car in Piran, we walked into the city centre to take a few pictures and have lunch in the many small restaurants. After lunch, we walked along the coast, and in the distance, we were 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 are signs that Venice influenced Piran. For example, the book of the lion indicates if the building was built during the war (closed book) or 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. We saw the salt plants in the sea on the way back, which was also quite impressive.

Ljubljana

When we reached Ljubljana by car, we looked for our accommodation, in which we stowed our luggage, before we set out to explore the city.

Ljubljana is a beautiful city with lots of old buildings, shops, restaurants and a river that runs through the city.

The most impressive sights were the bridge with the dragon (there is a legend that a dragon lives under the castle) and the castle, from which we had a great view over the city and the Julian Alps.

The castle was heavily renovated after the Second World War and is now a highlight for tourists and locals with a café, restaurant, museum and souvenir shop. If you are too lazy to walk up the hill to the castle, you can also take the cable car, which costs around 2.20 EUR each way. At the castle, we found a model that explained different parts and sections of the castle.

After we visited the castle, we visited an Arabic restaurant in the city where we ate falafel. The food was delicious and not too expensive (approx. 7.50 EUR).

Vintgar Gorge

The Vintgar Gorge is just a 35 min drive from the airport and can be entered from two sides. The entry fee was 9 EUR, and the parking fee for the car was 5 EUR.

The Vintgar Gorge has been found in 1891 and was opened to the public in 1893. The highlight is the 16m high waterfall called ‘Sum’, one of the highest waterfalls in Slovenia.

Finnish Packrafting Meetup

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

We met on Friday evening around 6:00 p.m. in Kuovinkallio, where we pitched our tents and gathered around the campfire to grill sausages while others paddled 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 meet, and returned with our “shuttle taxi” to Kuovinkallio where we inflated our packrafts.

The Ahvionkoski rapids were our biggest challenge on this trip. We explored the rapids first before we went in with our packrafts, but one packrafter capsized.

Our second camp was at the Moronvuori Hut – a 1km hike from where we left the Kymijoki River. After pitching our tents, some of us set out to explore Haukanvuori Rock. Our hut provided firewood and some places to dry our things. Then we sat by the fire and talked late into the night. We had a clear sky with the moon and stars.

The next day some of us tried their windpaddle sails in the river even though there was little wind. Later we reached the bridge in front of Alhonhaara Hirvivuolle, where we had parked our cars the day before.

The second packrafting meeting in 2015 was also organized by Jaakko and took place in the Helvetinjärvi National Park. The weather on Friday was mixed, and we had heavy rain on the way to the national park, but Saturday was a perfect packrafting day with clouds and sun.

When we arrived at the national park on Friday, we pitched our tent and enjoyed the evening around the campfire to talk about the upcoming trip, equipment and other things. Saturday morning, I woke up pretty late, around 10 am, and when I crawled out of the tent, I saw 2 other packrafters who went already fishing with their packrafts and returned with 2 pikes.

There was also a spring nearby from which we took our freshwater to prepare our food and drinks.

Saturday was quite windy so we could use our windpaddle sails on some parts of the trip. The mixture of sun, clouds and wind made paddling very pleasant, especially since we were wearing drysuits. We did a lot of lake hopping but also ran through the wilderness with our packrafts.

At the end of our paddling tour, we prepared our late lunch over a fire before it was time to get 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 Jaako.

From Karkalinniemi we paddled 20 km to Korpudden. In between, we took a break to see a special 300-year-old oak called Paavolan Tammi.

In Korpudden, we pitched our tents, prepared a campfire and welcomed four other participants who accompanied us for a few hours.

The last day was a bit rainy and windy, and we paddled 20 km on the Mustionjoki (one of the “100 pearls of nature”). The distance on that day was 20 km. There was no whitewater on the entire trip.

The Finnish Packrafting Meeting 2019 took place from October 4th to 6th on the Kymijoki River. On Friday evening, some of us met in a lavvu in Kuovinmäki nearby Ahvio, while I didn’t get there until Saturday morning. The main rapids we paddled those days was the Ahvionkoski. We had our lunch break on Honkasaari.

We spent the second night nearby Muoronvuori (close to the Valkmusen National Park), a 1km hike from the river. There was a fireplace and a heated hut where some of us would dry our clothes during the night where we had temperatures of around -2 ° C.

The next morning we split the group as some of us had parked the cars in different places. So our group paddled on the Kymijoki until we reached a dam where some of us had parked our cars. From there, we drove by car to Pernoonkoski near Kotka, where some of us did a bit of white water packrafting.

Nordic Packrafting Meetup

The Swedish Packrafting Association organized the first Nordic Packrafting Meetup. I have always attended the Swedish packrafting meeting before. Still, since packrafting became more popular in other Nordic countries, the idea arose to have a joint meeting in Finland, Sweden or Norway.

To get to the Nordic Packrafting Meetup, I took the ferry from Turku to Stockholm and then drove another 5 hours by car until I got to where the meetup took place.

The “Deliverance Team” put a lot of effort and time into setting up the “Deliverance Saloon”. There were heated tepees, and we got hot meals and drinks.

The meeting location was a good choice as there were quite a few rivers to choose from. We split up into groups so that those with less experience paddled together, while those with more experience took a more challenging rapid.

I really like the workshops on those meetups as you can learn or improve skills. For example, I always thought I could handle a grade 3 river well, but to be honest, I need to train a lot more to do a better eddy turn, swimming in white water or self-rescue. Mark, Seon and Jeremie offered safety and paddling workshops at this meeting.

There have also been situations in which paddlers had to be “rescued”. I was one of the paddlers. I went down a class 3 rapids and ended up in a hole. Fortunately, I came out again. I just stayed calm underwater until I reappeared on the surface. Basically, underwater I didn’t know where the surface of the river 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 landed 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 participants from different countries.

On the first day, Henrik welcomed everyone to the event. While some of us were still pitching our tents, I and a few others did a short paddling session on the Voxnan.

The next morning Henrik informed us about the tour and the meeting points and rechecked our equipment before paddling down the rapids with our packrafts. Most of us enjoyed the most exciting part was probably the canyon that we explore before paddling through it. We stopped for lunch at the dam.

Ben showed us how to fix a packraft and in the afternoon, the Deliverance team greeted us at the river with a pirate flag, where we spent the second night.

Some of us continued the next day to Camp Vinströmmen – the wine rapids. Here we had the opportunity to test new packraft models such as a self-bailing packraft.

We were lucky with the weather at the Packraft meeting in 2017, but the nights were still quite cool.

The highlights of this meeting were Jacob’s birthday (he got a birthday cake) and the surströmming testing. Surströmming is a fermented herring that has one of the most putrid food smells in the world. There was also some ice on the river, and we had a little incident where Francis capsized with his Packraft, and the Packraft drifted down the river without him.