Norway is on the wishlist for many paddlers and with very good reason. This summer we were lucky enough to travel to Norway for the 2022 Nordic Packrafting Meet-up in Femundsmarka near the Swedish border. While in Norway we decided to extend the trip a little and paddled some of the world renowned whitewater rivers surrounding Voss, the classic Sjoa river and even explored the calmer waters of UNESCO prized Nærøyfjord.
What can we say - our expectations were not only met, they were vastly exceeded! We felt and still feel deeply impressed, not only by the breathtaking beauty and wilderness of Norways nature but also the friluftsliv culture and the hospitality of its people.
Let's start at the beginning - the first Nordic Packraft Roundup took place 3 years ago in Sweden (you can read about it here). The idea was that each year another Nordic country would host this Packrafting Meet-up. Due to Corona, a couple more years had to go by before the next round took place, this year in Norway.
The Meet-up location was at a campground right on the shore of Lake Femunden, Norways second largest natural lake. Indeed it was massive, but also very natural, along most of its shore all you could see was a vast extension of pine trees and untouched wilderness. A very different view compared to living in central Europe where the shores of most lakes are occupied by roads and expensive houses.
The campground has good amentites and provided lots of space, both for social gathering, but also a quiet place if you wanted. It has been really inspiring to be apart of and watch the packrafting community grow over the years and we immediately felt welcome among friends both new and old, some of which we hadn't seen since the last Nordic Round-up 3 years ago!
The lake provided the perfect warm up and training grounds for basic safety practice on the first day, so everybody could check their gear, practice wet exits and re entry (Flip Drills), and assisted rescue techniques. Water levels on the surrounding rivers were very low and on the following days we paddled two rivers - Femundselva and the shorter run of Gløta. The upper part of Femundselva was very beginner friendly and we also took our 3 kids on the river in the Alpacka Forager.
As usual, knowledge was shared on and off the river, and Seon ran some basic safety training, a comprehensive packraft and drysuit repair workshop, and provided some personal coaching on the river. The Norwegian Paddling Association also ran a Beginner Packrafting course during the weekend.
Seon explaining paddling strokes.
Much too fast Sunday came around and the international crowd of packrafters returned home to their usual paddling grounds. It was so nice to spend time with old and new friends while paddling and socializing on and off the river.
But there was no time to be sad as we continued on to paddle Sjoa river next, and what a river this is! Certainly deserving of a place amongst the top 5 whitewater rivers in Europe. Even in August water levels were pretty good - to be honest, I wouldn't have wanted any more water on my first runs of the "play-run" section (II-III), nor did Seon feel the need for higher flows for his first runs on the more challenging Åsengjuvet run (IV-), or the class IV-V Åmot gorge. Sjoa really has it all - beautiful nature and technical whitewater for all levels, and very clean in terms of the usual river hazards such as siphons and strainers.
Be warned that Norways rivers are typically rated half a grade above what they would be in Europe Eg, a Norwegian Class III would be graded as a Class III+ in Europe. A lot of paddlers (ourselves included) have to re-evaluate their personal paddling level after a trip to Norway.
After so much whitewater, we decided to explore some calmer waters and took the kids for an overnight packrafting trip on Nærøyfjord. Just stunningly beautiful, although a bit busier with ferrys and small tourist boats than we expected, but the mornings and evenings were pure magic.
Seon then got the chance to kayak some of the rivers surrounding Voss with the locals and was blown away by the amount of quality whitewater rivers, runs and paddlers in the area. Unfortunately no photos from these runs but some great memories and new friends made.
Eventually we had to head back to Austria, but this certainly won't be our last trip to Norway :-)
We would like to send out a huge heartfelt THANK YOU to the packrafting and paddling community. It is an honour and a privilege to paddle with you all and share our mutual passion and love of water, rivers and nature!
Michaela & Seon Crockford-Laserer
Founders of Packraft Europe
Photo Credit: Torkel Pettersson, Michaela Crockford-Laserer