Best Packrafting Destinations - Month by Month
It's the beginning of a new year and like us, you are probably starting to plan which trips to take and which meet ups and events to attend.
To make the decision easier, we have written a month by month overview with the main packrafting destinations listed.
Of course, this list will never be 100% complete, there are so many awesome adventures to be had with a packraft, so if we have missed an event or an awesome place to go paddling please let us know or write a note in the comments section.
Worldwide raft guide and rescue instructor Mark Hirst from Lapin Koskikoulu gave us a hand with the destinations that we have not yet had a chance to paddle.
JANUARY - MARCH
Middle of the winter for the Northern hemisphere means summer is in full swing down South.
NEW ZEALAND is a prime packrafting destination, pretty much from December to March.
Actually, NZ is great for paddling any time of year it just has warmer and more predictable weather in the summer months. Packrafting trips in NZ can be anywhere from a few days to several weeks. It is pretty much packrafting paradise.
The sparsely populated South Island of NZ has massive backcountry areas where you can hike and packraft for days and weeks without seeing any sign of civilization.
A couple of trips worth special mention are the stunning Pelorus River near Nelson on the South Island (2-4days) and the Hollyford-Pyke loop in Fiordland which has become very popular. We have heard of people fast packing it in less than 4 days, however, most people take their time and you can easily spend two weeks or more exploring the area. There are of course many other rivers, just have a look at NZ topo maps, check out Whitewater NZ to research your river or ask the very active and helpful New Zealand packrafting community for some trip ideas.
Seon packrafting from Martins Bay to Big Bay on the Hollyford-Pyke loop, only to be attempted in optimum conditions and with packrafting and ocean experience. A change in wind or current can have serious consequences. If in doubt, best to walk along the shore, avoid the trail, it's hell.
The New Zealand packrafting meet-up takes place in January. It is organized by the New Zealand Packrafting Association (PRANZ). This year's meet-up took place in Hanmer Springs and had over 30 people attaining and a fantastic 50/50 ratio of female/male packrafters :-) You can find a report of the 2018 meet up here. If you have missed the big annual meet-up, you can still join regional mini meetups.
New Zealand is a long flight away from Europe and you will be facing 12h jetlag, so you probably want to spend at least 3 weeks there, ideally more if you can.
The Unbounded crew packrafting across Lake Vidal Gormaz
Other paddling destinations in the Southern Hemisphere with good rivers are PERU and CHILE.
Pucón in CHILE is a great little adventure town, surrounded by a stunning landscape of lakes, mountains of rivers. It has many whitewater rivers nearby that are rafted and kayaked frequently.
Further South, the Futaleufu River, located in northern Patagonia, is a must for those happy on big volume class 3 and above.
For the daring, you can also attempt the Greater Patagonian trail. Some impressions can be found in the journal and film of Unbounded; and - for German speakers - also on this blog post: Greater Patagonian Trail 2018- 9 von Lago Puelo nach Villa Rivadavia. More in depth information on the GPT can be found in The Greater Patagonian Trail Hiker's Manual and on Wikiexplora.
In PERU, the Apurimac is one of the worlds classic rivers. Paddlers attempting this river need to be happy paddling on demanding class 4 rivers.
As with most South America, knowing some Spanish makes everything a LOT easier, so if you don't speak the lingo yet, do your best to learn some of it before you go.
In INDIA, the Ganges river is another option for the intrepid packraft adventurer.
Closer to Europe, MOROCCO and PORTUGAL are good packrafting destinations for January to March.
Not as warm as most of the above, but much more accessible for those living in Europe.
In Morocco head to the Ahansal river in the High Atlas Mountains. Berber Rafting Adventures can offer accommodation, shuttles and logistics.
MARCH - MAY
NEPAL is a mecca for paddlers no matter what your personal standard is.
- The Lower Seti is a 2 day class 3 trip.
- The Kali Gandaki is a 3 day class 3+ trip.
- The Karnali river in the far west of Nepal for a 5 -10 expedition on this world classic. You can contact Paddle Nepal for help with logistics or joining a guided trip.
On April 15 - 20, 2019 the first stop of the BALKANS RIVER TOUR took place in Romania.
MAY - SEPTEMBER
Main packrafting season in Europe, USA and Canada. River flows are high after snowmelt and spring rains, but tend to drop over summer.
Great time to packraft rivers in the European Alps, The Balkans, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Georgia or Russia to mention a few. Also a good moment for the Ladakh River in India.
Seon paddling Myllokoski during the Finnish Packraft Meet up. Just a 15 Min walk from Basecamp Oulanka.
In Finland be sure to check out Oulanka National Park, there is some great packrafting to be had from day trips to multi day trips. There is also a good trail network and Lavu (hut/ bivies) set up. Basecamp Oulanka is a great place to use as a base for paddling or to begin / end your trip. The team at Basecamp also packraft so they can let you know about the potential in the area.
For impressions of packrafting in ICELAND, you could have a look at the Land Water Adventures expedition report.
As for the BALKANS, the Vjosa is best attempted in April, since the lower sections especially get very hot from May onwards.
The Tara, with it's second deepest canyon in the World, it has good flows and fewer crowds in May/June and is best avoided in July/August as it is full of commercial raft trips with loads of rowdy clients. If you're planning a trip down there we highly recommend staying at Camp Grab right on the lower section of the Tara and close to the Piva, an awesome class 3 / 4 river. They are also very helpful with local river info and trips in the area.
The Soca river in Slovenia is fantastic all summer and also has a hiking trail running alongside and the Triglav National Park nearby. It makes for a great packrafting - hiking trip, or a trip where some can packraft and some can hike as we did a few years ago with our 5-month-old daughter.
GEORGIA has some great rivers for class 3 multi-day trips. The Rioni river can be tied in with some trekking and of course amazing Georgian food & hospitality.
Paddling together at the 2018 European Packrafting Meet-up at the Soca.
May to September is also when most Meet-ups and paddling events happen. Below a list of 2019 events but just follow the links to find current dates!
May 1 - 5: The annual European Packrafting Meet-up is the first in Europe for the season and is held at the beautiful Soca river in Slovenia.
May 23 - 26: First edition this year, the Nordic countries join forces and organize the Nordic Packraft Roundup in Sweden, close to the Norwegian border in the beautiful region of Dalarna.
June 1 - 2: Kanu and Outdoor Testival in Munich. A great little event where you can usually test Alpacka, Kokopelli and MRS/Anfibio packrafts.
June 9: Vogalonga of Venice. Fancy paddling through the channels of Venice with no motorboats around? The Vogalonga is a 30km paddling/rowing event through the city of Venice and the lagoon up to Burano. There are usually well over one thousand boats, of many types, but all paddle-powered only. The Vogalonga started in 1975 by the local rowing clubs as a protest against the wash and the waves created by the ever-increasing number of motorboats in the city and the lagoon. Nowadays, paddling in Venice is quite restricted during the rest of the year.
June 26 - July 2: The 2019 Canadian Packraft Rendezvous is held at Mount Robson provincial park, British Columbia.
July 7 - 13: Second stop of the Balkans River Tour in Bovec, Slovenia, on the Soca and its tributaries.
July 8 - 14: The French Alps Packrafting Meet-up takes place at the Durance River, joining some days with the Durance Whitewater Festival, that unites all river lovers, with kayaks, rafts, SUPs and of course packrafts!
July 18 - 21: American Packraft Roundup at Payette River at Hot Springs Campground in the Boise National Forest near Garden Valley, Idaho.
September 19-21: UK Packrafting Meet Up 2019 at Lake Tegid (Bala), North Wales
September 24 - 29: Third and last stop of the Balkans River Tour in Bulgaria. Paddle on 2 rivers, fly fishing, hiking, teaming up with local resistance against dams.
Learning throwbag techniques during a packraft whitewater rescue training course. Salza River, Austria.
Last but not least, from May to September we run our packrafting specific whitewater rescue courses, certified by Rescue 3 Europe.
We can't recommend whitewater rescue training highly enough. A course provides the knowledge, skills and training needed to identify the risks and hazards involved in moving water and the techniques needed to help avoid these risks, to self-rescue, and to help others in a rescue scenario.
There will be a course after the European Packrafting Meet-up at the Soca, and also during the French Alps Packrafting Meet-up at the Durance. Other courses are taking place at the stunning Salza river in Austria. Courses last from 1-3 days. You can find all the dates here.
OCTOBER - DECEMBER
The flows in NEPAL in October – December are lots higher due to the end of the monsoon. These flows also coincide with the best season for trekking.
Maybe a hike/ride to the Annapurna base camp then a paddle down the Kali Gandaki River would make for an epic 12 day trip.
In SOUTH AFRICA, the Orange River is a potential 4 day + trip, with class 2-3 whitewater.
Packraft Meetups and Events (2019):
October 5 - 7: Australian Packrafting Meetup, held around the Canberra and Murrumbidgee River region.
October 5: Italian Packrafting Championship at Valstagna on the Brenta River, hosted by the Federazione Italiana Rafting. Possibly there will be also a little Packrafting Meet-up at the same place and weekend! Valstagna is between Venice and Lake Garda and can even be reached quite easily by train, or the cycling path that also runs next to the river.
If you want to stay up to date with all packrafting meet-ups and events, you can also join the Packrafting Events, Safety and Conservation Facebook Group.
We have surely missed some epic packrafting destinations so please leave a note in the comments below, or if you want to add more information to any river or event mentioned in the post. Please share your knowledge, we look forward to hearing from you and hopefully paddling with you soon.
We will also keep updating this post as more events pop up :-)
Have a great year of packrafting!
Seon & Michaela
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