I had long been curious about Finnish culture with its rich outdoor history.
I had heard rumors of a beautiful country with some amazing and very large wilderness areas to explore. Finland is one of the largest countries in Europe and also the most sparsely populated. Living in Austria I was starting to miss the backcountry that I loved so much when we were in New Zealand and was looking forward to getting back to some wild places and exploring more remote rivers again.
I was lucky enough to have some dates coincide and was able to spend two weeks paddling in Finland.
The first week was with good friend Mark Hirst of Lapin Koskikoulu.
Mark has decades of experience as an expedition kayaker and raft guide, he is also an IRF instructor and is the Rescue 3 instructor and the Rescue 3 training provider for Finland. He runs some of the best WRT (Whitewater Rescue Technician) courses available so it was a pleasure to be able to work with him again, no matter how many WRT courses I do, I always learn more.
Mark was running his courses out of Base Camp Oulanka, and he had told me the place was pretty awesome, wild and remote, and that we would be paddling some class 2/3 rivers so I was eager to check the place out.
In short I was blown away by how awesome Base Camp Oulanka and the Oulanka national park is for packrafting.
It is literally packrafting paradise.
Situated just below the Arctic circle, and sharing a border with Russia the national park covers some 270km2 of wilderness area. It is composed of birch and pine forests with many lakes and rivers and varying whitewater sections.
The trail network and system of free Lavvus (bivy huts) and fireplaces make it easy to access the more remote parts of the park by foot or packraft. Base Camp provides the ideal starting point or base for packrafting missions.
Next up was the Finnish Packrafting Meetup.
This was organized by Caj and Jari and was set up in two parts. The first part was two days of whitewater safety training run by Jari. It is really good to see the emphasis on river safety that Packrafting Meet Ups are providing and the awareness of the need for whitewater rescue training they are promoting. Also the format safety training first and then paddling together works really well.
The second part of the meet up brought us back to Oulanka National Park, and another visit to Base Camp. Every now and then in our journey through life we stumble upon truly special places, Base Camp is one of those places. All in all it was a great trip, and I am really looking forward to to the next trip.
Finland, and the Oulanka National Park provide an awesome opportunity for wilderness packrafting trips within Europe.
Base Camp Oulanka has Alpacka packrafts available for demo and rental and they have a team of experienced and professional guides who are currently exploring the potential of the area and designing some packraft courses and expeditions for 2019. This will make is is even easier for people to be able to explore this truly unique and beautiful wilderness area.
Feel free to get in touch with them for local knowledge or guided trips!
Some more impressions from the trip below: