28.08.2011

Packrafting - a European Scene?

This post deserves to be in English, as it is meant to address an international community. Try the translate option to the right, if you feel more comfortable reading in your native language. 

According to the Europe section in the worldwide Packrafting Forums a true scene never caught on here. There are only sporadic posts and no more than a few active members. Why is that? Well, Europe is not the primary destination for the origins of Packrafting as a way of wilderness exploration. But like stated earlier, Packrafting is not limited to that. Any form of combined activities proves the idea. Given the public transport options for example, Europe is a great destination. I know of several more packrafters in Europe by now. Packrafting finally seems to develop.
Piotr and Marcel from Poland in the Hardangervidda
The ultralight backpacking community

First, there is the ultralight backpacking community, who quickly adopted the concept expanding their range of activities. Being missionary by nature, detailed reports followed. Thus, we have the greatest medial coverage in this section (which does not match the overall usage!). Now they are more and more keen on training paddling skills. The typical path for hikers who become boater.

Sabine Schroll (Austria) – the toughest tame water explorer I know. Rejecting any form of white water, but daring glacier lake crossings in Greenland as well as fighting hordes of mosquitoes in Lapland. Solo. She has  the guts. On the other hand, her trips are a true expression for gentle amphibious travel. Something very appealing to me, I like to promote: http://www.schroll.at/blog/

Jörgen Johansson (Sweden) – an early adopter. Packrafter in Scandinavia for many years. He has recently been outside of Europe to the Nahanni of Canada. The big wilderness. We also had a nice discussion going on paddling techniques for packrafter. http://www.fjaderlatt.se/

Jaakko Heikka (Finland) – nice and youngish guy with more adventures than time to write them up. Most notable the Lätäseno trip this summer. Finlands wildest river – in terms of rapids and remoteness. Something I can attest, having done it in 1996. Packrafts would have come in handy to the time though (we flew). He managed to fully walk in and paddle out. http://korpijaakko.wordpress.com/

Hendrik Morkel (Germany/Finland) – a ‘Tausendsassa’, who sure includes the packraft in his reflections. The blogging man, who is not only covering miles! Try to match the amount of letters! Impossible and astonishing. A community builder we can learn from!  http://www.hikinginfinland.com/

Joery Truyen (Belgium) – Long term solo adventurer. Mostly in the nordics. Again he spent five weeks above the Arctic Circle this summer. He also proves to ability of whitewater worthness without a spraydeck (see his Karwendel/Isar Trip). http://dzjow.wordpress.com/

Mark Roberts – a European currently in Minnesota. Sure he will use his raft when he returns to Lapland -  the preferred destination of him. http://www.backpackingnorth.com/

Phil is true ultralighter, so gear weight is on his focus. A feature the this boat can hardly be matched, it allows what he embraces: trips with an emphasis on walking. http://www.lightweightoutdoors.com

Benjamin Moryson and Enno Kunze (Germany) – lightweight backpacking friends who got caught by the boating virus. Both are very keen on paddling with others. Hook up with them. I have been to Austria with Benjamin and can assure he is a reliable partner.

Finally, there is Marcel Bak and Pjotr Antkowiak from Poland (Picture above), who tackled the Hardangervidda this summer (something I have failed in 2009). As of being close by, I am looking forward to potential trips together, for example the upper Iser approaching from the Polish side?

True UL camp with Picture from Piotr and Marcel.
Kayaker and Canoeists

Packrafts have become more and more real boats, so those who are first and foremost paddlers getting aware of them now (in contrast to hiker and general outdoorer earlier). However, water sport is a very different culture. The hardest part is getting over ones own shadow (German proverb). Some made it.

Gerhard Gindle from southern Germany is a boater by origin. At first he ditched his heavier boats for the packraft and was stunned what fun and capable they are. He now expands into hiking. This is a typical career for a boater who became a packrafter. Watch his latest video: Alpine Packrating in Austria (Karwendel).

Likewise did Rainer Lüdike from northern Germany. His summer trip took place in Austria too (Salza and Upper Isar) with kayaking folks as well as on his own. He is very happy about the independency the packraft allows him now. He said, the dream of paddling by fair means came true for him. Have a look for some of the  pictures

Jens clearly used to kayaks,  Kamenice Tanvalska/Czech Republic
Then, there is the fellows who don’t care either section. They are just doing what they do. A crowd from the UK, Scotland in particular, Edinburgh to be specific.

David Hine and John Topping as well as Tom Allen plus Johnny Hall are all “Highlanders” (add Phil from above). I envy them the location! I had been living in Scotland for some time and know of the potential. If I only had had a packraft to the time. It is also great to see that there is a local community sufficient enough for group trips. Can Scotland be what Alaska in North America is in terms of packrafting buzz?

Elsewhere in the UK is Chris S. Coming from inflatable kayaks, we share a heritage. I too made my initial contact on water sport with the “big” inflatable ones (Canadian canoes in my case).  He has a great review on packrafts in general on his site.http://apaddleinmypack.wordpress.com/packrafts/

Alastair Humphrey (England) – the only one in this round who makes a living from adventure. As such, the packraft is one of his tools, exactly as it is meant. His videos are professional too. Simply stunnig. He is currently undertaking the “year of micro adventure”, a theme very appealing to me. Local endeavours need far more creativity than exotic destinations! The look out for new or rare and special or strange things on the door step is a rewarding challenge. http://www.alastairhumphreys.com/adventures/year-microadventure/

Tom Allen, Packrafting the Highlands
Other European Pioneers

Christian Rokseth (Norway) - doing exactly one bigger trip, year after year, since 2005! Martin Lunz and Nadine Puschkasch are also one of the first Europeans using packrafts. They ditched an Ally folding canoe on their 7 year cycle around the world. I am looking forward to meeting them soon. http://www.weltenbummler2003.de/

On the odd side of things

Andreas Kastner (Germany/Munich) - attempting the fly ‘n float theme. Andreas has been a paraglider for 10 years, now adding the packraft. Something I have long dreamt of! Flying the steeper slopes and valleys (where rafts can´t go), rafting further down (where elevation drop is too little for Paragliding) does sound appealing! However, as Andreas admits, it faces some limitation and he is still in first attempts and feasibility studies, but can see visionary approaches. Having ‘some’ paragling experience, I can hopefully join, at least in a tandem approach. http://smailandreas.blogspot.com/

Chistian Neumann – the gourmet packrafter. Christian has a passion not only for bushcraft, and paddling, but for outdoor cooking in particular. Have a smell on his pictures, then you won’t return to freezer bag food.

Reiner Leipert and Holger Trepte-  the ‘retro’ Packrafter. Rainer and Holger both loved the idea about packrafting, but did not care for the product. They heard of small inflatables made in GDR, reasonable tough and fairly light and found them adequate for their purposes. I like their style!

Holger, 'Quasi packraft', River Zwickauer Mulde




On the far side of Europe

A European scene is defined by people doing trips in Europe and Europeans people doing trips anywhere. Gabriel (Libertist) from Germany living in Austria and Birgit Koch of Switzerland both ventured into the Alaskan Bush for 9 to 5 – well not the hour, but weeks. Likewise did Helge Bendl, but in Africa. The Kongo to be exact, because there is a big difference. And there are the French with a fine Expedition in Madagaskar.
Helge on the Kongo.



Conclusions

This was a try to capture the European scene as it currently appears. The list might be extended by the following aspirants we recently had contact with: Matt (London), Trygve (Norway), Joni (Finland), Christian (Switzerland), Silvio, Thomas, Martin, Marten, Friedrich, Eric, Christoph (Germany), Johnny (UK)

Not primary visible, but active (in Germany) we know of are Joy, Sten, Johannes, Robert, Katharina, Uwe, Katerina, Ricarda, Philip, Oliver, Claudia, Dominik, Roland, Kai, Stephan and Jens. Part of them I had been on a very  nice day trip with in Czechs Republic.

However, truth is, those mentioned are only the observable one. This is far from being a zensus. The blogging scene can be a parallel universe. There are those who blog less and do more. Right so. For them it is recreation. Not reproduction. Let us know anyway by short comment or drop a mail.

I also heard of Olaf from CH, with some initial coverage on packrafting.ch, he now abandoned. I guess for trips in his country. Maye he can slip in here! We also have some coverage from Russia (Andrey Panyushkin). But where are the Packrafter from Spain, Portugal, Czechs Republic, Slovakia, Ireland and all the other European countries?
A group of 6 Packrafts on one trip, still a rare thing in Europe. Sazava/CZ.




Edit: I forgot Moski from Sweden, whom I met in Stockholm in 2009. Soon after he got his own boat and by now he went packrafting in the Swedish archipelago as one of the few saltwater uses of packrafts! Being a member from the hammock community, the video of his latest trip looks very relaxed :)

To be continued!

Kommentare:

  1. nice article... here's to hoping the European scene grows!

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  2. Thanks David. It is in our hands :) Scotland seems to be a good start!

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  3. Really well written article, super informative and interesting!

    Thanks,

    Matt Traver (UK)

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  4. Very nice work to gather everybody - at least virtually. That is a good first step to meet in real life!
    And ... actually I am more a wuss ;)

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  5. Very good post! Thank you for a) writing it, b) doing it in english and c) for mentioning me. I promise to pull together the trip report before the end of the year... But before that, I have some packrafting to do after this week. This time heading to Ruunaa rapids in Eastern Finland. Including the very popular and well known free style kayking spot of Neitikoski.

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  6. Fantastic introduction to all theEuros paddling packrafts!

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  7. Nice post Sven...I actually did start a blog quite recently, although it's not just about packrafting. I am actually hoping the scene won't grow too much! The less people venturing in the wild, the more wild it stays ;)

    Cheers, Marten

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  8. Hi all, thanks for all the nice comments! That is motivating :)

    Matt, you guys in the UK already make a substantial sub groupe. As I heard you belong to it now!

    Sabi, I do hope it help to connect people for real trips!

    Jaakko, how about free style packrafting then;)

    Roman, thanks for stopping by from overseas! Lets keep it connected.

    Don, your blog is on my list for an update on the scene. I think the scene can grow and the wilds stay. Packrafting is not only about wilderness, isn't it?

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  9. I've watched the video and it was awesome. I would like to try this out. I love water sport and I can't wait to visit the area. Looks really great!



    white water rafting tennessee

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  10. But where are the Packrafter from Spain, Portugal, Czechs Republic, Slovakia, Ireland and all the other European countries?

    From Slovakia i am here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QtGDrr_gIcI

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  11. Hello friends! Thanks for watching. In Slovakia, we are starting a new project at http://packrafting.tips. Since next year, at least one article at months will be added to this webpage. I invite you to see two new videos. Miro

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