– my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

Category Archives: packrafting

Packrafting at Ruunaa – Video!

In mid June I was on an overnight packrafting trip at Ruunaa Hiking area known for its rapids.


In my trip report I promised there would be a video later when my friend has time to put it together… And as Thomas unfortunately damaged his hand on our recent trip around Kebnekaise (more about that later in my blog) he now had the time to edit the video!

You can find the video from Youtube or below:

More packrafting trip reports (and maybe videos from Thomas?) in the blog later. Meanwhile, enjoy the summer and remember to pick berries and mushroms for the witner!

Finnish Packraft Gathering 3

This bilingual post is a preliminary open invitation to packraft gathering at 16.-18.9.2016!
Tämä  kaksikielinen kirjoitus on alustava avoin kutsu packraft-kokoontumiseen 16.-18.9.2016!

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In English: Packrafters in Finland – Unite once again!

We (me and a punch of other packrafters in Finland) would like to invite you to join us for the third Finnish Packraft Gathering at Vantaanjoki in Southern Finland on 16.-18.9.2016. The final details are not yet set but the dates are and so is a rough program:

Friday 16.9. Gathering at one of the camp sites (exact place to be announced in August) of Kytäjä-Usmi area (info pages in Finnish). Evening by the fire in good company. Nice lake-hopping and fishing available for those interested.

Saturday 17.9. Walk from the camp to Kytäjoki or Vantaanjoki river (depending on the water level) and paddling down the Vantaanjoki to Nukarinkosket rapids (fishing info in Finnish, kayaking info in Finnish = in brief: requires high water, class III-IV, 25m drop on 1300m). Distance around 20km, plus a few kilometers of walking to start the day. Second night at a fireplace at Nukarinkosket.

Sunday 19.9. Packrafting further down the Vantaanjoki to Myllykoski rapid (fishing info in Finnish, kayaking info in Finnish = in brief: requires high water, class III-IV, 11m drop on 300m). Distance about 13km. From here you can continue further down stream to Vantaa or even all the way to the sea. Or catch a bus back home. Car shuttles can be arranged if need arises.

A helpful .pdf leaflet in Finnish giving an overview of the Northern part of Vaantaanjoki.

More info (i.e. exact places and times) coming later in August. But make a mark to your calendars!

Everyone is welcome to join – even if you don’t have a packraft, you can just come to have a look or join us with a kayak or canoe. But if you’d like to rent one, feel free to e-mail me (jaakko.heikka@gmail.com).

The normal weekend hire is 65 eur (VAT 24%) but I offer rafts for the meeting for a special price of 40 eur (VAT 24%)!

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Suomeksi: Suomen packraft-melojat – on taas se aika!

Haluamme toivottaa sinut tervetulleeksi kolmanteen suomalaiseen Packraft kokoontumiseen Vantaanjoelle 16
.-18.9.2016. Lopulliset yksityiskohdat varmistuvat myöhemmin, mutta ajankohta on lyöty lukkoon ja ohjelma on suuriinpiirtein seuraavanlainen:

Perjantai 16.9. Kokoontuminen jollekin Kytäjä-Usmin (info-sivut) tulipaikoista (tieto tarkasta paikasta julkaistaan elokuun aikana). Illanviettoa nuotion äärellä hyvässä seurassa. Kytäjä-Usmin alueella on mahdollisuus myös mukavaan “järvihyppelyyn” ja kalastamiseen.

Lauantai 17.9. Kävelemme leiripaikalta vedenkorkeudesta riippuen joko Kytäjoelle tai Vantaanjoelle, josta jatkamme alavirtaan Nukarinkoskille (kalastustietoutta ja melontatietoutta). Melontamatkaa kertyy noin 20km, ja aamulle jokunen kilometri kävelyä. Toinen yö vietetään tulipaikalla Nukarinkoskilla.

Sunnuntai 18.9. Jatkamme melontaa Vantaanjokea alavirtaan Myllykoskelle (kalastusinfoa ja melontainfoa). Melontamatka noin 13km. Myllykoskelta halukkaat voivat jatkaa jokea alavirtaan Vantaalle tai vaikka merelle saakka tai aloittaa kotimatkan julkisilla. Autonsiirtoja voidaan järjestellä tarpeen mukaan.

Hyödyllinen .pdf-esite Vantaanjoen pohjoisosista, jolla liikumme.

Lisäinfoa seuraa elokuussa, mutta varatkaa viikonloppu kalentereihinne jo nyt!

Kaikki ovat tervetulleita mukaan, vaikka ilman lauttaakin! Voit tulla vain katselemaan menoa tai osallistua kajakilla tai kanootilla. Mutta jos haluaisit vuokrata lautan, se onnistuu esim. allekirjoittaneen kautta. Tee varaus sähköpostitse hyvissä ajoin (jaakko.heikka@gmail.com), sillä lauttoja on rajallisesti.

Vuokrahinta viikonlopulta on tavallisesti 65 eur (ALV 24%), mutta kokoontumiseen osallistuville tarjoan lauttoja erikoishintaan 40 eur (ALV 24%)!

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Hiking and packrafting in Northern Karelia

After spending nearly half of the winter skiing and hauling and sleeping on snow and ice, it was time to kick-start the summer season in mid-June. For this I headed to Northern Karelia, near the Eastern most corner of Finland where one can find almost untouched nature in the deep woods and also excellent white water paddling on several rivers.


Sasta 64 Wild

First part of the summer season kick-start was the 64 Wild hiking event organized by the Finnish outdoor clothing company Sasta who I’ve been working with developing the perfect shell clothing for demanding Arctic expeditions. Sasta hails from the deep woods and vast mires of Nurmes and wanted to show their natural habitat to their clients and other outdoor enthusiasts in the form of a three-day hiking event.


My role during the weekend was partially just hanging around, partially guiding and giving a campfire seminar on the first evening. A fellow wilderness guide Anton Kalland gave an excellent campfire seminar on wild greens and other useful resources one can collect from the nature while hiking.


The route plan suggested daily distances of 17km, 24km and 10km with some scenic or historically interesting waypoints along the route. In reality I ended up walking around 19km, 31km and 10km, skipping one way-point on the first day, visiting all the waypoints on the second day and cutting it a few kilometers short on the third day to catch the bus back to Nurmes with majority of the participants. A proper start for the backpacking season! The route was very nice with good views and interesting nature. But when walking in the woods I prefer shorter mileage to have more time for the details of the fine surrounding nature.


My feet took quite a beating as I chosen to walk in my waterproof mountain boots instead of light hikers better suitable for long days. At least the feet are now literally “broken in” for the upcoming summer. The weekend was also quite rainy and being little lazy selecting my spot I ended up sleeping in a stream during the first nigh. Luckily my tent has a good quality bathtub floor turning a possible catastrophe into a quite comfortable although weird water-bed.


It was a great event and I wish to participate again the next year. Hopefully with an option of shorter distances for more time to admire the nature and spend time by the camp fire in good company.

More pics here.

Packrafting at Ruunaa area

After the hike I went to Ruunaa area at Lieksanjoki. The area is well-known for its whitewater (mainly for one excellent and easy to reach wave for playboating) and fishing. Me and two friends were after the whitewater to test our new MRS Alligator 2S packrafts.

We arrived to the end of the road near Paasikoski rapid around midday, walked to the river, inflated our packrafts and got out for a little test spin. The Alligator was slightly less stable than packrafts with wider tubes but with its six-point rigging it offered tons of control and very agile boating. After feeling confident with the new boats we strapped our packs to the bow and headed down stream.


Paasikoski (class 1) was very easy-going. The Haapavitja (class 2) rapid offered little more fun in the form of bigger waves and more speed and was followed by easy going river sections which ended into the Neitijärvi lake. Lake paddling into headwind was hard work as always but it was soon rewarded by the Neitikoski rapid (class 2*). A short, narrow and deep bit with an excellent stopper wave suitable for freestyle kayaking.

We had all done the rapid in the past so decided to go straight thru heading into the big wave to see how the boats would perform. I went first, capsized and took a swim. Huck followed and did the same. Thomas coming as the third decided to take the easier line on the right and stayed upright. We probably did a good impression on the kayaker playing in the wave!


After routine self-rescues we went back to the shore, got rid of our packs and went testing the wave again. Huck tried to get thru the wave with the rucksack on the bow and managed on his third try but capsized in the wave train following the stopper. Me and Thomas concentrated on trying to get into the surf. Thanks to the thigh-straps of the Alligators it was possible but the current was simply too strong for our skills, or for the packraft in general, as once you got into slightly wrong angle or position the rushing water twisted our low-pressure rafts in a way that even agressive bracing didn’t help and swims were inevitable.

But it was still damn fun!

After an hour or so in the Neitikoski we continued down stream paddling Kattilaskoski (class 1) and Murrookoski (class 2) which we scouted for a safe route and also to get warmer as it was raining and our energies were getting low. After Siikakoski (class 1) we took out and camped at one of the many lean-tos on the area. We had a great evening by the campfire enjoying good food, beers, stories and the short night of the summer solstice with a glimpse of the full moon and falling in sleep to the sound of the rushing water.



In the morning we packed our packs and headed upstream enjoying the warmth and sunshine. We decided to take a slightly adventurous shortcut following a little stream to Neitijärvi and crossing the lake to reach a road near the parking area. A nice thing possible with packrafts: you hike, you find a waterway, inflate your raft and follow it. Even though the stream was quite short it added a lot to the trip which could’ve otherwise been done with a canoe or kayak as well. (Leaving the boats down stream to be picked up after walking back to the car.)




The new MRS packrafts worked really well and I’m excited to get more whitewater time with them. Packrafting is so much fun, and packrafting whitewater is even more fun!

I’ll write more about the boats later this summer. Altogether it’s a 4 kg package which, in my opinion, hits the sweet spot between the whitewater performance and the packability and performance for general use. If you want to test them yourself, ask for possibility to rent one or join one of my packrafting courses!

As usual, more pics here.

* These are my estimates on the classic whitewater rating scale based on the water level (138,9m) and discharge (95m^3/s) we had on the trip. The official ratings are little higher, especially for higher water levels. For packrafts the big stopper wave in the Neitikoski difficult but there is a way around if you don’t like the chance of swimming it.


Svalbard – Summer 2015 – Video

Last summer I did a 11-day 175 kilometer hiking and packrafting tour through the Arctic wilderness of Svalbard. I’ve been writing about the trip through the end of the summer including: some background information for the trip and a trip report in three parts (1, 2 and 3). I also promised a video which is finally ready and available.

Thanks for the video, Thomas!

The video is shot and edited by Thomas Wikström. Thanks for putting it together Thomas!

I might write something about the gear used on the trip as well but before that I have two autumn tours in Lapland to write about and of course time to spend in the outdoors. So, no guarantees on if and when gear post will happen. Instead, I recommend spending more time under the open sky. 🙂

Svalbard – Summer 2015 – Pt. 3

Part 3 – Hungry coastal hike thru abandoned settlements

Check out some background information for the trip and the first and second part of the story to make it complete.

After 30 kilometers of awesome (though butt-freezing) packrafting on the Reinelva we were in the point where plans needed to be changed. We had lost almost a full-day and two paddles in a swim a week earlier and Antti and Venla were low on food due to a lost food bag and miscalculations. The original plan of hiking first to Barentsburg (a Russian coal-mining settlement) and from there to Longyerbyen was scratched and instead we decided to take an inland shortcut to abandoned settlement of Colesbukta and continue from there to Longyearbyen saving us some 30 kilometers of hiking and at least a full day.

The next day was warm and less windy as we made our way across the wet tundra from Reindalen to Semmeldalen. We passed some huts in the distance, saw again several reindeer and arctic fox and marvelled the view to Van Mijenfjord in the South. Once we gained some altitude the going was actually quite good. The ground was still wet, soft and uneven but way easier than in many previous places.

We followed old Soviet caterpillar tracks (from late 70s and early 80s) from Semmeldalen to Skiferdalen. The scenery changed from the vast valley with the sea in the horizon to more narrow winding valleys framed by snow-topped peaks. After 20 kilometers it was getting late and we decided to camp by the river next to Sandsteinfjellet.

The river might have offered great fast flowing packrafting straight from the camp but the water-level wasn’t high enough. But on the map the river got wider a few kilometers later and we had high hopes for some more river packrafting for the following day.

In the morning Antti told that he had woken up in the middle of night because of being hungry. The day without snacks or lunch was starting to have its toll. After breaking camp we hiked the few kilometers and found that the river did indeed change: it was little slower, little wider and little deeper: good for packrafting!

Because of the lost paddles we decided to use only four rafts: me, Nina and Thomas were paddling our rafts solo with some extra gear and Antti and Venla shared their Alpackaraft Denali Llama with little less gear using simple-to-improvise canoe-style paddles.

The Coleselva offered actually the most enjoyable packrafting of the whole trip: there was no headwind to fight against, the weather was actually warm and sunny and there was even a decent flow to keep up a good speed. The 11 kilometers on the river were over fast and it was soon time to take out and head towards the abandoned buildings in the distance. Unfortunately we took out in a wrong branch and had to wade across another easy but quite deep branch to reach the settlement of Colesbukta. A minor obstacle which provided refreshing bath for the beating feet.

The shoreline was littered with huge amount of driftwood and all sort of interesting items. The buildings were abandoned but not compltely empty and some of them were in surprisingly good condition. The Colesbukta used to be a port for nearby coalmine, Grumantbyen, but the mining ended in 1965 (?). Afterwards the settlement was used as a base for mineral searching operations until abandoned for good in the 1980s.

After taking a thorough look around we continued along the cliffs towards the Grumantbyen we planned to visit as well. On the way we found the Rusanovhuset, an open hut that I knew was there but hadn’t planned to visit. It was a short but nice visit. There was an Irish family staying at the hut, recuperating after a hike from Longyearbyen over the mountains. There would’ve been plenty of room for us too but we were dedicated to continue little further.

We followed the remains of the old railway, covered with wooden “tunnel” for most of the way, in the soft light of the high Arctic summer night. We bivied between the tunnel and the cliffs with magnificent views to the Isfjorden. Despite a great day the moods were tense due to low blood sugar levelsand a long day.

As we were planning to follow the coast all the way to the outskirts of Longyearbyen, we needed to catch the low tide. The route was suggested passable with low tide and fair weather in Rolf Stange’s book and we had both so we decided to give it a try. Climbing over the mountain didn’t really appeal our tired minds. After an alpine start we continued along the old railway until reaching the tunnel to Grumantbyen now blocked by permafrost ice. A steep climb up and down followed offering again great views over the Isfjorden.

Grumantbyen was way more decayed than the Colesbukta. Some of the building were still standing but that was about it. Half-a-century of harsh Arctic conditions had left behind only walls and partial roofs, and rusting railway tracks and coal carts. We took our time exploring the remaining buildings (and the mine…) while waiting for the low-tide to make our final push. After some time we headed down and started to follow the shoreline to North-East, towards civilization and hamburgers.

The shoreline was quite good for walking but very narrow in places with waves licking your left foot and your right shoulder brushing to the steep cliffs with fresh signs of rockfall around. It was maybe 15 minutes past the low tide when we reached the final cliffs before the mouth of Björndalen.

We judged the shore too steep and water too deep for safe wading and inflated our packrafts for the final push. Still short on paddles we decided to use the three paddles we had and have two rafts in tow to save time. This worked reasonably well though I got properly wet in the launch thanks to the combination of the swell and sideways launch with another raft in tow… Well, it was nice and warm day so damage done.

After couple of kilometers of paddling we were on the shore dotted with little cottages and the end of the road in our sight. It was done. Despite lots of persuasion I was the only one to go for a final swim in the sea before packing up. We called for a taxi and started walking toward the Longyearbyen. The taxi never showed up and we took one from the airport – after 6 kilometers of marching on the road and with fresh blisters in our feet. But it didn’t matter. The tour was done and it was time for hamburgers, beer, shower and some more beer. In that particular order.

Thanks for Nina, Thomas, Antti and Venla for the great tour!

In numbers:

– 11 days and 175 km
– 65 km packafting (three different rivers and a bit on the sea plus a river crossing)
– 110 km hiking (of which 30km on glaciers)
– 9 other people (on the first and the second to last day), several arctic foxes, many reindeers, countless birds
– spectacular high Arctic scenery
– myriad good memories

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PS. More photos in my gallery. Later theremight be even a (gasp!) gear post…