Packrafthike Gap Year – Part 1/The Subarctic

[Update Tuesdag 11 July 2012 – MAJOR UPDATE on the first Sarek part, where we choose to cut through in western direction in direction of the Norwegian coast, right through Padjalenta National Park, packrafting the anciant glacial lakes of Virihaure, Vastenhaure, Sallahaure. 2 more days added on Lofoten. 2weeks till kick-off. First we’ll have a 10-day family retreat on Tenerife (Canary Islands). Download the full google earth map below]

Seamsealing the MLD eVent rain mitts, a monastic work.

Seamsealing the MLD eVent rain mitts, a monastic work.

We would like to present Part 1 of the Gap Year. A 1102 km packrafthike in Norhern Sweden and Norway. All above the Arctic Circle, wider known as Lapland or Sápmi . 745km hiking. 357km packrafting. 55 days. Kick-off 25th July. Finale 17th September.

The first part includes passing through known and less known areas like Tromsdalen, the Lyngen Alps, Kitdalen, Breiddalen, packrafting Kummaeno, Taavaeno and Lainio in remote Northern Sweden, smashed in between Finland and Norway. A second part will bring us to the famous Kebnekaisefjällen in the Swedish fjells along the Kungsleden, packrafting south, passing a first time through Sarek, westwards through Padjalenta. There we will ferry towards Versteralen and Lofoten. Those islands sparked us with so much eager last year, that we had to come back for some packraft-floating in between the needle-like granite peaks emerging from the sea. We will ferry back towards mainland, from where we will traverse the Svartissen and Salfjellet National Parks in coastal Norway. We will cross back to Sweden in eastwards direction towards wildlife-cladden Taradalen, from where the ruska (autumn) coulours will daze us. From here we will enter a second time into Sarek with an intention on packrafting Rapadalen.

We expect subarctic, summer-autumn climate conditions : ****-loads of misty rain, snow, cold, low clouds on the windswept tundra, arctic mountains and a mosquito-laden taiga. Hopefully some sun too. Would be nice. Thank you.

Please click here for a google earth download file from the 55-day plan. We embed the map in google maps below, but google maps crops everything in 3 different pages, so you don’t have the full picture here.

We would appreciate it a lot, if people known to and from the area, and especially on packrafting some of the rivers, fjords or seas, if they could give us some feedback through the comments. Maybe we overexagerate on some (packrafting) parts of the plan. Or maybe we should reconsider alternatives, on which we did not set our eyes on. A gear list will appear here soon too.

Packrafthike Planning Lapland 2012

Packrafthike Planning Lapland 2012

50 Days Food Rations Preperation

50 Days Food Rations Preperation

We known the area only from winter trips. We were on the Lofoten last year. Loads of pics will follow. We hope.

Utakleiv Beach - Lofoten Islands (from our april 2011 visit)

Utakleiv Beach – Lofoten Islands (from our april 2011 visit)

Reine, probably the world's most photoscenic village. Southern Lofoten Islands (from our april 2011 visit)

Reine, probably the world’s most photoscenic village. Southern Lofoten Islands (from our april 2011 visit)



  1. This sounds like such an amazing trip, can’t wait to read more about it.
    If you come by Svolvær in Lofoten you should take a trip to the top of the Fløya mountain. It stands out to me as one of the best hikes from the year i spent in Lofoten.
    Have a safe trip!

  2. Hi Steve, great plans!
    The route I hiked last year more or less coincides with yours between Saltfjellstua and Hellemobotn. I see you’re planning to follow the E6 road between Lonsdal and Fauske. I don’t know if you want to hike or hitchhike this part, but bear in mind that this is a very busy road. It’s the main traffic artery in this part of Norway, with a lot of commercial traffic (huge trucks). I followed the DNT trail through the mountains of Junkerdal to Sulitjelma (to the east of the E6). This is a much more quiet and arguably more scenic route, with the forested section between Ballavri lake and Sulitjelma being especially beautiful in autumn. There’s a fairly well-stocked supermarket in Sulitjelma, so you could resupply there instead of in Fauske.
    Of course you could always packraft the river that runs parallel to the E6, but there are some very tricky rapids and waterfalls on the way.

    The trail between Sulitjelma and Pieskehaurestugan mostly consists of 4WD and snowmobile tracks and is littered with hydroelectric infrastructure and reminders of Sulitjelma’s mining history. The route between Sulitjelma, via Sorjushytta, to Staloluokta is more rugged and gives you the opportunity to packraft the Staddajahka river.

    Hellemobotn is an absolutely astonishing place and boasts some of the best scenery I’ve seen in Norway. Hellemobotn fjord didn’t look like an easy paddle though. The wind can be relentless and the sides of the fjord (nearly vertical and slippery granite slabs) looked very steep. I think it would be very difficult to bail here if you run into any bad weather while on the water. I didn’t go all the way down into the fjord though, so it might not be as bad as I think.

    If you want, I’ll send you a kmz. file of my route.

    Best of luck with all your trips this year. They all look amazing.

    • Thx for the great feedback.

      Originally we would have hike all the way from GLomfjord to Sarek, but due to timing constraints, we had to cut in the plans. So we decided to take the train from Lonsdal to Fauske and from there on bus to Sulitjelma. The suggested alternative for going towards Staloluokta, I might consider going there, but then we need to change some more of the route. Let me think about it.

      Please send me your KML-file with day-to-day itinerary and I could map it on ours, would be great!


  3. That’s quite a different plan than what I have been expecting from you Steve! I thought you would be planning a hiking trip in one line. The fjord and sea packrafting will be a lot of fun for sure, but as Yves already mentioned the winds in combination with the water currents can make it dangerous as I have noticed myself last summer. I’ll send you a mail with my experiences. Hope it will be helpful on your trip. Much succes with the further preparations!

  4. This trip sounds mind blowing. I took my packraft to the isle of senja last year. I want to take it back there as a rivers and lakes trip looks doable through the centre. I would love to go to lofoten, too, but I hear it is more busy with tourists.

    I wanted to paddle rappadalen since seeing pictures. But I heard it was banned for conservation reasons (except for local sami). Was I misinformed or are you doing it ‘stealth’? If it can be paddled I’m definitely going there.

    Looking forward to reading about your journey! Have fun

  5. I found this opportunity to leave a comment after my reply to, so I am pasting my reply here too:

    From your blog it seems like you’re paddling two in one explorer, and also that you are not too experienced river rafters. Still you should be able to handle up to class 2 rapids.

    I have paddled Kummaeno, Tavvaetno and Lainio River (down to Jårkastaka, where the first road crosses the river) both in open canoe and in packraft. In august, the water level in these rivers is low, so stones and gravel bars may somewhere cause some problems, but they should still be very well doable in a packraft.

    Kummaeno is mostly still-flowing and easy to paddle. Downside the waterfall near Pältsastugorna there are only 2 longer rapids that you may chose to portage, one starting just below C09 (at your Google Earth file) that is 400 m long, and Laireguoika starting about 1 km downstream the 500 m contour, about 1 km long. Additionally there are about 4-5 very short rapids, some of which you may choose to paddle.

    Above you’ve got a link to a river description of Tavvaeatno and Lainio River. You should be aware that the Swedish classification often lies above the international classification, i.e. a class 3 rapid in these is more like an international class 2 rapid.

    Tavaeno is approximately 70 % slow flowing water. You may chose to portage some of the class 3 (ie class 2) rapids. The one 3-4 km before the confluence with Råstoätno is probably the most difficult. All of these are easy to portage.

    Laino River is mostly still flowing until 9 km before the Liedaka rapid, where the river starts flowing faster in a continuous class 1 rapid that calumniates in upper Liedakka (class 4). Upper Liedakka can be portaged on river left if you choose not to paddle it, and the delta is best paddled in the leftmost channel. The lower Liedaka can easily be portaged on river left. Kentakoski may also be paddled, or alternatively you can carry on a gravel road at river left.

    The fishing camp at Råstojavri , a few km northwest of C11, will probably sell you some food if you are short. They once sold me some cans of beer while passing by. Some of the huts along “Kungsleden” also sell food.

    You can see pictures from my packrafting trips here.
    Trip 1, 2, 3 and 5 are partly relevant for your route. The water level in the Råsto-Lainio trip was almost full spring flood, and much higher than you can expect. The maps can be zoomed in, and I have as exactly as possible drawn in the route, blue while paddling, and red while carrying.

    Alternative routes from Råstojavri to Lainio River could be along the Råstoetno (more scenic but more difficult than Tavvaetno, you probably would have to carry most of it), or Harrejohka (half of which can be paddled on still water if not extremely low water).

    It’s an ambitious and exiting expedition you are planning, good luck!


  6. A fantastically ambitious and thrilling trip you have planned. Just looking at the photos along the route in Google Earth has me wanting to pack a bag.

    I don’t, unfortunately, have much to offer you in the way of tips or advice as I’ve only travelled a little in those areas, or visited more as a tourist (i.e. to Lofoten, which I agree is just spectacular).

    Some of the sections in Sweden look, from what I can see on Google Maps, to be a bit marshy, but I imagine you had better maps when planning the route so it might just be poor interpretation of satellite images on my part. The section you’re taking on bus through Kiruna is definitely work taking on bus 😉 I guess you could walk via Abisko instead…

    I once planned to walk by the river you are packrafting just south of the three borders area. That was July, and the bugs were so bad I changed plans. Some of the mountains had hanging bogs on them though, so getting high (in altitude, not… like… you know…) to avoid mosquitoes didn’t work out. However, that might have been within the boundary of Finland, which you seem to be studiously avoiding (and to be honest, Finland can’t compete with the epic scale of the scenery on the rest of the route).

    Jaako is much more experienced with Sarek so he might have some tips and ideas for you regarding that. You could maybe talk to Jörgen and check out that book Chris Townsend reviewed recently about the guy who hiked/canoed Norway (assuming you haven’t already).

    Sorry I can’t be of more use!

  7. Quite a plan! Hope all will go well!

    Some info regarding Kummaeno (first hand experiene) and fjords and the Northern coat in general from second hand sources:

    As said Kummaeno is mostly still-flowing easy paddle and not very fast. I’ve paddled it with Alpacka Llama in mid June 2011. We tried it with two people on board but it was cramped and slow going. Most/all of the rapids were too rocky to be navigated with my skills and two poeple (and two backpacks) onboard. This might work if both people would have a paddle and figure out an efficient way to utilize the paddling/steering power of two people. And of course assuming that the total load wouldn’t be too much for the shallow rocky parts. If you just want to be fast & efficient it’s probably faster to walk on the parallel ATV track on the Northern river bank. It makes a really easy and fast trail. This is how we did it in the end. Things might be very different with high water in the early season.

    The Northern coast and archipelago of Norway can be really challenging. The tide can create huge forces in the narrow fjords and bad weather can prevent any paddling for days and the vertical rock faces don’t provide good/any take out spots. These things I’ve heart from (to my knowledge) experienced sea kayakers so I assume it could be even more challenging for a packrafter. But as long as the weather is nice and you have enough info and understanding of the tides (the risks, how to time your travel, etc.) it should be fine. Just a big uncertainty factor regarding schedules.

    In general I’ve found two people and rucksacks in one small packraft is far from optimal and doesn’t work too well on technical white water (even in class 1 or 2). But if you’ve found a way to make it work, then why not. And it’s still a great tool to cross big bodies of water when mainly hiking. But if mainly packrafting, two individual rafts is the way to go in my opinion.

  8. Dear Steve and Katrijn,
    I know Sarek from 2 hikes in september. I have some tips:
    1. C25, the water near “launch site packraft” may be shallow and goes the wrong way ! The highest point of the river is aboout 10 km north of Mikkastugan, underneath Gavabakte. However, the poor-marked trial next to the river is quite good and vegetation is poor (merely grass).
    2. before C26 I would recommend you to follow the trial along the river passing Gisuris plateau (easy walk). The lands around the Ahkka are very dense vegetation ! You might consider to packraft the last stretch of the Vuojatadno to the lake (although the water is quite rough)
    3. The only rapid – waterfall in Rapadalen is at Mikkastugan
    4. C50, I would start to packraft there, and not go over the mountain Laddebakte. You can packraft all the way to the Aktse cabin. This is far more easy than to bushwack the shores of Rapadalen and cross the very difficult terrain underneath the Skierffe. There are no rapids to the lake.
    I am planning to do a comparable hike-packraft trip in September, starting at Suorva, and walking to (just south from) Mikkastugan, packraft to Aktse and follow the trial east to the road along the Kungsleden.
    I hope I have given you some valuable information, good luck

  9. Reblogged this on patagonian dreams and commented:

    [Update Tuesdag 11 July 2012 – MAJOR UPDATE on the first Sarek part, where we choose to cut through in western direction in direction of the Norwegian coast, right through Padjalenta National Park, packrafting the anciant glacial lakes of Virihaure, Vastenhaure, Sallahaure. 2 more days added on Lofoten. 2weeks till kick-off. First we’ll have a 10-day family retreat on Tenerife (Canary Islands). Download the full google earth map below]

  10. Tomorrow D-Day!
    Katrijn en Steve, geniet ervan en laat jullie maar eens volledig gaan 🙂
    Als het even tegenzit denk dan aan al die sukkels (mijzelf inclusief) die hier dit vlakke belgenland aan het wegkwijnen zijn achter hun bureau!
    Veel plezier, groeten


  11. Inspiring website! I’m planning a long hike in Scandinavia, and I’m looking for the best way to re-ration every 5-10 days. How did you do with your food rations? Did you send them before leaving or did somebody send them for you? To where were they sent, or where did you get them? Thanks

    • HI we just sended the packages to ourselves. From post office to post office via poste restante. Search for that. Almost every supermarket has a small post office which is open until late in the evening.

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