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Patrick's Packrafting Adventures


A packraft is a small, portable inflatable boat, designed to be light enough to be carried for extended distances. Boats of this description have been used for over a century, but in recent years the designs have been optimised, mass produced and packrafting has developed as an outdoor activity. When I came across videos online of people using packrafts, I immediately recognised the potential for expanding the scope of my adventures.

I was in the sea scouts while growing up and have always had an affinity with the water. However, I don’t own a car, so participation in watersports in adult life hasn’t really been feasible. A packraft is a game changer because it can be easily taken on public transport, which therefore allows me to do weekend excursions along the canals and rivers of southern England; anywhere within a few hours journey from my home in Southampton. More ambitious multi-day trips are also possible, such as river descents, and combined land/water traverses through any landscape that features lakes in close proximity (the English Lake District, Mid & North Wales and much of the Scottish Highlands).

Following extensive research online I purchased a packraft, paddle and buoyancy aid from the Anfibio Packrafting Store in Germany. Click here for a review of the gear I use. Below there are details of the packrafting routes that I’ve done so far. The routes are all available in OS Maps, and the GPX routes can be downloaded. I’ve provided sufficient notes to enable the routes to be easily repeated, but unlike my other adventures I haven’t written detailed trip reports or taken photographs. Such things take a lot of time, and I’d rather be outside than in front of a computer!



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Packrafting on the River Wye: Hay-on-Wye to Chepstow 7 Day Camping Trip

The River Wye is often said to be Britain’s finest canoeing river. Between Glasbury and Chepstow there are 100 miles of natural easily graded water, suitable for multi-day river tours. In normal summer levels the river is straightforward with most rapids at grade 1. There are a couple of grade 2 rapids, which can be portaged if necessary.

I started 5 miles downstream from Glasbury at Hay-on-Wye, then finished paddling seven days later at Bigsweir Bridge, staying at campsites along the way. It's possible to continue downriver to Chepstow, but this is more serious with high muddy banks, no intermediate landing places and dangerous weirs exposed at low tide. The tide was out, so I opted to walk the final 11 miles to Chepstow following Offa's Dyke path.

Click on the map for more details of the route in OS Maps.

Photo © Philip Halling (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Contains OS data © Crown copyright and database rights 2020

Packrafting on the Upper River Thames/Isis: Highworth to Oxford 4 Day Camping Trip

A four day packrafting trip down the upper reaches of the River Thames/Isis to Oxford. This part of the Thames is peaceful and idyllic, with scenery straight out of The Wind in the Willows. The upper river is narrow, fast-flowing and can be blocked with fallen trees up to the first lock at Lechlade. Beyond here there are locks every few miles, the lock keepers are generally happy to let small craft through, although it's always possible to portage around, plus there's a new canoe pass at Radcot Lock. There are plenty of campsites and pubs serving food available along the way.

Click on the map for more details of the route in OS Maps.

Route requires a British Canoeing Waterways Licence or equivalent.

Photo © Andrew Smith (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Contains OS data © Crown copyright and database rights 2020

Packrafting in the Lake District: Windermere to Ullswater 4 Day Through Trip

A four day packrafting trip paddling the full length of Windermere and Ullswater, the two largest lakes in the Lake District, plus Rydal Water, Grasmere and Thirlmere. I wild camped for two nights and stayed at an official campsite in Glenridding. Food is available in Ambleside and Glenridding.

Click on the map for more details of the route in OS Maps.

Photo © Richard Bird (cc-by-sa/2.0)

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Packrafting in the Lake District: Crummock Water, Buttermere and Derwent Water 2 Day Trip Staying Overnight in a Bothy

A two day packrafting trip starting from Keswick in the Lake District. Paddle Cummock Water and Buttermere on the first day, followed by a night in Warnscale Head bothy, then on the second day cross Honister Pass, descend Borrowdale and paddle Derwent Water back to Keswick.

Click on the map for more details of the route in OS Maps.

Boating permit for Buttermere and Cummock Water available from the National Trust car park in Buttermere village.

Photo © Mick Garratt (cc-by-sa/2.0)

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Packrafting in the Lake District: Bassenthwaite Lake Circuit

A one day circuit of Bassenthwaite Lake, the northernmost lake in the Lake District, starting from Keswick. A good place to get away from the crowds around the more popular lakes. On my visit the wind was coming from the northwest, so I walked from Keswick along the quiet east shore to the north end of the lake and then paddled back with the wind mostly behind me.

Click on the map for more details of the route in OS Maps.

Boating permit available from Moot Hall Tourist Information Office in Keswick.

Photo © Bob Jenkins (cc-by-sa/2.0)

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Packrafting on the River Medway: Tonbridge to Allington

The facilities provided by the Environment Agency on the River Medway make it one of the best rivers for paddlers in the south of England. The Medway Canoe Trail has slipways at its start and end, low level landing stages at all the locks making them easy to portage if required and uniquely a series of canoe passes/chutes that make it easy to travel downstream avoiding most of the locks entirely.

The canoe trail is 18 miles long and challenging to do in a single day, but there are railway stations at regular intervals so it can be easily shortened, or completed as a two day trip, camping at one of the free campsites or at The Hop Farm campsite.

Click on the map for more details of the route in OS Maps.

Route requires a British Canoeing Waterways Licence or equivalent.

Photo © Environment Agency (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Contains OS data © Crown copyright and database rights 2020

Packrafting on the River Avon: Bradford-on-Avon to Bath

A one day packrafting trip along the River Avon from Bradford-on-Avon to Bath. The river flows through a deep wooded valley in a beautiful surrounding landscape. There are five weirs to negotiate, some are tricky, descriptions are provided with the route.

Click on the map for more details of the route in OS Maps.

Photo © Jaggery (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Contains OS data © Crown copyright and database rights 2020

Packrafting on the River Avon: Bath to Bristol

A one day packrafting trip along the River Avon from Bath to Bristol.

Click on the map for more details of the route in OS Maps.

Route requires a British Canoeing Waterways Licence or equivalent.

If continuing through Bristol Floating Harbour a day or annual licence is required (technically this is also needed for the River Avon between Hanham Lock and Netham Lock). A licence can be purchased in person from the Bristol City Council Harbour Office, Baltic Wharf, BS1 6XG, and proof of insurance will be needed.

Photo © Wayland Smith (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Contains OS data © Crown copyright and database rights 2020

Packrafting on the Kennet and Avon Canal: Trowbridge to Bath

A one day packrafting trip along the Kennet & Avon Canal from Trowbridge to Bath. One lock to portage around at Bradford on Avon. The route is very scenic, with the canal contouring along the sides of a deep wooded valley, crossing from one side to the other at the Avoncliff and Dundas Aqueducts. There are two short tunnels towards the end as the canal enters Bath.

Click on the map for more details of the route in OS Maps.

Route requires a British Canoeing Waterways Licence or equivalent.

Photo © P L Chadwick (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Contains OS data © Crown copyright and database rights 2020

Packrafting on the Kennet and Avon Canal: Pewsey to Trowbridge 2 Day Camping Trip

A two day packrafting trip along the Kennet & Avon Canal from Pewsey to Trowbridge, camping at the Crown Inn, Bishops Cannings at the end of the first day. The canal is lock-free up to Devizes on the second day, beyond which there's a long portage around the Caen Hill Locks and two further groups of locks before Trowbridge.

Click on the map for more details of the route in OS Maps.

Route requires a British Canoeing Waterways Licence or equivalent.

Photo © Christine Johnstone (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Contains OS data © Crown copyright and database rights 2020

Packrafting on the Godalming and Wey Navigations: Godalming to Woking

A challenging one day 17 mile paddle down the River Wey and Godalming Navigations from Godalming to Byfleet, finishing with a walk up the Basingstoke Canal to Woking. The navigations are owned and managed by the National Trust. In general the route is leafy and rural, although for a few short sections there's noise from the A3 and the M25. There are ten locks to portage around on the route.

Click on the map for more details of the route in OS Maps.

Route requires a British Canoeing Waterways Licence or equivalent.

Photo © Alan Hunt (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Contains OS data © Crown copyright and database rights 2020

Packrafting on the Basingstoke Canal: Hook to Fleet

A one day packrafting trip along the Basingstoke Canal from Hook to Fleet. No locks along this entire stretch.

Click on the map for more details of the route in OS Maps.

Route requires a British Canoeing Waterways Licence or equivalent.

Photo © don cload (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Contains OS data © Crown copyright and database rights 2020

Packrafting on the Basingstoke Canal: Fleet to Brookwood

A one day packrafting trip along the Basingstoke Canal from Fleet to Brookwood. One lock to portage near Aldershot, then I got out and walked the long flight of locks at Brookwood.

Click on the map for more details of the route in OS Maps.

Route requires a British Canoeing Waterways Licence or equivalent.

Photo © Ron Strutt (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Contains OS data © Crown copyright and database rights 2020

Packrafting on the Chichester Canal

A one day packrafting trip along the Chichester Canal from the centre of Chichester. The section up to Donnington is restored. After a portage across the road, the next section is disused with reeds and fallen trees to squeeze past. I turned around at Cutfield Bridge since the next section is very overgrown (it improves again by the marina).

Click on the map for more details of the route in OS Maps.

Route requires a day ticket, available from the Canal Cafe at the Canal Basin.

Photo © N Chadwick (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Contains OS data © Crown copyright and database rights 2020

Southampton Parks and River Itchen Packrafting

A walk through Southampton's parks with the middle section packrafting on the River Itchen. Do the tidal section when the tide is coming in.

Click on the map for more details of the route in OS Maps.

Photo © Gillian Thomas (cc-by-sa/2.0)