Hiking in Finland

Climbing, bikepacking, skiing & packrafting in the north

Jongunjoki and Ruunaa River Paddling Expedition - Part I

I'm not a big fan of splitting trip reports in several parts, but before I head off into the wild for my Professional Examination on Tuesday & Wednesday I wanted to give you a first taste of the paddling expedition. Expect Part II sometime soon!


The fourth and final expedition of my Wilderness Guide education. Paddling in canoe, kayak and packraft down some very scenic rivers and exciting rapids. Lots of learning, from a excellent teacher.

Signage to our basecamp.

Basecamp for the first four nights.

Monday morning, off to Kuru, throwing my pack into the trailer, climb into the car and off to the East we are. On the way we pick up our canoe & kayak teacher, Petri Leinonen - one of the best paddling teachers in this country, with over 25 years of experience. About six thirty in the evening we arrive at the Jonkerin Lähtöpaikka, basecamp till Friday morning. Here the river Jongunjoki starts, while the Jonkeri lake, from which it is fed, is our playground for the first days.

Petri in the bow, refreshing our memories from last year.

The first "rapid".

Tuesday and Wednesday we take turns in kayak, canoe bow & stern until what we learned last year is again up-to-date. The weather is wet: grey, windy, rain, with the occasional ray of sunshine breaking through. In every free minute we head back to the kota on the shore, a closed hut with a fireplace in the middle, to dry clothes, cook food and boil water for hot beverages while talking about paddling, and the soon to be finished year. Time flies, less than three weeks and this education is done.

A Memorial site. Don't bother unless you get really excited about a big rock in a lake.

This photo describes the general feel of the first few days pretty well.

Tuesday afternoon we go to visit a few war memorial sites. The rebuild trenches and bunkers near lake Saunajärvi are the highlight, we had good fun running around in them and "re-enacting" the war. Yeah, we weren't serious!

Wednesday afternoon then the first training at the Siltakoski rapid, a 70m long Class I playground. Managed to capsize in both canoe and kayak at my first try, which was a great learning experience - after capsizing you're not afraid of the water anymore, and you learn from your mistakes. Eddy turns and ferry gliding were the name of the game, and good fun after you mastered them.

The Kota on the far left, behind it the woodshed, a hut we used for dressing & drying, and in the background another hut which we used to store gear.

Thursday, second morning on the rapids. I got permission to take the packraft, and boy did I have fun on the short Class I rapid - I must have had a manic smile on my face, so much fun it was! Down and portage up were what I did a dozen times, ferry gliding across the current, working up the current into the eddy to do a eddy turn to go back down. Awesome. I want more.

Our vessels. Brand-spanking new Esquif Prospecteur 17 Royalex canoes where what we were paddling, at 2000€ a pop not cheap! The Kayaks already had seen plenty of (ab)use.

Thursday afternoon then a short introduction to something. It was raining, which wasn't bad, but the wind which was howling made us all look like a sorry bunch. Before it was go to sleep time, it was "Say what ya wanna paddle tomorrow" time. Kayaks were popular, and after some discussing and thinking a satisfying solution was found. I was to paddle in a canoe with a good mate, someone of whom I knew that we would work well together. Off to sleep then.

Thursday evening. Calm before the storm.

Friday morning, breaking camp, packing, lashing gear into the canoes and kayaks. First time, so it took a fair amount of time for us 11 students. By eleven o'clock we were ready, and we started to paddle down the Jongunjoki.

The weather got better!

The first few rapids were short Class I, nothing to get out and go scouting for. There were some lakes to be traversed, thankfully it was fairly windstill so there wasn't much of physical effort involved. After some time paddling we reached the 550 m long/ 7 m drop Kalliokoski - Boulder Rapid - our first Class II rapid. Getting out and scouting, getting the lodown from Petri, getting back to the vessels, deciding who goes first, second, third... Building up anxiety. Waiting makes me nervous, and in a group of nine canoes and kayaks, well, expect to wait for a while. Thankfully we soon had a go, giving a 110%, being full of adrenaline we had a fine run down, big smiles after having mastered this first challenge.

We continued to the lunch site, the sun came out and it was gloriously fine, laughter and smiles all around while we strengthened ourselves for the remaining 15 km.

Hiidenportti, the second Class II+ rapid.

We soon reached Hiidenportti, a Class II - II+ rapid which has capsized many great paddlers, as Petri told us - it is a tricky rapid where you quickly need to switch sides or end up smashing in a rock and capsizing. Again getting out, again scouting, again discussing routes, again who goes first, second, third...


Middle - scouting from the bridge.

And it continuous.

Happy paddlers after a perfect run!

Hiidenportti was tricky also because there's not much leeway above the rapid - there's another Class I right before it, so it is backwards ferry glide across the current, eddy turn in and off you go. As you can see from the photos, my mate and me did it without getting wet, a sweet run, pumped with endorphines and being really happy about doing it so well. We waited for the rest of the group, had a little post-excitement drink and snack, before the paddling continued.

Paddling continues after everyone came down Hiidenportti.

After Hiddenportti there were seven more rapids, of which only Pässipyörteenkoski with its one meter drop right at the beginning is worth mentioning. We arrived at the Otroskoski campsite, the (open & free!) Sauna already being heated by some other paddlers, ready for us later on. I asked Petri if it'd be cool to run the last few rapids with the packraft, and got permission for take-off. Wading through a contributory stream and bushwacking through the forest up along the stream, I reached after a while the V before Pässipyörteenkoski. Inflate, strap the pack to the Alpaca, PFD, Helmet, Spraydeck closed and off I went. Good fun, but sadly too short.

Otroskosken hut (top right) & sauna. Plan a stop here if you paddle down Jongunjoki.

Camp that first night paddling.

After having successfully run the river in the packraft I was just in time for the evening meeting, in which we discussed the past day and the next day. While I munched my dinner the sauna was getting ready, and a fine sauna it was. A dip in the river was the refreshment needed, before heading off to sleep & sweet dreams.


To be continued.

The Week in Review

Back from an epic 11 days paddling trip, which was concluded with me now being a BCU 2 Star Paddler in both Open Canoe and Kayak. Sweet. Packrafting was a lot more fun though, so much that more trips are being planned, with more white water. And a bike.

Watch the whole video.

News & Various:

The Backcountry Boiler Mk II is available on Kickstarter - back this project and get yours!

Mike Clelland! recommends these online essays from Glen Van Peski: How to go Lighter. And when you're done with it, get Mike's new book: Ultralight Backpackin' Trips.

Haydn showcases the unidentified alien insects of Snowdonia and needs your help in identifying them!

Martin is also back home from the TGO Challenge, and a challenge it was this year.

There were fantastic Guest Articles here on HIF while I was out paddling - it started last week with Roman Dial's "We were a Party Train on an Errand", continued with Peter Nylund's "Bikepacking in Finland" and concluded with Joe Newton's "Death To Rain Pants" - make sure to read them if you haven't yet!



Thomas shows off his 136 g First Aid kit and would like your input.

Benjamin Roode shows off a Group Pot Stand and Windscreen in this free Backpacking Light Article.

Dave gives us his snap judgment on the Montane Spektr.

Il Dolce Far Niente went to experience kayaking with Greenland paddles for the first time which looks very interesting.

Ryan presents his spring 2011 Backpacking Gear List.

Alan shows us his major modifications he made to his Tarptent Moment.

Tim and Robin review the Vasque Mindbender 7516 Trail Running Shoes.

Phil shares his TGO Challenge 2011 Kit Thoughts with us in some fine videos.


Trip Reports:

Doom did it again - an epic trip report. Spring Utah loop, section 1 is a must read.

Aaron gives us a mighty fine spring update. Biking, packrafting, skiing, travels, all to be had in fine photos and texts - check it out.

Greg went for a trip on the Cathedral Range Circuit - The Sequel.

Christine takes a hike through Germany and gives us the lodown on the Swabian Alb in this episode.

The coastkid goes down a trip on memory lane.

Kristen and Ville made the first 252 miles on the PCT, from the Mexican border to Big Bear.

Matt puts smiles over miles on his two day, one night fastpack shakedown hike along the Iron Mtn., Appalachian and Virginia Creeper Trails.

Stephanie and Dustin went to heaven. Or "just" to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Adam on the other hand went to visit Yosemite National Park, and found Half Dome a mighty impressive sight.

Death to Rain Pants

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I reckon Sir Joe Newton does not need an introduction, him being a fellow Nordic Lightpacker et al. But for the uninitiated:

Mr. Newton hails from the UK, but relocated to Norway a few years back. He's a really laid back fellow, has a superb sense of humour (like mine, to be found at the black end of the spectrum - as you'd expect from an Englishmen!) and has a burning passion for lightweight adventures and good music. In former lives he rode BMX, road and mountain bikes, had a company car and a great 9-5 job which he left behind for a down-to-earth, simple life in Bergen, where he works at an International School. Read his blog Thunder in the Night and follow him on Twitter - but not before he declares the end of rainpants here.

Sometimes we need to take a step of faith to break with traditional thinking, especially in pursuit of lighter backpacks. So you’ve already switched from tents to tarps? You’ve ditched sleeping bags for quilts? You’ve scrapped the camp chair, camp shoes and multi-tool. Why not leave your rain pants at home on your next trip?

I’ve always carried rain pants, not just on backpacking trips but also on long day hikes, and ski tours. They sit in the bottom of my pack, ready to be pulled on if the rain started to fall heavily but then stuffed away again as soon as the rain stopped because they’re too sweaty. I started with a pair of Rab Bergen pants. Made from eVent they cost a fortune and weigh 322g in Large. They also leak at the knee in heavy rain. Then I bought a pair of GoLite Reeds. Cheap, waterproof, fairly breathable and with simple ankle zips my size Large tip the scales at just 175g a pair which was part of the reason they gained such cult status amongst UL backpackers.

Then last year I had an epiphany. Usually in the summer I hike in running shorts and carry the GoLite Reeds for rain and a pair of water resistant ‘wind’ pants as long leg-wear, to protect me from too much sun, ticks in long undergrowth and mosquitoes in the evening. During a backpacking trip across the Hardanger mountain plateau in western Norway I realised I’d forgotten my rain pants. Panic!

When the rain hit on the third day of my trip I pulled on my wind pants over my running shorts and hoped for the best. Would I die a horrible, lingering death? Would my legs fall off without expensive 3-ply rain pants? The answer was an enlightening ‘no’. They worked fine. Sure, after a while, in sideways rain, they wetted out but as long as I kept moving my legs were perfectly warm. I knew that at the end of the day I would be warm and dry in my change of clothing, under my quilt. In fact the pants dried out completely over night and I pulled them on in the morning and kept on trucking in them all day through heavy showers. Unlike my rain pants they breathed really well, so well that I didn’t need to keep taking them off every time the sun came out. I didn’t miss my rain pants at all.

I find hiking produces enough heat from my leg muscles to overpower traditional waterproof/breathable rain pants, even ones constructed with eVent’s supposed legendary vapour transfer capabilities. This means I still get wet, from sweat. I’ve been hiking long enough now to realise that when it’s really wet outside no modern waterproof breathable fabric will keep you dry all the time. Warm and damp is pretty much the best you can hope for! Then it’s down to the gear and skills to get and keep yourself dry and warm when you make camp. My current wind pants are Haglofs Shields. The recycled fabric has a DWR and they weigh a measly 170g. Similar models are made by Montane and Montbell as well as others brands.

Ditching the rain pants isn’t just about saving weight, it’s about simplifying too. Less to carry, less to think about. More time for your surroundings. In summer especially we can get away with carrying far less, as well as far lighter gear. I’m not suggesting ditching the rain pants for shoulder season trips where there is a high chance of rain and sleet and temperatures just above freezing. They’re conditions where hypothermia is a real risk. Use your judgment and take appropriate gear for the conditions you’ll face.

But right now, with warmer temperatures and the peak backpacking season upon us, take another step of faith and leave the rain pants at home.