Packrafting in NZ, first day on the water!

View of valley to packraft out of.

Ian Middleton tries out Packrafting for the first time... was the extra gear worth it? Read to find out!

Packrafts have intrigued me for a while, and I’ve particularly liked the idea of using them to liven up the end of an adventure.

We’ve all been there; as a long day comes to a close, your body aches and thoughts of Monday morning looms, why not make the final leg to the car more enjoyable with a pleasant float down the river? Well, to answer this rhetorical question we headed to Craigieburn for a camping, hiking and packrafting trip, to test the waters… so to speak.

map of packrafting route 

We camped at the start of the Binser Saddle Track, a three hour up and over trail that would lead us to the Poulter River, at which point the packrafting escapades would begin. It is possible to drive to the head of the trail and there is ample space to camp. This meant I was able to partake in my favourite type of camping - car camping. Chilly bin and oversized down jackets anyone?


During breakfast we moved a car to the gorge, where the packrafting would come to an end, and then loaded up the bags with walking and paddling gear. Something to bear in mind is that a fair amount of equipment is required, especially if you’re rafting on the shortest day of the year, like we were. You’ll need to make space for a wetsuit, booties, gloves, floatation device, helmet, paddle and splash jacket - did I mention how much I enjoy car camping.


All this gear does add up in weight and space, so be mindful of what you need and the size of your pack. The initial sections of the Binder Saddle Track doesn’t do you any favours either. It’s steep, but it does get better. The higher you go, the more it mellows and the better the views become. Before we knew it was were descending and once the sight of Peveril Peak came into view, and the shimmering Poulter River below, the excitement levels started to rise.

My experience on the water is limited, so I had a chat with the guys at FurtherFaster when I hired the gear and also roped in some friends who were packraft advocates. So when we arrived at the river’s edge and the levels were low and the flow gradual, i.e. ideal conditions for my first foray into packrafting, it was high-fives all round.

paddle packraft on the river



The packrafts were unfurled and inflated, wetsuits were adorned and paddles assembled, and we were floating in no time. The packrafts are incredibly buoyant and feel secure on the water. There were small sections of minimal whitewater that they handled with ease. More of a concern was running aground in the shallower depths. A combination of navigation and luck is required to avoid having to pelvic thrust your way to deeper water or the shameful ‘get out and walk’.

packraft paddle new  zealand 

For someone who doesn’t do a lot of kayaking, I found the whole experience really enjoyable and feel that the benefit of lazily floating down the river outweighs the inconvenience of the additional gear and weight.

 lazy floating before the rapids!

It should be noted that the river does get a bit lively at it enters the gorge. The rolling waves and undulating water appears intimidating from a distance. But remember the golden rule of paddling, “If in doubt, paddle hard and fast,” and you’ll soon be through it with a smug smile on your face and a new list of adventures that involves packrafting.


Check out FurtherFaster’s rental list here.

About the Author: 

Ian Middleton is dad to Oshy and Rusty the trail dogs and writer at Entertaining Adventures where you will find loads of great reads about adventures with and with out your dog in New Zealand.


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