The most suitable word for this year’s expedition was definitely “challenging”
In the previous two years, our palette-built recycled raft (named “Melissa”) had mostly drifted and paddled fairly lazily down the Vindel river in the North of Sweden, with only the occasional big rapid or day of heavy rain to push us outside of our comfort zones. This year was quite something else.
The water in the river was around two metres higher than in previous years. Not only did this mean that the rapids had become huge, but the extra water was also great for mosquito breeding…which meant there were a lot of mosquitoes. So many in fact that when we weren’t out in the middle of the river, away from the mosquito-infested forest, we were either sitting with our mosquito nets draped over our heads, or trying desperately to bathe ourselves in smoke from our campfire to keep the swarms of them at bay.
That was when we were actually able to have a campfire – it rained almost every day, and often for much of the day, so most firewood we managed to find was soaking wet. We also slept in bivi bags rather than a tent, so when we couldn’t find any form of shelter we knew we were in for a wet night…and most probably also a wet morning.
But for all the difficulties, it shaped up to be an incredibly successful trip! We traveled 100km downriver (about 3 times the distance in each of the previous years), managed to take on some pretty serious rapids, and received so much support from the locals we met along the river. We even had a visit one evening from a reporter from Swedish Radio 4 who interviewed us about our journey!
We are both so grateful for the kit we received from Craghoppers
Overcoming the struggles and pains of this year was definitely made better by having some decent gear. We’ve written a few short reviews about the items Craghoppers provided us with, which we have run through in each paragraph below;
The Kiwi Pro Stretch Trousers in particular, we both agreed, were the best pair of outdoor trousers we’ve owned. They were really comfortable (light and stretchy) yet also incredibly durable. After spending most of the trip on our knees on the raft rubbing against the wood, there was no noticeable wear and tear.
The zipped pockets were great as they stopped things from falling out whilst sitting or kneeling on the raft. The glasses cleaner attached inside one of the pockets was a useful hidden gem, which I ended up using a lot since I was wearing glasses for the first time on this year’s trip. But their best attribute was the speed at which they would dry. Even when it was raining, it sometimes felt as though they could dry faster than they got wet! And as they got wet many times every day, this was a crucial factor for us.
One of the things we did note about them was that we did get a fair few mosquito bites through them, as they are quite thin. Next time we could use a pair treated with insect repellent! Having said that, we came home with more bites than we could possibly count, and relatively few of those were on our legs, so the trousers definitely gave us a fair bit of protection. I’d definitely give these trousers a 10/10 for what we needed them for.
It’s difficult to give a particularly passionate review about the dry bags as they performed just as we had hoped and expected they would – they kept all our things dry throughout the trip, which considering how wet this year was, is quite an achievement! They felt strong, and they didn’t get any holes throughout the expedition, though we always took care to keep them protected. A great replacement for our old worn out dry bags.
The fleece Luka II jacket was, for the most part, a great bit of kit.
Warm, windproof and surprisingly water resistant.
The way that the pockets have been sewn into the lining is also great, as this allows you to store larger objects than would otherwise fit in the pockets inside the fleece next to your stomach (such as a large bag of peanuts or a small musical instrument!). We always had these to hand if it was windy or just a little wet.
Unfortunately though, the velco-like straps that are used to tighten the fabric around the wrists seems to have loosened a bit on both jackets, and this started happening within the first week of use. This could be attributed to the continual exposure to water, so for next time I think a jacket without velcro as an adjustable feature would be more suitable.
For a more detailed trip report and to follow our journey, visit our blog