Safety, camp life, food & activity levels
Here are more details on what to expect about backcountry camping, menus and cooking, activity levels, and our wilderness travel style on the Costa Rica Packraft Expedition.
Safety is always our #1 priority, and our guides embody that with their years of experience, training, and knowledge of the river.
Many people think of whitewater paddling as extreme. In fact, with the right approach to decision making, we have a lot of control over our exposure to risk. Throughout the trip, as you learn about how the river works, you’ll see that whitewater is actually predictable. The area you’ll be travelling through is remote and so we take a calculated approach to hiking and river running.
Every trip has an extensive safety plan. Even though our guides are rescue and safety instructors on industry-leading international certification courses, we still train together specifically for the Pacuare with practice scenarios. In all of our training we focus on prevention and good decision making, and we practice what we preach.
Packrafting safety practices
- The maximum guest to guide ratio on the Costa Rica Packraft Expedition is 5:1.
- Our guides have extensive and current industry-leading safety credentials and certification. Every trip has a minimum of 2 guides with Wilderness First Responder (an 80-hour medical course) and Whitewater Rescue Technician certification. As well, many of our guides are instructors in those disciplines.
- Each trip carries 2 emergency communication devices: a satellite phone and an InReach messenger device and locator beacon. They are always carried by the guides in separate waterproof containers in different boats.
- Each trip carries extensive first aid kits and river safety equipment.
- All activities are ‘challenge by choice’, meaning it is up to you if you want to participate or we will offer an alternative.
Nonetheless, wilderness travel has inherent risks and we will ask you to read through and sign our waiver form.
Health and immunizations
Costa Rica is one of the most stable and secure countries you can visit in Central and South America. It has a universal healthcare system with a great network of hospitals and clinics throughout the country.
We recommend that you visit your family doctor or a travel clinic while planning your trip. That way you’ll get up to date recommendations on health and safety.
Malaria isn’t common in Costa Rica and traveler’s generally don’t take anti-malarial meds. Mosquitos can and do transmit Dengue Fever (this is more of a concern if you’re visiting busy areas like crowded beach hostels) so using long pants, shirts, and repellent at dusk will reduce your exposure.
Yup, the rainforests of Costa Rica have snakes, spiders, and scorpions. The good news: they all present very low risk to travelers!
In the unlikely case that you come across one of these animals, do not try to pick them up. That may seem obvious, but that’s where people get themselves into trouble.
On this trip, we hike through the jungle, but always on trails. Your guides will lead the way. If you live somewhere with no poisonous creatures, you might be in the habit of doing things while hiking like stepping blindly into a big pile of leaves or grabbing onto a tree to pull yourself up a steep section of trail. It’s best to avoid doing that in the tropics. Take a look before you step or grab—and you’ll be all good.
Remember, these animals are scared of us.
Contact us if you have any questions at all about safety. It is one of our specialties and we enjoy talking about it. As lifelong wilderness travellers our guides certainly feel more safe on a river trip than they do in the city. Our primary goal is for you to feel the same way!
Food & menu choices
You can expect great food on this trip! All your meals and snacks are included.
Costa Rica has amazingly good produce all year round. The fruits and veggies are sooo good…they’re just packed with flavor: we get to eat the fast ripening strains that wouldn’t last the long trips to North American or European supermarkets.
You’ll get to try local dishes like ‘Casados’ and ‘Gallo Pinto’. Your guides and camp staff will show off their cooking skills with high quality food and plenty of it.
In our pre-trip questionnaire, you can tell us about allergies, dietary requirements and menu requests. We always plan options for vegan, gluten free, and really any specific choices— just let us know in advance so we can prepare.
For the 3 days when we’ll be self-supported packrafting (no gear raft or vehicle support), we’ll split up the food so everybody carries some. You’ll learn about lightweight food systems, which are based around high quality meals and good planning.
You’ll learn how to:
- split and pack the food and cooking equipment between a group of 3 in the most efficient way
- divvy up the cooking and cleaning responsibilities
- use lightweight backpacking stoves safely and efficiently
At the start of the Lower Pacuare (on day 5) we’ll meet up with a raft (one of the guides will row the raft from here down with everybody’s backpacks strapped in…keeping your own boat lightweight for the bigger rapids). From here on in, the raft will carry our food in coolers and waterproof barrels—you can bet there’ll be a few celebratory treats packed along.
Teamwork & camaraderie
The key to any successful expedition, but especially one that’s so far off the beaten path, is teamwork. We divide our loads, share responsibilities, and everyone has to watch out for each other. A positive attitude and patience are fundamental to a backcountry packraft trip like this one.
The team is not only you and other guests, but the whole expedition team, made of up:
- 2 Boreal River Adventures river guides
- an Indigenous Cebecar guide
- a naturalist rainforest expert (days 5 to 7)
- a video/safety kayaker
You’re itinerary includes 3 nights expedition camping in hammocks in the rainforest, 2 nights enjoying El Nido del Tigre Eco Camp, 1 night at the Turrialba Volcano camp, and 2 hotel nights (first and last).
We provide everybody with good gear on this trip so you don’t have to go out and spend a ton of time figuring out what to get.
Most of the items you do need to bring, like quick-dry clothing and a headlamp, can be used on any other trip and even for frontcountry outdoor sports. They should be easy to find online or at your local outdoor shop.
The one item you may not have is a lightweight summer sleeping bag, so we give you the option to rent one from us.
Arguably the most important part of a successful trip is sleeping. A cool thing you’ll get to try on this trip is sleeping in a Hennessey Hammock. If you’re thinking: “sleep in a hammock?…no thanks”, you should check these out. Even people with bad backs and side sleepers find them very comfortable. They are the perfect pieces of gear for a jungle expedition: lightweight, rain storm proof, bug proof, and easy to set up. They’re off the ground so even if the ground is wet, you’ll be comfortable.
We highly recommend trying the hammock for this trip, but if you’d prefer a tent, that is no problem. We’ll provide you with an extremely high quality lightweight expedition tent—and you’ll get it to yourself. Just let us know on your pre-trip questionnaire.
When we arrive for the 2 nights at El Nido Del Tigre, your own platform tent will be ready for you with mattress, bedding, and pillow.
Of course we also provide you with the packraft and paddle and all the group gear — see a full list of what’s included and what to pack.
hygiene & washing
You’ll appreciate the easy to use hand washing system that we set up at camp and our riverside lunch spots. Good hygiene is key on wilderness trips and this system enables you to wash your hands just as well as you can at home.
Minimizing our footprint - sustainable tourism
Minimal impact camping techniques (sometimes called “Leave No Trace”) differ across the world depending on the type of environment and the amount of people travelling through.
With all of our cooking, washing, and bathroom procedures, your guides will show you the systems we use to stay comfortable and healthy. At the same time, we’ll be minimizing our impact on the surrounding ecosystem.
There’s no need to buy bottled water in Costa Rica. Tap water in Costa Rica is great. The eco-camps and hotels all have clean drinking water.
When we’re on the Pacuare expedition and camping on the riverside, we’ll treat our water:
- A gravity filter hangs at camp (like a pump filter but without the need to pump). The guides will always make sure there is filtered water available. You can fill your bottle with this water to keep with you during the day.
- We bring plenty of water purification tablets and you can keep a few on you to purify your own bottle any time.
The eco-camps have flush toilets.
On the expedition when camping on the riverside, we’ll explain a couple of options for pooping comfortably in the jungle. We supply the toilet paper—with the great coffee and healthy diet, you’ll enjoy it!
Activity level & conditioning
The Costa Rica Packraft Expedition is 4 out of 5 on our activity level scale.
You don’t need any whitewater experience or river expedition experience, but you need to be in good enough physical condition to enjoy the trip.
Hiking with all of your gear requires endurance, strength, and energy. Because of that, if you’re joining this adventure you should be fit enough to jog 6.5 km/4 miles and comfortable hiking with a full backpack for a full day. If you’re used to backcountry paddling and hiking in parks and comfortable carrying heavy loads, you’ll be fine.
Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns about fitness requirements.
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast who regularly spends long days on the water or trails you should be fine, but it won’t hurt to do more. And your enjoyment will only improve the more fit you are. To get in shape for the trip we suggest:
- Do some cardio work, such as jogging or cycling for at least an hour, 3 or more times a week
- Lift weights 2 or 3 time a week. Alternatively, cross train with activities such as swimming, hiking, climbing or paddling 2 or 3 times per week
If you’d like a more detailed program you can ask us, or even join a gym and tell the trainer what you’re conditioning for.
Itinerary for Costa Rica Packrafting9 days of tropical nature, whitewater, and fun
What’s Included & What to PackYour planning is easy. We take care of all the details
Safety, Camping, Food & FitnessFind out what to expect about life in Costa Rica
Planning your TravelBook your holiday. Here’s your planning checklist