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 Patagonia 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 Rio Puelo 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 Patagonia 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
Argentina and Chile are some of the most stable and secure countries you can visit in South America.
We recommend that you visit your family doctor or a travel clinic while planning your trip.
Contact us if you have any questions at all about safety. It’s one of our specialties and we enjoy talking about it. As lifelong wilderness travelers 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
Great food’s a highlight of every trip. You need to be properly fuelled to stay safe—and have energy on the water and trails. And a fun part of travel is exploring local cuisine.
On this trip, you’ll enjoy the region’s full range of specialties: from amazing restaurants and chocolate shops in Bariloche, to a traditional lamb ‘asado’, prepared by your local hosts. And there’s no shortage of ways to wash it down—whether you prefer Malbec, espresso, or yerba mate.
Your guides and local 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 days when we’ll be self-supported packrafting, 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
Luckily, along the way, our local paisano hosts on whose land we’ll be camping some nights will whip up some delicious meals—to fill us up and save us pack weight.
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 our expedition partners at Paddle Patagonia.
You’re itinerary includes 4 nights expedition camping in hammocks on the riverside, 1 night (night two) at La Confluencia Lodge, and 2 hotel nights in Bariloche (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 3-season 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 packraft expedition: lightweight, comfortable, rain storm 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.
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 Patagonia. The lodge and hotels all have clean drinking water.
When we’re on the river 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.
On the expedition when camping on the riverside, we’ll explain a couple of options for pooping comfortably in the mountains.
Activity level & conditioning
The Patagonia 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.