Bikerafting New Zealand’s Hurunui River [Video]

bikerafters paddling down a river

Bikerafting on New Zealand’s beautiful Hurunui River

Bikerafter and filmmaker, Deane Parker, co-led a crew of mostly first-timers for a bike and packraft trip down New Zealand’s Hurunui River.

For those new to bikerafting, they learned how this combination of mountain biking and packrafting can be very accessible, even for those who are inexperienced.

The packrafts are so packable—good ones weigh ten pounds or less and can easily fit into your backpack or bike pack. Add a paddle that breaks down into four pieces and you’re good to go on adventures like the one shown in Deane’s video below:

Deane also wrote the following description of their trip:

Hurunui Bikerafting Brevet: A Beginners Trip

(NOTE: A brevet is an organized long-distance bicycle ride.)

A bike and a packraft have allowed me to pull off some cool short routes and that has come from fewer longer routes. None of these actually needed the boat for access—it was more to join some dots or to paddle a river during a bike tour. Sometimes it was even just to change up the sore legs for shoulder workouts.

I am, by far, not the first to try bikerafting. However, I have made it a niche in my passion for video storytelling.

woman mountain biking with gear

New bikerafter, Zoe, heads uphill with her gear

A couple of years ago I made a film about Shailer Hart and his quirky collection of ultra bikepacking organised rides. Ever since, Shailer has prodded me into collaborating on a brevet-style bikerafting event.

Over the winter of 2021 Shailer and I talked extensively of a route in Lake Sumner Forest Park. We set dates for November. We were coming out of New Zealand’s second lockdown and our biggest city locked out from travelling. So we ended up with a local crew of mostly first-time packrafters, my adventure companion, Muel, and Helen from a previous packrafting film.  

Day 1: Bikepacking to the Hut

The trip route morphed as the consistency of the group came together. I wanted to create a journey that highlighted the independence and enjoyment that the extra effort of carrying packrafting gear on a bike offers, without too much pain and suffering.

As usual the anxiety of “Can I carry it all on my bike?” sets in. A paddle, buoyancy aid and more all have to find a place to be safe from damage and not be cumbersome or impeding to the ride.

The first few kilometres are unfamiliar and as Zoe says, “You have to find the balance.” Well said from the smallest member of the team riding an XS full-suspension bike. Zoe did so well with her determination and grit. It got her through the toughest section of singletrack fully-loaded.

The group gained confidence by the time we reached the Department of Conservation hut.

Stan, another first timer said, “I never knew how to combine biking and paddling so I gave it a shot.” After snacks and claiming bunks for the night, we stripped off the bikes and rode to the famous Hurunui Hot Springs.

I always enjoy natural hot springs and this spot was a new one for me. The water was hot, but the sandflies were vicious! So we didn’t dally long before setting off back to the hut for the evening.

preparing the bikes for packrafting

Breaking down the bikes to head downriver

Day 2: Packrafting the Hurunui River

We had an awesome spot to gear up the next morning. This was great as we spent heaps of time familiarising the first timers with the boat and the technique for strapping the bike down.

Helen is well versed in the process now and her creaky knees make hiking painful. So for her, “It's the best combo—bike in, raft out.”

Lots of briefing and paddle drills later, we set off down the upper Hurunui. The river conditions were ideal for getting to grips with maneuvering a laden packraft.

This trip proved the versatility of using packrafts to explore lesser-known and paddled water ways. Whilst I’m sure, at sometime in history, the upper Hurunui has been paddled a few times, it seriously would have only been a few people. And what an amazing setting to pass on the mantle to beginning bikeraft enthusiasts than an incredibly spectacular landscape!

We finished off paddling downwind across Lake Sumner and up a natural canal into Loch Katrine. We shared smiles, beers and potato chips back at the trailhead. A group of inspired adventurers musing over the next bikerafting route.

Deane Parker filming

Filmmaker and bikerafter, Deane Parker

Want to Learn More About Bikerafting?

A great way to begin your bikerafting journey is with The Backraft Guide by Lizzy Scully and Steve “Doom” Fassbinder. It dives into the history of this growing paddlesport as well as lots of great how-to advice to get going yourself.

Learn more here: Book Review: “The Bikeraft Guide”

See more of Deane’s work on his website:

(All photo courtesy of Deane Parker)

Do you have paddle questions our friendly Customer Service Team can help you with today? Connect with them: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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