The Big Trip: 5 Things to Think About

by Kyle Thomas on January 2, 2015

I am new to traveling outside the United States to paddle.  I would love to share some lessons learned from my recent trip to Scotland to sea kayak and to Chile to whitewater kayak.

1.  Where do I want to go?

This may seem obvious to the average traveler, but let’s remember:  I am a novice.  A bit of infrastructure goes a long way when planning an international paddling trip.  Bags Packed, Ready to GoI want to go somewhere exciting and appealing to other paddlers, while easing the frustrations of finding transportation, renting gear (if necessary), communicating with locals, and paying for this whole thing.  Scotland and Chile offer a lot of infrastructure to simplify the trip planning process.

2.  Where am I staying?

The Pucón Kayak Hostel resides on the Rio Trancura riverbank and in the heart of an expanding tourist destination.  Pucón combines unbelievable whitewater diversity with one of Chile’s most hiked volcanoes, multiple lakes and lagunas, and a city structure reminiscent of ski chalet towns.  Pucón Kayak Hostel is a relaxing and affordable hangout for those interested in meeting paddlers, finding a group to paddle with, or just needing a little bit of downtime.

Pucón Kayak Hostel Dorm-style Accommodations Pucón Kayak Hostel Dorm-style Accommodations


3.  Gear.  What do I fly with?  What do I rent?  How do I get it there safely?

I need gear to paddle.  An outfitter offering complete paddler needs is difficult to find in particular regions of the world.  Traveling with over-sized luggage can be a headache with airline restrictions and unpredictable fees.  Several airlines do not allow kayaks to be checked onto the plane.  Acquiring gear was an essential part of my trip planning.  Sea Kayak Scotland was an incredible find and a joy to work with!  Our group was supplied with a fleet of sea kayaks, paddles, personal flotation devices, sprayskirts, drysuits, and guide services.

Pucón Kayak Hostel paired hostel accommodations with over 40 kayaks ranging from playboats to creekers.  I needed to transport a good bit of gear on the airline, but having the kayak reserved and all the transportation taken care of was a huge stress relief.  PKH was the need-to-know for all paddlers planning a trip to Chile, and H2O Dreams led the way in planning and facilitating our trip.

Entrance to Siete Tazas on the Rio Claro. Photo courtesy of Edward Muggridge Entrance to Siete Tazas on the Rio Claro. Photo courtesy of Edward Muggridge


Transporting gear to Chile is definitely something that requires preparation.  For some folks, PKH’s fleet of kayaks and a set of personal gear is all they need.  Others consider purchasing gear upon arrival at one of the outdoor shops in Pucón to be the best plan of action.  This minimizes your airline luggage, but still requires a gameplan for selling gear or transporting it back to the United States.  Either way, traveling to Pucón is made easier and more enjoyable by working with PKH.

Tip:  Purchase travel insurance and high quality luggage for transporting gear!  Gear is expensive.  Gear gets damaged easier than you may expect.  Thoroughly check your gear before you leave the airport.

4.  How will I get around town and to the water?

Need a ride?  Renting a vehicle or taking public transit is a fairly simple process, even internationally.  Renting a vehicle capable of transporting multiple kayaks and all the gear is not so easy.  This part of the trip planning process can be a severe headache, especially with last-minute vehicle availability.  With the purchase of guide services, Sea Kayak Scotland transported all of our sea kayaks to our intended paddling locations, which were spread throughout the country.

Pucón Kayak Hostel offered a variety of transportation options ranging from renting a truck with a sturdy rack, to hiring a daily shuttle, to syncing up guests through the shuttle board.  H2O Dreams paired with PKH to set up all of our transportation needs, drove up to meet us in Santiago, and enabled us to experience a wide variety of Chilean whitewater.

Loading up one of the helpful trucks from PKH Loading up one of the helpful trucks from PKH


5.  What am I ready for?  What is the group ready for?

Each international trip tests my limits.  The limit I have physically to paddle day-after-day.  The limit I have mentally to execute the trip plan while keeping everyone safe.  And the challenges I am willing to take on.  To have the most fun possible, I followed a tough regiment of cardio and strength training paired with a nutrition plan for several months leading up to the big trip.  I needed a way to boost my body’s ability to recover quickly from consecutive days on the water.

Our group at Loch Ness in Scotland My group at Loch Ness in Scotland


Packing the medical equipment necessary to handle severe blisters was a must-do.  Between paddling miles on the waterways and a bunch of ropework to get my gear and myself down to the water, my hands were getting chewed up!  All I needed to do was throw on a pair of sturdy gloves to use while rappelling, and allow my hands protection from further damage and time to heal.  Once back at the hostel, I applied some liquid skin and a padded bandage so that I would be ready for another day on the water.

Our group kept the itinerary fairly flexible to account for expected fatigue and unforeseen injuries.  Building in rest days kept everyone fresh.  Preparing an alternative plan for each day took the pressure off.  A couple of days in particular were tough!  A day with one trail to and another trail from the water that were mentally and physically demanding.  A different day of paddling some of the most challenging whitewater that I have ever experienced.  After a day like either of these, I needed a break.  A little bit of time to recharge and rebuild my confidence.

As I said earlier, I am new to traveling outside the United States to paddle.  Hopefully, one of these lessons I have shared from my travels to Scotland and Chile are helpful in the planning of your international paddling excursion.  Have fun, be safe, and paddle around the world!

Photos and words by Kyle Thomas, Effort Inc.


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