Packrafting New Zealand

Our Story

About Packrafting New Zealand - latest packraft surfing session
About Packrafting New Zealand - River crossing
Packrafting New Zealand - The very first expedition
The team of Packrafting New Zealand

About Packrafting New Zealand

the beginnings

the short version

Our company was founded in 2012 by Arno Marten and initially named Expedition X. It offered guided tours on the South Island of New Zealand using packrafts. At the time very few people had even heard of packrafts, let alone used one. Expedition X was the first commercial packrafting company offering guided trips and packrafting education in New Zealand–maybe even on the planet!

We soon realized that that packrafting was growing quickly and began trading as Packrafting New Zealand in 2013.

Since our creation, we have made packrafting our passion–guiding, teaching, and exploring our neck of the woods using these awesome little boats. Over the years we’ve added an online packrafting shop selling only the superlight, high quality gear that we personally used, and shifted the focus of the company from day trips to high end expedition tours and education.

Want the long version? Read on…

About Packrafting New Zealand

Arno, meet Alpacka raft

Back before he had the idea of starting a business, before he even knew about packrafts at all, Arno had another idea–to swim down the West coast of New Zealand from Milford sound to Bluff. As crazy as this sounds, Arno’s past life had taught him all about towing backpacks through rough seas. But with the southern ocean being notorious even as rough seas go, and owing to the distance of the proposed trip, Arno knew that he’d have a LOT of gear, and so wanted a better solution than what he was used to. What about towing an inflatable raft? With some research, he found Alpacka Raft. They liked his idea of crazy and introduced him to his first packraft, an Alpacka Llama.

This is where it all started

During training missions in 2011 and early 2012 Arno ticked off the length of the west coast swim in bite-sized pieces and fell in love with his packraft along the way. Then, in September he made an attempt at the full 400 km distance, fully unsupported, and with just a couple resupply stops along the way. The adventure was cut short a week into the journey as bad weather moved in and a broken backpack made the occasional inland journey next to impossible. Arno waited out the weather on dwindling food supplies and pulled the pin. That started the idea of a Packrafting Business.

About Packrafting New Zealand

How it all began - Why not start a business?

Arno was between jobs at the time of his thwarted swim and as he had the freedom to choose, his girlfriend (now wife) suggested that he start a packrafting company. This coincided nicely with Alpacka releasing a redesigned boat that was much more stable and better suited. for beginner paddlers. The decision was made, the bank loan signed, and the first few boats ordered. Commercial guiding permits were secured, safety audit passed and Packrafting New Zealand (Expedition X) officially opened its doors to the general public on 01. 12. 2012.

The company was initially called Expedition X because Arno thought he might combine packrafting with other outdoor pursuits. He soon saw how perfect New Zealand was for packrafting , however, and realized he didn’t want to do anything else! The name was changed to…you guessed it, Packrafting NZ.

About Packrafting New Zealand

The New Packrafting HQ

The company was originally located in Queenstown. Now from the beginning, Arno had big plans for the company to be an expedition and education based company, but found this hard to achieve surrounded by the hustle and bustle and volume-based tourism experiences being hawked all around him. A change was needed, and Arno planned to look for a more suitable place to base the company once he had a few years of taking tourists on day trips under his belt.

Change in the right direction

But the change came sooner than expected, and from America of all places, when an American ex-pat called out of the blue and asked for a job as a guide. Arno was intrigued (this guy had actually knew what packrafting was) and so the pair met in Kingston in the winter of 2015. It turns out that Andy, the American, had been packrafting since 2004 and had paddled already plenty of trips under his belt in Fiordland. Over the next few months, the two paddled together and hatched a plan–they’d open up trips in Fiordland which Andy could guide (once Arno trained him up) and Arno would carry on in Queenstown. But between all the training and testing of rivers there was an awful lot of backwards and forwards for Arno which, after a while, became too much, even for the German who loves driving.

But Arno also remembered that he loved Fiordland. His new wife loved Fiordland, and the trips were, well, better in Fiordland–more remote, more pristine, more genuine wilderness. All things Arno loved. So in 2017 the company moved to Te Anau.

A solid team

Ever since Andy joined Arno, he became an integral part of the crazy German/American operation that is Packrafting NZ. Over the years they’ve had to tweak things here and there–working hard to find the market, stay true to themselves, and stay in the flow. .And even after a pretty bad 2020–where epic floods and world ravaging pandemics brought on thoughts of end-times, Packrafting New Zealand is still standing–stronger than ever. It is still, at its core, a small operation offering value to anyone who wants to get into packrafting and experience a genuine wilderness adventure. You need to join us to understand the true meaning of the crazy German/American Team. We’ll hope to see you sometime in the future. Maybe on our Hollyford Pyke Expedition 😉

About Packrafting Nz - The Team
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