After I tried and compared two promising Packrafts, I decided to buy the MRS Nomad S1 in the normal (so non-light) variant. The first longer tour should take place at the end of August 2021 on the Ems in northern Germany.
Unlike hiking, the river dictates the route. The tour should start in Warendorf and end at the weir of Herbrum.
Unfortunately, it did not come so far, already on the third day I had to break off my tour in Emsdetten due to illness. But until then it was a nice and quiet tour.Show complete map
Of course, I had my MRS Nomad S1 with me, whose light variant I had already tested once before, as well as the double paddle ExtaSea Tour Vario made of fiberglass in the 220-240 cm version.
I slept under my tarp, which is simply a tarpaulin from a hardware store with eyelets and has proven itself on other tours. My lightweight Ultralight Air Mat from Sea To Summit and my simple summer sleeping bag from Frilufts were also with me.
In electronics, I brought a solar panel from Anker, my smartphone, an eBook reader and my camera. I obviously didn’t need a lot of navigation equipment, yet I printed out the route and took it with me.
Apart from that, the usual and a lot of smaller stuff: Gas stove, hat (August is still summer), sunscreen, deer tallow cream for the hands, spare clothes, dry bags and so on.
Day 1: Warendorf → Gelmer
Aug 30, 2021
I got up just after 4 a.m., since my train left at 5:46. Around 8:50 I arrived in Warendorf and set up my packraft at the Teufelsbrücke bridge, where you can easily get into the water via a small staircase.
Around 10 a.m. I went into the water and the tour started. The current was quite good and I made fast progress. After a smaller rapid behind Warendorf came a larger and more challenging rapid before the village of Einen. If you feel uncomfortable paddling through the rapids, there are – as with almost all rapids – the possibilities to transfer.
In Telgte there is then a weir and you notice already 1-2 km / 1 mi before that the water accumulates and the current decreases. But there is a place to transfer at the Mühle am Emstor (translates to mill at the Ems gate), but you have to cross a country road.
Further on, there were a couple of smaller rapids, some with carry-overs, but none of them were a serious problem. The route also contained some renaturalized areas where artificial loops were built into the often straightened Ems. Other than that, the Ems was often quite boring, such renaturalized areas definitely enhanced the tour.
I didn’t make much more distance and finally set up my camp on the bank of the river. But it was difficult to find a reasonable place, because either the bank consists of an artificial 45° slope, a natural drop-off or dense bushes.
Day 2: Gelmer → Emsdetten
Aug 31, 2021
The next day I continued early at 9:15 AM I was on the road … river again. The level had dropped a bit during the night, on the shore you could clearly see that there was about 10 cm / 4 in less water than the day before. But no reason to panic, there was still enough water under the keel for a packraft.
After a short time I passed the prominent canal overpasses Alte Fahrt and Neue Fahrt (translating to old voyage and new voyage) of the Dortmund-Ems-Kanal. The second trough of the Neue Fahrt was quite new, at that time not yet opened, but still very impressive.
The next interesting place was in the town of Greven. Two sections were recently rebuilt in 2021 and weirs (Cramer and Schöneflieth) were replaced by interlocked groynes. The resulting rapids were a lot of fun, but also rather challenging for me (ICF level II, at higher levels and more flow maybe III).
Behind Hembergen there is a large renaturalized bend where it became quite scenic again. There the Ems was 30 m / 100 ft wide, but maybe only about 70 cm / 30 in deep, so I could see the bottom and watch the fish while drifting.
I set up my camp about 2 km / 1.5 mi before Emsdetten on a small sandbank. Here the remaining bank was again very steep and the Ems was quite straightened and embedded in an artificial bank.
Day 3: Break off in Emsdetten
Sep 1, 2021
Unfortunately, I got ill and hardly slept through the night, so I had to abort the tour in Emsdetten. At the bridge of the B475 road, there is a slipway, where you can let in and get out your boat very well, even with larger boats. My tour was already over here.
On the one hand, it was nice to paddle for a longer time, to master the rapids and to let oneself drift now and then. On the other hand, the Ems is mostly straightened and despite some well-done renaturations, it is mediocre. Especially the artificial and steep banks (see last picture) are not a feast for the eyes, you feel like in a trough and sometimes have no opportunities for a break over several kilometers.
I found it therefore not too bad to finish the tour in Emsdetten. After all, the Ems from the town Rheine is a shipping route and at the Lingen nuclear power plant, the Dortmund-Ems-Kanal flows into the Ems anyway. The Ems doesn’t become more beautiful from Emsdetten.