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About Unpack & Kayak

How We Got Here

The first ideas of Unpack & Kayak sprouted in the summer of 2019, when a week of wild-camping turned into one of the most memorable experiences I have. Together with my best friend, I hiked through the Swedish wilderness until we came upon a beautiful lake surrounded by nothing but trees, birds, and untouched nature. We didn’t have much of a plan, except that we would stay there for about four days, with just enough food to last us for two. The plan was simple: hike, set up camp, find food, sleep, and do the same for the next few days.


As beautiful as the lake-side sunsets and sunrises were, the only thing that we truly missed (aside from a bubble bath) was the ability to paddle around and move over water. As I have kayaked most of my life, the idea came quite naturally: I would buy two new kayaks, drive to Sweden, have a similar trip, but this time over water. But before making the purchase I looked into organised trip-options, to see if there were any companies that already offer this experience. The answer is yes! 


When doing the research I found that they offer very similar trips to the one I intended to do but with a different set-up than what I had in mind. Aside from the price falling outside my budget for a one-time event, the items included were minimal. Not really ideal for people who live in a city and don’t have a full closet of camping supplies. As I intended to do similar trips repeatedly, and I wanted to share the refreshing experience with others, I decided to set up Unpack & Kayak. The only difference; a lower cost, with more included, on a smaller — more intimate scale. 


Since I already owned a different company I had an idea of where I wanted to go, and what I needed to do. So throughout the beginning of 2020 I did more market research, looked at what people were missing with similar companies, and drew up a business plan. Many hours of research, planning, and legal meetings later, I decided to make the big step. I bought 6 kayaks (of which one is a two-seater), paddles, life vests, and all the needed camping gear. From tents to sleeping mats. From burners to sleeping bags. From pots and pans to camping chairs.


That’s also around the time that the first cases of Covid-19 came to Europe. What soon turned into a global pandemic crushed the company’s plans to head to Sweden in the first year. With the Dutch government suggesting that people look into vacations within the Netherlands, so did I. After numerous nights filled with researching kayak-trip options I came up with an alternative to Sweden: The Maas en Waal Tour, in the beautiful Dutch countryside. Since then, the trip has been turned into The Maas en Waal Tour, The Maas en Waal Team-building, and the Maas en Waal Paddle.

Having completed two successful seasons of Unpack & Kayak in the Netherlands, the decision has been made to turn it into a multi-national company that organizes both trips in The Netherlands, as well as the original goal: Sweden! Since this decision was made in September 2021 the Unpack & Kayak team has expanded and is waiting to help you explore the outdoors!

~ Hidde van den Heuvel ~ 

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