Summer of car camping – Gotland

In my post about my hiking plans this year I had loosely planned to go to Femundsmarka this summer, hopefully with my family. We never ended up doing that, but we enjoyed some nights in a tent anyways, as we went on a few car camping trips during the summer.

Before the first trip we decided to upgrade from our old, broken, butt ugly four person camping tent to a six person tipi. XXL had a sale on tents just before we went, and we bought the Helsport Nordmarka 6, which is a relatively cheap Lavvu that Helsport makes specifically for XXL. It’s spacious with 250cm of head room and a diameter of 450cm. And you could even have an open fire inside. We bought a floor to it too. I thought my wife would have issues with it since it’s not an enclosed two wall tent, and she has an even worse bug phobia than I do. But in the end she was the one who pressed on about buying it instead of our old one to get more space since we’re a family of five now.

Trip one – Gotland

This was a pretty spontaneous trip, and we bought the boat tickets just a couple of days before our trip. Gotland’s is Swedens largest island, and located in the Baltic Sea. The island capital is Visby, an UNESCO world heritage site. A lot of the houses from the middle ages are still well preserved, and the ring wall still surrounds the old parts of the town.

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Waiting to get on the boat

We took the boat from Oskarshamn, and buying the tickets late meant going on the night boat. The boat left at around midnight, and arrived in Visby at 03.00 in the morning. Despite being at an unholy hour the boat was still packed with people. Gotland is a popular place for tourists. I had planned to sleep on the boat over, but my youngest daughter refused to go to sleep, so I stayed awake the entire trip.

When we arrived to Visby we started driving north, towards the nature reserve Hall-Hangvar. It was the only nature reserve I could find that allowed wild camping, and I had looked up a spot before our trip.

It was a 40 minute drive, and we found a nice spot with a great view a couple of hundred meters from the parking lot. When we arrived the sun had already come up. There were steep cliff near the camp site, so we knew we had to keep an eye on the youngest kids.

I set up the Lavvu and we all went to sleep. It was really quick and easy to set it up. Unfortunately there was an ants nest nearby, and my wife had some ants crawling on her face during the night (morning). She was cool about it though.

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Just set up the tent, with a great view of the ocean
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My kids enjoying flat bread for breakfast

We slept for six hours and packed up again. I wanted to check for a place to stay the next night, and we drove further up north in Hall-Hangvar to find a spot, before we continued. My wife wanted to do a lot of Geocaching, so we spent a lot of time on the trip to do that.

After driving around the norther part of the main island we went back to Hall-Hangvar in the evening. We had found a nice spot just by the ocean, where we could park the car just next to our tent. By now the good weather had turned for the worse, and by the time we set up our tent it started to rain. There wasn’t anything blocking the wind either, so the wind blew hard. I used all the guy lines on the tent, and also put some rocks on the storm mats to keep the breeze out.

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The ocean wasn’t as idyllic as the first night
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View from our tent

It rained a lot during the night, so we had to keep the top vent closed. But the wind kept condensation at bay, and we had a dry night inside.

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We had better weather the next day

This day we went to the Blue lagoon, an old water filled limestone quarry. The water was really beautiful, and it was packed with people. But it was cold and really windy when we arrived, so we decided that we wouldn’t bathe there.

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The blue lagoon

We also took the boat to Fårö, an island just north of Gotland. It’s a short boat trip, and the boat is free of charge. We drove around the island and stopped in the north at a field of “raukar” in a nature reserve. Raukar is a form of lime stone formations that are spread out on Gotland and Öland.

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Fårö
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A rocky beach, with raukar in the background

This night we drove to an organized camping in Slite, on the eastern side of Gotland. We wanted to take showers and freshen up, so we thought it would be worth the money to pay for a camp site.

The day after we drove around to different spots and did some Geocaching. We saw a lot of beautiful old churches, and basically all of them had Geocaches nearby.

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Lärbro church

We also went to Bunge museum. It wasn’t a traditional museum, but rather a large open space outside where they had built farms from the bronze age up to the 19:th century, and the kids could roam free there. I was amazed that most of the tools could lay open in the houses without people steeling it. One of the staff told me that they fortunately had only had a few things stolen over the years, but most stuff was allowed to be left alone. She told me that there was a similar museum in UK where they had to glue everything to the tables and shelves to keep them from getting stolen.

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Melissa made traditional flat bread at Bunge museum

In the afternoon we stopped at another field of raukar, but when we were going to leave the car wouldn’t start. Electricity in the car worked fine, but nothing happened with the engine. Not even with start cables.

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Melissa and Midas at the field of raukar

Eventually we able to pull-start the car with the help of a passing car with a tow-line (I have a manual gear box). We then drove back to Visby where we parked the car outside a Toyota workshop, left a note in the wind shield and dropped the keys in the key-slot. After a lot of calling we finally found a hotel that had an emergency apartment that we could rent for the night. Apparently we had gone to Gotland during the Stockholm-week. The annual week when all the rich and famous from Stockholm travel to Visby to party, so basically all hotels where fully booked.

The next morning the mechanics called, and told us that the start engine had gotten stuck somehow. . He also showed us how to sort of jump start it, if it was to happen again. We spent the end of the last day on a beach, and camped in Hall-Hangvar again during the night. We parked at the same place as the first night, but carried our gear down to the nearby beach instead. We had a nice camp in the sunset.

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A nice ending to the trip

I would have liked to see more of Visby, but the car trouble had brought too much stress on my son, who has Downs syndrome and is very sensitive to sudden changes like these. We decided to drive around a lot instead, as the car and the tent was his familiar place.

The morning after we woke up early and took the morning boat back to the mainland. We really liked Gotland, and will get back here in the future. Finding good camp sites with the car was harder than we thought though since theres a lot of houses everywhere. But Hall-Hangvar had a couple of nice places.

Gear

When it comes to gear I was really satisfied with our Lavvu, except a couple of small details. The pegs where regular folded tin, which is heavy and bends easily. The 18 pegs weighs in at almost a kilo. I ordered 18cm aluminum tripegs on AliExpress instead, that weighs 300g in total. The center pole is also made of regular steel, and weighs a whopping 1,8 kg. I’ve ordered one in aluminum for one of Helsports more expensive tents. It’s five cm to long, but I will saw it down to the right size. In only weighs 1 kg. Even though we only plan to use the tent on car-, bike- or canoe trips I still like to keep the weight as low as possible. Other than the things mentioned above I liked the tent. It’s really roomy, handles wind well, feels durable  and is easy to set up. It’s also fairly cheap.

For sleeping we had self inflatable sleeping mats, except me, who had a CCF-mat. I didn’t want to use my expensive fragile Exped mat when camping with the kids, since they are pretty rough on the gear. My wife and oldest daughter had comfortable 38mm thick mats, but the younger kids had old uncomfortable 20mm thick mats. My youngest daughter and my wife used the Wind Hard Tiny quilt and the Aegismax G1 sleeping bag. We liked them, so we ended up buying two more so we would have light down bags and quilts for the entire family. We also ordered two more self inflatable sleeping mats, Multimat Adventure 38, and sold the two uncomfortable “self inflating” 20mm mats.

For food and water we had a large Trangia 25 stove set that we’ve had ages, a cooler that you could connect to the 12v outlet in the car and a 20l water can with a tap. It was nice to be able to bring heavy canned food, instead of just dried food like when you’re backpacking.

I’ll soon post more trip reports from the two other car camping trips we did this summer.

 

Corinnes first overnighter

In June I finally got out on an overnighter with my youngest daughter. I’ve thought for a long time that I would bring her out, but it wasn’t until now that I actually got around to it.

I had several different places in mind, but in the end we ended up driving to Helgö, very close to home. Being her first overnighter I thought it was better to play it safe, and don’t drive to far away if it wouldn’t work out.

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The weather was great when we got out. We drove out in the late afternoon, and the sun was shining. It was very windy though. I parked the car on the far edge of Helgö, near the nature reserve Jägaregap. I didn’t bring the child carrier for this trip. Corinne walked by herself, and at such a short distance there was no need for a child carrier. This was more of a camping trip than a hiking trip. A chance to get out, and to let her get used to sleeping in a tent.

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After a while we came to a nice flat area and I started to set up camp. Camping with a small child was a lot more work than I thought it would be. I’ve camped with my oldest daughter, and tried it with my son. But I found my outdoor-passion pretty late, and when I first started taking my older daughter out she was eight or nine years old, and at that age she was old enough to help me setting up camp. I’ve never camped with a one year-old before.

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It was like she had been pumped full of Red Bull or something. She was all over the place all the time in full speed. Ramming through the tent, running on the fly, running into the fly when it was set up, wrestling with the guy-lines.

Cooking dinner was a similar experience, as she wanted to help, and the stove was super interesting. It took a lot of effort, but I managed to get it all together safely after all.

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We had dinner, washed the dishes, brushed our teeth and went to bed. The ground was soft, and it was windy, so I used rocks to anchor the tent pegs.

It wasn’t time to sleep yet, so we layed in the tent, looking at stuff and playing music. I had brought a mosquito net for her, but we didn’t need one. Since it was windy we didn’t have any issues with bugs. Both her and I slept without any bug protection. This is new to me, and slowly but surely I’m getting rid of my bug phobia. Hopefully getting her used to sleeping in a floor-less shelter from the start will make sure she never gets any bug phobia at all. As a sleeping bag for her I used the Aegismax Windhard quilt, and it worked good.

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She tossed and turned for a long time before she finally fell asleep. No wonder, since it was her first time in a tent, with all those new impressions.

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I slept pretty bad though. I woke up a lot, worrying about her being to cold or to hot, but she slept soundly through the entire night. By morning she woke up, crawled up on my sleeping pad, and fell asleep again for an hour, burrowed down next to me.

After we both woke up, we made breakfast and packed up. This time she didn’t want to walk, so I had to carry her back to the car.

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It was nice to get out again, and fun to bring her with me. But it took a lot more effort than I thought to camp with such a young curious child. But hopefully she’ll keep enjoying the tent-life.

Ultralight and ultracheap

When you think ultralight it’s easy to also think ultra expensive Dyneema composite fabric cottage gear. And you could spend a fortune to get a light gear setup. (Trust me I know. I’ve done it)

However, there are ways to get a cheap descent lightweight kit. Maybe for family members who rarely, but occasionally join you on hikes. Or friends that are showing an interest in hiking, but don’t want to spend a small fortune before they even know if is for them. On Reddits UL-forum there is a constantly changing lighterpack gearlist with ultralight affordable alternatives.

I put together a version for a somewhat complete gear list for a price of around $300 and a weight around 3000g using parts of the Reddit gearlist.

Weight: 465g     Price: $61
– Innertent: 3F pedestrian
Weight: 450g     Price: $26
Weight: 270g     Price: $17
     + Polycro groundsheetWeight: 67g        Price: $7
– Backpack: 3F frameless backpack 40+16lWeight: 950g     Price: $52
– Sleeping bag: Aegismax Mummy bagWeight: 692g    Price: $96
– Sleeping mat: Naturehike (Z-lite copy)Weight: 436g    Price: $14
– Pot: Imursa ~700mlWeight: 71g       Price: $6
– Burner: BRS-3000T
Weight: 25g     Price: $11
 – Water treatment: Sawyer mini
Weight: 70g   Price: $20
Weight: 2g      Price: £16
– Hiking poles: Alpenstock
Weight: 270g  Price: $24
Most of it is from AliExpress. I’ve bought both an Aegismax Wind Hard quilt (496g / $80) and an Aegismax G1 mummybag (692g / $94) for the occational times my wife or any of my kids join me.  Concerning the ethics I read a post on backpackinglight.com earlier this year that they are supposed to use down from the same source as the rest of the major companies that have their manufacturing in China.
Aegismax G1 with 380g 800 cuin down, Naturehike sleeping pad, 3F UL backpack and Windhard quilt with 290g 850 cuin down

I also bought a down puffy ($21), a foldable sleeping pad ($18) and the 3F frameless pack (950g / $43) for my wife.

You do however skimp on quality. The low cost comes with that. There have been reports that the fabric in the sleeping bag and quilt doesn’t breath well, which makes you sweat, and in the end will leave you colder. They’ve changed the fabric on the sleeping bag, but it didn’t appear to be fully down proof as down seems to seep through the fabric. The quilt also has sewn through baffles, but I plan to use these primarily during the summer. But I might also use the quilt over my winter sleeping bag if the temperatures drop as much as they did on my January overnight trip.

In most cases I’d say that more expensive gear from known quality brands will give you better products. And I like to support the cottage industry. But if you, like me, want to get a lightweight setup for family members without having to spend a fortune on gear that seldom gets used, it’s nice to have a cheap option.

Update in January 2018:

I’ve made an updated post with a lighterpack here