Camping or hiking

I begun my interest in the outdoors with hiking. I had traditional heavy weight gear, and though I enjoyed the outdoors there was too much discomfort with it. I learned about Ultralight backpacking and gradually reduced my base weight, one item at the time and I did quite a few hiking trips. I found a perfect balance between camp comfort and hiking comfort. This last year, and the trips this year too, has mostly been camping trips though. Trips with heavy gear, focused on comfort, and that’s been really nice too.

I’ve been less inclined to leave my wife with all the kids at home, even though she’s ok with it. And I do love to bring C with me (the only one in the family except me who enjoys the outdoors), but I really miss hiking. The trip with Brian last November was very much needed. Camp comfort and munching on a big fat load of good food is nice, but as a remedy for the soul, hiking does the trick better. I like the monotony of hiking from dawn to dusk, barely stopping to eat, but just snacking on route. Pushing myself, clearing my head and emptying my brain of thoughts. It’s a meditative state and a form of mindfulness I guess. I’ve gone back to watching UL hiking videos on YouTube, and I long to get back into hiking, and I miss the mountains.

I hope I’ll go to Hardangervidda this year, and I’d really like to hike the Arctic Circle Trail soon. We’ll see what the future has in store.

Sarek in August; Part 2

Day 2

I woke up a few times early in the morning as it was already bright as day outside. I was using my Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 2, and a thin layer of white, semi transparent Dyneema composite fabric doesn’t do much to block the sunlight. When I looked at my clock, it was only 04.30. I went back to sleep, and we got up at around 09.00 instead. We made breakfast, broke camp and went up to the STF cottage to pay for our stay. A couple of hikers had pointed us to the right cabin. The lady who smoked when we arrived sat on the stairs of the nearby cabin, looking at us.

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My Ultamid 2 and Fredriks Bergans Trollhetta 4 in the background
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My gear: In the bottom of the pack I have an Exped Schnozzle bag (the yellow one) with my sleep gear. After that two large Pack pods with food. Above those I have toiletries (neon bag) and electronics (zip lock bag). Tent (white bag) and extra clothes + down jacked (red one) next to each other and at the top I have a small Pack pod with my stove set and food for the day. All packed in a HMG Southwest 4400

When we got hold of the hut warden, he told us that it was prohibited to camp where we had pitched the tents. The ground, and the hut near it, did not belong to STF, but to the Swedish Nature Conservation Association. We did not have to pay because we did not camp on STF’s land. However, it felt a little embarrassing to have camped where we weren’t allowed to. But since the woman in the hut didn’t say anything, perhaps it didn’t matter. She had heard us talking about paying and looking for hut warden, both during the evening and during the morning, so I suppose she understood that it was a misunderstanding.

Our goal for the day was to get to Skierffe. A mountain with an almost 700 meter vertical wall right down the Rapadalen.

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Me, on our way towards Skierffe (photocredit Fredrik Storm)

We got up through the woods, which gradually changed from spruce to birch forests, and then disappeared completely as we reached above the timber line. 

Fredrik and I have a different hiking philosophies, where I am a lightweight hiker who like to march on at a fairly good pace, and hardly even want to stay for lunch. Fredrik packs quite heavily, likes to stop more often, and wants to spend more time chilling and just enjoying the moment, instead of trying to get a lot of km behind him.

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The snow covered mountains of Sarek

 

It was important to me to get back home in time, since my wife took the kids to visit her relatives in Greece and I was to pick them up at the airport when they got back. I realized that we would probably not be able to do our planned hike without having to stress it in the end, so we agreed to skip the plan and instead just go where ever we felt like for the day, take a lot of breaks and not care about the mileage. The only goal was to be back at the car at least 10 days later. It was a bit of a change of philosophy for me, but still felt nice. However, it meant that I had packed way too much food. But it still felt ok, although it meant carrying some unnecessary weight.

When we were coming close to the top of Skierffe we ​​decided to start looking for a camp site, even though the clock was only around 14.00. We passed the trail and continued towards the western side of Skierffe. There we found a really good camp site, with flat ground for both of our tents, and a lot of stones to anchor them. We could have saved weight sharing tents, but both Fredrik and I prefer to have our own space.

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One of our best camp sites ever

The camp site had a very nice view over Sareks snow covered peaks. The wind blew hard when we were setting up camp, so we anchored the tents well. I wanted to go to the top of Skierffe, but Fredrik preferred to stay in camp so I went by myself. When I got up at the top there was a young family there with their child in a child carrier.

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The river delta in Rapa valley

The view from Skierffe was amazing. It was uphill almost all the way up to the cliff. Then came the long cliff all the way down to Rapa Valley. It was a majestic view, and well worth the effort to get there.

I walked back to the camp and after a while we made dinner.

We went looking for water, and found a little stream a couple of hundred meters away from the camp. Fredrik went to bed quite early, but I laid on the CCF mat and read for a couple of hours. When the wind stopped, it was almost completely quiet around us. It is not often you get that silence when you live in a town. Traffic, sirens, lawnmowers, people talking, airplanes. There’s always noise, and it was refreshing to hear nothing like that.

I went to bed around 21.00, but went out for a while after 22:00 to check out the sunset. By then it had already disappeared behind the mountains, though it was still bright outside.

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The sun had just disappeared behind the mountains


I went to bed and sleep pretty well. The new way of attaching the quilt has worked very well, and I have not had any drafts, even though I tossed and turned a lot and it was cold in the morning.

Sarek in August; Part 1

General info

Sarek is a national park in Lapland, in northern Sweden, and is one of the oldest parks in Europe. It’s part of Laponia, which consists of 9400 sq/km of protected land, in the national parks Sarek, Stora Sjöfallet, Padjelanta and Stubba, as well as the nature reserves Stubba and Sjaunja.

Sarek is a popular place to hike, but since there are no marked trails, nor any cabins it might not be the place for beginners. There are some bridges inside Sarek, but most streams and rivers has to be forded.

Trip report

Day 1

I went on this hike together with my friend Fredrik, whom I hiked together with in Norway last year. We left Växjö on Saturday morning and drove up to Bollnäs, where we spent the night at his grand mothers place. We left there early on Sunday morning and drove the last ~1000km up to Sarek. We where planing to enter Sarek from the south, and use a free parking lot about 10km south of Kvikkjokk.

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Loaded, and ready to go

We arrived at the parking lot at the bridge over Sitoälven, just before 20:00 on Sunday evening.  There were many cars in the parking lot. Much more than we thought there would be. But this place seemed to be a popular starting ground.

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Sitoälven

We parked and switched to our hiking clothes. The sign showed that it was 16 km to Aktse Mountain hut from the parking lot. We planned to hike just for a little while, and then set up the tents a bit from the parking lot, as soon as we found a good spot. The forest was too dense to find anywhere to set up camp, and the mosquito swarmed around us as soon as we took a break, so we kept on walking at a fast pace.

After a while we arrived at a small pier, where you could rent boat rides to Aktse Mountain hut. After the pier there was a bog. We were looking for the trail but did not find it. After a while we found the foot bridges through the bog, and saw that it was 6 km left to Aktse. The clock was now ~22.00.

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View from the pier, looking towards Sarek

We decided to go on. However, it went much slower, and the trail went through dense forests and marshes. We found an descent place, but when I read the map, I thought we where only about 0.5km to the cottage and so we went on. It turned out to be 3km left instead, as I had miscalculated our position.

We arrived at Aktse sometime between 24.00-01.00 at night and pitched our tents. We saw a sign that we should contact the hut warden, but since it was late, we decided not the wake up the warden, but do it the day after instead. The price to camp near the cabin was 200SEK.

A woman came out from one of the nearest huts, looked at us and took a smoke. We wondered if it might be the hut warden, but since she didn’t contact us we thought that it probably was someone renting one of the STF cabins. We went to bed immediately after we had pitched our tents. I used my Sea to Summit nano bug net, but I wouldn’t have had to. My shelter did a good job keeping the mosquitoes out. I didn’t really like the bug net, and didn’t use it any more on the entire hike.

Change of plans and change of gear

As I’ve wrote in previous posts, my big trips this year was planned to be the Arctic Circle Trail between Kangerlussuak and Sisimiut in Greenland. I had really been looking forward to it, and basically everything was planned, except buying the plane tickets. The thing is though that I’m also going on a week-long hike with my childhood friend Fredrik, who hiked with me in Jotunheimen last year. Three weeks away from my family this summer was to much, and I decided to postpone the trip to Greenland. It actually felt like a hard choice to make as I was dead set on getting to Greenland, and my planning had to start from the beginning again. My wife has told me though that we’ll make sure I can go to Greenland next summer instead.

I still wanted to go on a two-week hike, but Fredrik wanted to hike for a week at the most. To make this work, I had to come up with a route that would make it possible for me to start hiking a week in advance, meet up with Fredrik and then continue together. I also needed to make sure there were shortcuts to our meetup point if weather or my physique would keep me from reaching it in time.

If I could make this work, I would still get the solitude I wanted the first week, and then a second week of hiking with a good friend. I started to look at Sarek, but I’ve never been there, and from answers in Swedens largest outdoor forum I came to the conclusion that it would be hard to put together a 1+1 week trip that didn’t include Fredrik flying out with a helicopter to a meetup point. I knew before even asking him that this wouldn’t be an option. I also felt that hiking for the first time Sarek, with no marked trails, shouldn’t be done with a timeschedule like that.

Eventually I looked at Kungsleden, the Kings trail, and the possibility to meet up at Nikkaluokta and hike to Abisko together. My plan was to start south of Nikkaluokta about a week before Fredrik. The starting point had to close enough to reach Nikkaluokta in time even if the weather forced me to have a rest day or I would hike slower than I had planned. But I also wanted to be able to take a longer route if I hiked as fast, or faster than planned.

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My planned route to Nikkaluokta

After looking at the maps and searching for places to get to by bus I planned to start at Vakkotavare, in the lower left corner of the map. I would then follow the green line to Singistugorna. Here, I could turn east and hike to Nikkaluokta (the red line). This route should take approximately 3 day. But my initial plan is to keep following the green line until 2,5-3 km before Sälkastugorna. Here I’ll turn east along Gaskkasjohka. I could turn south again and take a shortcut to Kebnekaise mountainstation and then hike to Nikkaluokta (the orange line), keep hiking to Kaskavagge and there turn south to Kebnekasie mountainstation (the yellow line). But the plan is to hike around the mountain Palkastak and then hike south along Visttasvaggi until I reach Nikkaluokta (where the red and green line meets in the right part of the map).

The planned route, following the green line, should take somewhere between 6-7 days. The rest of the hike, between Nikkaluokta and Abisko should take somewhere between 5-6 days.

I have also done a few gear changes. A few very large gear changes. I did spontaneously bought the Exped Expedition 80 backpack, but I realized that I didn’t want to go the heavier route, but instead will try to fit two weeks worth of gear and food in my Exped Lightning 60 pack. If I come to the conclusion that I’ll need a bigger pack I’ll probably just go with the Hyperlite Mountain Gear 4400 Southwest instead. A sub-1kg 70l backpack.

But I’ll do my best to get the gear to fit in my 60l backpack. I thought I’d use this summers trip to test it. Otherwise it would be easier to have just one weeks worth of food in the backpack and then post a food cache to Nikkaluokta and restock for the second week. We’ll see how I’ll do it.

Anyways, I’m a bit embarrassed to write about it, but I sold the Expedition 80 pack without even using it. I don’t want do start using heavier gear again, and I think I’ll be fine using the Lightning. I also sold two old backpacks that haven’t been used for a long time, my Hilleberg Enan and my Luxe Outdoor Sil Hexpeak.

I did get quite a lot of money for the gear I sold, especially the Hilleberg and the Exped pack, and I used the money to buy new gear. I’ve ordered a Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 2, polestraps and a Gossamer Gear polycro groundsheet from Backpackinglight.dk. They have great service, and if you order for more than 5000DKK you get at 10% discount on your order. I also ordered a Borah Gear cuben bivy with a sidezipper.

With this setup my shelter, with polestraps, groundsheet, tent pegs and bivy will weigh ~900g. And it will be large enough to use with my wife or with two of my kids. Hopefully this will subdue my gear ADHD and I’ll stick with what I got.

Plans for the next year

In a few hours from writing this 2016 will end and 2017 will begin. I’ve never really cared much about New Years Eve as a holiday. For years I’ve been working nights either on New Years Eve or started early the morning after. But I do like to make plans for my life in a year to year basis, and I have started to lay out the plans for my outdoor life in the next year.

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2016 offered stunning views
Plans for 2017

  • I plan to get out on at least one overnight trip every month. I didn’t succeed with this in 2016, but I’ll make another attempt this year. I got better hours on my new job, with no work on weekends, and that will probably make it easier to get away.
  • I want to spend at least 10% of the years nights sleeping outside, under the stars, in a tent, in a lean-to or otherwise out in nature. That’s 36 night, and shouldn’t be impossible to do.
  • Travel to Greenland and hike the Arctic Circle Trail. The planning is nearly done, and I’ve done some gear purchases, put away money for the plane tickets and notified my boss about vacation for the planned weeks.
  • Lots of day hikes with my youngest daughter since I’ll be home from work with her quite a lot up until August when she’ll start to go to kindergarten.
  • I’ll start with some more advanced, yet lightweight, outdoor cooking this year. I’m getting tired of eating the same freezer bag meals as always, and it will be fun to expand the culinary experience.
  • Buy a canoe and have overnight canoetrips on both Helgasjön and Åsnen. Åsnen is the second largest lake in Småland, and parts of it will most likely be transformed to a National park in the near future. This goal however is depending on whether I can afford to spend that much money or not.
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    I got my eye set on this beauty
  • Work on getting a hiking trail around Helgasjön. I’ve been in contact with the local authorities and it’s been up for discussion, but they won’t fund it right now. But I know there are more hikers around Växjö who’d like a trail there, and I’ll try to get more people to push for it.
  • Make the blog more active and write at least once a week, preferably two times a week.
  • Start making movies of my hikes and movies with gear reviews.
  • This year I also want to seriously start planning for a shift in my life, with more passive income than today, and find ways to cut down on office time and maybe find a way to make an income from my outdoor interest. I have both Angeliqa Mejstedt from Vandringsbloggen and Philip Werner from sectionhiker.com as role models. Both of them have a larger outdoor experience than me and have a really large number of readers, but you got to start somewhere 🙂

These are the plans I have now for the next year. Some will be easier to succeed with than others but in general, I’ll try to spend more time in the outdoors and focus more actively on finding alternative ways to make an income. In a year or so I’ll summarize how well I did in reaching my goals.

Happy new year everyone. Let’s make it a great one!

The hiking year 2016

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The New Years Eve is closing in, and it’s time to sum up the past year. My goal for the year was to get out on at least one overnight trip every month of the year.

I didn’t succeed with this though, but I did get out on quite a few trips.

January:

Februari:

  • My third child was born, so hiking was not a priority in Februari.

March:

  • A two night trip on John Bauerleden north of Jönköping in the beginning of March, that nearly ruined my feet.
  • An overnighter again in the end of March on Vildmarksleden near Åseda. I got sick during the hike and spent the next few days in bed after this hike.

April:

  • I didn’t get away on a hike this month.

May:

June:

  • No trip this month either.

July:

August & September:

  • A two night hike on another trail called Vildmarksleden, this time east of Gotherburg. It was a wet rainy experience and not a trail I’ll visit again.
  • The “big” trip this year begun in late August and ended in the beginning of September and was a week-long hike in Jotunheimen in Norway. It was a great trip with mostly good weather. It was very windy though. But I can’t wait to get back to some real mountains again.

October:

  • In late October I finally got out on a trip. I had planned for a two night hike in Tiveden, but really poor weather made me change my mind, and despite the long drive I ended up with a short overnighter.

November:

  • In the beginning of November I got out on an overnighter on Helgö, just outside Växjö. It was one of the first cold nights, and I woke up to a white layer of snow. I did have some serious condensation on this trip.
  • In the middle of the month I got out again. This time on an overnighter in Lerike, at the north end of the lake Helgasjön. Everything was covered in a thick layer of frost, and the nature was absolutely stunning. I tried to make a short video of the trip, but it got quite short since I had forgotten to bring a larger memory card. I haven’t decided if I’m going to publish it or not.

December:

  • No trip this month, but in the first week of January I plan to be out in the wild again.

When it comes to gear I both added and changed a few things. My biggest purchase was the Hilleberg Enan. I actually like it better than I thought I would. I was afraid I’d find it too small and cramped, but it felt a lot roomier than expected.

I also bought a down quilt from Cumulus. This was my first time using a quilt instead of a sleeping bag, and I’m still not sure if I like it. I might end up selling it, and buying a Liteline 400 instead.

I also bought an Exped Winterlite sleeping pad. I really like my Synmat 7 UL, but as soon as the temperatures drop below freezing I find it too cold. It was comfortable and warm, but the mummyshape takes some getting used to.

During the fall I started to stock up gear for my planned ACT hike. After the trip to Jotunheimen I realised that I would have a hard time fitting 12-14 days worth of food in my 60l backpack (it’s not like it can’t be done, but I’d have a hard time making it work). The hike takes somewhere between 9-11 days, but I might also start at the Ice cap, with will add 40 km to the trail. I also want to do some more advanced outdoor cooking than just eating my freezer bag meals. It also seems to be really hard to get gas canisters in Greenland and a multi fuel stove seems to be the best way to go. For this I purchased an Exped Expedition 80 backpack, a Trangia 27 ULHA and the multi fuel burner X2 to the Trangia. I did put some thought down before I bought the Trangia, considering it’s weight and volume. But in Norway, where I was constantly above timberline and with really strong winds most of the time I did miss having a sturdy stove with a better windshield. Cooking was a pain in the ass when the windshield almost blew away and much of the heat escaped because of the wind.

I’m constantly trying to improve my gear and find the perfect gear for me and for the designated trip. I try to conserve my shopping in my everyday life, but when it comes to outdoor gear, I think I have a problem. 🙂

All things considered, I had a great hiking year. I do want to get out a lot more than I do. But it is a balance between familylife, work and my need to get out on hikes.

Next year I’d really like to buy a pair of Åsnes Sondre and get out on a winter trip. I also have loosely planned to buy a canoe, and if so, it’ll most likely be an Esker Wood Ki Chi Saga. It was love at first sight, and I’ll go to their showroom next year and look at one up close. There aren’t that many good hiking trails close to Växjö (if you don’t like dark spruce forests), but Småland is littered with lakes, and with a canoe I can do a lot of trips in beautiful scenery close to home. It’s a really big investment though and I don’t know if I can prioritize the cost.

I wish you all a happy new year, and I hope that you have a lot of great trips in 2017!

The new backpack (confessions of a gear junkie)

Yes, I am a gear junkie. I can’t deny it.

In the last few week I’ve been slowly starting to prepare for next years trip to Greenland. As I’ve wrote before I plan to hike the Arctic Circle Trail in late August – early September next year. I’ve started to make a packlist, e-mailed questions to the Greenland Tourist bureau and the Arctic Circle business, and started to make a list of the food I plan to bring, and what ingredients I need to dry.

I will bring food for 12 days, and I actually plan to do some more cooking then usual, as I’m starting to grow tired of my freezerbag-meals. For this I’ll bring a Trangia 27-1 ULHA. It’s not UL at all with a weight of 760g with the gasburner. But it’s a real stabile stoveset suitable for more cooking.

Bringing that much food calls for a bigger backpack. My 60l Exped Lightning is a great pack. But I filled it up with only one weeks worth of food. And I also want to be able to take food that takes more volume to and not feel restricted by the volume of the pack.

That’s why I ordered an Exped Expedition 80 from komplettfritid.no. It normally cost around 4500SEK on most places i looked, but komplettfritid had a discount and sold them for less 3200SEK. I was too slow to order though, and when I finally decided to buy one the discount was gone. I e-mailed komplettfritid and told them that I had planned to buy the pack but was to slow to order. Today I got a reply, with a link to the backpack, and saw that they had lowered the price again. Now that’s costumer service.

If you’ve seen my packlists and read my trip reports you can see that I have a thing for Exped. I have an Exped Synmat 7 UL, a Synmat Winterlite, the UL Pillow, the Schnozzle pumpbag and the Lightning 60 backpack. I really like their lightweight products and their great quality.

The Expedition 80 isn’t really lightweight, at 2450g. But it’s somewhat light with the volume it offers. It’s also waterproof with a PU coated fabric and taped seams. I think it will be a great pack for longer trips and for wintertrips. I love my Lightning pack, but for extended trips I think this will be great.

On another notion, I have applied for Fjällräven Polar 2017. I was late to complete the application, and I’m really far behind the leader. But as a wise person said, “it ain’t over ’til it’s over” 🙂

Please vote for me, and spread the word, and I’ll be ever grateful. Every vote counts.