Two night trip with a two year old

Corinne has followed me on car camping trips and a few overnighters before. She turned two a couple of months ago, and has spent 12 nights in a tent since last summer.

This weekend I planned for her first two night hiking trip, and tent night 13-14 for her. The weather had turned for the better, and it almost felt like summer during the entire week. It was supposed to be a bit colder during the weekend, but still sunny with temperatures around 16-18°C.

Information

I had looked up Raslångens Ekopark in the border between Blekinge and Skåne. It’s a 1,5 hour drive from home. An Ekopark is sort of like a nature reserve, but they are established by the logging company Sveaskog. Forestry is allowed in the parks, but the focus is made on ecology over economy. The first Ekopark was founded in 2003, and there are now 37 Ekoparks in Sweden. They differ in size, but the average size is 50sq/km. Raslången is a smaller Ekopark, with its 13sq/km.

Trip report

I didn’t know much about the place, other than that it’s a popular place for canoing. Since it was still too cold in the waters, I didn’t want to bring Corinne in the canoe for the first time, so I planned for a hiking trip. There is a cape on the western part of the Ekopark, and I planned to do some exploring of the cape and to let Corinne set the pace.

We drove down on Friday afternoon. We parked at a parking spot marked on the map, and hiked some 500 meters down to a camp site called Västerviks brygga. Corinne was exited about getting out and to sleep in her sleeping bag.

The camp site had a lot of flat ground for tents, several lean-to shelters and a lot of fire places (not everything is marked in the above link). No one else was there, but I do prefer the forest to designated camp sites like this, so we hiked a bit further to see if we could find anything. We didn’t find any suitable grounds anywhere near, and I decided to set up camp in the far end of the camp site.

I set up the tent, and Corinne, always eager to help, handed me the pegs. This was the first time I used the HMG pole straps instead of the dedicated center pole, and it worked great (for now).

Once we had the tent up I put out our sleeping gear. I had bought a Klymit Ultralight V sleeping pad from Massdrop. I’ve thought about cutting it down to a kids size and just use my Exped Winterlite all year around. But I might use this myself, as Corinne sleeps good on a cellfoam mat. Bringing her along also means a LOT of wear and tear on the gear, so having a cheaper sleeping mat for when I’m camping with her feels better.

When we set up our sleeping gear we heard voices. We saw two guys in the other end of the camp site, and walked up to them to say hello. They where from Copenhagen, and had arrived at another place about an hour earlier. They where going to spend the weekend hiking Blekingeleden and Skåneleden, and had taken a detour up to Västerviks brygga.

We made dinner, and afterwards we sat by a small fire eating some snacks. Corinne had fun being out there, and I was happy to bring her along.

Unlike Lerike, where we camped last time, this place was quiet except for the sounds of nature. After sundown black-throated loons cried out across the dark lake. They have a special sound, that feels lonely and desolate, almost ominous. But it’s still a very beautiful sound, and a sound that I very much resemble with the forests and dark lakes of Sweden. You can listen to the sounds on YouTube, but it is a special feeling to sit by a black lake in the dark forest and listen to their cries echoing across the otherwise silent lake. Corinne was fascinated by the sound, and talked about it the entire weekend.

We both slept good the entire night, and woke up early the next morning. There was slight condensation on the inside of the tent, but the sun was shining and the tent soon dried up. It was a long time since I could pack down my gear completely dry.

We made breakfast, and after everything was packed down, we started to hike north. We first walked through the forest, following the shoreline. But soon fallen trees from storms and thin-outs made it impossible to continue.

We made our way out to a logging road, and followed it north instead. There had been a lot of forestry done, where the company had thinned out the forest, and left the dead trees on the ground. My plan was to hike to the end of the road, and then look for a nice spot at the far end of the cape, 2-2,5km from the camp site. Corinne set the pace, and it took the entire morning. When we arrived it was time for lunch.

When the road ended, we continued down to the lake, and followed the shoreline back south again. After a few hundred meters we found a nice spot for lunch. I had brought my Trangia 27, as it’s safer to use around a kid than my regular gas stoves. I haven’t been using alcohol stoves in a few years, and I really liked the silence. I’ll probably use my Storminstove set with Corinne in the future, as it’s very stable too.

Corinne was really tired after lunch. She didn’t hike far before I had to carry her, and she fell asleep on my shoulder. I carried her through the forest and back to the logging road.

After a while I found a nice open spot where I laid out the sleeping mat and put her down. She slept soundly for 1,5 hour. I sat there for a while, listening to the bird song and then laid down beside her. I woke myself up with my snoring several times as I dozed off.

When she woke up we continued back on the logging road. She rode on my shoulders a lot. I stared to look for a nice place to set up camp, and saw a place from the road, on the eastern side of the cape. There was a hint of a trail from the road, and I followed it down to the shore. The place was really nice, and it had a fire place to. Unfortunately it also had a tent. A danish guy and his son had already set up camp there. There was room for another tent too, but I didn’t want to intrude. The danish guy seemed to know the area well thought, and on the map he showed me a nice secret place on the western side of the cape.

We went back to the logging road and walked to where the guy said a trail would be. I guess with good intentions parts of it could be called a trail, but it was soon just rought terrain with cut down trees everywhere. Hiking off-trail with a backpack full of gear and a two-year old on the shoulders was an adventure of its own.

Eventually we found a small cape, with a fireplace and a nice spot for the tent a bit further up. It was really windy though. When we had the tent up we walked down to the fireplace next to the lake where we made dinner. After dinner we walked back up to the tent, only to find that it looked very awkward. I saw that the bottom end of a hiking pole was poking the fabric and hurried inside. Unfortunately I hadn’t tightened one of the pole straps enough, and when the wind picked up it had gotten loose, and the sharp end of the hiking pole had poked a small hole through the fabric. It bummed me out a bit, but it was so small that I think a little dot of silicone might be enough to fix it.

The wind meant another issue though, as the site I had chosen had a lot of loose debris, that blew into the tent. We brushed the floor as good as we could, and got the floor somewhat clean.

The wind calmed down, and we sat in the tent with the door open and watched the sunset and listened to the loons. We played for a bit and then Corinne went to sleep. I didn’t have any battery on my ebook-reader, and no coverage on my cellphone, so I listened to music for a couple of hours before I went to sleep.

I woke up with a headache and with the sky covered in clouds. After the pain-meds kicked in I was ready to break camp. It was a lot colder that earlier that weekend, and Corinnes hands where cold, as I had forgotten to pack mitts for her. She had some premade porridge for breakfast as I packed down our gear.

We hiked out (her on my shoulders) and came back to the camp site where we started our trip. By then the sun had started to shine, and we made second breakfast. We sat on the benches, eating and watching the lake.

After breakfast we walked back to the car, and drove home. It had been a great weekend, and it was fun to bring Corinne with me. Hiking with a two-year old isn’t always relaxing though, and having her along do mean a lot of extra wear on the gear. But it’s rewarding to have her with me, and I’ll keep bringing her as soon as I can. I’ve already begun to plan my next trip with her.

Gear

When it comes to gear I brought my HMG Southwest 4400, that is my go-to backpack now. Corinne had a Haglöfs Corker XS (5l) with a waterbottle, a teddybear and a puffy-jacket.

I used my Tentipi Olivin, that I had shaved weight off, and slept in my Cumulus Quilt 350 on yhr Klymit Ultralight V sleeping mat. I used my HMG stuffsack pillow for the first time, and it was more comfortable than the inflatable one I’ve used before. Corinne slept on my cellfoam mat, that I had folded so she had two layers. She also used her custom Cumulus Junior 250.

We cooked on a Trangia 27 stove set with an alcohol stove. Next time I’ll probably use the Storminstove set instead.

I also brought the MiniFinder Pico GPS-tracker. The Pico allowed me to see details about how we had walked, without draining the battery on my phone. An appreciated feature was that we also could call home with it when I had no coverage on my phone, since the Pico uses a foreign phone number and thus uses which ever company that has the best cellphone coverage in the area.

(Disclaimer: The MiniFinder Pico was lent to me for free for three months, in exchange for feedback to the company. I’m under no obligation to write or post anything about it if I don’t like it)

Here is my ligherpack for a hiking trip with Corinne. It might change a bit from when this post is made though. I’m glad I put an emphasis on lightweight gear, as weight adds up when you carry gear for two (+ the little one on my shoulders).

Friday night car camping

The snow has finally melted in southern Sweden, even though the temperatures drop below freezing during the night, and the lakes are still frozen over.

I wanted to take my youngest daughter on an overnight trip, so she could test her new sleeping bag, the Cumulus Junior 250. I had it customized with 850cuin down instead of 700cuin to add more warmth.

I tried to persuade the rest of the family to come with us, but spending a Friday evening in a tent wasn’t something any of them where interested in. So it was just me and Corinne.

Since it was still cold outside I wanted to have a small fire inside the tent. I brought the big tipi, the Helsport Normarka 6, and a Tentipi Hekla 7 firebox.

For sleeping gear I brought two Multimat Adventure sleeping pads. I didn’t want to use my more fragile (and expensive) Exped mat, since Corinne can roam around the tent like a drunk elephant at times.

I also brought the Aegismax G1 sleeping bag for me, the Cumulus Junior for Corinne and the Wind Hard Tiny quilt for extra warmth for the both of us.

I packed up the car after work, and then drove to the store. We filled up on goodies; candy, chocolate, lemonade, sausages, buns, cheeses etc. then we drove out to Lerike, at the north end of Helgasjön. I thought about going somewhere else, but it was starting to get late, and it’s only a short drive from home. Unfortunate there is a lot of noise from the nearby airport, and a large road across the lake.

When we came there we started to set up the tipi. Corinne was overexcited about sleeping in the new sleeping bag, and hardly wanted to wait until the tent was up.

When we had the tent up I took out the sleeping gear and put thin reflective mats on the floor to insulate a bit from the cold ground.

I started a small fire, and we sat next to it as it slowly grew larger.

When the fire was large enough we stared to grill some sausages. We had the top vent and the lower side vent fully open. The door was halfway open. It did get a bit warmer in the tipi, and we only had trouble with the tipi getting soaked in smoke once, when a piece of firewood started to create a lot of smoke. We opened up the door fully and ventilated the tipi.

After we’d had dinner we sat for a while by the fire and ate all our snacks. But it was beginning to get late, and time for both of us to get to bed.

I dressed Corinne with a thick fleece base layer and then she crawled down into her sleeping bag. She was super exited about sleeping in it. On our earlier trips she’s only been using a quilt, so this was her first time in a sleeping bag.

I put the quilt over both of our sleeping bags, and we quickly fell asleep. She woke up on a couple of occasions, but other than that, we slept good the entire night.

The next morning Corinne woke me up at 06.20. I was did not feel like I was done sleeping, but since she was, apparently I was too. I didn’t mind that much though, since I got to see the sunrise for once. I stayed in my sleeping bag for a while, but Corinne roamed around the tent and laid beside me once in a while, when she felt that she needed to heat up again.

Eventually I got up too, and we made breakfast. I didn’t want to go through the hassle of making a fire, but just heated up water in the Trangia stove instead. We had breakfast, explored the cape a bit and then packed up. We where back home in time for the rest of the family to eat breakfast. It was just a short overnight car camping trip, but it was fun to be out with C again.

Next time I’ll try to bring her on a longer trip. Maybe a two night trip, where we set up a base camp and then go on day trips. I just got a map and a guidebook on trips in Glaskogens nature reserve, so maybe we’ll try that later in spring.

Cumulus Junior 250 – first impressions

I’ve been looking for a dedicated sleeping bag for my youngest daughter. She’s two years old, and I have bought cheap Aegismax quilts and sleeping bags for the rest of the family. But since C is a lot smaller, and basically the only family member that likes to join me in the woods (Outside of car camping), I thought I’d get her a dedicated kids sleeping bag.

The Cumulus Junior comes in two versions, the 150 and the 250, which states how much down it has in it. They both come with 700cuin down as standard. The 250 has a comfort temperature of 9°C. The fabric is made from 35g/m2 Pertex Quantum. I prefer the thicker 35g/m2 to the 27g/m2 that I have in my Quilt 350. Especially since it’ll be used by a kid that might not go so easy on the gear.

I made a custom order of the 250 with 850cuin down. This gives it an estimated comfort temperature of 5°C, according to Cumulus. With a thick fleece base layer I think it’ll be ok down to freezing. She has always slept really good outside, in her stroller, with just a thick base layer and a knitted wool blanket. I could also bring the Aegismax Wind Hard Tiny as an extra layer over the sleeping bag for insurance.

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Since it was a custom order it took a few weeks for it to arrive. As with my other products from Cumulus it has a feeling of high quality, and it lofts up fine. There is a tag on the baffle along the zipper that states the cuin of the down. It comes with a small stuff sack, and a larger mesh storage bag.img_0490img_0491

In the foot end there’s a draw cord. You could stuff the lower end of the sleeping bag into itself, and close the draw cord. That way you get a shorter sleeping bag, with less air to heat up, that is suitable for smaller children.

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Cumulus Junior 250

The weight of the sleeping bag is 520g. It suitable for kids up to 140cm.

As it is now I’m just waiting for the temperature to warm up a bit before I bring C along again. Winter still holds a firm grip of Sweden, and night temps dropped down to -16°C just a few nights ago. I don’t want to risk exposing her to those temps, and give her memories of he outdoors as the place where you’d freeze your ass off.

Stora Mosse in March 2018

Last weekend I drove to Stora Mosse National Park for an overnight trip. I hadn’t planned to be out this weekend, but my wife had seen how stressed out I was from work lately (lots of co-workers have quit or gotten burn outs which leaves an ever increasing work load for us that are still there), and thought that I might need some hiking time to wind down. She knows the outdoors is the best way for me to reduce stress and recharge.

Right up until the point where I sat down in the car it was still undecided where I should go. Stora Mosse National Park, Norra Kvill National Park or Raslången Eko Park was the places I had in mind. Eventually I decided to go to Stora Mosse, as I had only been there on a day hike before, and wanted to do an overnighter there.

Stora Mosse National park is located just north west of Värnamo, about an hours drive from Växjö, and was formed in 1982. Almost the entire park consists of mire, and it’s the largest untouched mire in Sweden, south of Lappland. Together with Brokullen och Långö Mosse it’s almost 8000ha of protected land. There is a system of pine forest “islands” within the mire, and there are 40 km of hiking trails in the park. Some of them are possible to use with wheelchairs or a baby stroller, while other trails cross the mire on 30cm wide foot-bridges. If you want to leave the foot-bridges it’s possible to use snow-shoes to hike in the mire. From 2013 it’s also allowed to camp in certain areas in the park. Detailed maps can be found here. If you’re lucky you might spot one of the White-tailed eagles or Golden eagles living in the area. You get here by road 151 between Värnamo and Gnosjö, and the road cuts right through the park. In the middle of the park there is a visitors center, but be sure to check the opening hours before you get there.

I drove up pretty early and arrived there a little before 11am. It was roughly a 1 hour drive from home. I decided to hike in the southern parts of the park, and had planned to camp near Lövö.

The temps where slightly below freezing, and it had been cold and snowy for a few weeks. This meant that the mire was frozen over and I didn’t have to walk on the foot bridges. I did however follow the trail. There where ski tracks on the foot bridges and I walked beside them to not ruin the tracks. I worked up a good sweat while hiking in the deep snow. I turned right at the first intersection of the trail, which meant that I would be hiking through the forest instead of going through the mire. Hiking in the forest was effortless, compared to the sometimes knee deep snow in the mire. I hiked for about 1,5 hour before I stopped for lunch. It felt good to be out in the forest again, and I was really enjoying myself.

After lunch I kept hiking south, but stopped once in a while, rolled out my cell foam sleeping mat and just laid down, watched the trees and enjoyed the silence. The forests here reminds me a bit of Tresticklan national park, with the old scattered pine trees. After a while the ski tracks stopped, and I kept hiking on the trail. There where no other foot prints, so I was alone in these parts of the park.

After a while I passed the campground near Lövö on my left, but continued south to hike in a circle. I hiked the circle trail, past the hut at Lövö and then came back to the camp site from the other direction. It was only around 14.00 but I set up my camp anyways.

It took a bit of effort to flatten out the deep snow, but eventually I got it flat enough to set up my tent. I inflated my sleeping mat, rolled out the sleeping bag and made cup of coffee.

After that I decided to keep exploring the park. I went back to Lövö and hiked the trail towards Anderstorp.

I came to an observation tower at the edge of a forest, and climbed up. For being in the middle of Småland, the views where amazing, and you could see for several km.

I kept hiking south for a short while, but quickly lost track of the foot bridges.

I turned back to my campsite and made dinner once I got back.

I slept with the top vent and the door fully open, and had no condensation at all. I had a pretty good nights sleep, even though I toss and turn a lot.

As usual, it took some mental effort to get out of the sleeping bag. I like winter, but now I’m really looking forward to the warmer seasons.

I made a nice breakfast of chili Brie and salami in tortillas. It was delicious.

After breakfast I packed up and left my camp site.

I hiked back towards the car, but stopped once in a while to lay down on the sleeping mat, look at the tree tops waving in the wind and enjoy the last silence before I got back to the city.

On the parking lot I met the first people since I left home on Saturday morning. A group of maybe 10 Danes where preparing for a day hike.

As usual, I had a great time in the outdoors. I really like the simplicity of hiking life, the serenity of the silent empty forest and the monotony of hiking. My mind wanders as I move silently through the trees. It was a great trip, and I can’t wait to get back out on another trip soon.

Modification on the Quilt 350 straps

A little over a year ago I took the plunge and bought myself a quilt. A Cumulus Quilt 350. Cumulus is a Polish sleeping bag and quilt maker, that makes high quality gear at an affordable price. For a few extra euros you can get your quilt or sleeping bag with hydrophobic down.

I had a hard time deciding on whether to go with a quilt or with a sleeping bag. The main contender was the Cumulus Liteline 400, but eventually I went with the quilt instead and bought it last spring. I already had a Panyam 600 from Cumulus that I really liked.

I’ve really tried to like the quilt. I do like how easy you get in or out of it, by just pushing it down, since there’s no fabric under your back, and it is lighter than a sleeping bag. But I haven’t found a way to get the strap system on the Cumulus quilt to work good, without getting drafts.

I toss and turn a lot when I sleep. If I secure the quilt to the sleeping mat the way it’s intended, the quilt follows me when I turn,  which leaves me with the gap in the back when I sleep on my side. Every time I turn I have to readjust the quilt. This could also have to do with the quilt being quite narrow.

I’ve searched the web for solutions, and I know some people don’t use the straps at all. This is something I’ll try, if my modification doesn’t work as intended.

What I did was to untie the shock cord on the quilt, tie rings to the quilt in four places, put mitten hooks on the shock cord and separately strap the shock cord around the sleeping pad and secure the rings on the quilt to the shock cord with the mitten hooks. Kind of a DIY version of the Enlightened Equipment strap system.

I can move the mitten hooks closer to the center of the sleeping mat, or out to the sides, depending on how tightly I want the quilt to be.

I did these modifications last night, and haven’t tried it outside yet. If it doesn’t work I’ll try it without straps, and if I still keep getting cold drafts I’ll probably buy a Litelite 400 instead.

Sigfridsleden – for those who love pavement

 General info

Sigfridsleden starts in Asa, north of Växjö and goes 88 km south, past Växjö, down to Knapelid south of Åryd where it connects to Utvandrarleden. From Asa to Växjö the trail is approximately 50 km. Trail is the wrong word though, as most of this route is on paved road. The route is part of a 4000 km network of pilgrim routes  that goes from Trondheim in Norway to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

My packlist for this hike

Trip report

Last Friday I asked my father, whom my son would spend the weekend with, to drive me to Asa, where the trail starts. I’ve been here two times before, in the first week of January 2015 and 2016 on short overnight trips. Those times I only hiked a couple of km before setting up camp. This time though, I planned to hike the trail back to Växjö.

After studying the map I was prepared for a bit of road walking, and I didn’t have high expectations on the “trail”. But I saw it as a chance to get out, and as a workout as I planned to push myself and do high milage. The weather report predicted lows below freezing, so I decided to bring my Cumulus Panyam 600 and my Exped Winterlite, as I hate being cold.

I was dropped off at Asa church at around 18.30. I planned to hike for an hour or so, but I ended up hiking for two hours, and did ~9km. The first part follows a small road, which then turns into a logging road. After that you follow a trail next to the lake Asasjön. This part of the route was great, but short. I saw two roe deers and a crane on a field. They observed me, but as I came closer they left in a hurry.

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Asasjön, a couple of hours before sundown

I either walked through uneven forests or next too fields, so it took me a while to find a good camp site. I had checked the map and planned to set up my tent near Skärsjön. When I came there I saw that there was a shooting range, with the targets in direction of the cape where I had planned to set up my tent. I walked past the shooting range and found some flat ground on the shore of Skärsjön, outside of the danger zone.

The whole evening had been windy, and the wind really picked up after I set up camp. The rain started falling just after I got my shelter up. The ground was loose, so my stakes didn’t get a good grip. I made a quick dinner and then went to bed. I was to tired to even read.

A little before 01.00 I woke up after falling in and out of sleep since I got to bed. I saw that the wind was about to rip a couple of the most exposed stakes. I got up, put on a rain jacket and started looking for big rocks. Wet snow had started to fall. I anchored the most exposed stakes with rocks and crawled back into my sleeping bag. As I laid there I was afraid for the first time while hiking. The trees around me made cracking sounds, and I was afraid that one would crack and fall on me. When the gusts really picked up I actually felt the ground sway. At first I thought I was imagining it, but after a while I realized that it was the roots of the nearby trees that moved beneath me as the wind shocked them. I went to sleep with an image of me being impaled with torn off roots from a falling tree.

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I woke up to a beautiful morning with clear skies. But the wind still blew hard, which made it hard to pack down the tent.

I left my campsite and started hiking a gravel road. There were a few short parts with trail, but after that the long, seemingly endless stretch of pavement begun. The route had changed, so my map wasn’t accurate, but I had a newer map in my cellphone.

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After I had passed the village Tolg, I saw a strange tower on a hill in the distance. I Googled it, and apparently it was Nykulla Observation Tower, built in the late 1950s. I thought about going up there, but from the sign near the parking lot it looked like it opened in May.

After the tower there was a short section of actual trail through a pine forest.

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But then came the paved roads again. Endless paved roads for kilometer after kilometer. My feet cheered the few times they touched actual trail. I was in a bad mood, and thought to myself that the people that made this route must hate hikers, since most of it was on pavement. But I had myself to blame, since no-one forced me to be there.

As always I was looking for the perfect campsite. The route passed many fields and uneven forests, and I had planned to camp near Toftasjön, in Notteryd nature reserve. In the end my feet, calves, knees and thighs hurt. I was really tired as I had hiked nonstop, except for a 30-minute lunch break. I did the hike as a way to exercise and to see how far I could push myself in a day.

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When I came to Notteryd I left Sigfridsleden and turned to the Notteryd circle trail. I followed the shore of Toftasjön out to the cape “Tungan” where I found a decent spot in a birch forest. The ground was pretty uneven, but at this point I didn’t care.

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I was exhausted, and went to bed right after I had put up my shelter, at 20.00. I didn’t even make dinner. I had hiked somewhere between 37-40 km, which is a new record for me. I fell asleep and slept good the entire night.

I woke up at around 08.00, but stayed in my sleeping bag for a while. After that I took it slow, aired out the sleeping bag and dried out the slight condensation I had on the inside of my shelter.

A little after 10.00 I left my camp site and headed home. I followed the circle trail to the road, and then walked the rest of the way on the road that cuts through Fylleryd nature reserve, and I was back home in less than 2 hours.

I didn’t take a lot of photos on this trip. I saw a lot of small villages, farms, fields and pavement.

Would I recommend this hiking route? No, not unless you have a hiking nemesis that you want to trick into doing a really boring route. Or if you like hiking on paved roads. There may be a target group for a route like this, but for me, who hikes to disconnect from everyday life and to get in touch with nature the route was a disappointment.

Why hike lightweight?

When it comes to pack weight there are certain labels depending on how much the base weight of your pack is. Lightweight (5-10 kg), ultralight (3-5 kg), super ultralight (1,5-3 kg) and extremely super duper ultralight (sub-1,5 kg). I guess my base weight falls in the category Lightweight. So what does it mean and why does it matter?

To me, it’s not important to get below a certain weight level for the sake of it. So what if I don’t get to call myself an ultralight hiker because my base weight is 6,5kg and not below 5kg. But I still don’t think that the weight limits and labels are useless. The weight limits can serve as a way to show that gear that keeps you warm, dry and well fed doesn’t have to weigh more than that. You don’t have to reach below a certain weight for the sake of it, but you can use the weights as a guide when you plan your gear purchases. Of course you have to make sure that the gear you have is sufficient for the conditions you plan to use them in. It’s only natural that your base weight is higher if the conditions are are tougher and colder.

To me, the goal with my gear choices is to be comfortable. Comfortable while hiking and comfortable in camp. Having a low base weight is not a goal. It’s means to an end. The goal is to be comfortable, and a low weight helps me keep the hiking part comfortable. But having a too low weight would impact on the comfort of the camping part. I like to have a spacious tent, warm food and coffee, a sleeping bag or quilt that’s rated a little warmer than the expected temperatures and a thick inflatable sleeping mat. This is where you have to find the perfect balance with that works for you. Different people have different comfort levels. Some like to have a thermos and a camping chair, or bring a Murrika, and some sleep with a to-thin quilt in full clothing under a poncho-tarp, and go stoveless. I guess everyone have to find out what works for them. But I do think that everyone benefits by, at least to some degree, minding the weight. If you like to bring a cast iron frying pan when you go hiking, then bring it. But let it be an active choice, not just something you bring out of old habits without really knowing why. And if you keep the rest of your gear as light as possible for your needs, it won’t break your back.

My experience with the regular outdoor stores in Sweden is that they don’t focus that much on weight. They sell what they’ve always sold, and ultralight backpacking isn’t that big of thing here. But there are lot’s of smaller gear makers that you could buy lightweight gear from without breaking the bank. Cumulus and Roberts are two polish sleeping bag manufacturers that produce high quality gear at a descent price. Luxe Outdoor makes cheap lightweight tents, and I do recommend their Sil Hex Peak.

And then there are all the cottage makers that many  people have never heard of. Locus Gear, Hyperlite Mountain Gear, ZPacks, Mountain Laurel Designs, Six Moon Designs, Superior Wilderness Design, Tarptent and Enlightened Equipment to name a few. Some of these will break your bank though 😀.

Here’s another list of a lot of cottage gear makers.

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!

Short overnighter on Helgö

My last hike, in Tiveden a couple of weeks ago, didn’t go as planned so I still had the need to get out again shortly. So this weekend I decided to take the Friday off and do a short overnighter on Helgö, just north of Växjö.

The weather report predicted nice weather on Thursday evening and snow during Friday morning. Perfect weather for a night outside in other words.

I got off work early on Thursday and hurried home. I still had summer tires on my car and quickly changed them for winter tires. My backpack was already packed so all I had to do was to take a quick shower and then jump in my pants and drive the short distance to Helgö.

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The sun was already on its way down when I started hiking

I parked at the entrance of the nature reserve at around 15.00. There were two other cars parked there, but I didn’t see any people. The sun was low, but I hiked for a while.

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I was on Helgö the weekend before with the family and a lot of leaves had fallen in just a week

I followed the southbound trail from the entrance for a couple of hundred meters and then left it and bushwhacked instead. (No worries Länstyrelsen, I didn’t whack anything). Being a relatively small nature reserve and so close to Växjö it was nice to get off the trail and just hike through the forest. I first hiked through a deciduous forest and then left it for a forest with old pine trees.

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There are lots of different types of forests on Helgö. This patch had mostly pine and a few sprouse trees and a lot of moss.

I had no special goal, but just hiked where I felt like. Another good thing about leaving the trail. I hiked around for about an hour before I turned back to the deciduous forest where I had passed a nice open area where I could set up camp.

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Great camp spot with a lot of flat surfaces to choose from.

The area had lots of open spaces and I choose a nice one and set up my tent. I had my Exped Synmat 7 Ul sleeping pad, but I think it’s too cold when it gets below freezing so I brought a thin cellfoam mat to have on top of it. I have ordered an Exped Winterlite but it hasn’t arrived yet. I also used my winter sleeping bag, the Cumulus Panyam 600, for the first time of the season. It’s a great sleeping bag and now that the temperatures drop below freezing it’s time to store my quilt until next spring.

I made dinner and sat in the tent watching the forest. There’s an airport nearby, so every now and then the tranquility got ruined by passing planes. But for the most part it was calm and relaxing. I continued reading Chris Townsend’s Out There but was soon to tired to continue. A little after 19.00 I fell asleep.

I woke up at 01.00 when I heard loud noises. I head the sound of hooves in the leaves, and something heavy jumping and then a thump as if it threw itself down in the leaves. This was just outside my tent. At first I was a bit worried that it would be a boar. There are lot’s of them in Småland, and they can be dangerous. But as the animal was outside my tent I heard a roe deer bark in the distant, so I came to the conclusion that it was most likely a deer outside my tent too. I wanted to take a peek outside, but I didn’t want to startle it. Eventually I fell asleep again and woke up at around 07.00.

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The view I woke up to
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The snow transformed the forest

When I woke up I saw snow in the small gap between the foot-print and the fly. I opened up both the inner- and the outer door to get a view of the forest. I wasn’t ready to get up yet, but laid in my sleeping bag for more than an hour just looking at the forest and the snow falling.

It had been a great night, but there hadn’t been even a breeze the entire night. This, combined with wet leaves made a perfect match for condensation. Despite the fact that I had both short-end vents open the inner roof was filled with water drops from condensation.

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There are worse places to spend the night

Eventually I got up and made breakfast. I boiled water for coffee and had a few tortillas with peanut cream and hazelnut cream. I took it slow and enjoyed the solitude and the tranquility of the forest. I packed up, left camp and headed back towards the parking lot. After a few hundred meters I heard branches breaking, and then I saw a roe deer that came jumping towards me. It stopped when it was 50 meters from me, stood still, started walking in one direction , stopped again and then changed back to the other direction and quickly disappeared into the woods again. It was a nice way to end the short trip.

Long drive – short hike

So last weekend I was finally able to get away on a trip. The weekend before it had been very nice weather, and now in the upcoming weekend it’ll be very nice weather. The weather last weekend was, well, not so nice. I saw on the weather report that it would be rain the entire weekend, but decided to go anyways. I’m fully booked this weekend and I couldn’t wait two more weeks to get out. So last Friday I drove to Tiveden, a national park located between Vänern and Vättern, the two largest lakes in Sweden.

I drove from home a little before 16.00, and I had three hours in the car ahead of me. It rained until I had approximately one hour left to the park.

I arrived around 19.00 and by then it was dark outside. I drove to the park entrance near Vitsand and parked the car there. The moment I parked the car, the rain started falling. I saw a campfire nearby, and met a couple with a dog that had left the fire. (It was in a concrete circle with no risks of spreading).

The park entrance is being rebuilt, and it’s being prepared for an expansion of the park. By spring 2017 the park will be 50% bigger than it is today. This is both good and bad. I like that they will make the park bigger, but since you’re not allowed to camp inside the park the new borders will make me have to choose new camp spots next year.

But by now it was ok to camp near the lake Stora Trehörningen. I hiked out of the park and found a nice camp spot to set up my tent. There was a fireplace there, but no firewood. I decided to just put up the tent and start the stove as I was to tired to try to find dry firewood.

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My camp-spot with a view over Stora Trehörningen. (photo taken the next morning)

I had mashed potatoes with smoked gammon and a cup of tea and then got to bed. I read Chris Townsend’s “Out There” for about an hour before going to sleep at around 21.00. I woke up sometime early in the morning when I heard a rustle. I thought it might be mice eating up my tent. It took me a while to figure out that it was the sound of the wind in my trash-bag that I had hung up in a tree. Bears, even though we have them, aren’t a big problem in Sweden. However mice can be a problem and wise from experience I hang up the trash-bag outside the tent to minimize the risk of having them inside the tent at night.

 

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Vitsand

As soon as I understood where the rustle came from I could sleep again. I slept until 9.00 and didn’t get up until 9.30. The rain had stopped during the night, but by the time I got up the rain had started again. It was also really cold outside and the rain mixed with snow. It rained quite heavily. I made a quick breakfast and then broke camp. I couldn’t decide if I was going to stay the entire weekend or not. The weather was awful with a lot of rain, the temperatures around freezing, and the weather report showed that it would rain even more the next day and the temperatures would stay around freezing. I didn’t really feel like staying any more. I hiked a few of the trails, but around 13.30 I decided to cut it short and get back home.

It felt bad to get back early, but at the same time I felt that if I would have stayed, it would only be for the sake of it.

I’ll get back to Tiveden again. I don’t know if it’ll be again this year, but it’ll be nice to see the expanded park and the new trails next spring.