First trip of 2022

For a few years now I’ve had a tradition of going camping in the first week of the year. This year though all of the family got Covid by new years eve. But on 14th of January C and I got away on a trip to Stocksmyr-Brännan nature reserve.

Info

Stocksmyr-Brännan is the largest nature reserve in Kronoberg, with its 2313ha. It has trails between 80 meter to 16,2 km long. There are two different shelters, one of them next to a lake in the northern parts. There has been a forest fire here, so there are signs all over the place to be wary of falling trees and the stems where still black. The fires can burn off the roots, and the trees can fall without warning.

Trip report

C and I wanted to use a tent, and it had been a long time since the last time we camped together. But since I’d never been in the reserve I wanted to check out the shelters first, to have a backup plan.

I used Google maps to find the way, but it took us out on a tractor trail, and it was almost too rough for my car to handle. But eventually we found our way through and parked at the shelter near the lake, on the northern part of the reserve. There was a flat area that could house our tent, but since it was pretty close to the parking lot I wanted to check out the other shelter before we decided where to camp.

I drove to the center of the reserve, and we started hiking on a trail south, to reach the southernmost shelter. The trail was really nice, with old pine and spruce forest and mossy grounds. C hiked with a good pace, but did long for the tent. Hiking is ok, but camp life is her favourite.

After a while we came to the southern parking lot, where we turned east back into the forest. After a while we spotted the southern shelter, on top of a small hill. The hill was just large enough to house the newly built shelter. I thought it was really nice, and wanted to stay there, but C was dead set on sleeping in the tent. There was no room what so ever, even for a 1 person tent, so setting up our Ultamid 4 was impossible. We hike back in a circle to the car and drove back to the northern shelter.

When we came there it was already starting to get dark. I set up the tent, got all of our sleeping gear out and C snuggled back in the inner tent with a movie. I sat in the vestibule and started to make dinner. Spaghetti Carbonara. It was delicious, but C didn’t eat too much of it.

After dinner I got into the inner tent with C. The trees creaked a bit ominous, and while I had checked for burned trees nearby I got anxious that I had missed one, and the forecast had predicted quite strong gusts during the night. In the end I realized that it was better to be safe than sorry. I would never forgive myself if a tree fell on the tent and hurt C.

I managed to persuade her to move to the shelter instead. So we moved all of our gear over to the shelter and lit a fire and played “Go fish” together for the rest of the evening. I haven’t been too fond of shelters before, and prefer a tent. But it was really cozy with the fire, and comfortable to spread out our gear all over the shelter. It was Cs first time in a shelter, and while she prefers the tent she still liked it. C fell asleep, but I stayed up a bit longer, before I dozed off to the dying fire. ‘

I slept fairly good that night, and the next morning I forced myself out of my comfortable sleeping bag and started a fire. After the fire got going I got back into the sleeping bag and made breakfast.

When we finally mustered enough energy to get up we packed up the gear and got back to the car. On the way back I checked out the site for our tent, and there where no dead trees nearby, so we could have stayed there safely. But as said, better safe than sorry.

Stocksmyr-Brännan was a nice nature reserve, and I want to explore more of it. I’d love to try the southern shelter too one day, but it might take some persuasion to get C to agree on that.

Review: Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 4

(Disclaimer: Below list contains affiliate links, which means I get a small commission for purchases made through the links. The gear is bought with my own money though and I have not been asked to review the gear.)

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 4 at Fulufjället National park

I’m going to give a review of my Hyperlite Mountain Gear 4, with the full- and the half inner and go through my likes and dislikes with it. While it’s a great tent, it still has its downsides. I’ve owned the tent for a little less than a year, and used it both below and above the treeline and I have used a lot of different tents before this one.

For those who don’t know, the HMG Ultamid is made out of Dyneema composite fabric, formerly known as Cuben Fiber. The material was originally made to make sails for sail racing boats, but have been widely used by parts of the outdoor business. The pros, as opposed to sil nylon which is the standard material used in tents, is that it is both lighter and stronger. It doesn’t stretch, sag when wet or soak, and is easier to just shake or wipe off moisture. The cons however is that it is less resistant to abrasions and folding. I’ve read that you can expect almost twice the amounts of nights a Sil tent will take before worn out, compared to a DCF tent since the material will wear quicker. Another downside is price. The material itself is expensive, thus making the gear expensive.

I’ve owned gear from Hyperlite Mountain Gear since 2017, and before the Ultamid 4 I had the Ultamid 2. I have the backpack Southwest 4400, pack pods and a stuff sack pillow, and I’m generally happy with the gear I have from them. I’ve used a lot of tent before; Bergans Compact tunnel tent, Hilleberg Enan, Niak and Staika, Luxe Sil Hex Peak, Twin Peak and Tentipi Olivin Light, Olivin BP and Safir 5 BP. My reason for buying the Ultamid 4 was to have one tent that was light enough for solo use, but still large enough for family camping.

The Ultamid is a so called Mid, or Pyramid shelter. It’s easily erected. Lay it on the ground, put the pegs in the corners and make sure the corners are in a 90⁰ angle. I also recommend securing one guy line to a backpack too, to mitigate the risk of it blowing away while you are setting it up or taking it down.

Insert the center pole and adjust the guy lines. Tighten them a little bit at each corner to get even tension and then go around again and tighten them some more if necessary. The half inner gets secured to the fly with hooks, and with pegs in the corners, and then secured to the top with a carabiner.

The tent, with the material and shape, is made to withstand much of what nature can throw at it. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard or read ‘bombproof’ in tent reviews, and while I don’t plan to do any camping in the conflict areas of Syria any time soon, it do tell some about whats expected of it.

Pegging out the full inner before adding the fly. The inner can be left attached to the fly to set up both at the same time

So whats my impression of it then? I’ve had both the Ultamid 4 and the 2 on both low land trails and in the mountains above the treeline. And it do handle wind very well. Despite not having a solid inner it doesn’t get particularly breezy inside, even in hard wind. When it comes to quality it’s OK. It’s not Hilleberg quality, and while I didn’t have any issues with the 2, I had water seeping through the seams and dropping down in my face at night in the Ultamid 4. HMG refunded the shipping cost and sent me a few meters of DCF tape, and I taped up the weak spots. One area in the top was supposed to be covered with tape, but the tape there didn’t cover the seams. This made it possible for water to seep through, and on two trips I frequently had water dropping down on my face at night. I have a lot of other gear from HMG, and I had the Ultamid 2 without any issues, so I could have just gotten a bad one, since it was made when HMG where overwhelmed with orders during peak Covid in late 2020/early 2021.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 4 with the full inner
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 4 with the full inner
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 4 with the half inner
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 4 with the half inner

When it comes to details it has 8 peg out points along the perimeter, and 7 guy line points half way up. You get a lot of guy line with the tent, but you have to cut it and tie it by yourself. I cut mine in a length of roughly 4 meters, and use a Tautline Hitch at the end, to easily be able to tension the guy lines. With all guy lines pegged, the tent should be able to take quite a beating from the elements. But hard wind will put a lot of pressure on the center pole.

I have a carbon fiber pole from Ruta Loca. It’s lightweight, at 266 grams. I can’t say how well it would fair in extreme weather, but there is also the option to strap two hiking poles together with the HMG pole straps. I use aluminum 4-season poles from Black Diamond, and with a fair share of the poles overlapping the center pole gets really strong.

The tent itself weighs 774 grams for the fly with guy lines, 539 grams for the half inner and 823 grams for the full inner. My pegs weighs 305 gram, and I have a mix of MSR groundhogs, generic Y-pegs and nails.

But the biggest issue probably is the price. In USA the price is $890-$975 for fly, $405 for the half inner and $510 for the full inner. In Europe it’s even more expensive with 1141€-1238€ for the fly, 486€ for the half inner and 624€ for the full inner.

Another downside with a Mid with a full inner is that in a downpour it’s hard to not get a lot of water inside the tent while entering and exiting. When I camped with my daughter with the full inner in 12 hours of torrential rain it was a pain.

But do I like it?

I do, despite some downsides I feel that it’s the best compromise there is for my needs, which is lightweight, large enough for four persons but light enough for one to carry. And despite the downsides with the full inner in rain I do really like the modular approach. I think it really shines when used as a palatial 2-person tent. With the half inner as a fairly large area secured from bugs and the other half as a vestibule with a groundsheet, for cooking and gear. And with only the half inner you could enter and exit without having a swimming pool in your inner tent.

Do I recommend it?

It’s not a tent for everyone. Is a bit more complex to set up than a regular tunnel- or dome tent, it’s very expensive and DCF is bulky and not very resistant to abrasion. But if you prioritize having a large tent that can handle rough weather to a really low weight I do recommend it. For me, the benefits outweighed the downsides, and I would rate it a 4 out of 5 stars.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 4 at Fulufjället National park

C:s first thru hike

Ok, so the term thru hike is probably more or less reserved for longer trails, but this was the first time C hiked the entire length of a trail, so I’m calling it a thru hike for her.

My oldest daughter got a gift card for a spa on her 16th birthday, and was going to Kosta Boda Art Hotel with her mother in late June. At the same time my son was staying a couple of days on “Kortis” (a sort of relief home for families with disabled children). This was a perfect time for me and C to go hiking.

I had found a circle trail just outside of Kosta in the nature reserve Visjön. It’s an 8km trail, and I thought it would be a good trail for two days of hiking with C.

We dropped off my wife and oldest daughter at the hotel, and drove north towards Visjön. We parked the car in the west side of the lake, just north of a shooting range. It had started to rain when we arrived, and the forecast showed rain for the next two days. But C was in a good mood. After a short hike along the borders of the shooting range we arrived at the lake. We turned north and hiked along the esker that borders most of the west side of the lake.

After a while we saw the ground sort of moving. With a closer look we saw that the ground was littered with small 1-2cm long frogs. They where everywhere for a long part of the trail. We tried to watch our steps so we wouldn’t step on them. Every now and then we stopped to pick blueberries.

We came to the north side of the lake, and turned down south on the east shore before making dinner. We had noodles with beef jerkey and cheese. So far we hadn’t seen a single suitable place to set up the tent. Eventually we came down to the parking and info sign marked on the map. On a small peninsula nearby we found a perfect spot for our tent, and room for many more too.

The rain had stopped earlier, but we set up the tent right away, and put up the hammock. This time I had brought the half inner, to be able to get in and out of the tent without having rain falling into the inner. On 2/3 of the vestibule I had a polycro groundsheet for the gear. This was actually a perfect setup for me and C. The half inner was large enough for us, without feeling cramped, and we had a large area for the gear.

I made dinner for us, and then we just hung out in the hammock and eat snacks. It didn’t take long before we both fell asleep.

When we woke up it started to rain slightly, so we took down the hammock and retreated to the tent. C watched Vaiana on my phone while I was reading a book writter by a reporter and a photographer who got kidnapped in Syria a few years ago.

After the movie it was time for C to go to sleep. The rain had started to pour down, and once again I had water seeping through, and dropping down on my face. I was pissed. I had carefully taped the insides where the midway corner guylines attatches and where the plastic struts for the vents are, but still water came through. But this time I saw the source. Water kept seeping through the seams on the top hat, and ran down on the inside of the tent before dropping down on my face. I sent a mail to HMG again, and this time I got the $58 i paid for the shipping back. Since then I’ve taped up those seams too, so I think it will be ok now. But then and there I regretted selling my heavier Hillebergs for this. Hilleberg fans can almost be a bit cultist from time to time, but in the end there’s a reason for it. I’ve had three Hillebergs (and a lot of other tents too) and their quality do stand out.

I was a bit annoyed that the super expensive tent didn’t hold up as expected, but I managed to let it go and go to sleep.

The next morning we had chocolate banana oatmeal for breakfast, before packing up. It was raining heavy this morning. C jumped in water pools as we hiked along.

On the southern section of the trail we came to a large open area that probably serves as a pasture from time to time. There weren’t any animals there at that time, so it could have been a nice place for a tent. The place had an abundance of wild strawberries. We ate a lot, and I could barely get C to continue hiking with me.

After that we had a section of road hiking before turning back north on the esker we started with. C was starting to get a bit tired, but it was only a short hike left to the car. When we got to the car we took of our wet rain gear. C was dry as a bone, but my cheapo rainpants had leaked through, and I might as well have skipped them all together.

This was C:s first hike of an entire trail. We’ve done a lot of paddling, camping and off trail hiking but this was the first time she hiked an entire trail. It went really good, even though her favourite part is hanging out in camp. (It’s actually my favourite part too, when I’m not solo hiking)

Camping with “Skogsknytte” friends

C has been going to Frilufsfrämjandet Skogsknytte for 1,5 years. Some of us have talked about going camping with the kids, and in the middle of May we got out on a camp with E and her father Christoffer.

We had scouted suitable areas, and I had found a nice looking oak meadow, just south of a nature reserve close to Växjö. Camping is prohibited within the reserve, but allowed outside through “Allemansrätten”. To be fair, the oak meadow was more beautiful than lots of the reserve. There are pastures around here, so one isn’t allowed to camp here if there are any animals there.

Under the old magnificent oak trees the ground was covered with Wood Anemone and Heath Peas.

C and I arrived first, and found a nice spot for two tents. After a while we heard E and Christoffer coming through the meadow. We set up our tents, and it started raining. We’d had sun and great weather all week, but once we got out we had rain. And it rained a lot. A litteral downpour all evening and all night. Having a Mid with a full inner provided some difficulties in a never endimg downpour, as it kept raining in everytime we entered or exited the tent.

We made dinner, and on the meny this time was tortilla pizza. I liked them, but they weren’t C:s favourite. Perhaps because she just wanted to play with E instead of eating.

The kids played with My Little Ponies in the Ultamid at first, but later in the evening they retreated to E and Christoffers tent, where they watched movies until late in the evening. Christoffer and I stayed outside, eating snacks and having a couple of cold beers. When it was time to put the kids to sleep we asked ourselfs why we had stayed out in the rain instead of just sitting in the tent.

C was super tired when we got back to our tent, and she fell asleep right away. I didn’t though, because I had found out that the tent was leaking. Water seeped through somewhere, and dropped down on the inner, and through the mesh onto the gear. I got pretty upset with it. The tent costs a fortune, and all the reviews holds it up to be some kind of super shelter, and I had water dropping down. I’ve had the Ultamid 2 before and didn’t have this issue. I mailed Hyperlite Mountain Gear right away, and later got a roll of DCF-tape sent, and a description on where the trouble spots usually are. (The story unfortunately will continue in my next post)

The next morning I had to wake C up. It felt like she could’ve slept forever. I made french toast for breakfast and we explored the area around the meadow before packing up.

It was fun to camp with E and Christoffer, and the first time to camp on that place. The rain was unfortunate though, but we’ll definitely come back here again. Christoffer and I talked about bringing canoes the next time.

Camping and first canoeing of 2021

It’s been a while since I wrote here. It has been a lot going on this spring and I just haven’t had the time or energy to write. But I do have a few trip reports to post, so I’ll start with No. 1 out of 4.

Trip report

On 30th of April C and I got out on an overnighter together. It was our first overnighter together since our hot tent overnighter in Januaury, and it would be the first time C got to use the new Ultamid 4. I had only used it once before, on my ski trip in February, but that time I used the half inner. For this trip I brought the full inner, to get a chance to test it.

We got away later than first planned, and since we had to get back early the next day drove to our “secret” spot, that is close to home. It’s also C:s favourite place to camp. I brought the canoe too. We didn’t plan to paddle to a campsite, but I wanted to do at least a short paddle.

When we arrived I set up camp right away. The spot where we usually put up the tent was in the danger zone though. A pine tree had cracked about 100cm up, but was still standing. It would have been stupid to put up the tent within falling distance from it, so we cleared out a new spot and set up the tent.

After that we made dinner, chicken paeng red curry with noodles. I loved it, but C prefered the noodles over the paeng.

We paddled for a while and C got to use her new fishing rod. We didn’t catch anything though. But after a while C wanted to get back. It’s neither the hiking nor the paddling that she prefers. It’s playing in the tent.

So we got back to the car, put the canoe back in the roof and went back to the tent.

There where a lot of Canada geese that honked all around us. Their nests are everywhere in these parts. But we also heard the lonely calls from Loons. The sound of their cries cut through everything, and I think it’s one of the most beautiful sounds in nature.

As the sun was setting we got out on a rock on the far edge of our peninsula and just sat there, looked over the lake and listened to the sounds of nature.

After a long time we got back to the tent. C slept like a log all night, but I woke up several times when my Massdrop Klymit mat had deflated (I later found a tiny little hole in it.)

The next morning I made french toast from a pancake powder mix I had made at home. It was a pretty nice breakfast.

We packed up after that, and when I started to take down the tent the rain started.

And that’s that. A simple short overnighter, but a nice time spent in nature and hanging out with my daughter.