Traditional first week of the year camping

For 7 years now I’ve had a tradition to go camping in the first week of the year. This year both C and my wife Maria joined me. Maria isn’t as enthusiastic about camping as C and I are, so both of us where really glad to have her with us. As usual, my older kids had no interest in going camping.

This wasn’t intended to be a hiking trip in any way, but a comfortable car camping trip with lots of goodies. There where a little bit of snow, and temps below freezing. Great weather for hot tent camping in other words.

We drove to Lerike, 20 min drive north of Växjö. There’s a shelter here, a couple of fireplaces and a privy. It’s a designated camp site for the canoe route “Värendsleden”. In the summer it’s a popular little beach, where people arrive both by car, boat and canoe. It way to crowded in summer for my liking though.

For this trip we used the Tentipi Safir 5. It’s a canvas tipi that’s easy to set up, very comfortable and of a very high quality. In my opinion the Safir Tentipis are probably among the best, if not THE best canvas tents out there. I’ve seen a lot of YouTube channels that use other types of canvas tents and most of them seem to be both heavier and more of a hassle to set up.

We also brought the GStove Heat view. It’s my trusty companion to the tipi, and something of a must-have when you’re tipi camping in colder weather. I’ve been hot tent camping for a few years now, and sitting in a t-shirt in a tent warmed by a hot fire in a stove when it’s freezing outside is a really great feeling.

When we arrived we carried our gear from the car to the campsite and begun setting everything up. My wife and C got to start setting up the tipi so that they would learn. After that they played, while I set up the stove and unpacked everything in the tent.

We decided to make a fire in the fire pit outside, and stay there until it got dark. After dark I started up a fire in the stove to have the tipi warmed up for when we decided to get inside.

We made dinner when we got inside the tent. Pepper steaks, Mediterranean rice and fried vegetables and mushrooms. It’s sort of my go-to food when hot tent camping. Easy to make and really tasty.

After dinner we laidd in the tent and played UNO and I made popcorn on the stove for the first time. I thought I’d burn the popcorn, but they where prefect. Since I only had the 750ml pot I had to make two batches to get enough.

Around 21.30 we really needed to put C to sleep, and it didn’t take many seconds for her to fall asleep after she had crawled into her sleeping bag.

Mia and I stayed up a little longer, but finally decided to call it a night. I filled up the stove with large pieces of wood and adjusted the air flow to get a slow burn.

Mia and I shared the Exped Duomat HL LW. She used my Cumulus Panyam 600 while I used my Quilt 450. We where both warm and snug throughout the night.

The next morning the others waited in their sleeping bags for me to get up and get the fire started. The tent was cold, and I quickly got out from the quilt to fire up the prepared kindling and then got back under the quilt to wait for the stove do drive out the cold.

When the tipi was warm and snug again we all got out of our sleeping bags and got ready for breakfast. We had brought the last Karelian Pies and egg butter from Christmas, and we heated them up next to the stove.

After breakfast we let the stove cool down and explored an “island” nearby. It’s not really an island, but since it’s only connected to mainland with a narrow streach of land it becomes an island when the water levels are higher in spring. On the end of the islands therse some sort of homemade shelter made of branches and a very worn and torn plastic tarp. It’s been here for years, and I don’t know if its some kind of Scout shelter or what it is.

When the stove had finally cooled down I got back to our campsite and packed up our camp, while C and Mia played on the island.

It was a short little trip, like most of my trips are nowadays. But it was nice to get away, and I really enjoyed having both C and Mia with me. Someday maybe our older kids will want to join too.

A food heavy overnighter

The week after me and Corinne had joined Outdoor Life Växjö on their overnighter on Jägaregap, we went on another overnighter with my friend Tomas and his two kids. They’re a couple of years older than Corinne, but they seemed to get along ok anyways. Even though the other kids saw Corinne as the “baby”.

Tomas often camp out with his kids, either in a tent or in a caravan. We had decided to go to Lerike/Skälsnäs, and I drove first to show the way. The far edge of Lerike had been my starting point for a couple of my earlier trips. This time though there wouldn’t be any bushwhacking involved, but instead we would use the open area next to the lean-to shelter for our tents.

Spacious living for one adult and a small child

Wise from the week before I packed a lot of food this time. Sausages, buns, Krabbelur-batter, brie, chevacici, bread-mix etc.

We pitched our tents and started a fire in the fire ring next to the shelter. The kids where really enjoying themselves, running around, climbing on the shelter or throwing rocks into the lake.

Frying Krabbelurer

I started to make Krabbelurer. They’re sort of like American pancakes, and after you’ve fry them you cover them with sugar and cinnamon.

After eating Krabbelurer Tomas and his kids went fishing. I put some sausages on the grill for Corinne, and some Chevapcici for me. Corinne had rain boots on, but she pulled them off every chance she got. Eventually she filled them with water when she walked too far out into the lake.

A campfire and a tipi tent. Doesn’t get much better than that

The week before Dario, the founder of the outdoor group made Cevapcici with Ajvar, cream fraise and chopped onion in Somun bread. It looked delicious, so that’s what I made for me this evening. It was ok, but I didn’t like the seasoning on the Chevapcici, and decided to bring Bifteki next time instead.

Corinne looking over Helgasjön during the blue hour

The kids where running around in full speed during the evening. Eventually I thought it was time to put Corinne to bed. I put her down on her sleeping mat and stayed next to her for a while. I left the tent while she was still awake. She called for me a couple of times, but stayed in bed and fell asleep quietly.

Tomas and his kids watched a Disney movie on the iPad in their tent while I sat by the fire. When Tomas’s kids had fallen asleep too, he came out and joined me by the fire. He had brought a couple of beers, and we both sat by the fire, drinking the cold beers.

It was really nice and soothing. Tomas went to sleep and I stayed up a while. It was really nice to sit alone by the fire, with a cold beer and no sounds other than the once from the fire and the lake.

It was really nice to chill by the fire when the kids had gone to sleep

When I woke up the next day Tomas was already up, and the fire was already going.

Tomas boiled coffee and I made flatbread

I fried eggs and bacon, made a couple of Krabbelurer from the left-over batter, had a Growers cup coffee and made flatbread from my bread-mix. It was a nice breakfast. A lot better than the porridge-mix I usually have on the trail. I felt like I really could get used to this kind of camping. We stayed for a couple of hours after breakfast to let the fire die down and the condensation dry out from the tents. A short but great trip, and I can’t wait to get back out again.

Preliminary planning for 2017

I’ve gradually started to make plans for the hikes this year. I had a plan to spend 10% of the nights outside, and do at least one hiking/camping trip every month.

This is how far I’ve come in my plans, but they may change during the year.

Januari: Helgasjön – Lerike (2 days)
Februari: Helgasjön – Helgö (2 days)
March: Sigfridsleden från Asa till Växjö (3 days)
April: Österlen-cirkeln (3 days)
May: Coast2coast (2-3 days)
June: Helgasjön – east side (2-3 days)
July: Femundsmarka (4+ days)
August: Kungsleden; Vakkotavare to Abisko (14-16 days)
September: Skåneleden-Bjärehalvön or Tiveden (3 days)
October: Tresticklan (3 days)
November:
December:

I’ve already done the off-trail hike at Lerike in January and the short overnighter at Helgö in February.

In March I plan to get a lift to Asa, north of Växjö and then hike Sigfridsleden, 53km from Asa back to Växjö. I’ll try to do it from a Friday afternoon to a Sunday.

In April I’ll hike Österlen-cirkeln after getting a tip about it from Brian Outdoor. I’m still looking at satellite photos and maps to find good places to set up camp. You’re not allowed to camp inside the nature reserve, other than on designated camp sites. But as I’m not a big fan of camp sites I try to find good spots outside of the nature reserve, but still close to the trail.

In May I’d like to hike a couple of days with Coast2Coast Sweden as they’ll be passing close to home on their way to Varberg. Coast2coast is an annual 400km group hike from Kalmar to Varberg, and from what I’ve gathered there is an emphasis on lightweight hiking.

In June I’d like to do some off-trail hiking on the east side of Helgasjön, starting at the small village Stojby.

In July I thought I might try to get to Femundsmarka national park in Norway. My initial plan is to start driving on a Thursday afternoon, hike Friday to Sunday and then drive back home on Monday. I’ll start at Grövelsjön, and that’s a 9+ hour drive from home. I’m not sure I’ll do this in July though. We’ll be visiting my wifes relatives in Greece in July, and I’ll only do this trip if I’ve got the time for it. Otherwise I’ll do it in September. Initially I plan to bring my oldest daughter on this trip, but it depends on how willing she actually is to tag along when the time comes.

The big trip of the year is planned to be in August. It’s the two week hike on Kungsleden from Vakkotavare to Abisko, that I wrote about here.

In September I’ll either try to get to Femundsmarka if I can’t get there in July, otherwise I’ve planned Skåneleden, on Bjärehalvön. I’m still not sure about this trail though, as it might be more rural than I prefer. I might go to Tiveden instead.

In October I want to go to Tresticklan. I really like Tresticklan / Lundsneset and I have to get back there at least once this year.

I haven’t planned anything for November and December yet, but there’s no rush.

These are my initial plans, but of course everything has to work out on the home front. Hopefully my wife or one of my kids will tag along one some of the hikes.

 A freezing overnighter

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The ice was just setting on Thursday morning

On Thursday I finally got away on an overnight trip. Last time had been in mid-November, and I had really missed having some quality time alone in nature. Spending a night out in the woods the first week of the year has become a sort of tradition. It was the third year in a row, and the coldest one yet.

Temperatures where down to -10°c when I left home. My sleeping bag had a comfort value of -6°c and a limit value of -13°c. My personal limit lies somewhere between those numbers. But I thought I’d be fine, and if it got cold I could just sleep with my fleece jacket on. This proved to be wrong though, as temperatures dropped down to -17°c to -18,5°c during the night. But more about this later.

After I got up on Thursday morning I drove out to Lerike. I hadn’t decided where to go until the last minute. But Lerike is beautiful, close to home, and I still had lots of parts to explore.

I got out to Lerike at 10.30, and parked at the same place as last time, at the far edge of the cape. But this time I decided to follow the shoreline north east instead of west, as I did the last time.

The air was really cold, and the skies where clear with just a few scattered clouds. After 20 minutes or so I stopped at a gravel beach. I decided to roll out my cellfoam mat and relax in the sun. I laid there for about half an hour, listening to the wining and singing sound the ice made as it was setting on the lake. The sun warmed me, and it didn’t feel like -10°c.

After a while I rolled up the mat and continued north along the shore. Parts of the time I was able to hike near the shore, other times the dense vegetation forced me to hike further inland. There aren’t any marked trails here, but every once in a while I stumbled on what looked like animal trails that I followed for a while. The route I took would have been challenging if it hadn’t been freezing. I hiked over marshes and parts covered with reed that would have been impossible to pass without being soaked if the lake hadn’t frozen over.

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The reed in the middle of the picture was taller than me

After a while I came to a small beach. There was a fire ring on the beach but I didn’t try to make a fire. I wanted to try my multi fuel stove and it was time for dinner.

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My first use of the Trangia Multi Fuel X2

I set up my stove and made dinner. I tried Knorr spagetteria, Pasta bolognese, and it tasted great. A lot better than I expected, and affordable with a price of ~15 SEK. I’ve never used a multi fuel stove before, and it takes some getting used to, to get a perfect flame that burns efficiently. As soon as I put the pot in windshield the blue jet flames turned yellow and produced a lot of soot and I had to fiddle a lot with the valve to get a good flame.

I continued my hike along the shore line. After a while I came to a road and passed three houses. After I passed them I turned back into the woods and followed the shore, this time going south out on another cape. I thought I’d start looking for a place to set up camp, But at the far edge of the cape there wasn’t enough open space with flat ground to set up the tent. I carried on further along the shore and finally found a great place to make camp. It was in a deciduous forest with a few scattered really old pine trees.

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My home for the night

I set up my tent, forcing the tent pegs into the frozen ground. After that I made a half assed attempt to make a fire. I had collected tinder along the way, dry grass and birch bark from fallen dead birches. A couple of times I actually thought I’d get the fire going, but it died out, and I gave up. I used my stove instead to boil water for the coffee. I took the water from the lake, and by the time I’d got the stove burning a thin layer of ice had already formed on water.

After I had my coffee I discovered a 7 cm rip in my pants. I guess it’s one of the hazards of hiking off-trail. I laid in my sleeping bag fixing the rip. It was the first time I had to use anything from my repair kit. The end result might not be pretty, but it does the job. When I got home I waxed the thread to make it more durable.

A risk of hiking off-trail

I read for a while and then made dinner. By now it was really cold, and I heated up some water and put it in my pet bottle to have with me in the sleeping bag as a radiator.

I’ve always thought Nalgene bottles to be a waste of money. Pet bottles are both cheaper and lighter. But after this trip I’m actually considering buying a Nalgene bottle for winter trips. Pet bottles, however great they are for three season use, does have a serious weakness. They can’t handle warm water well without deforming. Because of this I made sure not to heat the water too much, but the bottle still deformed from the heat. Nalgene bottles can take boiling water, and with that warm your sleeping bag for a longer time.

I went to bed, read for a while and also watched parts of Beasts of no nation as I downloaded it before to try Netflix new offline mode. But at 20.30 a started to fall asleep. I woke up at 22.30, already feeling cold. I put on my fleece jacket and fell asleep again. I woke up on and off, feeling cold. Outside the tent I heard something screaming once in a while. I don’t know what kind of animal made the sound, but I haven’t heard anything screaming like that before. I woke up later with it screaming louder, and with the sound of a fight. I guess what ever was screaming, it got eaten by a fox or something. Is was silent after that. At around 4 in the morning I was really cold and had trouble falling asleep again. Eventually I decided to fire up the stove and reheat the water in the bottle. I did this, and went back to sleep.

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It was a great morning to wake up to

I got up around 8.30 and made breakfast. It was really cold and I was freezing a bit, despite wearing two fleece jackets. I made bannock for breakfast and then packed up and left camp. I walked back to the car in a faster pace than when I hiked out. I had to be back home rather quickly, and didn’t stay for any breaks, despite the weather being perfect. The hike back to the car only took roughly 75 minutes, and I was soaking in sweat when I got to the car.

When I got back home I found out that the temperature had dropped down to between -17°c to -18,5°c during the night. No wonder I was feeling cold and had slept bad the entire night.

Despite being cold I’m glad I got out. I learn a little every time. I could have had a comfortable night even with the temperatures being below the sleeping bags rating, if I had brought a silk liner, a pair of thick wool long johns to wear over my thin base layer and a water bottle that handles boiling water. Next time I’ll be better prepared.