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About Cesar

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  1. *First let me get the same old disclaimer I've been giving over and over again over most of this past decade out of the way: I am not sponsored. I get no free gear, and never have. There are no ads on this blog, i.e. this blog is not monetized. I am not a Youtube partner, i.e. no ads on my channel and I make/made literally no money off of it. Introductions and Reflections The beginning of the 2010's saw me discover and then quickly transition into ultralight backpacking. It was a pretty fast transition because I saw and felt the benefits of UL for myself in practice right away, and I was soon a die-hard UL convert. The problem was that at the same time I went back to university and was a struggling student again, so I didn't have much spare cash to put into my rediscovered hobby. But that didn't stop me, of course. I had been backpacking well before that, and had used a lot of old army gear and traditional and heavy K-Mart camping gear. I was determined to go UL. By 2011 I designed and had my wife help me make my first key piece of UL gear, a MYOG backpack that only weighed 445g/15.7oz. And while of course it had its shortcomings and was pretty minimalist or even a bit crude, it actually worked--and I put it to good use as well. That same year, and for a few years to come, I rocked a cheap but decent MYOG tarp, and my instructions on how to make this tarp still remain one of the most popular posts on my blog. And I was happy with my makeshift but fully functional UL gear, and went on plenty of great overnighters and section hikes. I continued to do a lot more UL experiments with DIY/MYOG, while at the same time I saved up for high quality, cottage made gear. By the mid 2010's I had a very dialed in UL and even SUL set of gear with plenty of fancy UL gear. And I was happy with my improved UL gear, and went on plenty of great overnighters and section hikes. But naturally my evolution as a UL backpacker wouldn't stop there, and there was still a fair amount of fine tuning to be done. I also became less interested in going SUL--maybe I'm getting older and value comfort more now? By the later part of the 2010's I had sold or given away a lot of my hardcore SUL gear, like my Zpacks Hexamid tarp that weighed a mere 150g/5.3oz, and my small Zpacks Zero clocking in at 240g/8.5oz. Yet here I am at the end of the 2010's with my most dialed in set of gear, and I can say hands down that this is the best gear I've ever had. I am the happiest I've ever been in my life when it comes to my gear, and I over the past few years my backpacking trips have never been better. If you're interested in a complete list of my most commonly used gear lists, I recently wrote a post about these five lists. However this post is about my favorite gear, and will go into detail on specific items that I consider to be the best UL gear for my needs. It wouldn't be possible for me to jump down the rabbit hole on each and every item I have in my gear closet, so I am going to limit this list to my top ten "big" pieces of gear--stuff that makes up the "big 4" categories of gear (shelter, sleep system, pack, and cook kit). And I will also do a shorter write up of my top five "small" items--even though some of them are heavier than some of the "big" items! But I needed to have some more requirements to narrow things down more. So this list also has the pieces of gear that see the most use out in the field as of now, and that I also plan on running into the ground in the future and have no plans or interest in replacing. This eliminated a lot of great gear that has more of a niche or specific use throughout the year. And speaking of year-round backpacking, I should again highlight that I am a section hiker and random overnight trip taker. I'm not a thru-hiker, though I have been doing this whole backpacking/outdoors thing as a regular hobby for over twenty years. I've used all sorts of different gear over the course of these years, and a lot of it... well, sucked. A fair amount of gear was just not bad or alright. And some that was good, but not great. But this gear I am going to write about now, is fucking awesome. At least, it's fucking awesome for me here in my neck of the woods. So keep in mind that this gear is also fine tuned for use in the forests and mountains Scandinavia, which is generally a cold, rainy place much of the year. And used by a soon to be 40 year old Chicano man, happy and thankful to be able to continue this lovely little passion of mine. Honorable Mentions But first, here are my top five honorable mentions that are worth mentioning, and also why they didn't make the top ten big or top five small: Borah Gear down vest - It was a tough to choose between this and another layer, but ultimately one can be used in more situations. Plus after many years of use, it's finally getting a bit worn out and may be replaced in the future. But it served me well and it packs a big punch of warmth for how little it weighs (105g/3.7oz). SOL Escape Lite bivy - It had seen a fair amount use over the years, and if I were to go on a thru-hike in cooler (3 season) temps, I would most likely bring it along. But its job is just too specific to get used regularly, which is to bump up the warmth and also efficiency of my sleep system. It keeps my down quilts drier (and thus puffier and warmer), keeps out drafts, reflects back heat, and also breaths well. At only 150g/5.3oz, it's lighter than a lot of single layers of insulated clothing, like say a pair of merino wool bottoms or a puffy jacket--yet is warmer than these single articles of clothing by providing full body coverage and thermal efficiency. I think it's a must have for any regular section hiker or weekender that gets out year round in various seasons/temperatures. MLD Silnylon Duomid - I just got it this year, so it wouldn't be fair to put it in my top ten! But I have very strong first impressions and really look forward to putting it to good use, especially up in the fjälls. And fully loaded (pair with a silnylon solo XL inner net, bungee cords, guy lines, drysack, 10 stakes) it clocks in at 970g/34.2oz, which is lighter than a lot of tents, even some UL tents. Considering that this is also a palace for one and adequate for two, it provides such excellent 360 degree protection from the elements, is much less bulky than DCF/Cuben, quick and easy to set up, and it has such a high HH (5,000mm), that's pretty amazing. Lems Boulder Boots - I really like these shoes, and they get a lot of use--I just don't love them. They are not the best hiking shoe, and I think this says more about the state of the market of minimalist/zero drop/barefoot hiking shoes. I've tried various different kinds of these types of shoes that are favorites among us ULers, but there are some deal breakers for shoes that I have that have prevented me from falling in love with any pair of hiking shoes. I want a pair of high top hiking shoes that are zero drop/barefoot, durable, are very breathable/have little to no insulation, and are not super expensive. These don't exist as far as I am aware. The Boulder boots are high top, zero drop, durable, and are somewhat expensive. I will have to keep on looking for the perfect hiking shoe for me, but until then the Boulder boots are good enough. Generic 100% Merino Wool base layer - There is no need to pay big bucks for base layers, if you ask me. When I was a struggling student back when I discovered UL, I used generic polyester base layers, and they worked just fine. Weight was low, warmth was decent, and pretty cheap (20 bucks for a pair) but stinky and general comfort were issues. So after a while I kept my eyes peeled for merino wool base layers from a generic brand and eventually found merino/synthetic blends for a good price (40 bucks for a pair), and switched to those. Then finally I upgraded to 100% merino wool, and it only cost me about 65 bucks total. The top and bottom are from different generic brands, and I got each of them on sale at different stores. And they work great and get lots of use! Decent weight (185g/6.5oz for the top, 165g/5.8oz for the bottoms), great warmth and comfort, and it takes a lot for them to stink. They don't make the top ten because they are nothing revolutionary or ground breaking, and in a pinch a generic poly base layer or a blended fabric are not bad as an alternative. But this is one place where most people can spoil themselves a bit and pay the extra bucks and go with a generic brand (or name brand in the bargain bin or on sale) 100% merino wool base layer. Top Five Small Things Going left to right: 1. Anker II 6700 battery - 145g/5.1oz with charging cable. It's light, it's small, it charges my phone and headlamp. More than enough for weekend trips, which is nice because then I don't have to worry about jamming out to music, taking lots of pictures/video, etc. But on week long section hikes it's enough so long as one is more careful with rationing energy. Yet if you find a nice little cafe or pizzeria in a small town to re-charge it, you're good to go with no worries of energy. 2. Sawyer Mini water filter - 50g/1.8oz (dry) filter + 30g/1.1oz bladder = 80g/2.8oz Yes, it requires maintenance, such as back-flushing and soaking in bleach water and vinegar water (here's a good video on the subject for those who don't know), in order to keep a good flow. But if you are willing to put up with this slight inconvenience, I think this is the best option for water purification. If I were a thru-hiker, however, I would go with the regular sized Sawyer filter, which has a better flow rate and is easier to maintain. But for me as a section hiker, I can enjoy the lower bulk and weight of the Mini, and have been doing so for like half a decade now. The Mini also can filter over 375,000 liters of water, so it will likely a lifetime of section hikes, if you take good care of it. Yet to replace one, it will only set you back like 20 bucks--which is what I would do if I need to. Chemical purification requires you to resupply pills or drops--not to mention questionable issue of adding more chemicals to your body. UV lights need batteries, and are bulky and fragile by comparison. For me the Sawyer filters (both the Mini and regular size) are going to be hard to beat. 3. Sea to Summit Xcup folding, silicone mug - 45g/1.6oz Some more hardcore UL people (especially all you SUL peeps) would scoff at this admitted luxury item of mine. But I love it and it always comes with me. It's just so damn useful, easy to pack, and for what it does it's light and very durable. I use it to fill my water bladder, hot drinks, container for wild edibles, lid for my wife's bowl, paperweight (e.g. maps, train tickets, etc.), etc. 4. Opinel No.07 folding knife - 40g/1.4oz with cord and mini s-clip I am cool with a lot of ULers taking the tiny Swiss Army knife, but I find a bigger knife like this much more useful: cutting up food, opening packaging, making simple wooden tools (e.g. chopsticks, skewers for campfire cooking, butter knives, etc.), cleaning up wild mushrooms, make feather sticks to help get a fire going, etc. Yes, the Swiss Army knife comes with tiny scissors, and I can see the appeal of that for thru-hikers to trim nails and such. So for a thru-hike I'd take a tiny pair of nail clipper along with this knife to cover pretty much all the cutting bases. 5. Nitecore NU25 with Litesmith mod - 35g/1.2oz Best headlamp or flashlight I've used for backpacking, period. Another example that is going to be hard to beat. Good battery life, good brightness when needed (max 360 lumens!), low brightness when just in your shelter, also has a red light, and what's impressive is that it only weighs about 5g more than the headlamp I used for years at the beginning of the 2010's (Petzel E-lite, max 30 lumens!), yet is so much better in all regards. Top 10 Big Gear Now on to the main course. They are in no particular order. All have been put to the test and represent what I think are the pinnacle of backpacking gear for my needs. 1. Mountain Laurel Design DCF Burn backpack, 2018 version - 450g/15.9oz with a few small mods What can I say that I've not already said about the Mountain Laurel Designs DCF Burn? I've done a video on it, and also did a review of it as part of a trip report over on Reddit, where I wrote: "Holy shit. It's finally happened. I've got pretty much the perfect pack: 9.7/10. I love it. Best backpack I've ever used. Sometimes I will walk into my gear closet and just look at it and daydream of the potential trips in the future. I had thought for several years now that if/when I finally get around to doing a longer hike like a thru-hike, I'd go for my Zpacks Arc Haul. I figured for a thru-hike that with the added food and a few luxuries to push my BPW to around 4.5kg (I usually have 2.5-4kg BPW for section hikes 3 season), it would be best to go with my framed pack. My new Burn is now my go-to pack for everything except short SUL summer trips and heavy winter trips, and will be my pack of choice for a future thru. The wider Prophet shoulder straps are amazing, significantly better than my older Burn. The front pocket clip is improved, and the front pocket in general is slightly larger and holds stuff better. My mods on the side pockets and the sternum strap worked great. We packed a bunch of bulky/heavy luxury food and I had no problem with space up top. I am soooooo glad I decided against chopping the hip belt off! Not only is it really comfy, but I discovered something great about having larger padded hip belts on a frameless pack: they double as lumbar pads when not in use! When I didn't need or want to use them, I could fold them behind the pack and against the small of my back, and it was like a little pillow back there! Great while road hiking and sweaty to vent my back, as it also creates a nice gap back there. Yeah, so I have nothing bad to say about this pack. And the mossy green buckles are dope, IDK what the fuck the haters were saying, MLD should bring them back." 2. UL Enchilada 35F/2C quilt - 455g/16oz Size reg/long, 9oz of 950 fill goose dry down, 2.5oz Apex insulated footbox, 0.75oz Membrane 10 ripstop nylon, plus 4 clips with bungee cord on the bottom The best quilt I've ever used, and better than any sleeping bag I've used too. I consider myself lucky, as this is a quilt you can't buy. For a short time another UL nut and all around nice guy named Ryan, who goes by ULenchilada on Reddit, made and sold quilts independently as a hobby. Recently he stop taking orders to focus on getting his Ph.D, which is totally understandable. But wow is he's great at making quilts (and lots of other gear)! I love this quilt! I contacted him after seeing his work on Reddit and asked him to make me what is essentially my dream quilt. He sized it perfectly for my body, and also did custom work like put in a Climashield Apex insulated footbox rather than down. I wanted this because over the years I've noticed that the footbox of my bags or quilts tended to be less puffy in the mornings, which is due to all the water vapor that feet produce in a night. I had it made with one of the best dry-downs on the market, and we agreed that it should be conservatively rated. After testing it out, it was excellent. On several occasions I've pushed it down to around or slightly below freezing and slept quite well (with proper layers, of course). This is my go-to quilt for the majority of the year. The only time I wouldn't pack this quilt would be the height of summer or in deep winter, or if/when I travel north to colder conditions. But for me this quilt will be keeping me warm and snug for most of my trips. Paired with my SOL Escape Lite bivy, this would be an excellent combo for a 3 season thru-hike that I am confident could deal with cold snaps down to around -5C/23F, and would be very efficient at regulating a constant issue here in Scandinavia: humidity. The dry down on its own deals better with moisture, but in a bivy (the SOL or a typical UL bivy) the condensation/vapor is wicked out all the more. Thanks again Ryan. I really do appreciate your talents and wish you all the best. Zpacks and Enlightened Equipment ain't got nothing on you, man. Looking forward to spending plenty of time inside this quilt in the 2020's. Speaking of sleep... 3. Thermarest Xlite, size regular - 350g/12.3oz I don't really need to write much for this one. It's already been more or less established that this is the gold standard for not just UL backpacking, but backpacking in general, when it comes to inflatable sleeping mats. And with good reason. Odds are you already know about all about this mat and maybe even own one yourself. I have found the criticisms of this pad to be exaggerated as well, like that it is "noisy." I sleep great on it and always have. I had one that started to de-laminate and I was sent a new one under the Thermarest warranty, which only makes owning this mat all the more worthwhile. I've been so happy with this mat I wasn't even tempted by the new Uberlite mats that came out somewhat recently. I am fine with having more durability and warmth for a difference of only around 85g/3oz. Let's stick to sleep, shall we? 4. Exped Ultralight inflatable pillow, size medium - 50g/1.8oz I've tried so many different pillows and pillow replacements over the years. From foam to other inflatable pillows to stuff sacks full of various gear to no pillow at all. And this is my favorite pillow of them all. It's just as comfortable as other inflatable pillows I've tried that weigh twice as much, and more comfortable than foam or pillow replacements. Even the SUL crazies are packing pillows more and more now a days compared to the early 2010's. Seriously, if you don't pack a pillow to "save weight," you're doing it wrong. You'll sleep better, and you can find good and very light weight pillows like this one out there. I've put three pieces of gear in my top ten that are related to sleep for a good reason: good sleep is worth it. 5. Borah Gear 7x9 (2.1mx2.7m) silpoly flat tarp - 320g/11.3oz Seam sealed with 2 ridgelines, 6 guylines, and two mini carabiners and 6. Borah Gear Dimma bivy - 180g/6.3oz Argon 67 and mesh top, silnylon bottom, two guy lines I have made several videos related to this tarp and this bivy, so be sure to check out my Youtube channel if you haven't already. Here's one where you can see both of them in action. I've discussed the pros and cons of the various UL fabrics many times over the years. And at the end of this decade, after testing and trying out several different tarps and bivys, this is my favorite tarp and bivy. Yes, they are both slightly heavier than their DCF versions. But weight shouldn't be everything you consider when you go UL. Over the years less bulk, ease of use, and abrasion durability won out over less weight, ease of repair, and tear durability. I also chose these two pieces of gear for their flexibility of use. I can use them year round below tree line with relative ease, and they can be adapted for use with the terrain or trail shelters. This is also something I've written and spoken a lot about over the years: the benefits of a modular shelter system. I only seem to like it more as time goes by. Some things reach a certain level of efficient simplicity that it becomes a challenge to improve on it, and this shelter combo is an example of that. But of course this shelter system is not perfect and is not for all occasions. For example, when it is peak bug season here in the summer (July), a bivy would not be my first choice to pair with a flat tarp. That's when a net tent comes in handy so you can have more space to escape the relentless multitude of bloodsucking pests. But the bivy gets far more use when there are less bugs in the spring, early summer, fall, and early winter. If you paid close attention to a few of the pictures above (or watch the video linked above), you'll see the next piece of gear that makes my top 10: 7. My Trail Gear silnylon Poncho/Tarp - 200g/7oz For many years I used a Golite poncho/tarp and loved it. Great rain gear, pack cover, and also a front door/vestibule for my tarp shelters. It got a worn out eventually and I replaced it with what is essentially the same company that got rebranded to My Trail Gear. They sell a lot of the same gear, such as this poncho/tarp. But I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were improvements to the poncho/tarp. The seams were taped, as you can see above, and the hood and neck fit better. I don't know why poncho/tarps are not more popular in the UL community. I've been discussing their advantages for a long time, for example here on Reddit, where I go into much more detail. 8. Custom Mixed Esbit Cook Kit - 185g/6.5oz Titanium pot, mini Bic lighter, Ti-Wing Esbit stove, titanium wind screen, DIY aluminum ground cover, Sea to Summit hardened aluminum spoon, small rag, and a plastic bag. Yeah I know I am cheating a bit by choosing a set of gear as one choice in my top ten, but it functions as a whole, and I am not about to waste a spot on just a pot or just a spoon. So I say cook kit counts as one. Most of the year, I'm all about hot meals and drinks, and this kit has been the same for quite a while now. It has served me well, as well as my wife and kids on duo and family trips. At times Esbit fuel can be hard to find, but with proper planning/stockpiling, it's not a big deal. Just like there is a DCF vs silpoly debate, and a down vs synthetic debate, there's also an Esbit vs alcohol vs canister stove debate. But Esbit is easy to use, can be counted and measured easier than other fuels, and is easy to store and is low on bulk. Just right for me. I don't mind waiting a few extra minutes for my water to boil, so it's all good. 9. Treadlite Gear Hybrid DCF shoulder bag, with strap mod - 55g/1.9oz I've also done a video on this bag a few years ago, but it was more of a first impressions review back then. Since then I've only grown to love this bag even more and have put it through its paces. I replaced the strap and strap buckles with some that I had sitting around to make it more comfortable, as I prefer a slightly thinner strap that stays out of the way more, and as an added bonus it's also a bit lighter. I've always preferred shoulder bags/satchels to other pack accessories like hip belt pockets and fanny packs. This one is by far the best one I've ever used. The three pockets make it easy to store and organize small things I need while I am hiking, and I especially like the net pocket to store my water filter, water bladder, and folding mug. That way I can fill up on water without having to take my backpack off on trail, and when I put it my wet water purification items back they have a place to dry off without getting anything else wet. I can also throw snacks, train tickets, gum, and all other small odds and ends in there. But one of the biggest conveniences is having a quick, easy, and practically waterproof place to store my phone/camera and paper maps. These items see the most use, and it's great not having to think about them, always having them literally by my side when I need them. Other small things that live in this bag is my knife, compass, and headlamp--all three of which I covered earlier. But now on to my final choice. 10. Enlightened Equipment Torrid jacket, size large - 285g/10oz Hooded, 20D nylon outer shell, 10D inner As is the patern here, I've done a video on this jacket before that you can check out. And again with time this has proven to be a stellar addition to my kit. This jacket makes me question if I will ever go back to down puffy jackets. It really does beg the question of how relevant down puffies are for insulating layers for backpacking in a humid environment. This synthetic jacket is just as warm as down jackets that I've used, yet for nearly the same weight. This means you get all the pros of synthetic (e.g. warmer when damp/wet, easy to wash) without the con of being heavier than down. It's comfortable and fits me well, and is the layer I am most thankful or happy to put on when I am taking a lunch break, sitting around camp, or there's a cold snap and I need to bundle up in my quilt. Much like my favorite quilt (see: above), this layer also sees quite a lot of use year round. In the summer I will swap it for my Borah vest, and in deep winter I will switch it for my big, winter down puffy. This would surely be the insulation layer I would take on a thru hike here in Scandinavia. Conclusion So there you have it, what I think is the best UL gear of the decade. While this list may come as no suprise for anyone that has followed my blog or Youtube channel before, I thought it would be nice to have this serve as a big follow up or long term review of some key pieces of gear. It's also good to reflection one's choices and evolution. Doing this, what I can say in summary is that my time spent walking and sleeping out in nature is easier, more comfortable, warmer, and overall just a better experience for me. If only I could get out there more! But more trips are on the horizon, and I look forward to writing a best gear of the 2020's and continuing to evolve and reflect on it all. Ten years. Hundreds of pieces of gear. Thousands of stars in the sky. Millions of footsteps. Billions of leaves. It's been a good decade. I wish anyone reading this happy trails where ever you may hike, and may you have better decades to come. Peace. View the full article
  2. Introduction and General Updates Another winter is just around the corner, and a new year soon after. So I thought I'd give some quick updates as well as show off my new and improved gear lists. These gear lists I don't see changing very much for the next few years at least, and that's how my gear lists have been for the past few years, with a few exceptions. Overall I am very happy and confident in my dialed in kits, and hope to continue to get good use out of them. I still go out backpacking about as much as I have been doing the past half decade or so, which is not as much as I would like. But this is changing, as most of the reason I had to cut back on my time spent on trail has been due to being a proud father of two. Well the kids are growing up and slowly but surely I'm getting more free time back, so more solo trips are in the works for the future. But of course my family and I all love nature, so we also spend a fair amount of time out there together, doing car camping, day hikes, and shorter backpacking trips. All in all, I can't complain much. But because I've had less free time due to family and work obligations, combined with the fact that my gear hasn't seen as many changes or experimentation due to being pretty contented with my kits, this has resulted in much less content here on my lil' old blog. But there will still be trail guides and trip reports to come, and the occasional gear ramblings, some of which I will get to shortly. I will continue to slowly but surely chip away at The Troll Trail, which was/is a big project to undertake. I am looking at this project as a long term commitment. After I finish hiking and documenting the whole thing, the next step will be to spread the word and raise awareness. This will probably take another half a decade at least, and perhaps more. Below are all five of my solo wilderness backpacking gear lists, in order of lightest to heaviest base pack weight (BPW). I will give context and some reflections on key choices and details, and of course the obligatory link to a LighterPack spreadsheet. Please note that the conditions (such as average low temperatures), locations, and other extra info (like clothing worn) can be found on the LighterPack links. So let's get down to it. One My lightest BPW at 3045g/6.7lbs goes to my summer kit, which should come as no surprise: https://lighterpack.com/r/18v7dk This setup is for the classic, random trip at the height of summer. Maybe just an overnight trip down to a lake I like to swim at, maybe a short section hike of local trails, this kit is pretty straight forward. But there have been some recent improvements. I got a custom made net tent that is both lighter weight (260g/9.2oz vs 330g/11.6oz) and much larger than my previous net tent. Inside I am able to sit up with ease with plenty of headspace. For the past few years I have been using my MLD Burn, and I liked it so much I got another one, only in DCF rather than Dyneema X. The Dyneema X is slightly lighter (395g/13.9oz vs 450g/15.9oz) than the DCF version, and is more durable. I tend to do a lot of bushwhacking/off trail adventuring, especially in the summer in familiar areas, so the added durability of Dyneema X is nice to have. The lighter weight is due in part to smaller shoulder pads, so heavier loads are not as comfy with this pack--but this is not an issue in the summer when both my BPW and consumables (due to shorter trips) are lower. Two Next up at 4130g/9.1lbs is my fall and spring season kit. My BPW during this season is at times lighter (~3.8kg/8.4lbs) if the temperatures are not as cold, like in the early fall and late spring, but this gear list good for the colder temps on average for these two seasons: https://lighterpack.com/r/itkrqq Again, pretty straightforward--but one important detail to highlight is that this is for trips well below treeline, in the relative comfort of thick Swedish woods. I've tested my custom UL Enchilada quilt down to around -2C with my sleep layers, my Borah down vest, and in my bivy. I slept well, but to be on the safe side when pushing the temperature rating I opt for my Torrid puffy jacket to compliment both my sleep system and for sitting around camp. I also am a huge fan of using my backpack frame foam pad in my foot box for added warmth to my feet and legs. Three Now to quite a specialized gear list for summer trips above tree line to the alpine mountains of Sweden and Norway--the 4260g/9.4lb fjäll kit: https://lighterpack.com/r/f6l2hf It is a bit of a mix of gear from different seasons. For example, my clothing worn is my summer outfit, but I pack my spring/fall sleeping bag, my wool leggings rather than my silk ones, a warmer sit pad that I can use to bump up my sleep setup, etc. This is due to the chaotic nature of hiking in the fjäll. Even in the summer it can go from 20C and sunny to frosty -1C nights. I also swap out my go-to shelter combo of tarp and bivy or net tent for my newest addition to my kit, which is the MLD Duomid plus a matching MLD solo XL inner net. This will not only be my shelter for solo trips to the fjäll, but also when my wife and I go together. As mentioned weather can be crazy up there in the mountains, with not only big shifts in temperature, but also wind and storms created by the micro-climate at higher elevations. Combined with the fact that often you're above treeline hiking there, there is little to no cover, so a solid 360 degrees of protection from the elements is good to have. One can rock a tarp up there, but with the lack of trees you have to rely on sticks and/or trekking poles, which is an added complication, not to mention not as much cover from harsh weather. While hiking in the fjäll I will be taking with me a simple wooden hiking staff. This is a cheap and easy solution for now, but in the future I will most likely upgrade to a carbon fiber or titanium hiking staff. I've tried trekking poles in the past and they are just not for me. I much prefer either hiking without any, or using only one staff. I could arguably leave my water filter at home for fjäll trips, as the quality of water is often excellent--indeed, some of the purest wild sources of water on earth--but this is mostly for peace of mind around campsites with more people around. The summers here draw lots of not just backpackers, but other tourists that take day hikes into the fjäll. Plus this also opens up less than ideal water sources to re-fill my bottles, such as rain puddles and bogs, so I don't have to hike out of the way to pristine tarns and springs all the time. Four This gear list is for a specific trip I have coming up next spring that is further up north in Sweden on The High Coast Trail (Höga Kusten), clocking in at 4490g/9.9lbs: https://lighterpack.com/r/fr0pcz I'd describe it as a "winter-lite" type of kit, with days being mild (around 2-5C) but nights going below freezing--plus if there are any cold snaps, conditions can get really damn cold. So I have extra layers, a much warmer sleeping quilt that also deals exceptionally well with humid conditions (synthetic and down insulation hybrid), a dedicated pair of toasty warm sleep socks, etc. However there are a few things that get left behind, which is nice. For instance no head net because it's not bug season, and no water filter due to the cold. Water filters can freeze and get ruined in the cold, but it's easy to manage without it because I'll either be boiling water for drinks and meals or drinking from clean sources. As I mentioned earlier, in the summers more people can make water sources dirty or tainted, but in the other seasons there are far less people around, which in turn leaves water sources cleaner/safer. Really looking forward to this trip! I've read and heard a lot of good things about this trail, and it's a shorter one that I will be able to finish in one go. Five Finally on to my heaviest gear list at 5345g/11.8lbs, which is for fair weather summer packrafting trips: https://lighterpack.com/r/dz94ne Obviously the packrafting gear is what makes this the heaviest BPW, but overall my pack remains pretty light because these trips are only 2-3 days tops. So less food to worry about. I could go lighter by swapping out my inflatable sleeping mat for a foam one (like I use in my regular summer kit), but there are quite a lot of trail shelters on rivers and lakes for other paddlers. Canoeing and kayaking is popular here, which makes for plenty of water trails to follow, which often have nice campsites on the shores to take advantage of. Sleeping on hard wooden floors is much nicer with an air mat than a foam one. Another added benefit of inflatable pads is less bulk, which is convenient when you strap your pack to your packraft and want it to take up as little space as possible. Conclusion And those are all of my UL gear lists for solo wilderness backpacking. I don't see all that much changing anytime soon, but only time will tell. Everything has been put to the test with one exception, my new MLD pyramid shelter. But it's one of the most positively reviewed shelters in the UL community, and my initial impressions are very positive after playing around with it in my backyard. I'm really looking forward to getting it out there. So I'm really happy with my gear and life as an UL backpacker. If only I could take more trips! Everything is dialed in and ready for future thru-hikes that I dream about. Soon enough things will move from the dream stage to the planning stage for these longer adventures. Hope this was helpful and/or interesting for you to read. Peace!View the full article
  3. Introduction Glaskogen is a large (240 square km) nature reserve in Sweden's Värmland county. The reserve has a variety of marked and unmarked hiking trails throughout its wilderness, as well as many backwoods dirt and/or gravel roads, lumber roads, and some normal roads as well. The reserve is also a popular destination for canoeing/kayaking and car camping due to its many lakes/ponds and rivers/streams. There are a variety of ways hikers can choose to get to Glaskogen, and the best way to think of hiking this nature reserve is to treat it as a "choose your own adventure" type experience due to its many options. Here's its official website (in English). This reserve is a part of my alternate Swedish E1 trail system I call The Troll Trail, which you can learn more about here. Hiking northbound, the next section is the northern part of Pilgrimsleden Värmland, which takes you to the Norwegian border and a short connection hike to Finnskogsleden (near the town of Charlottenberg). Hiking southbound, the next section is made up of various trails across Dalsland province. There are possible connections to several towns (Årjäng, Arvika, Säffle) and even the city (and capital/largest city of Värmland) of Karlstad. The easiest way to connect to civilization is to catch a bus from highway E18 (south of the reserve) or highway 175 (east of the reserve). Be aware however that due to the relatively isolated area that this reserve is in that bus connections are few and far between and may not run on the weekends/holidays, especially along the less traveled highway 175. Hitchhiking is always an option of course, and I had good luck getting a ride all the way to Karlstad from highway E18 on a previous section hike. The trip report that follows covers a hike from the village of Stömne--which is about 10km east outside of the reserve--to the village of Älgå, roughly 5km northeast from the reserve. This covers a total of around 80-85km (according to measurements on our smartphone's pedometers) following a mix of trails and roads, nearly hiking the whole reserve east to west, then hiking north to northeast through the northern part of the reserve. We took a bus from the town of Säffle to Stömne to enter the reserve, and ended our trip by hiking to Älgå and catching a bus to Arvika. Regardless of how one chooses to hike Glaskogen, continuing a thru-hike on the alternate E1 is more straightforward. Going north there are two options that I would recommend, depending on whether or not you need to resupply. If you need to resupply, hike to Älgå and then take the bus to Arvika. After resupplying and maybe taking a zero or nero day (it's a cozy little town with hotels, restaurants, etc.), you can then either take a bus back to Älgå and backtrack to the trail, or skip ahead by taking a bus to the town of Koppum. If you don't need to resupply--for example, maybe you resupplied at one of the villages on the E18 highway--then ignore Älgå and continue hiking north to the key location of the northern tip of lake Övre Gla. From this key point you can hike north on a backwoods road to exit the reserve, and conveniently this road also connects to Pilgrimsleden Värmland only 3km after leaving Glaskogen. I plan on continuing to hike northbound on this trail in the future, and will link to my guide to this section soon after. Hiking southbound, simply find the section of Pilgrimsleden Värmland at the southern end of Glaskogen that exits the reserve and then crosses the E18 highway. You can read about my guide to this section here. Trip Report My wife and I hike Glaskogen at the end of June 2019, and we agreed that it was a wonderful nature reserve that is kind of a hidden gem as far as backpacking goes. We expected not to see a ton of backpackers, but did expect to see at least a few. But we literally saw none in the four days we spent in the park. We saw more backpackers way out in the mountains further up north the year before this hike! We hardly saw anyone aside from the occasional car campers and canoers. So if you are looking for a lovely hike off the beaten path that flows through a vast patch of forested hills full of lakes, rivers, streams, and springs, then Glaskogan's got it. There were times that the marked trails could have been marked better, but due to the various options of backwoods roads and unmarked trails, if you get off track it's not a big deal. We pretty much covered the full range of routes you can follow while hiking: bushwhacking, marked and unmarked trails, grassy abandoned backwoods roads, gravel/dirt roads, etc. But luckily there was very little asphalt on the path we took. If you like having lots of options and routes, this is an added bonus to this reserve. If not, well then just pick a marked trail and try and stick with it, but have map and compass handy. Close to the bus stop at Strömne there was a marked trail that we took west into Glaskogen. It was a very pleasant start to our trip, with the trail following along a river, a few lakes, and had three trail shelters before entering the reserve. Several great spots to take a swim as well. After getting into the reserve, as mentioned before, we hiked kind of all over the place. But we stuck to our plan of generally going west to the edge of the reserve, then headed north to north by northeast. So rather than go into all the painstaking details of how we hiked through the reserve, I'm going to show off a photo essay of highlights from our trip. Enjoy! And if you get around to hiking Glaskogen, we hope you will enjoy it as much as we did. View the full article
  4. My wife and I are getting ready for another section hike, putting the finishing touches on our gear and food. One kit we've been quite happy with over the years has been our cooking set-up, and we recently added a small but amazing upgrade to it: the option to drink fresh-brewed, real coffee! So I'll break down all the items in the kit and offer some brief commentary as well. There are 13 items total, and the total weight is 325g/11.5oz. My wife carries her own bowl and spoon (72g/2.5oz), and I carry the rest (252g/9oz). DIY ground cover (recycled aluminum pie pan), 3g Titanium wind screen, 20g Mini-Bic lighter, 12g Half a Light Load towel, 7g Titanium pot, 83g Pot lid, 30g Ebit Ti-Wing stove and mini-plastic baggie, 16g Recycled plastic bag for pot, 8g Sea to Summit Xcup, 45g My spoon: Sea to Summit hardened aluminum, long-handle: 12g Her spoon: Esbit titanium, long handle: 20g Her bowl (DIY recycled plastic bottle and beer cozy), 52g Finum Permanent Filter (size M), 18g Our cooking routines go roughly as follows: Breakfast: boil water for coffee, pour into wife's bowl (which is about 600ml), then each of us enjoy a nice cuppa while we eat a few granola bars and such. Lunch: either eat no cook (especially if it's raining), or boil up water for a simple trail meal like ramen. Dinner: boil up water for a slightly more involved trail meal like a stew, then if we want boil up a cup of tea to have with some chocolate (especially if there is a cold snap). During longer breaks we also have random cups of coffee or tea if we want. And that's about it, this one need only be short and sweet. But if you haven't already, check out this video I shot as a compliment this post. I go into a bit more detail and also pack up my pot to show off how compact and easy it is. And as always, short disclaimer: Still not sponsored, still no adds on my blog, still not a Youtube partner. Peace! View the full article
  5. A few weeks ago I watched a great how-to video on pitching a tarp by Joe Brewer that inspired me to finally get around to making my own take on this type of video, which we'll get to soon. But first some context can be helpful. I mean, if there's already one good video on this subject, why bother making another one? Well, there are all sorts of different versions of this video on Youtube, because if you ask 10 different outdoor enthusiasts how they pitch a tarp, you'll likely get 10 different answers. There are a lot of details and nuances that go into setting up this kind of shelter. For example, there are all sorts of different kinds of tarps, from a wide variety of fabric, to what size they are, and then down to nitty-gritty details like number of tie out points, flat or cat-cut, weight, etc. Adding location and application to the mix, and one can see just how complicated this can be, especially for someone who is inexperienced with the outdoors. So I often find myself explaining to people just how I can sleep under what is essentially a big piece of waterproof fabric. Many people think of tents when they think camping, and tents certainly have their place. For instance, when I take trips where I am mostly hiking above treeline, I will opt for a tent rather than a tarp for pragmatic reasons. Without any trees around, and because I don't use trekking poles, I find it easier and more convenient to pop up a tent--but it is worth noting that a lot of hardcore tarp users pitch tarps all over the place, even above the treeline in the mountains. However for trips below treeline, my go-to shelter is a tarp plus a bivy or a net tent. And seeing as where I live and hike here in Scandinavia is roughly 70% forested terrain, this is where most of my hiking and camping is done, so my tarps get a lot of good use. But the question I then get from people not-in-the-know is: how do you set it up without any poles? I have even had fellow UL backpackers on forums ask me how I set up my tarp without any trekking poles on occasion. The short answer is trees, or more specifically two trees with some flat or flat enough ground between them. Well, most of the time, that is. Often it's much easier to show someone what you mean rather than tell them, so for a while now I've been meaning to shoot a video showing off how I pitch my tarp. And in a great kill-two-birds-with-one-stone moment, I've also been meaning to teach my oldest son how it's done as well. So we went on a lovely day hike, taking a break in the middle of it to pitch a few different tarp shelters, and also pick blueberries, of course. Here's some pictures of our hike: Here's the specs in detail on the gear in question: Zpacks 6x9ft / 180x270cm flat tarp, 1.0oz Cuben fiber, 6 tie-out points, 230g/8.1oz 6 guy lines (attached to the tarp), 2mm Dyneema Z-Line, each 1m/3ft in length, 90kg/200lb breaking strength, 10g/0.4oz Stuff sack for the tarp, silnylon, 10g/0.4oz 2 Ridge lines, 2.3mm Dyneema reflective Z-Line, each 3m/9ft in length, 108kg/240lb breaking strength, 25g/0.9oz 2 mini-carabiners, 6g/0.2oz 2 extra guy lines (same as above), 3g/0.1oz 4 regular shepard's hook titanium stakes (for tarp sides and vestibule), 24g/0.8oz 4 thick shepard's hook titanium stakes (for tarp corners), 32g/1.1oz MLD Cuben fiber large stake sack, 6g/0.2oz Ground cover, trimmed SOL emergency blanket, 70x210cm / 2.3x7ft, 40g/1.4oz GoLite poncho/tarp, 4.5x8.5ft / 135x255cm, 15D silnylon, 6 tie-out points, 200g/7oz Missing from this shelter to make it complete is either a good bivy or net tent, of course. I generally take a bivy in the spring and the fall, and a net tent in the summer and winter. The three pitches I use are the lean-to, the A-frame, and the "storm mode" A-frame. Below in the video you can see the two A-frame pitches in detail, along with the various nuances of my pitching methods. My version of the storm mode A-frame I have yet to see on Youtube, but it's something I've been doing for many years, and have posted about it here before. I don't get why this vestibule addition to the tarp shelter is not more common. It has performed quite well for me in more inclement conditions, keeping both me and my gear more dry and protected. Alright, that's quite a bit of context, info, specs, and more. So now here's the video if you haven't seen it already. Hope it will be helpful. Now get out there and sleep under a tarp. Peace out! View the full article
  6. Several months ago I posted a big breakdown of my updated winter, spring, and fall outfits for wilderness backpacking. Well it's also been a while since I posted about my summer outfits, and I recently came back from a great section hike where I was really happy with how my clothing performed, so let's do this. By "summer" what I really mean is when low temperatures at night are generally warmer than around 5C/41F, so here in Scandinavia that means from roughly early May to mid September. But I've mentioned before several times here on my blog, and in videos, and on forums that there are quite a lot of cold snaps in Scandinavia. So I need clothing combinations that are very flexible. Throughout the day and into the evening I am regularly fine-tuning what clothing I am wearing, at times wearing all my clothing worn tops (early morning and in the evening/night), and other times I will just wear a t-shirt on top, or maybe my windshirt too (during the day). There have been trips when during the day it's a mild 20C/68F, only to drop down to nearly freezing at night. I can recall hot July trips at the peak of summer spent swimming for hours in the warm sun during the day, only for it to drop down to 8C/46F at night. So this clothing can handle temps from 25C/77F+ to just above freezing if needed, and I have two different outfits: one for trips that involve going above treeline in the mountains, and one for below treeline down in the forests. The difference in the two outfits is made only by swapping out one top layer for two others, so I won't breakdown two separate lists, but highlight what gets swapped. Why I swap is pretty straight forward: two layers swapped for one is much warmer, and for only a 105g/3.7oz penalty. Cold snaps in the mountains are more hardcore, duh. I am not going to get into either shoes or rain gear, those are stories for another time. But I generally prefer barefoot/minimalist high-top shoes below treeline, and Merrell Trail Gloves above treeline. And for rain gear I always use a poncho/tarp for my rain top and pack cover--either my MLD simple P/T (290g/10.2oz) or my Golite P/T (200g/7oz)--and usually a pair of silnylon rain pants (100g/3.5oz). Clothing worn, from head to toe: Trucker cap, polyester and mesh, 60g/2.1oz Smartwool medium merino wool buff, 50g/1.8oz Generic, thin merino wool t-shirt, size large, 140g/4.9oz Nike polyester hoody, size large, 330g/11.6oz (below treeline) Or Puma polyester long sleeve shirt, size large, 185g/6.5oz + Merino wool hoody, size large, 250g/8.8oz (above treeline) Zpacks windshirt, size large, 60g/2.1oz Generic, thin synthetic work gloves, 40g/1.4oz Generic, thin merino wool boxers, 65g/2.3oz Puma nylon running pants with mesh liner, size large, 250g/8.8oz Generic, thin merino wool socks, 45g/1.6oz MLD eVent gaiters, 60g/2.1oz Total CW weight: 1100g/38.8oz (below treeline) or 1205g/42.5oz (above treeline) Packed clothing Borah Gear down vest, size large, 105g/3.7oz Thin merino hat, 30g/1.1oz REI silk tights, size large, 100g/3.5oz Spare thin merino wool socks, 45g/1.6oz Total packed: 280g/9.9oz If you are interested in seeing my base pack weight, I recently put together a gear list of it from my last section hike, which you can check out here. I also recently shot and uploaded a video to compliment this text, where I show off all the above clothing and talk about them in more detail, as well as discuss cheaper alternatives to some of the fancier UL pieces of clothing. But overall I think my clothing choices are fairly affordable, especially if you consider how many years I have been using some of them, and that I often buy clothing on sale or from the bargain bin. You can watch the video down below. But otherwise, that wraps up another breakdown for the current evolution of my summertime (or rather, May-September) clothing combos. Really looking forward to more great trips this summer, and happy trails to all of you! View the full article
  7. Introduction So I finally have a few section hikes coming up! I will most likely do a gear list breakdown for my spring base pack weight (BPW), but I don't think I will have the time to do one for my winter kit for the trip coming up soon. However, it has been a while since I've gone over my clothing combos for all the different seasons I encounter (my older one you can check out here, also includes BPW), so figured I should at least update my current clothing choices. Not to mention that I still get plenty of questions from friends, family, and sometimes online about what my clothing choices are for hiking. Later on in the year I'll do another breakdown like this for my two summer outfits (one for the mountains, one for the woods), so stay tuned for that. Two years ago I showed off my winter gear list in a video, and not too much has changed since then as far as gear goes. But there have been some significant changes to my clothing, in spite of still using some garments for about half a decade or so. Some of the more hardcore UL backpackers may cringe and/or scoff at some of the relatively heavy choices of clothing I have. But everyone has their limits, and when it comes to clothing worn I am more likely to shrug and say "good enough" with slightly heavier choices. I think because I obsess so much over my BPW down to every little detail, I just don't have the energy to really dial in my clothing combos to be lighter and (this is key) just as warm. I'm also just not into clothing in general, as say a fashion or social statement, so it's hard for me to get excited about buying say, a pair of pants or a shirt. But I've spent plenty of time drooling over packs, shelters, quilts, and other BPW gear, and have literally had my pulse rise after getting a package slip in my mailbox for new gear. Not to say that clothing is any less important for backpacking, it should almost go without saying! And also note that quite a lot of this gear gets used in my day-to-day life to work and on day hikes, so it's not just collecting dust in the closet when I'm not on section hikes. So let's get down to the breakdown of my full winter and spring outfits. First up is some context: Both trips will be in south-west Sweden to woodland areas below treeline. The winter trip has expected average temperatures of a high of 0C/32F and low of -4C/25F, but with possible cold snaps and wind chill down to -10C/14F. The spring trip has expected average temperatures of a high of 10C/50F and low of -2C/28F, but with possible cold snaps and wind chill down to -5C/23F. I'm a man in my late 30's that is about 183cm/6ft tall and of average build. Winter Let's begin with winter clothing, starting with the tops: Left to right: The North Face "waterproof breathable" rain jacket, size x-large, 490g/17.3oz Montbell Alpine Light down parka (2015 version), size large, 410g/14.5oz Generic gridded, medium polyester hoody, size x-large, 415g/14.6oz Handmade, 100% silk shirt, size large, 220g/7.8oz Generic, medium merino wool base layer, size large, 225g/7.9oz First the jacket. Most experienced backpackers will tell you that "waterproof breathable" doesn't really exist, and that such garments are really just buying you some time before they wet out. I don't recommend WPB for much, but one place where it shines from my experiences is in colder (i.e. below freezing) temps as a hard shell--and also works well as rain gear on day hikes or to work. There are expensive and heavier WPB fabrics out there that will extend the amount of time you have before wetting out, such as Gortex and the like. But in addition to the cons of costing more in terms of both money and weight, they are also really hard to dry out once they inevitably wet out, and I've read many people complain on forums (and a few in person) that Gortex also gets really stinky and gross after getting soaked. I'm a huge fan of rain ponchos, but in the winter when temps are below freezing, it will be snow and not rain. Snow doesn't usually soak my pack (as long as it's cold enough for it to be powdery, naturally), so the added benefit of a pack cover that a poncho has is made pointless. A light WPB jacket will also keep you warmer and block wind better than a poncho, so this is my go-to outer layer in the winter. The down jacket is kept in my pack until I make camp, and also doubles as added warmth to my sleep system. Great jacket! Nothing but good things to say about it, really. Very warm and comfy, and fits nicely under my hard shell jacket, which I bought one size larger to accommodate all my layers. Then comes my medium thickness poly-grid hoody, which is a great mid layer that is also quite affordable and durable. This one cost me one-third of the price as some of the name brand hoodies that are nearly identical as far as fabric and design go. Tho this one is a bit heavier than some of those name brand ones, for example the super-popular Melly hoodies over on /r/ultralight are listed as 346g/12.2oz for a men's size large--but in fairness, this generic hoody of mine is size x-large. Next up is a 100% silk button-up, short sleeve shirt that I got as a gift from a family member. They picked it up in Thailand while they were on vacation, and it's a great shirt for colder trips for added warmth and to wick moisture as well. Silk, like merino, is also great at not stinking for a while. Finally for winter tops is ye olde merino base layer. I've had this top and its matching bottom for around 5 or 6 years now, and they have both served me well. Slightly heavier than some other base layers, but then again, also slightly warmer than thinner ones too. Warm and much less stink than synth base layers, so I prefer wool for most of the year as a base layer, especially when it becomes more or less like a second skin on colder trips, when swimming and washing are much less common (for me at least). Now on to bottoms and extra clothing: Left to right: Generic WPB rain pants, 310g/10.9 MLD eVent gaiters, 60g/2.1oz Swedemount medium nylon hiking pants, 410g/14.5oz Joe Nimble Cuddletoes, wool-lined, barefoot sneaker boot, EU size 45, 775g/27.3oz Generic, medium merino wool base layer, 195g/6.9oz Generic, thin merino wool boxers, 65g/2.3oz Generic, thick ski socks, wool/nylon blend, 95g/3.4oz Generic, medium merino wool glove liners, 35g/1.2oz Generic, thin merino wool liner socks, 30g/1oz (x2, other pair not pictured) Trucker cap, poly and mesh, 60g/2.1oz Smartwool medium merino wool buff, 50g/1.8oz Blackrock down hat, 35g/1.2oz Generic, thick synthetic mittens, 120g/4.2oz Enlightened Equipment Sidekicks, 2oz Climashield Apex, 10D/10D nylon, size x-large, 45g/1.6oz I've already explained the whole WPB use in winter above, so I would only note that for rain pants I suggest you save your money and go for something cheaper--especially if you like to go off-trail and/or bushwhacking, like I do. From my experiences pants seem to get more wear-and-tear than other garments, so no need to blow your dough on fancy pants. And the performance of the newer generations of generic WPB are pretty close to the name brand versions. That being said, because you sweat more from your torso (especially arm pits for many people), you might want to invest a bit more cash in a nicer WPB top with an emphasis on the "breathable" part. If a hard shell doesn't breath well, water vapor that is trapped in say down insulation layers will not only make things clammy and uncomfortable, but will also decrease loft, and thus you will be less warm. Next up are some medium thick nylon hiking pants for warmth and to wick moisture, followed by ye olde merino wool base layer, which depending on how cold it is may be packed as a sleep/camp layer. Also don't miss my winter hiking shoes of choice (kind of hidden on my pants in the picture above), which are warm and super comfy. Only problem with them is that they are so warm I can only wear them when it's really cold out, otherwise they are too warm. The rest of the extras are fairly self-explanatory. The cap may seem strange to some people for use in the winter, but after years of using an alpaca or wool hat while hiking in the winter, I've found more utility and comfort in using a trucker or baseball cap, so long as you have hooded tops. Trucker/baseball caps block sun, helps to keep snow out of your face, and also helps to keep hoods out of the way of your field of vision. The hoods negate the problem of cold ears, and if it gets really windy and/or cold, then the buff can be pulled up over the ears if needed. Total weight of all my winter clothing: 4075g/9lbs Not bad if you ask me, considering that includes all clothing worn (including boots!) and packed garments too, and that this will mos def keep me toasty down to -10C/14F. I'd be warm enough with everything on down to around -15C/5F, perhaps even a bit colder. Spring (and Fall/Early Winter) Now on to my spring outfit, which I'd also use in the fall and even into early winter if it is mild enough. As before, first the tops: Left to right: Golite poncho/tarp, 200g/7oz (or my MLD poncho tarp, 300g/10.6oz, depending on what shelter system I am using) Enlightened Equipment Torrid jacket, size large, 20D/10D nylon, 285g/10.1oz Borah Gear down vest, size large, 105g/3.7oz Generic, medium polyester hoody, size large, 385g/13.6oz Generic, thin merino wool base layer, 185g/6.5oz For the trip I have planned in the spring I'll be taking another tarp and use the Golite tarp as the front door/vestibule of my shelter system. And of course it's rain gear and a pack cover too. Other trips with different conditions and I will take my other poncho/tarp listed above. This Golite poncho is another piece of gear that I've had for about half a decade, and it has had a lot of good use. The Torrid is a new addition to my lineup, and so far I've been very impressed with it. Warmer than I expected--slightly warmer than my circa 2013 version Montbell UL down jacket--and comfortable, it has been a pleasure to test out on day hikes and to work. I want to take it out on a few trips before I do a full review, but so far so good. I added a pull-tab on the zipper to make it easier to open and close. One minor complaint is that the zipper is pretty tiny and a bit tricky to use on its own, but it's an easy fix. The Borah vest is another personal favorite that's served me quite well over the past four years I've owned it. For it's low weight, it really packs a punch of warmth, and it's normally tucked away in my pack for sleep/camp/cold snap use. Found a slightly lighter weight (non-gridded) poly hoody in the bargain bin at a sporting goods store and couldn't resist. It's nearly as warm as the grid poly hoody I have, and fits better under the Torrid as a mid layer, so glad I scored it. Finally a newer, thinner wool base layer for warmer temps. I'm a big fan of merino wool, you may have noticed. On to the bottoms and extras: Left to right: Silnylon rain pants, 80g/2.8oz MLD eVent gaiters, 60g/2.1oz Generic, thin nylon hiking pants with DIY silnylon knee patches, 380g/13.4oz Generic, medium merino wool base layer, 195g/6.9oz Lems Boulder Boot in leather, 750g/26.5oz Generic, thin merino boxers, 65g/2.3oz Generic, medium merino wool glove liners, 35g/1.2oz Generic, thin synthetic work gloves, 40g/1.4oz Generic, medium merino wool hiking socks, 70g/2.5oz (x2) Trucker cap, poly and mesh, 60g/2.1oz Custom made thin merino hat, 30g/1.1oz Smartwool medium merino wool buff, 50g/1.8oz Enlightened Equipment Sidekicks, 2oz Climashield Apex, 10D/10D nylon, size x-large, 45g/1.6oz As before, most of these items are pretty self explanatory and/or have been commented on already. So I won't go into too much detail here. The hiking pants are yet another garment that I've been using for about half a decade, and they have been remarkably durable, especially from a generic brand. I've put a few small patches of Zpack's nylon tape on a few small holes, but it was not until recently that I got the idea to sew--or rather, my awesome wife was kind enough to sew for me!--some knee patches of some silnylon I had laying around. This will keep my knees dryer while kneeling, no more soggy knees after staking out my tarp in damp moss! This spring combo of clothing will keep me toasty down to -2C/28F, and warm enough down to about -6C/21F and perhaps a bit more. The grand total weight of my spring clothing: 3090g/6.8lbs El Fin That brings this big clothing breakdown to an end. If you've enjoyed it or found it useful, as I mentioned earlier, my two summer outfits will also get broken down in a future post. As always, feel free to ask questions or give feedback. And same old disclaimer: I'm still not sponsored, still never got any free gear, and still no ads on my blog. Happy trails to you this winter and spring seasons, and make sure to keep warm out there! *Update 18/02/2017: Fixed up some minor typos and formatting errors. Also just came back from a short section hike, and wanted to report that my winter clothing line up worked out great! I was very comfy hiking in roughly -2C/28F temps in moderate snowfall, and never had to layer up all the way. The down puffy stayed in my pack until camp, and at camp I had no need to put the hard shell over the down puffy. So I'm confident that I would be toasty to my given limit of -10C/14F and would survive beyond it to around -15C/5F. *Update 27/05/2018: I recently did a breakdown of my summer clothing, which also includes a video where I talk about my clothing choices (and possible alternatives) in detail. Check it out here! View the full article
  8. A month ago I announced a give-away contest on my Youtube channel, the winner getting their choice of either a tarp or a bug bivy from Borah Gear. Thanks again to Borah Gear who were nice enough to put up the prize for this contest! They make great gear and have a well-earned good reputation in the online UL community, for instance on Reddit's UL forum. So the contest was pretty straight forward: to enter just leave a comment with a favorite backpacking tip on my 1000 subscriber video special, and I would take 20 of them and pick one at random. I also wanted to share all 20 of these tips here on my blog and also give some feedback on each tip, so here we go! I will make a short video picking the winner at random shortly after publishing this post. Thanks to all my readers, Youtube subscribers, and special thanks to everyone that left a tip and entered the contest. These are good tips, and I've been looking forward to responding to them as they collected over the past month. 1. Susan Hornbuckle My tip: I use my pack liner/trash compactor bag inside my sleeping bag to help warm up my feet on a really cold night. :) Thanks for all the product reviews and information. Nice multi-use out of your pack liner! A vapor barrier will warm you up, but the down side is of course having whatever part of your body covered by a vapor barrier get clammy/damp/wet. I've actually resorted to using a garbage bag as a torso vapor barrier in situations when I was younger and less experienced to get some sleep on nights with harsh cold snaps, and while it worked, it was not very pleasant. So make sure to try this out on casual trips (like say car camping) to see if it is for you. But great tip to keep in mind if you're in a cold snap and need an extra bit of warmth. 2. Alex Guerra My tip is bringing bread bags when backpacking, especially in rainy or wild weather. They can be used as a VBL in the cold or at the end of the day, when you put on dry socks you can slip those over and put your sweaty/wet shoes back on and keep them clean. Similar to Susan's tip, but another good version of it. Bread bags are essentially free, don't weigh much, and have other utility apart from VBL use. I used to take two bread bags with me just like Alex and for the same reasons, actually. But now and for the past few years I've switched to just having warmer/higher quality socks and good routines with them. I generally take three pair: two for hiking and one pair of sleep socks. 3. Brandon Smith My tip would be to adopt "one-piece-trash" to make packing out garbage a bit simpler. For instance, if you're opening up something like a Starbucks Via or Justin's packet, don't rip the top piece all the way off of the larger section. Simply leave it attached at the end. This makes managing your trash way easier and helps reduce the amounts of small, sometimes unseeable pieces of garbage on the trail. I wish more people would do this! At camp sites it's more common to see scraps of trash rather than full-on litter (at least here in Scandinavia). Both suck, but odds are some of these scraps are just simple mistakes rather than intending on littering. So yes, be mindful of trash and pack it all out! 4. James Edge my tip is carry everything you could possibly use in the day( food, poo kit, rain shell, water purification, ext.) either in hipbelt pockets or my zpacks multi bag so I don’t take my pack off at all while hiking it’s crazy how many more miles you can get in when you can get to everything you need without stopping walking . I don’t take my pack off till I’m ready to set up camp. Not for everyone but works great for me ! I carry a satchel and one shoulder pouch, and also find it convenient to have most of what I need in there for my hikes. There is plenty of space in my satchel, but the shoulder strap has my water filter (Sawyer mini usually) and water bladder so it doesn't get other gear wet. One thing I've grown to like over the years is not taking off my pack as often. It cuts down on the annoying process of having to put the pack back on and then get all the straps back to the way you like them. It's not a big deal if you do this a few times, but back when I tried hiking without any pockets at all (on very minimalist SUL trips, for example), I was stopping every time I wanted to fill water, get out bug spray, put on sun block, take out a snack, read maps, etc. One thing I do take my pack off is to put on rain gear or use the bathroom, though. But cool that it works great for you James! 5. Kerry Fristo Two fav tips: #1) for anyone using a bivy who doesn’t like finding bugs in their boots/shoes in the morning, put each shoe in a zip-lock bag overnight. And zip-lock can also be used as a dry seat in camp; #2) for women, use a bandana as a “pee rag” (instead of paper or fairly non-absorbent leaves) and hang on top of pack during day to dry. It’s kinda weird at first, but great LNT practice! 1. You know, I often use a bivy as part of my shelter system, and never had problems with bugs in my shoes. But I think if I lived in Australia I'd mos def cover my shoes! I've seen people (and read of others doing this online as well) put their shoes into a stuff sack, but I never liked that idea, as then your stuff sack could get all wet and/or dirty. But a big Ziplock or plastic bag would work great, plus I dig the multi-use dry seat aspect! 2. I actually have tried to get my wife to do this, but she didn't like the idea. I like the idea, tho as a man I pee LNT anyhow. But if I were a woman I wouldn't have any problem doing this. 6. Martin Dohnal My tips: Look critically at your gear, ultralight doesn't have to be expensive, if you want to reduce pack weight, invest into ''big free'', but other things you can buy usually cheap, moreover items like clothing can be found in thriftstore for almost nothing, make a rain skirt/bivi from tyvek,, use socks as a gloves when needed with cheap grocery bags as a mittens. Yeah, you don't have to have an expensive solution to everything, nor do you need to spend that much money to go UL, which me and many other UL nerds have written about in great detail before. But it's worth repeating to traditional and/or new backpackers who have the misconception that UL is all about a price tag. For example, I recently found a great micro-grid, polyester hoody at a sporting goods store that's literally less than half the price (even a third of the price in some cases) of fancier, big-brand tops that are pretty much the same. Nearly the same weight, the same fabric content (100% polyester), just as warm and comfy. 7. Cameron's Ultralight Backpacking My tip would be to use as much multiple use gear as possible to reduce pack weight. Hiking poles to support your tent, drinking cup as food pot, poncho tarp for shelter and rainwear, use tent stakes as pot support for cooking, etc. Saves weight and money just by bringing less to do the same things. Hell yeah! I love poncho/tarps, this is a piece of gear I recommend quite a lot. All it takes is a bit of experience and practice and it's an amazing piece of gear for a good range of hiking trips. I always eat out of my pot and honestly don't understand what the hell I was thinking bringing a whole big cook kit years ago. Less to clean, less to worry about, less weight, it's just such an advantage with certain things going minimalist that it's hard to deny or justify full cook kits for long distance trips. 8. Márcio Floripa My tip is to roll some gorilla tape or duck tape in the trekking pole to save weight and space in the backpack. Always useful and ready to use. Just be careful where you put it! I used to do this back when I used trekking poles, but I put the tape too close to the hand grips. Over time my hands would at times slip down the pole and grab/bump/rub the tape, which eventually messed up the tape, and also got glue on my hands. When going without poles, you can wrap tape around a pen (which is what I do) or an old library/bus card. 9. Robert Shine If its rainy out and your pack gets soaked, this can be problematic when you are using it in conjunction with a torso length sleeping pad. To avoid getting your sleeping bag and the inside of your tent wet turn your pack liner inside out and put your backpack in it. In the morning, just take the pack out and put your liner back in the bag. (make sure the wet side of your pack liner is facing your bag) Yeah, this is great for people that regularly sleep on their packs. I will do this if there is a cold snap, but my pack is nearly always quite dry, because I use a poncho as rain gear/pack cover. Most of the time my pack is under my vestibule, and I put my foam sit pad under my legs while using a torso pad. 10. remmirath42 My tip: You can mix a lot of lightweight powdered stuff into your oatmeal. Protein powder for keeping you full longer. Matcha powder for a caffeine kick. Cocoa powder for chocolate cravings. Psyllium husk powder if you want to use less toilet paper, if you know what I mean (it makes for a nice and smooth consistency). I also like using chia seeds, almond flour, sesame seeds, and spices like cinnamon and sometimes even cayenne for a spicy kick! 11. Jack Nolan My tip is to load up on mystery podcasts to listen with the wife, who's just getting into backpacking, in the tent at night. Has made for very memorable - read: scary and exciting - adventures in the woods. I love scary stories! My friends and I will often tell them or just discuss hypotheticals that are frightening or dangerous. Fun but also a good mental exercise to think about what you'd actually do if say, a rabid wolf or a crazed junkie attacked you. Odds are none of these scary things will happen, but a "just in case" plan in your mind weighs nothing and if anything flexes your critical thinking skills. 12. Stu Minnis 2 tips: If you’re going somewhere hot with lots of sun exposure, a good umbrella is totally worth it. And if you have a cold trip planned and have cold feet like me, down booties are the best. 1. I am not on team umbrella, but if I lived in a sunny place like where I was born (what up Los Angeles, California!?), I'd mos def have one of them chrome-dome umbrellas. In rainy weather I prefer a poncho. 2. I recently ordered a pair of EE synthetic booties, and I'm excited to try them out! I don't get cold feet, but it's good to keep fingers and toes warm to boost over all core temperature. Also good to put on sleep socks over hiking socks if there is a cold snap or if you want to dry out a pair overnight that you just washed at camp. 13. Markus Ulfberg Here's my best advice that I've heard, but sadly didn't heed quite as much as I should have: Practice setting up your tarp (or anything else new to you) at home before going into the woods. Getting a nice taut tarp is a lot harder than it looks and something you don't want to have to deal with when you're far from home. So many backpacking noobs need to do this, so it's one I often repeat and recommend. I hardly think about setting up my tarp when I make camp, and usually takes me less than 10 minutes to have both my tarp pitched and my ground cover and bivy sorted out as well. 14. Raphaël Verstraeten My tip when packing toilet paper is to remove the inner cardboard roll. This diminishes the volume taken in your pack, and allows you to take paper from the inside of the roll, making it possible to leave it in a ziplock bag at all times and avoid wet TP. It's okay to steal other good tips! This is especially good for hiking in groups, but when I go solo I take little packets of tissues. Each pack only weighs like 20g and has 10 tissues, which works out to around 5 days of pooping for me, because I supplement my wiping with natural materials like moss and leaves. 15. dinosaur304 Two tips: 1. the best creamiest creamer for your on the trail coffee ! Starbucks VIA and Alpine Start are my favorite trail coffees. 2. baby wipes to get you clean as a whistle down there. helps stop chafing. But you have to pack them back out with you - just put them in a dedicated ziplock bag. you can sandwich them between drier-scent sheets to cover th em and add fresh springtime scent. 1. Never tried those coffees, so I'll have to look out for them. I love a good cup of coffee and/or tea. When I go solo I tend to stick to tea bags, but my wife is a coffee fan, so she takes fancy powdered coffee that's not bad. 2. Speaking of my wife, she is also a big fan of baby wipes. Moss will also get you clean as a whistle down there, especially with a bit of morning dew on it, but to each their own! ;) 16. RESTLESS OUTDOORS One of my favorite tips I use is to repackage my Mountain House meals... I dump them in freezer bags, and save one package to eat out of... easier to pack, save weight and space especially on a mult-day trip! While I usually make my own backpacking meals, I do at times spoil myself with ready-made trail meals, and family members will buy them for me as gifts too. The packages can be quite bulky, and especially if you eat out of your pot anyhow, you don't need em. 17. Eric Klein My tip is to try your backpacking pad thai recipe. One of favorites. Glad you like it! I'm working on another noodle recipe and will try and do a video on it in the future. If you ever get sick of my Pad Thai, you can always switch up ingredients. Try different kinds of noodles, for example, or hot sauces, even fruit to give it a sweet/spice kick like dates or date puree. 18. OperatorOneSix Tip: For great area lighting while doing things around camp after dark (or just to keep the light out of fellow hikers eyes when navigating in the dark), turn your headlamp upside down and hang it around your neck. Use the articulation in the head (that usually angles down) to position the light so it’s focused in your work or walking area but out of other people’s eyes. Also make sure to take advantage of white colored things to reflect light around your campsite or shelter. For example you can strap your headlamp to a white or translucent/white-ish water bottle, or hang your headlamp inside the trail shelter or tent with a piece of TP wrapped around it. I've rigged all sorts of DIY lanterns! 19. kryzzet My favourite is the simple thing of bringing parmesan, it surprises many people that I meet on the trail. Simply because it's such a great flavor enhancer for all kinds of meals, and because it's so dry and salty it lasts a lot longer than people expect. And most important, it's rather weight efficient at around 430kcal per 100g I did this a lot when I used to eat dairy, but now that I'm vegan a nice replacement is either nutritional yeast or vegan mac n' cheese mix you can buy in powdered form. Add a heaping spoon of either of those to pasta, plus a splash of olive oil, and it's so good! 20. Michael Molloy Take all your food out of the packaging and put it in ziplocks. Similar to the tip about re-packaging meals, another tip I'd also give about Ziplock food organizing is to combine foods into less bags to save on waste/bulk/weight. For example, rather than pack one bag of polenta, one bag of almond flour, one bag of sugar, one of salt, etc.--mix your breakfast grits into one bag. Saves time in the morning too, just dump in your pot and get cooking. Alright, that wraps up my response to all 20 of these good backpacking tips. I hope some of these tips and/or my feedback can help you to have happier trails out there. The winner of the give-away will be announced shortly in a short video, which I'll add below once it's uploaded. Peace out! View the full article
  9. Intro It's been a hot minute since I did a detailed breakdown of some of my favorite pieces of gear, so this time I figured I'd do all my big three configurations for each season of the year. Regular readers will recognize quite a bit of gear, which itself is a testament to its quality and durability. But there are some new additions to my collection of big three gear that I am very excited about, and can't wait to get more good use out of them. Before I get to the gear, however, some of you may be new here and some context is helpful to better understand why I chose the essential components of my kit. So let's get that out of the way first, but you can also read my more detailed post on outdoor life in Sweden here. General use: Solo (or with friends but sleeping solo), wilderness, UL backpacking on section hikes and weekend trips during all four season of the year. Location: Scandinavia, mostly in the forests and fjälls (alpine mountains/hills) of the lower half of Sweden, and sometimes across the boarder in southeast Norway. Climate: Generally mild and humid (plenty of rain, mist, and fog), with somewhat warm summers and cold winters--rarely going over 25C/77F or under -10C/14F, and hardly ever going over 30C/86F or under -18C/0F. Short cold snaps are not uncommon, especially in certain terrains such as rift valleys. Pests: There are quite a lot of bugs to deal with for about half the year, May to September--and some bugs come in staggering numbers during peak season, roughly June-August. Bugs include mosquitoes, midges/noseeums, ticks, ants, wasps, moose/deer-flies (sv: älgfluga), horseflies, etc. There are also some animals that are more of a nuisance like mice, slugs/snails, magpies/crows/seagulls, etc. that do things like try and eat your food, poop on you or your gear, and on rare occasions scurry/crawl/fly all over your shelter and/or campsite. And then there is the occasional snake, both venomous and non-venomous. But hey, no deadly spiders! Now on to all my go-to big three pieces of gear. The Packs On the Left: Mountain Laurel Designs (MLD) Burn (2017 version) in Dyneema X Accessories of choice: Side straps x2, sternum strap, shoulder pouch. Weight: 420g/14.8oz Volume: 38 liters Ideal Base Weight: 2.5-4kg / 5.5-8.8lbs Max Total Weight: Around 11kg / 25lbs Usage: SUL and lower UL base weight trips, generally half of the year, from mid-late spring to early-mid fall. My Overall Thoughts: This is the best frameless backpack I've ever used. Super functional and well thought out, and very comfortable to carry. I only have a few very minor issues with the pack. Looking forward to grinding this pack into the ground, which should take awhile. There are thru-hikers out there that have done multiple long trails with a single Burn pack. You can take a closer look at this pack and hear me ramble on about it a lot more in this video review. On the Right: Zpacks Arc Haul in Dyneema X (2016 custom version--note that Zpacks no longer does customizations) Accessories of choice: Shoulder pouch. The rest of the options come standard with the Haul, but I got some of them modified, for example a Dyneema X front pocket rather than a mesh pocket. Please don't bother asking Zpacks for mods, I was lucky and ordered this pack back when they did custom mods! And no, I don't want to sell this pack to you! Weight: 725g / 25.6oz Volume: 62 liters Ideal Base Weight: 4-6kg / 8.8-13lbs Max Total Weight: Around 18kg / 40lbs Usage: UL and slightly higher base weight trips, generally the other half of the year when I prefer to use a framed pack in the late fall, winter, and early spring. Also for packrafting trips in warmer parts of the year. You can check out my packrafting kit here. My Overall Thoughts: This is the best framed pack I have ever used. The glowing review I gave it about a year and a half ago still stands, which you can read here. There is also a video included in that review if you want to see a closer look of the pack and all that. This is truly an amazing pack. This will most likely be the pack I take when I finally have the chance to do a long thru-hike. Sleep Systems Part One: The Quilts On the Left: 2.5oz Climashield Apex insulation and 10D nylon quilt, temperature rating is around 10C/50F. I paid a friend who is good at sewing to make this quilt for me, as I didn't have the time or skills to do this MYOG project on my own. No zipper, no clips, just a drawstring around the neck and a sewn up footbox. Weight: 350g / 12.3oz Size: Custom sizing. I asked my friend to make it big enough to be used as an over-quilt in the winter on top of a down bag. Roughly a regular length, x-wide width. Below you can see both bags used together, and with both collars cinched up. Usage: Low temps of 7-15C/44-59F, or combined with my warmest down bag in the winter at low temps of -9C to -15C / 16-5F. My Overall Thoughts: Very happy with this quilt, and love that I can use it both in the summer and the winter. The downsides of synthetic insulation are probably obvious to those of you reading this, but yeah, it's significantly heavier and bulkier for the same temperature rating. However the 2.5oz Apex is thin enough to come close to down weights for a 10C/50F rated bag. For example, an Enlightened Equipment 10C/50F down Enigma, size regular/wide, has a listed weight of about 300g / 10.5oz--which is only a difference of about 50g / 1.8oz from my synth quilt. There are advantages to synthetics, such as generally dealing with moisture/dampness better than down. Then again there is the option of Down Tek down feathers, which are hydrophobic, which arguably makes this a moot point. But on the other hand, synthetic is also cheaper than down, which is nice, and synthetic also works better as an overbag in the winter to wick moisture away from your body while you sleep. In the Middle: Enlightened Equipment Enigma, -1C/30F temp rating, 850 Down Tek (2017 version) Weight: 450g / 15.9oz Size: Regular/Wide Usage: Low temps of around 5C to -3C / 41-26F My Overall Thoughts: Very happy with this bag so far. This is a newer piece of gear, so looking forward to getting more time with it out in the field, but very positive first impressions. This is the quilt my wife used when we took a trip together this past summer up in the fjälls, and it served her well in a colder than usual summer. It will be my new go-to quilt for much of the spring and the fall. The three main things that made this quilt so appealing and eventually got me to pull the trigger were the hydrophobic down, amazingly low weight (only 35g / 1.2oz more than my older 5C/40F Zpacks quilt), and cool option to pick custom colors. On the Right: Zpacks, -7C/20F temp rating, 900 fill down (2014 version) Weight: 610g / 21.5oz Size: X-Long/Wide Usage: Low temps of -4C to -8C / 25-17F, and as mentioned earlier, combined with my synthetic summer quilt I can push it down to -9C to -15C / 16-5F. My Overall Thoughts: I love this quilt. It has kept me nice and warm when I needed it the most during the colder half of the year. It has a zipper on the bottom of it, so you could call it a hoodless sleeping bag, but when you unzip it all the way it behaves just like a quilt. I usually keep it closed to keep drafts out, however. The 900 fill down is impressively puffy, even after years of use, but it does need some maintenance. I don't find the bit of maintenance to be a deal breaker, but I do see the appeal of synth and hydrophobic down. For optimum performance of 900 fill down, I make sure to air it out after I wake up, so long as it's not raining. Ideally it's quick and easy to lay it out in the sun, but that is a luxury you can't count on in cloudy, rainy Sweden. So if it's raining, I may have to wait to air it out at, for example, a trail shelter or in a cafe of a village/town the trail passes. However if it stays below freezing and it's more crisp/dry winter weather, I've found this airing out to be quicker and easier. In the future, after running this quilt into the ground, I will likely replace it with a quilt with hydrophobic down. This may take a while however, as the craftsmanship of this quilt is pretty great. Sleep System Part Two: The Pads and Extras 1st from the Left: Generic foam, trimmed to 2/3 length Weight: 90g / 3.2oz R Value: ~1 Usage: Low temps of 12C/53F and up. My Overall Thoughts: I can actually get a pretty good night's sleep on this pad, but location is key. A nice bed of moss works great! Though I generally avoid trail shelters when using this pad. A classic summertime pad that is pretty much foolproof, though one thing that is annoying is having to replace them every few years. Maybe because they are cheap and tough, I am harder on my foam pads than my air pads; but then again, air pads have gotten better and better fabric that is also pretty tough and doesn't act like a magnet for twigs, pine needles, and other debris. 2nd from the Left: Nemo Zor Short (2014 version), model has since been discontinued as far as I understand. Weight: 270g / 9.5oz R Value: ~2 Usage: Low temps of 5-11C/41-52F My Overall Thoughts: Love this pad, and I've got good use out of it--slightly more than the rest of the pads, actually. Not just for me, but I've also let my kids use it when we go camping as well. I find it much simpler and easy to use than my Neoair pads, especially when used inside a bivy. But what it makes up for with minimalism, it does lack in comfort when compared with the Neoair pads. Yet in fairness, it's still pretty comfy, even when used in trail shelters. 3rd from the Left: Neoair Xlite Regular (had the 2013 version, was replaced by slightly newer version under its warranty in 2015) Weight: 350g / 12.3oz R Value: 3.2 Usage: Low temps of 4C to -4C / 39-25F My Overall Thoughts: What an incredible pad. The gold standard of UL sleeping pads, really. This is probably the pad I'd take on a long thru hike. Light, comfy, warm. Makes the chore of blowing it up totally worth it. The supposed noise this pad makes has never been an issue for me. Some people think it sounds like a bag of chips crinkling when you lay on it and move around, but I think these claims are exaggerated. 4th from the Left: Neoair Xtherm Regular (2014 version) Weight: 465g / 16.4oz R Value: 5.7 Usage: Low temps of -5C to -12C / 23-10F, and anything lower I can add my generic foam pad under it. My Overall Thoughts: Another incredible Neoair pad, though this pad has not been used all that often due to it being pretty much a winter only pad for me. And on top of that, the past few winters have been especially mild, so I was fine with my Xlite (and foam sit pad under it) most of the time. Extras Above the pads: Exped inflatable pillow, size large, 70g / 2.5oz. I bring this on all my trips now, as it adds so much comfort for so little weight. Never going back to stuff sack with clothing, not to mention that over the years I've dialed my clothing enough that I usually don't have much extra clothing around to use as a pillow anyhow. Below the pads: SOL Escape Bivy Lite, 150g / 5.2oz. I've written about this bivy a few years ago as one of my favorite pieces of gear (along with a few pieces of shelter that are included below), and that remains true. I love the flexibility this piece of gear adds to my kit, and I've had nothing but good experiences with it. It actually does what it claims to do by reflecting a significant amount of warmth back to you, while also being very breathable. Never had any issues with condensation, plenty of space inside, and weighs less and is warmer than any sleeping bag liner that I am aware of on the market. A silk liner will perhaps weigh around the same or less, but is not at all as warm. And weighs less than most top or bottom layers of clothing, yet provides full body warmth. I take this bivy along when the low temps of my quilts for a given trip are on the edge. For instance if low temps are hovering around say 6-8C/42-46F on a beautiful May weekend, I can just throw this bivy down to the bottom of my pack and have some good peace of mind. Even if there is a cold snap and temps dip down to say 4-5C/39-41F, I'll still be able to get an okay night's sleep with the bivy plus my summer quilt and wear all my clothing layers (base layers, hiking layers, down vest, wind jacket, buff, gloves, socks x2, etc.). And if the temps turn out to be on the warmer end, no worries, then I can just lay the bivy under my pad as an extra bit of padding and insulation without being sweaty. The Shelters From left to right (all weights include stuff sack): Borah Cuben Bivy (2013 version, modified with net vent) 150g / 5.2oz (including one guy line) No stakes needed MLD Serenity Solo Net Tent (2015 version in silnylon) 345g / 12.3oz (including two guy lines) Can be pitched with no stakes, but four stakes makes for a better pitch MLD Poncho/Tarp (2016 version in silnylon) 310g / 10.9oz (no guy lines) Ridge and guy lines, two mini-biners, and mini-sack add 50g / 1.8oz Depending on the pitch, needs two-eight stakes, most of the time I use six (A-frame) Zpacks 6x9ft/1.8x2.7m Cuben Fiber Flat Tarp (2014 version) 250g / 8.8oz (including six guy lines) Ridge and extra guy lines, two mini-biners, and mini-sack add 40g / 1.4oz Depending on pitch, needs two-six stakes, most of the time I use six (A-frame) Borah Dimma Bivy (2016 version, silpoly bottom) 240g / 8.5oz (including two guy lines) No stakes needed SMD Skyscape X (2012 version, .75 Cuben, no longer in production) 510g / 18oz (including six guy lines and poles) Five-six stakes needed Nemo Hornet 2 (2016 version) 900g / 31.7oz (including fly, inner, seven guy lines, and poles) Four-seven stakes needed I've done several videos on most of the above shelter, so check out my Youtube channel and you can see how they look like fully set up and hear me talk in detail about them. I've also written about several of these pieces of shelter gear here on my blog, for example my double bivy breakdown/review here, and my first impressions review of my flat tarp here. I go into a lot of detail in those videos and posts, so be sure to check those out if you want more info. So because I have already written/spoken extensively about nearly all of these shelters, I won't repeat myself here. These are all of my favorite, go-to shelters, after all. At this point in my UL game, I could have opted for pretty much any other UL shelter combos, but this is what works best for me. Yet there is one shelter that I have only spoken about a bit and not written about in detail, which is the Nemo Hornet 2. So for that shelter I will give my overall thoughts. There are enough pests and enough precipitation where I hike that I take a fully enclosed shelter year round. Now let's take a closer look at each shelter combination and when I choose to use a given shelter system. Borah Cuben Bivy + MLD Poncho/Tarp + Ridge/Guy Line Kit Total Weight: 510g / 18oz Usage: Light and fast SUL trips, usually summer weekend trips. Poncho/tarp also doubles as rain gear and pack cover. MLD Serenity + MLD Poncho/Tarp + Ridge/Guy Line Kit Total Weight: 705g / 24.9oz Usage: More typical UL section hike or weekend trip in the summer. I prefer a net tent during peak bug season most of the time. Though if I am doing nothing but hiking and then sleeping right after setting up camp, or the trail I am hiking happens to have a lot of trail shelters, then I will opt for a bivy. Borah Dimma Bivy + MLD Poncho/Tarp + Ridge/Guy Line Kit Total Weight: 600g / 21.2oz Usage: Typical set up for spring, fall, and early summer (before peak bug season) section hikes or weekend trips on marked trails. Borah Dimma Bivy + MLD Poncho/Tarp + Zpacks Flat Tarp + Ridge/Guy Line Kit Total Weight: 840g / 29.6oz Usage: Section hikes that involve a significant amount of off-trail hiking, and/or trips that are to more isolated areas with few or no trail shelters. Also for any trips that have weather reports that predict lots of rain/snow. Poncho is rain gear, pack cover, and also can be pitched as a large vestibule at one end of the flat tarp when it's pitched in an A-frame (see: the picture above). MLD Serenity + Zpacks Flat Tarp + Ridge/Guy Line Kit Total Weight: 635g / 22.4oz Usage: Winter and early spring section hikes or weekend trips. A net tent's steep walls prevent snow from blowing in and building up on top of you while you sleep better than a bivy. Plus a tiny bit of a wind blocker is nice for those cold blasts of wind at night. No need for a poncho, as getting soaked from rain is not an issue below freezing. So I wear a beefier wind jacket instead to keep the snow and wind off me as I hike. Cuben also doesn't sag and is really strong (especially my tarp, which is made of the thicker 1.0oz Cuben), so no need to worry or re-adjust the pitch or guy lines if there is a lot of snow. SMD Skyscape X Total Weight: 510g / 18oz Usage: Section hikes to areas where it's more difficult to pitch tarps, like above tree lines or less forested terrain like fjäll. Weekend trips to specific, secret little spots I know about off trail that have sweet/scenic spots to pitch a tent (e.g. on top of a cliff, a hidden glade, shore of a lake, etc.). Also good for section hikes where I begin and/or end near towns or cities and don't want to pay for a hotel or B&B, and can have a wider range of options for stealth camping near civilization. Like say behind an abandoned house on the outskirts of town. Nemo Hornet 2 Total Weight: 900g / 31.7oz Usage: For solo, 3 season use, when I want to spoil myself with an UL palace type shelter, this is the one. Then when my wife and I go out together, this is our tent. My Overall Thoughts: Got lucky and picked this up used online for a good price, looking for a lighter 2 person tent for my wife and I. I took it out a few times on my own to test it out, and liked it so much I ended up using it on a few solo trips. Lots of head room and space in general for one person, and for two people my wife and I find it pleasantly tight on space. There's just enough for both of our sleeping pads inside, and that's pretty much it. But there is some space in the vestibules (though they are a bit tight), and having two side doors is great. It's livable and even fairly comfortable (as far as backpacking goes) for two people that know each other well. I've had it out in the rain and it kept me and my gear dry. The design is good and it's easy enough to set up. Not much to complain about. I had read a lot of good reviews of this tent before I kept my eye out for one, and I'm glad I did. It's certainly not the lightest UL tent out there, but it's still pretty light, especially when you split the weight with another person. Very Short Outro, Cuz Man This is Long Well, that about covers my big three. As always, please feel free to ask questions or give feedback, and I hope this breakdown is helpful. Peace! *Disclaimer: Same as it ever was. Still not sponsored, blog is still advert free, still not a Youtube partner, and I buy all my own gear. *Update 1: Did some minor grammar/typo/formatting edits about 20 hours after publishing this post. View the full article
  10. Introduction My take on trail routines was inspired by this great book I am reading at the moment by Liz "Snorkel" Thomas, Long Trails: Mastering the Art of the Thru Hike. I thought it would be fun for me and perhaps useful and fun for others to see a rough sketch of what my routines are while I'm out wilderness backpacking, and this is the result. In Liz's book, she gives her and other experienced thru-hiker's trail routines, and I found it both useful and interesting to compare them to my own. Now I am no thru-hiker (yet), but a humble section hiker, and Liz and her choice of experts are some of the most experienced backpackers you'll find on the entire planet. While I do have a fair amount of experience under my belt over the last few decades of backpacking and outdoor life, it's but a shadow compared to other hardcore hikers like Liz. They would maybe laugh at my daily personal goals when it comes to how far and long I hike, as they would likely have no problem hiking literally double of what I usually hike. But the book gives me hope for my future life as a thru-hiker once I sort out some life complications that prevent me from getting out there more and for longer periods of time. Anyhow, it's a great read so far (I'm about halfway through it), in case anyone reading this is looking for a good, non-fiction backpacking book to read. Though this book is specifically for people who fully intend on going on (or who already have gone on) one or more thru hikes, not the casual backpacker, I would add. And no, I didn't get a copy for free, nor do I know Liz at all--just an honest recommendation! Now on to some of my routines. I will breakdown my most common trips, which are section hikes here in Scandinavia for 2-6 days. These trips are usually on marked trails, but there are also the occasional off trail/bushwhacking trips I like to do as well. The main difference is that I usually don't hike as far on off trail trips, as they are often to familiar stomping grounds where I want to relax and maybe read a book, pick more wild edibles, go for a longer swims, etc. So I won't get into my off trail routines, which can vary greatly depending on my mood, weather, the season, etc. I will cover two different types of routines based on season: summer and spring/fall (which are nearly the same routines). I also won't get into all the logistics of catching trains and buses to get to and from the trail, but just focus on life on the trail itself. These routines are also for when I am solo hiking. Hiking with friends, things can be all over the place depending on the friend or group I am traveling with. And finally, all times are just rough estimates, of course, and can change quite a bit when it comes to how much sunlight I have to work with given what month it is. Summer In the summer I am way more relaxed about time, as here in Scandinavia there is sunlight until around 10-11 at night during its peak. My personal goal in this season is usually to hike around 30-35km a day. 6:00-6:30: Wake up to birds singing 9 times out of 10, turn on my phone (or turn off airplane mode) and check if I have an internet connection. If I have internet, check the weather forecast, make sure there are no emergency or important text messages or emails, etc. If no internet, put it on airplane mode put it down again. Lay and reflect on my plan for the day. Sometimes I will go back to sleep for another 30-45 minutes or so if I had an especially demanding hike the day before, and skip messing with my phone and my plan reflections. If there was a cold snap, then just before, during, and right after sunrise it's coldest, so this is when I will put on an extra layer (like a wind jacket) if needed and bundle up more in my sleeping bag/quilt before the sun warms things up. 7:00-7:30: Deflate my sleeping mat if I am using an inflatable, and get out of my sleeping bag. If I am sleeping in a bivy, then get out of the bivy to change into my hiking clothing and get my shoes on. If I am in a tent or net tent then I change inside. Either way, during my changing process I'll check for ticks. Then go and find a nice tree to pee on. If it's not raining, turn my sleeping bag or quilt inside out and hang or lay it someplace to air out. Eat a granola bar and drink some water. Read my map. Go and find a nice spot to dig a hole and take a dump. Wash my hands. Pack up clothing, fold up my sleeping mat, wipe down any condensation with my small towel if needed, and then break down my shelter. After everything is packed up and ready to be put into my backpack, then I will stuff my sleeping bag/quilt into its drybag last, and then fully pack up. Put on my satchel, then my backpack, and walk around camp to make sure I didn't forget or drop anything. If it's raining I will do all my packing under my tarp or in my tent and wait to air out my sleeping bag until later. The last thing I will pack will be my shelter, after I have everything else ready to go. If there was/is moderate to heavy rain I will strap my tarp or rain fly on top of my backpack as the last thing I pack, or if I am using a poncho/tarp I will just put that on last before I double check my campsite and move on. 7:30-8:00: Hit the trail for a very short hike, 2nd breakfast, and find water. After double checking my map and making sure I am on track again, I will eat another granola bar and/or some dried fruit and nuts while I hike. Drink more water, and I tend to drink a lot of water for breakfast, so if I am low on water I will look for a water source directly in front of me on the trail as I am hiking. If no water is in sight, then check my map for the next potentially good water source. I favor water sources that are more isolated (i.e. away from any houses, farms, roads, etc.), and try and find springs and small creeks/streams that are clear and flowing rather than lakes or bogs. I also decide if I am going to filter my water or not, depending on the conditions of the water source at the time. For example, if I find a cold, clear spring of water flowing directly out of the side of a hill in the middle of a nature reserve, and there are no dead animals or any animal poop in or around the water upstream, I will give it a little taste first, and if it tastes fine, then I'll drink my fill and then fill up my bottles directly. Otherwise, if I think I need to filter, I fill my bladder, filter a few liters of water, and now I have a belly and a few bottles full of clean water. After filling up on water, and if it's not raining, I can focus on a bit of personal hygiene. First I'll brush my teeth. Then I will wash my face, rinse off my head, neck, and arms, and dry myself off with my small towel. Hang the towel to dry on my backpack, then wash my dirty socks and hang them to dry too. If it's raining, I will just focus on filling up my water bottles and then just brush my teeth. 8:00-12:00: Try and hike around 10km. Take lots of pictures, maybe pick some berries and wood sorrel to munch on as a snack if I can find them. And if I find any mushrooms I save them for later--either cook and eat them for dinner (if I brought a stove, put them in a stew, or roast them on an open fire if I am stoveless) or bring them home. If it's raining, I will check my map and try and find a good, dry spot for lunch. Ideally this means a nice trail shelter, but could also be under a bridge, under some overhanging cliffs, or even under a big pine tree in a thicker patch of woods. 12:00-12:30: Lunch. I often go stoveless in the summer, so this means eat something quick and easy like chips, tortilla sandwich of some sort, nuts, maybe a luxury item like a fresh fruit. Yet even when I do bring a stove, I will usually opt for a no-cook lunch to make things easier. If it's still raining and I'm in a dry enough place, here is where I can air out my sleeping bag and tarp or rain fly. If it was raining all morning and I skipped out on personal hygiene and washing my socks, then I will do those chores after lunch (rain or not), where I have a dry place to work with to make things easier. 12:30-17:00: Try and hike around 10-12km. Take even more pictures, try and find even more wild edibles along the way, and eat another snack (granola bar, nuts, chips, etc.). I will drink most or all of my water, but unless it's really warm out I won't bother with filling my bottles again until dinner. 17:00-18:00: Find a nice spot for dinner near a good water source, and eat, drink, and fill my water bottles again. Study my map and decide on a goal area to set up camp for the night. This is my last big break before I put in my final push for the day, so I try and enjoy it--especially if the weather is nice. In the summer I generally start the day slow and easy, and then after lunch and until dusk I am more in "the zone." I will at times hike my longest stretch after dinner, especially if I feel like I am a bit behind on my daily hiking goal. So I will eat up, drink up, take off my shoes, maybe do a bit of meditation, maybe go for a quick swim, then hit the trail hard as I take full advantage of the last bit of sunlight. 18:00-22:00: The last big push. Try and hike another 10-12km. When it's close to dusk, start scouting for a good campsite if there are no trail shelters around, otherwise gun for the trail shelter I set as my goal. I always try and get to a trail shelter with enough sunlight to get a good look at it and the campsite around it. If the trail shelter sucks (holes in the roof and/or floor, mouse infestation, filthy, non-existent, etc.), then I will need to fix/clean it up enough to make it livable for the night. Or if it's too messed up or I am too tired to bother (or if it's not there at all), I'll need some extra time to set up my shelter, and may have to do last minute scouting for a nice, flat spot to pitch my tarp or tent. 22:00-22:30: Set up camp. After I set up either the trail shelter or my own shelter and then my sleeping mat/bag, I will usually reward myself with a late night snack, like some dark chocolate. Then I pee, hang up my food, brush my teeth, change into my sleep clothing, check for ticks, and then crawl into my sleeping bag/quilt and settle down for the night. Next to my sleep system I will lay out my hiking clothing--which helps them to dry out if wet, and if there is a cold snap I can find them easily in the middle of the night and put them on--along with my head lamp, phone (and plug it into a my battery bank if needed), and maps. 22:30-22:45: One last, quick look at the map to formulate my plan for tomorrow, then I take my phone off airplane mode and check for a signal. Do a bit of quick catching up and sending messages if possible and needed, then back on airplane mode (or turn it off). Once I am snug in my shelter and everything is in its right place, I am usually able to fall into a deep sleep pretty fast. Spring/Fall In these two seasons I have to be more disciplined about time management, as there is less sunlight to work with. As such, I am more flexible about my personal hiking goals, and am happy with 25-30km. Since I've already elaborated on many of the details and nuances of my general routines in the summer--and much of them are the same in other seasons--I won't repeat that here and just give a condensed version of routines. This is fitting considering the higher pace and attention to time that is needed during these two seasons, when the sun goes down anywhere between 6-8pm much of each season. So shorter breaks, and much less foraging for wild edibles while hiking. Swims are rare, but do happen on occasion. When they do happen they are pretty quick tho, brrrr! 6:30-7:15: Wake up to my phone's alarm. Earlier in the spring and later in the fall I will set my alarm earlier to make up for the shorter days, at times it will be a bit dark when wake up, so I will make good use of my headlamp. If there is a cold snap, same routines, but warmer layers. Keep water filter and phone inside bivy or sleeping bag, and make sure to loosen up shoe laces and pull the tongue of the shoe out wide. That way if it dips below freezing, filter and phone won't freeze, and if shoes are wet/damp and do freeze, they will be easy to put on--cold, but I use minimalist/barefoot shoes, so in not too long my body heat defrosts them. That way I don't have to worry about putting my shoes inside my sleeping bag. I'd rather be comfortable sleeping and put up with around 10-20 minutes of cold shoes in the morning. No time for chilling out like in summer. Take a few deep breaths, deflate the damn sleeping pad, and get down to it. Get up, change, pee, eat bar #1, drink, read maps, poop, wash hands, pack, break down shelter, pack, put on the backpack, look around one last time, and hit the trail while eating bar #2. 7:15-11:30: Hike around 10km. Eat a few snacks along the way. This time of year is colder, so it's generally more eating and less drinking. But somewhere in there fill up on water and get some hygiene in too, tho less sweat makes for less stink which makes for less washing up. 11:30-12:00: Lunch. I bring a stove during these two seasons, as warm meals for lunch and dinner I think are worth it when it's brisk out. 12:00-17:00: Hike around 12-15km. More consistent, steady pace. But still lots of pics tho. 17:00-17:30: Dinner, and try and find a spot near water. No time for a big last push, but a small push is possible. 17:30-19:00: Small push of around 3-5km with enough sunlight to get things done at camp. 19:00-21:00: Routines are the same as in the summer, only once camp is set up, I have more time to relax before bed. This could mean do chores like laundry. But also fun stuff, like building a campfire, using my phone more to listen to music/read/chat with friends, put on my headlamp and do some short walks close to my campsite in search of fire wood, mushrooms, nice views, wildlife, etc. 21:00-21:30: Hit the sack. Important that I go to sleep earlier these times of year because I need to wake up earlier to make good progress. And there you have it, my life in a nutshell while I'm a temporary forest nomad. As always, feel free to ask questions or give feedback, either in the comments below, or on my blog's Facebook page (link on the sidebar). Peace! View the full article
  11. Introduction If you haven't read part one of this section's guide, you can do so here. Part two of the Södra Kungsleden trails see the path continue west through Fulufjället, briefly exiting the national park, entering another large national park called Drevfjällen, and then heading north. As before, this hike offers stunning views and gorgeous fjäll/mountain landscape, but again with the same cost of it being a more challenging trek. In fact, the group I traveled with and I agreed that this trip was even more difficult than last year's trip (see: link above). In addition to tough terrain and elevation to get through, Drevfjällen park is all the more isolated, and overall the trail was much less maintained. The trail markings were mostly fine, but a few key spots really could use some better signs/markers. Plus in Drevfjällen there are several marshes/bogs that the trail goes through--much more than before in Fulufjället--and the majority of the time these wetland trails have either no planks/bridges for walking on, or there are old, rotten/broken ones. So you will get wet and muddy, and not just your feet, but most likely up to your knees and beyond. And then there are the trail shelters, which simply put, are generally not as nice as the more popular (and therefore more well maintained) Fulufjället shelters. Though there are a few exceptions, as you will soon see. Okay, so that's the bad news, but with all that being said (and so long as you are at least a somewhat experienced backpacker), I would still recommend this hike, and my group and I had a great trip. A harder trip, but a good trip, and one that is more off the beaten path than before. In the five days we hiked (only one of which was in Fulufjället) we only saw a handful of people in western Fulufjället (mostly day hikers) and only two backpackers in all of Drevfjällen. And at the end of the trip, we were even able to see a small herd of reindeer. My wife said of this trip: "It's beautiful, but you have to know what you're getting yourself into." So now you know, and considering the lack of information on this stage of the E1 trails in Sweden, I hope this will help. Our trip, according to my wife and I's smartphone pedometers, covered roughly 90+km. This is much less than the trail accounts for on paper from the hamlets of Mörkret to Flötningen, but there was quite a bit of zigzagging on the trail, we took some side trails and a some off-trail exploring, and this also includes going off trail for bathroom breaks and water gathering, etc. On the map this section of trail is only around 60km, but in reality it will most likely be longer for one reason or another. Yet as harsh as this trail was at times, there were still a few surprise luxuries along the way that you can spoil yourself with if you so desire (and have a bit of extra cash to spend). Passing the hamlet of Gördalen there are some nice cabins for rent for what we all thought was a reasonable price, and just across the border in Norway, about 3km from Flötningen, there is another nice place to rent cabins (again for a fairly reasonable price). So these deluxe amenities for a weary backpacker were a nice balance to this challenging yet beautiful section of trail. More information on these campsites/cabins later. One thing that you won't lack is water, and plenty of good, clean sources of it. You will pass many lakes, tarns, ponds, rivers, springs, streams, and odds are you will probably get rained on too. So hydration shouldn't be an issue. Resupplying food could be an issue however, but there is a small supermarket in the hamlet of Flötningen, but with inflated prices. If you are on a thru-hike of Södra Kungsleden, it may be best to somehow get to the larger villages of either Särna or Idre to buy and prepare your food supplies for this hike, and also the rest of the trail from Flötningen to the end of the trail at Grövelsjön. Idre is larger and has more shops and such than Särna. And we all agreed the lone pizza shop in Särna was generally pretty crappy, but passible for hungry hikers. Canned mushrooms? Seriously? Transportation is another hurdle to overcome in this rather isolated area. There are buses you can take from Flötningen to Idre, but they run rarely and also have to be booked in advance via Dalatrafik. There are no buses from Särna to Mörkret, so you're going to have to be creative with getting rides to or from there. There is always hitchhiking, but you can also arrange a ride for a small fee via the Fulufjällsgården campsite, which is what our group did, and we rented a cabin there as well. This was the second year we stayed at this campsite, and both times we were quite happy with the facilities and service. Our group and I had intended to hike all the way to Grövelsjön, but due to several people having some minor injuries, we had to end the trip a few days earlier in Flötningen. We intend on returning there next year to finish the E1 trail and also do some of the many side trails in the area on both the Norwegian and Swedish sides of the fjälls and mountains. Trip Report We got picked up at Särna and spent the night at Fulufjällsgården before heading back into the national park. Our first day was rainy and quite windy as we returned to Njupeskär waterfall. We stopped for lunch at the Rörsjöstugan cabins, then continued on to the Harrsjöstugan cabin, where the wind and rain made it difficult to follow the trail from there. At Harrsjöstugan there are three trails that intersect on the western side of the cabin, and in spite of several members of our group (myself included) double checking the signs outside the cabin to go the right way, we took a wrong turn and ended up hiking several kilometers south rather than west. South there is another cabin called Bergådalsstugan, and the trail loops back to the east past the cabin, so rather than backtrack north we decided to follow a faint trail I discovered that we dubbed "Secret Trail." Secret Trail runs west somewhat parallel to Södra Kungsleden, which is to the north, and both trails end up in the hamlet of Gördalen. The trail begins with a rock pile just off the marked trail to the west, close to where there are four mountain tarns (one is bigger than the rest, east of the marked trail), about 2km north of Bergådalsstugan. It's a tricky trail to find and to follow. If you choose to hike Secret Trail, be careful, as it is only marked with an occasional pile of stones, and is thin, and at times almost non-existent. But it does pass over higher elevation than the marked Södra Kungsleden, which makes for some great views. We were able to follow Secret Trail up and over Brattfjället and into the edge of the forest on the western slope of the mountain, but dark clouds rolled in again and dumped more wind and rain on us, so we lost the trail and were forced to bushwhack west by northwest back to the marked trail. This would be the toughest part of our whole trip, scrabbling over and down wet boulders in the wind and rain and off any kind of trail, but thankfully we were all cautious and came down the mountain unscathed. Due to all these complications I wasn't able to take any pictures in this stretch, which is a shame, as it's quite a scenic area, in spite of its difficulties. Soggy and exhausted, we exited the national park and took a short break at the small, shitty campsite near the paved road. The trail shelter was tiny and in front of a gravel parking lot, and none of us were happy about the prospect of pitching our tents there. So I set off north to try and find the other trail shelter marked on our map to see if it was any better than this one. I couldn't find the shelter, but I was able to find a place that rents out cabins to snowmobile riders in the winter. It was the off season, but I knocked on the door anyhow to see if I could talk the owner into renting a cabin to us. The owner agreed, which we were all very thankful for, and we spent the night in a big, luxurious cabin. I asked the owner if he would be willing to rent out cabins to other backpackers in the future, and he said yes, so I told him I'd mention it here on my blog. He was happy about that, and was very accommodating and friendly. You can't miss his place in Gördalen, it's only about 1km north off the trail on the main road, and below you will find a picture of the place with a phone number to call if you'd like to book a cabin in advance or see if the owner is around. The next day we followed the dirt road (which is right next to the cabins) that headed south back towards the trail, and soon enough we were back on the trail and entered Drevfjället. It's a steep climb into the park, and shortly after the elevation plateaus, there was a small trail shelter near a stream where we took a nice water break. There was some very pleasant fjäll hiking after the little wind shelter, passing several mountain tarns. Then the trail goes more north by northwest and heads back into the forest, where the cabin Drevfjällsstugan stood in a lush, green valley near yet another mountain stream. It was a not bad cabin a bit on the small side, but in a pinch I think all eight of us could have fit, albeit a tight squeeze. Past the cabin the trail follows the boggy cliffs that overlook lake Drevsjön, but views of the lake are mostly obscured by trees and brush until you get to the northern tip of the lake. There was another tiny wind shelter there near the lake, with hardly enough space for one person. The first of many marshes to come was between the lake and the next trail cabin, but thankfully the cabin was on a hill and in a clearing. The cabin was perhaps the nicest in the entire park, lucky for us, as we decided in advance that we would be camping there. The name of this cabin is Id-Persätern, and the cabin was in the remnants of an old farm. There was a good stove in the cabin, enough space to fit all eight of us inside (and fairly comfortably--by backpackers standards, that is), a crystal clear stream with good, cold water a stone's throw from the cabin, and there was also a good outhouse close by too. The trail takes a sharp turn west at this cabin, and there was a mix of bog and mountain forest until there was another clearing on a hill with another old farm called Brunnsätern. We had a nice break at this farm then hiked on to more bog and forest mixed hiking, passing yet another (smaller) farm called Fågelåsen, then there was yet another tiny wind shelter near a small river. Past this shelter the trail goes up again in elevation to another smaller fjäll area with a few mountain peaks in the distance, though the trail skirts around these mountains, where at the foot of one of them there was a nice cabin. We only stopped for lunch at Röskåsen cabin, but it would have been a nice cabin to spend the night, with a stream and an outhouse, plus nice views of the area. It had been colder than normal in the area, which was a shame when it came to blueberries and other wild edibles, because going north from Röskåsen cabin to the big lake Busjön there was a big stretch of hilly blueberry woods. It still made for a lovely hike, and we had better luck with the weather at the time. But we didn't have very good luck when it came to the next cabin that is next to Busjön lake, which was small and oddly enough, had no floor. Rather than stay the night in this sub-par cabin, we decided to check out a peninsula just slightly off the trail close to the crap cabin (around .4km or so) to the northwest to set up our tents for the night. There was an old, abandoned farm there with a fair amount of flat ground to set up tents. We ditched the idea of having a campfire that night, in spite of the good weather, because this place was swarming with both mosquitoes and midges. So instead we checked in early that night to get a good night's rest and avoid the bugs. Unfortunately the lake didn't have an ideal place to have a swim as we hoped it would, but the water from the lake was clear and good for drinking and cooking. After the lake hiking north there are several kilometers of vast marsh and bog terrain to cross. It's not entirely unpleasant, with open views of the raw wilderness in all directions. And if you can get over being soaked, the walking is easy on your feet, with soft, soggy moss and grass for much of the trail here. But as I mentioned before, at times it's tricky business navigating through knee-deep muck and mud of the bog, and there is of course a fairly constant cloud of bugs around to annoy you. Going north there was also another crappy little wind shelter on a small hill in the middle of a bog, and there seemed to be even more bugs there than in the middle of the bog. But towards the end of the national park the trail follows a river for a few kilometers, which was a nice end to Drevfjällen--though even at the park's entrance there was a lack of planks and/or bridges, and plenty of muddy, post-hole hiking. Shortly after you exit the park however, there is a dirt road, and a few kilometers later this road takes you to the hamlet of Flötningen. From here it's only about 40km to the end of the Swedish E1 trails at Grövelsjön, but unfortunately we had to call it off early. Some people in our group were in pain from various minor injuries from all the challenging hiking that I've been describing, so nothing else to do but end it at a good exit point. To our surprise there were a few bus stops in this little hamlet, so after some smartphone research we found out that there was a bus early the next morning that could take us to Idre, where we could get on another bus to Mora, then a train home. At first we decided to put up our tents in the woods near the hamlet, but after talking to some locals at the small supermarket, we found out about some cabins for rent just across the border in Norway. So a short hike later in Norway we rented a few small cabins and enjoyed our last night out, and it was a pleasant bit of luxury for a crew of sore backpackers. But we have agreed to return and finish this last bit of E1, and then afterwards we'll have plenty of time to explore all the interesting trails that are in the Grövelsjön area. So check back next year for the third and final part of the Södra Kungsleden trails that make up the final northern section of the Swedish E1 trail. Until then, as always, feel free to ask questions or give feedback in the comments below or via my blog's Facebook site. View the full article
  12. Introduction For those of you that intend on actually hiking in this area, if you have not read my guide to The Ed Loop, I suggest you do that first, as these two sections of hiking are directly related and connected to each other. Plus, there is also more background information and context that I won't repeat here, so do check that out please. Together, The Ed Loop and The Dalsland Connection Route (DCR from now on) provide an alternative to hikers to connect two longer, well established trails: Bohusleden to the west, and Pilgrimsleden (Dalsland) to the east. Or these new routes can also work as section hikes unto themselves. One potential shorter thru-hike that I really like the idea of is to start in Åmål in the east and hiking all the way to Strömstand in the west, or the other way around. You can read my full trail guide to Bohusleden here. And you can also read a more recent partial trail guide to Pilgrimsleden here. Plus here is a set of maps I put together that include this entire route. This route is a part of a larger trail system (and alternative E1) that I came up with called The Troll Trail, and you can read more about that here. The DCR is around 50-60km (depending on how you choose to hike it), and runs from the town Ed in west, to the Dalsland Canal area to the east, centered around the villages of Håverud, Åsensbruk, and Upperud. These three canal villages are all right next to each other and offer a variety of interesting things for hikers and travelers alike. One option already mentioned is Pilgrimsleden, which runs right through this canal area. Another is that in the summer time, special boats and trains run up and down the Dalsland canal and beyond. Then of course there are more mundane but practical amenities for hikers/travelers, such as access to regular public transportation, restaurants, cafes, B&Bs, supermarkets, etc. From these canal villages, one can catch a bus or train to the larger town of Mellerud, where there are further connections. Or backpackers can simply continue hiking onto Pilgrimsleden, which is accessible at several points in this area. The trail passes right through Upperud, and there are a few roads and trails one can follow from Håverud that intersect with the trail only 2-3kms away. However if one is hiking on Pilgrimsleden and wants to jump off this trail to hike west on the DCR, there are generally two ways to go about this. One is to hike around the south end of the big, narrow lake Åklång, which is right next to Håverud and Åsenbruk. The other way--which is the path that I chose to take--is to either hike or take the local summer train a few more kilometers north to the hamlet and nature reserve of the same name, Buterud. I was lucky enough to catch the train--completely by chance, as I didn't know it existed until this trip!--to this charmingly little place that sits on both sides of the Dalsland canal. What is also key to this place is that there is a footbridge (see: below) that crosses over the canal, and this bridge is a mere 4km walk directly from Pilgrimsleden (leaving the trail close to lake Livarebosjön) or a 5km walk from Upperud. Note that it is generally safe and acceptable to hike on the train tracks in this area, and you will need to do this to one extent or another to get to the footbridge over the canal anyhow. I spoke to a very friendly local in Buterud who assured me this was okay, and that locals do it all the time. The train is not a modern, fast type train, but one of those smaller, old school type trains (see: below), and goes at a slower pace than regular trains. Plus, the local told me, the conductors are good at tooting their whistle at people on the tracks so they can move aside. Please note that this route, The DCR, is not a marked trail. There are no trail shelters, though there are plenty of nice spots in the woods to make camp, and lots of good water sources. This is a path that I came up with to connect with another route (that I also came up with) mentioned previously, The Ed Loop. As such, this path is not one I would recommend to inexperienced backpackers. You will need good maps of the areas, a compass, and good orientation skills to hike this route. And as my guide will soon point out in detail, there are several challenges in navigating this path, though nothing insurmountable for a backpacker with some solid experience under their belt. But if you're not up for it for whatever reason, and you're in Ed and just want to get to Pilgrimsleden, no worries--just take a bus to Mellerud. On the DCR you will be hiking through fairly isolated terrain on various lumber roads, backwoods dirt roads, unmarked trails, even faint animal trails and outright bushwhacking. To further complicate things (for the time being, at least), some of the roads and trails this route follows or passes by are not even marked on any map that I am aware of. And I studied several maps thoroughly and brought along two separate maps of roughly the same area, and both of which were the most current maps available. Keep in mind that hiking in isolated terrain also has its advantages. Peace and quiet, for one, and on this trip I was also able to see more wildlife in one trip than I have seen in recent memory. In total I saw 5 deer, 4 moose, 2 foxes, a wild boar, and a plethora of birds of all kinds. If only I was faster with my camera! But here's a moose and a deer (you have to look carefully): Finally, before we get to the trip report itself, I would add that I worked very hard in planning this route to limit the amount of time spent hiking on asphalt. There is a fair amount of walking on dirt and gravel roads, but most of them go deep into the forest and are more wild and woodsy. A large portion of these roads were overgrown with grass and moss, and felt more like hiking on a trail than a road. In total there is only a maximum of about 7-8km of asphalt from Upperud to Ed, though from Buterud to Ed following a slightly less direct route into the town of Ed (which is what I did, more on this soon), you can limit this down to 4-5km. The report that follows goes from east to west, starting just past the footbridge in Buterud and ending in Ed. Trip Report The train up to Buterud I highly recommend, if you can catch it. It runs twice a day only, but as stated before, only in the summer. But if you can't catch the train, this place is easy enough to find and is close to Pilgrimsleden. Past the bridge and the water lock there is a water tap, an outhouse, a trash can, and a picnic bench. There is a gravel road that goes north, past the canal, and to the big lake Råvarp. When you get to a small and old looking dam that flows into the big lake, follow the overgrown path down to a run down building that is the end point of a large pipe of water that I guess regulates the flow of water into the lake. Close to this building to the west is an old and even more overgrown trail that takes you to the large yard of a house on a small bay. Continuing west, a faint trail loops around the southern nub of the small bay of the lake. The trail was blocked by a fallen tree and overgrown brush, but I was able to slog around and find it again and head northwest. All this made for quite a pleasant hike, and it was an encouraging start to this first hike of the DCR. Soon on the western side of Råvarp the unmarked trail intersects with a gravel road with a handful of small farms and summer homes. After a few kilometers, there is a small lake called Ånäsetjärnet, where there is some nice if not faint woodland trails to explore on either side of gravel road. South off the road a trail follows a cliff close to the lake, while north off the road there is a small nature reserve. I decided to explore the trail near the lake to make camp for the night, and it was quite a lovely place to spend the night. The next day I continued with a short (1km) hike south on the paved road that intersects with the gravel road near the lake. There is a gravel road that heads west off this paved road, and again I was pleasantly surprised to find that the road eventually transforms into a woodland path for a bit (behind a small farm) before reverting back into a gravel road. The gravel road crosses between two lakes, Nedre Högsjön and Övre Högsjön. This place was scenic and peaceful, so I sat on the bridge in between the lakes, ate lunch, and watched fish swim around and under the bridge. The gravel road soon intersects with a dirt road at the northern end of Övre Högsjön, where I went turned left and continued to the west. On this dirt road there are a few streams that you pass by and you can take a water break. This road is pretty straight forward, and you can hike fast here while enjoying the thick forest all around you. I was also excited about taking a break at the end of this dirt road, where it connects to a highway near the huge lake Iväg, and close to this intersection is a rest area and swimming spot, complete with a boardwalk and floating diving boards. I highly recommend swimming here! I had a great swim and long break there at the southern end of Iväg, knowing I still had a fair bit to go before calling it a day. There are also toilets and trash cans at the rest stop, and I also noticed a bus stop nearby. You can catch a bus here that can get you to either Ed or Mellerud. Now here there are a few kilometers of asphalt that you'll have to put up with, but it's short, and actually the scenery is not bad. Plus soon enough you'll be deep in the woods again. Simply continue west, crossing highway 172, through some farmland, to the hamlet of Kroken, where the road ends at an intersection. At this intersection, I turned right heading north, and then soon after (<1km) turned left and headed west again. Now here is where things can get a bit tricky, on this old, unnamed lumber road. The road begins as gravel, but further along the road it becomes more grassy and overgrown. This is also one area that does not currently match the maps, as I discussed above. There were several trails and other, smaller lumber roads that intersected with this road that aren't on the maps, and to make matters more difficult, this road also turns and weaves through the woods quite a lot as well. There is also a lack of any major landmarks in this area, like lakes or houses or power lines, etc. It's pretty much just thick woods and a few patches of bog. I came to a fork in the road that I thought may perhaps be a shortcut to the next dirt road to the west that I wanted to continue my hike on, so I took a small gamble and decided to check it out. Unfortunately it ended in a big patch of clear-cut woodland, no trails or roads anywhere in sight . Not wanting to backtrack, and having a rough idea of where I was (closer to the highway than the lumber road), I decided to just hike south where I knew I'd eventually run into highway 166, and could (and did) get back on track again. So if you find yourself lost in this area, remember that you can always either bushwhack south to the highway, or backtrack the way you came and give this mysterious old lumber road another go. The rough endpoints of this road on the east and west sides respectively are: the entrance northwest of the Kroken hamlet, and the entrance northeast of the Bjällhögen farm. Close to the Bjällhögen farm to the southwest is a grassy dirt road that will then take you yet another gravel lumber road that goes north. It was getting late for me at this point, so shortly after I headed north here I camped out close to the southern end of lake Vartetjärnet. There is a stream flowing out of the lake around there that I filled up my water bottles with, or you could fill up directly at the lake, though be warned that this lake's edges are boggy in most places (hence why I filled up at the stream). Continue on the lumber road going northwest and you will eventually come to a farm called Fagerhult. Here there is a faint dirt road that runs west into the woods and then ends in a clearing. Some bushwhacking is required here, but it's short, and once you are past the clearing and in the woods again it's fairly easy and even quite scenic. On the other side of the clearing in the woods there are some animal trails and a patch of pine woods that is open and easy to navigate through. Just keep going west, and of course avoid the bogs to the north. To my surprise, there were once again more dirt roads in the woods shortly after passing the bogs that were not on my maps. I followed one west, which ended in a dead end soon after, so I went back and followed the one that went roughly north by northwest. This ghost road eventually turned west and intersected with the road I was aiming for on my map in the first place, which took me west to the Rinnen farm house. Moving on west by northwest on a gravel road, you're now quite close to the town of Ed. The gravel road passes over the major train tracks (don't hike on these tracks!), then to highway 166. You could just follow the highway straight into the center of town as the most direct route, but there is one last bit of good hiking to be had if you are up for another minor challenge, which is a bit more bushwhacking and crossing a river. On the other side of the highway is yet another road that you can follow northwest. Then turn southwest on a gravel road past a farm and then back into the woods, close to the river Örekilsälven. On the map there is supposedly a bridge over the river, but I didn't see it; but then again, I wasn't really looking for it, because I wanted to hike right down the middle of the river. I noticed that the river was low, and I enjoy a nice river hike, so I followed the river until I couldn't anymore, then crossed it and soon found a marked trail. This trail along with the river walk was a wonderful last leg of the DCR. The trail soon meets up with a road, which you can follow west and then north on yet another road, and then it's a straight shot to Ed. Along the way, if you want to take another swim, you can do so at several spots at lake Lilla Le. When I got into the center of town I of course ate my obligatory falafel and drank a beer to celebrate, then went to the tourist center to see if they had any useful information on the trails and backwoods roads in the area I just hiked. Sure enough, a local working there knew the woods in the area well and has hiked them many times, and he confirmed that the maps indeed don't match the reality of the network of trails, paths, and roads in the woods. And he agreed that it's a beautiful area worth hiking. Hopefully others will be able to discover the DCR and enjoy this beauty too. That wraps up another trail guide. As always, please feel free to ask questions or give feedback on this trail guide, either here in the comments below, or on my blog's Facebook page. I am especially interested in anyone that will hike this route and/or The Ed Loop! They are my creations, after all, so of course I want to continue to promote and improve them. View the full article
  13. Introduction There are several different trails in Scandinavia called "Pilgrimsleden" (The Pilgrim's Trail), so this one is not to be confused with other trails fo the same name! I've hiked on at least two other trails in Sweden called the same, but this guide is for the one that runs through the Dalsland area. The trail goes roughly from the city of Vänersborg in the south to the border of Varmland county to the north. Also worth noting is that past the border to the north, the trail continues and eventually goes into the Glaskogen nature reserve further north, where there are even more hiking trails throughout the park. Pilgrimsleden Dalsland is about 110km in total, but for the purposes of wilderness backpacking I strongly suggest a modified route. My modified route incorporates a long side-trail that begins in the town of Åmål called Storspåret, and skips a long section from the village of Upperud to Vänersborg on the southern part of the trail. The reason behind skipping this section is simple: it's mostly asphalt walking. And hiking on paved roads for a long time, if you ask me and many others interested in wilderness backpacking, sucks. But there are also good logistical considerations to my modified route. Rather than starting or ending this trail in the middle of nowhere at the northern endpoint of the trail, one can begin or end in Åmål, which has a train station, buses, supermarkets, restaurants, etc. And in Upperud the trail literally passes by a bus stop (see: below) where you can catch a bus to the town of Mellerud, where there is a train station. So my way of hiking this trail goes from Upperud in the south to Åmål in the northeast, and covers roughly 75km of trail--55km of Pilgrimsleden Dalsland and 20km of the Storspåret side trail. It's a wonderful section hike that my friends and I really enjoyed. Here is some more information on Pilgrimsleden Dalsland from its official website. Here is the official page for Storspåret (in Swedish), that also includes a PDF map of the trail that is not bad. And finally here is a website with some PDF maps of Pilgrimsleden Dalsland. I discovered these maps after emailing and asking for more information on the trail, and was given this link. The Trip Report I have to admit that I had low expectations of this trail before setting off, and was pleasantly surprised by this little gem of a trail. There are several nice views, lots of lakes and streams, plenty of time deep in the woods, and even some relatively newly built and really nice teepee style trail shelters along with some other more traditional lean-to shelters as well. The reason why I was not expecting much was due to a lack of information on the trail. I found a few pictures after some cursory searching, and had to dig around for some maps and info that I linked above. But not much else. It's one of the more obscure trails in Västra Götaland county, and locals (including local hikers/outdoors people) never mentioned the trail to me. I only found out about it after doing some deep dive searching for trails of the area after running out of new trails to explore. Sometimes life has some nice surprises! I hope to hike this trail again in the future following my route again, and am also very curious to continue north into more trails that lay ahead in the Glaskogen area. Naturally there were some things that could be improved on the trail, which I will point out soon--but overall we had few complaints on our three day hike. We began by taking the train to Åmål, which is perhaps most famous for the 1998 movie Fucking Åmål. I also recommend the movie, by the way! Walking through town going northwest, the trailhead for Storspåret can be found in a park. One easy way to find the park is to cross a bridge over the E45 highway that leads right to the park. In town if you need supplies, food, or booze, there are places to buy these things along the way. Storspåret starts off as a gravel path and intersects with other local hiking/running trails. Shortly after things get more woodsy, and you pass some lakes and eventually the first cozy, wooden, teepee trail shelter. Not too long after this shelter through more pleasant forest hiking is yet another campground near a lake. This second camp spot has both a lean-to and a teepee, and we all agreed it would have been a nice spot to stay the night. But it was early yet, so we continued. We also hoped that the shelters to come would be as nice as the ones we had passed, and to our delight we would soon find one that was even nicer. More on that later. Plenty more woods, but also some hiking on dirt roads, but at least the roads were dirt, gravel, and grass. You pass a few farms, so be aware of farm dogs. Storspåret is only 20km, so if you start the trail early enough, it's relatively easy to finish the entire trail in a day. The trail ends to the west at a ski resort with a ski lift, so you can't miss connecting with Pilgrimsleden Dalsland. Traveling west doing a final bit of road walking, the trail passes over a narrow strait that connects two lakes (Bräcketjärnet and Knarrbysjön). Shortly after the lakes is the big hill where the ski slope is clearly visible. You can choose to hike around the hill to the north following the trail, or you can choose to hike straight up the ski slope, which is the most direct route to Pilgrimsleden Dalsland going southbound. The views on the hill are great, and on top of the hill just beyond a ski lodge is one of the nicest trail shelters and campsites I've ever stayed at. This campsite has almost everything: great views, a breeze to keep bugs away, another nice teepee shelter with two big windows and a firepit inside, a fire ring outside, a small lean-to near the fire ring, and there are even outhouses behind the ski lodge. The only thing missing was a water source, but you can just fill up at the lakes below on your way (which is what we did). Heading south down the big hill, there is more pleasant trail to hike that passes by another not bad campsite with a lean-to on the shores of a lake. Continuing past this lake there were signs of beaver activity, and sure enough the trail passes right over a beaver dam. Then for a while there is a mix of woods and lumber roads, but the lumber roads are not bad, being grassy or dirt and easy on the feet. Then there is yet another lean-to that we found even nicer than the last, again on the shore of a lake--this lake (Tansjön) is much bigger and better for swimming, which is what we did to cool off after a lunch break. After leaving the big lake, there is soon a longer stretch of hiking on a gravel road. You pass a few farms, and there is even an unmarked lean-to trail shelter close to a farm. This bit was perhaps the low point of the trail, but don't worry, as there will be some really great forest treks and nice views to come later on. Crossing a small highway in the tiny hamlet of Ragnerud you may be tempted to take a shortcut around the eastern side of the lake Hålevattnet. At least, we were, because on our maps there was an unmarked trail that shows a path around to the east that connects to the marked trail again. This also would skip a big swamp on the south side of this lake, which we were not too keen to go through, especially with with bug season on the rise. Well we don't recommend you take this shortcut. We did and regretted it. We found the unmarked trail at first, but it stopped at a dead end and we were forced to bushwhack through thick woods to get to and then around the lake. It took us over an hour to hike a mere two kilometers! So just stick to the marked trail here. Soon after is the hamlet of Högelund, which had some good and some kinda confusing things about it. The good news is that there was a lookout tower with some great views over the area. There was also a newly built teepee style trail shelter that we found after much searching--but why didn't they built the shelter next to the lookout tower to enjoy the view and make it easy to find? Which brings us to the confusing parts of this place. There are trail markers that went in three different directions, and they are not clearly marked as to where they went. Which ones were side trails and which one was the main trail? If you are looking for the main trail, it's the one that passes the lookout tower and the field the town is in that runs roughly east-west. However we have reason to believe this is actually an older marked part of the trail, and that they are changing the route of the trail, because later on we found fresh trail markers that lead back to the village as we hiked past the big lake Djup. It seems like the trail in and around Höglund is still a work in progress. There is also no water source that we were able to find in the hamlet, and I even spoke to a local who was kind enough to fill up my water bottles for me. He told me he hasn't found the water source either, and is doesn't know why they put up signs that there is one. My only guess is that the water source the signs are perhaps referring to is a tiny creek that runs through the hamlet and next to the trail shelter. Problem is, while we were there, it had not rained recently and it was a bit dry, so the creek was stagnant and barely trickling. So careful not to walk in circles in Högelund, forget about the water (there is plenty of water later on), but enjoy the nice views and hiking to the south. Soon after you pass the big lake Djup, there is another big lake called Flat. On the southeast side of the lake there is a pretty nice campsite that we stayed the night at. It has a lean-to shelter, a fire ring, and easy access to the lake. Careful not to miss the side trail that goes to this campsite, as it could be marked better. Past this lake there is only around 10km left of trail until the Upperud endpoint, and it's actually an excellent bit of trail with a lot of variety packed into such a short stretch. There's dark troll pine woods, open, rocky plateaus, spacious mixed woods (oak, ash, fir), more nice views, and a few more small lakes. There was even another nice teepee trail shelter campsite along the way next to Livarebosjön. We all really enjoyed this last walk before we caught the bus to go back home, and were satisfied with our choice to skip over the asphalt stomping that remains of the trail going south from Upperud. The Upperud area is also quite pleasant, with a water lock and docks for boats/canoes along with a small park with some benches. Afterword As I said before, I expected little but was rewarded with a surprising great little section hike that I think is worth doing again. I hope this guide helps with the lack of information online in regards to this trail, and also hope my alternate route serves others well. I liked this route so much that I am trying to come up with a way to connect it with other trails for a longer thru-hike trail. I can say this for now, that in theory it's possible after taking the bus from Upperud to Mellerud to take another bus to the town of Ed to the west. Ed is actually not so far away (about 42km). And there are also buses from Ed to Åmål as well. I recently created a way to connect Bohusleden to Ed via The Ed Loop, click the link to check it out. So if there are any ambitious hikers out there looking for an off the beaten-path thru-hike, you could hike Bohusleden, then hike The Ed Loop, then catch a bus from Ed to either Åmål or Mellerud and hike Pilgrimsleden Dalsland. Just an idea! *Update 05/07/2017: I came up with another hiking route that connects The Ed Loop to this trail, which I call The Dalsland Connection Route. Check it out! This means that you can hike all the way from Bohusleden, to Ed, to the Dalsland Canal area, to Pilgrimsleden, and beyond! * That wraps up another of my trail guides. As always, feel free to ask questions or give feedback, and happy trails to you. **Update October 2017: Here is a trail guide to the trails in and around the Edsleskog area (I call it the Edsleskog Loop), which Pilgrimsleden goes through. View the full article
  14. Introduction *Update 07/05/2017: A member of the UL forum on Reddit was nice enough to create a TLDR summary of all the gear. So if you want to get right to the full gear list, scroll all the way down to the bottom of this post. Thanks to u/cwcoleman! The most popular post on my blog right now (and for a while now) covers the cost of a good yet affordable set of UL backpacking gear for a beginner. That was roughly three years ago, and I while I still think it's a pretty solid gear list, of course I have given plenty of thought on how to improve or expand on this conceptual gear list. So here's another crack at it, but this time with a few changes to the given context going into this project, and naturally some changes in gear selection as well. This new gear list is aimed more at either a traditional (i.e. "heavy") backpacker with some experience that wants to transition into a solid UL kit right away, or someone new to UL backpacking that has already tried things out with cheap/borrowed/DIY gear but now wants an upgraded and improved set of UL gear. Some of the gear mentioned you may already have, or maybe even something just as good or better. In which case, the transition to UL will be even cheaper and easier. If you are entirely new to backpacking and the outdoors in general, then this gear list is probably not for you. I suggest you start with some entry level cheap/DIY gear before you move on to a bigger transition like this, which is more of an investment of both money and future free time to actually get out there and use the gear. Remember, not everyone likes or becomes passionate about wilderness backpacking, and it can be a fairly demanding activity. You can read more in depth advice for new backpackers here. Yet another way to look at this gear list is with a hypothetical: if my house were to burn down tomorrow and most of my gear with it, the new gear list I would buy to rebuild my gear closet would be more or less the same as the one this post describes. And for anyone that is new to my blog and my experience, well stick around here long enough and you'll see that I'm pretty crazy about the outdoors--and especially UL, long distance, wilderness backpacking. That's why I've been backpacking for over two decades now, got into UL around 7 years ago, and still pretty much everyday I daydream about getting back out to the woods. Another change to this gear list is that I am also going to allow for a larger budget, with a max of 1000 USD to get some top-of-the-line pieces of gear. So if you are a ramen eating, frugal student that is pinching pennies to get by, then this is also probably not the gear list for you. There are already plenty of cheap and not bad solutions out there for you, some of which I already covered before, which will cost you between 500-650 USD. My advice to anyone that is of lower income but has a passion for the outdoors is to simply be patient and save up, so that in the future you can just get good gear as soon as you can. I suffered through using heavy, ineffective, bulky, and generally pretty crappy gear for years in my youth--and there is simply no need for this! I wish I would have discovered UL backpacking sooner and avoided all that 2nd hand army surplus gear. Speaking of being frugal, you can also have the cost of this gear list go way down if you buy used or on sale. And in the meantime while you save up, you can still get out and have a good time with passible and even decent budget gear. 1000 bucks may sound like a lot all at once, especially if you are of meager means, but if you can save up 100 bucks a month, in less than a year you'll have it saved up. Don't forget that everyone has friends and family and holidays where gifts are involved (e.g. birthdays, Christmas, Eid al-Fitr, etc.), so make sure the people that love you know about your UL wishlist! Finally to anyone that may still claim that UL backpacking is "expensive," I (still) challenge you to compare this gear list to other hobbies and how much they cost to see if that claim actually holds much water. Sure, there are some hobbies that are more affordable--say bird watching, for instance, where all you really need is a decent pair of binoculars and a field guide on birds. But as I have mentioned before in videos and forums, when compared to other outdoor hobbies like hunting, traditional backpacking, kayaking, scuba diving, etc., it's really not that bad, and is even in the realm of affordable. Plus when you get a solid gear list completed, it is intended to be used after all, so get out there and run it into the ground. You may be surprised how good quality UL gear (with common sense care and maintenance, of course) can last you. There are plenty of pieces of gear that I still use that I've had for years, some that have seen nearly a decade of regular use (for a section hiker). I mean, you can look at plenty of thru-hikers out there that often reuse a significant amount or even the majority of their gear on multiple long thru-hikes. A solid set of gear is built for longevity and durability, or at least it should be. Those UL triple crowners simply wouldn't have been able to do what they did/do if UL gear didn't work and/or wasn't durable. Assumed Conditions/Givens Obviously I can't create a gear list for every season, location, and situation. But my goal here is to put together a gear list that can be used on longer section hikes, or even certain thru hikes, under the right conditions. These "right conditions" being temperatures that match a somewhat wide range of the typical high season of wilderness backpacking in temperate environments. Or in other words, from generally late spring, summer, and early fall in a lot of places all over the world. For example: May in many parts of the USA (e.g. Pennsylvania, Oregon, Maine, Minnesota, etc.), June in much of Scandinavia, December in a good deal of New Zealand, January in a fairly large portion of Patagonia, etc. And obviously this is for leisurely backpacking as well, not mountain climbing/expeditions or extreme conditions, it should almost go without saying. In short: think possible lows of around freezing (30F/-1C) during a cold snap, but generally temperatures that are roughly 40F/4C to 50F/10C as a low at night and early in the morning. Prices and weights I will round up for conservative estimates of both, and in some cases I will also point out some alternatives and will note some pros, cons, and differences in price and weight. Prices are also based on the USA, which is currently the best place to get UL gear in the world as far as I am aware, and are the current prices on either the relevant UL cottage company website, or Amazon. So of course things like shipping and customs will be factors that rise the price if you live outside the USA, but lucky for you Americans, I'm pretty sure everything on this gear list has free shipping. Don't loose all hope, non-USA residents! There are some solutions to these price factors, but requires some extra planning and resourcefulness. For example, do you have a vacation or business trip to the USA coming up? That's the time to stock up on gear while you are there. Or perhaps you have a friend or family member that is coming to visit you? You could order gear to them if they are nice enough to help you out and bring it over to you. Make sure to buy them a beer or two and/or cook them a nice meal for their efforts, naturally. The Big Three (sleep system, shelter, backpack) 1.a. MYOG (make your own gear) hoodless, synthetic sleeping bag or quilt. I am avoiding the down feather option here to keep costs and labor lower, and synthetic insulation has the added benefit of being lower maintenance than down as a plus--though at the cost of added weight. My first true UL sleeping bag was synthetic, and I loved it and got great use out of it for several years. If you stick with UL backpacking for a while, you can save up later to get into the world of down feather bags/quilts. I find having both synthetic and down bags/quilts to be great additions to my kits as a perpetual section hiker, so I can really fine tune my sleep systems to the specific trip and season. A good synthetic bag/quilt is also great to use as an overbag on top of a down bag in the winter, so that way you don't have to buy an expensive winter bag that you can only really use for a few months of the year. You'll not only be warmer using this double bag system, but the down sleeping bag will also be drier and require less maintenance (i.e. airing/drying out), as the synthetic bag will wick your body vapor and/or any dampness out of the down bag. But how do you make this MYOG bag or quilt? Either you sew it yourself if you already have a sewing machine, or you know someone that does and can help you. In the case of you knowing someone, like say a friendly family member or friend, trade labor for labor. For example, they make you the quilt, you shovel snow in their driveway or mow their lawn or do their laundry for say a month. Included in the cost of the sleeping bag or quilt I am also including the price of a large pizza, because this person is doing you a solid, so why not hook them up with a nice pizza on top of the labor exchange. Go to Ripstop by the Roll (or your outdoor DIY store of choice) and order materials. It's about 80 USD for five yards of .66oz Membrane 10d nylon, two yards of 5oz Climashield Apex insulation, and whatever hardware you prefer (cord locks, zipper, snaps, buckles, etc.). You can then make (or get made) your custom built bag or quilt. Weight will depend on the size of the bag/quilt and how many accessories it has, but for say an average sized man and slightly taller woman around 70 inches/180cm, it should be around 20-23oz or 550-650g. There are plenty of instructions and patterns that you can Google, or just come up with on your own. The insulation does not need to be baffled, so this project is a glorified sandwich of nylon-insulation-nylon that is pretty straight forward. I recommend having a draw string around the neck of the bag or quilt to snuggle up and keep in heat when you sleep. This bag or quilt would be rated roughly to 30F/-1C, but remember that everyone sleeps at different temperatures. If you sleep cold, I'd suggest you also invest in a silk or synthetic bag liner or SOL Escape Lite bivy to use with your sleep system. They are fairly inexpensive and lightweight too. And don't forget a warm hat and tops with hoods. So let's call it an even 100 USD for the bag or quilt (remember, buy the person that helped you a pizza), and let's go with the higher end weight of 23oz/650g. 1.b. Neoair Xlite or Thermarest Zlite Sol sleeping mats I am choosing size regular for both, but weight can be saved by trimming or sizing down. The Xlite and Zlite are two of the most common choice of sleeping mats for us gram geeks, and with good reasons. They are simply two of the very best sleeping pads money can buy. They are both light, durable, and depending on your preference, comfortable for sleeping on the ground. Both have their own pros and cons, and for me each has their place depending on what kind of trip I am going on. I will say this: the Xlite gets more use. The Xlite is more expensive, and if it is damaged will only provide a fraction of its warmth and comfort as a deflated mat. You also have to blow it up and then deflate and pack it every day, which let's face it, is kind of annoying. Yet it is warmer than the Zlite, and many other lightweight inflatable pads for that matter. And if you have trouble sleeping on foam pads, then an air pad is the clear option. But if you are fine sleeping on foam, prefer not bothering with the added chore of inflating/deflating, and value the peace of mind of not having to worry about a punctured mat, then the Zlite is for you. So let's compare the brass tacks of each pad: Current cost on Amazon: 160 USD (Xlite) vs 45 USD (Zlite) Weight: 12-13oz/340g-370g vs 11-12oz/310-340g R Value: 3.2 vs 2.6 From my experiences, most people get a better night's sleep on an air mat than a foam mat, so for this gear list I will use the Xlite. 1.c. Generic Inflatable Travel Pillow Searching around on Amazon, there are various reasonably priced and lightweight air pillows. From my experience, it's worth the small amount of weight for a better night's sleep. Cheap and easy fix at between 15-20 USD and around 2-3oz/60-85g. There are lighter options that will cost a bit more, or you can just stuff some clothing in a stuff sack. 2. The Classic, Modular, UL Shelter System: Tarp and Net Tent or Bivy A flat tarp combined with either a net tent or a bivy is one of the best, most versatile, flexible, efficient, effective, and with some practice, easy to set up shelters, period. Find two trees with some flat ground between them, or one tree and one stick/trekking pole, or two sticks/trekking poles, and you have a way to pitch your tarp. A person experienced with pitching tarps can easily have one tightly pitched in under 10 minutes, no sweat, working at a normal pace. Maybe even under 5 minutes if such a person hasn't had dinner yet! Here is a video of me showing off my flat tarp and net tent if you are interested. Let's start with the tarp, and I always recommend going with a flat tarp rather than a shaped tarp (i.e. mid or cat cut) for the most flexibility to pitch many different ways, though you will most likely only want/need to pitch it two or three ways. The A-frame, half pyramid, and lean-to are my go-to pitches. Also good as a front door to a trail shelter to keep out wind/rain/snow, or just for privacy. This time around I will not be including a poncho/tarp, which are for the more experienced/hardcore minimalists out there. Though if you are the type, I highly recommend and use the MLD silnylon poncho/tarp. There are debates as to what the best size for solo use is, with the more hardcore minimalists generally opting for 5x9 ft rectangles, but there are 10x10 ft options and beyond for very spacious protection from the elements. I have a 6x9 ft flat tarp that I find is pretty much just right for my needs, spacious even. But let's find a happy medium that will make the most people happy as far size, weight, and cost all go. Yama Mountain Gear has a great reputation in the UL community, and they have a 7x9 ft flat tarp with great looking specs at a reasonable price, 125 USD including seam sealing, guy lines, line locks, and stuff sack. They are also using a new and very waterproof fabric, which is the newer generations of silpoly (silicone impregnated polyester, similar to silnylon). This tarp clocks in at 13-14oz/370-400g. Throw in some good quality tent stakes and some ridge lines and two mini-carabineers, of course, which you should already have--if not these are very cheap and easy fixes. Next up for shelter are the two things that go under the tarp. The first thing is easy, which is the ground cover, so let's get that out of the way: buy a SOL emergency blanket, cut it in half, and now you've got two fairly durable and waterproof ground covers for about 5 USD. They can also double to be used for signaling or warmth in the rare event of an emergency, and the peace of mind this provides is also nice to have. If you are claustrophobic, or just prefer to have more space in an enclosed shelter, Yama also sells solo net tents for 145 USD--no seam sealing, as I don't see the need to have a net tent seam sealed--that clocks in at 11-12oz/310-340g. Or you can go with a bivy, which has certain benefits. Easy to set up, for one, especially if the skies are clear and you're just going to cowboy camp, or for sleeping in trail shelters. UL bivies also are generally slightly lighter than UL net tents. My favorite bivy is the one I designed myself that is made by Borah Gear. It's a custom bivy called the Dimma bivy (you can read more about it here), but there are a few complications in ordering it at the moment. They are currently not taking new orders so they can catch up on their orders, as they are a small cottage company. The Dimma is also not (yet) listed on their website, so you need to email them and ask for it by name. Not sure what the cost will be once new orders are taken again by Borah Gear, so I'll hold off on that for now and update this info later on. My Dimma weighs 8.3oz/235g with stuff sack and guy lines. 3. MLD Dyneema X Prophet, 48 Liter, Frameless Backpack Simply put, MLD is one of the best producers of UL gear and have one of the best reputations out there with us gram geeks. I have an older MLD Exodus pack that I really like, though it's usually too big for my needs--but great for family backpacking trips. And MLD have since further improved on their already pretty sweet packs. Extremely durable material, and for a frameless pack, MLD's shoulder straps are very comfy. The options on this pack are also great, in that it has things you need and not too many bells and whistles you don't that will just weight it down. Side pockets for me are a must, as is a top strap, and the side straps are also very useful to have. As a frameless pack, to give it structure and padding, you just fold up your sleeping mat and use it as back support. Cost is 195 USD, and it clocks in at 16oz/455g. Another good alternative for a pack that has pros of saving some money, but cons of being slightly heavier and also has less volume, check out the Gossamer Gear Kumo. It costs 165 USD and comes in at 19.6oz/555g, and has a total of 36 liters of volume. It's not the pack I'd want to take on a thru-hike, personally. But would be great for section hikes, weekend trips, and the like. I have an older Zpacks Zero that was my go-to pack for section hikes and overnight trips for years that is only around 33 liters, and it worked out great for me. That being said though, when I upgraded to a newer Zero, I opted for a slightly larger volume (as well as a few more extra features) of around 41 liters for longer section hikes. Big Three Summary: MYOG sleeping bag/quilt, 100 USD and 23oz/650g Neoair Xlite size regular, 160 USD and 13oz/370g Generic inflatable pillow, 20 USD and 3oz/85g Yama 7x9 silpoly tarp, 125 USD and 14oz/400g Yama solo silpoly net tent, 145 USD and 12/340g Tent stakes x10, 0 USD and 4oz/115g Ridge lines and x2 mini-carabineers, 0 USD and 2oz/55g SOL emergency blanket ground cover (trimmed), 5 USD and 1.5oz/45g MLD Prophet, 195 USD and 16oz/455g Total cost and weight of the big three: 750 USD, 5.5lbs/2515g Now on to the rest of the gear. What I won't cover is any clothing worn or packed (other than rain gear), because not only do you probably already have some good clothing around to use, but preferences and sizes can be all over the place. I will also assume that you have a smartphone, which can serve as your camera, GPS, internet, etc., and will not include that or its accessories in cost or weight either. Rain Gear MLD rain chaps, 45 USD and 2oz/55g IKEA rain poncho, 9 USD and 7oz/200g This can also be used as a pack cover and front door/vestibule for your tarp. Not quite as good as using a poncho/tarp, but will get the job done, and can't beat the price. This poncho has received some good reviews from UL backpackers somewhat recently. You can also get a Frogg Toggs poncho on Amazon for around the same price, or a few bucks more. The Frogg Toggs poncho weighs a bit more at 9oz/255g, though I will mention that this brand has a good reputation in the UL community, especially the rain jacket. I prefer a poncho (rain gear, pack cover, and front door of your shelter is hard to beat!), but if you prefer to go with a pack cover or liner and a rain jacket, then Frogg Toggs is a good, light, and very affordable choice. But for this gear list, because it's slightly cheaper and lighter, I will include the IKEA poncho. Water and Cooking Sawyer Squeeze water filter (regular) plus 1 liter bladder, 26 USD and 4oz/115g Recycled plastic water bottles, 750ml x2, 0 USD and 3oz/85g Esbit Ultralight folding stove, 15 USD and .5oz/15g I find Esbit fuel easy to use, store, and it's also pretty light. I prefer the 4g small cubes to have more control over how much to use. Can be harder to find this fuel at times/places, but with proper planning this is a non-issue. Fuel can also be used as emergency fire starter, of just if you are lazy/tired and want to get a fire going quick. If you prefer using alcohol fuel, you can also make your own alcohol stove for free using tin cans and such, just Google it and you'll find lots of options. No cook is also common in the UL world, which will save you more money and weight, but will require more planning and research--and you don't get to have warm meals or beverages. No cook UL hikers usually just have a spoon and a waterproof, recycled plastic jar (e.g. big peanut butter jar) to rehydrate meals and eat out of. Bic lighter, 1 USD and 20g Toaks titanium long spoon, 12 USD and .7oz/20g Toaks titanium 700ml pot, 40 USD and 3.2oz/90g Heavy duty aluminum foil DIY wind screen, 0 USD .5oz/15g Sea to Summit 8 liter dry bag (for food), 20 USD and 1.2oz/35g Health and Safety Generic but good quality compass, 15 USD and 1oz/30g Mora knife and plastic sheath (basic stainless steel model) 10 USD and 3.7oz/105g Black Diamond Gizmo Headlamp, 20 USD and 2.1oz/60g Biodegradable soap of your choice (repackaged) 5 USD and .7oz/20g Small can or bottle of bug repellent, 5 USD and 2.6oz/75g Bug head net, 10 USD and 1.4oz/40g Small bottle of sunscreen, 3 USD and 2.1oz/60g First aid kit (Ziplock bag with a handful of band-aids, ibuprofen, anti-bacterial ointment, etc.), 5 USD and 3.5oz/100g Toothbrush and mini toothpaste tube, 3 USD and 1oz/30g Additional gear total: 244 USD and 1170g Odds and Ends Last is some stuff that is most likely laying around your house that is good to have in your kit. This stuff is pretty much free or you've already got it. There was some stuff above that also falls in the category, but as I said before, I wanted to have a conservative estimate as far as cost goes. Water resistant stuff sack for your sleeping bag or quilt, .7oz/20g Recycled plastic bottle, cut in half to pour water into filter bladder, doubles as a mug, .4oz/10g 1 liter Ziplock bag for diddy bag, waterproof electronics, etc., .4oz/10g Bandana or small towel, 1oz/30g Toilet paper, 1oz/30g 10m paracord or thin nylon rope, 1.8oz/50g Book of matches, .4oz/10g Duct tap wrapped around a pen, 1oz/30g The Grand Total: 994 USD and 8.5lbs/3875g Now to be clear, I would not call this a full BPW (base pack weight), but it certainly covers almost all essentials, and even includes some fancy gear and luxuries. And as I noted earlier, there are some options (like the Zlite and/or a bivy and/or a poncho/tarp) that can lower both cost and weight. From here what will further complicate things are the tricky things I left out, which is clothing and phone/electronics accessories. You will need some packed clothing, such as spare socks, a sleep hat, and a warm layer for sitting around camp/sleeping/cold snaps. And as far as electronics go, you're probably going to want to have an external battery charger (e.g. an Anker) and some cords and such. Then there are packing accessories such as hip belt and shoulder pockets and the like, but not only can you DIY/MYOG solutions for that, they only add a tiny bit of weight (1-3oz/30-85g). Personally, for the past few years now I have been happily using a plain old DIY, nylon satchel where I keep things like maps, snacks, my phone, etc. Super cheap and easy fix, and can be made out of all sorts of good scraps of fabric you might have laying around, like Tyvek or nylon. But once again, you probably already own some or all of these things, so what we're left with is weight. It is still entirely possible to get under the traditional UL benchmark of 10lbs/4.5kg, but honestly for me there is little difference from that weight and 11-12lbs/5-5.5kg. I use 11lbs/5kg as my own "max out" BPW for trips in the conditions outlined above, and for the past few years rarely hit the trail over 9lbs/4kg BPW. It may not seem like much of a difference to someone unfamiliar with UL, but when comparing a 5-7lb/2.3-3.2kg UL BPW vs a 9-11lb/4-5kg BPW, there is a huge amount of differences when it comes to comfort and luxuries. And while there are times I have gone and would still go to those lower UL/SUL weights, most of the time I find that a small amount of added comfort and luxuries are totally worth it, especially on longer trips. Yet that being said, I also think it is a worthwhile endeavor to try out a spartan, SUL trip to see what it's like. You'll likely learn a lot and really fine tune your gear and technique. But first nail down a solid, dialed in UL kit that works great for you, and I hope this gear list can help you accomplish that goal and/or give you perspective on some good possiblities, options, and combinations available. That about wraps things up. I hope all this is helpful! Please feel free to ask questions or give feedback, and I'll pose some questions to the readers of my own. Did I miss a key piece of gear? Do all the numbers add up correctly? What other options do you think should be considered for a good starter UL gear list? Peace! TLDR: The Big Three MYOG sleeping bag/quilt, $100 and 23oz Neoair Xlite size regular, $160 and 13oz Generic inflatable pillow, $20 and 3oz Yama 7x9 silpoly tarp, $125 and 14oz Yama solo silpoly net tent, $145 and 12oz Tent stakes x10, $0 and 4oz Ridge lines and x2 mini-carabineers, $0 and 2oz SOL emergency blanket ground cover (trimmed), $5 and 1.5oz MLD Prophet, $195 and 16oz Big three total: $750 and 88.71oz Core Gear MLD rain chaps, $45 and 2oz IKEA rain poncho, $9 and 7oz Sawyer Squeeze water filter plus 1 liter bladder, $26 and 4oz Recycled plastic water bottles, 750ml x2, $0 and 3oz Esbit Ultralight folding stove, $15 and .5oz Bic lighter, $1 and .7oz Toaks titanium long spoon, $12 and .7oz Toaks titanium 700ml pot, $40 and 3.2oz Heavy duty aluminum foil DIY wind screen, $0 and .5oz Sea to Summit 8 liter dry bag (for food), $20 and 1.2oz Generic but good quality compass, $15 and 1oz Mora knife and plastic sheath, $10 and 3.7oz Black Diamond Gizmo Headlamp, $20 and 2.1oz Biodegradable soap, $5 and .7oz Small can or bottle of bug repellent, $5 and 2.6oz Bug head net, $10 and 1.4oz Small bottle of sunscreen, $3 and 2.1oz First aid kit, $5 and 3.5oz Toothbrush and mini toothpaste tube, $3 and 1oz Core gear total: $244 and 41.27oz Odds and Ends Water resistant stuff sack for your sleeping bag or quilt, .7oz Recycled plastic bottle, cut in half to pour water into filter bladder, doubles as a mug, .4oz 1 liter Ziplock bag for diddy bag, waterproof electronics, etc., .4oz Bandana or small towel, 1oz Toilet paper, 1oz 10m paracord or thin nylon rope, 1.8oz Book of matches, .4oz Duct tap wrapped around a pen, 1oz Odds and ends total: ~$6 and 6.7oz The Grand Total: ~$1000 USD and 8.5lbs/137oz/3875g *Minor update: About half a day after posting this, I went back and fixed up some typos and also added a few more details and points. Also forgot to mention that I am still not sponsored by anyone. View the full article
  15. Introduction I must admit that I am pretty excited writing this guide. For one, well the trip that it is based on went great--better than my expectations even. But also because what I am attempting to do here is effectively create an entirely new hiking loop that can be done on its own or in addition to another long hiking trail. So because of this context, this will have to be longer guide and report with lots of background information. You've been warned: big wall-o-text to follow. Otherwise just scroll down for more of the pretty pictures. Let's begin. Dals-Ed is a municipality in south-west Sweden that boarders Norway, and has a vast amount of forests, several national parks and hiking trails, and lots of potential for great wilderness backpacking trips. One feature of this area that I personally find quite appealing and somewhat unique is its rift terrain, which has many long, tall hills/cliffs in narrow ranges throughout the landscape. Along with this interesting elevation also come many rift valleys that form plenty of lakes and tarns (often long and narrow), as well as winding rivers and streams. I've been hiking and exploring the western parts of Dals-Ed for nearly a decade now, doing a variety of trips from off-trail bushwhacking, to following marked trails into the area--such as Bohusleden, which goes very close to the boarder of Dals-Ed at several points--to a mix of both. And I've really grown fond of this area, which is of course why I have returned so often. It's full of natural beauty, is low in population, and is hence more wild and unspoiled. Plus there always seemed like there was more to discover about this area, and this proved true on my most recent trip there. For a long time I had wanted to go and explore the Tresticklans national park in this area, but it was logistically a bit of a challenge, as it is pretty isolated. It is also not a very large park, so I also hesitated going all the way out there only to run out of trail to hike on the first day. Then finally I sat down and worked out a plan after hours of pouring over various maps to connect this park to Bohusleden to the south, and explore more of Dals-Ed along the way. I call it The Ed Loop, and will explain in detail how it works shortly. Here is the official Tresticklans website in English, and here is a pretty good PDF map of the park. My inaugural trip on this loop was wonderful, and I was also happily surprised by discovering some new trails and even a whole new national park called Heråmaden. These trails and the park are not even on my detailed terrain map of the area, which is pretty recent, from 2014--and to my knowledge the most recent terrain map of the area currently available. A bit of Googling reveals that this park was founded in 2014, so looks like the map just missed it. Below is the info sign and a close up picture of the map of the park on the sign. Heråmaden park is directly south of Tresticklans park, separated only by a gravel road, and the marked trail running through Tresticklans ends in the south at this road and a small parking lot. Then after a short (1km) hike on the road, one can then continue into Heråmaden on another trail that continues south. This trail is very new, and when I found it, the trail markings weren't even finished yet. But there was a faint trail on the ground, paper markers left on tree branches, and brand new wooden bridges and walkways built on the trail. There's even a cozy cabin in the middle of the park that the trail leads to. South of Heråmaden there are several possibilities for hikers. There are a few small highways, where one can hike on, hitchhike, and there are also some isolated bus stops--though buses only run rarely, if at all. Yet there are also some unmarked trails and even off-trail hiking that one can do, and an alternative I found and hiked opens up several great additions/options to the well established and well known Bohusleden. The Bohusleden Connection, and What is The Ed Loop? For anyone that is doing a thru-hike or longer section hike of Bohusleden, the path into western Dals-Ed offers a variety of great additions to your adventure. For one, it's more off the beaten path, if you are craving more isolation and raw wilderness. It can also conveniently connect a hiker to the small town of Ed, which is roughly 10-12km to the east of the Heråmaden national park. So one could just hike to Ed following the highway, hitchhike, take a rare bus, or hike there following backwoods roads combined with a bit of off-trail trekking (more on this later). Or around 4km from Tresticklans national park there is a small highway that one can catch a bus or taxi into town that are a bit more regular, and again hitchhiking is an option. See Västtrafik for more information, and do note that you may need to book a spot on bus or taxi van at least an hour in advance to get up to the national park. You can do this by calling Västtrafik directly. Ed is a good place to resupply and enjoy a few backpacking luxuries. There are a few centrally located supermarkets, alcoholic beverage store (Systembolaget), a few restaurants, a café, and even an outdoor sporting goods store. There is also a bus and train station that can further connect you to many other places, such as the big city of Göteborg to the south. For a hiker on Bohusleden going either north or south, they could do a loop to Ed and back to Bohusleden trail again, or of course choose to end their trip at Ed, or perhaps take a bus or train to another trail if they have the time. So because Ed is a goal or central part of this area, that's why I decided to simply refer to it as The Ed Loop. *Update 01/06/2017: I recently hiked a trail that is not too far away from Ed, Pilgrimsleden Dalsland, and wrote a trail guide for it that you can check out here. Should you arrive in Ed and want more adventure, hop on a bus to either town of Åmål or Mellerud, and you have another lovely 75km route to hike. * **Update 05/07/2017: I just finished up a hike connecting this trail with another route that I came up with, which I call The Dalsland Connection Route. So click that link to check out what is effectively part 2 of connecting Bohusleden with Pilgrimsleden! This connection will also be part of a larger alternative E1 trail system of Sweden that I am working on, so stay tuned for more updates on that in the future! ** This loop of course could also be its own stand alone trip, ignoring the Bohusleden connection. Doing this would make it about 32-38km hike, assuming that you begin hiking from Ed west to Heråmaden, then north through the park to Tresticklans, then through that park and to the bus stop close to the park, and finally taking a bus/taxi/hitching back to Ed. Or of course reverse this loop and get up to Tresticklans first and then hike back to Ed. If you want to include this loop as part of your Bohusleden hike, then it is only a few more steps to get you to this loop. The most direct way to do this would be to figure out a way to get to Ed from Bohusleden on your own, be it via bus, train, taxi, or hitch hiking. Or you can hike from the closest point on the trail to the Ed Loop, which is the trailhead at the end/start of stages 22 and 23 at Nornäs. Here is a link to a less than ideal map of this part of the trail. Below is a picture of exactly the intersection where you can make this connection. *Update 26/10/2017: I recently put together a map that highlights part of this route, and in full it shows you how to hike across Dalsland from Bohusleden to Pilgrimsleden. You can check out this map here, and this section is part of an alternate E1 hiking trail I came up with called The Troll Trail. You can find out more about The Troll Trail here. You can also check out this full map of The Ed Loop that I also put together, which highlights how you would hike it on its own or as a side trail. Keep in mind that in the north after exiting Tresticklands, you would continue to hike east on a dirt road to the small highway where you could hitch a ride, book a shuttle, or catch a rare bus back to the town of Ed. Take the eastern fork in the road at N. Kornsjön lake, which then goes east into Dals-Ed municipality. It intersects with the small highway 166, which you can cross right away and follow a trail that follows the highway east. The trail then ends at the highway after about 1km, but you only have to hike a few hundred meters to a dirt road that goes north. This dirt road turns into a trail before intersecting with another dirt road, which you then take and hike east again. Hiking east for about 2km on this road, you will soon see the lake Skottesjön and the road will end--but another trail will begin that goes around the lake to the north. This short (<1km) trail takes you to a dirt road that you can then follow right to the Heråmaden park. (Note: This all may sound complicated, but finding and hiking this route was actually quite intuitive and easy for me--though keep in mind I am an experienced backpacker and always have a good map and compass with me. Please download the map I put together to visualize part of this route, which is linked above.) There is a gravel road that goes north along the edge of Heråmaden park that you can follow for about 5km to a marked trail into the park. Or you could also choose to turn east off this gravel road and away from the park and hike towards Ed, say to resupply and then catch a ride up to Tresticklans park. Going this way is about 10km to Ed. The gravel road going east ends in the woods, but you can continue to hike east off-trail to the lake St. Klavetjärn, where I recommend you hike around to the north. Shortly after this lake to the east there is a dirt road that you can follow right into Ed. Again, this may sound a bit tricky, but I've hiked this route before on a separate trip, and it went well. And actually there is a good spot for swimming on the small peninsula on the east side of lake St. Klavetjärn. Below is picture of this lake from that other trip. And that's The Ed Loop and its connection to Bohusleden! I really enjoyed hiking this loop, and will now move on to my trip report, so you can see how my experience played out for me. How I hiked this loop was to begin in Ed, got a ride (via Västtrafik taxi) up to Tresticklans park, hiked south to Bohusleden, and then finished off my trip re-hiking stage 23 of that trail. I will be writing a separate report on that stage in the future to update my Bohusleden guide. But now on with the show! Trip Report The trail that goes into the park from the east starts at the end of a gravel road near the hamlet of Rävmarken, north of Ed. There is a small parking lot, an outhouse, and a picnic bench--your typical Swedish rest stop type area. Entering the park it was clear right away that it was well maintained, with good trail markings and well made wooden bridges and walkways. I was given different information by locals in Ed about buses to the park, with one local saying there were daily buses, but online it clearly says you have to call and book a ride to the park (which is what I did). The Norwegian boarder is only about 4km away from the trailhead, and right across the board there is apparently a cabin for hikers to stay the night. Also in Norway there are other trails that continue on into the woods there, but I chose to turn south at an intersection in the trail just after crossing over the gorgeous, narrow strait of big lake Tresticklan. Heading south you climb up a ridge and follow it for a while with nice views over the rift valleys. It's a fascinating landscape. For instance it's not everyday you see two lakes next to each other--only separated by around 100m or so--divided by thin stretches of land. You then pass a stunning little peninsula between two hills that provides a complete "moment of zen" package that I highly recommend for a meditative break. The elevation provides a natural wind break on three sides, making it very quiet, save for the sound of a babbling stream that feeds into the lake. If I had more time, I would have loved to have spent more time there. On my map, there is a symbol for a lookout tower, but talking to locals, I was informed that there was no longer a tower there. It makes the climb up the elevation a bit anti-climactic, as the views are obscured by trees--but the hike itself is quite nice. The forest opens up as the elevation plateaus, and you pass several more lakes, tarns, and marshes heading south on this next rift walk. As I said before, the park is not that big, so if you're an experienced long distance hiker, you'll likely find yourself at the southern end of Tresticklan park. Right after exiting the park is an info sign (see: above) for the next park to hike through! Now the northern half of Heråmaden park's hiking trail is currently only marked with strips of paper that are used by loggers to mark a section of woods, and they are white and blue. You must be careful and be on the lookout for these faint markers, because the trail is thin and at times pretty much non-existent. But there are signs of maintenance along the way that encouraged me to persist. Keep in mind that this trail and nature reserve were a complete surprise to me! My original plan was to find an off-trail way to bushwhack and follow roads all the way to Bohusleden. But I was thankful for this great little trail, and it turned out to be quite a lovely hike. The pictures don't do it justice, as there was low light due to it getting to be late. The views on the cliffs overlooking the river that the trail follows were enchanting. Watching the river flow through the marsh set against the rocky cliffs and towering pines sure were something, and I am glad the powers that be created this fine little national park. Coming down from yet another ridge plateau, you see the Bastedalen cabin. It is marked as an overnight shelter for hikers on the information sign, and is overall a nice little cabin. The good news was that there were three beds, a table, about 30-40m from the front door is a nice little spring with clear water, and outhouse, plenty of supplies and firewood laying around, and one of the single best wood stoves I have ever used--this wood stove and its pipes looked almost brand new. The bad news is that it is in need of a good cleaning, as there were signs of a mouse infestation all over. Two of the beds had holes in them from the mice nesting, and there were mouse droppings here and there all around the cabin. But it was late and dark out, plus I was tired and saw through the windows that it began to snow outside, so I slept on the one bed that was not messed up by the mice. Before bed I got a nice fire going and enjoyed a great night's sleep. In the morning I was woken up by some day hikers, which I was happy to see, which means that I was not the only one using this trail. I talked to them briefly and they mentioned that from the cabin to the south east side of the park the trail was well marked and maintained, and I would soon see this for myself. The remainder of the trail has a lot of well made wooden walkways that go over huge patches of marshland, and you exit the park onto the gravel road mentioned earlier that runs north-south. You pass the other gravel road that goes east which can take you back to Ed, or you can continue on until the road turns west and follows a train track, which is what I did to get to Bohusleden. I didn't take any pictures of the gravel road and train tracks, as they are a pretty straight forward landmark. So once the road comes to the railroad crossing that intersects with another road, cross the tracks and then immediately take the dirt road going west. This road ends close to lake Skottesjön, and there is a trail that connects to another road going west. Going west the road will come to a farm (marked Rinnane on my map), and here is where you can turn onto a trail headed south. From there you'll soon see the 166 highway, and you can choose to follow the highway or find the trail on the north side of the road. Soon there are power lines, and right after those is a gravel road off the highway that goes directly the big lake N. Kornsjön and intersects with Bohusleden. So there you go, options for a more dynamic and hopefully better hiking experience if you are in the area. I hope this is helpful and that you are able to enjoy this new loop of my own creation as much as I did. Happy trails, and do please feel free to ask questions or give feedback (especially if you hike this loop!) in the comments below or on my blog's Facebook page. View the full article
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