As a teenager growing up in Australia I spent many nights in the outdoors whilst on weekend hikes. However, after living in Scandinavia for more than twenty-five years, I didn’t have any experience in winter hiking and camping in this part of the world. So I decided to introduce myself to it by joining a winter base camp with lots of winter-related workshops.
Where: Raslången, Sweden
When: Friday 22nd Jan 2016 15:00 pm – Sunday 24th Jan 2016
At this workshop, I was introduced to different winter tips and tricks:
- optimise your gear for winter use
- keeping warm during the night
- keeping warm during the day
- safety and first aid
- accommodation types
- sleeping optimisation
- start a fire in the winter
- delicious campfire food
- winter hiking
A trip forum was created on the outsite.org website and I soon found three other participants whom would travel with me in my station wagon, helping to share the costs associated with commuting to and from the workshop. We met at my house in a suburb south of Copenhagen departing for Sweden just after lunch on Friday.
It was mid-winter, dark and very cold. The temperature had not been over freezing for some days. All the lakes in the south of Sweden had been frozen for some time now. We arrived just as it was getting dark at the arranged site. I located a spot for my Tarptent Notch, which by the way was brand new and not used before. However the ground was frozen and when I tried to stake out the shelter I bent and ruined one of the brand new supplied 6″ Easton aluminium stakes. I went back to the car and retrieved one of the spare cheap aluminium stakes that I had packed just in case I needed them.
After the Notch was pitched we all met in the larger heated tent for a briefing with introductions and some information on the plans for the next day.
Our water source was from the frozen lake Raslången. A hole was cut through the ice with an axe. The next morning the hole was nearly frozen and so the axe was needed once again.
Sunrise on Saturday morning was beautiful. The photo below was taken at 08:10 am. The view below is the snowfall lying on the surface of the frozen lake.
On the Friday night the temperature plummeted to minus 13℃. I used a Therm-A-Rest Neoair XTherm and a Marmot Never Summer 900g 650 hydrophobic down sleeping bag. I supplemented the sleeping pad with an aluminium insulating thermal mat underneath the pad. This was actually a smart move because when I packed up on the Sunday I found a sharp stone under my shelter which didn’t damage the Notch floor but did pierce a hole in the cheap insulating mat. It was difficult to see what the ground was like on the Friday night as it was dark and the ground was covered in frozen snow.
Saturday went with participating in the workshops and trying to keep warm. The temperature did not come over freezing. Fires were built and food made. It was difficult to get my gas burner to work in these temperatures. I had a lot to learn about Scandinavian winter camping. The worst was the cold that came from the ground and seeped up into your feet. The only way to get warm was to go for a walk and get some blood circulating around in my feet.
Jumping up and down and doing some running exercises was the way to get warm and then jump into bed just after that, closing the sleeping bag tight to lock in all the heat created from my body during the exercising. I was warm enough in my Marmot Never Summer sleeping bag. I also wore my Western Mountaineering down flash pants and my puffy jacket. Even though I had my thick Smartwool socks on my feet didn’t seem to warm up the whole weekend. When going to bed on the Saturday night there were still freezing temperatures but in the early hours of Sunday morning the temperatures rose to just above freezing.
On the Sunday I attended the workshop on winter hiking and then before lunch we went for a short 5-6 km hike using a map and compass. The winter white landscape was gorgeous.
Sunday afternoon we packed camp down. Everyone joined in the dissembling of the main tent. When it was time to leave I couldn’t get my station wagon to get traction on the road going up the hill from the lake as it was now covered in thick melting snow. I asked my passengers to get out and push until we were on top of the hill and then we drove home.
This was an interesting weekend full of informative workshops. I was now nearly ready to tackle this Scandinavian outback alone.
Thanks for reading