What Coast2Coast Sweden is - and what it is not

IMPORTANT: Coast2Coast Sweden will not run in 2019. We'll see about 2020 :-)

Coast2Coast Sweden 2018 is a social hike across Sweden, from the eastern coast of the Baltic in Sölvesborg to the western coast in Båstad. The distance is slightly over 230 kilometers. Coast2Coast Sweden has been a yearly event since 2013, when the first multinational group of people walked from Kalmar Castle to the Varberg Fortress. In 2018 we will take a different, more southerly, route.

This is Coast2Coast Sweden

Coast2Coast Sweden is perfect if you:
  • Want to train for really long hikes. Maybe for The Camino de Santiago or the Pacific Crest Trail.
  • Want to learn more about lightweight and ultralight backpacking, as described in Jörgen's books about Smarter Backpacking
  • Want to develop gear strategies for long hikes
  • Want to experience and practice hiking 35-40 kilometers per day
  • Want to develop their food system for long hikes
  • Want to test doing a long hike in good, safe and experienced company
  • Want to test doing a long hike on your own and still enjoy the company of others in the evenings
  • Want to walk through a lush, green countryside studded with red cottages
  • Want to walk a trail without steep hills and deep valleys
  • Want to challenge yourself mentally and physically
  • Want to walk through a beautiful part of Sweden, the area of Astrid Lindgrens classical books
  • Want to have a holiday experience you will never forget
  • Want to have a lot of laughs

Coast2Coast Sweden goes through forest on small roads and foot paths.

Walking fast or walking slow

If you want to walk fast, take few breaks and push yourself there will almost certainly be others that feel the same. Strong feet, light shoes and a light pack are essential in this group.

If you want to take your time there will be group that arrives later in camp than others. And last in that group you will usually find Jörgen. If you keep his pace you walk for about 50 minutes and rest for about 10 minutes every hour. Eating snacks, drinking water and letting your feet see the sun is what you do during breaks. You stop and cook a meal for lunch and arrive in camp in the evening. "We get there when we get there" is the mantra.

Along the trail Jörgen will do some workhops where he will share the knowledge about lightweight backpacking that he has poured into his books about Smarter Backpacking (to be found on Amazon) and, in Swedish, Vandra Fjäderlätt.

You can also alternate between the two groups or walk in between them sometimes. And sometimes not. It is up to you. There is a lot of freedom and we do not hike in a single line. Everybody is responsible for themselves and even if there will be three guides along, they will not carry your pack :-)

In other places we walk through a countyside with houses, farms and meadows in bloom

Coast2Coast Sweden is probably not for you...

  • If you are not used to hiking hiking 20 kilometers per day with a pack
  • If you have a backpack that weighs more than 10 kilos before you add food and water
  • If you have never slept outside in a tent or a tarp 
  • If you do not have a sleeping bag rated at 0-5 degrees Celsius
  • If you are not prepared to sleep outside in a tent or a tarp most of the nights
  • If you are not ready to carry and cook all the food you need in order to stay in good spirits
  • If you want a packaged tour with tour leaders that cater to your every whim
  • If you want spectacular mountain scenery with steep hills and deep valleys
  • If you do not like a lot of laughs
We do not want to scare you off...

You had better believe that Coast2Coast Sweden will be an unforgettable experience. How many of those do you have in your life? Here are some hightlights from previous events.

Morning under the tarp

"Kanelbulle" is a significant part of Coast2Coast Sweden

This hike is hard on feet and boots

Some hikers buy trail runners at the first chance and send their boots home.

The first Coasttocoasties, class of '13, on the beach in Varberg.
You will find a lot more information about preparations and what can happen on the trail in this website. Feel free to browse.

Gear - basic conditions for C2C

Updated in April 2016
There are some basic conditions for Coast2Coast Sweden 2016 that will affect which gear and what techniques will be used. Some of the hikers will need no more to assemble their own, light and functional gear list. Others will want very specific advice.

In a number of articles here on our webpage I give you my views on suitable gear. My view is that we should all use the lightest possible gear that does the job.If this does not suit you, feel free to keep your own council. But you should be aware that the prevailing notion among a majority of hikers is that you need more and heavier gear than is actually the case. All hikers that have completed C2C since 2013 has used light or ultra light gear and none of them has worn boots, they all used different kinds of low cut trail runners, jogging or walking shoes.

I have peronally lowered the weight of my long-distance mountain hiking gear for summer backpacking from 18 kilos base-weight to 6- 6,5 kilos baseweight in the last 10 years. This I have managed not because I am smarter and tougher than most, but because I have weighed every single thing that I bring on my hikes and then contemplated either leaving it at home or choosing some lighter alternative. What you cannot measure you cannot manage.

In order to help you I will frequently use the word base-weight, which is the weight of the gear that you always have in your pack. Not included in base weight is food and fuel as well as the clothes you wear, your watch, glasses and what not.

Also, I will try to avoid claiming that what I think and what gear I use are based on eternal truths. In fact I will try to live up to what my friend Andrew Skurka (www.andrewskurka.com), the well known ultimate hiker and National Geographic "Adventurer of the year",  was kind enough to put in his endorsement for my book Smarter Backpacking:

"Some authors have a guru approach that's too specific to their personal hiking style, while others fail in offering practical advice because they're too generic and theoretical.  Smarter Backpacking achieves a happy-medium: Jorgen Johansson shares his personal preferences and opinions, but he knows that backpacking is not a "one size fits all-activity" so he is sure to qualify his views and to recognize the views of others."

OK, let's get going. The basic conditions that we have to take into consideration when choosing our gear are:
  • Season
  • Latitude
  • Altitude
  • Terrain
  • Temperature
  • Precipitation
  • Wind
  • Physical condition
  • Supply chain
 Season: It is May. Spring should be at it's most glorious. Latitude: Southern Sweden. Mostly maritime climate influenced by the Gulf Stream.

Altitude: From sea to sea, climbing to maybe 200-250 meters above sea level during a week or two. This means that there will be basically no strenous climbs of any size nor lenght. Oxygen deprivation should be non-existent :-)

Terrain: We will walk on small, well-drained gravel roads, logging roads and foot paths. There will be a bit of hardtop in and out of towns or larger villages.

Temperatures: Fairly variable for the latitude. Could be around 20 C, walking in sunshine or 5C walking in rain. Night temperatures could be below zero, but more likely around 5-10C.

Precipitation: It could rain every day. Not very likely though. Not very likely that there will be no days without rain either. Rain will normally be light and prolonged, not tropical down-pours.

Wind: Strong winds are unlikely, particularly at that time of year. We will almost all the time walk in the protection of the forest and camp in forest. Tarps for shelter will work well.

Physical condition: Up to everyone to determine their own. This of course decides how far and fast you can walk in a day and how long the entire hike will take. But your body will have to be conditioned to walk some 12 hours every day for a fortnight, something most people have never done. So the lighter the pack, the lighter the steps will be. Of course you have to condition yourself. If you are not into sports my recommendation is to take long walks. Like one hour every day or every other day for a month before May 5. Going on these walks with a 5-10 kilo pack will be even better. If you have never used walking poles you should consider this. I certainly will both train with and use mine.

Supply chain: Individual and to be determined. We will pass close to places where food and fuel can be bought almost every, or every second day. The same goes for lodgings. However, while food can be bought all day and brough along, lodgings are only useful in the latter part of the day. I will not rely on sleeping inside at all, but take these opportunities if they show when I need them and feel like it. Details on this is described in the trail guide that is included in your admission cost.

As far as food goes I will personally count on resupplying almost every day, in stores we pass. This year I will not send a box with resupplies ahead, like I did 2013 when I was uncertain of how frequently I would pass a decent supermarket. Some things, like instant coffee and perhaps morning muesli, I will likely bring for the whole route..

The sum for me personally of the above conditions is that I will use the same gear as I would for a summer hike in the Scandinavian mountains.  This means a sleeping bag that will handle 0 C and rain gear and other clothing to match this.

These are the basic considerations. I will update the articles and links to articles on sleeping gear, packs, stoves, shelters etc. Feel free to comment or ask questions about the above. You should also take the opportunity to read about the 343 (3 for 3) concept, a very useful  tool for getting a light pack.

The 3 for 3 method

Gear - Backpack for C2C

Updated April 2016
(The following is a slightly re-written version of the backpack chapter from my book Smarter Backpacking, in Swedish Lättare packning från A till Ö)

 If you have a light load you will do fine with a light backpack. This really contributes to a low base weight as the pack very often is the heaviest piece of gear you carry. The development of light packs means that you do not need a pack heavier than 1,800 grams (4 lbs) to carry 25 kilos (55 lbs). In my experience you also do not need packs with more capacity than 60 litres (3,600 cu inches) for hikes of 7-14 days if you choose your gear according to my advice.

Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus with packraft and 6 days of food in Padjelanta, Swedish Lapland. Note "barefoot" shoes.

The pack belongs to the three big items and is for many hikers the heaviest piece of gear we lug around. Here you can shave off pounds without losing either comfort or safety. Today, many packs on the market are exceedingly heavy and over-engineered with features that very few hikers need, but still are forced to carry every step of the way. This, however, is changing, although not as rapidly as one would think. Luckily, today lots of light and yet sturdy packs can be found in many stores. If you do not regularly go tenting in winter conditions, when the gear tends to get bulkier, you do not need to choose an extra roomy pack.

The pack I used for Coast2Coast Sweden 2013 was back again in 2015, but not on my back. I lent it to Lars-Birger, our oldest thru-hiker so far, 78 years old. Instead I used an 'over-kill' pack, an HMG Porter Pack 4400. It is way too big, but still fairly light at 1060 grams. What Lars-Birger used is an old edition of Golite Jam, holds around 50 litres (3,000 cu inches) which is enough for a one week hike, sleeping out and carrying all the food. The pack is also large enough for 3-4 days of winter camping and more than enough for any hike where you spend the nights in cabins.

You may think I offer this advice because I am an extreme ultra-lighter, but that is not the case. If you follow the moderate advice I give you will end up with a pack base weight of around 6 kilos (13 lbs) excluding food and fuel. This is sneered at by true ultra-lighters. Anyway, my advice is that you do not buy a pack bigger than 60 litres (3,600 cu inches), unless you have considerable amounts of extra gear such as cameras, fishing equipment or climbing gear. If you carry a light load and do your packing with a bit of care you can do without a frame, internal or external, on your pack.

Golite Jam 2/50 with 8 days of food on 500 km walk through Swedish mountains.

A frameless pack of 50-60 litres (3,000-3,500 cu inches) does not need to weigh more than 400-900 grams (1-2 lbs). Frameless packs in this league are usually intended to handle loads up to around 13-15 kilos (30-34 lbs) and these recommendations often have good margins. I have had no problems carrying heavier loads than recommended in several frameless packs. Usually, the extra pounds are food and fuel at the beginning of a hike and therefore up to a kilo (2 lbs) will disappear into your “front pack” (tummy) every day. However, today there are so many lightweight packs that have some sort of frame that I hesitate to recommend frameless ones. They also seem to be leaving the market.

If you choose a pack with some kind of frame or support, there is a considerable number of products that weigh between 0.5-1.8 kilos (1-4 lbs). In my opinion, you do not need to choose a heavier pack at all, unless you regularly plan to carry heavier burdens than 25 kilos (55 lbs) for many days. A bonus, if you choose a light pack like the ones described, is that they usually are much less expensive than the flag ship packs of the large manufacturers. Mostly you will save about 1 Euro/1USD for every 10 grams (1/3 oz) of pack. That is, a pack that weighs 1,000 grams (35 oz) usually costs around 200 Euros/USD less than a pack that weighs 3,000 grams (100 oz). This rule of thumb actually works for most gear, except high-quality down sleeping bags. The article in Swedish where Martin Nordesjö made the calculations can be found here.

Homemade, frameless pack on Rostå high plateau in Swedish Lapland

If you hike from cabin to cabin and if you can buy some of your food in these cabins, you will virtually never have to carry more than 5,000-6,000 grams (11-13 lbs). Then you can use extremely light packs. Some have a capacity of 30 liters (1,800 cu inches) and only weigh 100-150 grams (3-5 oz). However, the weight penalty is small if you want to choose a slightly sturdier pack. But, for cabin hikes I would not buy a pack that weighs more than 500 grams (1 lb 2oz).

Among the lightest packs used on C2C during the years, and the overall most common pack in 2013, was the Laufbursche Huckepack. It is probably a more or less ideal minimal pack for the circumstances, where you will not need to carry much food and can keep your total packweight below 10 kilos all the time. The Laufbursche packs of today have gained a bit in weight, though.

Huckepack. Wintry photo: Dennis Eipel

Packing a frameless pack well means that you should try to create a frame with the gear you put in the pack. And the same approach does not hurt if you have a light pack with a minimal frame. Things that are long and stiff go closer to your back, in order to keep the pack from collapsing like an accordion. Tent poles are good if you have them. I use my light camera tripod as a sort of frame, if the pack is heavy. Often, it is sufficient to “think elongated” and pack elongated items vertically inside, instead of horizontally. When everything has been packed, it is important to compress the back area well. This gives you a reasonably stiff contraption that makes weight transfer to the waist belt possible.

This weight transfer to your hips is essential. Do not mistake the packs I am describing here for ordinary day packs of the same size. These are usually not constructed for weight transfer, but are made to be carried with your shoulders only. The belt is there to keep it from flopping, not to transfer weight to your hips. Weight transfer to your hips is important for packs made for longer hikes. You can easily find packs that weigh three, four or five kilos (7-11 lbs) on the market. The heaviest seem to be 130 litre (8,000 cu inches) packs with military connotations, in which Special-Forces soldiers can carry their personal gear as well as ammunition, explosives and other equipment that brings the weight up to 40-50 kilos (90-110 lbs) or more.
Me with homemade, frameless pack and broken hiking pole in Beartooth Wilderness, Montana. Photo: Ryan Jordan.
But for hiking you can buy a pack that is considerably cheaper and use the money you save for tickets and food for another week or two of hiking. I can repeat forever that you can save a lot of weight by choosing a light pack. The backpack belongs to the three big ones and merits a lot of attention. Certainly, you also have to have light gear to put in it. If you are an experienced backpacker you will have no problems with a frameless pack weighing less than 1 kilo (2 lbs 2 oz). The same goes for the less experienced hiker, but if you feel a bit uncertain about what to choose, I recommend a pack with some kind of simple frame, weighing maybe 1,2-1,8 kilos (3-4 lbs). You need nothing sturdier if you are going to carry less than 25 kilos (55 pounds) of gear in it. Here is an article by expert backpacker Chris Townsend on how 1,8 kilo packs handle 25 kilos of load without. problems. I certainly hope no one plans to carry this for C2C.

Below you will find some examples of packs that I suggest you take a good look at. In fact, most of them are overkill for a hike like C2C or any lowland hiking where you carry little food and sleep inside. But they will serve for this as well and expand to take the load for more ambitious hikes. Also note that in many cases they come in different sizes depending on your own lenght. Some also have special designs for women.
The above packs have frames and are good choices for someone being hesitant about choosing a pack that seems to flimsy compared to the usual behemoths. Usually this is where many start going light and, realising that it works, move on to packs like the ones below.

Jonas used a Huckepack on both  Coast2Coast 2013-2014 and was very satisfied, but says that if you pack 11-12 kilos into it the load transfer system breaks down, particularly the shoulder straps digging into your shoulders. For 2015 he used a Zpacks Blast which worked fine.

For 2014 (and also 2015) I  used an HMG Porter pack 4400, which was a complete overkill since it is a 70 liter pack weighing slightly over 1000 grams. That was simply because it is a new pack that I wanted to break in before  took it to Brooks Range about a month after C2C. More of that story here. But for 2016 I am either back to my old Golite Jam2 or something else. Since I am writing and testing gear for Backpackinglight.com this year something new might pop up.

Register here for Coast2Coast Sweden 2018

Coast2Coast Sweden this year will take a different route from the east coast of Sweden to the west coast. We start from Sölvesborg on June 2 at 1300 hours and finish in Båstad on June 11 2018.  We will not walk from Kalmar to Varberg, but think the header to this homepage is too beautiful to be removed.

You register by sending an e-mail to info@coast2coastsweden. Note: If you are interested in doing half Coast2Coast, starting in Vittsjö and finishing in Båstad you contact maria@coast2coastsweden.com. More information about cost and what is included below. It is also importan to read this entry about what C2C Sweden is and what it is not.

-Hiking in June will mean warmer nights with less risk of frost than previous C2C hikes that were done in May. This version of C2C will be slightly shorter (230 kilometers) than previous years. Daily mileages will also be less demanding, but do not let this fool you. Hiking continuously for 20-30 kilometer every day, for more than 10 days straight, is a strenous activivity and not for the inexperienced and out-of-shape backpacker.

-The trail will (mostly) follow Skåneleden (Skane Trail) between Sölvesborg and Båstad. This is a well established trail since 40 years. We will take advantage of prepared campsites on most nights. This means there will be a fireplace and a wooden lean-to, with three walls and a roof. Other hikers on the trail will also use these campsites, so you must bring your own shelter/tent.

-You will receive maps, GPX-files and guides from us, all you need in order to navigate the trail. You must be prepared to manage this on your own. This is not a guided trip where all participants move as one group. You are free to team up with others in bigger or smaller groups or hike on your own as you wish in order to develop your long distance hiking skills. However theere will be three cicerones, Maria, Franziska and Jörgen from Coast2Coast Sweden, hiking with you and keeping an eye out, making sure that everyone reaches camp each night.

-You will receive information as well as advice on suitable places to resupply and how much food you need to carry between resupply options. Here on the C2C home page you will find lots of information about suitable gear if you look under the heading Gear, or make a search.

-On a number of nights there will be campfire talks about gear and techniques for long distance hiking and wilderness travel. Jörgen, who has written a number of books about lightweight backpacking in English and Swedish, will give a brief overview of the subject and then move into question-and-answers and a general discussion where all participants share their knowledge.

-Walking with any of our guides during the day will give plenty of opportunities to talk gear, hiking and the general health and happiness benefits that trekking brings. You will be able to draw from the diverse experiences of our guides, ranging from forest to mountain, from Mallorca to Alaska, from illness to well being.

-At the end of the trail in Båstad, we will stay the night in a villa by the sea, where showers, clean sheets and a Victory Dinner is included in the price. And so is breakfast and cleaning in the morning, no less attractive we presume.

-Taking part in the C2C 2018 will cost 3 500 SEK including VAT. As you register we will require a deposit of 500 SEK. Final payment should be made at the latest on May 2, 30 days before the event. Please look at the detailed conditions in English here or in Swedish here. When you have registered you will receive detailed information about the route and other things.

-NEW. You can also join the thruhikers in Vittsjö on Thursday June 7 and walk to Båstad, taking part in the Victory Dinner on Sunday and sleeping in bed until Monday June 11. Cost: 1900 SEK including VAT. See link to detailed conditions above. Contact: maria@coast2coastsweden.com.

-You register by sending an e-mail to info@coast2coastsweden.com or to maria@coast2coastsweden.com for the event Half Coast2Coast Sweden. Name, address, e-mail address and phone number (preferably mobile phone) must be submitted. When we have received this and the deposit you are registered. You will be able to pay using PayPal, Swish or bank transfer.  See detailed conditions linked to above. We will reply with details once we receive your request.

-Note that travel to and from the start in Sölvesborg and the finish in Båstad is not included. Food along the route is also not included, the exception being the Victory Dinner. If you decide to sleep indoors (which will not be practical/possible on most nights), you pay for this yourself.

-We will only take 20 hikers on this event and all is on a first come, first served basis. If you want to go, register as soon as you can. If we are fully booked we can put you on a waiting list in case there are cancellations.

-NEW. We want to give top priority to those who want to hike the entire distance. However, we will most likely be able to accomodate a limited number of hikers who want to join us for part of the trek. Exactly how many and for which parts of the route we cannot determine right now. Please send an e-mail to info@coast2coastsweden.com and let us now on what dates you would like to participate.

Your cicerones on C2C 2018

Jorgen Johansson has been captured by the mountains since his early teens and is drawn to solo hikes in the huge wilderness areas to be found in Alaska and Northern Canada. Jörgen has written a number of books about lightweight backpacking, in English you will find the "Smarter Backpacking" series. In Swedish a second edition of his classic Vandra Fjäderlätt was published in 2017. Jörgen is contributing editor at the US e-zine Backpackinglight.com and writes as "hiking expert" in Swedish Utemagasinet.

Franziska Kaufmann is a German living in Sweden and working as a teacher of French.2018 will be her third year on Coast2Coast Sweden, but she has also hiked in other parts of Sweden, including the mountains. European long distance trail are another favorite. She has crossed the French Alps on GR52a, hiked the Chemin the Stevenson and travelled The Camino with students, to name a few.
Maria Atterving rediscovered hiking on a rainy day in 2012. After a period of illness and chronic pain, hiking and a number of life style changes became a turning point for her.Since then Maria has spent numerous nights outdoors in the forests and mountains of Sweden, Norway and California.Today Maria is virtually free from symptoms and spends her spare time hiking; solo and in groups.
Welcome to Coast2Coast Sweden - an experience you will not forget!

Trail Angels of the year

First and foremost: Martin och Christina, our mobile super-Trail Angels. Best catering ever this year. The filé of pork with chanterelles at Grönö was great, but the Babaganosh at Hössjön was this years favorite, according to several hikers.

Thanks, Martin and Christina for your great food and hard work!

Per-Erik Johansson in Brändebomåla. This was C2Cs first camp last year, and this year as well. Per-Erik arranged so we had a good spot to camp, water and access to his outhouse. Big thanks!

Örsjö IF – here represented by Petter Wåhlin, chairman, and Johan Karlsson – for having us at the football field and opening up the club’s facilities. The guys says they will hike with C2C next year. Hope to see you!

At Grönösjön Runo Jonsson let us put up our tent just by the beautiful lake. Last year he joined us for dinner, this year he was away hiking himself. Thanks for the hospitality, Runo.

Emma Lindbladh opened up her paddock with minimal notice the fourth night. She even offered her saddle chamber to a couple of frozen hikers and asked the rest of us if we wanted to sleep in the barn. Emma and her husband ”Dulle” welcomes us back next year and we are very happy about that.

The municipality of Värnamo – here represented by the chairman of the municipality board, Hans-Göran Johansson – invited us to a three course dinner, snacks and soft drinks. What a welcome!

Elisabeth Petterson and the rest of Lars–Birger’s family met up at the windshield at  Eskilstorpasjön and made us a barbecue. Afterwards we got fika with homemade kanelbulle. We met Elisabeth during our first C2C, at the same windshield, and she gave us kanelbulle also that first time. It was actually here at Eskilstorpasjön the "kanelbulle-legend" that now permeates C2C was born.

Fact is that C2C-hiker Lars-Birger is a Trail Angel, too: he was part of the team that built the windshield.

Martin Sanell - always there when you need him. A sure stop in Nennesmo, with fika and hot dogs. Our most used resupply station.

Malevil Ljunggren & Michael Sanell (picture). This year they couldn’t participate in the building and use of the mobile sauna, but the supplied us with the goods. Big hugs and cheers, guys!

Two other important people in the sauna construction were C2C-veterans John Wislander and Christine Elisabeth who went ahead to Borlången and raised the tent, installed the stove and generally made everything ready.
The Fire Chief
Rolf Bernroth met us, very fikasugna and disappointed, in Burseryd. We had nowhere to get a decent coffee and were hanging out at a bus stop. He said: ”I’ll catch up with you on the trail.” Half an hour later he came drivning with fika. and a promise: ”Next year I’ll arrange fika in my garden.” Thanks, Rolf, you made us believe in Burseryd again!

Malin, Sofia and Lotta invited us for or annual coffee at Lantmännen’s in Grimeton. Always appreciated with that last stop before Varberg. Thanks, ladies.

Hans Lillhage - for welcoming us to Varberg with…kanelbulle. A welcome is worth so much, Hans. We had a great stay at the hostel in the fortress and hope to see you standing there waiting for us next year.

Also we'd like to extend our gratitude to the landowners at Hössjön and Borlången and several other people along the way who cheered for us, helped us and generally made our hiking easier.

Hope to see you all next year!

Food for foot thoughts

My feet are wonderful things that have taken me to some spectacular places without much grumbling . That, however, does not include the first year of Coast2Coast Sweden in 2013. Not having had a blister after a decade of equally long mountain hikes in both Scandinavia and North America, I did not give foot trouble a thought when I set out from Kalmar on May 5 2013.

Sarek september 2013
Boy, did I wake up to a different reality pretty fast. And I had a couple of painful weeks, the worst being some 5-7 days out of Kalmar. So, since then I did some reading and thinking about how to manage my feet better for 2014. How did this work out, then and what are my conclusions for C2C 2015?

Just remember that people are different and perhaps even more so, are their feet. Most of us have two and they are not as identical as one usually thinks. So what might work for one foot might not work for another and what might work for me might not work for you. We all have to manage our own feet as best as we can, and, to quote the US Marines: Improvise, Adapt and Overcome.

A very good book on the subject of feet was recommended by Joe Newton after Coast2Coast 2013. It is called Fixing your Feet by John Vonhof. It concerns itself mainly with feet doing ultra runs and the likes, the parts about hiking are a bit too much on the traditional side, considering that the author thinks hiking boots are a given, which I do not agree with, particularly not on really long hikes. But what he has to say about runners feet is very useful. However, his site is a goldmine, please dig in.

The book is very good on ideas on how to avoid trashing your feet and, when that has happened, how to fix them. So I have combined this with some traditional and general knowledge from the hiking community, my army days and whatever in order to cook up something that will save my feet from embarrassing themselves and me.

Facts: I will be walking some 400 kilometers roughly and more than 90 percent being gravel roads. The rest will be asphalt and some kilometers of forest paths and board walks across the moors in a few places. This means that literally every one of hundreds of thousands of footsteps I take will be almost identical and land on a hard surface. Something you seldom do encounter on mountain trails in Scandinavia, nor anyplace where you travel cross country, away from trails. So walking on soft surfaces as much as possible, like grass beside the roads or whatever, is certainly a good idea.

Last year on C2C I used the same footwear that I have used for the last ten years, and which have worked so well for me in Scandinavia and North America, both on trails and for bushwhacking. A pair of Salomon Tech Amphibian plus very thin nylon socks, 'ladies socks', of about 50 denier or so. A combination that works extremely well in damp surroundings, like you mostly find on the Scandinavian tundra.

My own diagnosis is as follows: My footwear ventilates very well and dries out fast. But they also let dust come in, because they are made of mesh. The socks are thin and do not embrace and contain dust particles very well. That is something I have to change.

The book Fixing your feet lays down the three factors that create blisters, usually in combination:
  • Moisture
  • Friction
  • Heat

These are the factors we all have to manage in order to stay blister free.

So shoes or socks that trap moisture are to be avoided. That means Goretex shoes are not ideal. I will use Goretex socks only when I need to stay warm. The ordinary socks I use should wick well, transporting moisture away from the skin as quickly as possible.

The shoes should keep dust and sand out as much as possible. Gaiters might help. The dust that enters anyway should be contained within some reasonably thick layers of socks, keeping the dust particles from rubbing on the skin.

Socks that contain sweat and dust should be changed and rinsed regularly, to lower the friction koefficient. Anything that lowers friction on the skin should be used, including taping and ointments.

Heat should be kept to a minimum by well ventilated shoes and socks, however the weather is of course difficult to influence.

So this is what I used in 2014:

From left to right: Superfeet Carbon, Haglofs LIM Lite Low, Superfeet Copper.

Shoes were a pair of Haglofs LIM Low light  that I hade used in my training for the last month or two before C2C. They worked well, very pliant but with minimal cushioning.

For inner soles I brought three different ones. The original ones plus two from Superfeet; the Carbon and the Copper. Carbons are minimalistic, very thin and light (95 g) while still giving support while Coppers have extra cushioning (160 g). The results were obvious, since the shoes had little cushioning I ended up using the Coppers for almost the entire hike. And I was happy about their thickness.

From left to right: Superfeet Carbon, Haglofs LIM Lite Low, Superfeet Copper.
The conclusion is that in 2015 I will use shoes that have a bit more cushioning than the Haglöfs LIM Low. Even then it is not unlikelythat I will use the Carbons. I will certainly bring them.

In 2014 I also used a chemical way of lowering friction on the skin of the feet and help them to stay dry. Sportslick is one of several ointments that does this for you, these kinds of salves are often used by adventure racers. I tested this during the first day or so, applied to one foot only, in order to see if there were any differences. I could not detect any, so I skipped using the Sportslick and will not bother with it for 2015.

The blisters I acquired last year on C2C were located in such a spot on both feet that it made both Ulla and Fia suggest that I had, at least slighly, fallen front/transverse arches. This seems likely and is pretty normal when you are over 50, my doctor tells me. So far I have none of the symptoms described in the article, but the severe blisters I got were located right under the transverse arch, behind the bigger toes.

What I used in 2015 to minimize friction was using Engo patches glued to my inner soles in exactly the spot where I got my blisters last year.

 Above you can see how the Engo patches look today. To me this is evidence that there has been a lot of friction and I prefer this friction between my feet and the insoles to be on the smooth, teflon-like surface of fresh Engo patches, and not on the less than smooth surface of the insoles themselves. So I will not only use Engo patches this year, but also bring along replacements for the hike.

Blister prone area, front arch, taped with 'butterfly'
'Butterfly' on top of foot
'Butterfly' covered with ordinary tape. Note: Longer than shown, from top of foot on one side to top of the other
I will also tape my feet in that area to prevent blisters from occuring. In 2014 I used Kinesiology tape on advice from Fixing your Feet, and taped the front arch area using a 'butterfly' shaped piece of tape running between my toes and up on top of the foot as well. Underneath the foot I covered the butterfly wing with a lenght of 50 mm Hansaplast connecting to the top of the foot on both sides.

The taping idea was great, the Kinesiology tape was not. It was wonderfully soft and elastic, but had no staying power at all when it got wet. I will not use it in 2015. I will use the traditional brown Hansaplast, elastic as well and it stays on.

Above you see what I more or less ended up with in 2015. What you cannot see is the Compeed closest to the skin (yes, I got small blisters on both feet right there, but they gave me minmal problems compared to the huge ones on 2013). Then there is a 'butterfly' of Hansaplast and some duck-tape on top of that. This duck-tape was put in to further minimize friction. I do not know how well it worked.

No matter, this is what I will start with in this particular place right out of Kalmar. I will not wait for blisters, I will Compeed myself, protect and keep the Compeed in place with Hansaplast and then perhaps add something 'slicker' on top of this. And Engo patches in my shoes.

Another ancient, or at least old, trick to minimize friction is to wear double socks. The idea being that chafing will be between sock layers instead of between sock and skin. I used three or four different varieties of this in 2014.
Three pair of Smartwool Ultralight weave in different designs. I will bring two.

The first combo was two pair of Smartwool merino socks, one shorter and one slightly longer, since it is the foot area that needs the double layers and not my ankles. I was using the thinnest weave they have, the ultra light. Thin socks dry out faster, can be switched around so that the inner pair becomes the outer pair etc.

Two pair of thin Coolmax and one pair of Sole double runners socks

The second combo was two pair of generic thin Coolmax socks, to see if they somehow worked better than the merino in certain conditions. Or if they did not. The third variety is a pair of synthetic runners socks from Sole that are already made of a double material, to see how that would work.

I will also, most likely bring a couple of pairs of my regular thin nylon ladies socks, after all they weigh only 18 grams each. Quite a collection of socks it will be at any rate, since I will also bring my warm pile socks, my waterproof Rocky Goretex socks and my merino or fleece night socks, socks that I ONLY use in my sleeping bag.

I also brought a pair of Dry Max Blister guard socks with Teflon interwoven to lessen the friction simply because they are comparatively thick.

The bottom line for 2015: I started out using the double merino socks (2+2 pairs) and usually switched them at midday for the other pairs. If it was convenient I rinsed the used pair, otherwise I did just let them dry out until the next day. I took care to shake as much dust out of them as I could.

Using the Coolmax socks the same way as well as the Sole double socks I found no differences really and ended up using the merinos all the time. I will do that this year as well. Merinos are more expensive than Coolmax socks that can be found in most sporting goods store, often at a discount. My guess is that it would not matter to me if I would use merinos or Coolmax.

Another piece of advice: Be fussy. On top of all these measures I will add extreme vigilance. Whenever I feel the slightest tendency to blistering, I will take measures to stop this. And I will start out from Kalmar extremely slowly and carefully, my goal for the first day of C2C this year as well is to be the very last person to arrive in camp at Brändebomåla that night. Do not try to beat me, I can be very competitive when it comes to things like being last!