Finally on the other side of the world

Our friend and fellow C2C-hiker Johanna Straub has now reached New Zeeland. 

After a few days of visiting friends and preparing the last details for her 4-5 month hike she's probably on her way up Cape Reinga when you read this. We had a brief chat last night. Here's a report:

What you've been up to since you arrived?

”I have some family here in NZ from my stay in 86/87 being an exchange student for a year, so we had a lot to catch up on.”

”There was some organizing to do as well, like getting a hut pass from the DOC, a prepaid phone card and just as much food as I want to carry.”

”Recovering from the journey has also been an issue, it took me a couple of days to feel like myself again.”

How will you get to the start and where is it?
”There are buses as far up north as Kaitaia. From there you can either hitchhike up to Cape Reinga or book on a tourist tour along Ninety Miles Beach and ditch the way back. I will try my luck when I get there in the afternoon.”

”Arriving there in the evening would be ideal, it is a special place, and spending a night there before taking on the three day beach walk would be a perfect start. Anyway, I will take it as it comes, I am ready to go - or tramp, as they say here.”

How will you navigate? Maps, GPS?

”Te Araroa trust has a great website where you can download information which is updated on a regular base  - including trail notes and maps. I printed out the maps, sixty pages, color, double sides, and use those plus the phone as GPS.”

The 3000 km Te Araroa-trail will take Johanna from Cape Reinga in the North to Bluff in the South. The trail consists of many existing trails that have been knitted together to one long Mother of Trails.

The national trail officially opened December 3rd 2011 and is now a major challenge for people who want to try a 4-5 month walk.

Johanna's taking on New Zealand

What an adventure! Our friend Johanna Straub is now leaving Berlin to hike the full length of New Zealand. 

Johanna outside her Trailstar on C2C, May 2013
The 3000 km Te Araroa-trail will take her from Cape Reinga in the North to Bluff in the South. Te Araroa consists of many existing trails that have been knitted together to one long Mother of Trails.

The national trail officially opened December 3rd 2011 and is now a major challenge for people who want to try a 4-5 month walk through everything that this world can offer (except snakes, thankfully;-)

I mailed some questions to Johanna days before she was leaving:

Are you finished with your packing?

”Still working on that, some minor decisions are yet to be made. I am also going to have a bounce box, so that gives me the chance to experiment a bit and swap gear when it does not work and get rid of stuff I don't in changing conditions.”

”I expect the total weight will be around 6,5 kg without food and water.”

What has been the hardest part in the planning?

”The hard part is not planning the trail and getting the gear, that is fun and already part of the trip. The hard part is preparing for leaving, ten thousand things to be thought of, organized in advance, delegated, solved. Not one big thing, many little things, that's what makes it hard, because it never ends. All the things which matter here and now and won't matter there and then. Can't wait to go.”

What's left to do before you leave? 

”I am still weighing. And my Oookstar made by Sean who has not let me down for the third time now is still in the mail. I hope UPS won't let me down either. In case they do I am going to take a Jörgenstar which I have been told also wants to travel to the south badly.”



Here's Johanna's pack list:

Laufbursche huckePack
MLD Trailstar Nest
Enlightened Equipment Prodigy 20 Quilt
Neoair XLite women (the flowerprint is hardly visible, fortunately)
Iphone
Solarmonkey Adventurer
Steripen 
Bushbuddy and Gnat stove
Evernew 900  
Zpacks Rainponcho
Zpacks Rainskirt
Paper and a pen
And an imaginary Mammuth to keep me company (this does not count on the scale)

Note: Jörgstar is Jörgen's home-sewn one person nest for Trailstar.

What is Coast2Coast Sweden - and what is it not

Coast2Coast Sweden is a walk across Sweden, from the eastern coast of the Baltic in Kalmar to the western coast in Varberg. The distance is slightly over 400 kilometers. Coast2Coast Sweden has been a yearly event in May since 2013, when the first multinational group of people walked from Kalmar Castle to the Varberg Fortress.

Coast2Coast Sweden was started by Jörgen Johansson (left) and Jonas Hållén, who have acted as organisers and guides since 2013.
The next Coast2Coast Sweden walking event will take place between Sunday May 14 and Saturday May 27 2017. Registration for taking part will be available on this website before the end of 2016.

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
Communications for getting to Kalmar and from Varberg are very good, with trains and buses and airports in the vicinity. And you do not have to walk the entire 400 kilometers for 14 days. You can join in some places and leave in some places along the trail.

Coast2Coast Sweden goes through forest on small roads in many places

The Jonas and Jörgen system at Coast2Coast Sweden 

If you want to walk fast, take few breaks and push yourself you join Jonas and his gang and arrive in camp in late afternoon. Strong feet, light shoes and a light pack are essential in this group.

If you want to take your time you join Jörgen and his group. Here 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.

Walking with Jörgen also means that you can share the knowledge about lightweight backpacking that he has poured into his books about Smarter Backpacking (to be found on Amazon).

You can also alternate between the 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 Jonas and Jörgen will help and guide you, 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 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

Here are some comments about Coast2Coast Sweden from participants:






Diploma

Did you hike the whole or parts of Coast2Coast Sweden this last May. Well, here's a little something for you! 

If you want something fancy on the wall to show for your effort you can order this piece of 225 gram recyclable, low impact diploma.

You will get your name written by hand AND our autographs.

Just send 25 kronor or 3 euro to Jorgen's Paypal account (jorgen@landja.se) and we'll mail it to you via snail mail.

This years highlights

Every trail has its stars. It doesn't necessarily have to be the ones that walk fastest or longest. It might just as well be the ones that win the food competitions, make the funniest pranks or just excel in being themselves. Here's out list of some people, animals, things and actions that made a deep impression on us this year.

The group: A great gang to get sore feet and blisters together with!

Greatest innovation: Ultralight mobile sauna by Malevil Ljunggren and the Sanell brothers.

Most talked about tent: Johanna Straub’s Trailstar tarp with innertent from Oookworks. Made of cuben/mesh with chikara floor.

Heaviest pack: Martin Johansson, 25 kg, including a carpet (2 kilos), not including the cheese.

Biggest misstep: Poul Kjeldgaard sank down to his thigh in the bog Store Mosse.

Lightweight breakthrough: Ulla Engberg skipped her 40 year old 2,7 kilo Fjällräven tent and bought a ordinary tarpaulin from Plastman i Västberga. Weight: 400 g. She also made a stove from a kidney bean can (and put a Trangia burner inside).

Most talked about food: Kanelbulle!

Yogier of the year 1: Martin Johansson, who first politely declined a ride with a female stranger, but later ended up at her home for dinner, shower and breakfast. 

Yogier of the year 2: Ann-Sofie Ölander and Marianne van Ginhoven got Frau Röser in Järnboda to give them coffee, kanelbulle and a ride. Frau Röser had politely declined the yoging of other hikers just an hour earlier!

Keenest hiker: Ulla Engberg, who took a round trip around Trälsmo and saw the same street sign three times. With the detour she added at least 3 km to a day when we walked 37,4 km. Some just can't get enough…;-)

Fashion statement 1: Marianne’s cuben fibre fetish. From mittens to tent...and everything in-between. 

Fashion statement 2: Kristian Ingemansson showed off this year's bivy bag.

Best piece of advice: ”Always prewash your dirty socks before putting them in the machine” (Carsten Jost).

Media star: Allan kept the reporters busy. Now he's going to be featured in a Swedish horse magazine.

Final, almost, gear list for Jorgen

I think this is the final gear list, but who knows, I might discard or add something in the morning. Note that I have a certain overkill in water-proof sock etc. That is I have both a pair of Sealskinz, a pair of Rocky Goretex and a pair of Neopren socks. That is because I want to test all of them and make comparisons.

Also, having brought three pair of water-proof socks for testing we can be pretty sure that it is not going to rain a single drop during the whole trek. The things I do for you...

At this link you will find my gear list.

Some assorted tips, tricks and rules



#1. Water. Spring run-off is petering off, but there will still be lots of water in rivers and brooks. So finding water should not be a problem. However, spring run-off flushes a lot of more or less savoury things through the waterways. Nature cleaning the pipes.

Natural springs do of course pose no problem, drink and enjoy. But these are not common. I usually advocate taking water from the smallest waterways I can find, all other things equal. The idea being that they would have had less time to become polluted. This might not work during spring run-off. Or not always. We will have to judge each brook on its own merits.


One rule is that brooks that come from where people live and where there is livestock, pose a risk. The latter being the most likely pollutant. Virtually no human habitations in Sweden will let their offal run off into waterways any more. And this time of the year livestock will have been indoors for the winter. They are being let out of the barns as we walk, but most bacteria and microbes from livestock during last years grazing season should not have survived the winter.

Another ground rule is not to drink water that smells or tastes unsavoury. This not meaning that it should taste like the chemically treated stuff we get from our taps at home. Water in the forest is often a bit brownish and the sight of frogs or insects in the water does not make it unhealthy more than there being fish in the water. However, any dead animal in the water might be a pollutant. Take your water upstream from that if possible.


It might be that lakes, where pollutants have been diluted, are our best option when it comes to cooking and drinking water. Or really small brooks. I plan to avoid or be careful with taking water from a waterway that I cannot step across. Water for cooking is less sensitive, since just about everything, except chemicals, dies when water is heated.

Drinking water should be where we take the most care. Alternatives for purifying water are basically chemicals, filtering and treatment with ultra-violet rays. I have chosen a Steripen and will most likely treat all my drinking water with 45 seconds of UV-rays in my cup, simply because it is so easy.


The game plan for now is to carry no more than half a litre of water at any time, which will see me through a couple of hours without water sources. That should be more than enough, but I will adapt as I go along. Right now I plan to carry one liter at the start, in order to be able to cook lunch should no reliable water source show on the way from Kalmar and up into the forest.

#2. Keeping water clean. In order for us hikers not to pollute the water sources we pass, a couple of simple rules should be sufficient. Basically, when washing yourself, your eating utensils or pieces of clothing do not rinse this in the water source. The easiest way is to take you cooking pot and fill it with water. Then wash it or yourself or your cloting using this water. Use soap  if needed (I almost never do, cooking pots are sterilized the next time I cook, most grime encounterd outdoors is water soluble). Then pour out the water from the pot, NOT in the water source, but on biologically active ground (where things are growing, not pure sand if this can be avoided). Fill the pot again and rinse your hands, face hair or whatever by pouring this water over you or what you have washed. Again at least 5-10  meters away from the water source on biologically active ground.

And of course, stay well away from water when peeing or taking a crap.


#3. Defecation. There are a number of books, notably How to shit in the woods, that gives a lot of input on this subect. In my experience there are very few leaves in the Swedish forest that serve, well or at all, as toilet paper. So I bring toilet paper. Not a whole roll of course, just 5-10 meters in a plastic bag. If you run out you can always grab a few meters in a public toilet somewhere. A pear shaped rock might serve instead of tissue and a pear shaped handful of snow is in fact excellent. But...

This is what I usually do when taking a crap; I lift a rock, book sized or bigger, do my thing, dry myself with toilet paper, set fire to the paper and replace the rock. It is sometimes handy to have a lighter or matches in the same bag as the toilet paper. You can also dig a hole in biologically active ground with a trowel or a sharp stick. Do not dig to deep, 10 centimeters is plenty, since you want a lot of microbes present and ready to attack your leftovers. The deeper you dig, the less life there will be in the soil. Peeing is easier for us guys, for the ladies this usually also involves the use of toilet paper. Burn this paper as well as possible (yeah, I know it is wet...) or pack it out in a plastic, ziploc bag.


A word of warning when it comes to burning toilet paper. DO NOT do it where there is plenty of dry grass around. This stuff is extremely dry at this time of the year and starting a wildfire is all too easy. However, where there is no dry grass or this grass is mixed with plenty of new green grass and other plants there should be no worry. This time of the year the forest is wet or damp with no fire hazard EXCEPT where there is mostly/only dry grass.
Another important thing for staying healthy is washing your hands after having been to the outdoor crapper. There is plenty of evidence indikating that it is often not contaminated drinking water that make people sick to the stomach when they are out hiking, but their own poor hand-hygiene. Wash your hands before you start digging into that bag of chocolate and raisins to ensure that all the brown stuff really is chocolate.

I need of course not mention that we pack out all our garbage. We will pass plenty of waste paper baskets and dustbins where we can leave our packages and other junk. Keep your garbage at hand in a plastic bag and empty this when convenient.
 

#4. Pace. It is important to remember that C2C is not a package tour. There will be no tour guides and no one to wipe your nos. On the other hand there will be a number of cheerful and helpful fellow travellers.

But we are not expected to travel as a group or to expect others to wait for us or vice versa. No one is responsible for making sure that some walkers do not lag behind, or take off like rockets never to be seen. Everyone is supposed to 'hike their own hike'. To keep a pace that is comfortable, even enjoyable at times, is the best way to economize with your strenght and endurance. Remember that the goal is to hike 400 kilometers. This is not done by hurrying, but by being able to keep walking for 12-14 days.

There will be people walking faster than me and slower than me. I know I want to take a 5-10 break every hour. To sit down, lie down maybe, drink a cup of water or two and eat some nuts, raisins and chocolate.


Others will not want to take breaks like that, but will want to keep moving.When they take their breaks I might pass them, or I might not. When they stop for the evening I might catch up with them. Or I might not. No problem, I carry all that I need and I know that sooner or later even this hike will be a memory among others.

I think it will be a nice memory, because I look forward to hiking, more or less together, with a group of fellow backpackers. And what I have written above does of course not mean that we should not be nice and courteous to each other and help each other when there is a need. Nor does it in anyway hinder that two or more people, before or during the walk, decide that they want to keep each other company.


#5 Public access. In Sweden we are blessed with the Law of Public Access. This means among other things that we can cross somebody elses land and camp for one night on their land as well, without asking permission.

You will find this law in English here and in Swedish here.

A few words should be said: We are not allowed to pass across or camp on somebody elses lot. This generally means a fenced in area around a house. If there is no fence it is commonly considered that you should pass or camp out of sight and hearing of a house.


Also, we might be quite a few people camping together. This is not really what the law of Public Access is for. A farmer owning the land should of course be asked if it is OK for us to do so, should this be possible. We might be far from houses and the owner of a forest impossible to identify or reach (many properties are owned by people living far away). In that case we should take pains not to interfere or disturb, or even be noticed. Sometimes this is called stealth camping. We should not camp 5 yards from the road or trail, but maybe 50 yards into the forest where no one sees us.

And we do of course leave no traces, like garbage, only some compressed grass from our tents.

We are now on Instagram!

Some of our walkers no doubt knows what Instagram is, so you can skip this description from Wikipedia:

"Instagram is an online photo-sharing and social networking service that enables its users to take pictures, apply digital filters to them and share them on a variety of social networking services, such as Facebook or Twitter."

If you open an Instagram account you can take photos during our walk from Kalmar to Varberg with your smartphone and post them on internet. This is what you do:

Get the Instagram app to your mobile unit and search for our account. It is called "coast2coastsw". Then press Follow/Följer.

It's a fun feature, because here we - and our friends - can see pictures from the hike as we walk along. This is done by tagging your photos. You take a photo and then write a short comment about what is in the picture. You then add the tag #c2cswe. You can also add a tag for the location. If the photo is from Kalmar you write #c2cswe_kalmar.


We will feature fun, beautiful, annoying, hilarious pictures on own Instagram aacount, on our homepage and on Facebook :-)

Allan the horse will walk with us


45 hikers - and a horse. Those are the participants in the first edition of Coast2Coast Sweden.

The name of the horse is Al Istair, a nine year old Swedish warmblood, by Royal Diamond and Epson, with the homestable in Stavsborg on Ekerö, outside Stockholm. Al Istair, with the nickname ”Allan”, brings his owner Göran Ronsten along as company.

”I'll walk next to him. It's a good way to get to know Allan better,” says Göran Ronsten.

Allan taking a sip.
The biggest challenge for the equipage Ronsten/Allan is that they need someone to drive their horse transport between every stop on the 400 km long trail from Kalmar to Varberg.

”If I can't find a driver I'll drive the transport myself to the end of the stage and then walk and meet the other hikers,” says Göran Ronsten.

Allan is keen to have company by other horses at night. 

”If anybody out there has a horsebox to lease for a night, please let me know,” says Göran Ronsten.

You can reach him at through Jonas Hållén at jonteh@icloud.com or +46 708 866 844.


More definite day by day plan from Jorgen

I have revised the preliminary plan I made some months ago and added some thoughts on food and how I plan to do. That is, what I plan to carry and what I plan to resupply. There is also a bit of information, probably not complete, about lodgings, restaurants and grocery stores.It is of course based on the final route and maps published here.

This is probably not my last plan on this subject, but feel free to use it as a basis for your own decisions. This is after all not a package trip, and everyone makes their own plans.

Click on this link and you will see the document with my plans and thoughts. Scroll to the end, the page changes became weird when converting to pdf, so the document looks like it is finished before it actually is.

Small changes on the map due to the weather and roadworks


Visa C2C Sweden Kalmar to Varberg på en större karta
This is basically the same map as the last version, but Börje has done some minor changes due to the weather and roadworks.

At Rinkabyholm (just outside Kalmar) it's very wet at the moment and a overflowing stream has forced us to make a small detour.

We're heading in to Växjö on a slightly different stretch.

A small road that crosses road 25 outside Växjö is now blocked with a fence. We're taking a minor detour.

Many ways to connect...

As you all know there are plenty of ways to connect with each other during C2C: mail, Twitter, Facebook - or the old fashion way of making a telephone call.

But we will also try global positioning to keep track of each other. Starting soon I will send invitations to all registrated hikers to join our C2C-account on Google Latitude. You will get a mail where everybody's mail adress is attached.

To use Latitude  you will need a Google-account. Before someone can view your location you must either send the person a location request by adding them as a friend or accept their location request and choose to share back your location.

From there, either on a computer or in an app, you can follow your friends movements in real time.

This means that you will be trackable by everybody you have connected with. But you can log out, or turn on your privacy setting if you want to have some time ”alone”. After C2C you can throw away the app, if you want to.

With Latitude you will also be able to send instant messages to each other.

Other ways to keep track of your fellow hikers:

  • Twitter - coast2coastsw (if you tag your tweet #c2cswe we will get a channel, which makes it easier to find our tweets and subscribe to them).
  • Facebook - Coast to Coast Sweden
  • Homepage - www.coast2coastsweden.com
Soon to come: an Instagram account. It will have the same name as our Twitter account (coast2costsw). More details about that to follow.

Registration for the buffet at Söderport


If you want to join us for the buffet at Söderport the night before Coast2Coast we want you to register, so the restaurant owner knows how many guests he will have. 

Registrating for the dinner is simple: go to the "Register here" on the homepage (where you registrated for the hike in the first place). Write your name and e-mail adress and instead of country, fill in the word "buffet".

We want your registration May 3rd the latest. The registration is binding. If you are uncertain, do not register. You can always buy food and drink if you decide to join, but we do not want to be forced to pay for people who never showed up.

Charge!

I guess most of us will bring our smartphones or GPS-devices along the trail on Coast to Coast Sweden. But how do you charge your phone or your GPS-receiver?

There are plenty of solutions out there, so I will just tell you how Börje, Jörgen and I are planning to solve the charging of our devices.

Börje has settled for a Powerpack, battery storage 2 400 mAh, from Swedish retailer Kjell & Co (499 SEK). It's a battery that doubles as shell for your iPhone 4 (not iPhone 5). On the back there are solar cells that charge the battery.
”Last week I tried the pack: I put it in the sun for 5-6 hours. At night I took off my ordinary shell and attached the Powerpack. In the morning my phone was fully charged,” says Börje.

Jörgen opts for a AA Car Essentials Mobile Phone Emergency Charger. It's basically a small charger that lets you charge your phone via ordinary AA-batteries. ”It's not field tested,” says Jörgen. ”Coast to Coast will be the first serious hike with it.”
On the plus side is the price (around 60 SEK, or €6), the size (18.8 x 8.2 x 5 cm) and the weight (30 gram). But the customer reviews on amazon.co are cautious. This is not something that will charge your phone just like that. More an emergency solution.

I've been using an Brunton Inspire, storage 3 200 mAh, on several hikes and when I'm out skating in the Stockholm archipelago. It's water resistent, lightweight, small and charges quite fast. Note: This is a storage and needs to be charged by a solar charger or from the mains in a house. It then carries a load that can be transfered to your device.

You will find it hard to get more than one and a half charge for your iPhone 4 with this battery (especially when you have used it for some time). It's also a bit on the expensive side: $72 or 650 SEK in Sweden).

If you want more power you can upgrade to a "big brother" Brunton Resync, but that also means an upgrade in size, cost (more than twice as expensive) and weight.

Outnorth has several battery packs and solar cell chargers to choose from. Neither Jörgen or I have had that much experience with solar cell chargers, and the few times we have used them we've been a bit disappointed. Jörgen tried one in Canada in 2011 and it barely kept his phone alive for 3 weeks. But the technical development moves fast and the solar cells are quickly becoming better.

Now I wonder: what's you solution to the charging problem..?




All the way to Varberg

Here's a map over the whole trail, thanks to the hard work of Börje Jacobsson. The total length of this track is 408,01 km. Hopefully, you'll all be be able to watch this map on any browser (I can).

This is not THE route that everybody has to walk, it's the route we prefer to walk. There are no checkpoints along the way, just a bunch of fellow hikers.  This is unplugged. Come as you are, walk as you want. See you soon!

Gear - Rain jacket and pants

(This article is a slightly rewritten version of a couple of chapters from my book Smarter Backpacking, in Swedish called Lättare packning från A till Ö)

Luckily, good quality light rain jackets are easy to find on the market. Often, it is better to bring one of those on your hike and leave heavier shells at home. I find it more comfortable to use my rain jacket as seldom as possible, in order to minimize condensation problems. As a consequence, I only use my rain jacket when it is raining heavily.


Many heavy rain jackets, usually called 'shell jackets' or similar, can be found on the market. You can fairly easily save around 500 grams by choosing one of the lighter ones instead of a heavier one. I consider the majority of the so-called shell jackets heavy. They are common in many wardrobes today and are usually made of some kind of Mextex. In my opinion, most of them are unnecessarily heavy and thick for hiking. Most of them are in fact made not for hiking, but for waiting at the bus stop, albeit with a wilderness look that might be confusing.

Even if the marketing information claims that they have been used on Mount Everest, I prefer to leave them at home. These heavy jackets are excellent in town or for other kinds of outdoor activities, when I am not as physically active as when I am hiking, and I have blessed them many times on outings with my kids – and when at the bus stop. However, for hiking I do not like to wear garments that, in fact, breathe as little as these in fact do, unless I absolutely have to, which is when it is raining so much so that my umbrella does not give sufficient protection.


This is how I dress when I hike: As long as it is not so rainy or windy that my windshirt and umbrella do not keep me dry, my rain jacket rests in my pack. And then it is very nice that the jacket weighs 200 grams and not 750 grams. But when the weather gets really nasty, with low temperatures, high winds and horizontal rain, the rain jacket, with its main function to keep the torso dry, is very important from a safety point of view. Hypothermia can kill even if temperatures are above freezing. The combination of a light windshirt of 100-150 grams (3-5 oz) and a light rain jacket of 200-300 grams (7-11 oz) is actually lighter than many shell jackets, and infinitely more adaptable to different kinds of weather and different levels of exertion. Not uncommonly, the combination is also less expensive than some of the flagship shells from well-known brands.

If you only use the rain jacket when the weather is truly miserable, it does not have to be as rugged, as you will use it fairly seldom. That way, even a light, thin rain jacket will last many years. A rip is easily fixed with a piece of duct tape and that patch can last for years if you are not particularly sensitive to how it looks – and you do not have to be, if you only use it when the weather is extremely poor. If you spend much of your outings in base camps, perhaps using fires a lot, you may feel that the lightest rain jackets are not rugged enough. They are more vulnerable to sparks from the fire than the heavier garments. This could be a reason to choose a slightly heavier jacket. But you can also choose another garment as general shell when it is not raining.


As for me, I always use my windshirt as shell in those kinds of situations. This garment is less expensive and does not have to be waterproof. When using so-called waterproof/breathable garments it is important to remember that they are much more waterproof than they are breathable. Most of the moisture is in fact not transported through the fabric, but ventilated through different openings. This means that you should always have the jacket as open as circumstances allow, if you want to minimize condensation inside the garment. (This is also a good idea in tents: If it is not raining, you do not have to close the foretent in order to minimize condensation).

So, do not tighten the jacket around the wrists or the throat if that can be avoided. And leave the front zipper as unzipped as possible. You can save quite a bit of weight by choosing a light rain jacket instead of a heavy one. Put the jacket you probably already have on a scale, and then ponder if it is worth its weight. My experience is that the heavy-expedition weight rain jacket is more useful in the bus line (or on winter ski trips) but for three season hikes, a lighter and cheaper jacket is better. But, it must be a rain jacket by definition. It cannot be so light and cheap that it doesn’t keep out the rain.


A pair of light rain pants need not be expensive. Like the rain jacket, rain pants are important for comfort and safety in colder climates and/or high elevation trails. When the wind blows cold, the rain pants also keep you warm, which means you sometimes can leave the long johns at home. However, you can save a considerable amount of weight by choosing from the lightest rain pants on the market.

My own favorite solution for leggings in rough weather is thin, synthetic pants coupled with light rain pants on top. The rain pants should weigh at the most 200-300 grams (7-11 oz). You can even find rain pants that weigh in at half of that. I have never needed rain pants with side zips, but most pants have them today. Zippers can be useful if you use boots that are a nuisance to lace off and on, but you pay a penalty in weight and complexity. Since I use light running shoes that are easily taken on and off, I don’t need zips like that at all.


In summer weather you could consider your rain pants as something to not only keep you dry, but also keep you warm. Leave the long johns at home and put on the rain pants when it is cold and windy. In theory, a pair of shell pants in waterproof/breathable material could be used as both standard pants and rain pants. All in one, that is. Personally, I am sceptical for a simple reason: I do not like to dress in rain clothing unless it is raining.

Even the best waterproof/breathables are a whole lot more waterproof than breathable. They tend to collect condensation if you walk in them for some time while carrying a pack. If you are mostly standing still, that’s a different ballgame, but now we are mostly concerned with hiking. All-round pants also tend to be on the heavy side, which is not so comfortable, and there is always a risk that daily wear-and-tear could make them leak sooner or later.

Picking a pair of really light rain pants can save 100-300 grams, compared to choosing the heavier ones.

For C2C I will be using a Haglöfs Shield Hood that weighs 215 grams in my XL. Pants will be Montane Minimus XL weighing 160 grams.



If you do not already have light raingear and hesitate to buy something like this, which is a bit costly, my favorite compromise between weight and cost when it comes to rain gear is the Packaway set from Swedish web store Idefixteko. It will add about 50% to the weight of the above but will only cost about 750 SEK for jacket and pants. Me and my family (with growing kids the price is right..) have used this set a lot and like it a lot.


I do not even try to keep my feet dry in my light trail running shoes and as long as I move they usually do not get cold. But prolonged rain and low temperatures sometimes chills them and I alway carry waterproof socks to be able to keep my feet warm. For C2C I will probably bring either a pair of SealSkinz socks or a pair of Rocky Goretex socks. Bike socks from Gore is another alternative as well as neoprene socks. More about socks like this here and about hiking in thin shoes with wet feet here. Both articles in Swedish.

This article would not be complete without a word about a piece of gear I frequently use; the umbrella. Most people snicker at the thought of seeing someone with an umbrella in the mountains and I have been snickered at. But fact is, in light rain with little wind using an umbrella is very comfortable. Easy to unfold and fold as showers come and go, protects your pack a bit and keeps you from overheating when using rain jacket and pants in warm, humid weather. I will be bringing my umbrella for C2C. More on umbrellas here. Using umbrellas with walking poles can be accomplished and here is an article with a film of the man who showed me how, Kristian Ingemansson, who will join us for C2C.

Gear - rain and what it brings

(This is a slightly re-written excerpt from my book Smarter Backpacking, in Swedish Lättare packning från A till Ö.)
During continuous rain everything becomes wet, sooner or later. Or, almost everything. The sleeping bag has to be kept dry at all costs. Rain can cause hypothermia and it is important that you know how this dangerous, downward spiral may affect you, so that you can counter it with clothing, food and drink. When you learn how to hike in rain you become liberated – free to enjoy your hike in spite of the weather. This is a chapter on rain in general.


Rain is in many ways troublesome for a hiker, particularly if it goes on and on. In the long run, after several days of rain, most of your gear will be wet or at least damp. And with damp clothing you can easily become hypothermic. What begins with general discomfort can become apathy and extreme discomfort. You can in fact freeze to death, even if the temperature is above freezing. But this outcome is of course extreme. More common is that you are cold and you feel the vacation is a total failure.

In Scandinavia rain is always to be expected. It is not common that the rain pours down day after day, but it could happen. Frequent showers and persistent drizzle in the company of a cold wind are more common. If you are hiking in these circumstances, you should learn to cope with rain so that your hike does not turn into a complete disaster. Even with perfect rain gear, you can count on becoming a bit damp if the rain continues for a while. It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to keep your sleeping bag dry in those circumstances. A completely water-proof stuff sack for my sleeping bag and another for my extra clothing is a central part of my gear list. I prefer the slightly heavier versions of stuff sacks that take 10-12 litres of gear and weigh around 80-100 grams simply because they stay water-proof longer than the lighter sil nylon or cuben fiber bags.



It is also important that you are equipped with clothes that dry quickly and provide some protection against hypothermia, even when they are wet. This means that cotton in any shape or form is something you must scrupulously avoid – no T-shirts or bandannas in the material; not even fabrics with a cotton and synthetic mixture. I have found that there are many 100% synthetic materials that are just as comfortable, as well as thinner and lighter.

Thin fabrics always dry faster than the same fabric in thicker versions. Thin, synthetic shirts and pants is what I use and recommend. There is one exception. Thin merino wool base layers do not dry as fast as synthetics but are in my opinion more comfortable to wear when damp or wet. Strenuous exercise, like hiking, often makes you damp underneath your more or less breathable rain gear. This is definitely to prefer to becoming wet from large amounts of much colder water from the outside, but the dampness of your own sweat still has a chilling effect.


As long as you are in motion, this is often not much of a problem, at least not if the weather is not too cold and windy. But the moment you come to a halt, you tend to become chilled. To counter this, it is important, especially in rainy weather, to put on something insulating for short or long breaks. Putting on more clothes at break is not always as easy to do as it is to say. If you are chilled even while hiking, and weary when you sit down, you may easily want to skip the hassle with extra clothing. Struggling to open your pack in pouring rain does not feel so great. Also, you must keep your insulating clothing dry, which usually means you have to take off your rain jacket, don the insulating garment and then put your rain jacket back on top of it.

A dangerous, downward spiral of hypothermia can begin like that. It is a slippery slope of increasing apathy that can start with you becoming chilled while you are hiking. Being cold makes it awkward and uncomfortable to pause, so you skip the breaks. This apathy also leads to skipping regular handfuls of snacks being popped into your mouth. Because you cannot lounge in the grass and the sun, you might skip lunch. You just walk.


Everything becomes heavy, grey and wet. Finally, you are so tired that you have to stop. You just sit down; collapse into a big heap and wish you were somewhere else. Whose idea was it to go on this hike? If the above sounds like I have been there it is because I have been there. In a situation like that it is paramount that you restore your body heat by putting on warm clothes as well as providing your body with calories to fuel your inner furnace. It is also essential that you are on guard and aware of what is happening to you, or to someone in your hiking group.

Unless it is winter, you seldom run the risk to end up in a life–threatening condition, only the risk of feeling totally miserable. But this was hardly the vision you had when you planned your hike. In winter, the margins of error are smaller and the distance between being tired and apathetic is shorter. It happens that people freeze to death in the mountains beside packs full of warm clothing and food, which they were too tired to access and use. Good rain gear, awareness of the hypothermia danger and easy access to a big bag of snacks are important tools for you to be able to enjoy hiking even when it is raining.

If you are warm and your stomach is full, you are certainly able to enjoy seeing a curtain of rain, topped with a rainbow, rushing across the valley to meet you. Few things lull me to sleep better than resting in my dry and warm sleeping bag, listening to the rain pattering on the fly of my shelter.

Outnorth gives 15 percent discount to C2C hikers

Outnorth will give a 15% discount to registred walkers of C2C for purchases during April. Nice, eh? The way it works is that you will all be e-mailed a special code that you use on their webpage. The code should arrive within the next 24 hours or so. You have to enter the code before you start picking stuff on the start page. Left hand column, at the bottom, it says: Kampanjkod. That is where you enter your code. You can choose language if you prefer something other than Swedish. There is Finnish, Norwegian, Danish and German for our members. Sorry, no Dutch :-) If this is not enough (when is it ever...) they are also right now putting together some special offers on some pieces of gear they think will be particularly relevant for hikers on C2C. Just you wait...

Web retailer Outnorth sponsors Coast2Coast Sweden

To the supporters of C2C Sweden we can now add the outdoor web retailer Outnorth, based in Kalmar. Their marketing manager Anders Blomster says about C2C: "This is a small but exiting event that is completely in line with our business. We think it has an exiting future potential and want to support it from the start."

Needless to say Jonas and I are very happy with the support from Outnorth, which among other things will make it possible to have a professional photographer follow us along the way. We are also discussing different sorts of discounts for participants who want to buy gear from Outnorth. We'll probably announce this in a couple of days.

So if you already know that you need to buy some gear, hold it briefly. Outnorth has a very good selection of different brands of gear and the webshop can handle alls Scandinavian languages plus German. Fact is, there is even a bit of Japanese to be found :-)
You will find this at www.outnorth.se
 

Jörgen speaking about C2C and light gear at Alewalds on Tuesday April 9

If you drop into Alewalds sporting goods store on Kungsgatan 32 in Stockholm on April 9 at 19.15 you can listen to me speaking about C2C. Quite a bit about the speach will be about light gear and how to walk from Kalmar to Varberg with less than 10 kilos on your back. There will of course be room for questions and you can also buy all sorts of gear in the store.

If you want to know more and register for this event this is the place.
 
 

Gear - sleep systems for C2C

(The following is a slightly rewritten version of two chapters from my book Smarter Backpacking, in Swedish Lättare packning från A till Ö)

Down sleeping bags weighing 400-800 grams (14-38 oz) are good for temperatures around freezing. This is what I plan to bring on C2C this spring. Frost is not unlikely, but my guess is that nightime temperatures will be around 3-5 C. Down is still superior to any other material as far as volume, insulating capacity, longevity and weight goes. In my opinion, there are few pieces of gear that are more worthy of a substantial investment than a light, high quality down sleeping bag.


The sleep system belongs to the three big ones, meaning, some hefty weight savings are available here. When it comes to sleep systems, there are lots of factors to be considered. I will be very brief, maybe too brief, but a ton of information is available in books and on the Internet. Here I present only my own simple conclusions.

Sleeping gear or sleep system is a good term for what you need to maintain body temperature while taking (usually) nightly rest. It is mainly called sleep systems because there are other methods to stay warm while sleeping than using a sleeping bag. One such method is using a quilt, usually without a hood but with a foot box.


As the quilt covers you only on top, and leaves insulating the underside to the sleeping pad, you can save weight, as less material is needed than for a sleeping bag. There are also top-bags which are more like sleeping bags than quilts, where the insulation on the underside has been replaced by a long pocket where you can fit in your sleeping pad. You might also consider it a quilt with a pocket underneath.

My own experience of hiking in mountains during summer and early fall is that I need a sleep system that keeps me warm in temperatures down to around freezing point. The lightest solution to deliver this are quilts of top quality down and fabrics. Currently they weigh between 250-350 grams (9-14 oz). I have used both down and synthetic quilts and find them excellent for summer hikes. However, today I feel the quilt no longer has the weight advantage over the lightest sleeping bags, as it did in the past. But if you want the lightest they certainly are it.


Today, I can find sleeping bags made by leading manufacturers that weigh around 450-700 grams (16-27 oz) and which have the specs I want. I find only a small difference in weight compared to the quilts. However, all light sleeping gear has one notable disadvantage: they are expensive.

In spite of this, my recommendation for everyone who wants to carry a light load and plans to spend time hiking for a number of years is to cough up the dough needed for a quilt or a sleeping bag of this light weight quality. It will last most hikers at least 10-15 years if it is used 2-3 weeks per year, and will not lose much of its insulating properties during this time. This is the big difference between down and the synthetic insulation that so far has been developed.


Synthetic quilts and sleeping bags are heavier and cheaper, but my experience is that they lose considerable loft, in only a year or two, and therefore will not keep me as warm. Thanks to their price they do have a market and there are some really light quilts and a few sleeping bags with synthetic insulation that will keep you warm in temperatures around freezing without weighing more than 900-1,000 grams (2 lbs).

But most of the ones that handle these temperatures are huge and voluminous lumps that weigh 1.5-2 kilos (3-4 lbs). This means that they can increase the pack weight with a kilo (2 lbs) or more, for the same function as the light down bags. I would think more than twice before buying one of those. Again, I might add that I have three-four of them in my basement and a total of 13-14 sleeping bags collected during four decades by a guy that does not believe in throwing things away.


The experienced hiker will no doubt have an easier job motivating the investment of a really light sleeping bag. The less experienced might hesitate because of the cost. My advice is to think twice and avoid buying something semi-expensive and semi-good that will leave you semi-satisfied. You might try to borrow or rent a really light bag if possible. Even for kids, these bags are a good investment, as they can use them for 10-15 years or longer. And you have in fact saved a lot of money on all your other light weight gear, as most of it is far less expensive than the heavy stuff. At least, the three big ones are. If you want to save peanuts in weight by getting a titanium whatchamacallit instead of a regular one, you can expect to pay a lot and save only very little weight.

Now, the quilt or sleeping bag takes care of the cold air above you. You need something to protect you from the cold ground as well. Pads for resting and sleeping can be really heavy, but if you separate insulation from padding you can sleep both soft and warm. Pads have one main function: to insulate your body from the cold ground while you are sitting or lying down.


Personally, I need an extra function in order to sleep well; a soft pad. It is important to be aware that the comfort of resting softly often will come at the price of a considerable weight. If you want a well-padded and comfortable sleeping pad based on self-inflating foam, synthetic insulation or even down, the larger models often weigh more than one kilo (2 lbs 3 oz).

If you chose a minimal, closed-cell pad which insulates but provides less comfort, the pad will weigh around 100 grams (3 oz). I prefer something in between, as resting on something soft is important for my sleep and recuperation. The best solution I have found so far is a combination of pads.


I usually carry a full-length, 180 cm (6 feet) but thin and light closed-cell foam together with something softer and thicker for where I need softness, which is under my shoulder and hipbone, as I sleep on the side. A closed-cell foam of this length, and 5 mm (1/5 inch) thick, does not have to weigh more than 125-150 grams (5-6 oz). A short, inflatable pad, reaching from shoulder to thigh, weighs less than 300 grams (11 oz).

A type of recently introduced revolutionary air-mattresses do not only give excellent comfort and are very light, but also insulate much, much better than traditional air mattresses. Most wellknown is probably the Thermarest NeoAir. Because most people do not need much softness under their legs while sleeping, my recommendation is that you pick a mattress that is maximum 120 cm (4 feet) long and leave your feet sticking out onto the closed-cell foam pad underneath the inflatable mattress.


Most of the time I carry my closed-cell pad on the outside of my pack, although there are packs with special pockets, where the folded pad fits as a sort of frame. Both solutions are excellent as I want fast and simple access to my pad at every break. I use a pair of light, elastic bungee cords to hold the rolled-up pad in place, as they are lighter than the straps that are most common. The bungee cords do not need untying; you just roll up the pad and push it through the loops you have tied.

I use this pad at almost all breaks, except really short ones, in particularly benevolent (or nasty) weather. I try to find a rock or a tree to lean against and make sure that the pad supports and insulates me from wet and cold surfaces all the way from shoulders to heels. The padded comfort pad travels all day well protected inside my pack, as I do not need this softness until at night.


It is important that I get a good night’s rest in order to be able to enjoy a hike. For some, all this takes is a torso length of closed-cell foam; for others it takes more padding. It is good to know that a hiker can achieve an extremely high level of comfort without choosing the heaviest pads on the market. Most of us do not need to rest our feet on a particularly soft pad. If you recognize this, you can save half a kilo or even a whole kilo (1-2 lbs) by using the lightest versions of soft pads in combination with insulating but thin closed-cell foam pads. This saves lots of weight at no discernible loss of comfort.