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.

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