At last, time for Smarter Backpacking

As many readers already know, I have been quite busy this fall with my first book in English. I am happy to say that it is now available at Amazon. But books are a plenty, so what's with this one?

By Jörgen Johansson

Weight on your feet

In several books, including the soon to be published Smarter Backpacking, I have written that it is five times as energy consuming to carry something on your feet, compared to carry it on your back. This makes some people irritated, so I have collected some of the scientific articles that support this rule of thumb. Read and judge for yourself.

By Jörgen Johansson

Breathability of fabrics

Gortex is of course the king, but there are many pretenders. And quite a few of them have adopted the suffix -tex. In a feeble attempt at humour I call all these 'waterproof/breathable' fabrics 'Mextex'. Not popular with some people who do not think you should treat such a serious subject in such a frivolous way. But how breathable are these fabrics, and others used in outdoor gear? I've consulted Chris Townsend on the subject.

By Jörgen Johansson

Gearing up on an ice cold October morning in Montana's Beartooth Range: From left. Brian Doble, Mike Clelland, Don Wilson, Ryan Jordan

Chris Townsend - back from two months on the PNT

Outdoor writer and long distance hiker Chris Townsend has been out for a walk again. It took him a couple of months. Like he has written in his book Crossing Arizona: "Walking day after day, week after week, and camping out at night is, in my view, the way to really experience nature in all its aspects.".

By Jörgen Johansson

Active Shell, new lightweight Gore-Tex fabric

Last week Gore unveiled a new lightweight fabric that they say is "the most breathable Gore-Tex ever'. It's called Active Shell and it seems breathability and comfort next to skin are the only areas were it will beat Paclite.

By Martin Nordesjö

The tricot lining and membrane are integrated.

West of Virihaure - the gear

Here is a list of the gear I brought with me to Virihaure and some comments. It was basically the same gear that I have been using for the last year or so.

By Jörgen Johansson

West of Virihaure - the shelter

During my hike north and west of the Virihaure I used a brand new shelter. A homemade combination of innertent/bugtent and rain fly. Cuben fiber was the main ingredient and the weight was astonishingly low.  So, how did I make it and how did it work?

By Jörgen Johansson

One step closer to barefoot

A few years ago I made a not very funny April's fool joke about trekking barefoot to save weight. Now the joke is on me since barefoot running shoes are all over the place at the moment. And if you can run in it, you can walk in it. Here is a small look at the current situation.

By Martin Nordesjö

Terraplana Vivobarefoot EVO,
when they were still white.
Backpacking in trail-running shoes made me wonder if support and cushioning is really vital. Seeing the hype around minimalist "barefoot" running shoes - without any cushioning or support - I was curious if there were any products suitable for lightweight backpacking.

West of Virihaure - the walk

The area in Padjelanta NP squeezed between the big lakes of Virihaure, Vastenjaure and Sallohaure and the Norwegian border is largely untraveled. There are few or no trails or any conveniences for the hiker. One particular river, the Duvvgejåkhå (formerly spelled Tukijåkkå) is considered unfordable at all times and several others are unfordable at times. This curtails how you can travel in this country, should you choose to do so. What I found was a marvelous place with few traces of man, where you could pick your own route and where hills and flora are stranger and richer than anyplace I have seen in the Swedish mountains. With two trusty feet and a packraft I spent six days crossing this wonderful land.

By Jörgen Johansson

Light pants

Just got back from Virihaure and will be collecting my impressions and photos in the next couple of days. The Cuben fiber shelter kept me warm and dry. I'll do a separate write up on that later. But while learning how to work with that material I made a pair of rain pants for my son. He used them quite a bit during our trip recently to the Bunner Mountains in Jämtland. Weighing in at 36 grams I imagine they will do very well in the contest for "the worlds lightest rain pants". Of course it is a bit of cheating since he is only 11 years old...

By Jörgen Johansson

West of Virihaure

Right now I am more or less desperately trying to make ends meet for my upcoming trip on the last week in August. Top priorities are the making of a new, superultralight cuben tent and a personal flotation device using my water bottles. As I hinted in an earlier posting I am taking my packraft into what is probably the most inaccessible part of the Swedish mountains: I am going west of Virihaure.

By Jörgen Johansson 

Light with kids II

A practical example of lightpacking nordic style with kids is the trip I made with my son Jakob a couple of years ago. He was 13 years old at the time and wanted to ascend Kebnekaise, the highest Swedish mountain. This article tells the story of how we planned and geared up for this trip. The previous article has more on hiking with kids in general.

By Jörgen Johansson

On your feet

In a forum I ran across an interesting article on walking, feet and shoes. I felt that it confirmed my own experience of light footwear being better for my feet as well as much more comfortable to walk in and also having the benefit of much lower energy expenditure than heavy hiking boots. I felt that this article was an interesting complement to my interview with Chris Townsend on footwear as well as my write-up on different scientific articles on weight of footwear that all support the old adage about "one pound on your foot equals five pounds on your back". I have collected some tidbits for you from the article in New York Magazine.

By Jörgen Johansson

Light with kids I

In Outside Magazine Sweden July 2010 page 56 there was an article written by me about lightpacking with kids. Unfortunately, at least for my ego, my name got lost somewhere in the process. Since the article was based on a blog entry here at Fjäderlätt written a couple of years ago I thought it might be of interest for readers who do not understand Swedish to have an English version.  So here are some thoughts on how to bring kids along on longer backpackingtrips in northern Scandinavia without having mum and dad burdened by gigantic 35 kilo packs.
By Jörgen Johansson

Summer days of dreaming, cuben and proof reading

After great week in a mountain hut with my family I have now been waiting for inspiration in a lot of areas. It seems to have arrived. I am beginning to discern where my next solo hike will take place. I am also beginning to see how a cuben fiber tent could fit into that trip. And I am trying to rouse myself enough from the holiday doldrums to put the final touches to the translation of one of my books into English.
By Jörgen Johansson

News from Friedrichshafen part 3

This time we browse through the many winners of the Outdoor Industry awards for some more lightness.

By Martin Nordesjö

Big Sky Mirage 2P
891 gram for a free-standing tent for two. It's a hybrid design with double wall sides and breathable roof fabric.

News from Friedrichshafen, part 2

Some more gear news, and a look at the Inov-8 line-up for next year.

By Martin Nordesjö

Inov-8 Baregrip 200 (the yellow shoe to the right in the picture)
These shoes won an OutDoor Industry gold award this year.
Baregrip is the first Inov-8 "barefoot shoe".

News from Friedrichshafen part 1

Yes, it's that time of the year. The Outdoor show in Friedrichshafen is opening in a few days, and as usual Fjäderlätt can give you a few lightweight tidbits in advance. Beware of buzzwords.

By Martin Nordesjö

Terra Nova Laser Ultra 1, 500 g
Adding yet another word to their series of Laser tents, they claim it's "the lightest 1 person, double wall tent available in the world"

Scandinavia end to end with Townsend

Backpacking legend Chris Townsend knows more about  hiking in Scandinavia than most Scandinavians. Almost twenty years ago he followed the spine (or The Keel, as it is often called here) of the peninsula that is Norway and Sweden, from the southern end to the northern end. When I mentioned this to the Nordic Lightpackers on our hike in Vålådalen recently, this created some interest. So I asked Chris a bit more about this walk of his.

By Jörgen Johansson

Food and sundry in Vålådalen

The Vålådalen excursion undertaken by the Nordic Lightpackers was, as has been described, soggy. Temperatures where not in the region that would make anyone eager for loitering in their swimming trunks. That kind of weather emphasizes the need for fuel. Food, grub, chow is really the fulcrum around which our lives turn. That is more than obvious when you are hiking and using up quite a bit of calories. Here is a look at my kitchen for that particular trip. It is pretty austere and some of my fellow hikers were more innovative not to mention culinary. But they have to speak for themselves.
By Jörgen Johansson

TN Laser Photon - light and not half bad

The time has come to sum up my impressions of the Terra Nova Laser Photon. When I bought it last summer it was the lightest double skin backpackingtent on the market. I have used it both as a tent and as a tarp and it certainly has its advantages. And some disadvantages as well.

A new Fjäderlätt is born

It's finally time to launch the face-lifted Fjäderlätt. Over the years our readers have given us good suggestions about how to improve Fjäderlätt, but it wasn't until now that we could implement them. We think it's a better site, and we hope you do too.

Learn Lightweight Backpacking in Arctic Scandinavia

English The first course on using lightweight and ultra light gear in Scandinavian above timberline conditions will be given this summer. The aim of the course is to give people who are into lightweight backpacking the know-how of gear and techniques needed to be confident in using them in the above timberline areas of northern Scandinavia in three season conditions.

343 or the three big ones in Vålådalen

Tips and thoughts; English A very useful rule of thumb when you start looking at reducing your packweight is to look at the three big ones. They being sleeping, carrying and shelter. It is not much use paring away at your tooth brush if your sleeping bag, backpack and tent weigh kilos more than necessary. So The Fjaderlatt Rule of Thumb is that if you ensure that these three big ones only weigh 3 kilos together (3 for 3 or 343, if you want to be cute) you have made a very good start. During one of our breaks in Vålådalen I asked the other bloggers how much their three big ones weighed and here are the results. By Jörgen Johansson.

Joe Newton and his GG Gorilla pack.

Jörgen reads a few chapters from his book Lättare packning från A till Ö

Tips and thoughts I have amused myself with making some mp3-files out of chapters from my book Lättare packning från A till Ö ("Lighter Pack from A to Z"). It is probably less amusing if you do not understand Swedish, since it is all in Swedish. However, the contents can be found in the English book Smarter Backpacking. If you understand Swedish rest assured that the chapters are pretty short, so you won't be bored for ages should you decide to listen in.

By Jörgen Johansson

Back from Vålådalen

English, Trips All lightweight bloggers survived a wet weekend in Vålådalen. As we have earlier reported, a bunch of Nordic lightweight enthusiasts met up for a long weekend in the Swedish mountains. By Jörgen Johansson
Joe Newton fording. This was not a weekend for dry shoes.

A one kilogram Haven for two

Gear news Double walled tents are getting so light that single-walled tents are becoming obsolete. Six Moon Designs Haven is a 1 kg two-person, double walled tent with two vestibules. Av Martin Nordesjö

Handsfree umbrella

Tips and theory Kristian Ingemansson is a lightweight backpacker whom we met at the Fair Enough fair in Bodafors, Småland. He has the by far best solution we have seen so far when it comes to wearing an umbrella and still have the hands free. A couple of photos and a film will illustrate this perfectly.
By Jörgen Johansson
Kristian with his handsfree umbrella.

Paraply på fjället

Teori Praktik Jag är en varm förespråkare för användning av paraply vid fjällvandring. Ett område där mänskligheten verkar delad i tre läger; de som provat och gillar, de som provat och inte gillar samt de som provar och hånskrattar. Här följer några korta filmer som illustrerar hur paraplyet kan fungera till fjälls, från min vandring mellan Hemavan och Anjan 2008.
Av Jörgen Johansson

Scandinavian lightweight bloggers hit the trail together

English A group of legendary (?) Scandinavian lightweight bloggers will hit the trail together and also switch gear and try out a lot of other lightweight gear. This will be a great opportunity to watch and touch gear many of us has only seen pictures of. Stay tuned, this trip will most likely lead to a number of interesting blog entries from all involved.

By Jörgen Johansson

Hemavan-Anjan - kall början

Turer 2008 gick jag mellan Hemavan och Anjan, en 50-milatur under tre veckor som jag tidigare beskrivit i några artiklar här på Fjäderlätt. Jag har nu tittat på en del filmer från den turen, för att inspirera mig själv inför den kommande vandringssäsongen. En del av filmerna kanske även kan fungera som inspiration för andra, och även visa på hur man kan använda lätt utrustning på en riktigt lång tur.
Av Jörgen Johansson

Golite och Granitbiten - intervju med Thomas Breding

Prylspaning Golite har de senaste åren representerats av Granitbiten i Sverige. Vi har pratat med Thomas Breding på det företaget om varför de slutar med Golite.
Av Jörgen Johansson

Testing the new server

We have switched server for Fjäderlätt. Things went wrong - others will be blamed.
Av Martin Nordesjö
Anyway, if you read this, things are starting to work again and we will make sure the things that don't work will do.

In the next few weeks we will keep changing things, and our plan is to end up with a better looking, better working, Fjäderlätt. It will take some tweaking though, and since the plan to make the change over night has already failed, you will notice small changes and trials every now and then for a while.

Across Sarek in winter - some gear

English, Teori-praktik Some odds and ends that I brought across Sarek this winter that might be worth mentioning.
By Jörgen Johansson

Fjäderlätt på Fair Enough i Bodafors 23-25 april

Evenemang Getouts stora friluftsmässa i dagarna tre är ett bra ställe för den som vill titta på lätta prylar. Vill man dessutom lyssna på föredrag om lätta prylar är det ändå bättre.

Across Sarek in winter - gear list

English; Turer I have earlier written about my wintry trip through Sarek NP in northern Sweden. In this article I will focus on some of the gear I brought along.

Across Sarek in winter - sleep system

English; Teori-Praktik The sleep system I used on my fairly cold ski trip across Sarek this winter worked better than any system I have so far used. I never slept better or warmer on any winter trip that I can remember. So I thought I'd share my system.

Across Sarek in winter - hydration system

English; Teori-Praktik An important detail on winter trips is to stay hydrated. When you have to melt snow for all drinking and cooking and low temperatures make it difficult to keep water in a liquid state, it is all to easy not to drink enough.

Across Sarek in winter - the rulk rebooted

English Turer Another chapter in the epic story of the incredible Rulk was written when I spent a week in March crossing a wintry Sarek. Temperatures were between minus 10-20 C most of the time and my gear was pulled behind me in a combination of pulk and pack most of the time. I started out with 17 kilos, including 7 kilos of food and fuel for 6-7 days. You will find a description of the trip here.
By Jörgen Johansson
For those of you not familiar with The Incredible Rulk you will find an article here about last years trip and an article here, at on how it was made. In brief, a rulk is a combination of rucksack, or pack, and pulk. The construction enables you to switch very rapidly between pulling it behind you and carrying it on your back.

Last years version was a piece of aluminium sheeting, this years version was the real thing. That is a commercially manufactured pulk for a very decent price. A Paris pulk that was cut off to the same lenght as my full pack. The cut off Paris was 960 mm long and weigted 1400 grams including the webbing belt and lines to pull it. This system was exactly the same as last years. There was a weight penalty, the cut off Paris sled weighs about 500 grams more than last years version aluminum version. It was worth every gram...

The pack was a 57 litre ULA Ohm backpack that was slightly roomier than last years Golite Jam2 (52 l). Since last years trip was for only three days and this was twice as long I needed the extra space for more food and fuel.

The closed cell foam pad goes on top of the pack in pulk mode. It's easily strapped in place using waist belt and sternum strap of the pack.
As with the aluminium version I attached the rulk to the pack using plastic hooks (normally used for attaching flags to flagpoles as well as some boating carabiners I came across). These were hooked around the carbon fiber "frame" of the Ohm. Last year they were hooked into the attachments for the compression straps on the frameless Jam2.

The hooks were connected with and short pieces of cord with Prusik knots that allowed me to cinch the pulk very tight to the pack. And also to adapt easily to the fact that the pack shrunk as I filled my belly with all kinds of goodies.

I used the same simple pulling system as last year. A web belt with a buckle and the cord attached. I can honestly say that with the weight I was pulling I felt absolutely no need for any padded belt.

The whole glorious Rulk in action! Here I am on my way through the gateway of the famous Rapa Valley.

The construction worked very well. It tracked very much better than the aluminium flat bottom solution of yesteryear and slid like a dream in my ski tracks. It was in fact often faster than my skis, noticable going downhill. Still, I fell that the simple cord pull is OK even if the pulk sometimes passes you. I prefer not to burden the construction with pulling stakes that make it more difficult to switch into backpack mode. But I might change my mind, and others might make different choices.

Here on a particulary topsy turvy passage a carried the rulk on my back. The foam pad is simply tied on top, using the pulling cord. It takes about 2-3 minutes to switch from one mode to another. This includes blowing my nose and gazing briefly at the horizon.

I only carried the rulk on my back twice. The second time was at the end of the trip, while decending a steep hill with birch forest and soft snow that had me sinking to my knees even with skiis. Here the light pack on my back worked very well, although I didn't do any fancy telemark turns. I was in fact happy to slip slide down the hill with not more than one nose dive.

I love to cook a meal or coffee sitting on my pad, with my legs stretched out and a tree or a rock as backrest. But the rulk can of course be structured into the perfect armchair. Just stick it in the snow at the appropriate angle, lean back and close your eyes and listen to the snow melt on your stove.

Sticking the rulk in the snow and adding the Snow Claw at right angles makes a good wind screen for the stove, when necessary.

Here is an example of how you can use the rulk as a snow anchor, sticking it down or digging it down as much as you deem necessary. You can see that spindrift has collected on the lee side of it during the night.

To sum it up, it is almost too easy to pull such a light weight as I had behind you on a pulk when skiing in most conditions. It is almost as if you were skiing without any gear at all. And when circumstances are against the use of a pulk you simply put it on your back and you are not worse of than you would have been without a rulk for starters. For this reason I'm a bit suspicious against adding a pole system instead of cords for pulling the thing. But considering the fact that I pull it 95% of the time, maybe I have to change my mind on that account. Something collapsible maybee....

Please comment here on Utsidan in Swedish, or below in English.

Across Sarek in winter

English Turer Sarek National Park in northern Sweden is a fantastic wilderness area. It's located in the middle of World Heritage site Laponia. And the feeling of wilderness is even more obvious in winter. This fall I was inspired to revive a trip that I had made through Sarek in 1981. That was my first really long solo trip in winter and the load was staggering, 42 kilos. This time my load was a lot lighter, my Incredible Rulk weighed 17 kilos with food for 6 days.
By Jörgen Johansson
The trip was really simple and straight forward: I started in Kvikkjokk early one morning with -16 C on the thermometer. North to Aktse I followed Kungsleden (The King's Trail) and then skied on the frozen waters of the Rapa River up almost to the roots of the Rapa Valley at Skarja. From there I took the route across the lakes of Bierikjaure and Lietjitjaure to Vietas at Stora Sjöfallet NP.

On my way to Aktse from Kvikkjokk I lucked on some open water and took advantage of this for my lunch break in the sunshine. Since I had made an early start, after having rented a cabin in Kvikkjokk, I made 32 kilometers that day, pulling my rulk along the well used trail. Dusk as well as rapidly falling temperatures came upon me while crossing the dammed Lake Tjäktja and the first night spent in my tent was also the coldest. Stupidly enough my replacement thermometer bottomed out at -20 C, so I have no exakt reading. My guess is that the morning temperature was about -22-25 C.
It was not only cold but also a glorius morning, that after about an hour saw me on Lake Ladtjo, close the mountain huts at Aktse. This is a blessed place on earth and the view probably one of the most photographed of all Swedish mountain scenery. It is a spectacular gate to the famed Rapa valley, with the sheer cliff of Skierfe on the right and the square bulk of Nammatj (below my left elbow) right on the park boundary, pointing the way into the heart of Sarek.

The second morning was almost as cold as the first one, maybe a couple of degrees warmer. It found me were the Rapa River squeezes by the Spatneks.

Where the river presses by the Spatneks the jumble of ice, snow and rock had me using my rulk as a pack for a short while, before returning it to its official pulk status. It was maybe not ultralight backpacking, but it sure felt like it, considering the circumstances.

This day, unfortunately, was a bit overcast, with some wind and snowfall at midday. Unfortunately I say, because I made my way along the Rapaselet, in my mind perhaps the most spectacular and beautiful location for mountain scenery in Sweden. When I stopped for lunch I pitched my tent (easily done in less than five minutes) and rigged the rulk and shovel as windbreak for the stove.

Luckily for me the wind and snow was at my back, always a comfort and particulary when it's -10 C. I met two Germans, probably father and son, who where not so lucky but seemed very fit and well in control of the situation in spite of heavy equipment and randonné skis.

My goal for the night was the old dilapidated board hut at the mouth of the Sarves Valley, where I had spent a couple of nights 29 years ago. I had been back in the summer of 2005, so I new that the doorless old wreck was still standing.

Amazingly enough it was more or less the same doorless old wreck that it had been in 1981, and I moved in, as I had then. A board bed and much more room to move and cook made it attractive compared to the tent. As a makeshift door I rigged my tent, to keep spindrift from coming in an settling on my sleeping gear.

I woke up around 4 o'clock and put on my down jacket because I felt a bit chilled. Several nights out had added great amounts of condensation to my sleeping bag and quilt. I then slept on for another hour and found the temperature to be -12 C in the hut, when I started my morning rituals, a k a eating and packing. The day was overcast, but with promises, and it did clear up and become sunny as the morning wore on. A cold wind, luckily still at my back, and -8 C made it nippy enough and I pitched my tent for lunch with the impressive, almost 1 000 meters rock wall of Bierikpakte as backdrop. Lake Bierik, below the wall, is a long lake to ski, but a hard wind of around 12-15 m/s blowing at my back made for rapid advancement. The cold had me stop and put on an extra wool undershirt to keep my back warm. Not a problem while carrying a pack, but a disadvantage when using a pulk. Almost blowing out from the the bottleneck at Bierikvaratj and entering into more open country, the camp for the night had the mountain fortress that is central Sarek in magnificent view.

I woke to a completely calm morning and -16 C before the sun started warming things up from a clear blue sky. Looking out of the tent, while emptying my pee bag (yesterdays freeze dried dinner bag with ziploc)I saw the tracks of a fox that had passed during the night an stopped briefly just outside my door.
I took my time during this beautiful winters day, stopping to take photos an lazing about while having lunch. After all, I was on vacation and was making good time, still ahead of schedule.

Coming down from the high up hills I encountered some stunted birches by the time my body cried out for the afternoon coffee break. Here I left Sarek NP and entered Stora Sjöfallet NP. I found some shelter from the chilly wind behind a big boulder and basked in the sun with my rulk as backrest.
Crossing the little valley that would widen into Lake Pietsaure, I climbed again up on the last wide ridge before the huge dammed lake that once was the greatest of all Swedish waterfalls. That was where I was picking up my bus the day after. The wind picked up on the wide ridge and the daylight was rapidly fading, so I had to don my Primaloft pullover to keep from getting chilled the last half hour.
The wind blew off and on fairly strongly during the night. Not storm or hard wind, but quite noticeable. I had pitched my tent among a cluster of trees, trying to get as much protection as possible, and with some of the guylines fastened in trees I was not at all worried. By morning the wind had blown itself out, but left a bit of a drift by the tent door that I had to kick away before getting out, as well as some build up underneath the tent floor.
After breakfast I started down from the ridge to the great waterway below. There was open water at the damm I could see. The snow was soft and I sank to my knees in spite of my skis as I slowly made my way down the steep slope among the birch trees. In this terrain it worked best to carry the rulk on my back. I crossed the frozen damm a good couple of miles below the open water, ice on artificial lakes like this can be very treacherous. The area where I crossed is among the safest though and I had no incidents.

I arrived at Vietas, Stora Sjöfallet with lots of time to spare to catch the bus. I loafed around in the sun in the small bay with some old Sami houses, from which I used to fly and radiotrack raindeers one summer half a lifetime ago. Another reminder that I was at the age where many things happened 20-30 years ago. But something that happened right now was the sun glittering on the snow and the bulk of Alep Kierkau across the lake.

While having a last cup of coffee, I summed up my trip of the last few days. One thought was sticking out: Easy. It had been really easy and comfortable. Lightyears away from hauling 42 kilos, even though I had then been 29 years younger and stronger.

The reasons for this trip being easy were mainly two: Only 17 kilos when I started out and around 11 kilos at the finish is very, very nice.

The second reason was the rulk. Pulling the load behind you instead of carrying it on your back is infinitely to prefer when the the weather and the snow conditions are suitable. When not suitable, pulling a pulk can be hell, particulary if it is heavy. And there is always the temptation to add a bit of extra gear. Bad idea.

Also in spite of the weather being fairly cold, I had not been cold. I had in fact slept deeper and warmer than I can ever remember having done during a winter trip like this.

The weather was not difficult, but not easy either. It was what you have to expect for a trip in March on these latitudes. And of course, doing a trip like this takes experience with winter campingg. And Sarek is not the place where to get the experience, but the place where you use it. Like the boxers say: Train hard, fight easy.

Also, I don't believe that lack of experience can be replaced by more or heavier gear. Keep the load light and the trip will be light. Easy as that.

Comments are welcome, at Utsidan here in Swedish, or below in English.

There will be other articles coming up on the gear I used.

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