Everything is not equally important

When your are enthusiastic about a particular product it is very easy to make a long list of everything that you think is great about it. I have on occasion found myself sounding terrifyingly like someone selling the product. However, sooner or later it usually dawns on me that not everything on my long list of valuable features is equally important.

I started digging into this while writing my book "Vandra Fjäderlätt" and was shown by Martin Nordesjö, who is a design engineer, how designers of products have built a structure that they use. This very structure turns out to be helpful also for us consumers. I have found that it really helps me to separate the wheat from the chaff when deciding what outdoor product to choose and why.

By Jörgen Johansson


Across Alaska

I ran into an interesting story about Buck Nelson and his trek along the Brooks Range. Nice inspiration at this time of year.

By Jörgen Johansson

Long handled marketing

To excavate the depths of a package of freeze dried food in order to feed your inner man can sometimes be difficult. Hence long handled sporks and spoons. The question is if they are an essential answer to customers needs, or smart marketing or a reflection of something else.

By Jörgen Johansson 


Nahanni - gear reflecting

As I have written elsewhere I started out on the Nahanni trip with camping gear, packrafting gear and food that together weighed around 23 kilos (50 lbs). I have also commented on some of the stuff that was in the pack. In this entry I will comment on some gear that became, or remained, favourites. There were also one or two things that did not work very well.

By Jörgen Johansson

18 years old, 18 days and 430 kilometers soloing the King's Trail

The King's Trail (Kungsleden) is the oldest and most well-known of the Swedish long trails. It consists of 430 kilometers of usually well-marked trail down the spine of the Swedish mountains, most of it above timberline, from Abisko in the north to Hemavan in the south. Jakob Sjölander Johansson, 18 years old, spent 18 days travelling this whole path unsupported.

By Jörgen Johansson 

At the start of the trail, Abisko.

Nahanni - the load

Being a lightweight operator turned out to be more difficult than I had expected on the Nahanni trip. The pack I had brought was too small by far. So I had to buy a new pack in Calgary in a rush a couple of hours before the plane for Whitehorse took off. I shopped around for a Golite pack, but they seemed to be pretty unknown in the stores I phoned. Noone knew of any retailer selling Golite. So I went to Mountain Equipment Coop and bought their lightest big pack. 2,2 kilos for their 85 litre Alpinelite was not too bad, and the price 139 CAD, was not bad neither. I could have done worse. So what did I put into this, by my standards, huge bag?

By Jörgen Johansson


Nahanni V - canyonlands

One reason that the South Nahanni river is a Unesco World Heritage site, is its diversity. Those who have read my blog entries have followed it from being a rambunctios teenager in the Rock Gardens through the vigorous vitality of youth to when it slipped into the comfortable mellowness of middle age after Rabbitkettle. These are of course metaphors that can be used of many rivers. But after the crescendo of Virgina Falls you are hard put to imagine anything but an anticlimax. Nothing could be further from the reality; the South Nahanni shifts gear in an amazing and unique way.

By Jörgen Johansson 


Nahanni IV - Parks river

Rabbitkettle Lake and its surroundings are beautiful and contains some unique landscape features. Almost as beautiful was the fact that a box awaited me with food for another eight days, nice since I was running very low on supplies.

By Jörgen Johansson

Nahanni III - big wilderness river

When the Rock Gardens ended it became even more obvious that the Nahanni had picked up a lot of water from streams and creeks since the Moose Ponds. It was now a wide river that swept me along rapidly, at speeds around 10 km/h.

By Jörgen Johansson

Nahanni II - rocks and roll

After some 50 kilometers of bushwhacking I was afloat on the Nahanni. Another 50 kilometers waited, the (in)famous Rock Gardens. This is described as "almost continous whitewater" and "not the place to learn whitewater skills". The more serious rapids rate from II to III and III++ and have fanciful names like Hollywood, Danish Dynamite, Bailing Rapids and The Sequel. Being a coward by birth and habit, and not a very experienced packrafter, I had already decided that I would probably portage all of the more difficult rapids.


By Jörgen Johansson


Nahanni I - labor pains

For some background on the South Nahanni River and my planned trip, see earlier blog posts.

Almost everyone that paddles the Nahanni flies in to various points along the river. Now, a packraft is constructed for packing and my gut feeling was that I wanted to walk in to the Moose Ponds, the source of the Nahanni, from the nearest road. Do not ask me why. To feel worthy of the Nahanni perhaps, or just because I am generally pigheaded and want to do things my way.

Anyway, 40-50 kilometers cross country above timberline is something I normally would be able to do in two long days of hiking. The reality proved to be a lot rougher than I had expected. On the other hand, I was not unprepared. This is Canada, it is big, it is wild and you are on your own. That's why I came.

By Jörgen Johansson 



Nahanni - back from the big country

Just flew in from Canada with the trip of a lifetime logged in my memory. I will have some good stories to tell. But right now I have to take care of a neglected family, and no, it does not hurt one bit. So it will take a while before I can begin to share my experience of 550 km river and the 50 km of awful bushwhack before I could inflate. Below a nice tidbit, a picture of The Gate of the Nahanni, 430 meters of perpendicular walls give a definite Lord of the Ring feeling when you pass through.


By Jörgen Johansson

Nahanni - IRL

Time to go. One month in Canada, most of it along the South Nahanni river. I expect to have the time of my life and a tall tale or two to tell when July is gone. Wish me luck :-)

By Jörgen Johansson

Nahanni - gear plans

So what kind of gear do you pick for a cross country backpacking and packrafting trip in a Canadian wilderness? I have of course pondered this off and on all winter and have made some plans. Now, as has been said in military matters, no plan will survive the first contact with the enemy. That might be true, but on the other hand I look upon the wilderness more as a friend, so I hope to do slightly better.

By Jörgen Johansson 

Nahanni - the plan

The most common way of seeing the South Nahanni River is by flying in and canoeing or rafting parts of the river. Most visitors fly into Virginia Falls and spend 5-7 days floating down the river to Nahanni Butte or Blackstone Landing.
I want to follow the river from the source to its confluence with the mighty Liard River which later will merge with the even mightier Mackenzie. Flying in seems a bit like cheating, don't ask me why. I have flown on other occassions but this time it does not seem right. Besides, if I was smart I would not be doing this anyway. And what good is a packraft if you do not carry it part of the way?

By Jörgen Johansson

Nahanni - river of dreams

The South Nahanni river of the Canadian Northwest Territories is a national park as well as one of the first UNESCO World Heritage sites. The lower part of the river, below Virginia Falls, twice the height of the Niagara, is travelled by a limited number of outfitters and a limited number of groups every year. It holds some of the most spectacular wilderness river canyon scenery imaginable. The upper river, with the headwaters being well outside the 30 000 sq kilometer park, is visited by very few people each year. My plan for the summer is to hike in to the headwaters across the Yukon-NWT border, which is also the continental watershed in these parts, and float down almost 600 kilometers of wilderness river in my packraft. Here are a few teasers, I'll get more specific in future postings.

By Jörgen Johansson

The Voxnan River - rapids x 55

The Voxnan is a river situated more or less in the middle of Sweden, or rather in the southernmost part of northern Sweden, that is popular among whitewater canoeists. It is a long stretch of river through woodland without the accompaniement of a road. This is otherwise very common, especially in southern Sweden. The headwaters being only some 400 kilometers north of Stockholm, it is also more accessible for people in this densely populated area than the great northern rivers. The stretch between Rullbo and Vinströmmen with some 55 rapids seemed a perfect place to practice my packrafting for a couple of days in May.

By Jörgen Johansson


Smarter Backpacking Course - curriculum available

So, finally got my act together and completed the curriculum, gear requirements and other info for the course August 20-26.  After finishing this course the participants should feel confident to go on using lightweight and ultra lightweight gear and techniques in exposed, 3-season arctic conditions, like tundra and above timberline areas, on their own.
There is more info to be found on the course here.

The course will be held in English or Swedish, depending on the participants. But ideally I would like a combination of people from different countries and backpacking backgrounds.

If you want to know more, send a mail to info@smarterbackpacking.com. Those of you that have already mailed me will receive the new info automatically. Also, the last day you can sign up for this course is June 12.

By Jörgen Johansson

Finnmarksvidda - two of everything?

I have discovered that I am not terribly good at thinking big. It is more like; two small are better than one big. It seems to permeate my thinking and my gear lists. On the trip across Finnmarksvidda it also became evident that on top of this, Joe and I together carried a lot of doubles. Now, what are the pros and cons on this?

By Jörgen Johansson



Finnmarksvidda - gear talks

I used almost the same gear on Finnmarksvidda as on last years long skitrip in Sarek. Some things were different and here are my comments and idiosyncrasies on those.

By Jörgen Johansson


Finnmarksvidda day 5&6 - holidays

Here is the fourth and final installment about Joe Newton's and my skitrip up on the Finnmarksvidda, or Vidda, at the northernmost corner of Europe.
Joe and I have decided that it would be fun, both for ourselves and our readers, if we publish our separate accounts of the same trip on the same day, without having had access to the writings of our trip companion. So if you want to read a good story and see some nice photos (btw all photos are by Joe or Jo), go to Joe's blog at Thunder in the Night.

By Jörgen Johansson


Finnmarksvidda Day 4 - white out day

Here is the third installment about Joe Newton's and my skitrip up on the Finnmarksvidda, or Vidda, at the northernmost corner of Europe.
Joe and I have decided that it would be fun, both for ourselves and our readers, if we publish our separate accounts of the same trip on the same day, without having had access to the writings of our trip companion. So if you want to read a good story and see some nice photos (btw all photos are by Joe or Jo), go to Joe's blog at Thunder in the Night.

By Jörgen Johansson


Finnmarksvidda Day 3 - on skis, but where?

Here is the second installment about Joe Newton's and my skitrip up on the Finnmarksvidda, or Vidda, at the northernmost corner of Europe.
Joe and I have decided that it would be fun, both for ourselves and our readers, if we publish our separate accounts of the same trip on the same day, without having had access to the writings of our trip companion. So if you want to read a good story and see some nice photos (btw all photos are by Joe or Jo), go to Joe's blog at Thunder in the Night.

By Jörgen Johansson

My tent after the windy night

Finnmarksvidda Day 1&2 - slow going

Here is the first installment about Joe Newton's and my skitrip up on the Finnmarksvidda, or Vidda, at the northernmost corner of Europe. We started at Alta, which at 69 degrees latitude is slightly north of Inuvik in the Canadian Northwest Territories and slightly south of Point Barrow in Alaska. All way north of the Arctic Circle. Our goal was the town of Kautokeino some 120 kilometers south. In between the arctic plateau of Vidda (which means 'wide open area, expanse').

Joe and I have decided that it would be fun, both for ourselves and our readers, if we publish our separate accounts of the same trip on the same day, without having had access to the writings of our trip companion. So if you want to read a good story and see some nice photos (btw all photos are by Joe or Jo), go to Joe's blog at Thunder in the Night.

By Jörgen Johansson

Finnmarksvidda - we're back

The trip that my Nordic Lightpacking buddy Joe Newton and I had planned, from Alta to Kautokeino, turned out eventful, educating and not at all like planned.

Now we are back and please stay tuned  for a barrage of blog entries on subjects related to the trip. Please be patient for a couple of days, since we both have to land and also manage our jobs right now. We are expecting to be able to publish some stuff beginning this weekend.

By Jörgen Johansson 

Finnmarksvidda - big country

Right now the planning of mine and Joe Newton's trip across Finnmarksvidda is looming big. Only a couple of days before we leave for this giant, wide-open expanse at the top of the European continent. We hope to cross a large part of it during six days of skiing and rulking.

By Jörgen Johansson

Learn Smarter Backpacking in Arctic Scandinavia

Events Some readers will remember that I offered a course on using lightweight and ultra light gear in above timberline conditions last summer. Unfortunately I did not offer it before last summer. I got several encouraging e-mails stating the same thing: Good idea but too late, my plans for the summer are already made. This time I hope to give you ample warning. The aim of the course is still to give people who are into lightweight backpacking the know-how of gear and techniques needed to be confident in using them in what is probably of of the most demanding circumstances; arctic and subarctic three season conditions.

Brian Doble, Triple Crowner

Not many people have hiked the three great American trails that make up the Triple Crown. Probably because it entails walking 3 500 kilometers along the Appalachian Trail (AT), 4 800 kilometers along the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) and 4 300 kilometers along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). By far the least traveled and most obscure trail, on and off the map, is the CDT. Brian Doble walked most of it with a fractured foot in 2010 and completed his quest for the Triple Crown. Here are some of his thoughts on thru-hiking and light gear.

By Jörgen Johansson

San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Swesport 2011 gear news

Swesport is the trade fair for the swedish sports and outdoor business. It's mostly about gear and wear for the next winter, but we found some nuggets for lightweight backpacking too.

By Martin Nordesjö

OR Transcendent Beanie. Some people look good in any headwear. Some don't.
Outdoor Research Transcendent Down Beanie
I've had seagulls land better looking things on my head, but this one might be really useful. 650 cuin down, packs down to the size of a... compressed down beanie, and the weight is probably negligible. Around 30 euro.


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