8 days in Hornstrandir, Iceland – Trip report

It was in the middle of the night when I got up on the 4th of August, 1:50 AM to be precise. I had order the taxi the other day to come pick me up at 2:30 AM so I could have plenty of time if something happened, the bus to the airport left at 3:25 AM. My phone beeped and the taxi showed up on the map, late…

Got on the bus with time to spare and rode to Landvetter airport, Gothenburg. Smooth flight as always with Iceland Air and we landed right on time at Keflavík International Airport. Transfer bus in to Reykjavík and started to hunt for breakfast and place to store my bag until I got access to my room.

I was also calling the local gas station in Ísafjörður to make sure that they had alcohol for my stove. Had e-mailed them previously but not reply. I got a hold of them and they put a side on bottle for me. Problem solved.

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Main street, Laugavegur (has given name to the popular hiking route Landmannalaugar – Skogár)

The information center had a service to store your bag for 1000ISK so I took up on their offer and started to walk the streets. The rest of the day I was having a good time in Reykjavík, visiting Micro Bar, best beer place in Iceland, where I met a few people and chatted away with till late.

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5th of August – 6:30 AM , Reykjavík Airport.

Finally off to Ísafjörður! Reykjavik Airport is small but everything was flowing smoothly and we departed on time. Flight time 40 minutes.

The 5th is a bank holiday in Iceland so that would mean that I was stuck in the small town for the day. No boats.

Coffee, food and rest was on the menu. If you go here you should definitely visit the old bakery and for food there’s this fish-place with all you can eat (didn’t visit) but otherwise a place called Húsið (the house) which I cannot recommend enough.

Ísafjörður is a picturesque town with a great backdrop with the mountains surrounding it and the people are very friendly. There was quite a few tourists here that came in with cruise ships so don’t expect it to be empty and you might have to fight your way through to get a table at times.

6th of August – 0900 hours, adventure time!

I was at the docks early, slept kind if good but I IMG_0628guess the excitement got me waking up early, even before the alarm sounded.

Packed and ready from the night before I had a quick breakfast and went to the old bakery to grab a cup of coffee. Being a bank holiday yesterday, there was a lot of people going with the boat together with a lot of supplies for their summer homes. The boat was packed to the limit, 16 people.

The seas were rough and some people were ill.

First stop was Sæból, took almost 45 minutes to get everyone off the boat and on to land with their supplies with the Zodiac. We also picked up three Icelandic hikers that had been out for eight days. I took the opportunity to ask them a thing or two about the area and the weather.

Landed on the shore of Látrar at around 11 AM and I started walking on the beautiful beaches towards Sæból (yes, I went back) getting attacked by Arctic terns . These are very territorial and will dive bomb you until you’re out of the way, “Welcome to Hornstrandir”.

Overcast with a steady 10 degrees Celsius, perfect hiking weather. There was also low tide which was perfect for this section. After the beach walk there came a part which was just walking on stones, was slow-paced because some were slippery and some loose. Just as I got eyes on Sæból in the distance, coming around a corner I found a metal ladder. I had been told about this part from the hikers that came on the boat but I couldn’t really imagine what it would be like.

The ladder went straight up 90 degrees and then came to a chain hanging of the cliff. It was really steep and with a full pack this was interesting to say the least. This was climbing. Fortunately enough there was no wind, or very little, and no rain. Otherwise I’d turned back. I reached the top after some scary moments with rocks coming loose and slipping on gravel, my heart was racing when I came to the top and I was pumped with adrenaline. I wouldn’t do this part again with a full ever again even if I got paid. My pack is light but someone coming with a 20kg+ pack wouldn’t have a great time here or might not even make it at all.

I sat for a good 5-10 minutes and then got back up on my feet and started moving again, grassy slopes with a well beaten track, reached Sæból in no time and started climbing the mountain Darri to go look for the old British radar station. I had lunch on my way up to the top. Just as I reached the top, the northern winds had brought big clouds in over the area so visibility was at times less than 20 meters but usually around 50. I searched but couldn’t find it. Didn’t want to go exploring too much because there are overhangs here on the cliffs and in the clouds it’s really hard to see what’s what until you’re standing right there. I went back down again a little sad that I didn’t find it and made the climb ‘for nothing’.

Started walking towards Hesteyri where I would make camp for the night. This route was really nice going past an old church, climbing next to a small waterfall and then up on the plateau, Sléttuheði, where you could see quite far south where the fjords makes up for a spectacular view.

Saw my first Arctic fox too just before crossing a stream. It was quite curious about me and came as close as 2 meters before I started walking again.

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Easy walk all the way to Hesteyri and a good campsite that even had an outdoor sink with running water. The only thing that felt weird is that the campsite is 10 meters from a cemetery…

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Ending notes:

Everything is alright, my body feels good.

7th of August – H-4 in the clouds

A beautiful morning, the wind was blowing gently through the whole night, campsite sat quite high above the sea, no condensation anywhere. Pack and go!

Started with a nice ascent giving a good overview of the campsite and Hesteyri. There was a few people walking between the houses here, probably going to get some food. They even offer accommodation here along with a breakfast buffet if you want to pay for that. Beer and pancakes too. I had non of this, stuck to my strict diet, haha.

When I came up on Hesteyrarskarð the wind picked up and with windchill I guess it was not much more than 1-2 degrees at times. It was cold so that the few stops I had to do like tie shoes and have a quick snack, I really had to find a good spot to get out of the wind but even with that I was shivering. Saw the first snow on the hike here.

Coming closer to Látrar I got a great view of the entire valley and Straumnesfjall which was the next target with the old american radar station H-4. The sun was up at this point but low clouds where closing in. Crossed Norður Aðalvik with it’s sand dunes and bogs. Caught up with an elderly couple from Wales that had come in with their sailboat yesterday. We had a quick chat and then I started ascending the south path of Straumnesfjall. The men who lived an operated at H-4 must have been super fit climbing these paths with supplies and gear. Before I managed to hit the top the clouds where reality, walking in a glass of milk again. The wind picked up and the visibility was anything but good. At times you could see 100 meters and then the next sub 20.

When I came up to a “cross-road” I took a left and realized that I probably had turned too early. A quick map check, no landmarks, but gut feeling told me it was wrong. Then, out of a sudden the clouds gave me some slack and a big ghost house was in the distance. It scared me because with the wind the clouds moved so fast it just came and went out of nowhere. Almost like a mirage.

I didn’t see this house on the map but knowing before I left, when I did the research, that there were a few houses spread out on the area connected with roads I made my way towards it. The clouds covered it again and I just walked towards where I saw it and then… There it was, a single building in the middle of nowhere, scarred by time and the not so gentle Icelandic weather.

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Filled with new energy I pushed out west again looking for the main road and found it shortly after and turned north towards the main buildings. It took some time and I saw a few more houses along the way which like the previous one just popped out of the fog on short notice.

It was closer to 1 PM when I reached the radar site, covered in the clouds, quite creepy place with the fog. Felt like something out of a movie. I stopped for lunch and found out by accident that this place actually hade service so I called home via FaceTime, which was choppy and not the best.

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During my lunch the wind had moved all the clouds and the sun was out. I took shelter in one of the aisles and tried to dry out shoes and socks.

After I was done I made a “navigational error” and went down the east side, there’s no real path here but it’s there on the map. It was a great place but very wet. It took me longer than expected but with the sun out it was still a nice walk downhill.

Instead of setting up camp at Látrar which was the plan, I didn’t really remember my plan, probably due to the nice weather and the mindset of ‘keep pushing on’. I ended the day over at Fljótavík. The Ascent up to Nónfjell was nice and offered no real paths so that was the real first navigational challenge but soon found a good path to follow. The Descent however, was really steep and I didn’t enjoy that part, slippery and some climbing at times. Found a good campsite and could see another tent about 2-300 meters away from me.

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Ending notes:

I miss Emelie and the kids.

8th of August – one day ahead of schedule

Woke up around 3 AM from the sound the rain made when it hit the tent. Cuben fiber is quite loud if it’s pitched right, more or less working like a drum head. I wasn’t cold but I could feel the moist that was in the air. I went back to sleep and woke up around 10 AM and contemplated if I was to get up and hike out in the rain. I decided to hit the mental snooze button again as I was one day ahead of schedule. Had breakfast/lunch around noon. I was thinking of taking a zero day but I thought it to be too lazy for the third day. Broke camp quite quickly, put my HMG Ultamid 2 in the mesh pocket on the outside of my ZPacks Arc Blast with the hopes of the rain letting down later in the day and maybe even get some sun to dry it a little.

I walked north-east towards the river crossing marked on the map, Atlastaðir. From where I camped I had to cross a small and shallow lake. Soaked. Once I got to the river crossing I decided on the best place to cross. There weren’t really any wide parts here and I could see that the water was moving quite fast and the rain that had fallen through the night probably didn’t help. I picked the best place that I could see and started crossing. As soon as I hit the water it was knee-deep and it looked to stay like that so I carefully continued. That’s when it happened, just past the middle it went waist deep and I could feel the current grabbing the back of my pack. I was about to go swimming!

I hastily checked left right for the best ‘exit’ if I’d fall and thought to myself, this is it. At that point adrenaline and anger kicked in about my own stupidity and I managed to push my trekking poles deep in the soft lava sand and they sunk like in quick sand. I leaned forward as much as possible and managed to get my right foot on more solid piece of the sand bottom and pushed out. Close call!

I should have known better and that glacial streams drags a whole lot of stuff with them and makes the bottom act like quicksand.

After I got up I checked my pockets that I still had everything and that my map and electronics weren’t swimming in my hip pockets on my pack. Luckily enough everything was dry. I brought out the map and decided not to cross further down but instead take the detour around south-west of Flótjsvatn via Glúmsstaðir ruins.

This whole area around Fljótavík is known for being wet and it held true to this. Not a dry spot anywhere until I started climbing up towards Þorleifsdalur. There was no real trail here but at times you could see that people have been here, the odd footprint here and there.

I started my ascent towards Þorleifsskarð (skarð = gap/dent) which is more or less just stones everywhere and the trail is quite hard to follow especially with some fog/rain. Tip of the day is to follow the map blindly here and just go straight up the middle, even though it looks like it’s almost vertical climb from afar. The trail is there, and it’s steep. Half way up I had to put away my trekking poles and strap them to my pack. I needed both hands to climb up onto rocks and clinging on the side of things to be able to go upwards. The descent on the other side isn’t that bad and it’s an easy walk to Almenningarskarð which is also quite steep. Ascent towards Hlöðuvik was not bad at all and the view was great.

When I came down to the beach area I caught up with two Germans that was on the beach taking pictures of the drift wood that had piled up. We walked together for sometime until they stopped again to take more pictures. I was getting cold so I headed for the campsite. There were already two more tents here when I arrived, an Italian couple and a solo hiking Canadian. Apart from us there were also 2-3 Arctic foxes that were very used to humans. They went and searched around the tents for food and some of them even more brave, had a quick peak into them too. I stored all my food and trash bag inside my pack that night.

Here the wildlife was great, apart from the foxes I saw a lot of different birds and even a seal swimming next to the shore.

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Ending notes:

Scarð would translate into scared

9th of August – Misty mountains

I got up in time this morning, around 9 AM. There was a light drizzle and I was sitting inside the tent boiling water for breakfast. The camp was empty when I packed my stuff. I started walking east towards Buðir and the first ascent of the day. I caught up with the Germans and Italians after 20 minutes and took rear place and followed their (slow) tempo up hill. At the top of we came across an Arctic fox. It hung around for a few minutes before it headed up to the peak to the north. The group stayed there and I walked a head because the wind was quite strong and I was getting cold.

The hike towards Atlaskarð was interesting with the low clouds giving very bad visibility and I lost the trail a couple of times but found it soon again. Due to the recent rain and the bad visibility I changed my route and decided not to go further north and around Hælavíkurbjarg (which was good). I met a solo hiker when I started my descent from Atlaskarð and she said that the weather was much better just a few hundred meters down the hill. We talked for 5 minutes before going our separate ways.

I had a break at Rekavík bak Hófn on the beach when the ranger came up to me to say hello. She was very friendly and asked where I’ve been and where I’m going etc. She told me that it was good that I avoided the Hælavíkurbjarg route because in the fog and rain it’s quite dangerous. She also told me that Bjarnanes and Smiðjuvík where I had plan to go was just about as soaked as Fljótavík so she recommended me to stay an extra day in the Hornvík area to explore in stead. Good information.

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Icelandic art. You climb up the rope that’s on the right and down the other side.

The entire Hornvík bay is very beautiful with the rocks coming out of the water like teeth and with The Horn or Hornbjarg in the distance. I arrived at Hófn and the weather was clearing up, early night.

Hófn is a very luxurious place and the rangers house even have a WC that’s open for you as a hiker. It doesn’t get much better than that in the back country. However the place smells of rotting seaweed and during the day it has a lot of flies. In the evening and night they’re all gone.

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Makeshift nightstand

Ending notes:

Waiting for better weather to go to Hornbjarg.

10th of August – The Horn

Woke up early because the tent was too hot. The sun was already up. The night had been cold though, damp. I got up and threw out all the wet things I had in my pack and hanged them to dry. It didn’t take too long to get that sorted and they were soon dry.

I headed off towards the stream Kýrá, which essentially is a waterfall. My shoes and socks were dry, a few minutes later it was time for the first river crossing… So much for dry feet. Easy to cross, the water isn’t higher than your calf.

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Hófn campsite is located on the right. You can see a bright dot there.

I took the west route up to the horn and then following it around to the east and south. The views were just spectacular. The sun and blue skies made the day even better. Couldn’t have hoped for any better conditions for this part. I had two things on the trip I really wanted to see and that was this and the H-4 radar site.

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The Horn

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Miðfjall

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Kalfatindar

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The birds are everywhere on the cliff side

I called home from the top of Miðfjall the only place with service around here. Showed the panoramic views and was just happy having contact with the outer world for a while. Pushing the “OK” button on the Spot Gen 3 helps too, it’s psychological in a sense that you’re still here. I got told that the other day my ‘camp message’ hadn’t gone through and there had been some talks back home about what could have happened until I signed in the next day. This wasn’t the Spot’s fault but human error because I think I turned it off by mistake thinking the messaged had been sent.

Made my way back down south and had lunch at the campsite close to Hornsé waterfall. Had a fox sneaking on me begging for food. They’re kind of like cats, sitting there looking pretty, praying on your conscience to feel sorry for them and throw them something. It gave up after 5 minutes but kept coming back every now and then. At the end it settled with laying down on a piece of grass on the high ground to my front and kept me under observation.

Went back to Hófn campsite and took a picture of this Icelandic natural art on the way. I named it, Dog eating food.

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As I came back I found a spot where there was still some sun and pitched the Ultamid and just sat in the grass having a cup of tea and enjoying life.

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Ending notes:

Talked to Casper and Emelie today. Will add some more luxury and listening to some music for a little while.

11th of August – The American

A sunny morning once again. The night was cold. Hófn is trapping in all the cold and moist air like in a kettle. Had to sleep with everything on, even my down jacket as an extra blanket. Talked to a few others and they have had the same experience here during the night.

Wasn’t really sure what to do today but on my old route I was to go by the lighthouse at Látravík directly east from Hófn. Unfortunately it closed on the 7th of August but otherwise they make pancakes and sell them for a fair price. I still went even though they weren’t open for business.

The other reason besides seeing the lighthouse, was to walk on the only real marked trail in Hornstrandir. Hófn to Látravík. The ranger told me so the other day and that made me want to go even more, just to have been there and done that. The trail was indeed marked, to a degree. Some stakes had been smashed down into the rocky ground. Some where only 20cm high but others were almost 1.25 meters (my trekking pole length).

On the western side of the Kýrskarð the wind was completely blocked and I was sweating like crazy. But as soon as I crested the wind was really blowing again, 15-20m/s. A rocky descent down towards the lighthouse but easy walking. I stopped halfway down the last hill and had a good overview of the lighthouse and the horizon. Dried my socks in the sun and had a snack before going back to Hófn.

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In Hófn for the last time. Decided to have lunch at the one and only picnic table. After a few minutes a guy showed up, trying to escape the flies (there’s no escape during the day).  He introduced himself and asked if he could sit down and I said yes. He talked about what he did and how he’d come here to Iceland and Hornstrandir. He was very ill-prepared and didn’t have proper equipment if the weather would turn bad. He didn’t have a map, well, he had a “map” that was printed on a buff that he got for free from a lady in a store, where he bought one of those popular Icelandic sweaters. She gave it to him thought he’d need it, no trail markings or nothing.

I believe that half of what he said was gibberish and he made it up as he went. When I’d finished my noodles he said that he’d taken great pictures of the Arctic foxes that was around camp (I didn’t see any) and that they were really easy to photograph if you had a piece of bread in your hand and fed them(!). He’d even put down a can of tuna and thought it’d only eat from it but he was amazed when it took the whole thing and ran away… Some people…

I guess this is the magic of internet and the easy spreading of images from “cool areas” that make these idiots visit them. The ranger told me that they’d even rescued two people around the 7th of August. They’d lost half of their gear, didn’t have a map and didn’t know here they were. Nice. Hornstrandir is no playground I can tell you that much.

I left in anger, going south towards Veiðileysufjörður and I cooled off only after a kilometer or so.

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The climb up to Hafnarskarð is easy and you get a good view over Hófn. This place is very nice and there’s a lot of small glacial streams where you can get water, cool yourself down or just stay and look at them for a while.

The closer I came towards the skarð I had to cross more and more snow patches. At first only 10-20 meters. Then 50 meters and even this one above which I guess was around 100-150 meters before reaching the top. Here at the top there’s service again so I got to call home but it wasn’t that good so I was breaking up a lot.

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Going down towards Veiðileysufjörður, my pick up location, might have been the most beautiful place on the whole trip.

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Down at the camping site there was quite a few people. About 10 of them waiting to go on the boat and four tents. I guess the trick here is to come early in the day because there are not that many places where you can pitch your tent. Everything is sitting on a slope and there’s quite many rocks which makes it hard to pitch even a small tent. I was lucky to find a good spot.

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Ending notes:

Talked with Emelie and Alma.

12th of August – That one time I almost got on a boat

Slow day. Slept in and no rush to do anything. My left heel was hurting a little from the descent yesterday. Zero day.

I mostly kept to myself but right before noon a couple from the Netherlands came to me and started chatting. They were really nice and we sat and talked the whole day until they were to get on the boat.

I was told from before that there might be a slim chance that I might get on the boat and back to civilization a day early, rather than just sitting here for another day. The boat came in and one of the rangers who was leaving the area, closing up for this season, asked if there was room for me. Noup, full.

I had visualized in my head, pizza or hamburgers with a cold beer. Wouldn’t have any of that for this evening!

I went back up and pitched my tent in the same place again. Off the boat came a couple from Canada and we started chatting and they wanted to know about the trails etc. We ended up talking for many hours about everything from their studies on Lynx, Bobcat and primates to traveling and general everyday things. I went to bed around 10:30 PM and that’s the last time I saw them.

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These (new) socks didn’t survive Hornstrandir. Not buying these again.

13th of August – You have to do something

Last day of the trip. Sun was up again, hot tent. Dried out everything I had. Would make no sense to bring back wet stuff with me if I didn’t have to.

I didn’t feel like hiking at all but I got told last night that I need to do some hiking today. So with that in my head I looked at the surroundings and on the map, Karlstaðir looks ok. I’ll just go and have a look at those ruins.

My legs were slow, my mind was some place else rather than on the beautiful scenery. Not until I crossed the water over towards Karlstaðir my body went into hiking-mode. I picked up the pace and when I got better eyes on Karlstaðir I saw that the place was full of Arctic terns… Not going near them if I don’t have to.

I was thinking if I was to go back but then again came that feeling, need to do something useful on my last day here in Hornstrandir. Tafla, 402 meters high, right next to me – Yeah, let’s do that one!

The climb was steep, there are no routes here so I just winged it. Took some time to get up there and was feeling my heel a bit so I stopped shy of the highest point. Took a breather and then headed north to link up with the trail I walked down two days ago.

On my way there I met up with a bird that I think was a Golden plover. It sings in a way that you can quite easily mimic with just whistling. I started to whistle and it responded every time. It started following me for about 500 meters or so, talking the whole time. It was fun and kept me distracted. Feeling as one with nature. As soon as the descent started it didn’t follow me anymore and I soon hit the trail and was back on the campsite in no time.

The boat came after a few hours and I was on my way back to Ísafjörður.

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The boat ride was interesting. We picked up a few people and almost hit the pier because the sun was so low that the captain had it in his eyes, close call.

Just before we came in to the harbor the engine stopped. Out of fuel… Well isn’t this a good way to end a trip? They pumped fuel from one tank to the other and with a slight engine issue afterwards we were on our way back to the safety of land.

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A quick goodbye to the very friendly guys on the boat and back to take a shower and then get some hamburgers over at Húsið.

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Hornstrandir, was an interesting place. The trip was interesting, exciting, scary and very beautiful. I don’t think I’ll be returning to this place anytime soon but I’m glad to have done the trip.

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Food for 8 days in Iceland Hornstrandir

Food, the thing that keeps you going on the trail.

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For the past couple of years I’ve been opting for freeze bag cooking. I think it’s really neat, packs small, no dishes to do and you got mini-trash-containers for each meal. Is it always the most fun things to eat? No. But for me personally, the food I bring on a trip I see more as fuel rather than a dinner at a fancy restaurant.

For this 8 day trip I’m bringing 7 breakfast soups, 16 bags of noodles, 18 powerbars and 4 bags of nuts and candy for that extra punch. Total weight is 3900g so roughly 490g per day. Between 400-500g per day is good enough for me with the things I’ve chosen.

8 days worth of supplies is quite a lot for my Zpacks Arc Blast backpack, almost bursting at that point, but it’s doable. Best thing with food is that you consume it and after even two days it’s way easier to close the bag.

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Before I leave my tent in the morning I always bump the meals that I’m gonna be using through out the day. Putting Noodles in the back mesh pocket and snacks goes in the side pockets for easy access while walking. If it’s a really small meal I can even put it inside my cooking kit that I have right now. All of the above will save you time and not having to dig through your food bag inside your backpack. If possible I try to have everything I need during the day in the mesh pocket so I don’t have to open the main compartment of the backpack.

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Before going to Vålådalen, Sweden, 2016. 7.5 days worth of supplies.

John Bauer Trail

Coming full circle on this trail or rather where we ended a trip 4 years ago down from Omberg to Gränna. Click this for the old reports, check the ones posted 2013. Them backpacks back then, pew, 25-ish kilos! I could wear about three backpacks now to get to that weight 🙂

It was a good trip with superb weather, 26-28 degrees Celsius and a light breeze. But from a scenic point of view only the first 5-8km from the start (south section) is worth while and the last section (north section) is good for the most part, especially the last bit when you get the view of lake Vättern.

 

Ticks loves this trail, or me, I had 19 of them but only two attached. Jon got away with two… Lucky.

Västra Vätterleden section 8 & 7

On Good Friday around 11.15 I started walking from Mullsjö towards Fagerhult. I’ve previously walked the two sections up to Mullsjö via Bottnaryd a couple of years ago, Södra Vätterleden.

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The weather was cool, around 4 degrees Celsius, when I started walking. I soon found myself a little confused as to where I was to go. The trail markings (orange) were not the best at times and I actually managed to go off trail after only 5-600 meters or so. I’ve been here before because one of my friends used to live here so I knew this area a little but with a quick glance at the map I soon found out that I could just keep walking on the gravel road I was standing on and I would link up with the trail a kilometer or so later. My initial thought was to go on the black and white trail but I didn’t want to risk it. However it wouldn’t have been a problem as they crossed paths further down the trail. If I were to redo this part I’d follow that one instead and jump on the orange marked trail later.

DSC00844The first part of the trail is a good mix between gravel roads and trails in the forest. All in all these sections runs more on roads rather than trails but it was ok.

For the most part it was easy to follow the trail but at times you really had to stop and look at the map and try to find the trail markings as they where missing from logging machines driving through or they were just hidden behind younger trees or even very faded to the point that they were hard to spot.

This is no hard trail to walk. Mostly flat with the odd hill or two but nothing fancy.

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The first longer stop I took was at Julared mill. Roamed this place for 5-10 minutes and then tried to find the trail again. It was well hidden and I lost it again. The tip here is to follow the lake towards the ziplines and connect with the road there. That’ll get you directly on the trail a little further up that road.

Easy walking with quite a lot of gravel roads up a head. Coming ut of the woods on to a road I found this sign. Wasn’t sure if I was to call him or not but I decided to do so. He was very thankful that I called him so that he could take the dogs inside as the trails passes right on his front porch.

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Lunch in the sun. Found two stumps with my name written all over them.

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I didn’t meet a single sole for long periods of time. It was when I hit the Hökensås area that I came a cross some people fishing at the lakes and a bunch of people training hunting dogs to track. But all of that happened more or less within 45 minutes and then I was alone again.

The area around Hornsjön is very beautiful and there are plenty of good spots here if you want to pitch a tent and call it a day. There are even some “campsites” that you can use.

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Gagnån

I arrived at Fagerhult around 5 pm and it had started to hailing about 30 minutes ago. I’d expected rain as that was what the weather forecast said but I was happier with this as it doesn’t get you wet. I took some water from the stream and kept walking to find a spot to pitch my tent.

I found one not too far from here up on a hill away from the trail and with no trees above as I didn’t want any branches falling down on my tent or head during the night. The ground was covered with moss so I took a spot where I could have some of it where I were to lay down but tried to not have it where I would be storing my gear etc not to disturb the ground. I found a good place with a tractor track on one side and moss on the other. As soon as I had pitched my tent, it started snowing…

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The white dot is my aproximate campsite

Saturday

The night was cold, freezing my butt off at some points. I did get to try out my new lantern but I’m not that sure it’s something that I’ll use that often. I’m very used to hanging my Petzl there anyway and it produces way more light than this. I felt it was kind of redundant. But who knows, I’ll bring it again and get a proper opinion on hit.

I slept in and didn’t break camp before 11 am again. As I sleept poorly between midnight and 2 am I wanted to get some extra sleep as it got “warmer”. Had a quick breakfast, a sandwich I had made at home and boiled some water for a cup of tea.

I think my fingers and toes have never been that cold packing up the tent. It was to the point that I couldn’t feel my fingers packing the ice cold tent and it took me a few kilometers of walking until my toes came back to life. Just love that feeling when you start getting warmth back in your toes, it brings forward such a nice pain that can’t really be described but have to be experienced, haha.

Walking from Fagerhult towards Hökensås Semesterby is quite boring. Not much to see and you’re mainly walking on forest roads where most of the trees where cut down. It’s not until you come up towards the lakes the landscape changes and it gets very beautiful. The pictures below are not giving the place justice. The overcast did however give it a moody feeling but at the same time very calming. For long periods of time the trail goes next to the water or on ridges where you can get a good overview of the area.

As you’re getting closer to Semesterbyn (vacation village) you start meeting people running on the trails, camping, fishing etc.

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Very typical trail at the last bit of the section.

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End of the line.

Gear

I used my RAB event gaiters for the entire time. I’ve never really used them before but I wanted to give it and them a go. I found gaiters to be quite neat at times but this particular model leaves some room for improvement. They’re “bulky” and not very form fitted. I do believe it’s a good thing to have but maybe something like Inv-8 or Dirty Girl Gaiters are a better choice.

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This is however the result of two days of walking with them on soft terrain. I don’t want to know what walking on stone paths or similar would do to them. Some kind of hooks or velcro that attaches to your shoes would be better.

Was also happy with my new Injin toe-socks, they were very comfortable.

Trip report Vålådalen 2016

My trip started from my home in Jönköping, Sweden, on the 9th of September where I drove up to Jon’s cabin in Jämtland about two hours from Vålådalen. It was an easy drive up north and I arrived at the cabin around 11pm. Once there I lit a fire in the fireplace and sat down on the sofa and had a beer before going to sleep.

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I got up the next day at 7am, had some breakfast, packed the last things in my backpack and got in my car. It was so dark when I got there last night so I didn’t realize that fall had actually come a long way up here compared to home. Was excited about this because that would mean that I could expect vivid colors out on the trail. The morning was clear and the air was cold and damp, you could see for miles.

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9/10, 10 am, Vålådalen mountain station, my feet are starting to carry me out on the trail going south. It was quite many people on the parking lot preparing to go out just seconds after I arrived with my car half an hour ago. Fortunately they all went further south towards Lunndörren so just after five minutes I was completely on my own. I didn’t see another person for almost two hours, did however see two mountain bikes leaning towards a tree but didn’t see the owners of them even though I lingered a little at the spot.

Walking alone for the first time like this and knowing I’m to be out on my own for about 7 days is both really exciting and also a little scary. Not knowing what I’ll encounter and what kind of problems that might arise. My biggest fear, gear-wise, is to break on of my trekking poles because then I’ll have some real issues with pitching my tent…

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At lunch time I’ve arrived at Stensdalen mountain hut, alone. Met up fairly quickly with the hut wardens before they set of with their kid out onto the fells. The weather was warm and cloudy, perfect for hiking! After leaving the hut I meet a few groups coming in to stay the night in Stensdalen. They said that the trails up north have been swamped with people over the weekend. Today it’s Saturday and I won’t be coming up on any big huts until lunch Sunday, hopefully by then most of them will be going home, back to work.

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Stäntja with Sylarna in the horizon. Gåsen mountain on the left and Tjallingklumpen on the right

Around 4pm I reach Stäntja (emergency) hut and just before that I see my first deer in the wild that I’ve ever seen in my life. It was a surreal feeling. Not knowing how many I’d see later on I was really hyped about it. Coming up on Stäntja it was now time to go off trail to my predetermined campsite. The plan is to camp  between the two mountains Gåsen and Tjallingklumpen where there’ll be low ground and easy access to water.

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The climb up to Tjallingtjärnen is quite easy and I meet up with a lot of deers grazing on the hill sides. They’re about as surprised to see me as I them. 1,5 hours later I arrive at my campsite and it’s more beautiful that I could have ever imagined. I haven’t seen another human being for the last four hours and I’m starting to get used to being alone out here.

I setup the tent so I have a nice view over Lill Ulvåfjället and if I go back up the trail a little I can see Sylarna. 8 hours on the trail, 6 of them actively walking resulting in 27.2 kilometers.

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9/11, my brothers birthday. It’s been raining quite heavy since around 11pm and I’ve woken up several times due to the rain hitting the tent so hard. That’s the downside with cuben fiber. When the rain hits it it’s quite loud at times compared to silnylon. It just stopped raining as I woke up and when I looked out the door to the west it looked as it was about to let up completely. I never looked east though, then I would have realized that it wasn’t gonna be the case…

Breaking camp was done in really bad weather, raining really hard and the wind had really picked up. The raindrops hurt when they hit my face due to the windspeed. It was almost coming down horizontally. I think I’ve never broken camp that fast in my life before, haha.

Walking towards Storulvån mountain station was quite tedious not only because of the rain. The trails were completely soaked in mud and because of the mountain bikers they were also at times destroyed to the point where you couldn’t really use the trail itself. After the first river crossing I made a poor decision to go up on Lill Ulvåfjället where I thought that I could scratch off a few kilometers of walking compared to going on a car road but that was not the case. Due to the rain that mountain side was completely filled with water. It was a no-go and after a few kilometers I felt it to be too dangerous to stay up there as the winds were picking up and also if I fall over and hurt myself I would be hard to find. I decided to go back down again and use the road.

I lost a few hours here and I was quite disappointed at myself making a “big” mistake like that. After walking on that road for about a kilometer or two I took a break and rested my feet. Hello there my first two blisters! I could also feel some pain in my left ankle but nothing too bad at the time.

I reached Storulvån at around 1 pm and the rain had almost stopped. I went inside and it was filled with people coming in from the trails around the area. Everyone being just as wet as me. Most of them were going home after a weekend hiking the Jämtland Triangle. I stayed here for about 1 hour drying up and resting my feet. Blister-control. As soon as the rain had stopped and the sun had come back up again I got back out on the trail. I grabbed a power bar and some nuts and pushed on north up the southern side of Getryggen with my goal set for Snasahögarna where my plan was to make camp for the night.

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The view down south towards Storulvån mountain station.

But, yet again I had made a bad decision. This “trail” was really hard to walk due to the rain so instead of getting there faster I never made Snasahögarna. I found my way back to the trail in the west just due north of Snasahögarna hut where I took cover and had dinner as another rainstorm came in. I was really beat at this time and really thought about what the heck am I doing out here… After the dinner was ready and I gained new energy all those negative thoughts were gone just like the rain. Note to self, eat!

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I set up camp just south of that hut on a small “island” just next to the trail and I went to sleep at around 7pm. The night was calm and quiet but cold. I slept like a baby.

32km, 10 hours and 6.45 out on the trail walking.

9/12, waking up to a nice and cold morning, windy. My body feels good and I’m rested. However my left ankle hurts like hell and is a little swollen. Painkillers.

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After I got on the move and my muscles started to warm up the pain got easier to handle. Still feeling every step I take but as the nice views of Sylarna started to show up I soon forget about that. I have a quick stop at Ulvåtjärn hut, drying my feet.

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The trails are really muddy. Have sunken down in to a mud hole on my way here, my left leg was covered right up to my knee in mud. I meet the first hikers after a few hours and one of them is walking alone so I ask her to take a picture. The sun sitts really high now and it’s really hot. Probably around 18 degrees celsius at 10pm.

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After a 5 minute chat we set of in different directions again and it takes about an hour before I meet someone else. The trails are not crowded at all, I feel relieved.

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Oh deer.

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Sylarna, just south of the mountain station.

I arrive at Sylarna mountain station around lunch time. The plan was to go up on Sylarna and setup camp there but because I never made Snasahögarna yesterday I’m about half a day ahead of schedule. I talk to one of the staff at the hut and he recommends me going up on one of the ridge lines on Sylarna to get a good view west into Norway and from there go down south and camp somewhere around Ekorrdörren hut.

The wind was picking up again and my left ankle still hurts like hell so I decided that I’d seen what I came here to see at Sylarna and instead try to get a better view to the east and inwards towards Sylarna from a higher angle. There’s this mountain just behind me to the east called Herrklumpen (1 288 m) where I figured I’ll get that view. And oh did I get a good view over the area. Not disappointed at all leaving Sylarna for another time.

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Coming down from Herrklumpen, view south east, Helags in the distance (left).

Pushing on towards Helgs now. The views are really nice but it was hard to find a good campsite. Just like always I walk further than I planned ending up at a good spot for the next day with an awesome views of Helags.

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Campsite for the night, awesome view!

I parked my tent just north of Mieshketjahke (say that one fast) around 5 pm. Having actively walked for about 5 hours, 30.88 km.

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9/13, decided last night that I would have a slow morning and sleep in as I was so much ahead of schedule, 1.5 days right now… More painkillers, my left ankle is really swollen right now, even worse than last night.

The night was calm and quite cold. Around 2am I woke up to a deer close to my tent barking at me. It probably wondered why I was there sleeping in his or her spot. It left after a few minutes but still scared the crap out of me when it started shouting at me so close by.

The morning was warm and calm. Could feel as soon as I woke up that it was gonna be a hot day. I brought everything that was wet or moist out of the tent and pegged my quilt to the ground to dry as there was a light breeze and I was in no mood to run an chase it if the wind picked up.

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As soon as I had breakfast I left. The first river crossing was just 50 meters from the tent, with dry shoes for the first time in two and a half days I did my best and managed to get across without getting my feet wet. Hooray!

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Mieshketjhakies hut

The road to Helags is dominated by vast and open landscapes. I wondered how it would be out here in the winter when the wind is blowing. I guess you can’t really see much.

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“Härjedalen”

The weather was awesome and the views are even better. Arrived at Helags hut without meeting anyone on the way there and it was about lunch time. A few fell runners came in about 20 minutes after I arrived and I was no longer alone. Well, I wasn’t really alone before that either because there was a deer that didn’t show much fear of humans as he was in the middle of the hut complex standing in the shade. Every now and then he set off on some mission to the north and came back in 1o minutes or so and went back to the same spot as before. He just stood there. If you haven’t seen him move earlier you might misstake him for being a stuffed animal.

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I sat there at Helags mountain station enjoying the view of the Helags glacier. The southern most glacier in Sweden. The plan was to go up to it and have a look. That was the one thing that Jon really wanted to do when we planned the trip here. Unfortunately Jon got a really bad cold or something similar and couldn’t make the trip. I had this vision in my head the night before that I would be on top of Helags standing next to the glacier and calling or texting Jon that I was there. Yet again I fear for my foot as it was hurting quite badly and I had increased the amount of painkiller that I was taking. There was a uphill trek towards my next campsite so I figured I might have the same luck again as the day before if I went up there.

The original plan was to climb Helags and then camp just south of the mountain station. But this morning I said to myself, yes literally, being alone makes me talk to myself, and my fellow deer friends that I come across, that if I don’t feel like it I’m just gonna push on and go up another mountain instead. So that’s what I did.

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After going up that hill to the east I got a great view into the “crater” of Helags. I kind of wished that I had gone up there because it revealed that the glacier was much bigger than what you could see from the mountain station. But I was in good spirits and also had a big eagle circling above my head going quite low so I could see all the details on its wings. All this kept me pushing on with a smile on my face.

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The walk was good, I had the sun at my back, a slight breeze was blowing with warm winds and I was completely alone.

As soon as I got down from the high ground it went completely silent. I had to stop several times just to listen because the only thing I could hear was my own footsteps and my trekking poles touching the ground. Otherwise there was nothing. That’s a really weird feeling that can’t really be explained. It has to be experienced.

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My planed and actual campsite for the night was just north of Ljungan hut and on the south-eastern slopes of tomorrows climb, Härjångsfjällen. I made a quick stop at Ljungan hut before trying to get my bearings on a good spot for me and my tent. The walk was tougher than I’d imagined but I came there fairly easy in the end. It was not the best or should I say the flattest ground but I managed to find a good spot in the end. The scenery was spectacular. Helags in the distance with the sun setting is an amazing view, I tell you.

Two days ahead of schedule, 5.5 hours active walking, 33 km.

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harljangsfjallen-map9/14, last day of the trip (not planned to be the last). Woke up fairly early and had breakfast outside of the tent as the sun came up. It was getting warm really fast and I could feel that it would be a really hot day.

I broke camp and had the previous day set a direction to go up on Härjångsfjällen. I went in the “middle” so to say between the two peaks. It was completely still, the air didn’t move an inch and the hillside was totally exposed to the sun, it was a sweaty climb. Even on the first peak I reached there was no wind but as soon as I got to where I wanted to go the wind was really moving and I needed to use my wind jacket not to get too cold. I thought I was alone on that hilltop but no. After a minute or so 5-6 deers came up from the northern side to say hi. I moved down on the north-eastern slope parallel to Tvärhammaren that looks more like a sword rather than a hammer that the name points towards.

dsc00592_16-09-14I followed the river down to Härjångsån which I crossed, quite deep and fast moving. Made my way towards Vålåstugorna and halfway there I met up with an old man who solo-hiked with a big backpack. We both stopped and chatted for 15 minutes or so about the trails and where we both were going and have been. He was headed towards Norway just west of Sylarna.

I reached Vålåstugorna not long there after and made a quick stop. It was around 1pm or so when I reached it. The original plan stated that I should make camp just north from there and go via Lunndörren the next day and home. But there was nothing interesting to go and look at right there so I made the decision to push towards Lunndörren and back to Vålådalen mountain station and home, 2 days ahead of schedule.

So that’s what I did. The trails were quite muddy and damaged from the rain that came down on Saturday. One might think that it would have dried up a little but that wasn’t the case.

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I arrived at Lunndörren mountain station quite late, it was longer than I’d expected. I don’t think the signs was completely right because it said something like 15 kilometers to Lunndörren from Vålåstugorna but it was more like 16-17 kilometers. I don’t recommend the trail between those two places or even up to Vålådalen. A waste of energy. In hindsight I should have gone back up to Stensdalen where I came in. I didn’t do this because I didn’t want to cross the same place twice.

The sun was starting to set when I reached Lunndörren. I grabbed a power bar, more painkillers and two handfuls of nut mix and started walking again. I even tested my head torch before setting off because I was sure that it would be really dark before reaching Vålådalen mountain station.

The sun started to set and the trail was filled with roots and rocks so I didn’t want to get stuck out there in the dark. I picked up the pace and that really hurt my ankle but as it was only like 13 kilometers left I tried to ignore it the best I could.

I reached Vålådalen mountain station about the time it started to get really dark outside. I had made it just in time! I went up to the hut and managed to get a sandwich and a cup of coffee before heading down to Jon’s cabin. Mission complete!

The last day consisted of 9 hours of walking and 43.8 kilometers. Just past 10 hours since I broke camp around 1o am. Tired but really happy. A personal record.

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Packing for Vålådalen

It’s starting to get closer to this years trip into the wilderness. We’ve been test-packing and checking our gear today in the sun and then went for a supply run to stock up on food and snacks. Everything looks like it’s in order.

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I’ve bought some new stuff for this trip. Some items were just too worn out to bring and I also got something new as an complement, down vs synthetic.

New items:

  • Inov-8 Terraclaw 220 shoes (replacement)
  • 2 pairs of socks (replacement)
  • Patagonia Ultralight Down Hoodie (complement)
  • Patagonia Houdini Jacket (replacement)
  • Arc’Teryx Venta Gloves (replacement)

My gear list can be found here, it’s a work in progress. Haven’t weighed and repacked the food just yet but everything is bought. Besides that everything should be there.

Jons list gear list also more or less completed.

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Iceland 2015 – Gear talk with André

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Post-hike-picture

Here’s a rundown of what I brought to Iceland. All in all I’m very please with my gearlist and how everything works together. But sure, some items could be switched to lighter alternatives especially some clothing. I mainly refer to my Patagonia items. I’m a big Patagonia fan and that’s also why I don’t see any need to switch them to anything else before they break down completely. And this far they’ve held up really good!

Big Three

Zpacks Arc’Blast Backpack

One of my latest additions to my list. Sold another backpack for this one and I haven’t looked back since. Very good quality and super comfortable.

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Sleeping bag

Cumulus Quilt 250

Also quite new, have had a few nights in it but not any cold ones. I had great hope that it would perform as I liked and I can’t say anything else. Cold/warm nights aren’t a problem as you just cinch it tighter or leave it open depending on the weather. Had the coldest night in it since I bought it, around 0 degrees centigrade and it wasn’t a problem. If it would get a bit colder than that you’ll have to sleep with more clothing on. For around zero you’ll be good in long johns and a shirt.

Sleeping pad

THERM-A-REST NeoAir X-Lite

If it was a liiittle wider it would be perfect. Happy with the length if I just put a sitting pad under my feet during the night to keep them off the cold ground.

Shelter

HYPERLIGHT Mountain Gear Ultamid 2

I’ve had this for some time now and it always feels like a safe place to sleep. One thing that I’ll probably change in the future it’s the HMG pole straps. They’re not bad but not the best either. If something will fail with the shelter it’s probably them. I’ve looked at a few options and I think I’ll have some sort of pole extension. Probably the “The Missing Link“.

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BEARPAWWD INNER Net

Good stuff but a little heavier than other options on the market right now. When I got it there weren’t any real good options to this one. Happy with it.

Clothing

I’ll just be a little lazy here and not put everything out here from my list. As I started this post I mostly use clothes from Patagonia and they’ve always performed well. Nothing to complain about really other than they could be a little lighter.

INOV-8 Trailroc 245

Great buy, cheap and durable! After this trip I’ve bought new inner soles just as an easy upgrade. Not really sure that my current ones are worn out but better safe than sorry. Have walked +300km in these and on the outside the mesh still looks good and the sole still have plenty of grip left. Something to note is that the grip will eat away faster on rocky terrain like in Jotunheimen rather than the mixed terrain on Iceland (go figure).

SEALSKINZ

Well… They’re comfortable but won’t keep your feet dry long enough even if you just use them round camp. When they’re brand new the do the trick pretty good but the GTX membrane will deteriorate quite fast. Will probably look for a replacement.

Mountain Laurel Design Rain Kilt

Also first time use on this trip. Never had to use it in rain but wore it in camp once after a quick “swim” in the hot pool. It’s supposed to be good for when you do laundry on thru hikes and such (and of course in rain) as it’s not see-through. Jon however commented on that it might not be. Don’t know if people was looking at me because of the kilt/skirt or because they saw something underneath it… I’ll never know 🙂

Tools

Suunto Ambit

Great watch with good battery life. Unfortunately it has been acting up some times and have had problems with acquiring a good GPS-fix. I’ve noticed that it’ll “jump” a few hundred meters in all directions and then coming back to a good fix (out on the trail). It’s completely on random as far as I know and I haven’t found anything on the internet saying that this is a common problem with the particular model. I’ll just have to get in touch with Suunto’s customer service and see what they think.

Sony rx100 mark 3

Great little camera! I was very please with the quality of the pictures. It’s most definitely comparable with the expensive DSLRs on the market like the Canon 5D Mark II.

BLACK DIAMOND ALPINE CARBON CORK

Just, wow, everytime you use them. When you’re out there you don’t really think about them, they just work. They never complain, the flick-lock system hold everything in place during the day and the night when it supports the tent. Can’t recommend them enough.

HMG Stuff sack

These I just got before we left for Iceland. Replaced my sleeping bag stuff sack with one of these and the other I used for the food. Worked just fine, nothing to complain about.

TRAIL DESIGNS SIDEWINDER + INFERNO CONE W. EVERNEW TITANIUM ULTRA LIGHT .9L POT

Aaah, the kitchen. What makes you go further (and lighter). Works great with both alcohol and wood. For this trip it was only used with alcohol and we had no problem with it even in windy conditions.

The stove and HMG stuff sack filled with food.

To sum things up I’m very happy with everything I have right now and there isn’t anything that i really need to change because it’s not working right now. But there’s always possible to upgrade some items just to be safe like with the adaptor for the hiking poles to support the shelter better in high winds.