Hiking With Dogs: Tips For Keeping Your Furry Friend Safe And Happy On The Trails

Hiking with your furry friend can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience for both you and your dog. It allows you to spend quality time together, explore new sights and sounds, and get some much-needed exercise. However, before leashing up your dog and hitting the trails, it is important to plan ahead and consider their safety and well-being. In this article, we will explore essential tips for hiking with dogs and keeping them safe and happy on the trails.

Planning Ahead for Hiking with Dogs

Researching the Trail Restrictions and Guidelines for Dogs

Before heading out for a hike with your dog, it is crucial to research the trails in your area and look for any restrictions or guidelines for dogs. Some trails may have specific dog-friendly areas or may require your dog to be on a leash. Failing to follow these guidelines can result in fines or even loss of access to certain trails.

Checking the Weather Forecast

When planning a hike with your dog, it is important to check the weather forecast beforehand. Extreme heat or cold weather can be harmful to dogs, causing dehydration, heat stroke, or hypothermia. Avoid hiking during the hottest parts of the day or during extreme weather.

Packing Essential Items such as Water, Food, First Aid Kit, Poop Bags, Leash, and Harness

When hiking with your dog, packing essential items can make the experience much more enjoyable for both you and your dog. Bring along plenty of water and snacks for both you and your dog. Pack a first-aid kit in case of injury, and don’t forget poop bags for proper waste disposal. Additionally, bring a leash and harness in case your dog needs to be restrained for safety reasons.

Keeping Your Dog Safe on the Hike

Keeping Your Dog on a Leash

Keeping your dog on a leash prevents them from running off, getting lost or injured, and causing harm to wildlife or other hikers. In most areas, dogs are required to be on a leash at all times. However, if you know a specific area to be dog-friendly, you may opt for an extendable leash.

Keeping Your Dog Hydrated and Well-fed

It is important to keep your dog hydrated throughout your hike, especially on hot days. Bring plenty of water and offer it to your dog frequently throughout the hike. Also, pack snacks for your dog that are high in protein and fat to keep them fueled on the trail.

Being Aware of Signs of Heat Stroke or Hypothermia

Signs of heat stroke in dogs include excessive panting, weakness or collapse, vomiting, and bright red tongue and gums. Signs of hypothermia include shivering, lethargy, a drop in body temperature, and a slow heart rate. If you notice any of these signs, seek veterinary care immediately.

Being Cautious of Wildlife Encounters

When hiking with your dog, be aware of potential wildlife encounters such as snakes or other animals that may cause injury to your pet. Stay on the trail and keep your dog on a leash to prevent them from wandering and triggering any wildlife encounters.

Checking for Ticks and Other Harmful Insects

Check your dog for ticks and other harmful insects regularly while hiking. Ticks can cause Lyme disease and other harmful infections in both dogs and humans.

Protecting Your Dog’s Paws

The terrain can be rough on your dog’s paws, especially in extreme weather conditions. Protect your dog’s paws with booties or paw wax to prevent cuts, scrapes, or burns.

Essential Training for Hiking with Dogs

Teaching Basic Commands such as “Come”, “Stay”, and “Leave it”

Teaching your dog basic commands such as “come,” “stay,” and “leave it” can help keep them safe on the trail. These commands can prevent your dog from venturing too far away, eating something harmful, or approaching unfamiliar animals.

Socializing Your Dog with Other Dogs and Humans

Socializing your dog with other dogs and humans can make the hiking experience more enjoyable for both you and your dog. It helps your dog get used to new sights, sounds, and smells on the trail, and it can also prevent aggressive behavior towards other hikers or dogs.

Preparing Your Dog for Different Terrains and Environments

Hiking can take place on different types of terrain from rocky, steep, or muddy trails. It is important to prepare your dog for these terrains by gradually introducing them to different types of environments and gradually increasing the difficulty of hikes.

Importance of Responsible Hiking with Dogs

Respect for the Environment and Wildlife

When hiking with your dog, it is important to respect the environment and wildlife. Do not let your dog chase wildlife, and always leave no trace on the trail.

Understanding Trail Etiquette

Familiarize yourself with trail etiquette to ensure that both you and your dog are following proper hiking etiquette. Yield to other hikers, pick up after your dog, and keep your dog on a leash at all times.

Proper Waste Disposal

Always pack out dog waste and dispose of it properly. Dog waste can have harmful effects on the environment and can contaminate water sources.

Following Park Rules and Regulations

When hiking in a state or national park, it is important to follow park rules and regulations. These rules may include specific areas for dogs or requirements for leashing, so make sure to research the park beforehand.

Hiking with your dog can be a wonderful experience that strengthens your bond and offers the physical and mental benefits of being in nature. However, it is essential to plan ahead, keep your dog safe and well-fed, and understand trail etiquette and park rules. By following these tips, you and your furry friend can enjoy a safe and memorable hike together.

1. Are all hiking trails dog-friendly?
– No, not all hiking trails are dog-friendly. It is important to research the trail ahead of time to ensure that dogs are allowed and there are no restrictions.

2. How often should I offer my dog water while hiking?
– Offer your dog water every 15-20 minutes during the hike, especially on hot days.

3. Can I hike with my puppy?
– Puppies can hike, but they should be gradually introduced to hiking and should not be overexerted. Consult with your veterinarian before taking a puppy on a hike.

4. What should I do if my dog becomes injured on the trail?
– Seek veterinary care immediately if your dog becomes injured on the trail. Have a first-aid kit on hand for immediate care.

Exploring The Benefits Of Hiking For Mental Health And Wellness

Hiking is a type of walking, usually done in a natural setting, such as a forest or mountain trail. It is becoming more popular as people seek to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of city life and experience nature. Hiking offers not only physical benefits but also mental and spiritual ones. This article explores the benefits of hiking for mental health and wellness.

Benefits of Hiking for Mental Health

Reduced Stress and Anxiety

Hiking, like any physical activity, can lower stress and anxiety levels. It releases endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals, which can improve mood and reduce stress hormones such as cortisol. In addition, hiking in nature has been shown to reduce rumination (overthinking), which is linked to depression and anxiety.

Boosted Mood and Self-esteem

Hiking can provide a sense of accomplishment and self-confidence. It allows people to set and achieve goals, which can be empowering. The scenery and fresh air also provide a positive energy boost that can help lift their mood. The sense of accomplishment gained from hitting one’s personal hiking goal is also useful for boosting self-esteem.

Improved Cognitive Function

Hiking has been shown to improve cognitive function, including memory and attention span. It may also reduce the risk of age-related cognitive decline. A study by the University of British Columbia found that participants who hiked in nature regularly had an improvement in their working memory.

Better Quality of Sleep

Hiking provides many physical and mental benefits that can contribute to better-quality sleep. Exposure to natural light and activity during the day helps regulate sleep patterns. Exercise also helps tire the body, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. A study by the Journal of Sleep Research found that hiking and overnight camping in nature reset the body’s internal clock, leading to more restful sleep.

Benefits of Hiking for Physical Health

Increased Cardiovascular and Muscular Fitness

Hiking is a cardiorespiratory activity that improves cardiovascular and muscular fitness. When hiking uphill, the heart and lungs work harder, increasing oxygen intake and strengthening the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. The uneven terrain and natural obstacles provide a full-body workout that can improve balance, strength, and coordination.

Improved Bone Density

Hiking is weight-bearing exercise, which stimulates the growth and strengthening of bones. It can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis, a condition where bones become brittle, weak, and prone to breaking.

Weight Loss and Healthy Body Composition

Hiking, like any physical activity, can help with weight loss and maintaining a healthy body composition. It burns calories and increases muscle mass, which can boost metabolism and promote fat loss.

Connection to Nature and Spiritual Well-being

Exposure to Nature and Sunlight

Hiking helps people connect with nature and spend more time outdoors. Nature has a restorative effect on the mind and body, reducing stress and improving overall well-being. Natural light exposure can also improve mood and regulate sleep patterns. It is an excellent source of vitamin D, essential for bone health and a healthy immune system.

Time for Self-reflection

Hiking provides an opportunity for introspection and reflection. Being in nature, with no distractions or interruptions, allows people to disconnect from their daily lives and connect with themselves. They can use the time to release tension and work through difficult emotions. It’s an excellent way to improve mental clarity and gain a new perspective on life.

Sense of Freedom and Independence

Hiking promotes independence and self-reliance. The trails are often unmarked, and hikers need to navigate their way using a map and compass, which can be empowering. Hiking provides a sense of freedom, allowing individuals to explore new places, experience new things, and overcome challenges.

Connection to Something Greater than Oneself

Hiking is a solitary activity that allows people to become deeply immersed in nature. They may experience a sense of awe and wonder at the natural world, leading to a connection with something greater than themselves. Spiritually, this connection provides a new perspective on life, leading to greater happiness and fulfillment.

How to Start Hiking for Mental and Physical Health

Choosing the Right Trail

To start hiking, choose the right trail for your fitness level and goals. Find hiking trails that match your interests and fitness levels. Start with easier trails and gradually build up to more challenging ones.

Proper Gear and Clothing

Wearing appropriate gear and clothing is essential for a safe and comfortable hike. Invest in quality hiking boots or shoes, backpack, and clothing that is moisture-wicking and protective of heat, cold, or rain. Bring along lightweight gear such as hydration systems or hats and gloves to protect against sun and cold.

Safety Tips for Hiking

Safety is essential when hiking. Tell someone your location and expected return. Bring basic first-aid kits and learn basic wilderness skills such as how to read a map and compass, how to start a fire, and what to do in case of an emergency. Stay hydrated by carrying enough water with you.

Setting Achievable Goals and Tracking Progress

Setting achievable goals and tracking your progress is an excellent way to stay motivated while hiking. Keep track of your hikes by using hiking apps or journals, and celebrate your progress.

Hiking is a simple, affordable, and effective way to improve mental and physical health. It offers numerous benefits, including reduced stress and anxiety, improved cognitive function, better quality of sleep, and a connection to nature and spiritual well-being. Everyone can start hiking by choosing the right trail, proper gear and clothing, learning basic safety tips, and setting achievable goals.


1. Is it safe to hike alone?
– Safety is paramount when hiking. It is best to hike with a partner or in a group, but if you are going solo, be sure to tell someone your location and expected return time, bring essential safety and first-aid items, and learn basic wilderness skills.

2. How often should I go hiking to reap the benefits?
– Hiking at least once a week can offer the most benefit, but as little as 30 minutes of hiking can improve mood, reduce stress and anxiety, and provide a sense of well-being.

3. What are the best shoes for hiking?
– Proper footwear is essential for a safe, comfortable hike. Invest in good quality hiking shoes or boots that offer support, protection, and good grip.

4. What are some good hiking trails for beginners?
– Beginners should start with easy hiking trails, such as those that are well-marked and not too steep. Some examples include local parks, nature reserves, and beginner-level hikes within State or National Parks.

Camping Gear Checklist: Essentials You Need For Your Next Outdoor Adventure

Camping is undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable and affordable outdoor activities for friends and family. Having the right camping gear is essential to make camping trips safe and comfortable. Camping gear checklist includes all supplies and essentials that you must bring for a successful outdoor adventure. In this article, we will look at the gear checklist for various categories that you would need for your next camping trip.


Shelter is one of the most critical components of camping. It’s essential to ensure that you pack the following items:

– Tent: A quality tent provides protection from the elements, insects, and wildlife.
– Sleeping bag: Choose a sleeping bag that is appropriate for the weather and temperature conditions.
– Sleeping pad: The sleeping pad provides insulation as it creates space between the ground and your body, keeping you warm.
– Headlamp/flashlight: A reliable light source is important during late-night dinner preparations, reading, or accessing the restroom.
– Lantern: Provide light throughout the campsite.
– Camp chairs: A camp chair keeps users dry and off the ground, which is comfortable for campfires, relaxing and outdoor activities.


A great part of camping trips is outdoor cooking. Here’s a list of essential kitchen supplies needed for a successful outdoor cooking experience:

– Camping stove: For outdoor cooking, a camping stove provides consistent heat and is usually easy to carry around.
– Fuel for stove: Ensure to carry kerosene, propane, or butane tanks as fuel for your stove.
– Cooler: A cooler is essential for storing food and drinks and helps ensure safe food handling.
– Cookware/skillet/pot: Choose pots and pans that are small and efficient.
– Plates/bowls/cups: Choose options that are lightweight and durable.
– Utensils: Bring a spatula, tongs, stirring spoon and chef’s knife to help make preparing, cooking, and dining easier.
– Cooking utensils: Choose metal, heat resistant utensils for outdoor cooking.
– Trash bags: Always bring extra trash bags to make sure you are leaving minimal trash on the campsite or trail.


Camping means you’ll spend a lot of time in the great outdoors so you must pack clothes that provide enough warmth, are comfortable and breathable. Here are some of the clothes to keep in mind:

– Base layer tops and bottoms: Choose tops and bottoms made of breathable materials that wick away moisture, warm and comfortable.
– Insulating layers: Fleece or wool sweaters, long-sleeved shirts, or base layer pants provide insulation and warmth.
– Waterproof/windproof jacket: Select a packet that is lightweight, windproof and made with waterproof materials.
– Hiking boots/shoes: Choose a comfortable, waterproof, and durable pair for all your outdoor activities.
– Socks: Thick and warm socks, synthetic or wool blends designed to wick moisture away from the skin and keep feet warm.
– Sun hat: A wide-brimmed sun hat protects the head, face, and neck from harmful UV rays.
– Gloves: For colder temperatures, gloves protect the hands from the cold.
– Sunglasses: Protect your eyes from harmful UV rays.
– Swimwear/towels:
Don’t forget to pack these if you have plans for swimming or water activities.

Personal Gear:

Personal gear will help make camping more comfortable and can be critical in the event of mishaps. Here’s what to bring:

– First aid kit: It’s essential to pack a first-aid kit that includes band-aids, gauze, alcohol swabs, pain medication, and more because injuries can occur when hiking or setting up the tent.
– Hand sanitizer: Keep hands clean with alcohol-based hand sanitizer, which is highly recommended for hygiene.
– Sunscreen/sunblock: Protect the skin from harmful UV rays by wearing sunscreen.
– Insect Repellent: With insects abound, it’s highly recommended to pack insect repellent spray or lotions.
– Toilet paper: Pack these as there often is no easily-accessible restroom.
– Personal items (toothbrush, soap, deodorant, and more): These are important to keep oneself relaxed and clean while camping.
– Multi-tool/knife: Helps with various tasks, such as preparing food, setting up camp, and performing small maintenance tasks.
– Maps and compass: Maps and compass come in handy when going on hikes, and you can avoid getting lost in the wilderness.


It is often the small things that make a camping trip comfortable:

– Cool bag/ice packs: Keep food fresh and drinks cool for longer with a cooler bag.
– Fire starters: Bring along several fire starters for starting a fire, because nothing beats the crackling sound of a campfire at night.


A camping trip is a great way to discover nature, connect with your environment, and get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. But there are considerations for camping and bringing the right gear is one of them. With this gear checklist, you’ll have everything you need to make your next camping trip safe, comfortable, and enjoyable.


1. What are the essential items to pack for camping?

– Shelter items including a tent, sleeping bag, and camping chairs.
– Kitchen items such as a camping stove, cookware, plates, cups, utensils, and a cooler.
– Appropriate clothing, including base layers, insulating layers, waterproof/windproof jacket, hiking boots, socks, hat, and gloves.
– Personal gear like the first aid kit, hand sanitizer, insect repellent, and a multi-tool or knife.
– Miscellaneous items such as a cool bag/ice packs and fire starters.

2. What type of tent should I bring with me when camping?

Choose a waterproof tent that can accommodate the number of people in your party. It’s essential that the tent goes up easy and is made from sturdy materials.

3. How many changes of clothes should I have for a camping trip?

Bring enough clothes for the duration of your trip, and remember that you can always rotate outfits if you need to conserve space.

4. What is the best cooler for camping?

Select a cooler that is portable, durable, and easy to store, and that has excellent insulation to keep food and drinks fresh for longer.

The Importance Of Trail Conservation: Tips For Hikers And Outdoor Enthusiasts

Hiking is a popular and invigorating outdoor activity that has been enjoyed by many for decades. Unfortunately, its popularity also comes with a downside. Hikers and outdoor enthusiasts often take trails for granted and underestimate their importance. This attitude can lead to the destruction of natural environments, experience for future hikers, and even danger to wildlife. The significance and value of trail conservation can never be overstated. This article will look at the reasons why trail conservation is important, tips for hiking responsibly and trail maintenance that promotes the conservation of trails.

Why Trail Conservation is Important:

It is crucial to understand the importance of trail conservation as it is for the well-being of the environment, humans, and wildlife. Several things can happen when trails and trailheads are not properly maintained, and hikers are not responsible;

– Trails that are routinely damaged will eventually become unusable as the trails erode or become covered by debris making it hazardous for hikers, animals and can change the direction of the trail.
– Hiking in prohibited areas, camping on undesignated areas can cause the local ecosystem to suffer as it interferes with the natural food chain of wildlife and vegetation.
– Improper disposal of trash, pollution from cooking and leaving behind plastics can lead to serious problems. Animals consume plastics, and food remnants that attract wildlife attract bears, coyotes, or raccoons, increasing conflicts between hikers and wildlife.
– The destruction of vegetation can be prevented by avoiding shortcuts to complete trails more quickly, destroying the plants or disturbing natural habitats. Invasive plants can accidentally be transferred from one part of the trail to another, which helps the invasive plants to spread.

Tips for Hiking Responsibly:

Hiking responsibly is the first step in trail conservation. Following these tips makes sure that our trails, wildlife, and plant species are preserved for future generations:

– Pick up all trash: This is one of the easiest things hikers can do to help clean up the trails. If hikers pack it in, they should pack it back out.
– Avoid feeding wildlife: Feeding wildlife attracts them to areas that they don’t usually inhabit, causing disruption to the local ecosystem. It also causes them to expect food from humans on their next visit, which is not safe for the animals nor the hiker.
– Stay on designated trails: It is important to stay on designated trails because wildlife habitats can be destroyed with excessive foot traffic, visitors entering prohibited areas and it also helps prevent soil erosion and protects vulnerable plant species.
– Avoid damaging plants, trees, and other natural elements: Hikers must be mindful of the nature surrounding them. They should avoid anything causing damage to the natural environment by staying on the trail, respecting boundaries and signs.
– Respect the environment and other hikers on the trail. Hiking the trail has a social aspect too. Always be mindful of other hikers and avoid creating a disturbance. Hiking solo tends to be quieter, and it is possible to experience the peacefulness and tranquillity of the trail without a negative impact.

Tips for Trail Maintenance:

Trail maintenance is a significant part of trail conservation. Following these practices helps preserve the natural environment:

– Volunteer with local organizations: Most local communities have groups responsible for the maintenance of the trails. If interested in practicing good trail conservation and hiking habits, get involved with the local organizations and look for opportunities to volunteer.
– Report any issues on the trail immediately: Reports of damage from hikers can save valuable time, resources and prevent further destruction from happening. If equipment is broken, or signs are missing, make sure to report that to the groups responsible for the maintenance of the trail.
– Follow leave no trace principles: These principles have become the go-to for responsible trail conservation. They emphasize practices such as proper disposal of trash, minimizing fire impacts, respecting wildlife and even indoor etiquette.
– Leave natural elements where you found them: This point emphasizes that all natural elements found on the trail should be left exactly where they were found. Collecting souvenirs like rocks, flower bunches or branches means harm to the natural environment. Those items may be home to wildlife and even insects.
– Don’t build or modify trails without permission from trail managers: Trail Managers are in charge of maintaining trail systems. If anyone plans to make changes to the trail, they must seek permission to avoid compromising the natural environment, animal habitats, or the trails used by other hikers.


Hiking is both exhilarating and calming at the same time. To ensure that the tranquillity and enchanting beauty of nature in hiking trails last for generations to come, it is important to practice responsible hiking and follow proper trail maintenance practices. Whether it is packing in & out, respecting wildlife, staying on designated trails, avoiding damage to the natural environment, and many others, every action counts towards ensuring that our hikes are sustainable, healthy, enjoyable and safe.


1. What is trail conservation?

Trail conservation is practices taken to preserve trails, ecosystems and local wildlife habitats, and wildlife, in order for future generations to enjoy these natural environments. These practices include trail maintenance, responsible hiking, re-vegetation, and trailhead management.

2. What are some tips for hiking responsibly?

Hikers must take responsibility for maintaining the trails they hike, ensuring that our trails, wildlife, and plant species are preserved for future generations. Some tips include staying on designated trails, avoiding leaving litter, and avoiding damaging plants and trees.

3. Why is trail conservation important?

It preserves the natural environment, protects wildlife, promotes sustainable hiking, and ensures that trails remain usable for future generations. Trail conservation plays a critical role in promoting responsible outdoor recreation and environmental stewardship.

4. What is leave no trace?

Leave no trace is a set of principles that guide hikers to practice responsible trail conservation. The principles emphasize practices like minimizing fire impacts, disposing of waste properly, being mindful of others and their belongings, and respecting wildlife.

Deer in forest

A Hunter’s Tale: The Search for a Deer

It was early morning, and the woods were alive with the sounds of birds chirping and squirrels scampering. The air was crisp and the sun was just starting to peek over the horizon. I had been waiting all year for this moment, and I was not going to let it pass me by. I slowly made my way thru the forest, trying to stay as quiet as possible.

It was difficult to make out anything in the gloom and forest but luckily I had been tracking this deer for days and I knew exactly where he was. As I drew close to my favored spot I raised my hunting binoculars to my eyes and peered through the undergrowth. There, not more than 100 yards away was my quarry. The buck was feeding on the tender new growth of spring and he had no idea that he was being stalked.

I slowly drew my bow back and took careful aim. I could feel my heart racing as I released the arrow. It flew thru the air with a soft whooshing sound and struck the deer in the chest. He let out a loud bellow and started to run, but it was too late. The arrow had done its job and he would not be going anywhere now.

The deer fell to the ground, and I couldn’t help but smile with satisfaction. It was a beautiful sight, and I was proud of what I had accomplished.

Some folks may not agree with this but it’s more than a hobby to me it’s a way of life. Hunting is more than just a pastime, it’s my passion. I love the thrill of the chase and the satisfaction of taking down my prey. There’s nothing like it in the world.

Mountains Landscape in Norway. Scandinavia.

My Latest Hiking Exploits

It’s been a hell of a long time since I wrote something here. Not so much due to the fact that I’m a lazy bastard, (although I am still that despite my efforts to better myself), but more so that I have been in the enviable position of having so many trips ongoing that I had no time to write about them. Normally the camping and kayaking and climbing trips are so seldom and special that in between them I have plenty of time to organise the photos, write up the hijinks and scrub the soot off my Trangia kettle. Lately, I haven’t even bothered emptying out the gear from my rucksack, because it seems every weekend I get to galavant around the countryside with some lucky group of friends.

The trips have changed a lot this Summer. Summer hiking for me is usually a goal in itself. The aim is to head to some beautiful, remote spot and set up a nice little tent and cook some food and stretch out on the grass to lazily enjoy the sunset, before finally retiring to bed before the mosquitos eat you alive. However, this year hiking has become a tool that gets me to a climbing spot. We head to the cliff, find a nearby spot to throw up the tents and tarps, grab a fast bite to eat and climb all day. It’s been very interesting to experience how different this feels, the minutiae of the gear or intricacies of the hike cease to have so much importance and instead they just become a means to an end.

That sounds a little negative though, I found that with the added bonus of climbing, all the joys of hiking get accentuated. Previously I wolfed down whatever food I made, and it tasted incredible even when it’s just dehydrated potato powder with some powdered soup and a can of tuna mixed in (my normal hiking dish, and I have received a lot of shit about it from people less frugal or concerned about pack-weight than I am).

And previously at night, I collapsed into bed, zombie-tired and so happy to be getting some sleep that I could have sung about it. After a day of climbing though, it would be paradise itself to eat dusty stones and sleep on an anthill. Exhausting, rewarding effort is the order of the day.

One amazing trip has already been written up by Toby (whom I met ages ago on a super-brief, super-dark, super-cold climbing taster on Södermalm), of the Northern light blog. I will also give that trip a write-up later as I had a lot of fun new experiences on that trip, trad-climbing with Toby as (a very patient and forgiving) guru, as well as sleeping in VBLs as a test to see how they work in Summer, and also sleeping under a very rushed MYOG tarp that I wanted to experiment with.

First I wanted to write a quick summary of a trip to Ågelsjön in Norrköping (where all the pictures above are from), with stalwart climbing companions Michi and Martin. We picked up eight people (and one dog) for this trip, all of us enthusiastic climbers, so our busy little base camp had a truly expedition atmosphere.

This trip was remarkable for a few good reasons, the then novel focus on climbing and the ridiculously fun evenings with ten good friends around a roaring campfire, but this trip was also the trip on which I had seen the most incredibly beautiful sight I have ever seen (I just got married last weekend so I better qualify that statement, it was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen not involving naked Swedish women).

Camping under the stars. Green solo tent dark night sky

On the first night, we were exhausted, and after a quick meal, everyone raced into their tents. I was bivy sleeping under the stars, so I was last to retire. I went to the edge of the lake to brush my teeth, and as my eyes grew accustomed to the darkness I saw that the entire surface of the lake was covered in writhing wreaths of thick mist. The mist formed at the very edge of the lake and then slowly moved away from the shore, gathering speed as it went until it seemed to flow like a turbulent river of frothed milk over the lake towards the horizon. The mist was only a decimetre or so thick, and this is where it gets crazy. Bats were flying across the surface of the lake, and they would swoop down into the mist and fly through that layer, wherever they went they cut through the mist and left swirling eddies of vapor behind them, and their progress was marked out by long channels of black water that they had cleared the mist away from. These trails themselves were then flowing with the mist out to the center of the lake. Three bats dived in and out of the mist, the whole while ignoring my camera-work. Flashes, long exposures and high ISOs did nothing, I could not capture even the most remote, fleeting semblance of what I saw.

It was without a doubt the most frustrating experience I have ever had with a camera. Any kind of flash ruined the substance of the mist, and long exposures captured grainy nothingness. Hang your head in shame, Nikon D80! Time for a bigger sensor!

The lakes around Norrköping are stunningly beautiful, and they with patience and cold-resistant feet can even sometimes get a little pedicure from the local fish, who after a few minutes of cautious approach will get busy nibbling away some dead skin.

I was a little dictator when it came to fire-lighting, pressurising everyone to use a magnesium sparker with some tinder instead of the usual lighters-with-a-splash-of-petrol. It’s a tad archaic, I’m sure, but I do kind of think that doing a little practice with basic fire lighting pays dividends after a while. Successfully lighting a fire with those fucking sparkers does entail organising a properly ordered pyre with the lightest tinder setting fire to the smallest little twigs, and so on to the larger and larger sticks, and learning how to set up a good little pyre like that is a skill that is worth having. Cotton-wool soaked in Vaseline does a better job, for sure, but we can’t always take the easy way, can we?

Before the trip, my gear list had been gutted on the surgical table as usual, and my scalpel knows no pity. This time around I had a pack weight of under eight kilos (excluding the climbing gear). This was even including the heavy petrol-driven Omni fuel stove and a massive Trangia billy pot (so totally necessary with our large group).

It was hard to ignore that my rucksack (the Klättermusen Mjölner) was now over a quarter of my pack weight. It had to bear the fifteen kilos of climbing gear as well, but for future non-climbing trips, I think this monster will have to sit at home. A shiny new red Huckepack will be the lightweight replacement.

Years ago I spent ages tracking down a waterproof thermometer with a max/min function that had a decent temperature range. I ended up buying a Deltatrak dishwasher thermometer, which is designed for use for HACCP kitchen regulations. I figure it’s as important as any piece of equipment for someone that wants to optimise their gear. It’s very useful seeing what the minimum overnight temperature was when trying to figure out a good sleeping system, for example.

This time around the min was 0.0 °C, surprisingly low for Spring. It was the last trip I took my Warbonnet black mambo on so far this year, and that with the usual exped down mat and a thin cotton Haglöfs cover was perfectly comfortable during the night. Definitely on the warm side of comfortable though. Since this trip I have been using only my VBL with a silk liner, the total weight is around 250 grammes.

Like a proud father, I got to see my child making its impact on the world, as Michi had the MYOG rope-tarp I had made with him.

It’s a little redder, and a little taller and wider, and so it forms a longer, thinner sausage shape when rolled up, compared to mine, and that makes it very easy to drape over a shoulder. The material is a little tougher as well, VX-21 instead of VX-07. As with most ultralight gear, it can also be used as a tarp. This is something I joked about with Michi when I gave him the tarp, but it came in use when we got a surprise hailstorm during our climbs of Valhallväggen.

The first few days were stunningly warm, but the hail was typical for the final day, freezing sleet and hail meant it was fairy agonising to climb the aggressive granite of Valhallväggen. The poor dog (a beautiful Lapponian Herder) got abused as a hand warmer in between climbs.

The cold spell was a bitch on the hands. I had planned to give trad climbing a go on a 5+ crack and rigged up a top-rope to make it a little less suicidal, but the cold conditions and my inexperience at placing protection made the 5 feel like a 7. Trad-climbing is definitely not for the faint of heart.

Since this trip, I have been back climbing at Ågelsjön twice already, but this was the first time we had such a long tour with so many people all just totally focused on climbing.

 And maybe also a little focused on fishing.

How to Use maps When Hiking

Experienced hikers will often rely heavily on maps or GPS units to navigate along trails and through wilderness areas, whereas many novice hikers will simply try to “wing it”. Amateurs will often reason that they can stick to well-traveled trails and forego the hard work needed to learn how to use maps. As the saying goes, ‘Good luck with that. Let me know how that works out for you.’ Sarcasm aside, you really can get seriously lost, even near clearly marked trails. Even stepping a few yards off a trail into heavy forest has confused more than one beginner. In the absence of sun, stars or geographical markers it’s easy to get turned around. You can wind up walking even farther from the trail. Before you know it, you’re lost. Many maps won’t necessarily help you out of that forest, per se. But you’ll usually run across another trail that, unknown to you, hooks up with the one you were on. A good map and some basic map reading skills will help you easily get back to your starting point. So, how do you start? Acquire a current map covering the area you intend to hike. Study it at home in a relaxed environment. You won’t be able to match the map against features you see, but it will help you understand the symbols used. Almost all maps will have a legend. Get familiar with the symbols. They differ from map publisher to publisher. Find out what the scale is – look for 1 inch = 1 mile or similar markings. Don’t forget, though, that distance is only part of the story. One mile on level ground is one thing. But if 3/4 of that distance takes you from near sea level to 2,000 feet high by a steep, winding incline, that’s quite another. To factor in the latter, you need to consider altitude. Altitude markings are usually indicated by a series of curved lines that, if ‘stretched out’ would make a circle. The distance between two curved lines around some natural feature like a large hill indicates the altitude. Often there will also be numbers printed along the lines to help you. These are sometimes called contour lines. The closer the lines are together, the steeper the terrain. Now, look at the longitude and latitude lines. Longitude runs ‘up and down’, or north and south. Latitude runs ‘right and left’, or east and west. Those directions are put in quotes because they’re all just conventions. Maybe you’ve seen one of those maps that has the world turned ‘upside down’ with Australia on the top and Canada on the bottom. In the daytime you can use the sun and natural features to orient yourself. The sun rises in the East and sets in the West. So early in the day, find the sun and you are facing mostly East. Late in the day, face the direction of the light and you are facing predominately West. There are variations because of coastlines, latitude, etc. It’s just an approximate starting point. At night, you can use the stars. You can often see the sky reasonably well – most wilderness areas are relatively far from city lights. Look up about 8 p.m. at night. Look for the Big Dipper, the group of stars that looks like a cooking ladle. The two on the end of the ‘scoop’ form a line that points toward the north star, away from the scoop. Even at night, then, if you have a flashlight to read your map by, you can get yourself back onto a trail to find your way back.  

A Guide to Hiking Etiquette

Occasionally, people who live in the city seem to forget that they came to a wilderness area to hike and to enjoy the peace and quiet and the great scenery. To ensure that everybody enjoys themselves, hikers generally adopt a few simple guidelines.

‘Pack it in, pack it out’ is a long-standing rule among fair-minded hikers. In order to leave the area much as you found it, for the sake of others and your own future enjoyment, you should not leave what you brought. That includes water bottles, trash and other items.

Even toilet paper can take months to deteriorate. If you use it and can’t dispose of it in a container, it should be buried. To pack it out, a simple plastic bag will contain odours until it can be disposed of in a container.

On that subject, if you have to urinate in a wilderness area (as opposed to supplied facilities), do so at least 100 meters away from water sources and trails where others walk. Faeces should be eliminated into a small hole well off the trail and covered with dirt.

We can only preserve the beauty of our natural wilderness if we exercise care when we’re passing through it or stopping to camp for the night.

Apart from the sheer devastation that carelessness can cause, as witnessed by the hundreds of fires set accidentally every year, there seems little point in spoiling the very very beauty that hikers set out to enjoy.

Part of the deep pleasure of hiking is enjoying the peace and quiet. There are plenty of exciting things to do in the city that involve making loud noises. Hiking trails are not made for that purpose. Respect others and keep your voice down and ride motorcycles elsewhere. Happily, with the advent of iPods, loud music is much less frequently a problem these days.

Make an effort to find out what the local regulations about camping and fires are. It’s preferable not to start a wood-based or open fire, in any case. They can easily spark and spread, even by accident. Once they do, they’re extremely hard to stop before becoming a major problem.

While it might seem nice to take a little music along with you, if you do, then take an earpiece along as well.

Better still, take the time to stop and enjoy the sounds of nature – perhaps the most relaxing music in the world.

If you plan to camp, set up in an open area and use a Coleman or other similar stove to cook food. When you’ve finished your stay, don’t leave behind anything that won’t decay within a day.
You should take similar efforts when you fish or do other activities that often accompany hiking. These activities can be enjoyed by large numbers of people almost indefinitely if a little moderation and common sense are applied.

Avoid wildlife to the extent they avoid you. Some even more – bears or mountain lions, for instance. Animals are particularly wary during mating seasons and when rearing young. Otherwise docile creatures can become fiercely protective and aggressive when pressed. Some may have diseases that can be spread to humans. Watching is enough. If you want to touch, go to a petting zoo.

Bears, mountain lions, skunks and others should simply be avoided. Bears are not always the gentle creatures that some nature documentaries depict. They normally avoid humans, but have been known to kill and eat them. Large cats, too, will eat small humans. Though normally shy, they are predators. Don’t be prey.

If you exercise a little common sense and common courtesy then everyone can enjoy a great hike.


An Introduction to Hiking Backpacks

Hiking backpacks come in all sizes and colors, in a range of materials, and with enough add-on extras to satisfy the most demanding gadget freak. To help you to find your way through the forest of hiking backpacks available here are some basics.

Don’t be tempted to purchase a bigger hiking backpack than you need “to allow for longer hikes”, or you’ll simply end up with the problem of taking everything including the kitchen sink with you.
Small packs, such as waist packs or fanny packs, aren’t technically backpacks. After all, they’re not worn on the back. But they serve a similar purpose on a smaller scale. For short hikes, they can do just fine.

Those smaller packs have a strap and usually two or three compartments. You can use them to store or hold a water bottle, nutrition bars, band-aids, disinfectant, sunscreen or a dozen other small items that are handy on the trail.

Some even have small, special-purpose water bladders with tubes and other mechanisms for drinking. They’re often called hydration packs and hold up to a couple of gallons. Remember, a gallon of water weighs about 8 lbs.

Just don’t try to put too much in them. When you intend to be out longer or need to carry more, there are lots of choices. Most of those are categorized by size (volume typically), measured in liters. A liter is just over a quart in volume, but it refers to space, not necessarily the amount of liquid something holds.

Day packs are designed for what the name suggests – to be used for relatively short hikes. They are anywhere from a dozen to three dozen liters in volume and come in a variety of styles. Some have no belt strap. Some have a chest strap to keep the backpack stable. All will have shoulder straps.

Larger packs, about 35 to 70 liters, go by a variety of names – midsize, midrange, light-duty packs and others. Used properly, they can hold quite a lot of gear, so be careful how much you bring. Remember, you have to carry it.

Remember that your gear is going to weigh enough by itself without the weight of the backpack and choose the lightest high-quality hiking backpack you can find.

They’re typically made with really sturdy material and have a variety of shoulder strap and waist belt styles. A common type these days will have the sort of plastic ‘dog-leash’ clipping buckles that are everywhere now.

The largest packs also go by a variety of names – full-sized, expedition, heavy-duty and so forth. Over 70 liters, they can carry a lot of gear and have a number of special features to help you do so.

Special splines or supports are often threaded through the shoulder straps, across the back or waist and otherwise. These stiffer elements help stabilize the pack making it easier to carry. They often are designed to ride higher on the back in order to keep the load off the lower back. That helps enormously to prevent fatigue and back pain.

Just as one analogy to understand the difference, think of carrying a child. When you carry a two-year-old on your shoulders, it’s pretty easy. You could do so all day. Try to have them hang off your shoulders and wrap their legs around your waist instead. You’ll tire quickly.

These heavy duty packs have all kinds of lumbar support, pads, special materials and well-engineered balance mechanisms. The frames have aluminum tubing in a form that has been really well thought out. Many have special holders for sleeping bags, or even a small fold-up tent. They come in ultra-sturdy composite materials and are just about indestructible.

Of course, you’re not, so you should still keep in mind that you have to lug all that stuff around. Make sure you’re only carrying what you actually will need, no more, no less.


Hiking Tips for the Novice

Hiking over normal terrain means being able to keep up a steady pace for several hours, with just short rest breaks of ten minutes or so about once per hour. But steep or slippery slopes, crossing creeks and hiking at high altitudes can make that almost impossible. In short, you need to tailor your technique to different conditions.

Don’t get stuck in a rut. Try hiking over different terrain and in different weather conditions and learn to tailor your hiking style to the terrain and conditions.

You’ll find this makes hiking far more enjoyable and also allows you to cope much better with the unexpected.

Ordinary walking speed on level ground is between 2-4 miles per hour. At that pace a person will burn about 50-150 calories per hours. Compare that with the amount of calories burned simply by sitting, which is at the lower end of that scale. Also, for every hour of hiking you’ll lose about a liter of fluid (more in hot conditions) that will need to be replenished.

But when conditions, as they frequently are, become more hilly or at higher elevations, the strain becomes much greater. As you walk up steeper slopes you’re doing much more work against gravity to stay upright and rise up the hill. And, as oxygen concentration levels drop, the heart has to work harder to pump more blood through the body to re-oxygenate tissues.
Kaito Anti-shock Hiking Pole with Compass and Thermometer, HP9

Keep those facts firmly in mind when you begin to tackle tougher terrain. Those more challenging environments are often more beautiful and exciting. Hiking up a heavily forested mountainside at 5,000 feet is definitely more interesting than a stroll around the brush in foothills.

But the conditions require much more of a hiker.

Monitor your heart rate to ensure it isn’t pounding away in your chest with every step. The resting rate is about 70 per minute, a hard workout will produce 120 per minute for short periods. Try to stay on the lower end most of the time. The figures can vary quite a lot from person to person, these are just averages.

If you do that, you can avoid the symptoms of something called variously: High Altitude Syndrome or Acute Mountain Sickness, and by other terms.

It’s extremely important to keep an eye on your health and that of your hiking companions.

Novice hikers will often try to push themselves too hard too fast and this is a recipe for disaster.

Just as steep slopes and high altitudes present special difficulties, so crossing creeks, rivers and lakes can introduce challenges. Though sheer strength can be very helpful, technique and experience count for a lot as well.

Selecting good boots is the first step. High-top, waterproof boots help keep feet dry. That’s essential for avoiding foot problems. They also provide a little bit better traction on slippery surfaces. Other waterproof gear, like a well-flapped backpack made of waterproof synthetic, is helpful, as well.

But the best weapons are inside your head – intelligence and experience.

Avoid the temptation of fording a river when you can avoid it. Cold temperatures, slippery bottoms, undercurrents and other potential dangers are hard to judge. Step on rocks in a creek rather than walking through it, if you can do so safely. Walk around a lake rather than swimming through it whenever possible.

Take a bridge or alternative route. You’ll actually experience less fatigue with a slightly longer walk than a relatively short, cold temperature swim.
Above all, exercise your common sense. The outdoors can be a huge, exciting adventure. But getting injured or even grossly uncomfortable shouldn’t be part of it.