Friday, July 24, 2015

My Summer 2015 Full Skin Out Gear (Base Pack + Clothing Worn) Breakdown

I recently uploaded a video where I discuss and show off all my gear and clothing for the rest of the summer (and perhaps early fall).  I have a few section hikes coming up that I am looking forward to, and this will be the set up I will take on them, but of course nothing is set in stone and things can change based on any given circumstances.  But I have a feeling that I won't change anything, as the weather has been pretty consistent as of late, and this set up is pretty flexible and can handle a wide range of conditions and temperatures.  As I said in the video, I could push it down to perhaps lows of 8-9C / 46-48F and be just fine, and from lows of 11C / 52F and up I'm very comfortable.

So first off, if you haven't seen the video yet, here it is:


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Mora to Sälen on Vasaloppsleden

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Yet another long (but necessary) intro to this trail guide.  So please read carefully if you plan on hiking this trail, or just skip below to the pictures and report.

Vasaloppsleden is a 90km trail that follows a path similar to that of the Vasaloppet, which is the oldest, longest, and most popular cross-country ski race in the world.  The trail does not have an official website in English (at least that I could find), but there is plenty of helpful information on the area, transportation, events, etc. on the official website of the various races (ski, bike, running) that take place there.  All of the races as well as the hiking trail go from Sälen to Mora, however if you are hiking the E1 trails northbound (as I was) you will be walking from Mora to Sälen.

There are various maps that you can buy of the area and the trail.  The one I settled on is made by Calazo, and is generally quite a good map.  There are three marked trails (for skis, bikes, and hiking) in the area that follow similar paths, but at times each trail will take its own route.  Thus you can choose to follow the ski or bike trails at times while you are hiking, which is what we (my wife and I) did on our hike.  Though in general I would recommend to mostly stick to the hiking trail, which caters more towards hikers, naturally.

Public transportation to Mora is not much of an issue, with regular trains and buses passing through the town.  However getting to or out of the village of Sälen is more challenging.  There are only a handful of buses that go in and out of the small village (population 650!), and you have to pay cash for tickets on the bus themselves unless you buy one of the local transportation cards.  Sälen comes to life in the winter, when it hosts the starting point of the famous ski race, and when ski tourist pour in to ski in the surrounding mountains.  But other parts of the year (like summer, when we were there) the village is well... pretty dead.  There are a few shops and places to buy food and such, but everything closes early.  There are several hotels and bed & breakfast places to stay the night, and are a bit on the pricey side.

Going southbound, the next section of the E1 is part of Siljansleden that goes from Mora to Leksand, and you can read my report on that trail here.  Going northbound the E1 trail goes from Sälen to the end of the E1 trails in Sweden at the Norwegian boarder at the lake Grövelsjön, which according to the official Sweden E1 guide:

Along its 160 km, E1 travels on several local trails. All are not well marked, but there are rest shelters and huts. The trails go partly through mountain terrain that places certain requirements on the ability to use a map and compass. 
As the above implies, the end of the Swedish E1 trails presents certain challenges for section and thru-hikers alike.  It is in a pretty isolated location area up in the mountains, so resupplying is going to be difficult or not an option around there.  There are only a few buses a day that can get you back to civilization from Grövelsjön, the closest village being Idre (population 790!), about 50 minutes away by bus.  Mora is a three hour bus ride.  I hope to complete this last section sometime in late spring or early summer of 2016, so check back for updates and the final guides of the Swedish E1 trail.

If you have not read the introduction to this trail guide yet, you can do so here, and there is also a list of links to other completed reports of the Swedish E1 trails.  Please keep in mind this is still a work in progress. 

Now on to the guide!

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My wife and I hiked Vasaloppsleden together, and overall we really enjoyed this trail.  When I asked my wife to describe it with five adjectives, she said: comfortable, convenient, pretty, well maintained, and very buggy (as in full of bugs--we hiked the trail in the height of bug season here in Sweden, however).  I agree with her assessment, but would add that its beauty is more of a cozy, quaint type of beauty rather than stunning views and vistas--though there are several good views of the surrounding mountains and bodies of water.  

Due to the popularity of this area because of the various races and the tourism attached to them, the trail is exceptionally taken care of.  Well marked, many places to fill up on tap/spring water, eight cabins along with many simple trail shelters, plus several places to buy food and supplies.  While it's possible to hike this entire trail and just sleep in cabins or shelters, of course it's still always a good idea to have your own shelter, because with many people traveling to the area, trail shelters may be full.  However while we were there we only ran into a handful of backpackers (but many cyclists), and locals mentioned that springtime is the high season for hiking.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Father-Son Trips!

A few years ago I took my oldest son on a father-son camping trip, and it was awesome.  I was not as interested in photography back then, so I only took a handful of pictures of this trip, but have since wished that I had taken more and that I had documented it here on my blog rather than Facebook (which I have since more or less quit).  But here are a few pictures of that trip that I manged to dig up:



My youngest son and I have been waiting for the right time to take our own father-son trip, and finally got the chance a few days ago.  And it was just as awesome as my last father-son trip.  Only this time I took more pictures.  Rather than camp out next to a big lake in the woods like last time with my other son, this time the youngest one and I camped out on a coastal island in a small patch of woods near the sea.  Getting to the island was a bit tricky, but definitely worth it--it took a train, a bus, another bus, a ferry, and then a short hike.  The campsite had been scouted by a few close friends of mine, who were camping out on the island for a week.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

All of Cesar's Ultralight Sleep Systems: From 20C to -16C and Everything in Between

Ye Olde Gear Closet

Seeing as I recently finished up my complete breakdown of all of my Ultralight shelters, and I'm also on summer vacation, I figured I should strike while the iron is hot and also write up another breakdown I've wanted to do for a while.  Regular readers will notice a pattern by now of me putting the finishing touches on all of my Ultralight backpacking gear wants/needs for year round use and under nearly all circumstances relevant to me.  My sleep systems have been no different.  So now that I've explored my backpacks and shelters, here is the last of the "Big 3" of backpacking.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

All of Cesar's Ultralight Shelter Systems: Full Reviews, Comparisons, and Analyses

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What follows is a long reflection on my choice of fully enclosed backpacking shelters, with a breakdown of specifications, pros/cons, comparisons, applications, etc.  There will be a total of four shelter systems reviewed: two modular systems and two tents.  Please keep in mind that the weights listed reflect my own personal configurations, such as choice of guy lines, stuff sacks, stakes, etc.  There are many different factors that can contribute to a shelter system's total weight.  

If you are interested in seeing what all four of these shelters look like packed up, as well as my usual ramblings, check out the first video in my series of shelter videos:


I had previously written about a few of my shelter combinations, but have since updated some things and wanted a lengthier review of all four of the shelters I own and use.

Also, if you're not familiar with me or my blog, here is some helpful context to keep in mind in regards to the shelters in question:


  • I am a section hiker that goes on trips about once a month all year round, and generally hike 20-30km a day on these trips.
     
  • In addition to my section hikes I also go on the occasional (once a season or so) off-trail trips, mostly to some favorite spots in the woods I am familiar with.
     
  • All my trips are in Scandinavia, mostly Sweden and some in Norway.
     
  • I am 183cm / 6ft tall, and am about 83kg / 183lbs.
     
  • My base weight for each season is usually around 2-3kg / 4.4-6.6lbs in the summer, 3-4kg / 6.6-8.8lbs in the spring/fall, and 4-5kg / 8.8-11lbs in the winter.
      
  • I've been wilderness backpacking, camping, hiking, etc. regularly for about the past 20 years.
      
  • And finally, and as always, I am not sponsored by any gear company, nor do I receive any gear for free for the purpose of review or otherwise.  These are simply the shelters I decided to buy and use for my wilderness backpacking adventures.

On to my big shelter breakdown!

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Introduction



Back in February of this year I made the above admittedly crude flow chart that helps to explain my own personal thought process when it comes to picking a shelter for a given backpacking trip.  Ever since then I have wanted to write up a full breakdown of the shelters I own and use (and hence reference in the flow chart), but in addition to being busy as usual, I was also waiting on a final piece of my shelter puzzle.  That final piece of gear was a net tent, which I finally received last week and have been playing around with in my backyard.  I will hopefully do a quick overnight trip to break it in sometime soon, and plan on taking it along on several section hikes I have planned for this summer and early fall.

Now that I have this piece of gear, I have no intentions to buy any other shelters unless I need to replace something that is damaged or worn out.  Of course this might change, but I doubt I will be buying a new shelter for a while.  This is exactly how I feel about my small collection of backpacks, which I wrote about last summer.  So this review will be somewhat similar to that one, only shelters have more nuances that I think require more elaboration and discussion.  So get yourself a snack and/or a cup of coffee, this is going to be a long one.