Monday, August 10, 2015

Dealing With Hard Times While Backpacking


As I have mentioned before, and often tell new/younger backpackers: it's not all sunny days, great views, and smelling wild flowers while out in nature.  Like any challenging hobby/lifestyle, the rewards come with a price, and sometimes this means enduring some hard times out there so that you can enjoy nature overall.  However if you are a new or less experienced backpacker, don't let any of the hard times get you down!  They are part of the experience, and you become a better person for dealing with hard times and the challenges they present.

The mountain ahead of you may look intimidating, but not when you take it one step at a time.  And while you're hiking up the mountain, yeah it's probably going to be tough.  You're probably going to sweat, your legs will get sore, you might even slip and skin your shin.  And it might even rain or snow while you are going up that damn mountain, and even with good rain gear, at the very least your shoes and socks are going to get soaked, and the rest of you will be a bit soggy from sweat if anything.

But then you get to the top of that damn mountain, and it will be worth it. 

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.