Monday, December 22, 2014

Back to Back Episode 4: Knives for Lightweight Backpacking

Hey all, in case you haven't seen it yet, just a quick announcement to let everyone know that Back to Back Episode 4 is complete and up on Youtube.  The topic is one that I find fascinating, as do many outdoor enthusiasts, which is knives.  However this discussion is from the perspectives of two lightweight backpackers, with one having the unique (and very cool) distinction of happening to also be a knife maker.  

I kicked things off with Part 1 

And Jason recently responded with Part 2.  

You can also check out Jason's wonderful text on the subject in question here, which he wrote at the same time as we were doing the planning of this episode.  The knives you see in his video are the ones he documents in the text.  It's a great companion to this episode, and I highly recommend reading it if you are at all interested in knives and especially the finer details of how they are made.  The passion he has for this craft really comes out in the text (and video too), and as I mentioned to Jason via email after reading it, to me it almost reads like a short story.  Readers get to closely follow a narrative of a dedicated craftsman transform a piece of metal into a knife, and Jason makes some bold choices in his unique version of a knife to have while out in the wild.

Thanks again to Jason, it's been a pleasure working with him, and hope that we can collaborate again in the future.

That's about it, go check out another episode of the Back to Back series, and I hope that you find it helpful and/or enjoyable.  As always, please feel free to give feedback via email, comments below, or on the Youtube comments.  And let me know if there are any subjects related to backpacking that you would want to see explored in a Back to Back episode.

Peace out and happy holidays!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Cesar's 2015 Shelter Systems for Solo Backpacking


I recently got myself an early holiday gift, which I spoke about in a first impressions video.  It's a 6ft x 9ft (1.8m x 2.7m) Zpacks flat tarp, and I opted for the 1.0 Cuben fiber in a nice translucent black for reasons I discuss in said video.  I finally got a chance to get out and test it out on a short day hike, and am very excited about what will be my new go-to shelter for the colder half of the year.  


Before I get into different pitches and configurations of this tarp, let me first explain the method to my madness for my two go-to shelter systems for the upcoming year.  One will be used roughly between late spring to mid autumn (the "warm" kit), and the other between late autumn to mid spring (the "cold" kit).

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Updates: Future Projects, New Gear, Etc.

Hey all, just wanted to write an update with what's going on, what's in the works, and briefly discuss some new gear I recently bought.  I am excited about both some new projects in the works and also my new gear, and looking forward to both.  First thing I want to get out of the way, is that as some of you may have noticed I have not been very active online as of late (this blog, Youtube, forums, etc.).  I've just been very busy with life at the moment, but mostly positive stress, so it's all good.  

I'll spare the boring details of why I've been so busy, but suffice to say that I was not so busy that I couldn't go on my usual one a month section hikes or do a lot of research on a few pieces of gear that I eventually bought for myself as early holiday gifts.  I have noticed that I have been getting a bit more views on my blog and subscribers on my Youtube channel, so hello, welcome, and thanks to you new readers/viewers out there.  And don't worry, new content is on the way, and here is what I have planned:

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Bergslagsleden Part 3

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This is Part 3 of my 6 part series of trail guides for Bergslagsleden.  Please read my introduction and epilogue to this trail here if you haven't done so yet.  This entire trail is also a part of the E1 trail system, and you can read more about that in my E1 trail guides here.  Please keep in mind it is still a work in progress.

This report covers stages 11-8, or from Leken/E18 highway to Mogetorp.
The Leken area is right next to the E18 highway and has daily bus connections to the town of Karlskoga in the west and the city of Örebro in the east.  Örebro is about 28km from Leken (about 25-30min bus ride), is a bigger city (sixth largest in Sweden), has train connections to many parts of Sweden, and will of course have more to offer as far as resupplying and luxuries go.  The Mogetorp area is on the 50/68 highway and has daily bus connections to Örebro in the south and the town of Nora in the north.  There is also a restaurant and hotel near the bus stop.

Below are links to PDF informational maps in English and topographical maps for these four stages:

Stage 11 info map, topo map 11


Stage 10 info map, topo map 10


Stage 9 info map, topo map 9


Stage 8
info map, topo map 8

Hiking southbound on the E1 you continue on Bergslagsleden, and you can check out my previous guide from stages 14-12 here.  Hiking northbound you continue on Bergslagsleden, and you can check out my next guide from stages 7-5 here.

Now on with the show!

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The gloomy weather from my last trip followed me and got even worse on this trip.  I don't mind gloomy weather that much, and in fact at times can really enjoy it (I like spooky things), but it does complicate things like navigation--especially at night, and nights are longer this time of year.  It also can ruin good views and vistas, which this area is full of, unfortunately for me.  So my photo documentation is not going to highlight the beauty of this area as much as I would have liked/hoped.  There were several times that I was at places marked on the map that apparently have nice views--there are 9 such symbols for viewpoints in total for these four sections--but didn't bother to take pictures due to the weather.

Yet as before, the conditions did not prevent me from having a successful, memorable, and overall enjoyable hike.  This marks yet another time I say to myself, "I need to come back here again."  Especially considering that I'd like to actually see the beauty of all these viewpoints!  Bergslagsleden has become one of my favorite trails now that I have hiked a fair share of it, and hope that it continues to impress me as I hike the rest of it.  As before, lots of interesting things to see, convenient things like fresh water taps and shelters abound, and mostly good trail markings and sign posting.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Zpacks Sleeping Bags Double Review: 40 Degree Long Term and 20 Degree First Impressions


Recently in Back to Back Episode 2, I briefly talked about my two Zpacks sleeping bags, and how I think that for my purposes (Ultralight and long distance backpacking) they are one of the best bags money can buy.  So I figured I would elaborate a bit on these excellent additions to my gear closet by writing up another double review.  I should note that before buying each bag, I did a lot--boarding on an obsessive amount--of research.  These are bags that have consistently gotten good reviews, like this one for example.  I gave it a lot of thought, which is reasonable considering that these sleeping bags are indeed a big investment for most people.  You can check out all the details on these bags here at Zpacks, but I will include my own measurements and specifications on my two bags shortly.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Back to Back Episode 2: The Cost of Backpacking

Just a quick update to let everyone know that another episode of Back to Back is up on Youtube, in case you have not seen it already.

Here is Part 1, where Ross sets things up and gives his thoughts on the matter.

And here is Part 2, where I reply to some of his points and give my own perspectives on the subject.

Ross is right to point out on his blog that we talk for a total of about a half hour, yet don't get into specifics on how to put together a gear list that won't cost you an arm and a leg.  But this is something he has written about in great detail before, so you can check out Ross' two gear lists here:

One is for three season backpacking, and weighs 12lb 7.2oz and costs $531.

The other is for winter, and weighs 10lb 11.2oz and costs $741.

I decided after I made my video that I it would be nice if I made a good and not too "expensive" Ultralight backpacking gear list.  It comes out to 6.7lbs and costs $650.  

It is intended for 1+ season use, and I wanted to include certain fancy/deluxe/durable gear--not to mention being pretty damn light.  With buying used, or making a few other minor changes, one could make my list even cheaper.  For example, you could buy a big (8 x 10 ft) silnylon tarp, no bivy, and cheapo (DriDucks) rain gear rather than go with poncho/tarp and bivy (you might have to wear your head net to sleep and maybe bring ear plugs, however); or switch out the titanium pot and tent stakes for stainless steel or aluminum ones, buy a generic, lightweight nylon backpack, etc.  One could also turn my list into a 3 season list without much more cost or weight, e.g. add a few more layers of clothing and make a thicker and thus warmer DIY sleeping bag.

Well, that's about it, just a quick update.  Hope you enjoy Episode 2 and our gear suggestions for a cheap but good kit, and as always feedback and questions are welcome and encouraged.

Thanks again Ross for your continued collaboration, it's been a pleasure having these virtual conversations, and looking forward to doing more episodes.

Our next topic will probably be on stoves, fuel, and all things related to cooking out in the field--so keep your eyes peeled.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Cost of Ultralight Backpacking: A Good yet Affordable Starter Kit

This is a follow up post to compliment the last Back to Back video I recently put up on Youtube about the cost of backpacking.  After finishing the video, I got to thinking, and thought why not put up a solid yet fairly economical gear list for someone new to Ultralight backpacking?  

*Update: Since writing this article, I've added a video to my Youtube channel covering some easy and cheap DIY / MYOG gear, which you can check out here.

I will assume that this will be for someone that has little or no backpacking gear.  Or maybe if you are reading this and have more "traditional" type gear, you can always sell it online or give it away to friends or family.  I won't cover absolutely everything, just the essentials, and this is for typical "high season" use, i.e. summertime or temperatures no lower than around 7C / 45F.  I am also putting a focus on gear that is built to last, and don't want to be too stingy with fancy/deluxe gear.  

This gear list is intended to be used for section hikes and/or weekend adventures, but in a pinch could be used for longer periods of time under the right conditions--though I wouldn't use this exact list for most thru-hikes on my thru-hike bucket list.  One could probably fit up to a week of food in the given pack plus all the gear, and anything less than a week should be no problem.

I've also rounded up both the weights and the costs to get conservative estimates, and always keep in mind you can buy a lot of these pieces of gear used, which is something I do often.  The only thing that I didn't include is either a cell phone or a wristwatch, which could be good to bring with you.  I bring my cheapo cell phone with me and it doubles as my clock (and calculator or timer/alarm if needed).  Some people have one or the other, others have both; but not everyone likes to take one or both out into nature, not to mention that prices of both are all over the place.

And keep in mind that this could be a base set of gear to start with and add stuff on to--for example if you are into bushcraft/woodlore/survival stuff (like if you came over here from Ross' blog), there would still be plenty of room for a folding saw, fishing kit, etc.  With a lighter, more minimalistic gear list like the one below, you will be able to hike further and with greater ease, have more energy to do other stuff out in nature, and take better care of your back and joints.

First I'll cover stuff that most people probably have laying around their house, or can be found for super cheap or free.  

Monday, October 6, 2014

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Bergslagsleden Part 2

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This is Part 2 of my 6 part series of trail guides for Bergslagsleden.  Please read my introduction and epilogue to this trail here if you haven't done so yet.  This entire trail is also a part of the E1 trail system, and you can read more about that in my E1 trail guides here.  Please keep in mind it is still a work in progress.

This report covers stages 14-12, or from Laxå to Leken/E18 highway.
The small town of Laxå has a train station where you can connect to Göteborg in the west and Stockholm in the east, and many stops in between.  There is the usual helpful things like a pizza shop, supermarket, hostel, etc. in Laxå, but not much else.  The Leken area is right next to the E18 highway and has daily bus connections to the town of Karlskoga in the west and the city of Örebro in the east.  Örebro is about 28km from Leken (about 25-30min bus ride), is a bigger city (sixth largest in Sweden), and has train connections to many parts of Sweden, and will of course have more to offer for resupplying and luxuries.

Below are links to PDF informational maps in English and topographical maps for these three stages:

Stage 14 info map, topo map 14

Stage 13 info map, topo map 13

Stage 12 info map, topo map 12

Hiking southbound on the E1 you continue on Bergslagsleden and the beginning of Västra Vätterleden, and you can read my report on this section of trail here. Hiking northbound the E1 continues on the Bergslagsleden, and you can check out my guide from Stage 12 (Leken) to Stage 8 (Mogetorp) here.

Now on with the show!

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On my last trip report I was sick with strep throat, yet still managed to have a good hike.  This time my health was fine, but other circumstances worked against me, giving me some added challenges--yet once again, I still managed to have a good hike.  Again I think this says a lot about this trail, but there were some minor issues that will address.  While not quite as visually stunning as my last section hike, these three stages still offer quite a lot of beauty, and the trail continues to be one of the most well maintained trails I have ever hiked on.  Trail shelters and access to fresh tap water are fairly common, for instance, and so are trash cans, places to have a fire, and outhouses.

Due to work and family obligations, I unfortunately didn't have much time to devote to exploring everything that these three stages has to offer, which is quite a lot.  There are several other trails that intersect with Bergslagsleden in this area, as well as several interesting sights and landmarks.  The more I hike Bergslagsleden, the more it becomes one of my favorite trails, and the more I tell myself that I'd like to go back and hike it again one day--I'd love to do a thru-hike of it as a stand-alone trail.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Back to Back Episode 1 is Up on Youtube

Just a quick announcement that Ross from the Wood Trekker blog and I have put up the first episode of what will hopefully be a series on wilderness backpacking called Back to Back.  I have to say the title is growing on me, being a good shorthand for "from one backpacker to another."  The first video is more if an introduction and setting up the format and first topic, and Part 2 and 3 are our in depth discussions related to the first topic.

Here is Part 1 of the episode, my video setting things up.

And here is Part 2, Ross' video.

And here is Part 3, my response.

Keep an eye out on my Youtube channel in the future for more episodes of Back to Back if you are interested.  I am glad we got the ball rolling, and I think it will be great to be able to bounce ideas and learn from Ross and hopefully other backpackers as well.  I have to say, I am excited about the prospect of this project continuing on and maybe expanding, and have really enjoyed collaborating with Ross.

That's about it.  Just wanted try and get the word out some.  As always, feedback and questions are welcome and encouraged.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Swedish Warp Zone: The Beauty of Flugsvamp Mushrooms

This post will be short and sweet.  I was looking over the pictures from my last section hike and noticed there were a lot of pictures of mushrooms that I didn't include in my trip report.  I liked the way some of them came out, so figured I would do a whole post just devoted to these pictures.  The granola bar in some of the pictures is for size reference.  Seeing all these mushrooms out there had me humming the Super Mario Brothers theme song quite a lot on my trip.  For those of you that didn't ever play SMB on NES, this is what I am talking about:

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Bergslagsleden Part 1

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This is Part 1 of my 6 part series of trail guides for Bergslagsleden.  Please read my introduction and epilogue to this trail here if you haven't done so yet.  This entire trail is also a part of the E1 trail system, and you can read more about that in my E1 trail guides here.  Please keep in mind it is still a work in progress.

This report covers the last stage of Västra Vätterleden hiking northbound, which leads directly to the southern starting point of Bergslagsleden, as well as the first three stages of the trail (17-15).  I include the last stage of Västra Vätterleden for pragmatic reasons as a section hiker, which has mostly to do with public transportation, using the lakeside town of Karlsborg as a start/endpoint.  Stage 15 ends close to the town of Laxå.

However if you are a thru-hiker and need to stock up on supplies, want/need a hostel or hotel, craving a good cup of coffee and/or a warm meal, or just want to do some sight-seeing, I recommend paying Karlsborg a visit.  There are regular buses that connect to the village of Forsvik (where the E1 continues), and also to the city of Skövde where there is a train station for further connections.

Below are links to PDF informational maps in English and topographical maps for these four stages that make up this part of the E1:

Stage 1 of Västra Vätterleden

Stage 17 of Bergslagsleden info map, topo map 17

Stage 16 info map, topo map 16

Stage 15 info map, topo map 15

Hiking southbound on the E1 the next trail is the northern half of Västra Vätterleden, and you can check out my guide from Stage 2 (Forsvik) to Stage 4 (Hjo) here.  Hiking northbound the E1 continues on the Bergslagsleden, and you can check out my guide from Stage 14 (Laxå) to Stage 12 (Leken) here.

Now on with the show!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Wild Mushrooms: A Good Haul Today!


Today my family and I went out to pick some wild mushrooms out in the woods, and had a particularly good haul.  

This is yet another aspect I love about being outdoors--and that I have written about on this blog before--so I figured why not take some pictures and do a quick video to show off our harvest.  For those of you that are into mycology, you might appreciate this; and for those of you that are not into the somewhat strange world of fungus hunting, perhaps this can shed some light on the subject.  From my experiences I have found that people that are not in the know tend to think that I am crazy for picking and eating odd looking mushrooms, but so long as you know what you are doing and take some simple precautions, it's really not a big deal.  

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Physical Fitness for Long Distance Backpacking: What I Do to Make Hiking (and Life) Easier


Obligatory disclaimer: I am just reflecting on my own personal goals as far as physical fitness is concerned, as well as what exercises and techniques work for me.  Everyone is different, has different needs, physical abilities, genetics, limitations, etc.  Basically, I am just talking about what level of fitness I want to maintain and how I go about doing that.  I'm not a doctor or a trainer, just my opinion, don't sue me, etc.

I just shot a video where I spoke at length on the subject at hand, and where I cover a lot of ground, so I'll begin with the video this time and then move on to writing the rest of this text.  Please watch the video first before moving on with this article:



Thursday, August 21, 2014

El Saco Rojo: My MYOG / DIY Summer Sleeping Bag and Winter Extra-Warm Sleeping Bag Liner

Finally got around to it after months of planning and then trying to find time to actually make it.  I wish I had a cool name for it, as it's kind of a mouthful to say, looking at the title above.  I guess I can name it now.  So let's check out "Saco Rojo," shall we:



On the scale above it's in a Zpacks Cuben drybag, which weighs 16g--so the total weight of Saco Rojo is 311g / 11oz.  

Pretty light as far as sleeping bags go, but actually a bit heavier than I thought when I planned this project on paper.  Several months ago I wrote that I thought it would be around 250g.  But oh well, sometimes it's hard to make an accurate estimate of weight, especially things like fabric and insulation.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

All of Cesar's Ultralight Backpacks: Specifications, Comparisons, and First Impressions of a New Pack


What you see above you are all of the backpacks that I own and use for wilderness backpacking.  What will follow below will be a full analysis/breakdown of each pack, with specs, history, pros, cons, and when I (or my wife) would use them.  The shinny new green pack in the middle is my brand new custom built Zero from Zpacks, and at the end of this text I will have a video I did with my first impressions of this pack, as well as a brief comparison to my old custom Zero (second one on the left above).

For me having these five packs is a complete collection for all my wants/needs when it comes to wilderness backpacking.  As I have noted before, I go on trips regularly at least once a month all year round, and trips range from overnight to a week.  Plus I intend on if anything, going backpacking more as my children get older and I regain free time.  But not only does this cover all my bases, these packs on occasion are used by my wife.  

I currently have no interest in buying any other backpacks until I run one of these five into the ground, or if one somehow gets very damaged, etc.  And I'd probably just buy an identical or very similar replacement.  Of course things and minds can change, but I doubt that I am going to want/need another pack for a long, long time.  I must admit, feels pretty good :)

I'll begin with the smallest pack by volume (#1) and work my way up to the largest (#5)--or left to right as you can see them neatly arranged above.  If you are interested in reading a long-term review of pack #2 and a first impression of pack #4 from last year (September 2013), you can do so here.  

I'll begin with telling you the name of the packs you're looking at, in case you are unfamiliar with them:

Monday, July 21, 2014

Summer Updates

Just a quick post with some updates on what's going on with my blog.  

The big change as of late is that I have started to upload some videos onto Youtube, and have put a link to my channel in the tabs above.  I have several more videos in the works, but right now I have been too busy to create them.  But there will be more on the way eventually.  I was reluctant to do the whole Youtube thing, but so far I have to say I have been plesantly surprised by the experience, and it's a great addition to my blog.  

My next video will probably be all about the often challenging issue of shoes for long distance hiking, and I'll also go into more detail on my past and current shoes of choice for a given situation/trip.  As of now, my most popular text on this blog is still my exploration of minimalist/barefoot shoes, which you can check out to the right along with the rest of my most popular posts.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Västra Vätterleden Part 2

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At 189km total, Västra Vätterleden is one of the somewhat longer stand alone trails that is a part of the E1 trail system.  This report will cover roughly half of this trail, from stages 4 to 2, which goes from the town of Hjo in the south to the town of Karlsborg in the north.  The trail goes along the western part of the area surrounding the massive lake Vättern, but doesn't follow the lake directly.  There are points where the trail does intersect with this mini-sea of fresh water, such as the end point of this report in the town Karlsborg, which is directly on the shores of the lake.  

I was not able to find a good connection to public transportation at the northern end point of this trail (stage 1), or I would have hiked the last stage of the trail on my trip--and indeed, had intended on hiking the entire trail in my initial planning of this trip.  Hiking to the end of the trail would have essentially stranded me in the middle of nowhere with no way of getting back home in the time I could afford to travel on this trip.

Karlsborg has good bus connections as well as other good conveniences for hikers, so for me I think that for all intents and purposes Karlsborg is a better end/start point to Västra Vätterleden.  Hiking from Hjo there are a few different paths and short-cuts one can take, and can range from about 40km going the most direct route, or about 65km going a longer and more scenic route.  I opted to mix in both shortcuts and scenic hikes for a hike that was roughly 53km.

In preparing for hike, I quickly found a Swedish website called Skaraborgsleder, with many different maps and reports on trails in the area--including the entire Västra Vätterleden.  I printed out and used their maps for this trail and was generally quite pleased with them.  You can read/print the maps for yourself here (in PDF format and with info in Swedish): 

Stage 4, Hjo-Röå

Stage 3, Röå-Mölltorp

Stage 2, Mölltorp-Forsvik

The E1 trails before this going southbound go from Hjo to Mullsjö, and you can read about them here in part 1 of this trail report.  Going northbound on the E1 you continue onto stage 1 of Västra Vätterleden, which directly connects with the next trail system, Bergslagsleden, and you can check out Part 1 of this trail report here.

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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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Summer 2014 Gear List Breakdown


For some time I have been thinking about doing some videos to compliment my blog, and finally got around to it today.  I filmed a "what's in my pack" video that I will post below, but first wanted to elaborate on some things that slipped my mind while I was speaking in the video.  It's hard to cover everything you want to express in a short amount of time, and after watching my finished video there were several times I wish I would have said more.  Then again, if I would have said more, it would probably been way too long.

I really wish I would have said "Uhh" much less--but hey, it's my first video that I've posted online, so cut me some slack.  And after doing several takes I don't feel like going back and re-shooting at this point, so it is what it is.  While editing I cut out a lot of pauses and rambling to try and make it flow better, which explains all the cuts in the video.

Before I forget, here's the gear list in full, with all the weights and more details, via Gear Grams.  

The total weight is 3283g / 7.2lbs for both my base pack weight plus items carried.  The only thing not included (excluding consumables) is my clothing worn, which in case you are interested is 1460g / 3.2lbs.  So what you see is pretty much everything I take with me minus my hiking outfit, food, and water--though I of course didn't include the weight of my alcohol fuel on my gear list, but you get to see it anyhow.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Västra Vätterleden Part 1

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At 189km total, Västra Vätterleden is one of the somewhat longer stand alone trails that is a part of the E1 trail system.  This report will cover roughly half of this trail, from stages 8 to 5 in their entirety, which goes from the town of Mullsjö in the south to the town of Hjo in the north.  The trail goes along the western part of the area surrounding the massive lake Vättern, but doesn't follow the lake directly.  There are points where the trail does intersect with this mini-sea of fresh water, such as the end point of this report in the town Hjo, which is directly on the shores of the lake.

In preparing for hike, I quickly found a Swedish website called Skaraborgsleder, with many different maps and reports on trails in the area--including the entire Västra Vätterleden.  I printed out and used their maps for this trail and was generally quite pleased with them.  You can read/print the maps for yourself here (in PDF format and with info in Swedish):

Stage 8, Mullsjö-Fagerhult

Stage 7, Fagerhult-Semesterbyn

Stage 6, Semesterbyn-Baståsen

Stage 5, Baståsen-Hjo

The E1 trails before this going southbound go from Mullsjö to Ulricehamn, and you can read my report on them here.  Going northbound on the E1 you continue on roughly the second half of Västra Vätterleden from Hjo to Karlsborg, and you can read that report here.

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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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Tagged: The Liebster Award

I've recently been tagged by Stick in a post of his regarding The Liebster Award.  The short of it is that it's a blog award/tag that bloggers give each other, and so first off I have to say thanks to Stick for tagging me.  I'm a big fan of his blog and youtube videos, so I'm flattered that he tagged me in another post.

So how it goes is that whoever tags you gets to ask you 11 questions, and then in turn you ask 11 other bloggers 11 questions of your own.  Stick sums things up quite well, so I will just quote him:

"Honestly, I had never heard about the award, so I did some “Googling” and found that it is essentially an award that “was created to recognize and/or discover new bloggers and welcome them to the blogosphere.” This is accomplished by tagging/linking other blogs in the post (which could shed light on sites others may not know about yet), as well as through answering, and then asking, a series of questions. Then to finish things up, another group of blogs are tagged, and a new set of questions are made up, and so on… "

I must admit it is going to be a challenge for me to find 11 other bloggers to tag.  I only follow a handful of blogs, and some of them have already been tagged by The Liebster Award before.  But I have a plan.  I frequent the forums over at BPL when I have the time, and there are several members there whose posts I appreciate.  Well some of them have blogs, so that's how I will be able to tag 11 more bloggers.  Sorry if I have tagged someone that has already been tagged before!

Anyhow, on to the questions posed to me:

Monday, May 5, 2014

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: from Ulricehamn to Mullsjö and More

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***Update 21/06/2015: Thanks to a reader named Heather, I recently found out that the E1 trails that connect the town of Hindås to the town of Mullsjö seem to have been updated as far as trail maintenance and also how it is conceptually organized.  Between these two towns it is now known as Sjuhärsleden, is broken down into 10 stages, and a new website (mostly in Swedish, but some English and German) with maps for each of the 10 stages and other information is available here.***

The experience of hiking E1 trails between the two towns of Ulricehamn in the west and Mullsjö in the east is... complicated, as the following report will demonstrate.  This section of trail is about 35km, and consists mostly of the first part (about 10km) of a trail called Redvägsleden--which goes generally north from Ulricehamn and continues to the town of Åsarp--and a set of roads and highways that are simply not trails at all.

Planning for my trip to hike this section, I did quite a lot of searching online, and was unable to find a map of Redvägsleden; nor was I able to find a map from this trail to Mullsjö, or that much information in general actually (*See update above).  With other trails there is normally an official website with helpful PDF files of maps, brief summaries of the path and its conditions/features, etc.  Not the case with this section of the E1 trail.  After arriving in Mullsjö and learning the names of some of the local trails there that cross paths with the E1, I was able to find more information online when I got home.  More on this later.

What you can do is contact the local tourism board and have them send you actual paper copies of some maps, which is what the official E1 Sweden website recommends, and is what I did.  They were kind enough to send me four different maps of the area and the trails in the Ulricehamn area--but no maps of the Mullsjö area--*again, make sure to see the update above and visit the new official website for Sjuhärsleden.

I highly recommend that if you intend on hiking in this area to somehow get and bring a map/maps of not only the Ulricehamn area, but also of the Mullsjö area, and make sure that each map includes trails and pedestrian zones.  You can either buy them, contact the tourism board to send you some, print out some online maps, or do a combination of all of these map options.

A few maps (with information in Swedish) that are very helpful are of the first section of Södra Vätterleden (which the E1 very briefly crosses paths with), and the last section of Västra Vätterleden (which the E1 follows in its entirety).  The Mullsjö area can be especially confusing, as will be discussed in detail below, due to several factors--one of the main issues being that there are many local trails that loop around or through Mullsjö.

Going northbound the section before this one is Sjuhäradsleden, which goes between the city of Borås in the west and the town of Ulricehamn in the east.  The next trail that the E1 continues on from in Mullsjö is Västra Vätterleden, and here is my guide to the first half of it going north from Mullsjö to Hjo.

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.

Sorry for such a long introduction, but believe me, there's just no way around it in order for me to write a good and useful trail guide on this section.  As such, the report that follows will be longer and more detailed, and will have more pictures that previous trail guides I have written on the E1.  So go get a cup of coffee, a snack, and strap in for a bit--this is going to be a long one.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Spring Updates

Just wanted to do a quick post with some updates on what's going on with this blog and my backpacking life in general.  

I am going on a 3 day trip to cover more of the E1 trails this coming weekend, which of course I am very excited about.  I hope to complete at least two, maybe three sections of trail, and trip reports will follow soon after.  

The weather has been very inconsistent this year, even for south-west Sweden (known for unpredictable weather, especially in spring/fall).  There have been days recently where it has been 20C and sunny out, with nights around 5-10C.  Now all of a sudden it looks like it will drop to as low as -4C at night in the area I will be traveling through.  This would be nearly as cold as it was at night on my last section hike over a month ago, when it was -6C at night!  I was ready to put my warmer (rated -1C) sleeping bag away in favor for my 1+ season bag (rated 5C), but looks like it will still get some use into late spring.

Speaking of sleeping bags, I recently bought some material to make a summer sleeping bag, which I will also be using as a bag liner for winter/cold trips.  I hope to make something that will not only have more effective warmth than say a thin base layer, but also be more light weight.  The materials arrived yesterday, and I am very excited about this project.  It will be a top layer of M90, which is quite breathable, then a top layer of synthetic insulation (2.5oz Climashield Apex), which will be both sewn onto a silk liner.  I will write a detailed post about this project, and naturally with lots of pictures, when it is completed.  

Monday, March 31, 2014

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Sjuhäradsleden

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***Update 21/06/2015: Thanks to a reader named Heather, I recently found out that the E1 trails that connect the town of Hindås to the town of Mullsjö seem to have been updated as far as trail maintenance and also how it is conceptually organized.  Between these two towns it is now known as Sjuhärsleden, is broken down into 10 stages, and a new website (mostly in Swedish, but some English and German) with maps for each of the 10 stages and other information is available here.***

Sjuhäradsleden is a 36km trail that goes from the city of Borås in the west to the small town of Ulricehamn to the east by north-east, which overlooks the large lake Åsunden.  

Fun fact about this lake: on January 19th, 1520, the Battle of Bogesund took place between Sweden and Denmark, with approximately 10,000 men fighting on each side.  This battle was fought on top of the lake, on the ice.  Oh, and there were cannons.  It was a cannon that killed the leader of the Swedes, Sten Sture the Younger.

War.  On ice.  And what the hell, throw in some cannons.

Moving on.  Going southbound on the E1 trail--which really means going west at this point--the path continues on Knalleleden.  Going northbound (meaning north by north-east again), the trail continues partially on Redvägsleden, and mostly on gravel roads that ends up in the village of Mullsjö.

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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Alright.  I'm going to be frank.  This is a trail that I think can be best summed up in saying that while it was pleasant enough to hike once, I doubt I would ever hike it again.  There's nothing terrible about it--or anything spectacular about it either.  The majority of the time, this trail follows a series of roads.  You'll be hiking on long, straight parts of the trail on asphalt, gravel, and dirt roads.  On occasion you pass through some woods, some of which are quite nice, sure.  But nothing stunning or that awe inspiring.

So for hardcore thru-hikers, don't get me wrong, you will probably enjoy hiking this trail.  There are some nice spots.  Yet I'd say that it takes a seasoned veteran or a total rookie to appreciate this kind of hike.  If this does not make sense to you and/or you fall someplace in between a vet and a rookie backpacker--or if you don't want to walk down a bunch of roads--feel free to skip this section.  This is easy enough.  Just go to the the Borås bus station (right next to the train station) after re-supplying and such, and take the 200 bus to Ulricehamn.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Knalleleden

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***Update 21/06/2015: Thanks to a reader named Heather, I recently found out that the E1 trails that connect the town of Hindås to the town of Mullsjö seem to have been updated as far as trail maintenance and also how it is conceptually organized.  Between these two towns it is now known as Sjuhärsleden, is broken down into 10 stages, and a new website (mostly in Swedish, but some English and German) with maps for each of the 10 stages and other information is available here.***

Knalleleden is a 50km trail that goes from the small town of Hindås in the west to the city of Borås in the east.  

Here is the older official website for the trail, which is in Swedish, but has links to three serviceable maps of the trail.  Note that these maps do not include the eastern and western tips of the trail, but does cover roughly 70% of it.

Going northbound on the E1, this is the trail that comes after Vildmarksleden to the west and before Sjuhäradsleden to the east.

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 trail 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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I hiked this trail with my friend Blue Alex, and after our trip we both agreed that a good summary of this trail is that it has a lot of highs and lows.  There were times we thought the hiking was quite boring, as we walked down dirt roads past farmland for instance.  Then other times there are stunning views and lovely stream/river crossings that make up for the more boring parts.  At times you feel like you're in Middle Earth, but then you recall the industrial warehouse the trail passes, and it makes for an odd if not mildly amusing contrast.  Overall a pretty enjoyable hike, and in the future I would like to hike it again.

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Hallandsleden Part 2

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This is the shorter part of northern section of Hallandsleden which passes by the city of Kungsbacka to the west.  

Going northbound it connects with Bohusleden, and in the south it continues on to the much longer northern section of Hallandsleden, which is also the very first E1 trail in Sweden if one arrives via ferry from Denmark in Varberg.

Here is a PDF of the official map of this section of trail, but as I have noted before, I am not a fan of these maps.  I suggest you buy a better map of the area if you plan on exploring the area and/or spending a lot of time on the northern third of Hallandsleden.  On the other hand, the official map is better than nothing and it's free to print out, so if you are just passing through here it works.

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 trail 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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I'll start off by admitting that in general I don't really like this section of trail.  There is not as much actual trekking out in nature, and I have experienced a few rather annoying problems with the trail.  So I'll start off with possible ways for you to skip this section.  

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Vildmarksleden

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Vildmarksleden is a 42km trail that connects in the west with Bohusleden in Göteborg, and in the east ends in Hindås.  The E1 then continues from Hindås on Knalleleden towards Borås in the east.

Here is the official website of the trail, which is in Swedish, but apparently has plans on having information in English in the future.

Here is a link to a PDF of a set of maps of the entire trail from the official website, and it is generally a pretty good set of maps that has recently been updated.

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 trail 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 friend Blue Alex at the eastern head of the trail in Hindås.

This is a trail that I have hiked on several times over the past few years.  It's a good hike with several very beautiful spots--especially around and east of the large lake St. Härsjon--has a few shelters, and is pretty straight forward and without many complications.  Recently efforts have been made to do trail maintenance, mark the trail better, and slightly change the route of the trail, so there are times where you might see the older version of the trail go on and some of the faded older markings.  But don't worry, it's pretty hard to get lost on this trail and in this area.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Northern Hallandsleden Part 1

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This is the starting point of the Swedish E1 trails for people heading northbound, as this is where the ferry arrives from Denmark.  Or for those that started in Norway and are heading southbound, this is the last section of trail before saying goodbye to Sweden and taking the ferry from the port in Varberg.

This section of trail is mostly the northern third of Hallandsleden, which is divided into two parts.  This section is from Varberg to Stättared, and is around 74km total.  Here is a map (in PDF) of this section from the official site, and here is the official site for Hallandsleden.  

I must admit after printing out and using this map on the trail, that I did not like it.  It's proportions are not accurate, there are unnecessary pictures in the way on the actual map itself, and shelters and other useful things for hikers are not clearly marked.  I recommend buying a better map of the area, which is what I did for the next section with much better results.

The next section going northbound is the second half of the northern part of Hallandsleden, Stättared to Blåvättnerna (about 40km), and also where this trail ends and the E1 continues on Bohusleden.

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 trail 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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Thursday, February 13, 2014

General Tips and Information on Backpacking in Sweden

One of my sons enjoying Swedish summer.

Now that I am beginning to have a somewhat sizable collection of trip reports and trail guides that are mostly located in the nation I call home, I figured I ought to have an article dedicated to how it's like to hike and camp in Sweden along with some helpful tips and such.  I feel lucky to live here for many reasons, but one very important reason is that for an avid nature lover and backpacker, it has several aspects that make it one of the best places for outdoor life in the world.  

In addition to the huge amount of gorgeous wilderness to explore, clean water, plenty of trail shelters, abundance of marked trails, kind people, and good train system, perhaps the biggest factor in what makes Sweden such an amazing place to go and be out in nature are its "Everyman's Rights" or Allemansrätten in Swedish.  These are laws and regulations that allow anyone to travel freely in nature as long as they obey certain rules and are respectful of nature.  For instance, private land owners cannot put up fences or otherwise restrict people from traveling through the wilderness, and anyone is allowed to camp out in the wild anywhere unless by special exception (nature preserves and the like).  Notice that I use the word "wilderness" here, and this obviously does not apply to people's private backyards, so don't go and pitch your tent on grandma's flowerbed.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Cesar's Complete Gear Combinations for 2014: 3 Season


If you haven't already, please make sure to read my introduction to this series of posts related to my full 2014 season selection of gear and clothing for backpacking.  It gives a lot of relevant background information and details regarding all six of these gear lists in general.

These two gear lists are for brisk weather conditions I plan on experiencing typically throughout most of spring and fall, and cover what I consider to be "cold" and "cool"--both of which fall under the 3 season category for me.  Also note that these temperatures also reflect the lowest predicted temps (i.e. typically at night and at dawn) in weather forecasts for a given trip. I personally define these terms as follows, and the final weights are listed for the impatient:

Cold = -2 to 9 C / 28 to 48 F
  * On trail - BPW 4209g / 9.3lbs, CW 1436g / 3.2lbs
  * Off trail - BPW 4534g / 10lbs, CW 2271g / 5lbs

Cool = 10 to 15 C / 50 to 59 F
  * On trail - BPW 3964g / 8.7lbs, CW 1296g / 2.9lbs
  * Off trial - BPW 4341g / 9.6lbs, CW 1918g / 4.2lbs

Please feel free to check my math and let me know if I have made a mistake.  It's easy to make mistakes when dealing with so many numbers.

3 Season general pros: Less bugs than peak season, good campsites and shelters not as crowded, flowers and new life in spring, colorful leaves and mushrooms in the fall, don't have to melt snow/ice for drinking water, and not as much bulk/weight from warmer clothing and sleep systems.

Cons: Some bugs in "cold" to moderate amounts in "cool" conditions, cold rain and potential risk of wet snow during cold saps.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Borah Gear Down Vest: First Impressions and Short Term Review


Recently I got a package in the mail that I had been eagerly awaiting.  In it was the brand new on the market Borah Gear down vest, which as of now is one of the very lightest down vests commercially available (if not the lightest).  Over a month ago John from Borah Gear asked if anyone was interested in a down vest over at BPL, and I along with several others expressed interest.  I contacted him shortly after to ask him more about buying a vest from him, unsure if he was going to go through with putting out an official Borah Vest on his site.  He let me know that he was in fact going to start producing them, and that if I wanted a vest, that I would get the very first one.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cesar's Complete Gear Combinations for 2014: 4 Season


If you haven't already, please make sure to read my introduction to this series of posts related to my full 2014 season selection of gear and clothing for backpacking.  It gives a lot of relevant background information and details regarding all six of these gear lists in general.

These two gear lists cover the coldest weather conditions I plan on experiencing throughout winter and early spring, and cover what I consider to be "frigid" and "very cold"--both of which fall under the 4 season category for me.  Also note that these temperatures also reflect the lowest predicted temps (i.e. typically at night and at dawn) in weather forecasts for a given trip. I personally define these terms as follows, and the final weights are listed for the restless:

Frigid = -15 to -9 C / 5 to 16 F
  * On trail - BPW 4708g / 10.4lbs, CW 3276g / 7.2lbs
  * Off trail - BPW 5017g / 11lbs, CW 4079g / 9lbs

Very Cold = -8 to -3 C / 18 to 26 F
  * On trail - BPW 4264g / 9.4lbs, CW 2824g / 6.2lbs
  * Off trial - BPW 4573g / 10lbs, CW 3134g / 6.9lbs

Please feel free to check my math and let me know if I have made a mistake.  It's easy to make mistakes when dealing with so many numbers.

4 Season general pros: No bugs, chance of full trail shelters very low due to less people, dry--or at least dryer than temps that stay above freezing--usually always snow around to melt for water (water filter stays home).

Cons: Need to have lots of good, warm clothing as well as very insulated sleep system (all of which will add lots of extra weight), not much sun as it goes down much earlier--though hiking through moonlit snow is a lovely experience.

Cesar's Complete Gear Combinations for 2014: Introduction

It has been several years since I began going through a kind of backpacking metamorphosis.  Now, however, it feels more or less complete.  I have very few items on my wish list, and only minor upgrades and changes in mind for the future.  Having an Ultralight and/or Super-ultralight perspective can really open up doors and potential when done properly.  And let's just face it, aside from all the abstract hippie theory ("It's like, a state of mind dude--not numbers and stuff,") sometimes found in the lightweight backpacking community online, having good UL/SUL gear and clothing is a part of this process too.  

I now look at maps with much more excitement than I did several years ago, knowing that not only do I have the experience and knowledge to take on most of what nature can throw at me, but hiking up all those hills and putting in more kilometers is easier and more fun than before.  Backpacking for me is better now than it ever was before, and I have been at this for nearly two decades now.

Last year over the winter holidays I sat and ruminated over the ways I could polish and improve my gear for my most active season, roughly from May to September.  I made some adjustments, got a few upgrades, and my 2013 +1 season gear list really served me well last year.  This past winter holiday, as I again sat around after eating a bunch of pickled fish from the Julbord, my daydreams of the adventures to come were much the same.  As was my perhaps somewhat obsessive deconstruction of what would make the best combination of gear for a given set of conditions.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Confessions of a Barefoot Shoe Convert

 
*Note: this post has since been updated with and addendum below containing more info since it was published to address some concerns and offer additional details.

About two and a half years ago, I went on a great trip to Spain where I suffered a minor stress fracture after a lot of hiking on very hard/rough/rocky ground with a pair of slip-on Vans sneakers.  This inspired me to write a post "In Defense of Boots," as I wished I had been wearing a pair of sturdy boots so that I could have avoided the pain and inconvenience of my injury.  Shortly after I reflected on and wrote about footwear for hiking, I decided to dig deeper into the issue to try and gain a better understanding and perhaps find good alternatives.  I quickly found out, and was a bit perplexed, that a significant number of Ultralight backpackers hiked in barefoot and/or minimalist type shoes.

I was new to UL, and never owned a pair of barefoot shoes made specifically for long distance hiking/running.  Since I was a kid and up until about a year and a half ago, I did the same routine with shoes: Vans or Converse All Stars for the warmer half of the year, combat boots for the colder half of the year and also for hiking.  Yet after having altered my perspectives on backpacking and going from fairly heavy to UL and even SUL trips, the idea of wearing these barefoot type shoes was on my mind often.  In short, I didn't buy it.  I thought it was a fad.  Sure, I loved minimalist shoes with no arch support like Vans and Chucks, but not for backpacking.  Yet I kept on seeing blogs and articles written by people that claimed to have done a lot of long distance hiking with these seemingly crazy barefoot shoes.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Introduction


Welcome to my companion guide to the Swedish trails of the E1 European long distance path.  The path goes from the city of Varberg in south-west Sweden, to roughly the middle of Sweden past the town of Idre.  The Swedish path ends at the lake Grövelsjön, which is on the Norwegian boarder, and on the other side is the huge Femundsmarka National Park.  In the summer of 2013 a newly created and marked extension of the E1 trail was officially opened in Norway, and continues north through Norway all the way up to the very top of the country--a stark contrast to the southern most point of the E1 in sunny Italy!