Thursday, November 30, 2017

A Response to 20 Viewers' Backpacking Tips

A month ago I announced a give-away contest on my Youtube channel, the winner getting their choice of either a tarp or a bug bivy from Borah Gear.  Thanks again to Borah Gear who were nice enough to put up the prize for this contest!  They make great gear and have a well-earned good reputation in the online UL community, for instance on Reddit's UL forum.

So the contest was pretty straight forward: to enter just leave a comment with a favorite backpacking tip on my 1000 subscriber video special, and I would take 20 of them and pick one at random.  I also wanted to share all 20 of these tips here on my blog and also give some feedback on each tip, so here we go!  I will make a short video picking the winner at random shortly after publishing this post.  

Thanks to all my readers, Youtube subscribers, and special thanks to everyone that left a tip and entered the contest.  These are good tips, and I've been looking forward to responding to them as they collected over the past month.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Cesar's Guide to The Troll Trail/Trollleden: Introduction


The Troll Trail (or TT for short, or Trollleden in Swedish) is a long distance hiking route I created that goes from city of Göteborg in the south, to lake Grövelsjön in the north on the Swedish-Norwegian border.  It passes through mostly southwest Sweden, but at times goes into southeast Norway or follows along close to (or even right on) the border.  It is approximately 1,100km long, but there are several side trails, loops, and optional parts of the route that are not included in that total.

The TT can be hiked as an alternative section of the E1 European long distance path in Sweden, rather than the official Swedish E1 route.  You can read more about the official E1 route in my guide to it here.  I created the TT as a direct result of hiking the Swedish E1.  While I enjoyed this path overall, there were some problems with several sections, such as lack of trail maintenance, very little information/documentation, very isolated areas (making it difficult to resupply or have access to public transportation), and some sections had quite a bit of walking on asphalt and/or gravel roads.

But the shortcomings of the official Swedish E1 trail was not my only motivation in putting together this trail.  After many years hiking in the areas that the TT goes through, I really fell in love with the nature and terrain of places like Bohuslän and Dalsland.  I discovered more obscure nature reserves and woodland trails that not as many hikers travel to, or even know exist.  Yet other established and well known hiking trails were not that far away.  The more I hiked, the more a new route made sense, and I had a great time in the process as well.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Cesar's Guide to the Edsleskog Loop








Introduction

This lovely little loop is based on several trails around the village of Edsleskog, which is west of the town of Åmål.  It's a shorter loop, starting in and then returning to Edsleskog being a total of only 20-30km, depending on how you hike it.  There is a small network of trails that cover much of the nature reserve, along with a few gravel roads, though there is not much road walking overall--and better yet, very little asphalt involved.  You can get to the village by bus from Åmål, or you can hike there on a trail that connects the two places.  


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Cesar's 2017 Go-To, UL Big Three


Intro

It's been a hot minute since I did a detailed breakdown of some of my favorite pieces of gear, so this time I figured I'd do all my big three configurations for each season of the year.  Regular readers will recognize quite a bit of gear, which itself is a testament to its quality and durability.  But there are some new additions to my collection of big three gear that I am very excited about, and can't wait to get more good use out of them.  

Before I get to the gear, however, some of you may be new here and some context is helpful to better understand why I chose the essential components of my kit.  So let's get that out of the way first, but you can also read my more detailed post on outdoor life in Sweden here.

General use
Solo (or with friends but sleeping solo), wilderness, UL backpacking on section hikes and weekend trips during all four season of the year.

Location
Scandinavia, mostly in the forests and fjälls (alpine mountains/hills) of the lower half of Sweden, and sometimes across the boarder in southeast Norway.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

My Current, General Trail Routines

Introduction

My take on trail routines was inspired by this great book I am reading at the moment by Liz "Snorkel" Thomas, Long Trails: Mastering the Art of the Thru Hike.  I thought it would be fun for me and perhaps useful and fun for others to see a rough sketch of what my routines are while I'm out wilderness backpacking, and this is the result.  In Liz's book, she gives her and other experienced thru-hiker's trail routines, and I found it both useful and interesting to compare them to my own.  

Now I am no thru-hiker (yet), but a humble section hiker, and Liz and her choice of experts are some of the most experienced backpackers you'll find on the entire planet.  While I do have a fair amount of experience under my belt over the last few decades of backpacking and outdoor life, it's but a shadow compared to other hardcore hikers like Liz.  They would maybe laugh at my daily personal goals when it comes to how far and long I hike, as they would likely have no problem hiking literally double of what I usually hike.  But the book gives me hope for my future life as a thru-hiker once I sort out some life complications that prevent me from getting out there more and for longer periods of time.

Anyhow, it's a great read so far (I'm about halfway through it), in case anyone reading this is looking for a good, non-fiction backpacking book to read.  Though this book is specifically for people who fully intend on going on (or who already have gone on) one or more thru hikes, not the casual backpacker, I would add.  And no, I didn't get a copy for free, nor do I know Liz at all--just an honest recommendation!  

Now on to some of my routines.  I will breakdown my most common trips, which are section hikes here in Scandinavia for 2-6 days.  These trips are usually on marked trails, but there are also the occasional off trail/bushwhacking trips I like to do as well.  The main difference is that I usually don't hike as far on off trail trips, as they are often to familiar stomping grounds where I want to relax and maybe read a book, pick more wild edibles, go for a longer swims, etc.  So I won't get into my off trail routines, which can vary greatly depending on my mood, weather, the season, etc.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Cesar's Guide to the E1 Trails in Sweden: Södra Kungsleden Part 2, Mörkret to Flötningen





Introduction

If you haven't read part one of this section's guide, you can do so here.

Part two of the Södra Kungsleden trails see the path continue west through Fulufjället, briefly exiting the national park, entering another large national park called Drevfjällen, and then heading north.  As before, this hike offers stunning views and gorgeous fjäll/mountain landscape, but again with the same cost of it being a more challenging trek.  In fact, the group I traveled with and I agreed that this trip was even more difficult than last year's trip (see: link above).  In addition to tough terrain and elevation to get through, Drevfjällen park is all the more isolated, and overall the trail was much less maintained.

The trail markings were mostly fine, but a few key spots really could use some better signs/markers.  Plus in Drevfjällen there are several marshes/bogs that the trail goes through--much more than before in Fulufjället--and the majority of the time these wetland trails have either no planks/bridges for walking on, or there are old, rotten/broken ones.  So you will get wet and muddy, and not just your feet, but most likely up to your knees and beyond.  And then there are the trail shelters, which simply put, are generally not as nice as the more popular (and therefore more well maintained) Fulufjället shelters.  Though there are a few exceptions, as you will soon see.

Okay, so that's the bad news, but with all that being said (and so long as you are at least a somewhat experienced backpacker), I would still recommend this hike, and my group and I had a great trip.  A harder trip, but a good trip, and one that is more off the beaten path than before.  In the five days we hiked (only one of which was in Fulufjället) we only saw a handful of people in western Fulufjället (mostly day hikers) and only two backpackers in all of Drevfjällen.  And at the end of the trip, we were even able to see a small herd of reindeer.

My wife said of this trip: "It's beautiful, but you have to know what you're getting yourself into."  So now you know, and considering the lack of information on this stage of the E1 trails in Sweden, I hope this will help.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Cesar's Guide to The Dalsland Connection Route



Introduction

For those of you that intend on actually hiking in this area, if you have not read my guide to The Ed Loop, I suggest you do that first, as these two sections of hiking are directly related and connected to each other.  Plus, there is also more background information and context that I won't repeat here, so do check that out please.  Together, The Ed Loop and The Dalsland Connection Route (DCR from now on) provide an alternative to hikers to connect two longer, well established trails: Bohusleden to the west, and Pilgrimsleden (Dalsland) to the east.  Or these new routes can also work as section hikes unto themselves.  One potential shorter thru-hike that I really like the idea of is to start in Åmål in the east and hiking all the way to Strömstand in the west, or the other way around.

You can read my full trail guide to Bohusleden here

And you can also read a more recent partial trail guide to Pilgrimsleden here

Plus here is a set of maps I put together that include this entire route.  This route is a part of a larger trail system (and alternative E1) that I came up with called The Troll Trail, and you can read more about that here.

The DCR is around 50-60km (depending on how you choose to hike it), and runs from the town Ed in west, to the Dalsland Canal area to the east, centered around the villages of Håverud, Åsensbruk, and Upperud.  These three canal villages are all right next to each other and offer a variety of interesting things for hikers and travelers alike.  One option already mentioned is Pilgrimsleden, which runs right through this canal area. Another is that in the summer time, special boats and trains run up and down the Dalsland canal and beyond.  Then of course there are more mundane but practical amenities for hikers/travelers, such as access to regular public transportation, restaurants, cafes, B&Bs, supermarkets, etc.

From these canal villages, one can catch a bus or train to the larger town of Mellerud, where there are further connections.  Or backpackers can simply continue hiking onto Pilgrimsleden, which is accessible at several points in this area.  The trail passes right through Upperud, and there are a few roads and trails one can follow from Håverud that intersect with the trail only 2-3kms away.  

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Cesar's Guide to Pilgrimsleden Dalsland




Introduction

There are several different trails in Scandinavia called "Pilgrimsleden" (The Pilgrim's Trail), so this one is not to be confused with other trails fo the same name!  I've hiked on at least two other trails in Sweden called the same, but this guide is for the one that runs through the Dalsland area.  The trail goes roughly from the city of Vänersborg in the south to the border of Varmland county to the north.  Also worth noting is that past the border to the north, the trail continues and eventually goes into the Glaskogen nature reserve further north, where there are even more hiking trails throughout the park.

Pilgrimsleden Dalsland is about 110km in total, but for the purposes of wilderness backpacking I strongly suggest a modified route.  My modified route incorporates a long side-trail that begins in the town of Åmål called Storspåret, and skips a long section from the village of Upperud to Vänersborg on the southern part of the trail.  The reason behind skipping this section is simple: it's mostly asphalt walking.  And hiking on paved roads for a long time, if you ask me and many others interested in wilderness backpacking, sucks.  

But there are also good logistical considerations to my modified route.  Rather than starting or ending this trail in the middle of nowhere at the northern endpoint of the trail, one can begin or end in Åmål, which has a train station, buses, supermarkets, restaurants, etc.  And in Upperud the trail literally passes by a bus stop (see: below) where you can catch a bus to the town of Mellerud, where there is a train station.



So my way of hiking this trail goes from Upperud in the south to Åmål in the northeast, and covers roughly 75km of trail--55km of Pilgrimsleden Dalsland and 20km of the Storspåret side trail.  It's a wonderful section hike that my friends and I really enjoyed.

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Cost of an UL Backpacking Kit Revisted, Spring 2017

Introduction

*Update 07/05/2017: A member of the UL forum on Reddit was nice enough to create a TLDR summary of all the gear.  So if you want to get right to the full gear list, scroll all the way down to the bottom of this post.  Thanks to u/cwcoleman!

The most popular post on my blog right now (and for a while now) covers the cost of a good yet affordable set of UL backpacking gear for a beginner.  That was roughly three years ago, and I while I still think it's a pretty solid gear list, of course I have given plenty of thought on how to improve or expand on this conceptual gear list.  So here's another crack at it, but this time with a few changes to the given context going into this project, and naturally some changes in gear selection as well.

This new gear list is aimed more at either a traditional (i.e. "heavy") backpacker with some experience that wants to transition into a solid UL kit right away, or someone new to UL backpacking that has already tried things out with cheap/borrowed/DIY gear but now wants an upgraded and improved set of UL gear.  Some of the gear mentioned you may already have, or maybe even something just as good or better.  In which case, the transition to UL will be even cheaper and easier.

If you are entirely new to backpacking and the outdoors in general, then this gear list is probably not for you.  I suggest you start with some entry level cheap/DIY gear before you move on to a bigger transition like this, which is more of an investment of both money and future free time to actually get out there and use the gear.  Remember, not everyone likes or becomes passionate about wilderness backpacking, and it can be a fairly demanding activity.  You can read more in depth advice for new backpackers here.

Yet another way to look at this gear list is with a hypothetical: if my house were to burn down tomorrow and most of my gear with it, the new gear list I would buy to rebuild my gear closet would be more or less the same as the one this post describes.  And for anyone that is new to my blog and my experience, well stick around here long enough and you'll see that I'm pretty crazy about the outdoors--and especially UL, long distance, wilderness backpacking.  That's why I've been backpacking for over two decades now, got into UL around 7 years ago, and still pretty much everyday I daydream about getting back out to the woods.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Cesar's Guide to The Ed Loop



Introduction

I must admit that I am pretty excited writing this guide.  For one, well the trip that it is based on went great--better than my expectations even.  But also because what I am attempting to do here is effectively create an entirely new hiking loop that can be done on its own or in addition to another long hiking trail.  So because of this context, this will have to be longer guide and report with lots of background information.  You've been warned: big wall-o-text to follow.  Otherwise just scroll down for more of the pretty pictures.  Let's begin.

Dals-Ed is a municipality in south-west Sweden that boarders Norway, and has a vast amount of forests, several national parks and hiking trails, and lots of potential for great wilderness backpacking trips.  One feature of this area that I personally find quite appealing and somewhat unique is its rift terrain, which has many long, tall hills/cliffs in narrow ranges throughout the landscape.  Along with this interesting elevation also come many rift valleys that form plenty of lakes and tarns (often long and narrow), as well as winding rivers and streams.

I've been hiking and exploring the western parts of Dals-Ed for nearly a decade now, doing a variety of trips from off-trail bushwhacking, to following marked trails into the area--such as Bohusleden, which goes very close to the boarder of Dals-Ed at several points--to a mix of both.  And I've really grown fond of this area, which is of course why I have returned so often.  It's full of natural beauty, is low in population, and is hence more wild and unspoiled.  Plus there always seemed like there was more to discover about this area, and this proved true on my most recent trip there.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

What's in Cesar's Daypack/EDC for 2017


Ah the old "What's in your backpack?" question. 

I get asked about this a fair amount, even when I'm not in the woods--especially when people see me pulling out useful stuff. So this will be a short, sweet, and fairly straight forward answer to that question. The only context is that this is my daypack/EDC, or in other words, what I carry with me on "normal" days. You know, like to and from work, or on day hikes or walks around town. Yep, same backpack, and mostly the same gear. The only things that change are a bit of clothing depending on the season, and whatever book I am reading at the time.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Cesar's Guide to Bjursås Vildmarksleden


---Introduction

Bjursås is a small town in central-ish Sweden in the country of Dalarna that has a lovely little looping wilderness hiking trail called Vildmarksleden. Not to be confused with other trails, as there are a few others with the same name, such as one in Västra Götalands county, which I have also hiked and you can read more about here. This Vildmarksleden trail is about 35km long and begins and ends in Bjursås, but one could begin and end it at other points too.

Here is the trail's official page (in Swedish), and here is a PDF map of the trail that is quite good and serviceable on its own. You can get to Bjursås by bus from the small city of Falun, which has train connections to various other cities. I discovered this trail because it is somewhat close to the Swedish E1 trail system, which goes by the town of Leksand (30km from Bjursås). So I would recommend it to section hikers and thru hikers alike, because not only is it a great trail, but it is logistically convenient to include as part of a longer section hike in the area or a more ambitious thru hike of the E1.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

A Long Overdue Update, Winter 2017

Been a while.  Over half a year since my last post.  So what the hell is going on?  Well, it's pretty simple in some respects, more complex in others.  Let's start with the simple: life has just been really busy the past year.  Having small kids, working full time, social life, etc. have all been more demanding, so my free time has suffered because of it, unfortunately.  Then on top of this, a few trips I had planned recently fell through due to illness.  So yeah, some bad luck too.

However there are other factors that have contributed to my outdoor life sinking into a rut.  I vented about them at length on the forum for Ultralight backpacking over at Reddit, which you can read here.  Long story short, after several years of devotedly section hiking trails in my area, I ran out of new places to explore, and this made me lose the motivation to get out as regularly as I did in the past.