Taking care of yourself
In order to have the best trek possible, you will need to take care of your body and listen to its signals. If you are uncomfortably warm, feel blisters coming on anywhere or are thirsty, you should rectify the problem immediately – even if this might mean that your trekking companions will have to wait. Otherwise, you risk having problems later on during the trek. Taking care of your personal hygiene and keeping your feet in good condition are also two ways to avoid unnecessary difficulties.
Prepare yourself physically
A longer mountain trek, for example Fjällräven Classic, requires preparation. Regardless how many days you have planned to be out in the wilderness, you will expose your body to stresses that it rarely experience during your normal daily schedule. Your leg muscles, your feet and even your motivation – you will be under stress on so many levels that the more prepared you are, the more likely you will be able to lift your gaze from the ground and enjoy your surroundings.
The general fitness level is important when you are going on a longer trek since you will be carrying your living accommodations. Your heart and lungs will have to work hard and if you are not physically active during the entire year, you should start exercising three-six months in advance. Trekking, biking, running and swimming are examples of good activities that will improve your fitness.
Trekking in natural terrain
Your leg muscles, knees, feet and joints will be placed under a high level of stress during a multi-day trek. Prepare your body by trying to simulate the coming adventure during your work-out sessions. Walk in hilly terrain, up and down hills or mountains. Gradually increase the intensity by also walking off-trail, which will increase the effect of the work-out and also improve your balance. Try to take a long walk at least once a week.
Help your body get used to the backpack
Carrying a heavy backpack can feel uncomfortable in the beginning - it pulls on your shoulders and hips and every step gets heavier. Start by practicing with a lighter pack and then gradually increase the weight so your body gets used to the load. Pack it with things you will need during your work-out, but also with things you will need for your trek, for example a first-aid kit, a warm jacket, etc. Adjust the weight using a small container of water or a water bag - you will then always have something to drink with you. Work slowly up to the weight you will carry during your trek so you do not wear yourself out and suffer injuries.
Break in your hiking boots
There is nothing more frustrating than having to cut a trek short due to blisters. To ensure that your boots fit well you should break them in properly - 200 km is a good rule of thumb. Remember to also take care of your feet; file off calluses and regularly massage your feet with cream to stimulate blood circulation.
Do not over-exercise
Trekking in the Swedish mountains is difficult, but it is not like climbing a massive peak. It is important that you do not overdo it with the exercise. Before your trek you should have eaten well, gotten plenty of sleep and not pushed yourself so hard that your muscles and joints ache. The objective should be to start your trip with a rested, strong body.
Food and energy
Food rarely tastes as good as it does when you are active outside for many hours. And you burn a lot of calories when your are trekking. You therefore need to refill your reserves with both proper meals and quicker snacks, such as nuts and dried fruit. If you want to trek with as light a pack as possible, you should buy freeze-dried meals. These days there is a large selection to choose from and they are quite tasty. But if you are interested in cooking, it is possible to make extremely good food on your own. Here are some things to think about when you are planning food for your trek:
Think in grams
If you are going to be out for a few days or more, a significant portion of your pack - both in terms of weight and volume - will consist of food. This is why it is important to choose ingredients that will give you lots of energy while at the same time weighing as little as possible. Therefore, canned goods, which contain a relatively large amount of liquid that is immediately poured off, are not such a good idea. Most of the energy from the freeze-dried meals comes from mashed potatoes, rice, pasta, etc. These form a good base for your own cooking, in addition to a long list of delicious grains and produce that add variation – couscous, polenta, quinoa, noodles and more.
Think in minutes
When choosing which base ingredient to use in your recipes, look at the cooking time. Rice that needs to cook for 20 minutes burns a lot of fuel - which adds to the weight of your pack and takes up space. It is better to go with instant rice, which only needs to cook for a few minutes. The cooking time for different types of pasta can also vary significantly.
Think in degrees
When trekking, particularly in the summertime, it is not possible to keep food cold. Most of the food we are used to eating at home – meat, cream, cheese, butter – go bad quickly. For this same reason, it is not such a good idea to prepare meals at home to warm up several days later. But that does not mean that cooking in the outdoors has to be boring - there are many interesting ingredients in the store if you look closely: dried mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and other vegetables and spices, just to name a few. Cheese-in-a-tube can last several days unchilled and, in addition to making a great crispbread sandwich, it is a tasty topping on spaghetti. Smoked or air-dried meat – bacon, parma ham, hot dogs – keep well, but should not lie in direct sunlight or in a hot tent. The same applies to hard cheeses like pecorino and parmesan. Prepared foods such as powdered soups and pasta are the perfect base for your own recipes – just add a fistful of noodles or cous cous and turn your soup into a hearty lunch. Another tip is to dry the ingredients yourself, which is really simple to do. Simply search the Internet for “drying food” and you will find a large number of links that can help you get started.
Think it through at home
In order to simplify cooking in the outdoors, it is advisable to start the preparations at home.Think about the menu, meal by meal, and prepare small bags with all of the ingredients you will need. Weigh and place the proper amount of dry ingredients into a bag and place it in a larger bag together with the other ingredients. If you need a recipe to remember what to do, put a small cheat sheet in the same bag. Last, but not least, mark the bag so you know which meal it is. Leave all unnecessary packaging at home. Spices and extras that you use often – salt, pepper, sugar, spices and cooking oil – are packed in their own small bag or container. Spices and oil in glass jars/bottles should be transferred to lighter, more sturdy containers made from plastic.
Think about the nature
It is not possible to avoid the fact that you will be carrying a great deal of packaging into nature with you. Make sure that you bring it all back to civilisation – there are rubbish bins at major trail junctions, mountain stations and cabins. Staniol paper, plastic and the burned skeletal remains of one-time grills do not break down in nature, but remain on the ground as unattractive litter. Only leave behind natural remains that quickly decompose, such as leftover vegetables or uneaten porridge, and preferably bury them so they are not visible. “Pack it in, Pack it out” is a good motto.
Drying your clothes
There is no way around the fact that you will get wet when you are on your trek - both from precipitation and your own sweat. During the winter and in cold environments, this is a problem that you will have to deal with on a regular basis since moisture conducts the cold. When trekking in the summer, you will be able to tolerate more moisture. You will be able to continue trekking even if you are slightly damp without it creating a problem since merely staying active will help keep you warm. However, it can be a good idea to know several methods for drying your clothing and equipment.
Your body generates heat
You can use your own body heat to dry damp clothing. For example, you can hang a pair of damp socks on the inside of your outer garment, at your armpit or on the front of your thigh. The heat from your body and the ventilation of your shell garment will push the moisture out. You can do this both when trekking and when working on something at the campsite.
Drying in the tent
All of our tents are equipped with clothing lines in the inner tent and/or vestibule which are perfect for drying clothing and equipment. In general, things will dry fastest in the vestibule, since the air flow through the vestibule is normally higher. You might hear that it is a good idea to dry clothing in your sleeping bag, but you should avoid this at all costs. This will only result in a worse night of sleep, plus you will introduce moisture inside the sleeping bag.
Wind and sun, of course
Good weather conditions, when the sun is shining and there is a light wind, are optimal for drying clothes. This could be the perfect opportunity to wash dirty socks and underclothes. Spread them out on a warm stone or hang them on clothing lines or whatever is available at your camp or rest area. They can be hung on the outside of your backpack when you start moving again. Make sure that they are attached securely and keep an extra eye on them when you are walking through bushes or similar terrain. It is very common for socks, towels, etc., to be lost along the trail.
Be careful with extreme heat
If you come to a mountain cabin with a drying room or a shelter with a wood-burning stove, you will have an excellent opportunity to dry your equipment. The heat from an open fire can also speed up the drying process. But be careful around extremely hot sources of heat - Leather can shrink and crack and glue, for example in the sole of your shoes, can melt. Some synthetic fabrics, such as polypropylene, are sensitive and can become deformed at relatively low temperatures.
When out in nature, you will have to give up your daily warm shower. Sometimes not having to carry out some of our everyday tasks can be part of the relaxation. Let your beard grow, or your hair dry itself. You might have left your deodorant at home to save weight, but this does not mean life grinds to a halt. However, one thing you absolutely cannot avoid doing is taking care if your personal hygiene, since this will only lead to suffering. When you are on the move and sweating, moisture gathers on your body and creates a feeding ground for bacteria, particularly in warm temperatures. In addition to their bad odour, bacteria also affect the outer layer of the skin and decrease the skin’s resistance to external influences. Common problems that arise as a result of not washing are blisters and “jock itch”.
Mountain streams or a washcloth
Swimming in a mountain lake or melt-off from a mountain stream can be refreshing on a warm day, and a proper summer rain can easily double as an outdoor shower.
When the weather is not as nice, it is often a bit more difficult to wash yourself when you are in nature. But with a little bit of water heated on your camping stove and a washcloth you can take care of the most important areas in your tent at night: your face, armpits, feet and groin. You also must brush your teeth. Being lazy about this, when combined with dehydration, can result in inflamed gums, which can make it difficult to eat and drink.
Do not miss out on a mountain sauna
Most mountain stations and a number of cabins in the Swedish mountains have saunas. They help tired muscles recover, are very relaxing and also give you a chance to wash yourself properly. Jumping in the lake or stream afterwards is voluntary, but highly recommended – it is part of the experience.
Hygiene – a check list
• Wash your hands every time you go to the bathroom
• Wash your feet and change into dry, clean socks every day
• Wash your face, hands, armpits and groin every day
• Wash and shave before you go to bed
• Brush your teeth twice a day
During the warmer months of the year, it is particularly important that you air your feet and change your socks often during your trek. Blisters are not only caused by hard boots or a wrinkle in your sock. The closed environment in your boots is the perfect breeding ground for micro-organisms that decrease the resistance of your skin. Washing your feet regularly helps prevent blisters and there is also a lot more you can do to take care of your feet – even before you leave on your trek.
Before your trek
Break in your boots well and learn how they work on your feet. In particular, take note of where you usually get blisters, which is often visible as a small red area. Remember this so you will be able to prevent future blisters.
A few weeks before you leave, make sure that you do not have athlete’s foot. Athlete’s foot is characterised by flaking skin, often between the toes but also elsewhere on the foot. It can be easily treated with cream from the pharmacist.
Wash your feet and sand down calluses. Clip your toenails, but make sure that the toenail on your big toes is straight to avoid ingrown toenails. Massage your feet with cream to soften the skin.
When leaving for your trek
If you know that you usually get blisters, tape any sensitive areas before leaving on your trek. Elastoplast is flexible and fits comfortably. Stretch the tape slightly before you apply it and tape diagonally under the foot and a bit up on the sides, but leave around 2 cm between the ends. If needed, heat the tape with your hands so it will stick better.
Sports tape and other types of non-elastic tape are not as practical since they can often wrinkle, which contributes to the problem.
While on your trek
Air your feet when you take a break. Change your socks at least once a day and if they get wet. If you feel that a blister is starting to form, stop immediately and tape the area that hurts or where the skin is red. Apply a double layer of Elastoplast, following the instructions above. Tape the heel first in the back and then horizontally out to the side of the foot with one or a few pieces of tape. Then attach a piece of tape from underneath upwards, overlapping the first pieces of tape.
Important to drink
Drink often – and in small quantities
Fluid loss means that you need more energy to keep your body moving, while your performance capacity is reduced. A fluid loss as little as 2 per cent reduces your physical performance capacity by 20 per cent. Drinking regularly is therefore extremely important, not least during hot summer days when you sweat a lot. Dressing as coolly as possible is naturally another part of preventing fluid loss.
It is best to drink often, approximately every 20 minutes, and drink as little as 150–200 ml at a time. The body finds it hard to absorb larger amounts of fluid than this. Adding a little sugar to the water makes it easier for your body to utilise the water and maintain blood sugar at a constant level. Make it easy to drink! A collapsible drinking cup in your pocket, a hydration system with a straw or a half-litre water bottle all facilitate regular fluid intake.
A simple way to check whether you are drinking enough fluid is to check the colour of your urine. It should be a very pale yellow, almost colourless.
Mountain streams and other water sources
Finding water is rarely a problem when you are trekking in the Scandinavian mountain range. You can drink water from most mountain streams, particularly at high elevations. At the same time you should be aware that there is always a small risk that you will ingest bacteria, for example if there is a dead animal lying further up the stream. Pay attention around places where a number of reindeer gather, for example. Avoid still water, e.g. pools and smaller ponds.
Water in inhabited areas is often affected by agriculture, roads, airborne fallout, etc. and this often means greater risks of infection (or of you ingesting substances that are harmful in another way). You should therefore try not to drink directly out of forest pools or streams. Boil the water when you are unsure, this kills the bacteria and only certain micro-organisms will survive (and these are extremely rare in the Scandinavian countryside). Maps and tourist stations also often indicate sources of drinking water.
Planning for your water needs is an essential part of planning your trip, and can save you both unnecessary stops along the way and troublesome illnesses.