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A Night at the Hardangervidda Hilton

By Phil 2015.07.28 in Norway

I decided to try and do our 30km wild camp hike with only my Kaipak 38 litre rucksack, which had to include tent and my sleeping bag, which as my usual hiking mates will tell you is a tough challenge for me, as I quite easily fill my 38 or 45 litre rucksacks on my normal day hikes with all my gadgets.

I decided I could probably sacrifice some usual essentials like my DSLR camera, tripod, solar panel charger, Bluetooth keyboard and my comfy pillow. Anyhow I managed it, though I’m now thinking I really need a 58 litre rucksack for future overnight wild camps.

Not long into the hike I noticed a wooden sign of a stick man hanging from a tree. It looked like a sign for the gents in the woods. This reminded me of my Fjällräven Polar mates Jostein and Phil’s “one sheet” sketch during our Polar adventure in 2014, which I re-told to Jason. As when you are out in the wild and you need to go to toilet, you really do only need one sheet. For more information on how it’s done, watch Jostein and Phil’s video demo below.

As we continued on our hike onto the Hardangervidda plateau I noticed the rocks looked a lot like the ones I saw when doing Trolltunga last year with Jostein. So I started telling Jason the story about that epic adventure where after getting slightly lost and miles away from Trolltunga we decided to abandon our rucksacks as they were slowing us down and Jostein covered them with his camouflage sleeping bag which was identical pattern to the rocks we were seeing. The camouflage was so good we couldn’t even see it. So we left a banana on a high rock next to it. Jason said that was a great plan as long as there were no monkeys hiking Trolltunga that day. Which he had a point.

Anyway back to the hike. It was a cracking day and by far the best weather we had experienced so far during our trip. It was so good it brought the mosquitos out in force. There were hoards of them and for some reasons they bloody love me! So it was time to try my new Fjällräven Marlin all one mosquito hat, which seemed to do the trick.

We had decided to take the route direct from the quirky mountain hut Fjellstue that we stayed in the night before rather than start from the more popular Rjukan along the road. This was a masterstroke as we had the hike to ourselves until it joined the path from Rjukan after about 12km. Even then we only saw about another 10 people throughout the day.

Along the way we kept picking out spots which we thought would be ideal for our nights wild camp. We were spoilt for choice to be honest, such a stunning place.

We continued to hike across the plateau before heading towards one of the spots we picked out earlier.

After I pitched the tent while Jason watched, we dove inside to avoid the mosquitos and rest. It had been a Hardanger of a day but a cracking one. 

To see how to pitch a tent in 30 seconds while your mate watches, checkout video below.

Camping on the Hardangervidda plateau is like staying at a Hilton. A very spacious room, surrounded by 100s of infinity pools, acres of bathroom space, very attentive staff (if mosquitos can be classed as staff), stunning sunsets and we even had coffee making facilities in the form of my Primus Lite+ stove and ground coffee press. All for free! I guess that’s the beauty of the outdoors and nature. It also has a hell of lot more than 5 stars! 

Jason below asking the mosquitos nicely to bugger off!

Woke early and had our fresh coffee fix before we headed back down towards Rjukan. On the way we decided to take a detour and take in the Sabortøstein route, which was a route used by the saboteurs allied forces during World War II who crept down from Hardangervidda to Vemork to blow up the heavy water factory occupied by the Nazis. It was a cracking alternative route and can’t imagine what it must have been like doing it during WW II in winter conditions. The film Hero’s of Telemark starring Kirk Douglas and Richard Harris tells the story of the saboteurs.

On another note. My theory that mosquitos bite in symmetry is still holding true as I have bites on each cheek (face cheeks not backside), on top of my head as if I had horns sticking out, on each shoulder and each forearm.

I Can’t Get No… Sat-Navigation…

By Phil 2015.07.26 in Norway

Yesterday we spent most of the day driving to get to our next destination of Rjukan at the edge of Hardangervidda National Park.

Rjukan is known to be the southernmost area where you can find the Arctic Fox. Which as many of you know I’m a bit of a fan. ;)

Despite the long journey, we were once again blessed with stunning scenery along the way and also the sight of lots of snow capped mountains. I was heaven! Not so much for Jason though as he isn’t as much of a fan of snow as I am.

During the journey Jason decided to play around with the car dashboard system and discovered it actually had a built in sat nav.

We had been using my own GPS device which I had bought Norwegian maps for when we didn’t need to. We had managed to connect our phones so we could play our music and listen to The Rolling Stones greatest hits as well as use the builtin bluetooth phone system but never thought of seeing if it had sat nav, something which is actually of use. Well thats 2 supposedly IT Consultants for you. Guess we should have RTFM (one for fellow techies ;) )

We stopped off at the Rjukan Information Centre to speak to a very helpful guy who helped us to plan our next few days. More on that in later posts. All being well they will be epic!

He also told us what kind of plants we could eat while out on the mountains should be get that desperate. “Eat these. They may taste bitter, but it’s like having 3 cans of Red Bull” he said. With my sleep history I won’t be having many of those before bedtime.

We arrived at a rather quirky mountain hut called Fjellstue with all mod cons as recommended by the guy at the info centre to spend the night and plan our epic hike for today and the rest of our trip. We now have a actual plan, which will be awesome if we can fit it all in.

Jason was happy with his bed in our quirky mountain hut as you can see below

You know the saying “When in Rome”. Well me and Jason have decided to dress like the locals on the rest of our adventure. Though it’s not made from G-1000 which I’m accustomed to.

 

Been up bright an early this morning and the sun is shining, ready for our 30km hike and wild camp in Hardangervidda.

Confessions of a Hiker

By Phil 2015.07.26 in Norway

Well my Norway adventure has started.

 

Me and Jason flew to Stavanger with just a few maps, loads of outdoor gear and a list of places we would like to hike, but no real plan, other than to get hire car, take tent, drive, hike and repeat. A play it by ear hiking adventure.

We started our trip off in style and spent the first night at the Sola Strand hotel by the beach in Stavanger. I mentioned to Jason that the bathroom had underfloor heating. To which he replied: “Excellent, just what I always look for in a hotel in the height of summer”. So I think he was pleased with my choice of hotel.  

Next morning we walked to airport to pickup the hire car. As we walked along Jason pointed out some cows with very long legs in a field without a fence. Until I told him there were actually horses and not cows. He was obviously still half asleep.

I brought my GPS I use for hiking in the UK with the Norway maps installed to help us on the Norwegian roads. I put the address in for Preikestolen start point and the ETA was 19:30! It’s only around 40km away! Until I realised I had to change setting on GPS from hiking to driving. Great start. It felt like Cormayeur our the Tour du Mont Blanc all over again. I just hope I remember to change it back when I return to the UK and hiking in the lakes.  

We finally arrived at the Preikestolen car park around lunch time. We packed our day sacks as if we were going on our usual day hikes in the UK and headed up with the crowds. It was a very touristy hike up to Preikestolen, aka Priest Rock or Pulpit Rock and plenty of stunning scenery. 

  

We Finally arrived at the summit along with the 100s of other. I was surprised how small the actual area on top of the rock was. It looked bigger when I flew over it last year when I got to fly plane around Stavanger with my Norwegian pilot friend Britt Victoria and Polar mate Jostein.

   
 We took the usual touristy photos and selfie before heading back. Instead of heading back down the tourist route, we decided to go off piste a little and head up higher above the rock to look down and get a better perspective.

   
 
   
 This was great decision as we were only people around looking down on everyone, before we headed back down to meet the tourist path and return to the car. It was a great hike despite the crowds and glad we got the main tourist hike out of the way first, as our plan for the rest of the week is to head towards Hardangervidda and do more mountains and wild camps.

We then decided to drive a few hours further north until we finally stopped at Røldal and found a great camp site at around 22:00 and pitched tent.   

   
I hope to blog about the rest of our adventure where possible. I wonder what today will bring.

Ha det!

Let’s Trek It! Ice Ice Baby…

By Phil 2015.07.19 in Iceland

Not long to go until me and my trekking group head off on our Icelandic adventure to do the famous Landmannalaugar trek. Ever since I visited Reykjavik for a long weekend in the winter of 2008, I had always wanted to return in the summer. Since my outdoor epiphany in 2012 and after watching Julia Bradbury’s BBC documentary of the trek, doing this trek has always been high on my list and now it’s happening and I have managed to drag a group of friends along with me.

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Here is a short video on what we can expect during our trek. Just hope we get the same weather!

A few of us had planned on doing Iceland last summer, but we changed our plans to Morocco and the Toubkal Two Valley trek instead. So this year we had to do it! While looking at our options for my group, I was lucky to meet young Charlie Smith.

Charlie was this years UK winner of Fjällräven Polar, which I had won the previous year. We got chatting about my plans and he told me he was heading back there this summer and why not join his crew. Charlie and his 3 mates Archie, Angus and Stefan had trekked North to South of Iceland unsupported last summer and they were heading back this August to do a reccy for their upcoming winter attempt in December. They already had very good in-country contacts and knew the area well, which meant we could benefit from all of this expert knowledge and save arranging everything ourselves. Needless to say it didn’t take me long to convince my crew to join Charlie’s team in Iceland.

You can read more about Charlie’s and his crew’s upcoming winter crossing at their website here at http://www.thecoldestcrossing.com/

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Since confirming our trip to Iceland, our group have been doing the usual planning of assembling kit lists as well as doing some practice hikes and wild camps in the Lakes. This has been good experience and a great way to test out equipment beforehand.

Our recent wild camp trip to the Lakes certainly put our tents through some battering, due to heavy rain and very windy conditions and I’m pleased to say they passed the test. It was also an opportunity to try the freeze dried food we will be using for our trek, though Joe’s sampling of the meals were not as successful as some. All day during the hike he was imagining his Shepherds Pie he had brought to try and how delicious it was going to be, describing the contents in such detail. However Joe’s dreams were soon shattered when we came to eat it as it resembled something that just looked like a pile of brown powdery mush. He had obviously not read the instructions correctly and added enough water and stir it. Needless to say the Shepherds Pie hasn’t made it on to Joe’s meal list for the trek.

Overall we had a great weekend and plan on a few more before we head to Iceland. Here is a little video montage of photos from our recent Lakes wild camp weekend.

After checking in with Charlie recently to get update on plans, he informed me that there are now around 40 people going on our Iceland trek, including TV crew and reporters to document their reccy trip for their preparations for their Coldest Crossing adventure this winter. He also told me that as I’m leading my group, that I would be given a walkie-talkie, which is great as you do know I love my gadgets!

Here are a few more videos of what we hope to experience during our trek:

Primus Lite+ Review

By Phil 2015.07.13 in Product Review

I recently received the Primus Lite+ stove and here is my review.

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I already own the Primus OmniLite TI 4 season dual fuel stove, which is a great stove, but I was wanting a one which was more compact and one to use on treks where I would only be needing to boil water required for freeze dried food meals as opposed to taking additional pans etc. The Lite+ is perfect for this.

It is very light and allows you to neatly fit the small 100g gas canister and the element inside the aluminium pot and securely close using the cloth handle on the side of the cup which you detach from one end and cover the lid before clipping into place. The cloth handle also comes with 3 small screw pegs which can be screwed onto the top of the element and used for pans should you need to boil more than the pot allows. I was not expecting this neat feature as I hadn’t seen it on the product description.

The Lite+ is very easy to assemble by screwing the gas canister to the burner and the pot easily clicks into place. It’s also very easy to detach the pot once boiled by holding the base of the gas canister and a slight twist of the pot using the cloth handle on the side or simply holding the pot via its heat resistant sleeve, so you don’t need to touch the hot base of the pot or burner.

I have now used this on my last 2 weekend wild camps and was well impressed on how it performed. It boiled 0.5L of water in around 2:45 seconds as described, for use with my freeze dried meals. On a couple of occasions I even used it to boil water to heat a boil in the bag ready to eat meal which I had folded and placed into the pot, though this does take longer than 2:45 when just boiling water on its own as it has to heat through the packet. I was well impressed with this as I thought the pot may have been too small to heat a boil in the bag meal.

Being a lover of a good coffee first thing in the morning, I also bought the additional Primus coffee press accessory. The press cost me around £10 including delivery and fitted perfectly with the Lite+ and does exactly what it’s meant to, press the coffee.

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The stove also comes with a heat resistant sleeve made from G-1000 material and comes in a few different colours, this allows you to hold it as a mug and drink direct from the pot if required. The stove can also be used while hanging with the string and hook provided. A folding foot support is also provided to attach to the gas canister for additional support on uneven surfaces if required. I have yet to use this support as found the gas canister on its own was fine.

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Verdict:

I love the Primus Lite+ stove. It’s light, compact, efficient and very quiet while boiling the water. The pot is easy to attach and detach from the burner even when just finished boiling. The option of screwing 3 pins to the burner to allow you to use pans was a real bonus. My fellow hiking friends were also well impressed with the addition of the coffee press and I could have quite easily have charged them for a coffee if I had taken more another pack of ground coffee. Perfect for multiday hiking adventures.

Check out my Great British Stove Off Post on the Primus OmniLite TI vs Alpkit vs Beer Can stove here

Fjällräven Kaipak 38 Review

By Phil 2015.06.15 in Product Review

Here is my review of the Fjällräven Kaipak 38 rucksack following its first outing during my hike up Blencathra in the Lake District last weekend.

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I ordered my Kaipak 38 from my friends at The Sporting Lodge after watching the official Fjällräven YouTube video about the rucksack and liking the features it has to offer.

The Kaipak comes in three different sizes of 28, 38 and 58 litre versions, various colours based on the rucksack size as well as Male and Female specific models. The outer material is made from the G-1000 Heavy Duty Eco material, which means it can also be waxed with Greenland Wax to give extra water resistance and protection.

The first thing I noticed when wearing the rucksack was how wide apart the should straps were compared to other day rucksacks I have used in the past. This made the rucksack feel a lot more comfortable on my shoulders. I often carry anywhere between 10-15kg on my day hikes, as I prefer to carry more equipment and clothing than required just in case the unexpected happens and my first outing with the Kaipak was no exception and felt very comfortable with the weight I was carrying. It also felt more narrow and compact on my back to my other day rucksack, which could come in useful when having to scramble down rocks and reduce the chance of rucksack getting caught.

One feature of the Kaipak that I really like is the ability to strap your walking poles to the side compressions straps via a separate attachment loop, which means you can loosen the compression straps when you stop without your poles sliding out or having to move them out of the way, something which often happens with other rucksacks I have used when not needing to use your poles during a hike.

Another nice feature is the large zipped pocket on the front of the rucksack which is ideal for storing things such as sit mat, gloves, waterproofs and other things you may want easy access to without opening the main body of the rucksack. The fact it is a zipped outer pocket as opposed to an expandable outer pocket means things can be protected more during changing weather conditions.

My favourite feature of the Kaipak is the adjustable rucksack lid which can be adjusted and lifted to give enough room to store a tent or sleeping bag on the top, or just to expand the main body of the rucksack, a feature I haven’t seen on other day rucksacks and a feature I like on the Abisko 75 and Kajka 75 I also own. The lid also has a large zipped pocket on the outside for storing things for easy access and a smaller zipped pocket under the lid.

Although the Kaipak comes with a rain cover, when I got caught in a short rain shower during my hike I didn’t need to use the rain cover as the G-1000 Heavy Duty Eco material provided more than sufficient water resistance. I would only expect to use the rain cover in more heavy rain conditions.

Summary of key features listed below:

  • Wide apart shoulder straps giving noticeable comfort
  • G-1000 Heavy Duty Eco material which gave more than enough protection in light showers I experienced and can be waxed for extra resistance
  • Additional Walking Pole or Ice Axe attached attachment loops on the side compression straps to help keep them more secure to the rucksack
  • Two covered hip belt pockets ideal for small snacks or GPS device
  • Two mesh side pockets on main body of rucksack
  • Adjustable chest strap with safety whistle
  • Pockets on outside and inside of lid
  • Rucksack lid can be raised very high to give overall extra rucksack space or store tent or sleeping bag across the top
  • Hydration system compatible
  • Large zipped outer pocket on front of rucksack for extra storage of easy accessible items

Verdict:

I love the Kaipak 38 rucksack and is perfect for day hikes, though with the highly expandable lid you could easily use this on an overnight hike. I think the additional walking pole/ice axe loop attachments is an excellent feature, which I haven’t seen before. The amount of room the expandable lid gives you is incredible and an excellent feature. I was well impressed also with the comfort of the wider shoulder straps, which I have only experienced on much larger multi-day rucksacks. I would thoroughly recommend the Fjällräven Kaipak 38 to anyone looking for day rucksack. I’m now wondering if should go for the larger 58 litre version for longer multiday hikes, given the features mentioned. An excellent rucksack.

Welcome

Welcome to my blog about hiking, trekking, Fjällräven Polar 2014, in fact anything where you require boots and the outdoors.

My name is Phil, and following my outdoor epiphany which started in the summer of 2012 I’m now hooked on everything outdoors. So far my biggest treks have included the 250km Cathar Way, the 170km Tour du Mont Blanc and best of all, winning 1st place to take part in the Fjällräven Polar in April 2014.

I plan to use this blog to write about all my adventures, which will include my personal goal of becoming a Munroist (completing all 282 Scottish Munro mountains), summer treks, weekends in the Lakes and many more.

I like to try and make my blog posts humorous so I hope you enjoy reading and that I can put a smile on people’s faces while showing you some amazing places.

If you have any questions about the blog or the places I'm writing about, don't hesitate to contact me on: phil@philyourboots.com

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