Hiking in Finland

Climbing, bikepacking, skiing & packrafting in the north

One Rucksack to Rule Them All

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I have used and written (and videotaped) a lot about backpacks, and there is more to come. And while all those rucksacks are great I feel that I have yet to find the one rucksack which does it all.

My black silnylon huckePACK certainly sees a lot of action.

The UL philosophy is something I not only apply to backpacking and gear, but also to my everyday live. I don't want to have five different packs, I want one which does it all - and I know I'm not alone with that want. And while the thought and possibilities are there for this want to be fulfilled, I am not certain if it is feasible.

The main problem is the different activities I exercise - backpacking, day hiking, packrafting, climbing, skiing, snowshoeing, travelling, grocery shopping and soon bikepacking - which all have different requirements for a pack - or lets say I have different requirements for different activities. For bikepacking I only want a minimal pack which holds a water reservoir, for climbing I want a bombproof pack which I can throw down a wall if necessary, for packrafting it needs to be 100% waterproof and carry my packraft, skiing and snowshoeing packs need to be able to withstand -40°C and carry the gear, a day hiking pack doesn't need to be bigger than 20 liters and a backpacking pack should be flexible enough to carry volumes between 25 and 60 liters.

The DXG huckePACK also has seen a lot of different trips.

You see, many different needs, and while all those needs could be rolled into one pack, it would be one pack which wouldn't be as efficient as more specialized packs for their different needs. Ein Teufelskreis!

However, I decided that it needs to be possible to minimize the amount of packs to two which cover the different activities and needs. This will still include certain trade-offs, but I'd be happy to have less stuff flying around the house and live a more minimalistic life. The main difficultly will be to find the right volume and feature set. I dislike too big packs with lots of empty space, and while for example the GoLite comPACKtor system is a good idea and works well, I still am not 100% happy with it.

So two packs to rule them all, what would be their requirements? The smaller pack probably will have less than 35 liters volume, no hipbelts (I haven't used a hipbelt in months and find them increasingly annoying - with an UL payload you don't need a hipbelt, in my opinion), no frame, and very limited extras. I am quickly getting rid of hipbelt pockets, things which I hailed as the best thing since M's Banana cake, and also am decreasingly relying on sidepockets. Yes, they're useful, but often I could just as well use the front pocket - which I'd keep. Trailpole holders would remain, and a ULA Ohm like compression system needs to be on board. S-Shaped shoulder straps and a removable sternum strap, with one hose exit would round out this pack. Usage for this pack would be bikepacking, day hiking, week long work, travel and backpacking trips, climbing, skiing & snowshoeing (day trips only) as well as grocery shopping (My dedicated grocery shopping backpack is a Haglöfs Tight Evo - excellent pack but too heavy!). If it be fairly water resistant and durable enough to bushwack and slide down a granite wall, that be perfect, thanks.

Pack number two would be for the seriously long trips of seven plus days in summer as well as winter, for packrafting and climbing trips which need some walking in. It should carry skis, snowshoes, ice axes and a 60m rope, have a volume of 55+ liters, be frameless (Yeah, frameless. Against the current trend of requiring stays in every goddamn backpack I think frameless packs are the way to go. Learn to pack your pack correctly and you don't need stays), no hip or sidepockets, an ULA Ohm-like compression system, carry a packraft in a comfortable manner*, a hipbelt which easily folds out of the way and some of the before mentioned features (S-Shaped shoulder straps, removable sternum strap, one hose exit, front pocket) as well as a lid pocket. Again fairly water resistant and durable while being lightweight. In short, die Eierlegende Wollmilchsau.

Briefly on material, the options are to go with the wonderful light, not very wonderful oil-based materials of Dyneema, Cuben, XPac, Silnylon et al. or look for more environmentally friendly yet light materials. EtaProof, linen, silk all come to my mind, and while they have shortcomings, it is all a trade-off in the end. I more and more tend to think in the environmentally friendly, slightly heavier material direction - which is the opposite of where the industry is going (with exception of Klättermusen). Maybe it is time I enter the market myself?

Do these packs exist? No. Some do get close but none I have used or seen yet are what I want to fulfill all needs and wants. My needs, that is. Your needs might be completely different, and you also might be happy to have ten plus backpacks at home, one for every option - which in itself is an UL principle - take the appropriate gear for the given trip. Bit of a paradox there, right? Ah well. While Colin Ibbotson's Tramplite packs with interchangeable skins look like they could fulfill my need, they have a frame, too much volume for me and would come with extra parts to swap around - again something I'd like to avoid. Also, October is a long time away, so the search and sewing continues.


*The ULA Epic is a good packraft carrying pack. A problem, which I will explain in detail in a future review of the pack, is that the packraft is carried at an too low point. The packraft should be carried pretty much slightly above your hips and close to the back so that its weight isn't hanging around your ass. While this is possible the pack is designed to carry the packraft too far down, and carring it higher involves some smart packing.

The Week in Review

Happy Mother's Day =)

News & Various:

Josh produced the must read post of the week for all of you who fancy a trip in Alaska, apptly titled the "Alaska Backcountry Adventure Planning Guide"

Ken wants to know if live blogging from the trail is important for you. Go and let him know.

Ryan tells us why "Why tenkara beats western (fly fishing) methods".

Roman is disclosing what I hoped to keep secret a bit longer.

Redwood Outdoors discusses Weight Verses Comfort.

Jack is eating wild things, like Polk Salad. Learn from Jack. As Polk Salad omelet looks tasty.

Remember, until the end of May you can get a 10% discount on any 100€ or more order at the trekking-lite-store.com just - Like the trekking-lite-store.com Facebook page and when you check out your order give them the Coupon code "Finland10" and save 10% on your sweet UL goodies!


Tookie reviews the Alpkit Rig 7 Tarp.

And we take a bit of bikepacking into the programme. Lets start of with some Trans Iowa Bikepacking Kit so that you have an idea what is generally needed.

Dave had Hits, Misses and Maybes among his Huldreheimen Gear. Go learn from his mistakes so you don't make them and copy his successes!

Richard also has a gear report up, about the kit used on the Lower Bann Canoe Trail.

Martin reviews the Xsocks Trekking Expedition Short Socks for us.

Perkunas introduces us to the magical world of the GearPods Stove System.

Matt celebrated May Day. And shows us in a video how to build a polycro tube tent.

Steven reviews and gives away a pair of Glacier Gloves.

Señor Morkel reviewed the Fjellpulken XCountry 130 Pulka.


Mark visit's Nine Standards Rigg. Lovely area, cute lambs and cream teas in the sunshine.

Thomas went for a well deserved weekend getaway. As he lives in the south, Mosquitos and other insects feature heavily - as does some fine scenery and sunshine. And an Backpacking Light Absaroka backpack.

John and his wife went for a quick backpacking trip to western edge of Zion National Park.

Mike has a packraft. Bikepacking will never be the same again.

And David went bikerafting the Minnehaha. Again.

Mark went for an overnighter on a perfectly manicured camping groung in the Wild River State Park.

Simon did the West Highland Way.

Paul encountered interesting signage on his Mellbreak And Hen Comb trip.

DAvid did the Cumbrian short circuit in ten days and shows off this fine area and his scenic photos.

Tomas was under the influence of procrastination, but he fought back and wrote up his Gritstone cliffs climbing adventure. Honour his work by reading it.

Sheila went for a walk to the Rua Reidh lighthouse - if you like lighthouses, the coast and sea, you gonna enjoy that post heaps!

Heber went for a West Rim Trail hike.

Matt spent a night on a bare mountain while the English royalty got married. Smart!

Eugene went for a run with friends up Dog Canyon before feasting on fine Mexican food and cervezas. Great photos, killer views.

Also killer views and killer photos are served by PTC, featuring pointy bits and starry night.

Geoff went on a walk through the hills and lochs encircling Blackwater, between Kinlochleven and Rannoch.

Peter went for yet another bikepacking trip - he's practically living the bikepacking lifestyle ;)

Jim went for a hike on the Naugatuck Trail.

greg was hiking up in the North Buffalo Plateau, Victoria. This involved "sexy man walking out of waterfall pics" and burned Trangia pots, as well as beautiful northern sunsets.

The Welsh Paddler went backpacking in the Elan Valley.

Fjellpulken XCountry 130 Pulka

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The second article on winter gear, and its about the Fjellpulken XCountry 130 Pulka. Yes, winter is over in the northern hemisphere, but our brethren in the south are facing the cold time of the year, while we will lounge in the sun and enjoy the light for 24 hours! It also allows us to get winter gear with nice discounts ;) So read on to hear about a serious piece of winter gear!

Full frontal.

Your first question might be why I didn't build myself an incredible Rulk but went for a commercial pulka. The answer is that I am already standing out enough with my UL gear at school, and I didn't want to push the boundaries too far, and had only a limited amount of time. That made me look for commercially available, lightweight pulkas. Being in Northern Europe, that means looking at what our Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian companies have to offer. I found what I was looking for at Fjellpulken in Norway. Some more research showed that the Finnish Distributor Hjorth has his office ten minutes from where I live; after a phone call we arranged that I pick up a pulka for loan for a few trips for them and return it afterwards.

Fully packed.

The important bits: A weight of 4,5 kg, it is 130 cm long, 43 cm wide and has a capacity of 235 liters. Yes it is huge! When fully packed, evenly, the average height is around 40 cm, though you can go as high as 80 cm as I have tried. On top of that comes the weight of the pulling beams (about 1900 gram) and the harness (345 gram), so you look at a total weight which is slightly under 7 kg. That looks a lot, but it allows you to carry a lot of gear - 40 kg of food and equipment would be no problem and can be pulled very comfortable.

The Pulling Beams and Harness.

Lets start with a look at the pulling beams and the harness. The pulling beams are Fjellpulken's basic model, which is a collapsble, strong, and high-quality parallel shaft that has a built-in cushioning spring. The latter is really nice, as it minimizes the bouncing and pushing in your back you get without them. It folds in half and you turn it back over the pulka, making the whole package very compact for transport. The harness is Fjellpulken's standard pulk harness, which comes with crossover straps, is made from nylon and features a padded hipbelt. Comfy and sits well, easy and quick to put on and off.

Easy access via the big zipper in the back.

I also have the Fjellpulken 20 litre backpack with integrated harness - but I haven't tried it; maybe next winter. I did try a cuben fibre backpack while pulling the pulka, but found the best comfort for me is to only wear the harness and have everything in the pulka. A disadvantage of this arrangement is that I need to get my snacks and water from the pulka, so need to ski a few meters back. But it is not a big problem, as it also allows me to sit down on the pulka and rest for a moment.

Yeah, it fits a lot of gear! No, I didn't take the rocking chair with me =)

The pulka itself then. It has an extremely well-gliding bottom material, and creates an ace track for people skiing behind you - a big bonus when travelling in a group. The integrated tarp is waterproof, and keeps your gear safe and dry from snow. You secure the top via elastic cords which are hooked into the opposite cord, and secure the whole package then with buckles. In the front there's also a small pocket, I kept the skins for my skis in there for quick and easy access. In the back there is a zipper which allows you get at the packed stuff; I kept my thermos and water bottle, together with my puffy jacket and snacks there to quickly get to them.

While it ain't super wide, it distributes the weight very well (as well as you packed it, obviously - heavy stuff towards the back, light stuff in the front!) and hence floats even when packed with 25kg or more with ease over powder snow and tracks alike. Going uphill is as easy as it is for you to ski uphill. I found a diagonal approach best where possible, but little hills like those in Finland even can be tackled full-frontal. Going down is thanks to the stiff pulling beams also less dangerous - no worries that the pulka will crash in your back, as it could be the case with lines. My limited experience showed me that going full throttle down is the most fun, fastest and quickest route. You could take the diagonal approach again, but then you need to master the breaking-on-skis part particularly well.

Gear fully secured and wrapped up.

The black fabric on the side helps to keep the gear in place, and is also a handy place to put your skis, snowshoes and poles under when travelling. Speaking of travelling, I travelled via train and bus with the pulka and skis, and it worked like a charm. It is so easy to pull all your gear through the city when everything is covered in snow, and lifting it via the belts on top or the side fabric is also no problem. It is also a sure conversation starter when you stand around somewhere!

Back and side view.

So all in all a really nice piece of gear. It allows you to go on 14+ day winter trips without resupplying, as the Fjellpulken XCountry 130 will hold a massive load of gear and supplies. You could try to put that much gear into a backpack, but I seriously doubt that it would be comfortable or allow you to travel any significant distance. And while this might look like I forgot about lightweight principles, the main reason I got a pulka was to try to adhere to some of the Wilderness Guide school's ideas for winter travel. And it is, in all honesty, a pretty nice tool, such a pulka. You could, for example, with ease carry one of the Titanium Goat or Four Dog Ti stoves to heat your shelter, and have a very pleasant time outside in winter!

While a pulka is a tool for serious winter adventures, I have seen people load them up with a masses of food and drinks for an winter overnighter! Which goes to show that your imagination is the limit! Fjellpulken also makes pulkas in which to pull your kids - a friend has such a model and reports that his offspring found it a delightful way to travel - for a while, at least =) For more photos, head over to the Flickr Album.

Fjellpulken XCountry 130 Pulka in action.

If you're living in Finland and want to try a winter adventure with a Pulka, have a look at the Varuste.net and Scandinavian Outdoor Store, they both also send abroad and have great offers on it at the moment! If you own an outdoor shop in Finland and want these Class A pulkas in your sortiment, contact the friendly folks at Hjorth, the Finnish Distributor, to discuss the matter.