Hiking in Finland

Climbing, bikepacking, skiing & packrafting in the north

First Look: Tenkara Fly Fishing Gear

It is Tenkara USA's 1st birthday today, so I thought it appropriate to share with you a look at the tenkara gear I purchased recently. You'll have to wait a while still to hear and see the stories of me catching plenty of fish with it, it are the last weeks of winter here, but I reckon until Phil and Steven in three weeks arrive I'll have caught a trout or two!

Packed up for transport.

I have been angling since over twenty years now - I started as I was seven years old with a simple rod, line and float - and I have many good memories of going angling with my dad and brother. Fishing evolved for me from the rod and line to a nicer rod with a reel in many variations, and now I am going back to the rod and line, though this time with a fly at the end of the line instead of the float and worm on a hook.

Ayu rod, 390 cm of pure beauty.

The nice cork handle, which also acts as a counterweight.

Partly opened, you can see the red braided rod tip - that's where the line gets connected to.

So what is tenkara fly-fishing, and why did I get this rod, line and flies? Well, tenkara is the traditional Japanese method of fly-fishing - it is simple (but can take a lifetime to master) and it is well suited for fishing while backpacking because of the light weight of the rod and its small size. Here is a pretty good explanation of tenkara fly-fishing, so I don't repeat that here. I got this gear because I always have been curious about fly-fishing, and the elegance, lightweight and simplicity of tenkara immediately caught my attention as it came out last year, and it took me some months of reading and thinking till I ordered the tackle.

Collapsed AYU rod, 56 cm long.

I got the AYU rod as that is what Daniel, the founder of Tenkara USA, recommended me to get, together with some traditional tenkara line, tippet, some tenkara level line and of course flies. Now flies are definitely a topic for themselves, and I am tempted to bind my own flies, but for the moment I went with the tenkara flies for simplicity reasons. Let me tell you one thing, though: Dr. Hisao Ishigaki, one of the leading authorities of tenkara angling, only uses one fly pattern! If I look back to the box of different lures I used to carry around, I still can learn a lot.

Tippet spool, traditional tenkara line spool, tenkara level line and my box of flies...

... and a close-up of those flies, true works of art!

A look at the weights:

AYU rod: 104 g
Protecting sleeve: 9 g
Protecting tube: 180 g
Fly box & flies: 31 g
Spool of tippet: 9 g
Spool of tenkara line: 6 g
Spool of tenkara level line: 11 g
MLD pouch: 29 g

For a backpacking trip I would leave the protection tube at home, I am careful enough to not needing that, which means the complete pack of kit is 199 g. What is missing here is my fishing license and a fish hook remover, so that might add another 20 to 30 g to the kit. All in all, not too bad, I'd say.

All fits perfectly into the Mountain Laurel Design pouch with place to spare.

I'll keep you up-to-date with the developments with my excursions into tenkara style fly-fishing. If you got curious, head over to the Tankara USA website and have a look at their superb videos, that definitely should get you "hooked" ;)

MSR Reactor - Passaround

Another gas stove, another passaround. The MSR Reactor says it is the "Fastest, Most Efficient, All Condition Stove System" - reason enough for me to have a closer look at it, and organize a passaround!

In its box.

Lets start with the important bits:

Lid: 48 g
Stove: 176 g
Pot: 256 g
Cloth: 5 g
Full 230 g Gas canister, 4 season mix: 364 g

Makes a total of 485 g for the stove, pot, lid and cloth, or 849 g for the set with a full 230 g gas canister, which fits into the pot together with the stove. I don't put this down as ultralight, but it is light - especially in comparison with a Trangia, which is usually double the weight for the small set. MSR says the pot is fine for 1 - 3 persons, that is realistic if you eat ready-made meals and all you need is boiling water.

The lid has a handy rubber grip and a steam hole, and the pot a long handle. It is a 1,7 l pot and has markings on the inside, but the max fill is 1 l which is a bit odd - maybe MSR wanted to make sure that nothing boils over. It also has an internal heat exchanger. The stove is one solid, well-made piece and is screwed on the canister, with a tight fit. The Flame Adjuster has a piece of rubber, so you won't burn your fingers and it makes for easy operating with gloves.

The pot closes tight with stove, cloth and a gas canister inside.

The stove nestled on top of the cloth in the pot.

It is a nice compact system, and is supposed to be brutally fast - it should take between three and five minutes to boil a liter of water in real world conditions - something I will test in the upcoming video. I think it is an excellent stove for those who need boiling water, and need it fast with as little fussing as possible. If you're planning to cook and simmer, I believe that should be possible as well - you can adjust the heat output. It also has the integrated wind screen with the pot, as well as the heat exchanger, a well thought out system if you ask me.

Pot and the stove on a canister, ready for action.

The whole system set up.

I'd like to pass the MSR Reactor set around to five different readers and have them test it. If you're a total newbie to gas stoves like me or a seasoned veteran, anyone can apply for a test of the set. So how does this work? I send out the set to the first reader, and he gets to play around with it for two weeks. You need to have access to gas cartridges (I can't send those) and you need to be willing to pay the postage to send it to the next person, but besides that its completely free to you and allows you to test the stove without shelling out the money first. After your two weeks of playing you send the set forward to the next in line, and drop me a short email about what you thought of the set, which will be published here on the blog. In that way we can collect different viewpoints on the MSR Reactor, see how it performs in different environments, and get a nice review together.

You want to take part in the Passaround? Great! What you need to do is leave a comment underneath (preferrably not anonymous), and next week Tuesday (13th of April) around noon I will randomly pick the five people who get to test the MSR Reactor. While I'd love to have this Passaround open to everyone, sending packages, even small ones like these, is expensive, so I'd would like to limit it this time to Europe, with a preference for Scandinavia and the Baltics. Before you hit the comment button, I'd like to remember you - you should be able to get a gas cartridge for the test in your town, you need to be willing to pay the shipping costs to the next person, and you're fine with sending me a short statement of your opinion with a photo or two. If that sounds like a good deal to you, please comment!

And in case you say "That's all I needed to know, thanks!" and want to buy one right away, Ultralight Outdoor Gear has a good offer for the MSR Reactor at the moment, and their service is outstanding, so a good recommendation if you don't want to wait for the outcome of the Passaround.

Salamajärvi National Park Trip Report

Day 1 summary: Weather nice, conditions shit.
Day 2 summary: Weather shit, conditions worse.
Day 3 summary: I'm so glad I am on my way home.

Not all backpacking trips are awesome, some suck. This trip was of the latter kind. Be prepared for some foul language, therefore this post is rated R 18. It is also a very long story with plenty of photos, so better take a cup of coffee/ tea and enjoy.

A lone star appearing at dusk of day one.

It started out nice, the 3 hour ride to Salamajärvi NP went well, we arrived at one o'clock and despite the weather forecast's promised rain we had a blue sky and sunshine. Xavier packed his ULA Conduit and soon after we set along the short stretch of road towards the trail head. Some fishermen were ice fishing, a good indicator that the ice still carries, despite a layer of water on top. The Plan™ was to walk the 59 km Hirvaan kierros circle trail, but as so often with The Plan™, it didn't work out.

Xavier in a good mood at the trail head.

The trail was unbroken. We tried for a minute without snowshoes, but sinking in till over the knee doesn't make for good walking so the snowshoes came on. This improved the sinking in marginally, now we sunk in only till the knee, but every step was more difficult as the water soaked snow was heavy on the snowshoe surface, adding quite some weight to every step. Five minutes later I was ready to turn around, which I would have done if I wasn't with company. Easter 2009 I spent alone hiking in Helvetinjärvi NP and that trip of potholing was still fresh in my memory, I didn't need to add a further one to it. Xavier said this would be normal snowshoe conditions for him, and that he was up for a challenge. A challenge for me would be climbing a mountain in Japan with Chris and not potholing through a forest.

The moss was happy about the amount of wetness, from above and beneath.

Finnish spring in the forest.

Signs of previous forest fires.

We continued, missed the first turn we should have taken and hence walked an additional five kilometers in these splendid conditions. The Plan™ of walking the complete 59 km circle was already buried, and so we decided to make the best of it. Because of the missed turn we went to Pahkahongankangas and further up to Pyydyskoski, where much to my pleasure someone with snowshoes had broken the trail for some part. Then 3,1 km through unbroken snow towards Heinkinjärvi, and while the sun was shining I was seriously frustrated. As we arrived at the lake, I spotted some tracks in the snow, and while we weren't sure then I now know that they were from a Wolverine - there are only around 150 of these in Finland, so quite a rare sight! With the lean-to in sight, my mood improved, and after a short break at the shelter I set off to explore the surroundings, while Xavier started the fire.

Xavier enjoying the broken trail.

Ants are getting ready for the summer.

Close to the lean-to shelter at Heikinjärvi, I can almost smile.

Wolverine tracks!

After my short trip I started to pitch the Gossamer Gear SpinnTwinn, in a nice spot, which will ensure the sun shining down on me in the morning. A pair of Whooper Swans was flying over the lake, their call echoing through the woods. With the very tasty Trek'n Eat Vegetable Puree with chili and hemp seeds, a kuksa of redwine, the warming glow of the fire and the pretty sunset, this was about the best moment on the trip. After a Trek'n Eat Mousse au Chocolate and a cup of tea I retired to my sleeping bag, falling asleep quickly.


SpinnTwinn from the side.

Home is ready, the woodshed in the background.

Lifting my spirits, tasty food and red wine.


Boiling water for my evening tea.

The sunrise into the tarp never came. Instead, low hanging mist and rain which was falling on the spinnaker fabric of the tarp. The rain intensified the need to pee, and instead of getting into the hardshell clothes, have a pee and then getting out of them and back into the sleeping bag I decided to pack everything up and retire to the lean-to for breakfast. This was done in relative peace, I like rain but knew that this rain will make snowshoeing today utter misery. After the morning pee was taken care of, I decided to try to start the fire only with my puukko and firesteel, and after a while I had the piece of birch bark burning, and I was mighty proud of myself! The fire was burning well, and my coffee and breakfast water soon was hot.

Good morning! View from the sleeping bag.

The fire which was made only with knife & firesteel.

As Xavier still didn't appear, I gave him a little visit, and still sleepy he said he shall rise soon. By the time he came I was fed and packed up, ready for snowshoeing in the rain. An hour later we hit the trail, and yes, it were the wretched conditions I thought they would be. The high exertion with the drizzling rain and general moistness brought the eVent membrane in the Rab Momentum jacket to its limits, and it felt like I was as wet on the inside as I was on the outside. We walked to Heikinjärvenneva, where a bird watching tower rises over the swamp, giving a great view but there was not much to see except mist, rain, snow.

The Eye of Sauron.

View from Heikinjärvenneva tower.

Markings in bark.

We continued towards Kaulus, an old smoke sauna building, and had a short rest in the cabin. A lonely skier peeked inside, said that he was on the way to Sysilampi cabin and will leave us a nice trail, and went off again. Motivated by the promise of a warm cabin, with an opportunity to dry the gear and ourselves, we continued and I managed to find a good gait and rhythm so I led for most of the time to Sysilampi. Arriving at the cabin, the lone skier was just eating his meal and chatting with his friend as we came in. Friendly talking about backpacking and trips ensued, and the misery was temporarily forgotten.

Sysilampi cottage. Previously this was a day trip hut, but now has mattresses and it is allowed to sleep in it.

The guys left, and soon after a group of three girls arrived. The cabin was big enough to house us five, but I decided to try and pitch the tarp, which thanks to the saturated ground was futile and so I told the girls that I'd retire to the room next to the woodshed while they could enjoy the cabin with the oven. The evening was spent drinking some more red wine and talking about this and that, and as the girls went off to the sauna I retired to my sleeping bag.

Boiling water on the morning of day three.

Last evening Xavier and I had decided to walk this morning to the parking lot 600 m down the trail, and follow the road back to the car at Koirasalmi. I was not willing to put myself through another 10,2 km of snowshoeing when I could just walk 12 km on a forest road at triple the speed and a kazillion times more comfort. After a breakfast of Travellunch müsli with orange juice and a cup of coffee, kindly provided by Mr. Macfarlane, we started walking. A mere two and half hours later we were back at the parking lot, I was happy to have put this behind me. In the car, on the way back to the main road I spotted a Western Capercaillie but by the time I had the Lumix GF1out he had taken off to the top of a tree, and only aimed with the 20mm Pancake LensI wasn't able to get a decent photo of him. Ah well, their mating season is just starting so hopefully I will be able to see some and get a photo or two of them.

The road to Koirasalmi.

My frustration with the snowshoeing this weekend is simple: The snow didn't carry at all, and I broke in 95% of the time. Then the wet snow sat on top of the snowshoes, weighting them down and making walking a pain in the ass. What was very nerve wracking was that I never knew if the next step will carry or not, it did make a completely unpleasant experience. I asked the guys as the cabin how they fared in these conditions with the skis, and they said that on the swamp the skiing was OK while in the forest it was just as much of a pain as with snowshoes. So even with skis the whole trip would only have been around 30% better. While I am not normally someone who gives up easily, I knew I wouldn't enjoy myself plenty under this conditions and hence my readiness to turn around. I didn't turn around and while I had some good moments, I believe it would have been a better trip if either we would have had decent minus temperatures so that the snow carries, or there wouldn't have been any snow.

The national park was pretty, or at least what I saw of it - most of my concentration went towards placing the next step, so only once in a while I could take in the scenery. I plan to be back when the snow is gone, maybe in May or June, or then in autumn, that circle trail is still in my mind and I'd love to walk it. But for the moment, I will sit inside and wait till the snow is gone, as I don't need another rather not so nice experience - I go backpacking to enjoy myself, and potholing with snowshoes in the rain certainly doesn't count as enjoyment for me.

The garbage of the three days.