Hiking in Finland

Climbing, bikepacking, skiing & packrafting in the north

Video: Optimus Crux Lite in Winter Conditions + Passaround

Yeps, time's up and the five people who get to test the Optimus Crux Lite Solo Cook Kit are:

- Joe
- Daimos
- Tomas
- Nibe
- Psycho

All five of you, please contact me via email (its on the right under in the Copyright Notice) and give me your full name and address. I'll make the package ready this week and send it to the first person in line.

I wasn't lazy either, and had the set out last week on a nice afternoon walk, where I shot this video of it. I had a cup of tea and a Travellunch meal, but back home I realized that I had lost my long handled spoon, bugger. So its back to the LMF Spork for a while, till I get a new long handled spoon. Anyway, in the video you'll see my first ever attempt at using a gas stove, and you can observe if I make a fool of myself or not while playing with it.

I also had it out during the trip to Siikaneva where I made my Ramen in it, convenient and fast, though the pot really is small when you're used to a 1,1 l pot. The gas stove did work just fine at -10°C on Sunday afternoon, even without warming the gas canister up before, so I believe that gas is a viable solution also for winter use, the melting of snow and boiling water + simmering of the food definitely was fast and handy. It leaves also out the smoke taste in the water, but I am so used to it that I almost missed it ;) More testing under different conditions is now in the hands of the capable five above!

Siikaneva Trip Report

A few weeks ago I met my Finnish friend Matti, and discussing over a beer we decided to go for a weekend trip together soon, a one-nighter close by Tampere. Fast forward to Saturday, 6th of March at the bus stop, where we meet again. Matti with his 260 cm long skis and I with my snowshoes, perfect sunshine and a bit of snow coming down from heaven, we talk about hiking and how great it is to go out for a night.

It's still getting better.

An hour later we get out at the lonely bus stop in the middle of nowhere. Siikaneva is Southern Finland's biggest swamp area, and wide rolling marshes intermixed with little patches of forest will be our sight this weekend. But before we'll see any of it, a short three to four kilometer hike to the area needs to be made. Matti asks me if we go on the road or off piste, and seeing that I am in capable hands I let him guide us off piste through the forest. He does a good job, and an hour later we arrive at the entry.

On the way in, still glorious sunshine.

Wind blown snow holes.

At the start of Siikaneva, the fox tracks leading into the forest.

With our arriving at Siikaneva also the clouds arrive, and the previous blue sky is covered in grey. Matti gives me a short rundown how to navigate, and so we break yet again more trail in a straight line to the camp. The snow carries well although I do break in a couple of times, one time so deep that I need help from Matti to pull me out. I repay the favour to Matti a bit later, and realize that also on skis one can tumble and fall =)

A few sparse trees in the swamp...

... and many huddled together on the rocky outcrops.

Matti tells me that our camp is on top of a hill, and so our ascent starts. Its slightly easier with snowshoes, but where the snow is soft I break in till my crotch, and getting out of that is difficult, for a beginner like me at least. I do succeed and manage to get to the top, just to hear Matti tell me that I should come down as I went in my effort to "bag the peak" a bit too far away from the direction we should be going to.

Breaking in.

We arrive at camp, where there's six other people and the fire is going. I put on more clothes, drink some cold tea and eat a musli bar, while the other Finns throw their sausages on the grill and open their beers. There's a couple there, about my age, and we have amusing conversations with them. The man is German, and it goes again to show that whereever you go, you're bound to meet Germans! Later they pack up their Fjällpulka with enough supplies and equipment to last them a week in Lapland, and start the four kilometer trek back to the parking lot.

Being alone now, we roll out the pads and let the sleeping bags loft, while we chop more wood for the night. As we're finished, the sun starts to set, and it is the most beautiful sunset I can remember. We stand on the rocky outcrop and enjoy the view over the vast swamp area towards where the sun sets, a magnificent display of colours accompanying it.

Warming my hands at the fire.

The sky clears and millions of stars illuminate it, making it a perfect night. We enjoy dinner and a few Minttu Kakaos before we throw some big logs on the fire and creep into our sleeping bags. I read a bit more in the light of the fire before I doze off into the realm of dreams, waking up a few times at night to have a pee and throw more wood on the fire.

View from my sleeping bag the next morning =)

I get up around nine the next morning, make a new fire, set my shoes close to it, have a few bites from my Flapjack and go back into the sleeping bag. Its to early to be up on a Sunday, I decide, and read a bit while listening to the bird songs. The sun is out again, and no cloud is to be seen in the sky. Glorious weather to be outdoors.

We take our time to eat breakfast, chop more wood for the people who might come after us, and pack up. As we leave around half one, already four other day trippers are sitting around the fire and grilling their sausages. Finns and their sausages! Off the rocky outcrop and down into the swamp, the sun is almost blinding. Spectacular, and so we ski and walk towards the road, mostly off track, exploring the little patches of forests and the hidden swamps.

Matti on his skis.

Rabbit tracks leading into the forest.

Self portrait.

Fox tracks leading into the distance.

Matti leading the way.

The beauty of winter is so apparent around us. The sun shining, we have smiles on our faces as we ski and walk through this great area. We come across different sorts of tracks, left during the previous night, and Matti takes out his book and we try to identify the tracks in the snow. As we come across the tracks of an Elk, I amazed at the vigor of this animal: Every step it breaks through the at least one meter high snow, and walking here must be take a lot of energy for it.

Another short break with a camp fire, where I munch down my Ramen noodles, before we walk the last stretch to the road. We're waiting for a while till the bus takes us in again; and driving back home my thoughts go back to the vast, white swamp area, glistering in the sunlight, the beautiful sunset, and I long for more.

Elk tracks leading into the forest.

Book Corner: Lighten Up by Don Ladigin

The next installment of the book corner, this time with one of the most amusing books on lightweight and ultralight backpacking: Lighten Up! by Don Ladigin and with illustrations by Mike Clelland.The latter makes this such a great book to read, because his illustrations are interesting, humours and informative. This was the first book I bought, back in the spring of 2009, and I found myself going back to it times and again.

Lighten Up!: A Complete Handbook for Light and Ultralight Backpacking

Its 187 g of knowledge, and helps you understanding what are the principles of lightweight backpacking, how to lighten up your big three, gives insights on clothing and the small stuff we carry around, and gives tips on walking on the trail (and off-trail). Its very well written, and Don Ladigin knows what he's talking about, as he's been going light since 1975.

harttj, one of the readers, asked me about which 10 things I took away from the Trekking Ultraleicht book (check the comments there if you'd like to know), and I will in future always list the 10 (there needs to be a limit somewhere =) things I took away from the book I presented to you. Thank you harttj for the suggestion!

So, from Lighten Up!I took away:

1. What's base weight, pack weight and skin-out weight
2. After a trip, check what you really used, and what didn't get used
3. A step-by-step approach to lightening up is better than a all-in-one-go approach
4. The big three are the best starting point to lighten up
5. A lightweight (UL) backpacker needs to own a (digital) weight scale!
6. How to attach a sleeping pad or put it n the backpack
7. Sleeping socks are awesome!
8. The benefits of using a wind shirt
9. Plastic bottles make great, cheap water containers for backpackers
10. The Quick Start

To wrap it up, a very recommendable book. I think the illustrations help enormously in understanding the text, which is written in an easy way. It has an index for quickly looking up something, and a gear checklist for your trips. I can't find anything faulty about it, and in my opinion it is 10€ well invested, for beginners and pros alike. Both thumbs up from me!

Disclosure: I have an Amazon Affiliate account, and if you click on the link and buy the book I even might earn a few euros - for more books! If you're living in Germany or Europe, you can buy it hereor if you're in the USA you can get it here.