Hiking in Finland

Climbing, bikepacking, skiing & packrafting in the north

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.

Gear Talk: Integral Designs PLQ Jacket and Pants Review

Just this morning I read that Integral Designs was bought by the parent company of Rab (hat tip to Roger who tweeted about it). So while Integral Designs will continue to exist, it looks like production will be moved from Calgary, Canada, by mid 2011. I am not going to speculate why this happened, and what is going to happen to Integral Designs. I do wish both ID and Rab good success on their venture together, and hope that they continue to produce the great, high quality kit they currently make.


In the beginning of this season's winter I received from Integral Designs the PLQ jacket and the PLQ pants for testing. Since I got them, on every trip I have been wearing these two garments, and I am very satisfied with them. This is my review of these two fantastic garments, which keep me warm in our cold winter.

The PLQ Jacket in Size S is 329 g on my scale, of which are 80 g Primaloft Sport insulation which keep you warm. It has a Pertex Microlite outer and lining, which feels very comfortable and keeps the wind and snow at bay, and also withstands a bit of rain. The long front zipper is great for temperature regulation, and it has a rather big zippered inside pocket where I usually keep my phone and things which need to stay warm.

The long front sipper is great for thermal regulation.

The inside pocket is huge.

The thumb hooks are excellent.

The thumb hooks of the jacket are a very nice feature, I usually first slip through them and then put my mitts over them, that's a very warm combo. The hems are all elastic and don't let any heat escape, also the collar closes snugly around my neck and doesn't let my precious heat escape. The inside zipper pocket can be sometimes a bit difficult to close, a anti zip snag webbing tape shouldn't be too heavy and would make it easier to close.

The PLQ Pants, also Size S, are 276 g on my scales and a true favourite of my girlfriend who borrows them nearly every day when she walks back from work. But not only my girlfriend finds the pants excellent, also I do =) A taffeta lining and a Pertex Microlite outer with also 80 g of Primaloft Sport for insulation make these a great pants to wear when the temperature drops under -5°C. The pants has no pockets, elastic hems at both legs and a shock cord waist "belt" to trap the warmth. It keeps wind and snow outside, and also my rolling around and kneeling in the snow kept them dry.

I wear them over my baselayer, and for temperatures of up to -20°C they are sufficient and keep me comfortably warm while walking. I tried if I could go with only a baselayer and my shell layer but found that I am losing heat, especially my thighs were very quickly very cold. With both PLQ jacket and pants I am well isolated, and only need to wear my shell layer if its very windy or snowing heaps. I wear both when walking, and at camp usually put the PLQ jacket up for drying while wearing my dry down isolation. The beauty of the Primaloft Sport insulation is that is still isolating, even when moist from sweat, or when the sweat has frozen. This has happened to me, I for example was wearing it during the days, switching into camp clothes in the evening the garments quickly dried when hung up for drying, or froze when I forgot to do so. If the latter happened I just put them on in the morning, and within minutes I was warm again. That is the beauty of synthetic isolation, and a great advantage for folks who are longer than a night or two out in the cold.

While much of the world is going with a smile towards spring, we'll have the snow and cold for another six to ten weeks here in Finland; and for my trip this weekend the weather forecast is promising -15°C and snow. I will be very happy to wear these two garments these coming weeks, and if you're still looking for a warm and functional isolation layer while walking, then you can find them either at Ultralight Outdoor Gear (while they don't have the PLQ pants and jacket listed, they will order them for you) or at Sack und Pack. You also could order directly from Integral Designs or check their dealer's list.

Two thumbs up from me for the Integral Designs PLQ jacket and pants!