Korpijaakko

– my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

Category Archives: philosophical pondering

Four Hours Naked Among Friends

I’m confident enough to say that all backpackers dislike bugs. Acutally, hate bugs. Well, not all bugs but the kind bugs that bite and sting you while you’re trying to enjoy the outdoors. We protect ourselves with clothing, shelters and chemicals and maybe even  avoid outings on certain areas during the worst bug season. So why would someone voluntarily walk into a swampy mosquito hell-hole during the worst bug season, and do it naked?

As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m lucky to have some extra-ordinary friends who do extra-ordinary things. Including the one I just mentioned. Here is Huck’s report of what he did, why he did it and what he learned in the painful process. Enjoy if you dare!

Since I turned 16 I had the joy to experience the big value of solos. Adding to previous solo experiences, I went for a 40 hour solo in 2013. In 2014 it was a solo of 4 days of constant shivering resulting in an interesting physical state and eventually also in youturntime.org and this tedx talk. This year it had to be either 40 days or something else.

Well, 40 days are still to come, but as I was looking for something that does not require so much time, I opted for a pretty challenging  four hour solo instead.

The story in brief:

On a beautiful summer day I went for a swim in a bog lake and then sat for four hours without any actions of defense, naked in a place, known and chosen for it’s high mosquito population.

Over the summer I had somehow mentally prepared for this and was pretty sure that I am ready for this challenge. I had done research about mosquitoes: 400.000 bites (that is 4000 bites for each of 100 minutes or 1666.667 bites for each of 240 minutes) could kill me.  There was no real risk other than the expected discomfort, as we do not have malaria or other mosquito transmitted diseases in Finland.

I still think that death by mosquito bites must be a very committed and honorable way of suicide.

But back to the solo.

I like to start solos with cleaning myself and I also like ending them in a sauna. In this case I went for a swim in a little pond in the middle of a bog

It appeared, that after I emerged from my swim, waiting for the fury of the “Finnish airforce” that there was a problem. The problem was, that the mozzies were pretty kind and surprisingly low in numbers.

Instead, I attracted hundreds and hundreds of black flies. It was only a very short moment from when I realized that I am standing in a cloud of black flies, until the pain started. They were sitting all over my body and ate me.

I behaved. Occasionally nature is playing tricks on you and here I was witnessing and experiencing one. I asked for mozzies but was served black flies. Sitting down, I had to gain control of my breathing and my feelings.

I had hoped, that this solo would teach me about self control and maybe even allow me to switch of the pain by disconnecting mind and body. Closing my eyes I focused on my breathing. About 15 years ago I experienced the pain, given to me by one sulawesian mosquito in the form of dengue fever. It felt as if every bone in my body was broken. The pain here was a different story. Somehow more sharp, pointed, fast and somehow more painful. I could not tell which was worse.

In between I felt the different sensation of mosquito bites somewhere, which were a lot easier to take. My body was twitching and shivering (it was not a cold day) and now I wonder, what role black flies play to induce states of trance for shamanistic practices. My fellow beings found the easiest skin and it was at times hard to resist the temptation to brush them off.  To remind you I was totally naked and every square centimeter of my skin was available.

In between suffering sounds came from my mouth, which at some point I managed to “switch off”. At some point I found myself laying on my back among plants of blueberry and Labrador tea.  Always when I opened my eyes and I saw the feasting flies and the blood droplets all over me, the pain seemed to grow stronger.

At some point I started to observe my surroundings. Opened my senses and did nothing else but “be”. Amazingly, the pain level dropped.  Looking at my body, I noticed that less and less black flies were benefiting from my solo idea. Where did they go?

The next time brought a change to my solo experience.  There were still some black flies and mosquitoes, but it was a lot more quiet and enjoyable. I was very wrong thinking that the worst pain was over.

One horsefly visited me but left me in peace. It was ants that was the most painful.

They somehow knew where to bite/ sting so that it hurts badly. Between my toes and between my legs, in delicate places. I did not understand why they bit me. They walked around on me, heading exactly for the places that I hoped they wouldn’t and bit me there. The pain is really different to the black flies. If I were to rate all of my visitors, I’d give the mozzies a 1 for least painful, followed by horse flies, black flies and finally ants.

Luckily there were not so many ants and I’d guess I wasn’t bitten more often than 20 or so times, but the memory of these bites is the strongest. Just imagining the challenge of 4 naked minutes sitting on a nest of these big black ants is horrifying.

Reading this report one might think that I was only thinking about different insect bites during this four hour solo.  Of course a big part of my attention went to the pain and to dealing with it, but the time spend meditating seemed to go by a lot faster.

Before I had set off to my solo I had put an alarm to my watch, 4:30 hours from then.  The watch I had left laying a few meters from me, so that during the solo I had no idea how much time had passed.

Right in the moment when my alarm rang, a truly beautiful horsefly sat on my finger and performed a series of bites, which I then documented with my camera.

From there, I went to sauna and the second part of the challenge began: four or so days of resisting the itch to scratch.

Bottom line?

Well, yes; it is recommendable.

While I personally get more out of longer solos, I believe that also these short solos have good value, for giving you opportunities of getting to know yourself, your body and your limits. Maybe most important, they are more easily doable.

Again, I learned a lot.  Already the preparation for the assumed mosquito-solo was very beneficial, as I now am pretty good with dealing with mozzies. I remember the fuzz about wearing long sleeves and trousers on hot days and covering the head and face with nets and every inch of skin with repellent. This summer I was once again 98% of the time barefoot and was mostly wearing sarongs, which never caused me too much discomfort that I couldn’t easily stand it.

I guess it’s the same thing as with “no toilet paper”. Once you learn how to deal equally well with left hand and water or nature’s choices, you gain a lot more freedom when being in the woods.

Another thing I learned was indeed connected to my wish of learning something about self- and pain control. Even though I did not manage to be pain free, I nevertheless know now that I can stand a lot more than appreciated and that I have influence on the pain if I actively try to take this influence.

Did I learn anything else? Don’t expect to get what you came for. Even though I got a bit of a real challenge, I learned that there is a lot worse out there. In general, I believe it can be very beneficial in terms of possible symbiosis to be “open” and host parasites.

Why?

>I seek these experiences to learn, self reflect and grow.  In addition I know that initiation rituals are very important but few in our times. I like to offer guidance and assistance for solos to others and thus want and need to know my own limits very well.

Text and photos by Huck. (Intro by editor.)

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Four Holy Days of Shivering

What drives a sane person to shiver non-stop for four days and four nights, while not eating or sleeping and call it a holiday?

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Editors note: I’m privilege to have extra-ordinary friends who do amazing things. One of them is Huck, a fellow wilderness guide and founder of NordicByNature. He has earlier written quest posts to my blog and as I heard he had just returned from a four-day solo trip with no food and minimal equipment having witnessed the  rather early first snow on the way, I again asked for a trip report to share. And as he is a nice guy, he wrote one. here you go! Huck didn’t carry a camera so all the photos are taken and added by me just to make the layout little lighter. All text by Huck. Also feel free to comment or ask, I’m sure Huck will drop by to answer any questions.

Conditions

Location: Hiidenportti National Park
Time: 20.- 24.9.2014
Duration of Solo: 4 days and 4 nights
Weather: rain, snow, wind, temperatures above and below freezing
Distance covered on one meal: 27km

Rules

– same location all time (10m radius)
– avoid sleeping
– no food
– little water (1-2L)
– minimal gear
(isolation mattress, wool blanket, woolen hat, anorak made of old wool blanket, rain poncho, canteen cup. No other cloth.)

Backup

For safety reasons I took with me:

– shelter (tarp, sleeping bag, extra clothing)
– water (an additional two liters plus the potential to melt snow & collect rainwater)
– food (energy rich food)
– stove & tinder (Picogrill wood stove, plenty of fuel, also fatwood found at the location)
– 1st Aid kit
– fully charged phone, map

Background/ motivation

As a wilderness guide and founder of NordicByNature I am offering nature education and nature awareness programs. In cooperation with the Metsäkartano youth center, I am working on the “Natural transition” project, which is aimed to provide an initiation-opportunity to youngsters on the step to adulthood.

In today’s society, social and biological adulthood are not reached at the same age, as it originally should be the case according to human nature. In addition, we do not experience proper initiation into adulthood anymore and have thus often insufficient understanding of our responsibilities, opportunities and roles as members of the global community.

In many indigenous societies, the importance of initiation is better acknowledged and rituals like solos and other challenges mark the transitional phase in this rite of passage.

As I am very interested in initiation rituals and as an intended facilitator/ guide for initiation, I felt obliged to have experienced more than what I would like to provide to young adults.

Preparations

While the opportunity came unexpected, I had been planning to go for a longer solo ever since my solo in 2013.

A few facts played a role in terms of mental and physical preparation.

Having realized the benefits and logic of barefoot walking, I was basically barefoot ever since the last snow in April this year. I also like to dress just a bit colder than cozy and I usually fast for a few days every month. In general I try to live strictly in “need to have” terms instead of “nice to have”. This considers consumption of energy and resources.

Another part of my preparation is a lifelong interest in survival training and survival skills. I am also interested in the physical and mental aspects of initiation rituals such as solos as well as other challenging situations.

Being trained by Wildmed in Wilderness advanced 1st Aid, I was aware of the potential danger that I was going to put myself in. Hypothermia, Dehydration, other cold-related problems and physical injuries were on the list of anticipated problems. For this reason I asked a friend, who is trained to the higher level of “Wilderness First Responder” to walk me out on the last day, bringing with her more energy rich food and also rubberboots.

Another taken precaution was to choose a location for the solo with phone coverage (up on a hill), even though it meant colder temperatures, more snow and more wind. I also shared my position upon arrival and had agreed to report via sms every morning.

From the medical perspective it was good to have a checklist, with pre-set limits for when I would start using the back-up plan or parts of it. With the list I monitored my mood (level of awareness), urine output, skin colour, dexterity of fingers and toes, pulse, and respiratory rate.

Chronology of events

As I spend most of the time sitting or laying, dreaming and thinking, this journey was truly eventful from a psychological point of view. I learned a lot about myself and the rest of nature and had many thoughts and ideas, which let me recommend such an experience to you.

However, in this post I am not going to write about any of this, as the intention is to focus on the physical challenges.

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Saturday, 20.9.

Müesli in Joensuu is the last meal for the next days. After breakfast I pack up my stuff and cycle to the end of town, where I leave my bike locked to a tree, hide the key nearby and start hitchhiking towards Nurmes. I had assumed that hitchhiking in my forest cloth, wearing a sarong and no shoes would be difficult and I was right. On the upside I got more rides by single women, as I probably looked very harmless.

In the evening I arrived in Valtimo and started walking towards Peurajärvi, at the southern end of Hiidenportti Nationalpark. After walking about 16 kilometers into the dark without getting any more rides, I went to sleep in my sleeping bag under a little spruce tree.

The weather of the day was nice and sunny but it was getting cold.

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Sunday, 21.9.

For the last bit I got a ride from Thai-berrypickers. The interior of the car was super-heated and the guys inside were wearing balaclavas. They didn’t look happy but seemed amused by my leg-wear.

I had looked up a potential area for the solo on my map and started my hike towards it, which took about 4.5 km. On the way I ate half a “Boletus edulis” and a few berries. Near “Pitkä-Portti” I boiled some water, made some chaga tea and went for a swim, to clean myself for the solo.

Temperatures went further down and the air became more moist.

On the last bit of the journey up the near hill I found more tracks and signs of bears and started to become curious if I would have a chance to see some.

At the lake I had made a strong cup of chaga tea in my canteen cup, which I had carried up the hill, drinking small sips and keeping them in my mouth for hours.

I was now almost naked, only wearing a simple anorak that I had made from an old blanket. The night I spend sitting against a tree (I really know her well now).

Shivering had started shortly after my arrival (must have been around noon) and it continued through the night. It was raining all night long. I sat on my isolation mattress, the ends in front and behind me tucked up under the rain poncho. The wool blanket I had folded double to achieve more isolation at the cost of having to make myself really small to fit under.

By the morning some water had leaked in and I sat in a little puddle on my mattress. There was a lot of condensation and the woolen blanket was moist.

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Monday, 22.9.

The rain continued the whole day. I went for three little walks around my area and built up my tarp just in case.

The rain stopped in the afternoon and the wind picked up. I estimated the range of a few dead trees in the area in case they would fall in the wind.

After dark it started to snow. The night was colder and it snowed all night. Again I was at the same spot, but had opened the poncho and used it tucked under the mattress, providing a bit more loose cover.

I had hoped for less condensation due to increase ventilation, but the colder temperatures did not help. The blanket was now more moist but still warm. I use the term “warm” very carefully as I was still shivering. In addition to the cold I was getting very tired at night. The nights were very slow.

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Tuesday, 23.9.

Snow everywhere. On Monday I had topped up the tea in my canteen cup with rain water.

To allow my blanket to dry a bit, I sat some time under the tarp. Condensation was a real issue in the night and I consider spending the next night under the tarp, which will be less warm but dryer. I have less motivation to move and I am smelling very different as I am now (I guess) the second day in ketosis.

Night sitting and laying under the tarp. Hipbones painful and I have to choose between pain or being cold, as I can make myself small enough to just fit under the doubled blanket when laying on the side.

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Wednesday, 24.9.

I likely have slept a bit since the night went faster than the day or the previous nights. No recollection of sleeping, falling asleep or waking up. In the early morning hours I heard wolves to the east.

It’s still snowing wet and the wind is blowing under the tarp. Worried about the dead trees. The night was colder as expected but less condensation.

When getting up I feel very low on energy. Still peeing about three times per day. Very yellow. So far I have used less than a liter since leaving from the lake.

Happy thoughts let me feel warmer and I decide to be happy. In general I feel in good mood and enjoy the experience. More joy than suffering for sure so far.

In the afternoon my friend comes to check on me. We change a few words and she leaves me a pair of rubber boots for the next day. She will camp 1km away from my location on the way out.

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Thursday, 25.9.

Night spend under tarp. Coldest night so far. Frost and cold wind from the north. Hips very painful.

Slush-drizzle in the morning. Drinking the last tea, 2L of backup water still untouched. Feeling cold, weak and tired. I allow myself to write down some notes about the last days. When sitting I feel very clear in my head.

Around midday I am slowly getting ready to leave. After standing up I feel very dizzy and have to sit down again. Packing up is slow but I am taking my time to pack properly. The rubberboots seem too heavy and I decide to walk in my backup-shoes. Studying the map I choose a direct route and try to memorize it.

Walking is very slow. I have to look at the ground (I usually use splatter vision) and even when moving slow breathing through my nose is not enough. Moving through the icy snow hurts my legs. I fall a couple of times and feel frequent need to rest. Somehow I walk down a wrong slope and end up in a wrong place. After realizing my navigation mistake (the first in over ten years), I have to walk one kilometer more to get to my friends camp.

When I arrive at the camp I am pale and dizzy. I drink 2L of warm honey water. My toes are white and without feeling. After melting my toes and resting for about an hour or so and having hydrated, I feel better. Also the sun is coming up for the first time of the solo.

My heart rate at departure from the fireplace while standing stationary: 155 bpm.

The last 3km to my friend’s car are better. Breathing through the nose is again possible and no snow is on the ground.

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End of Solo

After a quick shop-stop in Valtimo we continue by car to Puukarin Pysäkki, where I clean myself in the sauna. Exhausting.

The food at Puukarin Pysäkki is known to be the best in North Karelia and I couldn’t think of a better place to be. “Feels like heaven” is humming through my head when I sat down at the table, where locally grown organic food has been skillfully prepared for me. Holiday. I take knife and fork in my hands and immediately get cramps in my fingers. Eating is slow and I wished my appetite were bigger. I somehow manage to eat a fair amount but my thirst is overwhelming. I am drinking liters of water, juice, tea, kotikalja.

Night spend at Puukarin Pysäkki. Next day breakfast and hitchhiking back to Joensuu.

On the journey home I ponder about the effects of the solo and about my symptoms from the previous day:

– Compensated volume shock due to dehydration.
– Mild hypothermia.
– Frostnip on toes and parts of both feet.

I am aware that I came close to some limits and wonder how one more day would have affected me.

Conclusion

I can recommend this experience. Being aware of the medical impact such an experience can have is important, as these weather conditions and the set rules can make some people “sail pretty close to the wind”.

Solo’s can, but do not have to be challenging. If you are looking for a physical and mental challenge, I recommend seeking the advice, preparations and assistance of a trained professional.

Solo’s and “vision quests” have a purpose and it’s not a sport. They have great potential to teach you about yourself, your limits, your strength and your role in life. And in my experience this is exactly what they do.

And this is what drives me.

 

Ultralight and whatever

I don’t usually feature quest posts in my blog as the focus is on “my personal views on all walks of outdoor life”. But occasionally you come up with something so great that you want to share it. This is one of those cases. This a “ghost post” by a man who I greatly respect. A man with insight, passion and close connection to nature but who does not blog. There are many non-bloging outdoor enthusiasts out there (and more often than not they are literally out there) and it’s great to give them a venue to share their views with the world. This time the views are especially about UL backpacking and going light in a different way. Enjoy!

– Jaakko Heikka

(The photos in the post are added by Jaakko Heikka. All text by Huck.)

Ultralight and whatever

A few weeks ago I visited the ‘‘Neandertal museum’’ near Düsseldorf in Germany. The museum tried to explain the life of our ancestors and also a bit how things developed from there. Most amazing was that:

1. After 16 years of learning (i.e. when reaching fertility age) people knew what they needed to know to ‘‘run’’ a family.
2. People worked about 4-5 hours per day. (This includes preserving food for the winter!)
3. People also got old, though life expectancy was relatively low due to bad work-safety.

In the late Stone Age lived the famous ‘‘Ötzi’’, who’s lifestyle made him spend a lot of time in the Alps. His gear list was relatively short (check it out: http://www.iceman.it/en/clothing-equipment) and covered all his needs, including getting food and killing enemies. The gear was certainly suitable for his needs.

Most UL hikers start off with the realization of carrying too much. They reduce, re-equip and rethink ‘‘their’’ system.

But how does the evolution go?

Living in Finland, I get to see a lot of (Swedish!) Trangias. When people go hiking with their Savotta framed packs, they always have to take the good old trusted Trangia. Eventually somebody starts to rethink and builds a lighter version of it and in the end it’s a Jetboil or catstove or whatever.

So is evolution. But what was before the Trangia?

Ask Ötzi & co; Fire! As simple as that.

So my approach to ultralight hiking starts the other way round.

Well; do not go naked, but do go ‘‘stupid light’’.

In the Finnish survival guild’s ‘‘outdoor safety’’ course I was allowed to take:

– Clothing: long trousers, T-shirt, woolen jumper, forest jacket, rain jacket, shoes, 2x socks, long underwear, sun hat, head net, woolen hat, work gloves
– Gear & food: a plastic bag (sturdy, 40L), 3m paracord, 1m webbing strap, 1x rescue blanket, 1x film canister of salt, 7x glucose pastille, flint& striker, Trangia (!) mess tin, 5m fishing line, 2 hooks, 3 weights, 1m wire, 1 compass & 1 map for three people, 1 mora knife for three people, pen& paper, toothbrush (no toothpaste!), 0,5L ziplock bag, 1st aid bandage, 1,5L water bottle, whistle
– No: phone, watch, flashlight, spare cloth, sleeping bag, tarp, tent, mattress, backpack, stove, tenkara fishing rod, spoon, fuel, food…

In seven days we hiked over 85km and only ate some fish (not every day), some berries (which are energy-input-output-stupid) and 2 mushrooms.

In one night the temperatures went below freezing. The rescue blanket we always used as a roof. We build a shelter for three people (spooning) out of two blankets.

I never wore my long underwear, because I wouldn’t take it anyway when hiking in early September in Finland.

After 2 days in the hike I had a frame for my bag, made of natural string and branches. For tea I had a piece of chaga mushroom and for a bog crossing we build some kind of snowshoes.

Ok. This was a survival trip focused on moving. The comfort level was very low but it got me thinking. I do not know how heavy our gear was. But for seven days it was surely light. We were lacking food and comfort when sleeping. But we got to sleep. We slept mostly during the night but also during the day.

After this trip, I looked at upgrading the main things that made this trip ‘‘hard’’.

Evolution:

– a slightly more comfy backpack,  >40L, which had to be light, sturdy and simple
(I chose the Fährmann ‘‘balance’’ and often use the Golite Breeze).
– toothpaste, soap
– better 1st aid kit
– AA-based headlamp
– some cheap cordage
– summer sleeping bag or quilt when hiking alone in summer. Otherwise spooning.
– tarp (rayway cut or 3x3m ‘‘Erätoveri’)’
– short isolation mattress
– when hiking alone: own knife, compass, map
– some food when longer than a few days (chaga tea is great)
– maybe a cup
– maybe poncho instead of rain jacket or rain trousers/chaps in addition to the rain jacket
– maybe a spoon
– Phone?
– Binoculars?
– A book?

The above list would allow almost anyone to go very simple and light while being pretty comfy, specially when hiking in a small group.

Thinking backwards, this is still far away from the hiking skills of our ancestors. With my over 30 years of age, I am still lacking over 14 years of education to ‘‘run’’ a family in the environment that I was born in (near Düsseldorf, Germany).  Replacing gear with knowledge is a big key and taking your time can be another. If you know where to find good natural shelters, you do not need to carry one. If you know about natural foods and medicines, you can carry less food. If you know how to make all the gear that you need from natural materials (this might require the skills of a group), you can once again carry a lot less.

The approach from starting ‘‘stupid light’’ and then slowly going heavier until you reach an acceptable level of comfort is very appealing to me, since I know that I went with less once before and I was okay.

Before finishing this little text, I would just like to explain my motivation of going light. It is not any more the possible distances.

I am motivated by the possibility to go silent. Tiptoeing through thick bush with a light backpack is already exhausting enough. I also like my gear to be in natural colors (camo), a bit more robust and cheap. In practice that means that I do a lot of my own gear and use some surplus-army stuff (which is often surprisingly light).

Best regards,
Huck

PS. Human brain: about 1,5kg (80% water)

The Death of UL and Feeble Assumptions

The big debate in the outdoors blogosphere at the moment seems to be the dying ultralight backpacking. Is it dead? Is it dying? Or not? Here is my rant on the topic…

The latest debate started probably from Andrew Skurka’s “Stupid Light” post . Some interpreted the post as the obituary of ultralight backpacking as the guru himself said that light(est possible) ain’t always right.  In my opinion the post only stated the pretty much common sense point that “lighter is better” mantra isn’t a highway to happiness and better outdoors experiences. Martin Rye fueled the debate on his “Bye bye Backpacking Light” post that was actually more about the BPL than UL backpacking in general but the comments and discussion soon led to people questioning and defending the ultralight backpacking. The next take on the topic came from Dave Chenault (“Ultralight is dead”) who wrote that “Perhaps this is the first and largest hurdle for ultralight backpacking to generalize, demystify, and become merely smart or deliberate backpacking”. And next I’m waiting for UL evangelist Hendrik Morkel to comment this on his blog.

Been there, done that.

It’s worth noting that this isn’t the first debate over the point of UL backpacking. In early 2011 one of the big names of UL scene, Ryan Jordan, wrote about the “Futility of going ultralight for ultalights sake” pointing out the obvious: “Ultralight, simplicity, minimalism – these are not the goals.” And I tend to stick with Ryan here: There is no point in going UL for the sake of going UL. I guess most agree with this. It’s just as pointless as mastering the skill of hiking walking backwards.

Most of the people hiking on the lighter side claim that with lighter kit you will get more out of your outdoor time. This is the core of the major argument in a way or another. With lighter kit you will have more freedom, deeper and closer connection to the nature, aesthetics of simplicity to enjoy and so on. When discussing about gear choices (online) someone usually pops up and tells you that there would be a lighter option for something. And it would naturally be better as it’s lighter. (I’m probably as guilty to this as all the others…)

But guess what? It ain’t so. And it’s simple to prove: If lighter is always better, leave ALL your kit home. Go for a hike naked or with only your clothes on. No burden to carry, totally undisturbed connection to nature and ultimate simplicity. But I bet you won’t make this a habit and start preaching for it as the superior way to experience the outdoors. Or will you? I dare you to give it a try.

The counter argument is of course along the lines of “That’s silly. The point is to have just enough kit to make the experience comfortable and safe and thus better.” If it’s so then it’s a subjective matter and it’s pretty ridiculous to say that someones outdoor experience would be better if he would carry less than 4989,5 g load. How can you tell?

On the other extreme there are the traditional backpackers who say that the weight doesn’t matter and a bit of extra won’t hurt.  The arguments range from extra comfort and security (take doubles) to wider variety of options (take a bomb-proof mountain tent and a tarp, you can have both!) and to claims that a bit of extra weight is only good training for the big future hikes (that rarely tend to happen). Form this point of view heavier kit doesn’t affect your outdoor experience. At least not in a negative way.

And again: It ain’t so. My challenge here would be to replace all you tent stakes (assuming you are carrying some) with 20kg kettlebells. They do really good job anchoring your shelter’s guylines. (I’ve tried that. Don’t ask.) The function is same but I bet your outdoors experience will be different and probably a bit worse than without the 200+ kg of cast iron on your back…

And from here we get back to kit being needed to function in a certain way but not getting on the way of our experience. And that is hell of a subjective matter!

Not UL but does it really matter?

As a disclaimer I have to say that I have never done a true UL trip so maybe I just haven’t understood the point of carrying UL kit. I have used and do use some UL gear and techniques but I try to have a relaxed and somehow rational approach on kit. Gear matters hell of a lot, but only when we are on the very edge of our capabilities. That edge is where the modern UL was born and has been mostly developing: thru hiking serious distances in short time, adventure racing through hell of a terrain, climbing seriously difficult routes and so on. But to be honest, how many of us push our limits to point were kit is decisive factor? Some do it but many don’t. Maybe we should. I’m quite comfortable claiming that in most cases it doesn’t really matter if your kit is a kilo heavier than it now is or could be. Most likely you will still enjoy your outdoor experience about just as much.

From my point of view ultralight backpacking and other styles are tools and means to do things – not goals, religions or numbers. You want to do something and to get it done you need proper skills and tools. The important thing is to have something that you want and like to do – and pursue it.

A skiing trip back in time

Just a short post from a short skiing trip. A skiing trip back in time. And a lot of nostalgia. Well, nostalgia from a 26-year-old if such thing is possible.

I have learned that I have to write when I have the inspiration to do so, so here we go…

The weather on Saturday was awesome with clear blue skies, sun shine, no wind and warm temperature. Unfortunately I had to be indoors sitting in a meeting but at some point all meetings end and I managed to get out skiing with the Altai Hoks before sunset. I took a short drive to a field side, donned the skis and headed to a little swamp on the other side of the field. The sun was about to set but there was still plenty of light.

The days are already pretty long...

The swamp looked and felt a lot smaller than many years ago and the ditches were freshly re-dugged and forest had crown on the previously open areas. But the surroundings were still very familiar.

A super highway across the swamp.

On that very swamp I had gotten really lost for the first time in my life. I guess I was 6 or 7 back then. I was exploring the little swamp with the pockets of my cotton camouflage jacket full of lingonberries. I took a spin and walked full 180 degrees to a wrong direction, came to a road and started walking – again to the wrong direction. There were no cellphones that time so I think I walked some 4-5 km stopping to ask advice from a house on the way before my father came driving down the dirt road looking for me. At that point I actually knew which way the home was but it would’ve been nearly 10 kilometers of walking back home. A long walk for a little kid.

Since then I’ve spent numerous days skiing and walking on that little swamp and probably walked or skied along the field side for hundreds of times. Sometimes hunting with my father, sometimes looking for moose or deer and most often going for a trip with my friends.

Passing woodpecker's dining room on the way across the swamp.

Skiing across the swamp didn’t take too long while following the wide ditches and soon I came back to the field. A right hand turn and a few minutes of skiing would have taken me back to my car but instead I took a left hand turn. A little bit of skiing and soon I saw it: a little cabin on the field side next to a little stream. I skied across the field, crossed the little stream and I was soon at the cabin door. On the field there were some fresh fox baits for sit-and-wait hunt accompanied with a lot of fox tracks but the cabin was just like I remembered it.

The little cabin.

In that very cabin I had spent my first night in the woods with friends (no parents involved). That was at the end of 1997 and I was 11½-year old. Since the first over-nighter me and few of my good friends spend probably dozens of nights in that little cabin. Biking, walking or skiing there to escape the little mundane responsibilities like school and homework, to observe the surrounding nature, to have good time and to grow.

I opened the door and stepped in. The furnishing had changed a little to serve better the sit-and-wait hunting but there was still the same rusty stove, the same holes in the corners, the same soot-blackened pot and kettle and the same guest book.

From my second over-nighter in the cabin.

I sat down, lit my torch and opened the book. My mind was overflown with good memories from the past. A lot of good memories. A lot of nostalgia. Dozens of entries by me from short visits or over-night trips with friends. Some entries by my old friends, some entries from the times when we crammed 10 people into the three-people cabin…

My last entry was from year 2006 when I had given a ride to a friend (Whose leg had been operated and who was still walking with sticks!) who wanted to spend a night there. The last time I had spent a night there was in winter 2005. I thought I had stopped going there a few years before I went to army but apparently I hadn’t. I had spent several nights there every year between 1997 and 2005. The foundations of my outdoorsy lifestyle were built there: in and around that little cabin. Following the stream, walking the surrounding woods and skiing on the little swamp. The dozens of nights and daytrips gave experience and self-confidence that have led me here.

I owe a lot to that little cabin and to my old friends. I should pay the cabin another visit, this time with some food and a sleeping bag.

The familiar field side...

After little searching I found a pencil and wrote few lines to the guest book as there were no entries since 2006. When I left it was already getting dark and Vega and Deneb were twinkling on the deep blue sky. The same stars had been there for ages watching me coming and going and growing. I felt sad. Sad in a happy bittersweet way. It was an exceptionally good skiing trip.

Deneb and Vega. (Or Jupiter and Venus?)