Sarek was the longest and most challenging hiking trip I set up so far. Ever since we got the hike inside our heads last summer, Matthias and I thought hard about how we could best prepare for the long and intense trip we signed up for. We needed to improve our gear and our navigation tools before heading out. I always find it very useful when people share their preparations, so I’ll be summing up the most important gear and food improvements we made before the trip.
One of our most important improvements was the purchase of some good, merino woollen socks and extra shoe soles to give our feet some comfort. Because of their price I had never invested in merino socks before, but they were more than worth every crown and kept their promise of being ‘the most comfortable socks you’ll ever wear’. We were a fan of the Icebreaker outer socks with anatomical support and the Smartwool liners. The Teko liners were less comfortable and breathable than their Smartwool counterparts.
We prepared for rivers crossings with dry bags and water shoes. I took a pair of firm sandals, Matthias brought some paddling shoes to do the trick. Our hiking shoes kept dry (from the rivers, at least) and we had good support on slippery and sometimes sharp rocks in the rivers. Also take sticks, or find one on your way, to give you some extra stability and support while crossing. Every aid can help!
We bought dry bags for two main reasons: to protect our electronics, sleeping bag and spare clothes from rain showers, and to protect the same items in case we would fall in a river while crossing. We opted for the Sea To Summit Ultrasil sacks. Their weight is about half that of a standard lightweight drybag, and they have proven their quality. I got swept away by one of the final big rivers we needed to cross and got dragged down a couple of meters before Matthias pulled me out. The lower half of my backpack, containing my sleeping bag and dry clothes, fell into the river. Thanks to the dry bags, I was able to change into a pair of warm and dry clothes after the fall and had a dry sleeping bag in the evening. I highly recommend to take them if you’re planning on a long hike in Sarek.
In between, two more tips for river crossings: don’t fasten the hip belt of the backpack. In case you fall in, you can pull it in front of you and use it as a raft. Also put a raincover on, it stops a lot of water from getting in if something goes wrong.
And always take a compass. After two days Matthias realized that he forgot to pack the extra batteries for the GPS, but with map and compass we had enough navigation tools for the road. Just too bad that we can’t print out our route after the hike.
During our test hike in Skuleskogen we realized that we needed to improve our calory intake per day to keep energized while crossing the park. We improved breakfast by switching from porridge to musli, which we soaked overnight and ate with milk powder and honey or jam in the morning. For snack breaks we took musli bars, dried fruits, chocolate raisins, nuts and snickers which we rationed in portions per day of about 50 grams. In Skuleskogen we had soup and knäcke for lunch, but changed this into dried hummus, dried bean paste, tube cheese (not sure how to explain this! I’ve only ever seen it in Sweden, it’s basically just cream cheese in a tube. Excellent for hiking) and some dried sausage. In this way we had some variation in our food and kept it energy-rich. We also had two instant noodle portions and a soup as an extra for hard days. In the evenings we ate a selection out of the Real Turmat assortiment, which came out as the clear winner of frozen-dried food after we tested some brands.
Unlike last year on Kungsleden, I was not that hungry that I was ready to catch and eat a raindeer whenever we passed one. Still room for improvement, but for this hike we did quite a good job for both food and gear.