WHERE: Vättlefjäll – Västra Götaland, Sweden.
WHEN: October, 2015
WHO: Karma, Marius & Helena
OBJECTIVE: Disconnect from everything and recharge plus test out some new gear.
DISTANCE: The amount of miles hiked – secondary.
We have enjoyed a wonderfully mild and sunny fall this year and I really want to get as much outdoor time as possible while it lasts. So since this past weekend was going to be exceptionally nice, a couple of friends and I decided to make a run for it and spend the weekend outdoors.
We packed up our camping equipment and some fun new gear we wanted to try out and then set off to go hiking the beautiful nature reserve of Vättlefjäll. It is only a few minutes drive north of Gothenburg and I have known of this place, but never actually been up there. It is almost too close to home, you don’t expect it to be as amazing as it really is so you tend to go elsewhere. But in reality it is a whole different world up there and well worth a visit! You feel like you are in the mountains much further up north. Well, perhaps that is to be expected since it is actually called Vättlefjäll. A “fjäll” (fell) is an old Norse word for “mountain” and describes a high and barren landscape, like a mountain range or moor-covered hills, more associated with the scenery further up north in Sweden. Kind of unreal to find that kind of beauty down here.
After somehow missing an early turnoff on the main trail we had planned to hike, we decided to just make our own way connecting the extensive network of trails in the area as we went along. This proved to be a good move. We hardly saw any people at all. We enjoyed walking in the cool, crisp autumn sunshine, sometimes chatting, sometimes in silence just taking it all in. I don’t think I have ever seen so many lakes in one place, and all of them quiet like a mirror reflecting the surrounding forest. The trees have just begun to change color making for some really nice contrasts too. The collective words to sum up the weekend were mmmmm and ohhh wow… It is hard to put words on how beautiful it was, and I am sad to say, photos does not quite make it justice either.
There must have been a fairly extensive forest fire up here in recent years leaving large open areas with only a few lone ghostly looking trees behind. The vegetation had started to make a comeback though and we were kind of surprised to see a lot of tall grass. It seemed a bit off, but apparently it is part of the first wave after a fire, then after that the more commonly seen plants and finally trees take over. It added a really nice splash of orange fall color to the landscape though. We saw some really nice wildlife too, lots of beautiful birds, frogs, caterpillars, a gorgeous dear and a young snake (Vipera berus).
We found an incredible spot to make camp for the night on a flat rock peninsula on a small lake called Mettjärn. We saw the spot and immediately fell in love with it, but feeling a bit greedy we still hiked a full loop around the lake to make sure this really was the spot before stopping… well, it was. Back around we set up camp and made a nice warm dinner. We also lit a fire to keep us warm and cozy after the sun dipped below the treeline and we were reminded how late in season it really was. Temperatures dropped pretty close to freezing that night, but we slept snug in our tents. Granted, I was wearing every stitch of clothing I had with me in order to stay warm, but hey I knew my wilfully underpowered summer sleeping bag was not really up for the task and that it would be a close call. But I still have not decided on which 3-season down bag to invest in, so for this trip I had to use clothes and a merino wool liner to boost the bag I had. Worked fairly well actually. I survived.
Part of the objective for this trip, aside from just getting away from civilisation for a while to recharge the batteries, was to try out some new gear. And the gear I was most eager to try out was my new tent. I had an opportunity to get a Hilleberg Soulo at a good price this summer – and I mean a really good price! Hilleberg tents are kind of legendary, and I can see why, I am really impressed with mine. It is incredibly easy to set up, free standing, all season and very roomy for one person with some gear. It is not the lightest solo tent on the market, but it is a tent made for our Scandinavian climate, so I am cool with that. Especially since apparently I am a cold sleeper nowadays. All bets are off in the body after the burneout, nothing is normal anymore, least of all my sleep. That said, I did stay warm and dry in my tent, and I could easily see myself calling this home on a longer hike. The only thing I did miss was a little more organization options inside. There are two small pockets, only really large enough for the headlamp and the phone, as well as a few loops in the ceiling, but a gear loft would have been a nice touch.
I also wanted to give my new camping stove a proper field test. Which I did. We ate 4 hot meals and countless cups of hot chocolate, coffee, te… and the Primus ETA Express performed flawlessly. Boiling water much faster than my friends older model stove, eliciting a few wishful looks from them. I personally love the small form factor and the piezo ignition. The new efficient heat exchanger on the pot along with the included magnetic windscreen performs as advertised, what’s not to love? And if you did not already know this, there is nothing better than a hot meal after a long day of hiking!
Last but not least of the top three gear trial items, the water filter. I had decided on the Sawyer MINI because I wanted something easy and portable/small that was not involving chemicals. Throughhikers in the US rave about this thing, and it is not hard to see why. It removes 99 (followed by a bunch of nines) % of all bacteria and protozoa, weighs only 56 g (2 oz), and filters up to about 378 000 liters (100,000 gallons) without any filter cartridges to replace. You just have to backflush it now and then. It does not filter out virus however, but should that ever be a concern (rarely in Sweden) I have some cleaning pills in the kit. But like I said, I would prefer no chemicals if possible. The verdict? I love it! Could not be easier to use and the water tastes great! My only gripe is with the ridiculously small dirty water bag that it ships with… not even half a liter (16 oz) made for a lot of trips to the lake in order to fill the 3L Camelback bladder before taking off in the morning. But I knew this already, so I have a couple of 2L Evernew soft bottles on order to remedy the issue. Can’t buy it in Sweden, but I ordered mine online from the UK. Oh… and flow rate is a tad slow, but for one person use it is alright.
All the gear tested passed with flying colors, and we had an incredible weekend in the wilderness. In fact, it felt almost unreal when we approached the car to drive home. I felt like we had been out for a much longer trip. The next morning I almost felt a little hung over, I guess coming down from the endorphin rush. But I suppose this is a good thing, meaning that we really were able to disconnect from everything and recharge. As was our objective in the first place.
ABOUT THE AREA: Vättlefjäll is a 2361 hectare Natura 2000 nature reserve located only 13 km north of central Gothenburg. A high plateau of mixed forest with both sparsely wooded moorlands, open bogs and lakes rich animal and bird life it is a popular recreation area with a number of trails and permanent windbreak shelters. (Source: Wikipedia)