As the weather has been really bad here this weekend we decided to cancel our planned trip. It has been raining non stop for the last 48 hours or so. You could not go out the door without getting wet to the skin. The temperature hovered around 0C, so it was not an ideal time to go outside. We have stayed at home wearing pajamas, playing boardgames, and fired in the furnace. Quite cosy actually. We could have gone on a trip, but I know from experience that nothing kills the love of going out in the forest is being wet even before you have arrived in it. For an adult going out in the rain and bad weather can be a nice change, to see the beauty of nature in all its different aspects. Its not that easy when you’re a kid, its so fun rolling in the snow and jumping in puddles, and when it has been so wet as it has been here the last few days, a day out soon turns wet and cold.Then the kids will not enjoy being outside without the possibility to go inside and get dry. So then we hope for a better opportunity later.
And we did have some fun, since it was mothers day, the boys and I got to bake brownies for breakfast, and with some ice cream, that was a real winner for the boys. Lets hope that the next weekend will give us better weather, it is no problem with -20C, if it is dry we will have a blast.
After a good nights sleep, at least for the kids, we were ready for a new day. About that night, it was forecasted only down to -5C, so the camp boss decided to bring a lighter and thinner sleeping bag to try to keep the weight down on the backpack and sled. Found out the cold way that it was a bad call. It was not dangerous or anything but it was not as comfortable as it could be since the temperature dropped to about -10C and a chilling northern wind. But, its all forgotten after the first cup of coffee, so i`ll probably do the same blunder again in the near future. And the kids had a warm and cosy night in their sleeping bags so I am happy. The day started with making a fire so we could get breakfast and coffee ready before we got out of our sleeping bags. Our breakfast was pre made sandwiches wrapped in aluminum foil that we lay by the fire or on the embers until they are warm and the cheese, as we use on them, have melted. Together with coffee for the adults and warm cocoa for the kids this is the perfect sleeping bag breakfast. After the breakfast was consumed, we started to get dressed. I have learned the kids that it is a good idea to put their outer layer clothes in their sleeping bags during the night. This way, the clothes will dry up and they are warm when you put them on. In the chilling wind, they got a little bit cold before they could get their clothes on, that resulted in some tears and a little bit nagging from the camp boss to keep their bodies in motion by running on the spot or try to heat up by the fire. Nothing worked immediately, but after some negotiations and handing over some chocolate to the cold kids, they did what I told them to do and got warm again. Then they went out exploring the area, they did not get to far tough, the snow is quite deep, so it is hard to move in the terrain. But they got around, found tracks of a woodpecker that had made lots of holes in an old, dead tree looking for larvae and bugs hiding from the cold. The kids did not see any bugs, they told me. I packed my backpack and sled, and looked over the campsite to make sure we did not leave anything behind, from our outdoor gear or garbage and told the kids to get their skis. They put on their skis and started on the way home. I got my backpack on and hooked the sled to my backpack, put on my skis and fell as soon my ski shoes attached to the skis. At this point, the kids were about 100 meters away and I tried to get up from my very uncomfortable position, with skis crossed and my face down in the snow. I tried to cry for help from the kids, they did not hear me or maybe they did not want to hear me. But after some struggling I got my skies off and was able to get up again. The kids were no where in sight so I just had to get my skis on and try to catch up with them. A few minutes later I caught up with them, hearing they discuss were I could be. Fortunately they were happy to see that I was just behind them again. The rest of the way home we skied together, telling jokes and having fun. But again, it might have been a little bit tough trip, but it was also very nice. They were ready for a new trip before we even got home.
When camping outside in the winter you’ll need some essential things. To keep warm you need good garments, but if you start to get cold, you’ll need some external heat source. The best thing is a campfire. To get going with a fire, there are some things that must be ready. First of all you need some tinder, the easy and comfortable way, is to bring some kerosene bricks from the store. And i highly recommend to have some stored in a waterproof container in your backpack, just in case your campfire starter skills should momentarily get lost. I know my run off once in a while. But, if you have the time and opportunity to start your fire the old fashioned way, go for it! It`s a great feeling when your campfire start by using only one matchstick and all natural tinder. So, how do we do that? First of all it is the search for tinder. I prefer to use the outer bark from birch. You pull off the thin, white outer layer, the thinner the better. When I pull it off, I only take a small portion from one tree before I move to the next, so I won’t make irreparable damage to the tree. When you have a good portion of birch bark, about two big handfuls, it should be enough. Then I find thin twigs, these also as thin as possible, the best ones is dead outer twigs from spruce. you’ll need a good portion of this to make enough heat to start with bigger and thicker twigs. It is also possible to use tiles you have carved from a dry bigger log, but i only use that option if the small twigs are to wet or have an ice crust on them. Then you have to find twigs that are bigger to build a base for your campfire. Now for the actual fire. You start with a nice place to place your fire, the best if it is snow on the ground is to dig a hole down to the ground, and make a venting channel in the snow to make some draft for the fire. Then place your birch bark in a heap and light it up. When it catches fire and begin to look healthy start putting on the thin twigs a little bit at a time till you see that the fire won’t go out by it self. Then you can start putting on twigs that are a little bit thicker and wait for those to catch fire before you put on even bigger wood. Now the fire should have a good embers and ready for a night of giving warmth and comfort. I will make a video and put it on here in a later post, as I see it is hard to describe this only with words, and especially since english is not my native language. Hope you got the essence of it at least.
Then the weekend is over for now, and a new week has begun. We had a good trip this weekend, but not without complications. The last couple of days before the weekend started, it came a lot of snow, so they had not made new ski tracks in the forest and the snow had pushed down the ice on the lakes, so the water came on top. That is not good when you are skiing. The water freeze on your skis, and it makes it tough to glide on the skis as we are supposed to do. This took its toll on the kids, and their morale sank some. Because of this we decided to find a camp as soon as we spotted a good place. We found a place by the lake with a nice view and abundant amount of firewood close by. But the ordeal wasn’t quite over, because we had to venture out from the not so fresh tracks with snow in them and into to the really deep snow. That is not so easy when you are 5 years old and have short legs. Even though it was only about 75 meters from the solid snow of the old tracks, this also took its toll. But we made it to the designated campsite, and got their morale up by handing over some chocolate. We started foraging wood after the chocolate was consumed and the morale was good again. We got the campfire going and I made our places to sleep ready. The kids wanted to dive right into their sleeping bags and eat their dinner there. We had a classic on our trips, hotdogs. They sat in their bags and grilled them on sticks over the fire, having a great time telling stories and laughing. After dinner even the camp boss, jumped into his sleeping bag, and we told stories and fairytales while eating our saturday candy till we fell asleep.
As a family, we love to use nature as a playground. There are unlimited things to do and see, so even if we live for hundreds of years there will still be things to explore. Unless we destroy before that. What is better than to wake up by the early morning rays of the sun through the trees or the smell of the morning mist over the lake. We have to take care of the nature around us. We try to do our share in our community by recycling and not to throw garbage in nature. We also pick up garbage we find on our trips, it should not be our responsibility, but if we do it, maybe others will follow and hopefully, people will stop throwing things in nature that does not belong there. To clean up after yourself is something we should do in respect, both of nature and for the generations to come after us. I see this as saving our world one small step at a time.If we all do our tiny little share, we can enjoy being in nature for millennia to come. And this leads me to what we do when we are camping in nature. There are only two things we leave at the campsite and the forest when we leave it. That is a “thank you” and nothing.
It`s getting warmer this weekend, so we are planning a weekend on the ice. Our plan this weekend is to camp by a small lake, which is a good place to catch trout. And since the temperature is getting better, we can spend some quality time on the ice, without having to try to keep warm by moving or sitting by the campfire. The kids and I looked over the fishing equipment yesterday, we noticed that some of the fishing line was getting old and snapped to easy, so awe had to change them. We agreed that it would be bad if we lost fish from faulty gear. So according to the boys, now there is no limit how big fish we can catch.They might have a little bit to high hopes about our possible catch. We still have to bring the winter sleeping bags, since it might be down to -7 or so, spring is not here just yet, but we might come closer to it. We have stayed by the same small lake the past weekends, but now we are changing location to one of our favorite summer locations. The boys are still in their start phase of doing cross-country skiing, so it might be a tough trip for them since there is a lot of steep passages. But with enough encouragement, time and chocolate I think we will have a great trip.
Then we have the feet. They are important for a number of reasons, especially walking. And if they get cold, your whole body will feel uncomfortable and after a while you will freeze all over. So, how to dress your feet. First use a thin wool sock, then a thicker wool sock. I only use wool on my feet. Since the feet are crammed in a quite tight place, where moisture have little chance of escaping wool is the number 1 choice since it got the ability to keep warm even if its somewhat wet. So my advice is to leave your cotton and polyester socks at home. Your boots may need some adjustment too. The inner sole of your boot may be great for forming after your foot, but they might not insulate good enough from the cold ground. I buy boots a half or one size bigger than my feet, so i can insert a wool sole inside, approximately 7,5 millimeter thick. They might be possible to buy, but i make my own from an old wool carpet I have had for decades. This is what I use in my hiking and cross-country shoes. This works great for me, i rarely get cold feet, even when it`s down to -25 C. But, there is a but, if you get really wet on your feet, you will get cold. So always have extra socks in your backpack. This is paramount. Here comes a survival tip. Change to dry socks as soon as possible and if your boots are wet, which they probably are if your socks are, have a couple of plastic bags in your backpack, pull them on outside your socks and put on the wet boots. This way your new socks won’t get wet and cold. Wear it till you get the chance to dry your boots.
We are still not finished with clothing, now we go to extremities. They are very important to look after. They get cold the fastest, and when they do, things quickly get harder to do. Its not only the freezing it self that’s bad, its also that you lose feeling in what you do. For example, when your fingers get really cold, simple things like packing your backpack can seem almost impossible. It hurts and you lose your strength. So we start with the mittens. I use a double layer mitten, they usually come with a fleece inner layer and a polyester outer layer. They work fine, but I replace the inner layer with a thicker wool mitten. Call me old fashioned, but I think wool works better if they get a little wet. The outer layer is also good to use with gloves inside. The reason for the double layer is that you can remove the outer layer and have better movement and feeling in the hand for setting up a tent or cooking. I also recommend an outer mitten with an elastic band lanyard, so when you take them off they won’t get lost.
we are also looking forward to spring, even thou its at lest a couple a months away. The time of year when you hear the birds begin chirping again and the sound of water drops all over the forest as the ice melt and start making small streams everywhere. Every spring we go to see “the most beautiful play of the year” when the males try to attract female by showing off and fighting off competition from other males to get to mate with the hens. It can be a spectacular sight, with their loud mating calls and their powerful wings hitting each other during fighting. This spring will be the first time i bring the boys, which will be a challenge, since you have to be quiet and lie quite still, both of these things might be a challenge for the little rascals. Well, its still a couple a months till they start the spectacle, so I will try to get them ready to be completely still for 4 hours straight. Here you can read more about the black grouse
Our family do quite a lot of “near trips”. This is when we just walk out of the door and go to the forest. Since this is something we do often, we don’t plan to much. We have our backpacks packed with the basics, it’s just some extra clothes according to the weather and the kind of food we want that need to be packed. On these near trips, we are at the most 3 km from our front door. Between us and those 3 km it’s literally thousands of campsites. We never need to stay at the same place if we don’t want to. But for some reason we usually end up at the same location at least for a couple of times. I actually like that, you get a feeling of safety and comfort when you know the place you stay. And when you have found a good spot it is for a reason. There might be an abundance of firewood or easy access to water and a nice view, most of the times it’s all of those. But on these shorter trips, it’s just do it. No need to hesitate, walk out the door and find a nice spot. This is also applicable if we drive somewhere and park car. If we walk up to 3 km from the car it’s also a “near trip” .
For the longer trips, we need to do some planning. We have to go over the map to find a route and a area where we can set up camp. We get to assess the are we are going into. On the map we can spot dangers we can encounter, like steep cliffs or areas prone to avalanches in the winter. Other things to think about on longer trips is all the other small stuff you need to bring. Like a spare or repair kit for the tent poles. Or an extra tip for your skies. These are things you seldom need, but they are invaluable when you do need them. I will get more specific on this topic in later posts.
Then we are back home after our trip to the forest. The kids had good speed on their skis on our way home. They might have been pushed by the chilling northern wind we had as company. Even though we had snow and freezing northern winds, we had a very nice trip. We had a great night in our sleeping bags under a shelter to keep the snow away from our faces. That worked very fine, we slept all night and even had a late morning. The campfire gave us warmth and light in the dark last night as we just sat and chatted about life and all that is between. We also tried some ice fishing, but we didn’t have any luck, I guess the fish had. There was a bit to windy to stay to long on the ice, so we hope for better fishing conditions next trip. We also went tracking, tried to find where our neighbouring hare had its day shelter. We tracked it for a while but could not find it. But now we know where not to look the next time. The boys are becoming more and more woodsmen. They start to move around by them self, if they start to get cold. We had to re-heat some feet by the fire, but that is just a good excuse to have another cup of cocoa for the kids.