I went for a weekend to Östergötland for some March camping with some Czech, German and Russian friends. I knew it would be a wet weekend but I'm from the land of infinite pissing rain so going out in the soaking swedish Spring is a bit like going for a quick trip back to Ireland, except without the cost and without having to deal with Ryanair. The rare days in Sweden where we do get a proper downpour I usually go out for a long walk because it cures any nostalgia I might have for home.
The destination was a cave we found on sovplats.se, which was in the vicinity of a sauna in the middle of a small national park. Typically Swedish to have a sauna in the middle of nowhere, supplied with ample dry wood, matches, tinder and candles, paid for by the state for the use of anyone lucky enough to walk by.
We got it up to 104 ˚C on the second day :)
Walking through the woods at this time of the year is an exciting experience. High up in the hills the snow is still drifted into high, relatively dry piles.
Then all along the slopes down to the lakes it's only a few decimetres thick, half the time it could take our weight, half the time we dropped through the crust. Underneath every few dozen steps was a surprise stream to dip your feet into.
And all along the lake shores the unsuspecting wanderer often as not ends up knee deep in a slushy, wet marsh, covered in a thin layer of deceptively dry looking snow.
The Czechs and Russian had light gore-tex trail-runners that got soaked in minutes. It's terrible to get wet feet so early in a trip, it's impossible to get them dry or warm afterwards. Eva the Deustcher had some Haglöfs solid lite and I had a pair of Meindl Dovre, so we managed to keep dry feet the whole trip. I've sent a link to these gore-tex liner socks that Henrik from Hiking in Finland recommended to the wet-feet-crew. I was really satisfied with the Meindl’s, I was usually walking in front and went in well over my knee in slushy water a couple of times, but no water got into the boots and my toes stayed dry’n’toasty all weekend. Fucking heavy though!
By the time we got to the cave the dusk was well on it’s way to being over. The cave had been recently used for shelter, there were relatively fresh wet boughs on the wet cave floor and a load of wet firewood under a wet tarpaulin, along with an wet axe and wet saw. It was WET. A new kind of limited edition, once in a lifetime, premium quality all inclusive wet. It rained constantly, varying between all out downpour and a gentle misty drizzle that got everywhere. The cliff on top of the cave was covered in around 30 cm of wet snow, which poured down the sides of the cave, poured from the cave roof and dripped from the large overhanging rock outside the cave entrance. This was a wet weekend.
The outer parts of the cave was so flooded with water there was a little stream running down the entrance of the cave.
The inner sanctum, around 3 by 3 metres of soaking wet mud, covered in a few tree branches. The ceiling was a comfortable 2 metres high. Did I mention the ceiling was dripping with snowmelt?
Despite the wet wood with the axe and a morakniv we got some kindling and got a fire going. It took an hour or so to nurse it from a smoking wet pile of shite into a decent fire, but it was well worth it. We got cracking on some food, and once again the massive trangia ‘billy’ turned out to be the star of the show. It’s huge and heavy (530 gr), but when there are 5 hungry people to feed there’s not many alternatives. When there’s more than 3 people I find most cooking sessions turn into a juggling session, as everyone swaps ingredients in and out of a few tiny pots trying to synchronise the cooking. With a big pot it’s dead easy to chuck a ton of food in and make a nice stew out of it.
Finding fresh water to drink was never a problem, the edge of lake-ice was already starting to collect water in places, and even clearer and more accessible were the dozens of meltwater streams that broke through the snow every few dozen metres. It was ridiculously clear and cold, very refreshing stuff.
Although the cave was inviting, I was very wary of sleeping in the middle of a group, could it be possible that there were no snorers here? I very much doubted it, and decided to take my chances with the rain and the bears and wild pigs.
I had a Haglöfs sleepingbag cover which probably wasn’t going to keep out that much rain, and a light tarp. I got curious about this sleeping bag cover though, it’s supposed to have some DWR treatment, and the bottom seemed watertight enough… So in the end I put the tarp across my face and torso and left the lower half of the bag exposed.
It did rain pretty heavily during the night, but I didn’t regret sleeping outside. I was maybe 10 metres from the people sleeping in the cave including 1 metre of solid stone, but even then I could hear some prime central and Eastern European snore technique. It was loud enough that I spent a fair amount of time debating wether it was worth getting out of my snug bed to find the ear-plugs I have in my first aid kit, but eventually dropped off without them. The cover was soaked through, but very little water had made it through to the bag. Rain had been beading up and rolling off the cover at first, but in the morning it had been overwhelmed. The sleeping bag was damp to touch, but was still fully lofted and very very very very very cozy. If it wasn’t for the limited capacities of bladders I don’t think I would have made it out of that bag. It's also nice to see that even when all the merino/synthetic gear gets soaked it still warms very well.
I had really whittled down my first-aid kit a lot before this trip (how many eye-patches does a first-aid kit need anyway? Did I really want to have 4 different kinds of anti-diarrhea medicine with me?) This was good but not good enough because it took me forever to dig through it and find a simple goddamn bandage in there for a pretty deep cut Diana got on her thumb. I should get more comfortable with what’s in the kit and where.