We’re hiking on the Northern Kungsleden again

Long time no see. It’s been a while since we’ve written something related to travelling or hiking. After coming back from two years of travelling we slowly adapted back to life, started studying again and got domestic. Apart from shorter multi-day-hikes we didn’t do much of hiking. This was due to less free time and the circumstance that hiking in Switzerland is rather expensive if you stay in alpine huts (mostly above 2’000m ASL) or campgrounds. Wild camping is also prohibited in most areas, although it’s less of a problem as long as you stay above treeline (with less people up there who care, but worse conditions in bad weather).

And Philippe also had and still has problems with his left knee (especially the bursa).

Summer plans: Kungsleden

Now, school’s out for summer (but not forever 😉) and we took three weeks off. Because we love hiking and sleeping in a tent (most of the time), we decided to hike in the wild camping paradise (Allemansrätten) also known as Scandinavia. Three years ago (already?!) we hiked the most popular part of the Kungsleden from Abisko to Nikkaluokta (105km) together with a friend (Here some pictures). The weight of our backpacks was over 20kg and the walking was horrible at times with blisters and inflamed pressure marks. But we survived and since then have always had the plan to walk someday the whole 440km from North to South, from Abisko to Hemavan. The landscape fascinated us immediately. The birch forests, the barren fjäll and the thousands upon thousands of streams and lakes. A place to return to, that’s for sure. And not to forget: most of the huts (fjällstations and fjällstugor) have a sauna. After a long day there is nothing more relaxing and soothing than a hot sauna and a jump in an ice cold river.

The time available to us is restricted and so we’ve planned to hike the Kungsleden in 19 days (excluding two extra days). That makes around 23km per day without detours. Not much, if we were in as good a shape as we were at the end of the Te Araroa. But unsurprisingly, we are not. Therefore the minimum mileage of 23km is just fine. And my knee will be thankful for the medium elevation gain and loss throughout the whole trail. On average it is 425m ↑ and 388m ↓per day.

How does our trip planning actually look like?

  1. Section: Abisko – Vakkotavare (114km)  ↑1405m, ↓1340m
  2. Section: Saltoluokta – Kvikkjokk (76km)  ↑1050m, ↓1100m
  3. Section: Kvikkjokk – Jäkkvik (77km)  ↑2230m, ↓1970m
  4. Section: Jäkkvik – Ammarnäs (87km)  ↑1740m, ↓1670m
  5. Section: Ammarnäs – Hemavan (81km)  ↑1640m, ↓1290m

We’ve planned our daily routes from hut to hut. There is only one stretch where camping is the only possibility. We’re planning to stay in our tent anyway but might camp near huts if we want to enjoy a pit toilet, a sauna or a sheltered kitchen (9.50 – 13 $). After each 5 days of hiking we also consider to stay in a real bed at a fjällstation.

Gear on the Kungsleden

Due to the harsher conditions in the far North we had to alter our gear list a bit. Our base weight now lies between 7 and 7,5 kg. That’s even a bit lighter than on the TA. The biggest changes are:

  • Zpacks Triplex: a dream came true and a lot of money went away with it
  • Cumulus Quilt 450 for Philippe: a Quilt from the same brand we had sleeping bags from on the TA. Hopefully, it’s going to be warm enough for the colder nights.
  • Arcteryx rain jackets (Beta SL Hybrid (P) and Zeta AR (N)):  Heavier but more suitable for the weather conditions. Our Marmot Essence jackets wouldn’t stand a chance. It’s a quite expensive brand but we managed to find some heavily discounted jackets online. As a result, Nadine will walk around in “passion pink” this season.
  • Garmin InReach Explorer+: We had a SPOT Gen3 on the TA. A wonderful, light GPS-Satellite messenger for sending SOS emergency signals and to track our route. We made a last-minute decision and bought an InReach Explorer+ from Garmin (formerly DeLorme). It’s a very, very expensive piece of gear with more fancy abilities than the SPOT. Two-way communication, GPS maps, barometer, altimeter, weather forecast etc. Unfortunately it’s two times Havier than the SPOT Gen3. But you can purchase monthly service plans (starting  from 20$) instead of one annual plan with SPOT (175$). After 4 years we should have amortised the costs.
  • Other smaller changes are new Zipp-off pants because of the versatility and a new DIY project: A pillow-case filled with 50g of 700cuin down which adds comfort to the lightweight air pillow we already have got.

Apart from that, our list is the same as on the TA. We’ll publish the list some time later and maybe write some reviews about the new gear, too.

Food on the Kungsleden

Because we are vegetarians (if we can allow us this luxury) and Philippe is also lactose intolerant, food can be a challenge on a hike. That’s why we invested some time in planning and packing some food for the trail.

In total we packed food for 10 days and supplementary food (dried veggies, dried cheese, lactose-free soups etc.) for another 10 days. Firstly, we carry food for 5 days plus the supplementary food for the following 5 days. Then we hopefully receive a food parcel at the fjällstation in Kvikkjokk with the same stuff we prepared for the first days previously. We send the parcel from Stockholm. For the other 10 days we don’t carry the basic foods like noodles, couscous, oatmeal, bars or nuts and buy it from the fjällstations or small shops in the few settlements we’ll pass. The prices are obviously much higher because they bring the food only in winter time with a snowmobile. By taking the food with us or sending it we can save some money but mostly it’s because of convenience. You could easily resupply on the whole trail without carrying more than two or three days’ worth of food.

Our calculated weight for 5 days of food is less than 4kg. We did a big list of all the food we bought or made (mostly dried) and even did the calorie calculations. At some point we’ll post this information, too. As well as the resupply possibilities.

Getting there

Actually, we wanted to travel by public transport only but we don’t have the luxury of travelling slowly anymore. So we fly to Stockholm but take the night train (18 hours) from there to Abisko, instead of catching another flight to Kiruna. You may think that’s hypocritical and another case for a green conscience. In a way it is. But at least we minimize the cost for our environment. And we even pay more for it this way. Flying is too cheap.
At the end of the trail in Hemavan we take a public bus (flying would be possible :-p) which takes us to Umea. The ride takes 5,5 hours. There are 75 bus stops en route. Every 4 minutes! From Umea we take the train to Arlanda airport, where we stay overnight and sleep at the gate. At this point we should be accustomed to sleeping on an inflatable sleeping pad.

Here on the blog…

… won’t happen much while we’re hiking. We write detailed trail journals while hiking but only post them after we’re back. But if we have access to Wifi (maybe every 5 days?) we’ll post a picture per hiking day with some thoughts on facebook and Instagram like we did on the TA.

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