Fjällräven Classic Denmark often flies under the radar a little. It’s smaller, shorter and less ‘wild’ than it’s older brother in northern Sweden. But what it lacks in size it certainly makes up for in personality. “The Danish Classic is a really social event,” says Catrine Høy Hansen, who’s responsible for Fjällräven Classic in Denmark, as well as working with Danish sales and marketing. “Unlike at Classic Sweden, where you can camp anywhere (which is great of course), at the Danish Classic we have designated campsites. So both participants and volunteers see each other a lot during the trek. They come together over campfires and when they eat. I think this is what makes the Danish event so unique.”
The ‘other Scandinavian Classic’ was launched in 2014 with just a couple of hundred Danish participants. This year the number of people packing up their backpacks and heading to the Classic Denmark start line was more than triple that amount. “It’s gone from being a very local Danish event to a truly global one,” says Catrine. “We have people from 20 different countries attending now and everyone is really open to talking about their cultures, their similarities and differences.”
Each Fjällräven Classic has its own unique qualities. And challenges. This year the weather tested the patience of the Classic Denmark participants. 135 people started but did not complete the event, more than twice the usual amount. “We had a lot of rain this year” explains Catrine. “This meant a lot of people dropped out. Not because of the rain itself, but because they chose to push themselves and keep walking without breaks because they didn’t want to spend more time than necessary in the rain. And for some this lead to injury, and problems with their feet in particular. But that’s another thing that’s special about Classic Denmark. It’s easy to just stop.”
At Classic Sweden you’re in the middle of the wilderness. There is no mobile phone reception, no permanent habitation for miles. The only way out is by foot (or a very expensive helicopter ride). But at Classic Denmark you’re never far from public transport or a little village. “I think this is why we get a lot of beginners at Classic Denmark. It’s a great place to test trekking and outdoor life before doing the full Swedish Classic or going out alone.”
And that’s the whole idea with the Classic events; their very reason for being. We want to give people – you – the confidence and knowledge you need to explore the great outdoors on your own. That can be your nearest national park or somewhere in a far-flung, distant land.
Our first Classic event was in Sweden in 2005. When we expanded to Denmark in 2014 we were a little nervous. The landscape is different; you can’t just camp anywhere in Denmark like you can in Sweden and civilisation – homes, buses, shops – are never far away. But all these things have proved appealing.
Of course, there are plenty of similarities shared by all the Fjällräven Classic events too. Notably that they take a monumental effort, from a very small team, to arrange. “I can’t actually say how much time I devote to Classic Denmark,” says Catrine, “but it’s a lot!”
“We have to get camping permits, walking permits, fire permits; arrange food, the Red Cross first aiders, transport; and then there are all the emails asking questions about food allergies, transportation and so on. The past few months have been full on.”
For those of you that haven’t participated in one of our Classic treks, let’s explain the set-up. You carry all your gear – tent, sleeping bag, clothes and snacks – we deal with the rest. So we arrange transport to and from the start and finish; we provide food for the journey; we offer first-aid support; we mark the route and, in Denmark the US and Hong Kong, designate camping areas. And the Fjällräven event team is, well… let’s just say efficient.
But when we asked Catrine if all the work was worth it, she was in no doubt. “When you see people smiling, saying thank you and that they had a great time – even despite the rain – it’s really worth it. I get some time to socialise with the participants during the trek. I want to hear about their experiences and get some feedback for improvements. But mostly people are just really happy and think we’ve done a good job. This makes me really proud.”
And then there are all the volunteers that help us. Without them, Classic wouldn’t be possible. This year there were 45 volunteers at Classic Denmark. They’re divided into two groups; one group stays with Start Group 1, the other with Start Group 2. So the participants and volunteers are together all the way. They register all the participants at the checkpoints and campsites; they guide people to where they should camp; they mark the route, keep up morale and bring up the rear. “People really like our volunteers,” says Catrine. “They’re always smiling and ready to help. That was really important this year with all the rain. Someone might be feeling quite down when they reach camp because they are soaking wet, but a smiling face checking them in instantly makes them feel better.”
Whether you’re an experienced trekker or want to take your first muddy, booted steps on a long-distance trek, you can find out more – and hopefully get some inspiration – on the Fjällräven Classic website.
Text: Sarah Benton