Fjällräven Classic was in its third year here in the United States and I made it my mission to attend during my first year with Fjällräven North America. I had never done a backpacking trip before but being born and raised in Colorado, I had done plenty of hiking and camping. Combining the two sounded like it would be such a great experience, as well as a challenge.

Aundrea Dawkins by HB Mertz @hbmertz

My physical preparation was minimal. I get outside every weekend but, on average, I only walk or hike about 5 miles (8km) in a short period of time. In the two months leading up to Classic, I got in some squats and lunges to build some leg strength. This did help immensely with the incline on Day 2 of Classic.

As I pieced together the gear that I thought I needed, I kept in mind: lightweight, lightweight, lightweight. The basics: lightweight tent (Abisko View 2), technical backpack (Kajka 55L), trekking poles, trekking pants (Abisko Trekking Tights) and a small stove (Primus Primetech).

Day 1: Excitement and Anticipation
I was completely packed and had even taken a few items out of my pack that I didn’t feel were necessary. Looking back, there were a few other things I could have left behind but this was all a learning experience for me. Day 1 food, additional snacks and a water filter were all given to participants at check-in. Even in the very early hours, everyone had a grin on their face.

Off we went!

Around mile three (5km), I could feel a few hot spots starting to arise on my feet. I stopped to tape those spots and rearrange my socks a little to keep them from becoming a larger issue. Blisters were already a foregone conclusion for me but the fresh air and beautiful views served as the perfect distraction.

Hiking is one of the most popular activities in Colorado, and for good reason. Colorado is home to some of the most diverse trails in the country. From alpine lakes, waterfalls, forests and abundant wildflowers, you’re sure to have some spectacular experiences. Classic USA on the Colorado Trail was no exception. There was a live guitarist at one of the checkpoints, about a mile outside of camp; they even had popsicles!

Day 1 was a simple 9.5 mile (15km) trek, mostly through shaded forest with very little elevation gain or loss. After making it to camp, I was tired but also felt really good about the day. A quick dip in the nearby river and some lunch revived my energy. And the campsite was gorgeous: imagine a small lake with rolling mountains as its backdrop.

Great friends, live music and good brews.

Day 1 lesson: Make sure your shoes fit perfectly before going on a 30 mile trip.

Day 2: Onwards and Upwards 
I knew that Day 2 would be the hardest of the trip. With almost 14 miles (22km) and 3,000 feet (915m) of elevation gain. I packed up, got an early start and headed out on my own. I’m a relatively slow hiker and I didn’t want to slow anyone down, but I eventually caught up with a group that was going at a similar pace.

I have heard others says that it’s the people you meet that’s the best part of Classic. Until I experienced this for myself, I couldn’t have understood it. But it’s so true. One of the groups that I met on the trail included a man from the UK and a woman from Dallas, Texas. They had just met as well and we all shared our profound love of the outdoors. They gave me some backpacking tips and I shared some of my trail snacks.

The positivity radiated from everyone on the trail and spread from one hiker to the next. Even though some, including me, were struggling, there wasn’t one person who didn’t look like they weren’t having fun.

Making it to the top of Kokomo Pass was such an accomplishment for me personally. We had started the day at about 9,000 feet and Kokomo Pass sits right at 12,022 feet (3,665m). It was such a climb and I was pretty sore, but making it to the top was worth it all.

Bedtime came early on Day 2 for most. But we all stayed up to watch the sunset. What a sight to behold! The camp sat on a lush hillside, partly wooded and the sun set perfectly on the Rocky Mountains.

Day 2 lesson: If there’s one thing I learned during Day 2, it is to Hike Your Own Hike. Take your time, take breaks when needed and check in with yourself often.

Day 3: Let the Celebrations Begin
The last day included a fun trek of just 5.5 miles (9km) downhill to Copper Mountain. I wanted to see all the celebrations at the finish line so I was one of the first out of camp that morning. I found a new group of people to hike with and we finished together.

The feeling of finishing 30 miles (48km) of hiking is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. The Finisher’s Party on Copper Mountain brought together all of the friends I’d made on the trail. We talked about our experiences, made some more memories and generally had a great time.

Classic is about sharing your love of the outdoors. I was so inspired by nature and the people I’d met along the way.

Would I change anything? Not really, but I did learn a few things:

  • Training is vital, especially when carrying a heavy pack over long distances
  • Good shoes may be the most important item in your kit

Would I do Classic again? Absolutely! Fjällräven Classic Sweden and Classic USA 2019, here I come.

I challenge you to get out into nature. Whether it’s for three days or one, the benefits are unmatched.

Aundrea Dawkins is our Social Marketing Coordinator for Fjällräven North America.