When we started Fjällräven Classic back in 2005 we didn’t have any idea it would become what it is today. It was by Swedes, for Swedes and encouraged a very Scandinavian way of trekking – being completely self-sufficient and taking out what you take in.
Expanding to Denmark seemed like a rational decision in many ways – the culture wasn’t that dissimilar to Sweden. Yes, there were less mountains and sweeping expanses of open wilderness. But the Scandinavian way of trekking was already ingrained in Danish culture.
Moving to Colorado, where car-accessed campsite are more common, and Hong Kong, where day hikes are the name of the game, posed different challenges. “It was more about education,” says Carl Hård åf Segersted, Fjällräven event manager. “And not just for participants, but our own staff, too.”
But the educational period was short. Participants and staff loved the idea – after the initial hurdle of asking why they should carry so much on their backs. However, expansion into other Asian markets, where trekking and outdoor adventures were still emerging, where Fjällräven – aside from Kånken – was virtually unknown, was a lot more difficult.
But our local teams on the ground, retailers working with developing outdoor life in places like Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines were so inspired by Fjällräven Classic in Sweden that they new, despite all the hard work they’d face, they just had to initiative Classic-style trekking events in their regions.
“There are lots of hiking events here in Asia, but they are mainly package events and usually summit attacks,” explains Paul Khor, Fjällräven distributer for Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia. “There are porters, all equipment is provided, food too. But when I joined Fjällräven Classic Sweden in 2017 I thought, hmm I think it’s time to change our format. I was so inspired by the Swedish event.”
Paul started connecting with all the local hiking and trekking communities in the region. To shift from a package deal that was more about summit bagging to something that was about exploring nature, would require lots of education and a good deal of marketing. He wanted to encourage people to be more independent but to also enjoy long-distance walking in a way that’s accessible to more people. But selling the concept of carrying everything yourself was tough; people just aren’t used to it. “If people in Indonesia pay money they expect everything to be carried for them.”
But he persevered. And the result was a 50km-long trek around the spectacular Mount Bromo, an active volcano in East Java.
The 2018 event was a success with people travelling from the US, Russia, Germany and Sweden as well as neighbouring Asian nations to take part. The designated camp sites were a major hit, as was the local food. “People really came together. There was so much respect and friendliness and that was so nice,” says Paul. And this camaraderie really developed throughout the trek, with people forming new friendships and connections.
So this year, they are returning to Mount Bromo for round two. “We’ve changed the route a bit,” says Paul. “This is after feedback from last year’s trekkers. We’ve made it a bit easier, cheaper and the route is even more beautiful. The scenery is ever-changing. You start off on easier terrain and build up to the steep parts and you don’t see Bromo from the beginning. It suddenly appears – ta-da – from nowhere and it’s really amazing to see it like this,” says Paul. “There are fields, savannahs and mountains. It’s truly diverse.”
This year Paul has really tried to focus on the story behind the event, Fjällräven and of the Swedish way of trekking. He also wants to reach a younger market – a market more familiar with Kånken. And he wants more Indonesians to take part, to experience this type of trekking and to enjoy a well-known tourist site in a new way. You can actually just drive up to a viewing area and see Mount Bromo, which made people wonder why you’d want to hike there, let alone trek with a backpack full of gear. “This year we haven’t used a picture of the volcano in the marketing material. We’ve focused on the beautiful trail, savannah and villages instead – these are what make the event so unique anyway.”
The future plan is to continue with the Indonesia Discovery event, but to also work with smaller events to ease people into this way of trekking. To combine the usual way of trekking in Asia – with porters, guides and lots of provisions – into the more Scandinavian-style independent trekking. “We believe that if people can start trekking more, they will want to try this new way of trekking,” says Paul. “So we want to take them on this journey and do it with Fjällräven.”
Text: Sarah Benton