An unexpected reunion
Stefan Mobark from Malmö started hiking as a child and spent much of his time in the outdoors with the Swedish scouts. Thirty years later, he was in for an unexpected reunion at the organisation’s yard sale.
Like Stefan, Fjällräven founder Åke Nordin had deep love for the outdoors as a child, and it was in nature that his head teemed with ideas. One such idea came while he prepared for a fishing trip at 14 years old. He became frustrated about his backpack feeling uncomfortable and heavy no matter how he packed it. Then and there – using his mother’s sewing machine and father’s toolbox – he built his first backpack with a pressure-relieving wooden frame. Ten years later, he founded Fjällräven. Unsurprisingly the first product launched by the company was a frame backpack.
Fast-forward six decades, and you’ll find people like Stefan who continue to appreciate Åke’s invention. In fact, Stefan has only ever used frame backpacks. He appreciates that they have plenty of pockets (four big ones and another on the lid), so he doesn’t need many packing bags. He also likes that it’s easy to keep track of his gear.
“You don’t have to open the big compartment that often!”
Stefan joined the Swedish scouts (now the Guides and Scouts of Sweden) as a cub. Soon he became a scout and eventually a scout leader. The hefty equipment and steep hills of their adventures never deterred him. On the contrary, Stefan has always loved being out on the trail. Later, he completed three Fjällräven Classics: two in Sweden and one in Denmark. He is also looking forward to doing the one in Germany soon.
“I like the simplicity of it,” says Stefan. “You register and set up your travel plans to get there. The rest is taken care of. Best of all, the trek is a sure thing! If you want to organise a trek on your own with others, it’s always hard to find a time that suits everyone. It’s nice to meet new people when I’m out in nature. Though there are times during the trek when I am on my own, which is also nice.”
I met a man carrying the same backpack, but he had to cut his trek short because of an injury. When the helicopter pilot saw him, he exclaimed, ‘Oh, no! A frame backpack, the devil’s invention!’ Apparently, they are cumbersome to fit into a helicopter. Let’s just say since then I always aim to complete my treks.
In terms of getting prepared for treks like Fjällräven Classic, Stefan depends on his tried-and-true Fjällräven trekking backpack, which he got about 14 years ago at a yard sale for the Guides and Scouts of Sweden in the Skanian village of Åkarp. When he unpacked it at home, he made a startling discovery: a keychain on one of the zippers and the old sleeping bag case inside were both familiar.
Stefan smiles as he recalls the memory. “I was convinced it was my former scout leader Magnus’ backpack. Of course, I told him about it and wondered why he had willingly given away such a rarity. He informed me that he was travelling around India and such a frame backpack was unsuitable. So, he gave it to the yard sale for a good cause.”
Until Stefan, Magnus was the first and only owner of the backpack. He had it since 1980.
“Magnus lent it to a fellow scout once,” remembers Stefan. “It had been awkwardly packed, so they dropped it down a stone ravine in Skäralid. That could’ve been the end for the backpack, but miraculously it survived the fall.”
When Stefan took part in his first Fjällräven Classic Sweden in 2015, he used Magnus’ backpack. Unlike the unlucky scout, he treated it like a jewel. And he wasn’t the only one: “I met a man carrying the same backpack, but he had to cut his trek short because of an injury. When the helicopter pilot saw him, he exclaimed, ‘Oh, no! A frame backpack, the devil’s invention!’ Apparently, they are cumbersome to fit into a helicopter. Let’s just say since then I always aim to complete my treks.”
To this day, Stefan’s hiking backpack gets plenty of admiring looks and compliments on the trail. Just like the rest of his gear, which he has had for many years as well. That’s just fine for Stefan though. He has no interest in switching something that still works. As he says, “It feels good having a 43-year-old backpack full of memories. It’s got plenty of use by both Magnus and I over the years.”
As Stefan pats his frame backpack with one hand and grabs a mug of coffee with the other, he contemplates that he and his backpack have nothing left to prove:
“I don’t have to climb the tallest peaks or trek miles and miles every day. I just want to enjoy myself, enjoy nature, sit by a fire and meet other hikers. During a Fjällräven Classic Sweden, I spent five nights in my tent on the mountain. Even though the route can be done faster, I didn’t want to stress. It’s not the act of trekking I enjoy most. It’s the pauses.”