Sofia Johansson: Mountain Queen
Ahead of her solo trek of the Fjällräven Classic Sweden, Sofia Johansson shares her motivation, as well as her insights and tips for trekking.
Office or nature? Freedom or creature comforts? Summer camping or ski touring? Solo or group treks? What if you didn’t have to choose one or the other?
If you are anything like Sofia, you would do them all. It is the contrast in life that drives her passion for the outdoors, and her commitment has earned her the title of “Fjälldrottning”. Or, “Mountain Queen”. We cannot think of anyone better to take on the Fjällräven Classic Sweden as a solo trek in 2020.
“In Sweden you have to chase the rivers, because the good water is deep in nature. In that way I explored more. That triggered good feelings about the outdoors.” As the first, and original Fjällräven Classic event, the Sweden trek is an ambitious undertaking. Luckily Sofia has plenty of experience to pull from. As is customary for many Swedes, her passion for the outdoors started early. At age nine or ten, Sofia’s neighbour Louise invited her to take part in a canoeing camp for beginners. Looking up to Louise, Sofia quickly immersed herself in the activity. As well as other outdoor pursuits like rafting and running. Though focussed on sport, the stunning nature of Sweden made a big impression.
Where it all started
At 19, Sofia did her first solo trek of the Abisko region, which is where a large portion of the Fjällräven Classic Sweden takes place. It was a transformational experience.
“It was an eye opener that I could just spend time in nature. I had been using it for canoeing and running, but I hadn’t explored simply to enjoy. That was a big change.”
Sofia’s passion reached new peaks in 2015. Having climbed seven mountains in Norway, she was awarded “Adventure of The Year” in Sweden and achieved the title of “Fjälldrottning”. She also launched her blog Fjälldrottningen and has been living life outdoors as much as possible ever since.
“I love the feeling of being somewhere with no signal. I’m totally dependent on my own skills and abilities. You put your phone aside and it will stay there. That’s my own time and it’s a good feeling that no one can reach me.” With years of accumulated knowledge and skills, Sofia now tests and reviews gear for a variety of outdoor brands. She also guides treks throughout the year for people who are just getting into the activity. Her approach is instructional but also allows for beginners to discover trekking in their own way:
“Whether it is a short and spontaneous trip, or a two-week long trek, I’m the type of person who likes to explore. Planning is important, but I don’t like to live my vacation before I do it for real. I want to experience life as it happens. It is very important to learn on my own. That is how I grow. So, though I like teaching people who are new to trekking, I also want them to appreciate nature for themselves.”
For Sofia, sharing her expertise is all about balancing practical tips and subjective insights. Food for example. According to Sofia, it is quite simple: plan all of your meals in advance. She also wears a backpack with pockets on the hip belt for easy access to snacks. Planning her food in advance ensures that when she is hungry, she does not have to overthink the topic. She also advises that trekkers avoid waiting too long between meals breaks. Eating and drinking water regularly keeps energy and spirits high.
Personal hygiene is another topic that Sofia considers important to advise on. For people new to trekking, she is refreshingly frank: “It’s essential to consider personal hygiene before a trek. Stuff like where to relieve yourself, or how to deal with your period. These are natural things and you have to understand that managing them will take more time and planning than when you are at home.”
Environmental stewardship is also imperative for Sofia. Aligning with Fjällräven values to have utmost respect for the environment, she too aims to act responsibly towards nature. When interacting with nature she and Fjällräven both go slowly, tread carefully and leave longing to return. As such, she abides by the rule of thumb to always leave your campsite looking better when you leave than when you found it. As she says, “If you move a rock to hold your tent in place, put it back when you leave.” She also suggests that you put any waste in the trash bag immediately and always count your tent pegs before leaving. They are easily the number one item people forget. “It’s so satisfying to look at my gear when I return home and know that I’ve used everything in my backpack. I know that I brought just the right things, and the perfect amount of supplies.”
In terms of gear, Sofia depends on a few basics and recommends that trekkers streamline where possible. Like anything else, getting your supplies just right requires experience, and as an outdoor equipment tester Sofia has a good handle about what is necessary. As a good friend of Fjällräven, there are naturally a few of our products that Sofia considers must-haves for her adventures. The Keb Eco Shell Jacket and Trousers for example, are packed for travels both short and long. For Sofia, the complete set was a sound investment since it is functional for many activities. From summer trekking to mountain ski touring. Another Fjällräven favourite is the Bergtagen Thinwool SS W. A wool base-layer t-shirt, she brings it on all trips. Appropriate for both cool and warm treks, the wool wicks away moisture and does not smell after a few days the way synthetic materials do.
On mountain tours Sofia relies on her Fjällräven Water Bag. While it is always good to walk alongside a stream in the mountains, you don’t want to be next to one because you will feel the damp. With the Fjällräven Water Bag, Sofia can collect fresh water in the morning, and it stays cool for hours. Anything else? “I always bring a 100% linen kitchen towel. In my experience, it absorbs water better than anything else and dries in minutes.”
“Even when it’s super tough, I know I’ll be rewarded at my destination. I have a mode that kicks in. Like an extra gear. I like going into that mode.” Regardless of the gear and expert tips, nothing replaces on-the-trail know-how. Sofia stresses that trekkers must learn to understand their own abilities and listen to their bodies. When you’re on a trek and things get tough, it is great to focus and push yourself to achieve your goal. Like Sofia, many people who trek enjoy it because it combines exploration with physicality.
On the other hand, it is also okay to let go
“Everybody is different. I know my own abilities, and it’s important you know yours. This comes with experience of course. My golden rule is that if you’re uncertain you can keep going, stop and make camp. It’s never worth pushing beyond your limits. Set up your tent. Put on some dry clothes. Eat something. Just stop and make camp”. So, what’s next for Sofia after the Fjällräven Classic Sweden? In 2020, she’ll likely keep things close to home. At the very least she’ll stay in the north. “I’m often asked if I like to return to the same place. I do. In the north especially, we have four distinct seasons. I think it is cool to see the same place during each. It’s the contrast that interests me.”
Fjällräven Classic TV
Join Sofia on her solo trek of the Fjällräven Classic Sweden. Tune into Fjällräven Classic TV starting August 7th at 16.00 CET. Introduced this summer, Fjällräven Classic TV is how we are getting people immersed in trekking in 2020. By tuning in viewers can stream Fjällräven Classic events from the point of view of the trekker; digitally transporting themselves across the globe to the locations of our most popular Fjällräven Classic events. Like Germany, Denmark, UK, US, China and Sweden. Despite the challenges presented by 2020, we remain committed to giving people the ability to experience nature. Wherever you are.