What we’ve learned from Fjällräven Classic
With hindsight. On reflection. If only. There are a few things we'd do differently if we were to walk Fjällräven Classic again. And I'm going to share those learnings with you shortly. But first I, we, all of us at Fjällräven, want to thank you - this year's Classic participants - for making it so special.
Joel, Amanda and I met a number of you along the way. We were so impressed by your smiles, perseverance, humbleness, your ability to make the best of difficult situations, whether it was the weather or blisters the size of golf balls. We met people from all over the world: Thailand, the Netherlands, South Korea, the US, Slovakia. We shared stella views worthy of coffee table photo books. We shared food, coffee and jokes. And enjoyed the pleasure of each other's company.
So what did we learn?
Firstly, being able to connect to the internet via a satellite sender in the middle of the Swedish wilderness isn't a done deal.
Secondly, it's not distance that poses the biggest challenge; it's how much your bag weighs. Pack as light as you possibly can.
Thirdly, don't walk too fast. Start early, walk for the entire day, taking regular breaks and leaving plenty of time for enjoying the views - especially when they look like this...
We do think we did some things correctly too. We dipped our feet into ice cold mountain streams to cool them off. And wow, it felt amazing.
We took energy bars and homemade trail mix with chocolate chips in - don't forget the chocolate! - which made eating on the go way easier. So if it was pouring with rain and we didn't want to cook up some food, we could still tuck into a calorie-rich snack.
And we used tape in blister and chafing prone areas BEFORE the blisters and the chafing had a chance to appear.
You guys also had some great tips and knowledge to pass on.
I chatted with Oscar and Per from Sweden as they relaxed in front of the open fire at Abisko Tourist Station. This wasn't only their first Classic, it was their first time hiking. They put in an amazing effort, coming in on Monday evening after 77hrs, with the last four or so in torrential rain.
"It's great going in a group," said Per. "You get energy from each other. If one person feels tired or grumpy, the others can encourage them and help them move forward. Hiking Classic has been a team sport."
"I'd also recommend taking ketchup sachets," adds Oscar. "Freeze-dried food gets pretty bland after a while."
Davey and Sonny from the Netherlands arrived at 11am on Monday. They'd put in some very long days on the trek and like Oscar and Per are relatively new to hiking, in fact it was Sonny's first ever real long-distance trek.
"My tip would be to plan for the fact you can't always tent whenever your body wants to. There are places that are too rocky or exposed or wet. You can have a rough idea of course, but you need to be flexible. Factor in that you might have to go further than planned to find a good tent spot," said Davey.
"That's why energy bars are so great," adds Sonny. "You can eat on the go."
We also caught up with Pierre, Maria and little Gabriel just after they crossed the finish line on Tuesday morning. They all looked very fresh and Gabriel was still smiling. What was their advice to other parents thinking about taking their children along for the journey, I asked.
"Take loads of clothes. Gabriel just sits there in his seat and doesn't move around, so it gets quite cold. Lots of layers and really good quality clothing are even more important for him than they are for us," said Pierre.
"And have fun!" added Maria. "Kids must think this is fun and enjoy themselves otherwise they'll never want to do it again."
Looking at smiling Gabriel it certainly seemed like he'd had a good time. And we'd second this piece of advice. Have fun! It was something that a lot of people said when I asked them for their tips. Trekking 110km is not easy. We know that. You know that. But just because something isn't easy, doesn't mean it can't be fun.