It’s kind of a coincidence: three of our gear sponsors are Swedish (Fjallraven, Trangia and Woolpower); I am one quarter Swedish; and Dave has some Swedish heritage too. But then you you realize it is not coincidence at all: Swedes are hardworking and responsible people and Sweden has huge stretches of very wild and rugged wilderness. So of course Sweden produces some of the world’s best outdoor gear.
Our aim in getting industry sponsors for the Secret Coast Expedition was not just about getting “free stuff.” Dave and I were going to be out there, in the wilderness, relying on our gear (with no options to exchange it, and limited options of repair) for a month! Our number one criterion was that we needed gear that we could trust: that would work and that we could rely on to continue to work. And secondary to that, we wanted to collaborate with companies that have high ethical standards, especially regarding impact on the environment and treatment of animals.
We are really happy, not only that we found fifteen amazing sponsors to work with – but that we are able to work with companies and organizations that share these values, adhering to high standards and “walking the walk” when it comes to the environment. In this blog post, I am going to profile our three Swedish collaborators:
Dave was keen on Fjallraven gear (both backpacks and pants) right from the start. I took a bit more convincing – their gear is heavy, and back in the planning stage it felt like every ounce we could drop mattered. But, in the end, our Fjallraven gear ended up saving our butts – mine especially, because I spent a lot of time sliding on it! The lightweight hiking pants I would have worn on this trip would have shredded within a week. But, after everything we went through, we just threw the Fjallraven Gaiter Keb pants in the washer when we got home, and they looked like new! Same for the Kajka backpacks – I will write more about their innovative design in a future post – but they were fully loaded and heavy, and we just could not put them down or pick them up gently. Those packs survived a lot of dragging over rocks and, like the pants, they made it home in perfect condition.
Those few extra ounces made the difference not only for comfort, but for our safety out there. I’m a total Fjallraven convert. And, on top, the company has an amazing corporate ethic. To reduce their environmental impact, they use birchwood frames for the packs rather than metal, and they track the sources of any animal products they use (such as wool, leather and down) to ensure that the animals are raised and treated well.
Our campstove choice was the other way around – I was already a Trangia convert, and I was the one who had to convince Dave that this is the stove set we want. I have been using Trangia stoves for decades. I should say “stove,” because I have only had one – that’s how durable and reliable they are. I bought it in the early 90s (so getting towards 30 years ago). It is the one-pot size, and it has been to Australia, New Zealand, French Polynesia, Patagonia, and of course all over Canada… and probably lots more places that I don’t recall over the years. The only reason I needed a new backpacking stove is because we needed the larger size for the two of us. My old one will still be my stove for my solo expeditions.
What’s great about Trangia stoves? Well, the first thing is that there are no moving parts. Nothing to break. The fuel (alcohol) can be found anywhere in the world – and you can fly with this stove: no pressurized or gassy fuel containers! And it is silent. All of our meals were so easy: very quick set-up, no pumping or priming required. (And we had no need for those environmentally-unfriendly disposable fuel cannisters). Dave is a total Trangia fan now!
Trangia camp stoves are very popular in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, but they can be hard to find in North America (they are worth the search, let me tell you). Find out where to buy Trangia stoves in Canada or where to buy Trangia stoves in the USA.
Well, when you are out in the wilderness for months, with few opportunities to bathe (not to mention to try to do laundry), it is hard to keep from getting stinky. I had heard that wool garments don’t stink the way synthetics do, and I hoped it was true.
We each had a pair of Woolpower longjohns, a T-shirt, plus a thicker zip-up turtleneck – so three main items (as well as a tube/hat and hand gaiters). We didn’t hike a lot or paddle in the Woolpower clothing – but our wool garments were our clothing of choice around camp, during the evenings and mornings – and they were our pyjamas too. Which means we were wearing them about 2/3 of the time, or a total of 20 of the 30 days – with only one washing.
Guess what – they didn’t stink! After all that.
I was worried about durability, since they don’t seem to be as fine a knit as most synthetics – but they held up totally fine in spite of all of our rough use. And (we checked) Woolpower takes great care in sourcing their wool from sheep that have not been subjected to cruel hygienic processes, unlike many other Merino wool products on the market. I will be wearing Woolpower clothing for all of my future long expeditions – both for my sake and for my companions’!