Kungsleden (The King's Trail): Logistics, Gear and Planning

Kungsleden Trail, Sweden -- September 4 - 14, 2017
12 day hike -- 275 miles
Trip Report can be found here
Some of my favorite gear can be found here.

The Plan: How did I pick this trip? I did some research based on shorter long distance hikes. I wanted to go internationally, and needed it to be warm enough in the month of September for a two week trip. Obviously there are a ton of different websites and opinions, but many of the ones I found had the Kungsleden as one of the good ones. I wanted to be able to "wild camp," aka not have to stay in a designated camping area or hut. Surprisingly to me, since we can do this pretty much everywhere in California (and Canada and many of the other US states), Europe generally does not allow this. 

I also needed something that I could do in about 14 days. Most reports of the Kungsleden said it would take about a month. However, since the trail was about 450 km or 275 miles, I figured I could do it in less than that. I am comfortable hiking 20 - 30 miles per day and figured that if I hiked 20 miles for 14 days, or 23 miles for 12 days, I could get it done in time. The cherry on top was this woman's trip report, which showed that she had easily done it in 13 days. If she can do it, I can do it, I thought. What I did not factor in was that my original flight from the US to Sweden got canceled which pushed everything back one day. I also did not fully grasp the time that would be needed for the many lake crossings. 

The Logistics: Getting to/from the Stockholm airport to my hotel was fairly easy; I took a bus from the airport to downtown and then walked from the bus stop to my hotel, which took about five minutes. 

The logistics surrounding the hike were a little tough, as I had to fly to Stockholm and then take a puddle jumper flight from there to Kiruna, which only left once per day around noon. From there, I had to take a bus from the airport to downtown Kiruna, where I picked up a longer distance bus to Abisko, where the trail started. Alternatively, I believe there was a train that went from downtown Kiruna to Abisko, but that was a little later or longer than the bus; I cannot remember exactly. 

Since I was flying, I could not bring fuel on the plane. There have been other reports that you cannot bring trekking poles or tent poles and you definitely cannot carry a knife, so I checked my bag and carried on a small duffel with a few toiletries and my book which I planned to leave at my hotel in Stockholm. I wore an outfit on the plane that I did not plan on taking hiking with me and I also left in my hotel. That meant that I had to stay in the same hotel on the way in and out and also decreased my hiking time a little bit, but I did not want to carry all of my stuff with me while hiking; I thought it was worth having a dry, comfortable, non hiking outfit (and book etc.) for afterward. 

Once in Abisko, it was required that everyone obtain a permit. There were not quotas for the permit, but you do have to pay for it and there is a little store that you have to go to near the trailhead to get it. I also bought fuel at this store and weighed my full bag before setting off. 

After I was done, from the southern terminus of Hemavan, I could fly, or I would have to take a local bus to Umea, which is on the Eastern coast and has overnight busses back to Stockholm, which took about 12 hours. Not knowing exactly how long the total hike would take, I did not want to book this leg in advance,. I knew the logistics of the bus travel at the end could add a couple of days, so my plan was to try to hike a little bit faster than 20 miles per day just in case. Also knowing that the flight at the end was also only once per day and that there was a chance I would miss it, I wanted to give myself extra time for that as well. 

Since I ended getting off trail a little early, I ended up having to take a bus from Ammarnäs to Sorsele and then another to Lycksele and then yet another to Umea. Once in Umea, I had to wait for the overnight bus, which left around 11 pm. I did not realize that most people reserve their seat and so when I got on the bus the conductor said it was full and I almost cried. Luckily he found one spot for me, but I may have had to wait until the next day if there was not a seat. Alternatively there were flights and trains, but I was at the bus station so it would have been a little extra travel to do that instead. This bus dropped me in the same downtown bus station that I had gone into from the airport originally, so I could just walk to my hotel. 

As I mentioned in my trip report, the trail did have huts that you could stay in for part of the time. The trail was split into thirds with the north third being more developed with huts and the middle third being very rugged and the southern third being a little more developed again, but more rustic than the north, which is the most popular area. However, I brought my tent and sleeping bag and planned to use them the entire time. I also brought all of my own food, although there were reports that you could buy some things at the huts. However, since I was also going a little late in the season, I had read that some of the huts could already be closed down for the winter. I did not notice this for the northern third, but it could have been the case on the southern third. 

The Route: I knew that this trail was very well marked and also there were not really any "mountain passes" like I was used to, so you can see for miles where you are going at times. I used a mixture of Gaia GPS app and Offline Maps app for maps. Usually I plan my route with Gaia when I am in service and then export it to Offline Maps. As long as you save the map area that you are going to be in, you can use this any time, anywhere. It has topography, roads and trails on it and it has been very handy over the years. 

The Big Three: I brought the following: Big Agnes Fishhook UL1 Tent (47 oz.) (no longer available; I now use the Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2), Western Mountaineering Ultralite 20 degree sleeping bag (29 oz.)Hyperlite 2400 Southwest Backpack (28.6 oz.), and the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite Small size (8 oz.). Total weight of my big three: 112 oz. or about 7 lbs. 

The Clothing: I used my basic late fall/winter hiking kit, which consists of the following clothing: Capri pants, rain pants, short sleeved running shirt, long sleeved running shirt, rain jacket, puffy jacket, Saucony running shoes, two pairs of socks, hat, sports bra, two pairs of underwear, buff and flip flops for camp. I also carried the following dry outfit, which I planned on not wearing until the hike was over: Northface tights, socks, underwear, long sleeve shirt. 

The Other Stuff: For electronics, I carried my phone, a waterproof Panasonic camera, Ankur 20 milliamp charger, charging cords, Garmin watch, kindle and headlamp. I also had to bring toiletries, kitchen items (pot, pan, spoon, bowl, fuel, matches etc.), first aid, dry bags and other utility items (knife, rope, compass, trash bag, whistle etc.). 

Base Pack Weight: 18 pounds. 

The Food: I packed 12 days worth of food in total. I had all of my food already packed before I left home, as I did not want to worry about trying to resupply. I could always buy something extra if I wanted but I did not want to rely on that. I did not put my food in a bear canister and I did not plan to hang it. From what I read, there are bears in Sweden but encounters with them are very rare.  

My meals were fairly basic: I brought muesli with dried fruit and powdered milk for breakfast, which I planned to eat cold as I did not plan on resupplying my fuel and did not want to waste it. I was going to have coffee in the morning as well and was debating between hot and cold coffee. For lunch/snacks, I had a variety of things: yogurt covered pretzels, cheeze-its, peanuts, wasabi rice snacks, gummy snacks, peanut butter, trail mix, chocolate and protein bars. For dinner, I had Knorr pasta sides and beans and rice (this was and still is one of my standby meals). I did find a few days into the hike that I preferred my hot meal in the morning, so I started eating my dinner for breakfast and then having my muesli in the evening instead. 

I planned all of my calories before leaving and tried to plan for about 3500 per day. 

The H2O: I decided not to filter water and so only brought a one liter soft flask. I know this may be controversial, but from what I read it was not necessary. On one hand, it felt a little bit like going braless in public, but damn, it is so nice not to have to rely on filtering water all the time. It was freeing and meant that I only carried about a liter of water at a time, if that. 

Total Pack Weight: 37 pounds; the fuel and 12 days of food added basically 20 pounds to my load, which comes out to about a pound and a half of food per day. Luckily I didn't have to carry too much water! 

The Verdict: I am still loving my new gear, which I bought in early 2017 and used for the Wind River High Route. I carried about 10 more pounds than I did for the Wind River trip due to carrying the tent and a lot more food, but the pack still felt good. My sleeping bag kept me warm the whole time; obviously having a hole in my sleeping pad was not ideal. I definitely need a new system for all day rain as being wet and cold all day and sometimes through the night was not fun at all. 

A couple of things I would probably leave behind: My rain pants have seen their last days. These were ones I think I bought in the Philippines or Malaysia before hiking Mt. Kinabalu and they are a prime example of getting what you pay for. I need to invest in some that will actually keep me dry. I also brought a variety of snacks so that I would not get bored with my food, but I think I will just pick one or two of my favorites and/or the highest calorie ones and bring only a couple of choices next time. I definitely will not be including the melted blog of yogurt covered pretzel or the cheeze-it dust on this list. I also need to consider the shape of the items as some of them take up a lot room, so even if they are calorie dense, it is not as compact. 

A couple of things I might bring more of: I do like having hot coffee in the morning, if only as something to wrap my hands around before getting out of the tent into the cold, but I am not sure that I really need a hot meal. I think I could just bring more cold meals and save the time and effort of cooking. However, I think it is weather dependent, as I really do like a hot meal when it's really cold. I also do bring duct tape and a patch kit with me, but may need to invest in a few more repair items for the next trip. 

A couple of things I could not live without: See above! If I had not had duct tape with me, I would have had to sleep pretty much right on the ground after my sleeping pad got a hole. This was a lifesaver. It is easy enough to wrap around a trekking pole or a pencil and not even notice that you are carrying it and it sure comes in handy in a pinch! I also wore my rain pants 90% of the time on this hike. Although they are definitely not water proof, they did really help to keep the wind off of my legs and were priceless as an extra lightweight layer. Lastly, it was worth carrying the one dry change of clothes, despite the weight. After I got off trail, I had to take a series of buses to Stockholm (roughly a 24 hour trip from the end of the trail) and I would have been miserable in my wet hiking clothes. 

Are you a planner or do you just like to get up and go? What is one thing you could not live without when you travel? 

1 comment:

  1. Well you know that I am a planner for the most part, especially for travel pre-kids. It's different now that we have young kids, but the purpose of the trip is different - it's more about a change of scenery and seeking out warmer weather/sunshine and less about what we actually do on the trips. We try to do one interesting thing/day but none of it requires planning for the most part! But pre-kids, I did a ton of research and planning before trips! It's hard to pick one essential thing when traveling. But I would probably say my kindle or a water bottle. I hate buying water in airports and there are so many filling stations for water bottles. I guess if I had to choose between the 2, I'd pick the water bottle because I can use a kindle ap on my phone.


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