Wild Winter Hiking & Camping Adventure in Värmland Sweden

What better way is there to explore the winter in Sweden than hitting the road?

Here, cold-weather camping is usually about getting closer to a ski destination. Of course skiing (skidåkning) is a popular Swedish past-time due to the incredible gorgeous snowy slopes in the northern mountains.

But what if you choose to venture off the beaten path – away from the ski/touristy crowds? Imagine the long lines for hot chocolate. Finding a comfortable spot to chill and enjoy a fire can be cozier in a camping spot or rental cabin.

Our camping spot along the Kläralven + Bränas mountain
(yes that’s a layer of ice in front of us)

Vildmarkscenter Sysslebäcks Stugby & Fiskecamping is located in the northwest forest of Värmland (county) along the Klarälven (the clear river), where you’re surrounded by a thriving natural landscape.

Depending on the time of year, the activities and resources are many. From hiking in the nature reserves, skiing, paddling, fishing, swimming and snowmobiling – each can be a gateway to witnessing the great outdoors and wildlife.

Sysslebäck turned out to be a new favorite, probably because of the remote location. It’s one of the quietest camping spots we have found here. Since everyone was at the top of the mountain at the ski lodge, we were left alone to enjoy winter’s wonderland.

What did we pack for our trip?

Food:

The camper has a sizeable refrigerator + small freezer, so we packed easy cook and prep food items –

  • The typical Swedish breakfast: bread, cheese, boiled eggs, veggies and ham.
  • Dinner: fresh meat, such as: boneless pork chops, steak or chicken burgers and veggies like whole peppers, onions and sweet and white potato skins.
  • Snacks: s’mores (of course!) raw popcorn (great in a covered pan) and homemade granola bars. See my earlier recipe – nosmalladventures.wordpress.com/2020/07/
Breakfast of champions (yes we are cheating with an electric cooktop).

My favourite winter clothing & supplies:

With uncountable storage in our camper, we have plenty of room for packing extra layers of outdoor clothing for hiking and adventures in snow and rain. Hiking boots, trail-running sneakers and my trusty wool socks are a must!

Don’t forget your base layers; the moisture-wicking properties in merino wool or recycled polyester. will help keep you dry. Wet clothing in cold weather can really throw off your adventure game!

Energy & fuel:

We plug into the campground’s electric to keep the water from freezing in the camper. These days we find it necessary to charge our phones. (what did we do without tech?)

We also bring propane for back-up heating / power in case of an off-road emergency or power outage.

We always keep two options for cooking food – outdoor fire supplies for natural environments and the propane grill for nights where we want to cook an extensive meal with ease.

The campgrounds we visit in Sweden usually have great facilities, but you never know how good or clean they will be. Since we have an indoor shower, we always need to fill up the water tank when we arrive at the campground. But why not take an indoor shower when you have the whole place to yourself?

The first two days of our adventure:

  • Set up camp and enjoy a cold one.
  • Explore the surrounding area: walking trails and along the river…
  • Day hiking in the Granberget Nature Reserve

We drove our pickup truck into the Granberget Nature Reserve and hiked up the snowy road for about 1.5 km to the trail entry. We chose this trail to get to the higher outlook point. The deeper into the park, the deeper and softer the snow was.

Unfortunately things don’t always go as planned. By the time we entered the trail, we realized we would have to take another route. There was so much snow melt, the trail was buried in 2 feet of melting snow (with a flood at the bottom)! Luckily, we found another trail nearby, although that meant we had to give up on our goal. At least the views were still amazing at every turn!

Granberget Nature Reserve

We met up with a guy who said people had seen bears out there. So, you can imagine my fear when we found paw prints behind us in the snow!

No worries, we didn’t meet up with any furry friends this time. Since you have to have a hunting license to carry a rifle here – we were not prepared for that kind of adventure.

As we were on our way out of the long forest road into the reserve, we found nature didn’t want us to leave! We were prepared – we have a Dodge! And I have a handy guy who is ready for anything.

(I did help move the tree and the many stray branches when I wasn’t busy playing photographer).

Hope you enjoyed our journey so far…

Next post:

Day 3 of our wild camping in Sysslebäck …

Coming soon!

Please let us know what you think of our adventure!

-Gina

Want to visit? Here’s the campground info:

Vildmarkscenter Sysslebäcks Stugby & Fiskecamping

Sysslebäcks Stugby & Fiskecamping
Badhusvägen 2, 680 60 SYSSLEBÄCK

Värmland county, http://www.syssleback.se/

How Camping Can Be Fun and Cozy in Winter (in a Camper!)

It’s a fact that nature has a positive impact on your health. Why aren’t you getting outside more?

Yes, we know it’s cold in the northern regions of the world – it’s called winter and we humans have been acclimating ourself to colder temps for thousands of years. There are benefits!

Meet Jojo the snögubbe (Swedish snowman)

The best way to fill up your vitamin D quota and boost your immune system is to grab some winter daylight / sun if you can find it. Especially if you sit at a computer all day stomping on the keys like me!

Lunchtime walks keep you sane, but why not plan a mini-adventure this weekend? How about a wander through the woods (with and without snow) to build a fire and cook lunch.

Early winter hiking in Agelsjön (we follow the sun).

Caravan Camping in the winter is a great way to get closer to the outdoors.

And it is not cheating!

We finally got ourselves a ‘polarized camper’. It’s insulated for the best warmth and protection. The heated floor helps as well when returning from a snowy walk. There is a wonderful shoe warmer nook under the edge of the sofa where the snow melts into a tray.

Once we find a great parking space, we are usually anxious to explore the area. Our location choice is always based on surroundings and things to do in nature. Day hikes are the best way to explore and appreciate natural landscapes.

Scenic views on the water in Mora.

Every forest is different and magical in Sweden, due to the cultural mindset here. Untouched nature is the attraction of most and the weather makes a difference.

Just a year ago, we found an excellent deal on our Polar camper in Dalarna, Sweden. We called and made an appointment to view and possible purchase it. Since it was a 6 hour drive through snowy winter weather, we also planned to camp in it the first night. It may sound risky, but we thought it better not to drive it home at night, directly after the purchase. We headed out early that cold Saturday morning in February and were excited when we first pulled into Dalarna’s Fritidcenter. They were friendly and willing to give us a negotiable deal on our new mini-palace.

Camping on the river in Mora, Dalarna
Saying goodbye to our old Solifer camper.

Since our old Solifer camper was not the best for extensive road travel and adventure locations (with no toilet or shower). We had been on the hunt for another model, but our budget was a lot lower than the average asking price. We chose it due to the layout, including the full width bathroom at the back. Most of the campers here make light of having a bathroom – with an airplane sized space that you can sit on the toilet and shower in at the same time! 

layout of our 2005 Polar 590

We found each of these so called bathrooms ridiculously small for my husband who is over 6’2’’. The lack of elbow room is strange and uncomfortable. We wanted a toilet that you could sit on without hitting your knees on the wall.  Unfortunately, the Polar 2005 seemed to be the only model with the layout we liked. That means we had to buy used and searching for one in the right condition was not easy. It took us about 8 months to find the right one.

Cozy living on wheels!

So it was a risk to look at a camper so far away, but it turned out well. The salesman had it all heated up when we arrived. When I turned on the radio and Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA’ blared out of the excellent speaker system, we looked at each other and smiled – this was it!

We found our dream camper!
Cheers to camping on the go! (this beer is only 2,8% alcohol)

We have taken this baby on the road for a handful of journeys in the past year – get ready for my next post about our travels!

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Please add your comments and follow us for more ideas, tips and stories in Sweden.

How to Re-invent Your Adventure Calendar and Get Outside

Travel restrictions are hopefully coming to an end soon. Don’t let this stop you from getting outside. If you focus on the art of planning, the inspiration becomes real and gives life to your ideas and dreams. It’s what makes us hungry for the zest of life!

If you are an outdoor fanatic, here are some possibilities to add to your spring schedule.


Food in your own backyard.

Foraging is the act of searching for food in the wild. According to Plants for a Future website, there are over 20,000 species of edible plants growing naturally in our forests and backyards. Knowing what these plants are takes some time, but could be as easy as taking out a library book and studying your local habitat.

These are either Japanese Umbrellas or pleated parasols…not sure you would want to eat them, as they are very thin. Always check your mushrooms against a guide with photos.

Sweden is known for anti-pesticide farming and gardening, meaning that chemicals are not easy to purchase or use and are frowned upon in this organic environment. This could be the reason there are so many fruits and plants growing wild.

You could be learning about the types of edible mushrooms and wild herbs that are a great addition to many summer dishes or great for grilling.

This article is full of inspiration for getting your foraging hobby started:

https://visitsweden.com/where-to-go/southern-sweden/vastsverige/sweden-foragers-dream/

Check for local classes or foraging tours in your area – learning how to use the plants safely is the best way to start.

National Park or Nature Reserve Exploration.

Do you know your closest National Park or Nature Reserve location? These are some of the greatest lands in the world and are found in every country on the map. National Parks and reserves are protected land with many endangered plants, flowers, animals and habitats.

Tiveden National Park, Sweden

Getting to know which of these is in your location can be a great resource for nature watching, hiking, camping and trail-running adventures. Most parks require that you report overnight camping.

And remember the rules…

The Leave No Trace Seven Principles

  • Plan ahead and prepare.
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
  • Dispose of waste properly.
  • Leave what you find.
  • Be safe with fire.
  • Respect wildlife.
  • Be considerate of other visitors.

Catch the sunset at the highest point you can find.

This could be an adventure in itself, depending on where you decide to go. After choosing a mountain top, or hill you may have a long hike ahead of you. All you need is something to sit on and a camera to catch the beauty!

View from the top at Agelsjön Nature Reserve.

Camp for a night on an island.

In Sweden it wouldn’t be that difficult to find an island to camp on, due to the thousands of lakes and archipelagos.

Look for areas you can stay overnight in a campground or park to be safe. Getting there is the hard part, but there are lots of resources out there for renting different types of boats. Many of them will even drop you off an pick you up at another destination.

Paddling is a great reason for getting out there, but choosing your spot to stay and mapping out the destination can be a lot of fun. Planning what you can fit into a small pack along with food items, a sleeping bag and a tent can weigh down your boat. The challenge is to make it work while still bringing the items that provide comfort.

Don’t forget to plan how you will cook your meals – you’ll either need a cook stove or something to start and maintain a fire. If you know there have been campers to the location before, see if you can find someone to offer details about their experience.

Camping on an island in Sweden.

More ideas on the way! Be sure to subscribe for all our new and exciting announcements.

A new website and new community has grown from the No Small Adventure following. Thank you all for your inspiration.

Our new World Guiding Resource will be launched soon.

Please contact us if you or a friend can recommend a great guide for outdoor adventure – please contact us at support@nosmalladventure.org

Kayaking on Sweden’s High Coast

Welcome back to our adventure story.

I want to say how grateful I am that you are reading this. So many people feel deprived of freedom right now – we are so limited by this pandemic, that we are reduced to less. Just a reminder – Less is More – focus on what you believe in and nothing else. The feeling of making the best of what you have been given in this life, can be the most humbling of all.

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This is the third installment of our journey along Sweden’s High Coast.

Here we go again! Wednesday, July 15th and on to our last camping destination on the High Coast (Höga Kusten). The north coast of the Baltic Sea is beautiful, and we were lucky to catch glimpses during our drive. I dreamt of our next parking spot, hopefully small and tranquil, and wondered what new and natural wonders we may find.

This is the farthest we have dragged the old camper and she has taken a beating. Bumpy back roads, unwelcome (and unannounced) speed bumps and torrential rains have slowly withered the bindings and holds of this 1980’s treasure. We have gotten almost four years out of her and it has been great to upgrade from a tent. We may have to make a choice next year to upgrade, so that we can continue this adventure.

To get to Snibbens Camping in Rämvik, we drove from the main highway (E4) and the exit is just 2km before the bridge that connects to the northern part of the coast. We decided to travel over it to commemorate our arrival, then we turned back as a sort of ‘been there, done that’ moment. Great idea Andy!

Höga Kusten Brön (High Coast Bridge)

There’s a small pizza restaurant at the entrance with a few free overnight parking spots. Then the road curved around and up into the campground to a locked gate, where the owner greeted us. He seemed a bit stressed. Apparently, the exhausting amount of unprepared travelers showing up in search of a campsite had worn him out.

At the beginning of the pandemic, we were told not to travel outside of Sweden, so of course everyone with a camper or tent decided to take advantage of the summer weather and tried to find a last minute spot. He was very happy to hear about our pre-paid reservation and helped us get situated. The campground is owned and operated by his family, which gives it a personal touch.

Homebase camp

We got a great spot across from the edge of the lake and near the service house, that holds private bathrooms, showers and 2 kitchens. This was one of the best of about 60 parking spots here and our favorite location for the week, hands down. Despite the storm clouds that followed us, we were met with a slow clearing that opened up to blue sky.

Our view of Mörtsjön from our homebase camp.

It felt great to be so close to the water and we couldn’t wait to get in there. We could even walk from homebase to drop in our kayaks.

So here we drop in at Mörtsjön, which means fish lake – a rare, unsavory tasting fish, I am told. The lake was created by runoff from the Baltic Sea. We opened the Android Kayak app and checked the map and found what looked like a creek in the back corner of the lake.

Our camping location + opening to the creek at the left.

The calm water was soothing as we paddled from the shore – straight across to investigate the opposite coast. Huge pine trees grew right to the edge of the water and you could see the exposed roots under the surface.

Andy enjoying the freedom on the lake.

As soon as you get far enough from the shore, there is a sound that replaces the sounds of the campground and the local traffic. It’s hard to explain, but we have witnessed it here on so many lakes in Sweden. It’s the sound of the wilderness sighing.

Paddling with my Naturkompaniet clean-up bag. They gave these out free at the stores last summer – great idea!

The air seemed so fresh and clean and I watched as my paddle tapped the clear water. As we neared towards the corner we could already see the smaller opening in the trees. Surrounded by lily pads and schools of fish, we found a hidden cottage off to the right, where a woman was surprised to see us. We received a friendly wave as we floated by.

Caught in the weeds or the garden of the lake?
A required selfie.

We finally came to rocky, running creek. This part was impassible due to the shallow water, so our hopes for paddling up the creek would end here. But, I was thrilled to set my kayak between two boulders and hop out.

The water was cool and as I climbed along the larger rocks upstream, I caught a brilliant reflection of sun off the water that took my breath away.

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We took our time here, listening to the bubbling pool as if we were relaxing at a spa, knowing we would eventually return to the rest of the world. For now, this was ours. What a fantastic feeling it is to have this experience together. There are no words, just smiles as we observe this humble paradise.

Returning to camp tired, hungry and full of the day’s excitement, we set up to grill fresh meat and veggies and witness the serene sunset. This was my favorite excursion so far and I can’t wait to get back out here on the water. This is living!

Sunset on Mörtsjön.

Thanks for joining us on our journey. Follow us to read our next post as we do some ‘touristing’ in this bountiful vacation destination.

Snibbens Camping – service house.

For more information on Sweden’s High Coast – https://www.hogakusten.com/en

And remember…there is no adventure too small!

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Exploring the High Coast of Sweden Part 2

Have you have read the last post? Don’t miss the first few days of our camping adventure.

Right now, it’s crazy important to plan your dream trips. Just google it – according to National Geographic, just thinking about vacation can boost your mental health. Imagine that!

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/2020/05/planning-a-trip-is-good-for-you-especially-during-pandemic/

To spread out our 10-day camping vacation, we booked spots at three different campgrounds. The last one at the highest point (which is the southern part of the High Coast). Next time, we will plan to visit a higher point for some winter-to-spring camping.

Our second campground was Sörfjärdens Camping, only an hour north of the first. It promised a friendly community, newer amenities and I was sold on the promise of a beautiful beach.

And we have arrived at homebase #2…Sörfjärdens Camping!

Upon arrival, the friendly woman in the office told us to park in any open spot! That was new. Usually you hope for the best available, according to your own requirements. We wanted to be on the beach, but didn’t notice that the campground was 1km inland. Bummer. This was the first camping spot without a water view, so it already had a mark against it.

Most of the campgrounds in Sweden are family-friendly. We prefer the areas where we can meet people, have a drink and listen to great music over a card game or storytelling over a fire. We walked around to check out the spots, when some friendly campers jumped up and invited us to park nearby. so, we picked that one.

We were excited to get set up and get the most of the early afternoon sun that was beaming down on us. It fell into place easily – we had it down after only one practice! I really like setting up the tent and outdoor furniture, while Andy enjoys levelling out the legs and getting the water system set-up. A few more campers – an RV, and some teenagers with a tent showed up to fill in the empty spots around us. Our camper faced away from our neighbors, so we never really got to know them.

We walked up to the front entrance of the campground. There is a row of brand new cabins up the middle. I saw someone cleaning the floors in one and noticed they had bathrooms! You don’t see that a lot. We checked out the Service house – bathrooms, showers and kitchen area. We found out that the showers were separate rooms – only one was available with a toilet and sink. Good to plan out ahead of time. They were somewhat clean, but could have been better. It would be great if they had another section with private bathrooms. Many campgrounds have them and they are really great if you don’t have your own bathroom (on wheels).

We took a walk down to the beach, through the small beach community. There was a cute coffee shop barn with retro cars and other items and a bridge with a perfect view of the riverside dwellers. They were closed, so no coffee for us. 😦


We walked for a while and finally came to a cute restaurant / bar on the edge of the water. This could not be the beach I saw in the photos online. The GPS confirmed that we had walked quite far out of the way to reach this point. We sat and rested for a few, enjoying the quiet lapping waves. Because a beach is a beach to me!

Unfortunately, opportunity was missed and there was no chance of getting a vacation cocktail or snack, since the restaurant was closed! Wasn’t this high season? We could not figure it out. If it were open, it would have been popular!


We finally got back on the dirt road towards the beach, which was much closer to the campground. It was really a sight – we plopped down for some sun-worshipping on the powdery white sand. The water was very cold, but I managed to hold my breath and go for it – it was worth it, to cool off. We listened to some tunes on our amazing waterproof bluetooth blackweb speaker and just relaxed.

We made it back in time for grillin’ and a beautiful sunset between the campers. It was a quiet night and I was getting sick of walking back and forth to the bathrooms across the campground. I felt like I was on a walk of shame. I started to picture what our camper would be like with a working bathroom.

Day 2, was cool and windy. We drove around trying to find a kayak spot to drop in, with no luck. After last year’s whitewater adventure, we were keen to find more running water. Then we found a building that said Granforsbruk – an axe factory and museum! It was built next a rapid-running creek. I was so excited as we parked the car and walked up, only to find it was closed. (What is going on here? Nothing is open.) Really sorry we missed that.

Granforsbruk (Axe Factory & Museum)

We turned around and started to head back when I saw a sign for ‘Tourist Information’. We were bored enough to check it out and I am so glad we did! It turned out to be a larger library and giftshop with handmade items from local artists. The man and woman working there were very interested in our plans and helped us find some possible spots to drop in our kayaks. I was so impressed – they gave us a handful of catalogs, maps and guides that made our trip much more interesting. Thanks again to Turistinformation Upplev Nordanstig for an awesome visit!

We drove to Hudiksvall, one of the possible drop-in locations they recommended. It started to get seriously windy and the clouds were rolling in as we parked. We walked along the harbor lined with red boathouses. This felt like a true village.

The red paint on those houses is called ‘falu rödfarg’ in Swedish. It’s famous characteristic Swedish color is made from the iron mines in Falun, a small mining town up north.

The restaurant was not open for dinner yet, so we checked out the local boutique.

This shop was filled with so many inspiring oddities. The art in frames you see above, was on exhibition in the upstairs gallery. Those are handmade wool sculptures (a type of embroidery). This store gave light to the crafts and trades that are still alive in the tiny towns of sleepy Sweden.

On our way back to the campground, we came across an old replica gas station. This guy had collected every old gas-station-related item he could, just for Swedish authenticity. He had a tire shop in the back – and this got him a lot of attention and business. He was friendly and came out to chat and show us around.

This location wasn’t our favorite. But it gave us a nearby beach and the opportunity use our new resources to plan and enjoy the local history. This was turning out to be more of a fun road-trip than I thought!

We got up early the next morning and I set up an outdoor breakfast before we headed up to our next spot on the High Coast of Sweden.

Fresh bacon and eggs!

Watch for my next post, where things start to brighten up on the adventure horizon with amazing weather and some hidden finds while kayaking.

See you soon! Don’t forget comment or let me know if you have any questions!

//Gina

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arrow graphic by Gina Hildinger

Exploring the High Coast of Sweden


Summer 2020 camping! New challenges -vs- wanderlust.

We finally made it to summer 2020 – time to stay safe, keep your friends and family circle small and get outside.

Filling the head and heart with happy sun is the best medicine.

Camping in Sweden means that your landscape might vary from farm and field along backroads, near lakes, forest or mountains. It depends how far north you travel. For us the journey by car, while towing our own private quarters, is the best option.

Our plan was to head to the High Coast and of course, we were not alone. The camping sites in Sweden vary, but the best options for us are campgrounds with fewer than 100 parking spots. They were booked up to capacity – every spot was filled with a tent or camper. Many people here take the month of July off to get the most out of the incredibly short summer weather.

The average summer temp is 65-70 degrees, though in the past couple of years, we had a few weeks with 80-90 degree afternoons – what a gift!

We booked three campsites up the coast, that were close to World Heritage sites. The plan was to pull the camper, park and set up homebase. Then we could go on all types of adventures or siteseeing by car. It felt good to have a temporary home to come back to.

Soderhamns skärgård map
A map of the Southern Archipelago in the Baltic Sea.

Today’s post is about our first stop along the route:

campground sign

Stenö Camping & Havsbad (Stone Island Camping & Harbor Swimming) in Sandarne, 4.5 hrs. north of our home (@2 hrs north of Stockholm).

Entrance to Stenö Campground
Stenö Campground entrance

It turned out to be a good size campground along the coast of the Baltic Sea. Located on an inlet, this provides was an interesting water habitat for both wildlife and explorers.

It took about a half an hour to set up our camper and our new canopy-tent. Since our camper has such a small dining and hang-out area, we bought a tent that attaches to the side of the camper. This allows us to be outside, even when we have stormy weather or on cool nights. We set up a table and chairs inside with the beer cooler.

Solifer camper + Campout tent
Homebase.

After the long drive in the sun, I was anxious to get to the beach and swim. This was also the first beach we have seen in a while, so it didn’t take me long to dive in. We enjoyed that sun, lounging late into the day until it was grilling-time.

We had a great meal under the tent with the zipper flap open, watching the sunset over the water. We took an evening walk, to have a look around the facilities – 3 buildings with public washrooms and showers, a restaraunt and bar, mini-golf, a boat rental shack and reception area with a small store.


Stenö restaurant and boat rental

Day 2 – good morning camping paradise! I headed right back to the beach for a cold wake-up lap around the docks. The freedom of being next to the beach is the best reason to camp!

Stenö Beach / Stenö stranden
Can you see me out there?

After breakfast, we dropped our kayaks in beachside and headed out into the unknown. We checked the map before leaving, just to get an idea of how far the sea was from us in terms of paddling. We headed to the back of the lake we were in and explored every corner and creek we could find.

Kayaking in the Baltic Sea
Paddle adventure, Höga Kusten #1

Paddling around each corner, we witnessed so many dazzling moments – a family of four swans swimming together, and two seagulls trying to protect their young by nose-diving into us. There was a rocky area you could only paddle through with a small boat. There are hidden cabins and tiny paradise lots on the coasts of the many scattered islands.

Kayaking in Sandarne

Being out in the middle of nowhere gives you such a strong sense of curiosity, with endless options for exploring. I used our waterproof Fuji camera for capturing moments to share (thanks to Alena & Chris).

kayaking in Baltic Sea
A view of the Baltic Sea from the reeds.

We decided not to paddle to the sea our first day. On a perfect day like this, we crossed the paths of many larger boats – which can be dangerous, though our bright orange kayaks keep us visible from far away. We will have plenty of chances over the course of the next week.


We had a tasty dinner at the campground’s restaurant complete with local Höga Kusten beer. We took another stroll and found an area across the street, with small cabins. They are prepping the area for more camping sites and there is a small dog beach and a fishing area.

On our way back, We found the boat docks and public part of the beach. I spotted a sign tacked to a tree advertising a metal-art installation by local artists. As we walked up the hill, we found it hidden in a clearing inside the forest. How inspiring!

Artists: Göran Strandow and Kent Wahlbeck

The people here mostly kept to themselves, but we did meet another couple traveling around in a huge, top-of-the-line RV that parked next to us. They were traveling a similar route, but were on their way back from the North. They shared some comments and stories and we went our separate ways. We are still hoping to meet friendly campers that want to sit and chat, or get to know each other over a drink or two.

We headed back in our tent for the evening due to rain (intense humidity with all this heat!). We spent a cozy evening playing Skip-bo and listening to great music.

@rivalsons @reignwolf

We were sad to leave after 2 nights, but happy to get out on the road and see more as we headed to the designated High coast area.

Another awesome view of the beach!

Stay tuned for another installment of our Road Trip. There are more more details to come, as I paw through the photos of the High Coast of Sweden.

Have you ever taken a trip like this?

Please share – I welcome your comments and ideas!

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arrow graphic by Gina Hildinger

The Struggles of Vacation Prepping: Renovating an Old Camper

During repairs…ready for a powerwash!

During the cold winter months in Sweden, we dream of two things:

The first is finding new ways to adventure and enjoy the icy surface that is a Scandinavian wonderland. The days are short, but the further north you go, the brighter the landscape due to snow. The snowfall in the eastern parts of Sweden below Stockholm is minimal. This makes the winter seem long during the darkness and the need to get outside is necessary. That’s probably why skiing is a Swedish family rite.

My first Swedish ski adventure!

The second is to actually dream of an escape to a tropical destination or any place warmer than this! But, of course – we have current restrictions. So, dreaming of future possibilities becomes a plan for spring.

Our prepping plan last winter 2020 – steps toward making our summer camping a reality. Camping is the best social distancing escape. This was also inspired by the arrival of the seasonal Swedish Camping Magazine, advertising the country’s many campgrounds. Plans for HögaKusten, Sweden’s High Coast over the Baltic Sea were in place. We mapped out our trip with multiple stops and 4 to 5 campgrounds over the course of 7-9 days.

Planning…

Many cosmetic changes were needed in our cosy home on wheels – a 1984 Solifer camper (‘husvagn’ in Swedish) after purchasing in 2016. There were two dinettes in the layout and that wasted a lot of space. Since there are just two of us, the smaller dining area was all we needed. We usually cooked and ate outside for every meal.

A cosy bed and lounge for watching movies!

We turned the larger table and benches into a California King-sized bed, complete with quilted topper. We put in new, durable carpet, paint and a bit of our own ‘flavor’. My husband added the wifi, tv and stereo with strategically-placed speakers to make it a full living room experience.

Tiny kitchen with hidden sink, mini-fridge and electric + gas cooktop.
Bathroom (no toilet – just running water).

Late winter 2020, we noticed a soft spot around the back window. We held our breath as we peeled back the layers. We knew that it must be water damage and that uncovering mold would be a tragic turn. Lucky enough, there was minimal mildew and no actual mold (the nose knows!). The wood framing around the window was rotted out from soaking up heavy rains. The styrofoam around it and the outer wall kept the water from seeping into the floor and surrounding areas. Just the bottom of the wall was affected, which was a small relief. It was like a disease that was growing – we only hoped we stopped it in time.

The next step was demo – I took this upon myself, complete with safe breathing mask, gloves, knee pads and my favorite little time-saving tool. It took me most of a long weekend, crouched in this small space alongside a soundtrack of happy tunes. I hacked and pulled and scrubbed the entire surface.

These old campers are have an outer layer of aluminium and in our opinion, it’s not the best idea to make screw holes into it. That was done to install the handles in the front and back. Of course, those handles came in handy when pushing and pulling this thing into place when we can’t back into a spot. Could there be another way?

Swedish recycling centers have a separating system for all materials; burning or melting them down for reuse, energy or heating supply. There are no resources for finding and using old materials – unless you can find them yourself.

We chose to keep and use what we have for now, and researched the best way to put this poor soul back together. Moving forward with the idea that the wall should be sealed from the inside, we shopped for waterproof sealant and plywood.

After re-building the wood frame around the window
(ready for another scrubbing)

My husband Andy measured and cut the new pieces of wood framing out of new scraps we used for our garage roof. He pieced it in around the window, attached with new screws (the old ones were rusty) and sealed it from the inside.

New plywood ready for primer and paint.

We finished the wall with a new piece of plywood and completed it with 2 coats of mildew-resistant primer and 2 coats of paint. We also had to repair parts of the floor and seal all of the corners.

After painting…

We were so excited to clean up and put the seating area back in place.

Camper construction has come a long way, with advanced and sustainable materials that have been tested to ensure durability in all weather conditions. We hope to upgrade to a polarized camper with a working bathroom on the next round.

After repairs…new wall, new upholstery and curtains.
No more water leak!

After all this work (2 months of demo, building, painting and drying), we are ready for Spring 2020.

Here we come Höga Kusten! See my next post for our 10 day adventure – across four campgrounds, historic locations, and high altitude views of the Baltic Sea.

Thanks for following! Do you have any camping adventures to share? Feel free to tag your site in the comments – let’s build a community around the world!

-Gina

Adventure, I Miss You.

There are so many tangible ways to make up for the restrictions that prevent us from doing the things that we want. How do we grasp the concept of the word no?

Rebellion.

How do we gain closure from loss?

We seek.

It is time to re-invent what travels is and means to us. To tread more lightly and appreciate more. To think our steps with respect for time and space.

We may revel in our past experiences and treasure those special moments. That breathtaking sunset, in a boat floating flawlessly… as a pair of swan lift in triumph in the lightest of air above your head.

Let us revisit our summer, which I have so selfishly neglected to share with you all here. I admit, I chose to save it for a rainy day and now that time has come. Autumn is an inspiring time of change. I wish and hope for peace, love and the ability for humans to be understanding. Accepting of imperfection.

Last spring we worked hard to repair water damage in our camper, knowing that it was our best and only option in travel for the coming season. Looking back, we are grateful for the plan-not-so-plan we set off with. June became July finally and we took our longest trip yet, with kayaks and bicycles packed around us.

The Swedish High Coast was a dreamy adventure talked about in books and travel sites. Cliffs along the Baltic Sea, lapped with frothy waves and bird sanctuaries visited by over 15,000 bird species per year.

We needed to see this and experience it. For 10 days, 5 campsites, endless beaches, lakes, rivers and sunsets we could not get enough. I want to take the time to tell a story of each destination as we experienced it, as a stop on the road in a pandemic.

It was not the horror film we have seen repeated on a Saturday cable channel. Just people being people, sharing a smile and a step back in the line for the bathroom. Hospitality and friendliness are in need.

I hope that you are reading this and that a similar story comes to mind. If so, please leave a note so that we can also follow your journey. This reading and sharing should become our medicine.

I don’t hate 2020. It has been a historical year like no other. I am grateful to still be here, when others have been so sadly taken from us.

Let us be empathetic this week. What can I do for you?

-Gina

Why Any Outdoor Adventure in Sweden is Perfect

I hope the summer of 2020 finds you well. I have lots of new experiences to share from our camping adventures this year. We have continued to travel and camp, keeping with the social distancing of the new normal and seeking the solace of nature instead of crowded tourist spots.

As the summer comes to a close, I think about how grateful I am for the community that I live in, that allows me to adventure right in my backyard.

On our friend’s amazing float in Björke, Igelfors, Sweden

Sweden has reacted to the pandemic in a serious and controlled fashion. They have been criticized by countries that look to place blame or direct the fear elsewhere. There are few words to explain the experience here.

No masks – we self quarantine. We also look for ways of avoiding groups of people we don’t know – ordering groceries online and canceling parties at the office. We still wash our hands obbsessively, but we treat ourselves well.

In this private culture, we become accustomed to the nature of the land. The worshipping of nature. Many people here enjoy life slowed down.

Imagine stepping back in time, for the months of July and August in the lush green forests. Fields of wildflowers as far as the eye can see.

A small community sparsely populated with tiny vacation cottages. It is acceptable to not have running water and use composting toilets.

A cute summer fishing village by the sea.

Islands and trails that allow travel only by bicycle or on foot.

Foraging for food and cooking by open fire on the trail is a pastime. Groups of sunbathers dive from rocks in the archipelago or along the Baltic Sea.

Seaside sunning!

Gathering on a porch or tent with friends to sing traditional songs and share the joys of life, is a reminder of how precious time really is. We trust each other and our ability to be honest about how we feel and how we can help and take care of each other.

This is the life I have always dreamed of, though it is not my home country it still feels like I am home.

I love writing stories and sharing with you, so I thank you for following my journey. If you are dreaming of doing more – please share your experiences with me and others.

I believe when you fulfill yourself with your heart and soul’s desires – the universe will follow too.

-Gina

Best Camping Recipes for Easy Cooking on the Grill

Camping usually requires meal planning and if you play your cards right, it can be down right tasty!

Of course, it all depends on how you camp and how you are getting there. In the past, I only ate what my friends and I could fit in our packs. This meant a lot of dried and dehydrated base foods that we could spice up and add hot water to.

Now that my husband and I have graduated to pulling a camper around, we are happy to have a tiny kitchen and refrigerator with a small cupboard for storing food. This makes our options a bit better.

We also upgraded to a small propane grill, which makes it easier to cook fast in all weather an elcetric kettle and electric cooktop (apartment size). These are all easy to store away and take up little space in our camper. It’s all about cooking the best and fastest way possible and getting those goodies in your belly!

Some say we are cheating, but if you understand what Swedish summers are like you would know why we stay out of tents. It means unpredictable weather – sudden torrential downpours, humidity and hot sun, not to mention – the bugs! The more north and inland the worse it is (I am speaking from experience!).

Anyway – even though we have upgraded, I still have limited space to prepare and cook meals. I have come up with some great shortcuts that many of us know, that have become a time-saver so I can focus on all the other things we need too.

Here are some of those recipes – I hope you find them fun and put your creative twist on these ideas to make more of your own. If you do – please share with us!

Foil packets:

Aluminum foil is not always the healthiest option, but using these packets can save you time and help you avoid using pans that can get messy and attract animals and insects.

Here are some easy ideas to use your harvested vegetables in a meal:

Camping Fajitas!

Who doesn’t love grilled goodies in a tortilla? You can make these vegetarian or with meat – your choice!

  • 1/2 lb of steak, tofu or tempeh
  • Fresh mixed peppers – mix colors and flavors for a colorful meal
  • 1 onion
  • 1 large tomato or a handful of cherry tomatoes
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tsp ground chili powder
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Organic whole wheat tortillas
  • 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 Aluminum foil squares 15″x15″, folded in half
  • Tabasco sauce or you favorite hot sauce
  • slices of lime
  • 1 cup of greek yogurt
  • fresh basil or cilantro

Directions:

Packet 1:

  • Add the sliced meat, tofu or tempeh to a foil packet, along fold.
  • Sprinkle with 1 tsp chili powder and a pinch of salt and pepper, fold up packet and set directly on the grill or open flame. Cooking inside the packet allows the juices to cook the meat and carmelize. It also eliminates the need to wash pans. Feel free to add extra flavors or marinate in advance.

Packet 2:

  • Next, slice up the peppers and onions into strips. Place along the fold in the foil packet.
  • Add in the tomatoes – depending on type, you can chop or cook whole. Sprinkle with the chopped garlic.
  • Drizzle 1 tbsp of olive oil over the vegetables. Sprinkle 1 tsp chili powder and a pinch of salt and black pepper over the top. Close up the packet and set the foil directly on the grill. Note: These cook very fast and can get soggy if you leave them on too long, so I usually add them last. Check them frequently, removing when they start to brown or blacken.
  • Now you can blend the garlic powder with the greek yogurt and add the fresh basil or cilantro. This is a great replacement for sour cream and adds more protein.
  • When everything is grilled, remove from heat and place the naked tortillas on the grill for 30 seconds each side. Squeeze slices of fresh lime juice over your veggies to ignite the flavor. Add your ingredients from each packet and top with cheese. Spice with hot sauce and a dollop of yogurt on top, fold tortillas and chomp away!

Dessert:

Samosa Banana Boats

Follow once for each person:

  • 1 Banana, unpeeled
  • 1 foil packet: about 10″x10″ or cut to size needed
  • 1 spoonful of dark chocolate chips or small dark chocolate chunks
  • 1 tsp coconut flakes
  • 1 tsp peanut butter
  • 1 small crushed graham cracker or shortbread cookie
  • First, cut a slice down one side of the banana and open the peel. Do not remove the peel. Lay the banana inside of the foil along the fold.
  • Close the foil packet and place on a wire rack over the fire or grill until the banana softens (check inside periodically) – this usually takes about 5 minutes for a medium size flame. It’s ok if the peel burns – it is protecting the banana, so the inside will not burn.
  • When softened, open the packet and add the peanut butter, chocolate, graham cracker crumbs and top with coconut flakes.
  • Eat with a spoon!
  • Note: If you want to use other toppings, such as marshmallows – you can add before grilling. I found the peanut butter was too messy to add before.
Cooked Samosa Banana Boat with added marshmallows

Packable snacks:

I had to share this fun and easy recipe that my friend Nikki shared on her blog. Follow her blog here: https://lajefacooks.blogspot.com & Instagram: @lajefacooks for lots of delicious recipe ideas!

Homemade Granola:

This is one you should make at home, while you are prepping for camping or a hike.

Here’s what you need:
Preheat your oven to 300 F.

Ingredients:

  • 3 Cups Oats 
  • 1 Cup Pecans
  • 1 Cup Walnuts
  • 1 Cup Almonds
  • 1/2 Cup Sunflower Seeds
  • 1/2 Cup Pepitas
  • 1/2 Cup Coconut Flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Coconut Oil (or olive oil)
  • 1/2 Cup Agave (or good maple syrup)

Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix with your hands. 

Sprinkle mixture onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and spread it out evenly.
Bake for 40 minutes, turning over once about halfway through the cooking time. 

Remove baking sheet with cooked granola and place on a wire rack. 

If you like your granola loose break it up every 15 minutes or so until cooled completely.  If you like it chunky let it cool then break it up once it has cooled completely. 

Split up into ziplock bags that fit easily in your backpack or if you place the granola in an airtight container, it should last about a week. 

Notes:

  • You can make this with any nuts and seeds you’d like.  Just remember for the amount of oil and sugar used here you should have about 7 cups of nuts and grains.  
  • Add Raisins, dried apricots or any dried fruit you’d like.
  • Try a flavor!  Add a tbsp of ground cinnamon or 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder to the mixture before baking.

Thanks for reading!

We have been camping for the last 2 weeks, so there are more stories on the way!

-Gina

Camping spot at Tällbergs Camping