These guides you need before mountain hiking
Choose the right season
What time of year is best suited to mountain hiking? The mountain hiking season lasts from June to September, broadly speaking, but conditions vary from year to year during that time. Check snow and water levels before you head out. In June there might be plenty of snow on the trails and a lot of water in the streams. The first autumn snow often falls in August. But higher up, around Kebnekaise for example, large areas are covered in snow all year round.
Notify someone about your route and planned return
Before you leave, inform a family member or a cabin manager about your route and planned return, or add it electronically using the Mountain Safety app. It’s important that someone knows your planned route and when you expect to return, so they can raise the alarm if you don’t come back as planned. In mountain cabins and shelters there are guest books where you should make a note to show you’ve been there. If someone is reported missing these messages can be useful.
When you calculate how long it will take, don’t count on more than 3 km/hour and add an extra hour per every 100 height metres. It takes even longer for many, so add time if you know you’ll want to walk at a slow pace, stop and enjoy the surroundings, or feel that you could perhaps be in even better shape.
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Adjust your hike to the weather
Often the mountain weather can be considered extreme in the sense that one moment it’s warm and sunny, the next the wind picks up and it starts to snow. During a day trip you might experience all kinds of weather – which is an experience in itself – and that’s why it’s important to pack clothes to be able to cope with all weather conditions.
Since the weather in the mountains is prone to quick changes it’s always a good idea to check the forecast on the radio, the web or through one of the various mobile apps on the market, from SMHI for example. For your own safety: always respect mountain weather alerts. The cabin managers along the trails often have updated forecasts.
The weather always get the final say. It decides what’s possible or not when you’re in the mountains, and whether your planned hike can be done at all. Not all summer days are suitable for an attempt on Kebnekaise, for example. Safety must always come first.
Train, train and then train some more
Before you go hiking in the mountains: train. Mountain hiking is no ‘walk in the park’. This is an Arctic environment and it demands physical exertion. If the weather is bad you might run out of steam very quickly. Start improving both stamina and strength in good time before you leave. Then adapt your hike to your ability.
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Book a helicopter or a boat
If the hike feels too long, it might be a good idea to book a helicopter or a boat for some stretches. Read more about boats here and helicopters here (in Swedish only). You can also contact a mountain station in the area where you are about to hike and get some useful information from those who work there.
During the trek
Follow signposted trails
There are thousands of kilometres’ worth of signposted trails in the mountains, with distance markers, overnight cabins and emergency phones. It’s wise to follow the trails. Remember that the red crosses mark winter trails, not always suitable to follow in summer as they might pass straight through lakes and marshlands. Summer hikes are marked with stones that are painted red.
Cross waters carefully
If you need to wade do it carefully and never take any risks. Along the main trails you’ll seldom have to cross water, but if you have to these are good pointers to keep in mind:
• Never wade without shoes, use sneakers or sandals.
• Use a hiking pole as support and move one foot at the time.
• Never go in above your knees if it’s rapidly-flowing water.
• The shallowest part is often found where the brook is widest.
• During the morning hours there’s normally less water.
• Walk diagonally against the stream.
• Unfasten the waist belt of your rucksack.
• Never take any risks.
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Use a map and compass
Make sure you bring a map and a compass and remember maps have expiry dates, so always bring the latest edition. Using them takes a bit of practise through, so you’ll have to learn how to use them and practise, practise and practise some more. When you really need your map and compass they don’t come with a manual, so you’ll have to learn how to follow your route on the map. That way you’ll always know exactly where you are. GPS and mobile apps that access mountain maps are handy, but remember batteries don’t last as long when it’s cold outside. Also, the same thing goes for a GPS as for a map and compass: practise, practise and practise some more.
One idea is to mostly navigate using a map and compass and every now and then use the GPS to check your route: is this the right direction, how much further to go, and so on.
Emergency phones are available in most mountain cabins and in some shelters along the trails. Check what mountain stations you pass in advance. The emergency phone lets you contact the local police and the mountain rescue. Use the emergency phone to raise the alarm if something happens or to inform about a delay for example, making sure family members don’t worry and raise the alarm unnecessarily. If you feel insecure you can use the emergency phones to ask for help – never take any risks.
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Mobile phones in the mountains
Remember you can’t count on mobile coverage in the mountains. It’s still a good item to bring though, but with an extra battery or power bank. Some activity companies have satellite phones and emergency beacons for rent.