Sunday, January 12, 2014

Winter has returned - a lesson in familylogistic in winterconditions.

On this occassion my wife had the camera, so you are going to see quite a few pictures with me in them! Don't say I didn't warn you!

Yes, winter finally made it back to Dalarna and with a vengeance! Within 2 days the temperature dropped to -15C and we got about 5-10cm of snow too. We decided to go out and have a familywalk + lunch in the woods to celebrate the turn of the weather and to finally be out and enjoy being there!
Going for a multihourwalk in these conditions with a family of 5 can be a bit of a challenge, especially if one wants their kids to be able to roam freely, meaning not being burdened by backpacks or anything. So the Mss and I filled up ours.
Being with kids under these conditions means one does not have time to go and prepare a decent fire and then warm water and prepare food. Their patience is quite limited due to the cold, so lunch or a warm drink have to be delivered quite fast. So we brought our 2 Swedish messkits. I personally am not to fond of them, despite their seemingly next to mythical appeal in outdoorland, especially in non-scandinavian countries. They are heavy, bulky and cumbersome. For lunch there would be hardbread, cheese, eggs and tea. Before we would get to that we would be going for a while, though. I wanted to head up to "moosealley" again, a part of the dalkarlsvägen I discovered last year. The kids were kind of excited to see all those moosetracks too, so off we went. The temperature was somewhere between -5 and -10, with very little snow and a gentle breeze.

the male section of the group...
Unfortunately there were no fresh moosetracks or -signs to be found. Nothing. I hope the moose have not been shot in this year's hunt. Also the terrain proved to be quite hard on the youngest of the family, so after about 1km we decided to head back to the main trail, where the going would be easier. we could also make lunch there, since the ground would be more level and we would not be exposed to the wind as much. On the way back I already noticed the temperature dropping.....

the Mss. wanted a familypicture..... and I think that turned out pretty well.
We came to the crossroads and we used the tracksignpost as a backpackrack and camerastand.
I unpacked the messkits and mats to sit on and showed the kids how to use the messkits One was used to heat water for tea dn the other for boiling the eggs. It took about half a bottle of fuel to warm 2x 75cl of stonecold water and boil 5 eggs hard.

I can only hope they pay as much attention in school as they did with me!
After lunch, well actually already during the preparation, the girls started to complain about cold feet and cold fingers. The warm tea and eggs brought some relief, but only briefly. So we packed up and headed back home again. The temperature did drop noticeably, there was a little more wind and it had started to snow quite a bit, despite the forecast saying it would remain dry all day.
I tought them to keep moving their limbs, by walking and actively use their arms while doing so. That worked, especially on the way home, where they did that for an extended length of time.
Brought the old pack again. I am really starting to like it!

the bright dots are snowflakes reflecting the camera's flash..

Another one for SWMBO

And nothing beats coming home after a few hours in the cold, white forests, than a crackling fire in the fireplace and a large mug of hot cocoa!

Well, I learned a few lessons in familylogistics in winterconditions.
1) always... always! bring spare socks and gloves. Mittens are simply unbeatable in this weather.
2) Those messkits are fine, if you want to have a quick, warm drink, but next time I'll settle for a filled up thermos instead of a canteen and will go for an open fire to get some warmth. The messkitsetup does not provide any warmth out in the open. When in use the metal will get warm, melting the snow it comes into contact with. When cooling down after use, that water will freeze up fast! Leaving you with an icecovered messkit to pack up. Handling the metal with bare hands is not smart, handling it with (wool) gloves is cumbersome and dificult. I do believe these kits will make excellent winter carkit items.
3) The water you used to boil eggs will give you an additional cup of tea without strange tastes and is very well useable to wash up the coffee/teacups.
4) always bring some sort of cover; a poncho, a shelter, whatever, to provide some sort of protection. Even with proper clothes, kids seem to cool down and get cold much quicker than grown ups. I noticed that ascending in age, the complaints about cold came later.
5) When travelling with kids, make sure an adult is at the end of the line. If not possible, turn around every 100 meters or so. It is very easy for kids to not keep up for whatever reason; speed, play or interesting stuff to see.
6) No matter what we will be doing next, the kids will always have their own backpack with them, containing at least their food, eatingutensils and a spare set of socks/gloves. My son will also have his own water and food. He's strong enough to carry that for extended lengths of time. That way they will get used to carrying their own stuff and us parents have extra room left for other things, like water, food, shelter etc.
7) Do not give into whining and whimpering. Small kids will enevitably complain about being tired and such, but I think that is because they loose interest in what you are doing. Make it playfull, challenging or simply pull them through the "hard" fase. Once they pass that, it's a lot less demanding and more fun. Keep in mind that their distance is a few times more than your distance!
8) Even if going out for a few hours, plan your gear for a 24hr. trip. That way you will have all the essentials with you.
9) Those winter coveralls are all fine and dandy, but when someone has to "go", they will need to undress next to completely, especially girls! A poncho to provide windcover or even cover from view will become a must. A post by the partner of a member at BCUSA, a woman, wrote an article about "peeing in the woods" which got us thinking about this subject. I hope to get permission to repost that here soon and my wife will provide expertknowledge on the subject.


  1. Great outing Ron and family. Good pics and tips all around.

  2. Nice family trip, Ron! Great to see. :) Do your kids speak Swedish pretty well now?

    GREAT tips at the end, thanks!