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Thursday, 1 November 2018

Father and Son Bushcraft Trip to Sweden; Bushcrafting Abroad

Last week during the half term holidays I had the immense privileged to take my oldest son Michael to Sweden for a father and son adventure. My wife and I have promised all our children a trip abroad as their eighth birthday present, as long as we can afford it. Michael turned eight earlier in the year so the October half term was planned as his trip to Sweden.

On the trail heading toward Ullådalen
He wanted to see where I used to live and to go camping and fishing, luckily camping and fishing makes trips abroad much cheaper than they otherwise can be and I think I was as excited about the prospect of getting out in the Swedish countryside as Michael was.

Today's post will be about the travel aspect of bushcrafting and camping abroad. With budget airlines offering flights for as little as £9.99 nowadays getting away to Scandinavia or other European destinations to do a bit of bushcrafting really isn't difficult or expensive anymore. You can get a return flight to Stockholm or Oslo for less than the cost of a train ticket to London.

The problem comes from all the kit that you need to take with you to enjoy the outdoors. Yes as bushcrafters we boast about our ability to make do without heavy tents, stoves and other 'modern' camping kit but even if we can pack light enough to fit all our kit in a tiny cabin bag there will be things we need to take which can't be carried as hand luggage; knife, saw and axe will never be allowed in the cabin and you will have to purchase space in the hold. The price for this varies from airline to airline and with the time of year. On our recent trip a 20kg hold bag cost us £25 per flight, a total of £50 on top of the price of the ticket, but as that only cost £46 for the both of us that still was very reasonable, under £100 for both of us to get to Sweden.

There is a very valid question to ask at this point; is it cheaper to buy bushcrafting tools when you get to your destination than to pay for the hold luggage?

Gransfors axes in the Sveavägen branch of Natturkompaniet

Would it be less hassle to buy tools at your destination that have to carry hold luggage?
Well if you could fit absolutely all your kit into your cabin luggage and just buy cheap tools when you arrived that might be cheaper but consider the fact that although you could buy a knife, axe and folding saw for under the £50 that our hold bag cost is it going to be simple and easy to find them once you arrive? For us it would have been impossible our travel schedule brought us to Stockholm after the shops shut and onto a train with only a few minutes to spare before it headed off overnight to our final destination. Additionally if the budget tools that could have saved you money aren't available you haven't saved yourself any money at all. Yes you could buy a Hultafors Heavy Duty knife (£4) a fiskars X7 hatchet (£19) and a bacho lapplander folding saw (£16.50) for under £50 but could you do that without internet deals and all at a single shop in an unfamiliar country? probably not. Also consider that by the time you have packed you sleeping bag, tarp and a change of clothes and waterproofs you will still need a hold bag to fit it all in, especially in winter and the option to save money on hold luggage and buy when you arrive doesn't seem so sensible.


[NOTE: the prices in the text do not necessarily match the Amazon prices shown here, but I can highly recomend the Bacho saw, the fiskars axe and anything by Hultafors]

The added benefit of packing your own tools is that you can use the tools that you are familiar with and presumably quite attached to and ones which you trust in terms of their performance and quality.

My bushcraft knife by Ammonite Knives being used to prepare a meal of 'korv' (sausage) and foraged hedgehog fungi
With most our kit packed into a single hold bag and the rest in small cabin bags we travelled about as cheaply as I think it is possible, it helps that we were travelling 'off-peak' at a time of year when flights are a little cheaper anyway and also in terms of our final destination which is a popular ski resort in Winter.

A key to making this kind of adventure fun for children is not to load them down with too much kit, I carried both sleeping bags, all the shelter kit, both fishing rods and the bulk of the tools, leaving Michael with a small bag for his spare clothes, a spare poncho liner, his knife and some snacks. At eight years old loading him down with too much kit could easily have turned a fun adventure into a misery, there will be a time and a place for him to carry heavy loads but this wasn't it. So as a parent be aware on trips like this, whether at home or abroad, you will need to carry the bulk of the kit otherwise your children won't enjoy it, definitely make them carry something but not everything. For this reason a 80-100 litre rucksack is an absolute must for overnight trips especially in Winter. If you are out camping and bushcrafting with children you might be carrying multiple sleeping bags, multiple changes of clothes more food than you usually would, it all adds up and a bigger bag is the only solution.

hiking through the birch forest near Ullsjön
When we set out on this trip the plan was for Michael to carry one of my smaller rucksacks with the straps all cinched tight, this was as good as we could do at the time but in an outdoor shop in Sweden I discovered the Osprey Jet, a proper rucksack that is sized to fit children. This would have been a better and more comfortable option for him and although he doesn't know it yet Michael will be getting one for Christmas if Father Christmas is on form.


Once we had made it to Skavsta airport which is Stockholms equivalent of the UK's Stanstead we had a little over an hour on the bus to get us to the centre of Stockhols where we could catch the night train to Åre, a nine hour train ride away in Jämtland and quite close the the Norwegian border. The connection bus cost £44 for a return journey and seats on the night train £72.52, a cabin with beds would have increased the cost considerably but can still be had for a reasonable price, a return trip with beds would have cost in the region of £180.

When you are bushcrafting abroad be extra careful with vital documents like boarding passes, passports and money, keep them in a waterproof bag and try to keep them in one place so you don't forget and panic about them. When you are transiting through bus stations and airports have them to hand in a pocket but while you are on the trail a sealed dry bag in the main compartment of your bag is the best place for them so they don't get soaked or lost.

So don't think that bushcrafting abroad is out of reach, Michael and I went to Sweden for about £212 and were there for five days. Yes if you start to add accommodation on to that it adds up and if you want to eat out at restaurants then that adds to the price but our grocery bill was about £38, not including the pizza we had in Stockholm before we came home. The rations we bought for the trail and our nights camping included rice, dried potato, korv, rice porridge (it comes in plastic tubes like dog food and doesn't weight anything near as much as tinned rice pudding), hot chocolate, vegetable stock, tomato puree, tortillas and cheese. We had hoped to supplement that with some fish but were very unlucky in that respects but did forage a couple of meals worth of mushrooms which you can read about in tomorrows special edition of the Foragers Diary.

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