Across Sarek in winter - some gear

English, Teori-praktik Some odds and ends that I brought across Sarek this winter that might be worth mentioning.
By Jörgen Johansson

The pack I used was an ULA Ohm. Not exactly constructed for winter use, I imagine, but it worked fine. Only disadvantage was that the mesh was clogged with a bit of ice and snow one afternoon when a cold, hard wind was blowing. Since it was pretty cold, these patches of ice stuck for a while, making the mesh a bit less elastic than it normally is. No big deal though, I would bring it again since I do not do that much winter backpacking these days. My Golite Jam would be better, but it is too small for a trip like this. A Golite Pinnacle would work well, I suppose

I always carry my tent stuffed into the big back pocket on the Ohm as well as on my other pack, the Golite Jam. There it is always handy, can dry out a bit if wet and does not soak the rest of my gear on those occasions. I do not see any need for a separarate stuff sack for my tent. The tent is a Black Diamond Firstlight which I only use in winter, but then gladly.

The trip through Sarek was in remembrance of a trip I made in 1981. One piece of gear was along then as well, my trusty old Helly-Hansen mittens made of pile, with a nylon shell. They are really big, since I want to have plenty of room for my fleece gloves inside when it is really cold. The shell is not the least bit waterproof, which makes them dry out real fast. They are still the best and most reliable mittens I have used.

The shovel I used was was a Snowclaw. Quite adequate for digging a place to sit and minor work. In an emergency you can dig a snow cave I imagine, but if you plan to dig a lot and live in snowcaves every night I certainly would bring a real shovel. The Snowclaw weighs 300 grams and is shown with my cup, so as to give you a hint of the size.

Lately I have started using Mini Tortillas as bread. They are soft and 8 of them weigh 200 grams. They are easy to stash in the pack with sturdy packages that keep them fresh for a long, long time. I hade some problems with them freezing together when it was -10-20 C, but nothing that really was a bother. I either roll part of a beer sausage or some pieces of hard cheese inside the tortilla and eat it like that.

The sunglasses I used was called Sport Eyz. They weigh only 10 grams and are a lot tougher than they look. Of course, for hard wind I use a pair of regular ski goggles that protects from windwhipped snow and does not let it enter, but they are big and unwieldy when not needed. On this trip I never used them.

The Sport Eyz fits very well on top of my regular eye glasses as well, as can be seen. A real advantage in my opinion.

Comments in English below or at Utsidan here.

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2010-04-26   0 kommentarer

Across Sarek in winter - sleep system

English; Teori-Praktik The sleep system I used on my fairly cold ski trip across Sarek this winter worked better than any system I have so far used. I never slept better or warmer on any winter trip that I can remember. So I thought I'd share my system.
By Jörgen Johansson

Starting with the foundations I used a 14 mm EVA closed cell foam called Goodpad. This is a very priceworthy, high quality pad that is a good sized 600 mm wide by 1900 long. With pads 500 mm wide most people, not even a skinny beanpole like yours truly, cannot sleep on their backs with arms at the side without these limbs ending up un-insulated. With a 600 mm wide pad I can. Since I am 1910 mm tall the pad is almost long enough for me as well. Of course, everyone should trim a pad like this to fit their size and sleeping style. I've only trimmed the lower half, where my legs are, down to 400 mm in width. This brings the weight down to 400 grams.

On top of the closed cell pad I always use (even in summer) something that softens my night. So far nothing has even come close to comfort than the Thermarest Neoair. I use a size small, which is 1200 mm long. Since I use it for softness anything longer is in my mind completely unneccessary, since it is my hips and torso that needs the comfort.

I think the combination of insulative properties that the two pads brought, combined with the exquisite softness of a moderately inflated Neoair explains much of my excellent sleep. This was the first time I used the Neoair in winter and I had no problems with frost or ice inside, inspite of the fact that I filled it by use of mouth and lungs. I assume that remnants of moisture left after emptying it in the morning froze pretty fast since the mornings averaged about -15 C. But this was not noticable or did in any way I could detect infer with the function of the mattress. The Neoair Small weighs 260 grams.

The heart of the sleep system is of course the sleeping bag. I use a Western Mountaineering Ultralite Super which is graded to -7 or -9C (with collar). A very good sleeping bag for early, early spring and late, late fall, but not really a bag for Scandinavian winters. In spite of this I've used it in winter for several years, beacause I can beef it up with a quilt. I need the long variant, which harbors people up to 198 cm and weighs 885 grams.

This photo shows how I add a homemade synthetic quilt on top of the sleeping bag. The ripstop in both sleeping bag and quilt are hard to tell apart, but the back of the quilt is made of bug net which contrasts nicely.

The quilt was especially made for this trip, after testing the system for several years using my homemade down quilt. However, sleep systems in winter do suffer from condensation. The moisture that is given off by the sleeper and also by damp clothing that might be in the sleeping bag travels through the insulation. If we have a temperature of maybe 10-20 C inside the sleeping bag and -10-20 C on the outside, the moisture will condense somewhere in the insulation. In deep winter it will of course freeze.

This is particulary bothersome with down insulation. Synthetics handle this kind of moisture much better, but is heavier for the same amount of loft.

The above photo is taken in my tent on a trip last winter. As the sun was shining through the tent door I held the quilt up and shot a picture of it. You can see how the down (highest quality Polish goose down +800) is gathered in moist lumps and the sun shining through the fabric around them. This was after three nights of -10-20 C temperatures. Of course, the insulative properties of this quilt was not very good with the down in this condition. To restore it you have to get inside a heated building or be able to build a fire, both things not really an option going through Sarek in winter.

Obviously adding a quilt on top of your sleeping bag is not very practical if you toss and turn with your sleeping bag during the night, since the quilt might end up underneath you, where it won't do much good. Since I sleep on my side and turn inside the bag my quilt stays very nicely on top of me all night.

So this year I decided to go for a synthetic quilt, hoping that this combination would give me the best of both worlds; the low weight and high loft of the down and the more enduring loft of the synthetic insulation when exposed to moisture.

I had an old, homemade synthetic quilt that weighed 1100 grams, with only about 50% of the original loft left. Not an option. There are few makers of synthetic quilts that are light and warm these days. Fanatic Fringe seems to have gone out of business and Backpackinglight were sold out and their new line would not arrive until June. So I dug out the old quilt, opened it up at the seems and got two pieces of nice and lite ripstop nylon. This I kept and the insulation went to meet its maker (?).

My idea was to use the thin ripstop on top, where the DWR would shed moisture/frost that sometimes falls from my tent canopy, and on the other side of the insulation I would use a very light bug netting (25 g/sqm) I had come across. The theory being that it would ventilate better and weigh less than ripstop. In summer it might catch all kinds of debris, but since I wasn't going to use it except in winter, I didn't worry about this.

For insulation I choose Primaloft One (200 g/sqm) with a reported thickness. Both this and the bug netting was ordered from

As can be seen at the photo above I attached the insulation to the fabric using the time honored method by Ray Jardine; pieces of synthetic yarn were stitched through the fabrics and the insulation and knotted loosely (to let the loft remain unscathed) at 400 mm intervals. Since I had a bit of extra Primaloft I added an extra piece for double thickness where my torso would be, as can be seen above. Three thin elastics were added to hold the quilt in place on top of the sleeping bag.
I also knew that a safety pin that attached the quilt to the sleeping bag right below my chin was a very good way of keeping the quilt from slipping down towards my waist during the night. The weight of my quilt was 640 grams.

My insulative clothing is of course also a part of my sleep system. When having set up camp and retired into my tent at dusk I took of the BPL Merino Hoody that I used for skiing all day. Instead I donned my trusty old Woolpower pullover for something dry next to the skin. On top of this went the hoody, to dry it out as much as possible. I then donned my BPL Cocoon Pullover (see photos courtesy This is what I used for my torso during three of the five nights. For the other two nights I added my down jacket, WM Flash. The Cocoon weighs 320 grams and the Flash 410 grams. These two jackets was quite enough to keep me comfortably warm during the day. I seldom used the Flash jacket except on cold mornings and evenings around camp.
Below the waist I kept my BPL Merino Shorts. I took of my Paramo Cascada ski pants, added a pair of woolen Stil long johns plus the wonderful BPL Cocoon Endurance Side Zip Pants insulated with Primaloft. They weigh 365 grams. On my feet I added a pair of thich and dry Smartwool Mountaineering socks, put my damp day socks (Donner merino) on top of these and added a pair of gigantic nylon pile socks on top of it all.

With this gear plus gloves I slept warmly, softly and fitfully for five nights, the coldest being around -22 C, the warmest being -12 C.

Please comment at Utsidan in Swedish or below in English.

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2010-04-09   6 kommentarer

Across Sarek in winter - hydration system

English; Teori-Praktik An important detail on winter trips is to stay hydrated. When you have to melt snow for all drinking and cooking and low temperatures make it difficult to keep water in a liquid state, it is all to easy not to drink enough. I'll describe a system that I find very satisfactory that I used on my latest trip, described here.
By Jörgen Johansson
To stay satisfactorily hydrated I need about the same input as during 3-season hikes. This means about 300 ml every hour and maybe double that when I take a meal. And I'm rather keen on my meals. I stop for lunch summer and winter and cook myself a meal and I stop and cook afternoon coffee around 1500 hours. Both these instances give me opportunity to melt snow for drinking water. So I don't carry huge amounts of water.

Using this system means that I see no need for Thermos bottles, which I also find a bit on the heavy side. But I know that many winter hikers and skiers only cook morning and night swear by them. Especially if you try to make as much mileage as possible, and take as few and short breaks as possible, like Arctic expeditions. Many, not only expeditioners, do use a Thermos for a lunch consisting of fruit or blueberry soup.
Me, I have simply chosen another approach which means that I don't really hunt mileage but consider breaks and hot meals an important part of my vacation. However, irrespective of this, I do think that carrying all the liquid you need for a whole day in Thermos bottles is heavy and impractical, which means that my system could very well be used as a complement to hot soups in Thermos bottles. You just have to carry/transport larger amounts of water if you want to have a whole days supply of water along.

The above photo shows the transportation devices I use. After having breakfast I put the small plastic bottles, from Arla Smoothies of 300-330 ml, in the pockets of my anorak or pants to keep them from freezing. I usually give the water an extra boost on the stove, bringing it up to 30-40 C before filling the bottles.

That way the water will stay unfrozen even in very cold weather. I've had no problems down to -20--25 C and from my Army days I know that a bottle kept in the "groin pockets" of my pants will stay liquid in temperatures well below that.

After one hour of skiing I drink one of the 300 ml bottles, together with a handful of chocolate, raisins and nuts. No matter what the circumstances, especially if the weather is inclement, I know that I need water and calories in order to stay comfortable and in control. But actually doing this sometimes takes some self discipline, maybe combined with experience. It is always easier to just keep on plodding when the weather is lousy.

After two hours and the intermittent breaks the small bottles are empty. I then bring out the bigger Platypus 2 l. It has been rolled up in my insulated pants or jacket at the top of the pack. The amount of liquid kept there depends on how many hours I plan to travel before cooking, and melting snow, again. Usually this means that I maximum carry 1-1,5 liters in all three bottles together.

When it is time for lunch I also melt enough snow to refill the bottles, and the same thing goes for when I make afternoon coffee. It's a very simple system that has worked very well for me.

One important reason for carrying two small bottles extra, instead of only the big one can be seen above. The first thing I do in the morning is heating water for both those bottles. I heat the water to maybe 60-80 C, that is hot, but not really boiling. I don't want to risk scalding myself miles from nowhere. I then place the small bottles inside my frozen ski boots and let them sit there for the next hour or so.

During this time I sit in my sleeping bag, inside my tent, and cook and eat breakfast. When it is time to get on my feet I take the small bottles and place them in my trouser pockets, after which I don the now, if not toasty warm, at least comfortably thawed boots.

I imagine that most outdoor people over time will evolve their own system for staying hydrated. The biggest problem for me once upon a time, however, was that I did not make sure that I got enough water to drink during strenous days in the cold. If you are in that situation maybe my system can serve as inspiration for evolving your own.

Discuss in Swedish on Utsidan here, and below in English.

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2010-04-04   6 kommentarer

Caffin on canister stoves in deep cold

Teori-Praktik; English In my quest for the optimal stove for my upcoming ski trip through Sarek National Park I have turned to Roger Caffin. Roger, living in Sydney, is the Senior Editor for Technology at Backpacking and also an editor of Roger started walking in the Boy Scouts and, like myself, started going "lightweight" as he got older - around 2000. Roger has written more indepth articles on stoves, with a scientific bent (he's a PhD), than anyone I know. His articles on these subjects at are a recommended read, well worth the subscription fee alone. By the way, all photos below are by Roger and all are from Australia. Maybe not what the Crododile Dundee movies has made you prepared for?
By Jörgen Johansson

Jörgen: Roger, as you know from my article the ground rules are deep cold and two fairly similar stoves. Both have a burner on legs and a hose connecting the burner to the fuel container. The containers are filled with butane/propane mixes or white gas/petrol. No top-mounted gas canisters. Of course the pots and windscreens should be identical and therefore of no importance to this comparison. And since I from my own experiences considera canister stove to be quite practical down to minus 18-20 C (provided I keep the canister in my pocket or sleeping bag when not using it), let's keep in mind that we are talking about temperatures below that.
To start with I listed six factors that I considered relevant for the comparison:
-Fuel consumption/weight
-Ease of use (lighting up, shutting down etc)
-Usability in tent/vestibule-Mechanical reliability
-Works well even in extreme cold

I will ask you to comment on all these factors in turn, but first; would you like to comment on the selection? Have I missed some important factor?

Roger: Well, I would add user safety to the list..

Jörgen: Fine, I'll add it and we'll get back to it. Let's first talk about weight. To begin with let's look at the hardware. I've put down the canister as a winner, but the difference might not be that big. What do you say?

Roger: No hesitation here. There are quite a few stoves today which can take either white gas or canister, so the actual stove weight is the same. But the weight of a fuel tank and pump is always greater than the weight of a canister. In addition, you have to add the weight of cleaning and repair gear to the white gas stove - stuff you rarely need with a canister stove. Mind you, many white gas stoves are far heavier - compare the XGK with the almost any remote canister stove.

Jörgen: A comparison of canister and white gas stove weights would have to include fuel consumption and transport vessels etc, which means that one kind of stove could be lighter on short trips and another on longer. My own mpression is that, generally speaking, a canister stove comes out ahead. What are your experiences?

Roger: Well, the fuel tank and pump are always heavier than the canister. If you carry extra fuel you need an extra container of some sort. But there are several more factors here to consider. The first is that butane/propane mix has a higher energy content than white gas, by weight. What's more, in the field you end up using a lot more white gas than a simple calculation would suggest. Part of the reason for this is that you use up a surprising amount of white gas when priming the stove to get it going.

Another reason relates to the ease of relighting a canister stove. This means there is no hesitation about turning it off, while the hassles of restarting a white gas stove mean that users
often leave it running at low power even when not actually doing anything with it. Over all, it is quite common to find that white gas consumption runs between 50% and 100% heavier than butane/propane. That extra weight starts to add up over a few days.

Jörgen: OK, what about ease of use. To me the canister stoves seems toc ome out as winners. What do you say?

Roger: All I can do is laugh. The hassles of running a white gas stove compared to 'connect, turn on and light' with a canister stove make it a complete walk-over. When the canister stove has a piezo-lighter as well, the mismatch becomes ridiculous. Canister stoves are just so easy to use in comparison.

Jörgen: To me cooking inside the tent in winter is of paramount importance to my comfort. Both morning and night I want to be able sit in my sleepingbag with the stove beside me and melt snow as well as cook. My top-mounted canister stove has worked great for this. How do remote canister stoves compare to gasoline stoves in this aspect?

Roger: Oh, I hear you about sitting comfortably inside your tent! We often get bad weather up in the mountains here in Australia, and I always cook in the vestibule of my tent.
My wife lies in her sleeping bag further inside the tent and demands to be fed. This while the storm howls outside...

Let's first compare ease of use between a top-mount and a remote canister stove. Basically, there is very little difference between the two. In fact, one of the things I like about the remote canister stove is the fact that it is lower to the ground than a top-mount. Otherwise, it is still just 'connect, turn on and light'.

I had better add a point here about inverted canister stoves. Basically they are just remote canister stoves, but they include a preheat tube similar to that found on white gas stoves. (Not all remote canister stoves have the preheat tube: check!) The preheat tube allows you to start with a dead-cold canister and cook happily down to about -25 C. That is a huge advantage.

The only thing you have to do is to start the stove at a low power for maybe 10 - 20 seconds - but you can start the stove with the pot already on it. In many cases you can start with the canister upright and then invert it after that time.

One really major advantage of remote canister stoves is that the operation inside the canister is quite different. With an upright canister the energy used to vaporise the fuel come initially from the liquid gas inside the canister. As a result the liquid gas cools down, possibly to the point where it no longer evaporates enough to drive the stove.

This can be dangerous in the cold. Even if it continues to work, the evaporation will be preferentially extracting the propane and leaving the butane. It is quite common for users to complain that their canister is 2/3 full but nothing is coming out of it. Butane boils at -0.5 C: if the propane has been used up and the butane is sitting at -5 C, you have a dead canister.

But when you invert the canister the evaporation of the liquid happens in the preheat tube at the stove, using energy from the flame. The canister does not cool down. The pressure used to
drive the stove comes from the static vapour pressure of the fuel in the canister - a pressure which stays constant as the static vapour pressure stays as constant as the temperature.

The other really major advantage of the inverted canister stove is that the fuel extracted from the canister is the original liquid butane/propane mix. This means that the percentage of propane left in the canister stays constant, all the way to empty. You don't end up with a canister 2/3 full of non-boiling butane. In effect, the propane provides the driving pressure which is given by the pump in a white gas stove.

Jörgen: Another factor of importance in deep cold is mechanical reliability. Are there screws, gaskets, springs and stuff that can fall out or break? Is it recommended to bring tools and spares? Fixing stuff like that in bitter cold is not what I want to do. It seems to me that the canister is a simpler construction with fewer things that can go wrong. What do you say?

Roger: Servicing a stove as the sun goes down and the temperature drops way below freezing can be a bit worrying. I've done it for both sorts of stoves. In the case of the white gas stoves it was always a messy job. I was not always successful either, so it was biscuits and chocolate for dinner.

In the case of the remote canister stoves I have serviced in the field it was all pretty simple. I removed the valve and wiped it clean and screwed it back in place. Then I removed the jet, cleaned it with a proper little bit of jet-cleaning wire (a careful poke and a wiggle) and replaced it. That took only a couple of minutes and then we had the stove roaring away for dinner. But having to service a canister stove in the field is pretty rare in my experience.

Jörgen: You wanted to add safety for the user to my list. What are you thinking of?

Roger: I've used many white gas stoves in the past and been rather close to some scary incidents. I've lost parts of a sleeping bag and a pack when someone else mishandled white
gas, a long way from civilisation. I've seen the safety valve on a stove release and a huge flame shoot out of it. I know some people who ended up with huge amounts of plastic surgery after a white gas tank exploded. So white gas frankly scares me a bit. It's even worse when you are clumsy with gloves on. I don't see canister stoves presenting those sorts of risks.

And that does not cover the risks of starting a stove in a tent. With a canister stove there is no flare-up at the start, so you can light one even in a small vestibule or even an emergency bivy quite safely. But priming a white gas stove can easily involve a fireball of flame - MSR actually mentions this with the XGK stove. Very few people are willing to risk that inside a tent vestibule! But if there is a howling storm outside or you are in an emergency situation, your options are not great.

Jörgen: To sum it all up; since the issue for me is not if canister stoves work in winter, which I already know that they do provided you keep the canister reasonably warm, but will they work in really, really deep cold. Can I trust them to melt my snow and boil my food under almost any circumstances. On this I give the victory to the gasoline stoves out of, Iguess, tradition and hearsay, since I haven't tried any of them in bitter cold. What do you think?

Roger: That's a lot more complicated. A standard 70% butane / 30% propane canister will give off fuel down to -25 C. An 80% iso-butane / 20% propane canister is almost as good. Canisters with less propane are not so good, and should be avoided. (They are aimed more at the family camping market.) But what matters here is the temperature of the fuel in the canister, not the ambient temperature. As you have indicated, if you can warm the canister up beforehand then you can use it to considerably lower temperatures.

The next thing to consider is how you run the stove. If you put the canister out by itself sitting on the snow it is going to drop down to ambient fairly quickly, and that could kill the stove. On the other hand, if you insulate the canister from the snow and let it pick up a bit of radiant heat from the stove - through a gap in the windshield for instance, then you can keep the contents warm enough. Obviously you do NOT let the canister get too hot for safety reasons, but as long as you can put your hand on it (ie <40>

If you are going to be travelling at -30 C for some time you will inevitably be carrying more gear than a summer walker. You may well be using a pulk or sled to carry some of this gear, and that allows you to carry a bit more weight. At the same time, finding water is going to be more difficult, so you may need to melt a lot of snow. Doing so can literally double your fuel consumption. Under these cold condition it may be worth while considering the use of small LPG containers such as those made by Coleman. These containers hold a larger weight of fuel, and the LPG or propane will work down close to -40 C - without being warmed.

Anyone contemplating travelling below -20 C should be careful to test their stoves and other gear fairly thoroughly close to home. Grease and O-rings may need to be changed for these temperatures. Cheap O-rings can go very hard and leak at -20 C. Viton O-rings are good between -26 C and +200 C, Nitrile O-rings are good between -40 C and +105 C, and PU
O-rings are good between -50 C and +105 C. It's a pity that Viton cannot go lower in temperature; the +105 C upper limit for Nitrile and PU is really a bit low for safe use near
the stove. (But these materials are OK when used on the remote canister connection.) More esoteric rubber are available - at a price.

Many plastics can shatter at the lower temperatures, and can be even more fragile if they have been soaking in fuel for a while. That applies especially to plastic pumps in fuel
tanks: you may need to change them to all-metal ones. I have heard of some pumps reliably disintegrating below -20 C. Below -40 C is (to quote a friend) 'freaking cold'. It requires extremely specialised gear and skill, and I don't have enough experience there to comment.

Jörgen: By the way, all the photos show a Powermax canister från Coleman. Does this mean that those are the only ones that will work under the circumstances you've described? As you're probably aware, Primus and Optimus are Swedish companies and very popular here.

Roger: N-butane is n-butane, iso-butane is iso-butane, and propane is propane.
Lindal valves are Lindal valves from Lindal Group (except for Chinese rip-offs) Canisters are all US Dept of Transport (DOT) approved.

The only thing that matters is the fuel composition - eg 70% butane / 30% propane. There are small variations in the odorant used, but they all have to meet DOT specifications. The reality is that the paint and the brand on the outside of the canisters means NOTHING.. Most canisters of gas are made and filled by one (or two) companies in Korea. That includes Primus. I am not sure who fills the Powermax canisters though - possibly an American company.

Most stoves are made by one Korean company or one of a couple of Chines companies, and that does include Primus and Optimus. And of course, the Chinese rip off the designs and sell clones real cheap. The clones do sometimes have bad variations though.

Jörgen: Thanks Roger. I'll have to sit back and digest all this for a while and weigh my different options. I hope to give my conclusions in an upcoming article soon. And anyone that wants to dig deeper into the tests and research Roger has done on stoves should check at

Discuss in Swedish here at Utsidan and put comments in English here below.

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2010-02-05   0 kommentarer

Canister vs white - gas in winter

Teori Praktik; English I've used a top mounted canister gas stove for several winters, down to minus 18-20 C. It has worked fine. However, for really deep cold, say below minus 25 C or so, it is undisputed that white gas or kerosene rules. Or is it?
By Jörgen Johansson
My question is simply; do I really need something else than a gas canister stove even for deep and bitter cold?
So I thought I'd simply list some of the pros and cons, for these types of stoves as I see them. It will be a combination of my own experiences and what I've read and heard. I will then lean back and wait for the response from people reading what I've written. Maybe then I can write a second article on this subject where I formulate some of the opinions and experiences that will have surfaced after this process.
I will look at a number of factors that I think are important for any stove in deep cold and then give my verdict on what I think performs best. The ground rules are, as mentioned, deep cold and two fairly similar stoves. Both have a burner on legs and a hose connecting the burner to the fuel container. The containers are filled with butane/propane mixes or white gas or petrol. No topmounted gas canisters.
Examples of the canister stoves could be Primus Spider or MSR Wind pro. White gas could be Optimus Nova+ or Markill Pheonix. Of course the pots and windscreens should be identical and therefore of no importance to this comparison. And since I from my own experiences consider a canister stove to be quite practical down to minus 18-20 C, please remember that we are talking about temperatures below that.

The factors I feel to be relevant for my own way of operating in the winter are the following. Feel free to comment on my selection:
-Ease of use (lighting up, shutting down etc)
-Usability in tent/foretent
-Works well even in extreme cold
-Fuel consumption/weight
-Mechanical reliability

Factors like availability of fuel in all corners of the world as well as price I will keep out of this discussion. Let's just assume that for this particular trip in deep cold both fuels are just as available and that differences in price is of no importance since we have unlimited funds. At least when it comes to backpacking gear. At least according to our spouses....

Looking at the above factors and trying to appoint a winner for each factor when choosing between canister gas and white gas I come up with the following:

-Weight = canister
-Ease of use = canister
-Usability in tent = canister
-Works well in extreme cold = white gas
-Fuel consumption = canister
-Mechanical reliability = canister

So far it seems ridiculously simple. The canister stove wins on all counts excepting one. However, let's not make the common mistake of thinking that all the above factors have equal importance.
Since we are talking about extreme cold this factor is obviously more important than for instance weight. If a stove doesn't melt your water and cook your food in extreme cold it's obviously useless and the fact that it's ligth doesn't really matter. In fact, all the above factors except reliability in extreme cold is of course the reason for many people to use canister stoves when it's not that cold.
However, if a canister stove could be considered to be reliable, if not super, in extreme cold, then all the other factors would give the canister stove a landslide victory. And to me it seems that it does. That is, work, if not optimally, in deep cold.
In order for a canister stove to work reliably in deep cold there are as far as I can see two tricks that does the trick:
-You should do your best to keep the canister warmer than the surrounding air
-You should turn it upside down while using it

Since both these are easily accomplished it seems to me that the canister stove wins hands down even in deep cold. But I could be wrong. Please give me your take on this.

Comments in English below, comments in Swedish at this link at

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2010-01-31   5 kommentarer

Canister stoves in the cold - insulated or not?

Teori Praktik Niklas Lagström is product manager at Primus. When I talked to him I figured he was the right person to solve all my wintertime gas canister problems. Like; Can you use canister stoves in deep cold? And should you try to insulate the canister from the cold or not? As usual it turned out that there are no simple answers.
By Jörgen Johansson

Jörgen: Niklas, could you tell us something about who you are and how you've become product manager at Primus?

Niklas: I have always been using outdoor products since I grew up and was early interested in scouting, climbing and sea kayaking. One of my other interests are technical product development and how to improve the things I used. While I studied to master of science I started to work at Naturkompaniet (the largest outdoor retailer in Sweden) and later on, I got picked up by Primus when they where looking for a product manager. Now, I can use all my interests during my work, which is a fantastic position!

Jörgen: When we met recently we talked about using canister stoves in winter and whether to use insulation on the canisters or not. So I thought it would be interesting to get some advice on how to use my canister stove optimally for winter trips. For several years now, I've been amazed at how well my top mounted canister stove Primus Micron works even when it's really cold. In winter I wrap a piece of cell foam around the canister, which you've told me sometimes is really stupid and sometimes work really well, depending on the outside temperature.

Niklas: Well, it can be both a good and a bad idea to insulate the gas cartridge. As I guess you all know, gas cartridges work worse and worse the colder it gets. In addition to that, the physical basics about gas are that it needs heat to get from liquid to gas. The heat normally comes from the surrounding air but if it is really cold outside, or the cartridge is insulated, all heat must be taken from the liquid. Colder liquid means less pressure and soon there will be NO pressure.

On the other hand, if the container is much warmer than the surroundings, it will lose less heat to the surrounding air if it is insulated – and this heat can be used for keeping the pressure up!

Is it good to insulate the cartridge? Short answer is “it depends...”.

Jörgen: Let me describe how I handle my canisters today. When I don't use the stove, the canister is in the front pocket of my anorak or in my sleeping bag. I'm guessing that due to this my canister almost never is colder than, say 5 Celsius, when I start to cook.

Niklas: This is a good start. When the gas cartridge is warmer than the surrounding air, it may be a good idea to insulate the gas cartridge. If after the cooking, the temperature in the gas cartridge is still higher than the surroundings, then the insulation helps all the time.

Table below shows how much a certain amount of liquid gas lowers in temperature if the cartridge is fully insulated. For example, if you have 100 gram of gas left in you cartridge, cook in five minuter (uses 13 gram of gas) will lead to a decrease of the gas cartridge with 22 degrees plus (or minus) the decrease of temperature given by the surrounding temperature.

Jörgen: OK, let's move on to how I cook. I never cook for long, I just bring water to the boil. Usually only 0,2-0,5 liters depending on if it's cocoa, coffee or rehydration of a freeze dried meal. However, in winter I have to melt snow for drinking water, which means producing something like 1-1,5 liters of water morning, noon and evening. This takes it's time. Let's say it's -5 Celsius where I am.

Niklas: This is where insulation becomes a bad idea. Melting snow uses a lot of gas, and this means that the gas cartridge itself will decrease its temperature a lot… If you have the half full (100-150 gram gas left) cartridge I mentioned earlier, and cooking for 10 minutes, this means that the decrease in temperature due to the use of gas will be somewhere around 30-40 degrees. Then, the -5 Celsius around is much warmer and would be much better for the cartridge.

Jörgen: OK, let's say it's -20-25 degrees Celsius, what should I do differently?

Niklas: Now, insulation becomes interesting again! Since the surrounding temperature together with the decrease of temperature due to gas use will become lower than the gas boiling point, you will have problem to get the gas out of the cartridge. If you only have the impact of the decrease of temperature made by the used gas (and starting at plus 5 degrees as you said), the cartridge will just reach the surrounding temperature and therefore, insulation is a good idea!

Jörgen: OK, so to sum this up I have to take into consideration the temperature of the canister, outside temperature and how long the burner will be running. And we've only been talking about me, travelling solo. If I'm cooking for two the burner time increases and the advantage of using isolation on my canister decreases. Is that about right?

Niklas: Yes, that is completely right!

Jörgen: Dear reader, right now I’m sitting here, hoping that Niklas has a nice Christmas vacation without any thoughts whatsoever about canisters and temperatures. I’m also trying to sum up what he told me and to see if I can formulate some practical ideas. So far these are my conclusions:

- The gas boiling temperature is -15 C. This means that below this temperature you do not get any gas out of the canister. If you turn it upside down (which you cannot do with a top mounted canister stove) you can get liquid out of it. If the surrounding temperature is lower than -15 C, but the cartridge is warmer, it is a good idea to insulate the cartridge, since no heat can be taken from the surrounding air to gasify the contents in the canister.

- If the start temperature of the gas is high, say +10 C and the ambient temperature is -10 C you start out cooking with an insulated cartridge. It will take around 5-6 minutes (depending on a lot of factors) before the use of the gas has decreased the gas temperature to -10 C. Then you should remove the insulation to slow down the continued decrease in gas temperature.

- So, if the start temperature of the gas is higher than the surrounding air, insulation is always a good idea. The problem is knowing when the gas no longer is warmer then the ambient air.

- If the start temperature of the gas is the same as the surrounding air, insulation is always a bad idea, since the cartridge itself will become colder than the surrounding air, which we want to avoid.

- And to complicate things; if I use a windscreen that totally surrounds stove and canister the heat from the flame bouncing of the bottom of my pot will add some heat to the canister, helping it to stay warmer for longer. Or forever, depending on outside temperatures, amount of gas and…

By the way, a lot of things are done with canisters that Primus really can’t recommend. Like windscreens that totally surround pot and stove, which can cause overheated canister that could explode. Some people using canisters connected to the burner with a hose also put the canister into the pot were they are melting snow or heating water in order to raise the temperature of the gas inside. I have also seen different contraptions of metal working on the principle that part of it sits inside the flame of the burner and conducts heat to the canister, around which the rest of the metal is tighly cinched.

I don’t know if I’m less confused now than before, but I suppose that I am confused on a higher level. Have to talk about this with Niklas when he’s back…

Discuss this (in Swedish) at Utsidan or in English below

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2009-12-30   5 kommentarer

A light day - my way

Teori-praktik Here is the second installment among the articles summarizing how I use my light equipment during an ordinary day. Of course, there are no ordinary days. And I'm not saying that my way is the best. In fact, I seem to continually change how I do things, always trying to improve on my (never ending) road to perfection. So perhaps how I do things today might give you, as well as me, inspiration on how to improve your gear and the use of it tomorrow. And since this is a forum for lightweight backpacking I've included the weights of much of my gear in the narrative. In case you wonder. An article about a "light" breakfeast is found here.
By Jörgen Johansson
It usually doesn't take me long to get into gear after leaving camp. On the average day, that seldom occurs, I'm wearing mesh watersport shoes, thin nylon "ladies" socks from the supermarket on my feet. My legs are covered with homemade synthetic pants made from a sweat pants pattern weighing around 160 gram. Under these I wear merino wool boxer shorts, preferably without a fly, like those from Backpackinglight. The lack of a fly makes me less self consciuous while using them as shorts in hot weather.

My torso is also covered in delightful merino wool, a Icebreaker Kent is a long time favourite, weighing in at 220 gram in Large. On top of this I usually need a light windshirt most mornings. I prefer one with a hood, since the hood adds an awful lot of warmth in comparison to the extra weight. The one I currently use is a Marmot Ion, which is very symphatetic to my wallet, albeit a bit short and wide at the waist.

Now, since this is a pretty chilly morning, only a couple of degrees above freezing I also wear a pair of thin fleece gloves (34 grams) and my extra merino long arm hoody. This one is from BPL and it's zipped up to my chin with the hood up. On top of the hood I have a particulary ugly baseball cap I've made myself. It is made of Pertex Equilibrium which makes it fairly windproof and very fastdrying. I handkerchief size piece of Equilibrium is usually tucked into the crown, but can be let down to protect ears and neck. On top of all this is the hood of the windshirt.

With double meriono shirts and the windshirt on top I warm up pretty fast once I start moving. After about fifteen minutes I can take both hoods of and continue hiking in my cap. After thirty minutes I take of the gloves and slip them into the belt pouch of my pack. These pouches come from Gossamer Gear.

After about fiftyfive minutes of hiking like this I'm getting really warm and it's time for my usual hourly break. Since the ground is a bit damp and cold I take the cellfoam sleeping pad from underneath it's bungee cords on the outside of my pack, and spread it to sit on. This gives me a chance to stretch my legs out with the pack for a pillow/backrest. It also gives me a chance to slip of my shoes, but only after filling my mug with water in the nearby stream.

Now it's time for the luxury of stretching out completely, relaxing every muscle that comes to mind and taking a couple of deep breaths. To empty my mind of everthing, except how the clouds are slowly drifting across the sky, and the tinker bells of the little brook. After about a minute I rouse myself and eat some chocolate, raisins and hazelnuts while I'm drinking my cup of water.

After five or ten minutes of this (after all, why hurry, I'm on vacation) I put my cup away and roll up my pad. I just slip it under the elastic bungees, which is faster than strapping it in place. The bungee cords are also lighter than ordinary packstraps.

Since the day is warmer I can take off my merino hoody and put it in the waterproof drybag at the top of my pack. There it will probably rest until I put it on before going to bed. I suspect that the windshirt will be tucked into an outside pocket of the pack in 10-15 minutes as well.

All morning I follow a valley gently sloping down towards a river. Every hour I take a break and drink at least one, sometimes two cups of water. I never carry water if I can avoid it, and in Scandinavia you can most of the time. Other areas are drier and if you have to cure your water in order to drink it you can't avoid carrying some. But water is heavy and I try never to carry more than 500 ml. With that I can take two of my hourly breaks. If I want to drink between breaks I simply dip my cup in a stream in passing, without taking my pack off.

Around noon I come to the river and after a short while find a place where I think I can ford it. But I might as well be tanked up and rested before I do that, it looks kind of deep, and the water moves swiftly.

The autumn chill in the air makes it really nice to roll out my pad in the sun and pull out my cooking gear. A short walk and I can fill my collapsible water bottle with 1,5 liters in the river. This will be more than enough.

I prefer the stove on my left side and most of my gear, except the utensils and what I'm cooking right now, on the right side. But that's not so important. A handy rock or tree trunk to rest my back against is more important, but sometimes the pack serves as well.

The piezo igniter fires up the canister stove faster than a pig winks. Half a liter of water in the pot, a piece of foil as a lid and some titanium foil as wind break are rapidly added. From my pack I dig out my spoon, cup and a plastic bag with some dried home dried meat and powdered potatoes. All set. This gives me the chance to relax, pull of my wet socks and put them out to dry, and pull my cap over my eyes for a couple of minutes.

When the water is boiling I take it from the stove and pour some hot water in my cup for spare. I then add the meat and potatoes to the pot, stirring with my spoon. It's swelling and becomes a bit too thick, so I add some of the water from my cup. Perfect. I pour out the remaining hot water on the ground and add cold water to the cup.

While munching I contemplate the river. Wonder how cold it is? If it's really cold and deep enough for me to have to swim parts of it, the chill could be risky. You loose energy really fast in cold water. Maybe there is a better place to ford upstream.

After having packed my gear I dip the thermometer into the river and it says 8 Centigrades. That is not tempting. I've waded and swimmed colder water, but only for 5-10 seconds. This river is wider and there is really no telling for how long it's deep enough to force me to swim instead of walk. Better to play it safe and follow it upstream for a while. That is in the general direction of where I'm going anyway.

I find no place to ford all afternoon. The river is getting narrower, but the water is moving faster, which is not a good combination. Every hour I take my break, eat my nuts and chocolate and drink the water I need.

Around four o'clock in the afternoon my body craves coffee. It's also time for a sturdier meal, than snacks, to last me until suppertime around eight o'clock at night. So while the water is heating I take a couple of soft mini tortillas from my pack and roll some 100 mm lengths of thin beer sausage inside. These make nice sanwiches of sorts together with coffee and snacks.

About an hour after my coffee break the threathening clouds decide to start letting down some rain. It's only a drizzle, "a nice, soft day" as the Irish say. I put on my windshirt, which sometimes is enough, but not this time, so I unfold my umbrella. This means that I have to stick one of my walking poles in the pack. So with one hand alternating between holding the remaing pole and the umbrella, I trudge on.

After a while the undergrowth thickens, so I decide to put on my waterproof-breathable rain pants so as not to get soaked from brushing against the wet foliage. This is the perfect combination, since it's a bit uphill, and not really cold. Thanks to the umbrella and the windshirt, zipped open halfway down my chest, I am able to regulate my body temperature better than with my rain jacket on.

Or at least for a while. Because the trees are thinning out, and when I get above timberline the wind picks up. I pull the windshirt hood over my head and zip it up completely. Leaning the umbrella against the wind it gives pretty good protection against the driving drizzle. One arm of the windshirt gets a bit wet, but since I'm not cold that is no problem. I know it will dry out quickly.

However, as the rain increases I realize it's time to fold up my umbrella and put on my light rain jacket. It's an Haglöfs Oz, weighing under 200 grams in XLarge, that has been with me for a couple of seasons now and has served me well. I put on my fleece gloves as well and move on.

The next hourly break is not so idyllic as the first one of the day, but I always stop and fill up with calories no matter how poor the weather. The worse the weather the more you are going to need them. Not wanting to stop and rest for a while is for me a sure sign that my blood sugar is down and that I REALLY need a break and some calories. If it's particulary nasty weather at lunchtime I sit in my tent, sometimes in my sleeping bag while I cook. But I always take my breaks and I always eat and drink. That always makes me feel better. After all, I'm on vacation.

This time I hunch in the doubtful protection of a boulder that could have been higher. I get my weight of my feet for a couple of minutes, sitting on the rolled up foam pad, while I drink my cup and eat half of what is left in my goody bag. Next stop will be camp.

Discuss in Swedish at Utsidan here
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2009-11-30   2 kommentarer

Ultralätt klädd på älgjakten

Teori-praktik Jag är själv ingen jägare, men jag har kompisar som är det. En av dem kom hem från älgjakten och suckade över svårigheten att klä sig rätt. I de flesta jaktsammanhang så antingen går man eller står man, menade han. Då kan man klä sig efter det. Men på älgjakten är det inte lätt att ha kläder som fungerar bra om man inleder dagen med att gå som drevkarl och sedan ställa sig på ett råkallt pass. Så då började jag fundera på hur jag skulle klä mig i en sådan situation.
Av Jörgen Johansson
Min första slutsats var att det nog är svårt att ha på sig samma kläder hela tiden och ändå varken vara för varm eller för kall. Så när man går i drevet behöver man ha mindre med kläder än när man står. Dessa skall då vara lätta att bära och lätta att ta av och på.

Det andra är att man måste ha kläder som funkar i alla väderlekar. Det vill säga man måste kunna hantera både regn och solsken. Detta skiljer sig ju inte speciellt mycket från att vandra med packning.
Jägaren har väl ofta också med sig en termos och mackor eller liknande, vilket innebär en ryggsäck. Därmed borde det gå att få till en utrustning som både fungerar i alla aktuella väderlekar och som ändå inte är tung att bära.
Närmast kroppen
Baslagret skulle för min del tveklöst bli ett ställ av merinoull. Tunnast tänkbara, eftersom den viktigaste funktionen hos baslagret är att hålla hudytan torr. Värmen håller man sedan med lämpligt antal lager utanpå detta.

BPL Merino Hoody

Jag är mycket förtjust i så kallade 'hoodies', alltså tunna merinotröjor med huva. Denna huva i kombination med eventuella kapuschonger på lagren utanpå räcker ofta långt för att hålla det viktiga huvudet varmt. Dragkedjan i halsen innebär att man kan lämna halsduken hemma. När man går i drevet, och kanske svettas, så har man huvan hängande på ryggen och blixtlåset öppet till långt ned på bröstet. När man ställer sig på passet drar man upp blixtslåset till hakan och kränger en keps och/eller en kapuschong utanpå huvan.

Icebreaker Atlas

En lätt och bra hoody av merinoull finns hos Den väger 232 gram i Medium. Vill man inte ha en hoody eller hellre köper något som finns i butik i Sverige så är en lätt Icebreaker Atlas 150 det jag skulle välja.

På benen skulle det bli Icebreaker Leggings 150 eller eventuellt någon billigare långkalsing i merino, som t ex Ullmax Set. Det senare är smart, för då får man både byxor och tröja till ett lägre pris än Icebreaker leggings. Att det hela är lite tjockar merino gör inte så mycket för benen, enligt min mening. Och den något tjockare tröjan (230 g/kvm istället för 150 g/kvm) är perfekt som extra lager utanpå den tunna hoodyn närmast kroppen.

Om det är riktigt kyligt och ruskigt kan det nämligen vara svårt att hålla värmen enbart i en enda underställströja. Då kan man ha ytterligare en, eller kanske en mycket tunn och lätt fleecetröja som extra lager under vindplagget.

Regnar det inte så är det oerhört skönt att slippa gå i regnkläder. Utanpå merinostället skulle jag välja ett par tunna, vindtäta och snabbtorkande syntetbyxor. Vanliga löparbyxor från exempelvis Newline är faktiskt mycket stryktåligare än många tror. För den som vill ha något tjockare finns det mycket att välja på bland de lättare friluftsbyxorna. Jag skulle dock inte välja en byxa som väger mer än 400 gram.

Newline Windpacker

På överkroppen skulle jag välja något liknande. Det vill säga en tunn, lätt och vindtät jacka i syntet. Det finns lätta vindblusar på 100-250 gram. En löparjacka från Newline funkar även här, även om jag gillar att ha en huva att värma mig med vid behov. Även dessa tunna vindblusar (det heter naturligtvis windshirts på marknadsföringssvenska) är betydligt stryktåligare än många tror. Jägar brukar vara noga med att deras kläder skall vara prasselfria, men så länge man går i drev spelar det väl knappast någon roll. De lättare vindblusarna, som den synnerligen prisvärda Marmot Ion, är ganska plastiga. Det verkar som om utvecklingen går mot material som är mindre blanka, med en slags borstad yta. En mycket trevlig sådan från Tierra heter Scirrocco. Den väger 180 gram, med huva. Jag misstänker dock att den är på väg att ersättas av en liknande produkt, som jag fingrade på nyligen, men jag minns inte namnet.

Ytterplagg vid regn
De tunna vindplaggen är suveräna så länge det inte regnar, men står inte emot sådant särskilt länge. Å andra sidan torkar de på en kvart. Därför behöver man ett regnställ i sin lilla ryggsäck. Det jag skulle välja (eftersom en jägare förmodligen redan har ett tungt och robust ställ med mextex som jag inte skulle vilja släpa med mig i just det här sammanhanget) är då ett lätt och billigt regnställ. Svårslaget här är ITABs Packaway, som väger mindre än 500 gram och kostar under 700 kr för ett helt regnställ i andas-material. Det här stället bör man ta till i rejäl storlek för att det skall fungera även när man tar på sig värmelagret och ställer sig på pass.

ITAB Packaway

Fötterna då?
På vandring går jag själv helst i lätta gympaskor och använder vattentäta strumpor vid behov. Detta känns dock inte idealiskt för älgjakten, där man bara rör sig en del av tiden och står stilla långa perioder. För att gå i drev och sedan stå på pass skulle jag därför välja ett par vattentäta kängor. De bör vara av rejäl storlek med utrymme för rejäla yllesockar, från till exempel Smartwool eller Woolpower, och en inläggssula av ylle från Lundhags för att suga upp så mycket fukt som möjligt.

Inov-8 Roclite 390

Eftersom det är ungefär fem gånger så energikrävande att bära något på fötterna som att bära det på ryggen så skulle jag välja ett par så lätta kängor som möjligt. De lättaste jag känner till kommer från det engelska företaget Inov-8 och heter Roclite. De väger ungefär lika mycket som ett par vanliga rejäla löparskor.

Hålla värmen
När man nu har gått i drev några timmar och skall ställa sig på pass så måste man förstärka klädseln, och det ordentligt. Det jag skulle välja som det enklaste, varmaste och mest stryktåliga om jag var älgjägare kommer från Detta är mycket lätta plagg i syntetvadd. Byxor i large med hellångt blixtlås och yttertyg i nästan vattentätt material väger bara 340 gram. Just det hellånga blixtlåset är en fördel för att lätt kunna ta av och på byxorna när man växlar mellan drev och pass, och då blir det också det här yttertyget. Produkten heter PRO 60 Side Zip Pant.

BPL PRO 60 Side Zip

En pullover med huva från samma tillverkare, i mindre vattenbeständigt material väger 280 gram. UL 60 Hoody heter den här produkten. Eftersom man har en regnjacka att dra ovanpå så ser jag egentligen inget behov av att ha den förhållandevis vattentäta varianten PRO 60 med Pertex Endurance.

UL 60 Hoody

När det gäller att hålla värmen så är de här isolerade byxorna värda sin vikt i guld. De flesta har nog varma plagg som kan användas till överkroppen, som dunjackor och dunvästar, men ofta har man inget bättre till benen än dubbla långkalsonger eller möjligen extremt Skrymmande och tunga skid- eller skoterbyxor.

De flesta jägare har väl redan en ryggsäck, fast alla är kanske inte så lätta. Det kan vara nyttigt att väga sin ryggsäck tom för att sedan kunna bedöma om det verkligen är vettigt att ryggsäcken väger mer än det man stoppar i den. Vill man ha en stol i ryggsäcken har man förmodligen inget val, men eftersom det finns en extremt lätt liten ryggsäck så kan jag inte låta blir att dra en lans för den. Säcken jag tänker på heter Sea to Summit Ultra Sil Daypack och väger 68 gram.

Den här säcken borde med sina 20 liter rymma de varma byxorna och jackan samt regnkläderna när man går i drev och det inte regnar. En termos och några mackor samt en bit cellplast att sitta på går också ned. Fast egentligen skulle jag nog välja en dagsturssäck av lite stadigare material med en vikt på max 500 gram. Men den här säcken är ju rätt kul.

Diskutera här på Utsidan.


2009-11-14   18 kommentarer