Swedish Lapland: A Survival Guide

Posted on September 17, 2019

In July 2019 Becky from In The Saddle set off on her most adventurous ride yet – the Ratekjokk Trail in Northern Sweden. Located within the arctic circle this ride is only for those with a spirit for adventure!

This was one of the most amazing places I have ridden and I had a brilliant time. The weather is challenging but any minor discomforts are more than matched by the stunning wilderness scenery. Since they say there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes I thought it might be useful to summarise my “must haves” and tips below.

1) Wellington boots are essential!

You will be walking through areas of bog where waterproof boots are important. Rain is also possible at any time of year and it can last anywhere from 10 minutes to 10 hours. If you don’t have your own wellies, there are various sizes available to borrow at the farm.

Crossing an area of bog on duckboards.

2) You need good quality waterproofs.

I would recommend taking a windproof coat and warm layers. There is a wide range of waterproof overcoats to borrow from the farm so if you borrow one, it means that you are not taking three coats away with you. The coats at the farm are not padded, so need to be worn over warm clothes, but they are waterproof and cover the tops of your legs. There are also waterproof trousers available to borrow if you don’t have your own.

Most of us lived in our waterproofs!

3) Don’t over pack!

You don’t need to take lots of spare clothes with you. On the ride that I joined everyone over packed and didn’t use everything they took. You are able to send a bag ahead to the cabin with a spare pair of jodhpurs, phone charger, spare top, underwear, swimming costume and soap/shampoo.

In your saddle bags for the nights in the tepee you really only need something to sleep in (thermal underwear), clean underwear, a toothbrush and toothpaste, sleeping bag liner, camp towel, a spare top and warm jumper. People didn’t change out of their riding clothes in the evenings and they were straight back in them in the morning – we all smelt the same! The other saddle bag will have your waterproofs if you aren’t using them.

This is the size of the saddle bags. They need to be packed equally on both sides.

4) A bum bag is a handy bit of kit.

On some days you may not need to ride with your saddlebags at all and so a bum bag is useful for carrying anything you might need on the ride. They are equally great for keeping handy bits and bobs in even when you are riding with your saddlebags. These things might include a mosquito head net, lip salve, gloves, camera, phone, and toilet paper.

When out on the trail, you really don’t need much!

5) Take dry bags.

These are a must in my opinion as it can rain at any time and the saddlebags are not waterproof. If your belongings get wet, they will stay wet so it’s best to have 4/5 smaller bags with you. They also squash your clothes down and so make packing easier and less bulky.

Inside the tepees there is limited space to hang wet clothing.

6) You need waterproof gloves as well as thin riding gloves.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking one pair of gloves is enough. When it’s raining and you get cold, it’s very hard to get warm again with wet gloves. These can be borrowed from the farm if you haven’t got them but I do recommend taking both out on the ride.

You ride high up into the mountains where the weather is changeable.

7) A pack of cards or small book is a good idea.

If you have enough space it might be an idea to take a pack of cards or small book with you. In the evenings after dinner, there is free time and if it’s dry, then a game of gin rummy around the fire is good fun!

Crossing a river on the way up into the mountains.

8) In addition to those already mentioned, my must takes items include:

Wet wipes, a mosquito net (to go over your hat), layers of clothes, sleeping bag liner, insect repellent and bite stick (or ointment for bites), eye-mask and ear plugs if you are a light sleeper, and warm socks.

On top of the world (or so it felt like!)

9) If you have any dietary requests or anything you don’t eat – speak up now.

Preparation for these trails take place weeks in advance and food is frozen/vacuum packed ahead of time. If there is anything you don’t like or can’t eat, please let us know as soon as possible so that the guides can make a plan.

The food throughout the ride was an absolute highlight for me.

10) Take time to appreciate the beauty.

The ride takes you up into the mountains where moose sightings, reindeer herding and ice fishing are common practice! Take time to look around, listen to your guides stories and ask questions about the fascinating Sami culture.  When you are up on top of a hill and looking around for miles, it’ll just be your group and the wilderness and that’s a very special feeling.

Some of us headed outside at 2.30am to see the ‘midnight sun’ as it briefly dropped below the horizon.

I hope some of these tips are helpful if you are thinking about joining the Ratekjokk Trail in Sweden. It was one of the most amazing places I have ever been and if you’d like to chat with me further on the phone, please call me on +44 1299 272 997.

2 responses to “Swedish Lapland: A Survival Guide”

  1. Yvonne says:

    Some days are only 3 hours of riding so what did you all do for the remaining 21 hours (when you weren’t cooking, eating and sleeping)?
    How much of a nuisance was it to have to help with all the chores?
    Apart from the flying, biting insects, were there any huge crawly ones that got in the tents a lot?

    • Rebecca Clarke says:

      Hi Yvonne,
      Thank you for your comment. Mostly you would be riding for 4/5 hours a day but sometimes (especially if the weather is bad) the guide will push the pace to make camp in less time. On these days there may only be 3 hours in the saddle. To be honest, by the time camp is packed up after breakfast, you start riding mid-morning and would reach camp in mid-afternoon. After setting up camp and cooking dinner, it’s almost time for bed.
      Helping with the chores was a big part of the trip and something that I personally really enjoyed. Everyone helps morning, lunch and dinner so it’s important that the whole group is happy to chip in.
      I don’t remember having a problem with any bugs except from the midges. This was tackled by wearing a head net.
      I do hope this helps and I will also reply directly with an email.

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