Frisbee golf for the whole family in Västerby – with forest ponds and idyllic rural landscapes

In partnership with Visit Raseborg

Article by Sanna-Mari Kunttu

Frisbee golf (also known as disc golf) is an affordable hobby for the whole family that combines socialising with being active outdoors in beautiful surroundings. The Västerby frisbee golf course offers challenges and thrills for beginners as well as the more experienced.

Forests, rocks and idyllic countryside are all part of the Västerby frisbee golf course.

Three different ability levels at Västerby

Your fingers take an expert grip on the disc, your body twists in the middle and your mind is centered. The frisbee leaves in one controlled movement coming from the whole body. The disc curves gently between the trees and glides towards the metal basket, but falls short of the goal and onto the ground. On the next throw, the disc jangles into the basket. You jump for joy at your success and make a note of your score.

National championship level frisbee golf player, Susanna Virtanen, shows how to throw. Next up is her son, Niko Virtanen. Frisbee golf is the hobby of the whole Virtanen family. They have actively toured all of Finland’s frisbee golf courses, and are now in Raseborg (Raasepori) at Västerby, which is about 1,5h drive from Helsinki. According to Susanna Virtanen, it’s one of Finland’s best frisbee golf courses because of its diversity.

Susanna Virtanen shows how a frisbee is thrown.

Västerby’s course is right next to Tammisaari, only 3 km from the city centre. There is parking by the sports hall for those arriving by car. If you don’t have a car, there are buses from the Helsinki area or from the centre of Tammisaari. Then at Västerby it’s less than kilometre by foot to the course.

The course is maintained mainly by volunteers belonging to the local organisation EIF Disc Golf. Virtanen is one of them. However, the course is for everybody to use and remains completely free of charge. For this reason, Virtanen hopes that everyone makes sure that they leave the course tidy and in good condition.

One frisbee golf course is made up of several fairways, in other words, tees (from which you throw), goal baskets and the game areas in between. Västerby has two full length, 18-hole courses. The A course is for amateurs and the length is 1684 metres all together. To complete it, you should set aside a couple of hours. The B course has been the competitive course for the national championships – it’s more challenging and longer at 2356 metres. Some fairways connect the A and B courses. As well as these courses, there’s a children’s course in the area that’s less than a kilometre long with 9 fairways. However, there is nothing to prevent beginners from trying more demanding courses.

Beginner course on the top of the rock.

On the south coast, the snowless period is long, so the playing season at Västerby starts in the early Spring and carries on long into the Autumn due to mild weather. Frisbee golf can also be played in winter, but you have to take into account the cross country ski tracks that are made in the area at that time of year.

‘In the winter, you can find your disc more easily by sticking a long piece of gift ribbon on it, so that the ribbon floats on top of the snow even when the disc has sunk into it. You could also put a small LED light on the bottom of the frisbee so that you can find it more easily in the dark’, suggests Virtanen.

Västerby’s fairway 11 on the competitive course on a mystic Autumn morning looks inviting.

In addition to Västerby’s courses, the following can be found in Raseborg:

  • Karjaa 18-hole: good for beginners. You can go around the track quite easily with a pushchair or pram.
  • Pohjankuru, Competition Centre: 18-hole, challenging forest course in stunning surroundings
  • Tammisaari, Skogny: 18-hole, forest course near the sea, good for beginners
  • Tammisaari, Bromarv, Görans Frisbee Centre. 18-hole, private course, but all players are welcome.
  • Tammisaari, Snappertuna: 6 holes as part of Snappertuna school. Good for beginners.

You can find more information about Västerby’s courses and many other courses in Raseborg on the website: www.visitraseborg.com.

Diverse fairways and idyllic surroundings are Västerby’s calling cards

Västerby’s courses are amongst the best in Finland. The reason is the diversity in the landscape and the charming scenery. And there’s something for everybody! After the first fairways you get to throw in a lovely park environment under the oak trees.

The third fairway under oaks.

The next fairways are on pine-covered rocks and the hilly terrain bring challenges to the thrower. Some of the course has been planned to cleverly make the use of the land under the power lines.

Fairway 12 goes under the power lines over some magnificent rock.

When descending the rock, the forest transforms from a mix of birch and pines to a mossy-floored spruce forest right to the edge of Lillträsk lake. Many have lost their frisbees in water, as one of the fairways goes over the pond. Although the water of the lake looks tempting enough to swim in, it’s not worth diving in after your frisbee. The lake bottom is soft mud, in which you can get stuck. Therefore it’s recommended that you continue your game with another frisbee.

Lillträsket.

Again it’s time to climb higher up onto the rock, which treats us with an open view. Far above the forest canopy rises Tammisaari’s new water tower.

You can see far from the open rock.

The B course fairways continue from the rocks onto the field fairways, which have been called Finland’s most beautiful. And not without reason, for the most idyllic countryside view opens out in front of the player. The fields are framed with old multi-trunked oak trees.

Västerby competitive course, fairway 14.

The A and B courses are connected by a moss-floored spruce forest, after which you are almost back at the starting point. While going around the course it’s impossible not to notice that you are surrounded by some really good berry and mushroom picking terrain.

What on earth is frisbee golf?

In recent years frisbee golf has become more known and grown in popularity. New courses are being built all over Finland. According to Virtanen, the sport’s popularity lies in the fact that it’s easy to get started, and costs next to nothing. You can buy a frisbee for about 10 Euros. Also, frisbee golf can be played by almost any age group, regardless of differences in skill level. With 18 resting points along the way, the journey doesn’t seem too long or boring for even the smallest children.

To explain simply, the aim of frisbee golf is to get the frisbee in the goal basket with as few throws as possible. After the first throw from the tee, the next throw is taken from where the frisbee stopped. When the disc ends up in the basket, the fairway is played and you move on to the next one. The winner is the one who completes the course with the least throws. If you don’t want to compete with others, you can compete with yourself and the course. Fairways and the whole course have their own par-number, which tells you the ideal result. Just the satisfaction of a good throw is rewarding.

The metal basket acts as a frisbee goal or ‘hole’.

Throwing a frisbee is all about technique and doesn’t require good fitness. However, as you go round the course, you get free exercise without even realising. Above all, frisbee golf combines the pleasure of being active outdoors with socialising with other players. Frisbee golf also lowers the threshold to head out into nature. The aspect of being active in nature is also emphasised by Virtanen. Västerby’s fairways are mostly in the woods, and natural obstacles such as trees, rocks and waterways, are an essential part of frisbee golf.

The water obstacle of Lillträsk lake has been overcome!

A frisbee is all you need to make a start, but if you want to dive deeper into the sport, there is plenty to learn and frisbee golf has its own tricks and techniques. Just as in golf a variety of racing clubs are used, frisbee golfers use different discs that have different flying properties. The sharp-edged driver is ideal for long throws and the approach frisbee or the mid-range with its more rounded edges is more accurate. Nearer the goal, a thicker disc called a putter is used.

Frisbees from left to right: putter, mid-range and driver.

Virtanen gives some tips on typical beginner’s mistakes to avoid:

‘Your first frisbee shouldn’t be a far-flying but technique-wise challenging driver. Your enthusiasm for the hobby may be cut short.

Throwing styles and holds are also varied: spinning, palm-throwing, throwing rollers under obstacles, and ups for crossing. You can ask the clubs about the prices of courses or work days out, if you want a guided game for your own group. Of course, you may also find some tips from Youtube videos, but you’ll only learn the technique by practising.’

Top left: Putter hold. Right top image: power grip (backhand). Left bottom: fan grip. Right bottom view: forehand

‘There is no wrong way’, reassures Virtanen.

‘What works for one person won’t necessarily work for another.’

So, go and try frisbee golf with the whole family – even if only to spend time outdoors and enjoy the scenery of Västerby’s course!

If frisbee golf is not your thing, just come and enjoy the view!

Caption: If frisbee golf is not your thing, just come and enjoy the view!

Read more about Raseborg:

Ekenäs Archipelago national park is paradise for paddlers 

Fiskars’ mountain bike trail network is fast gaining a reputation

Dagmar’s spring park – a beautiful nature reserve by the sea

 

Translation: Becky Hastings

Enjoying the first snow in Lapland as much as possible!

It’s the best moment of the year. At least, that’s my opinion! The first snow of the season is a moment I am looking forward to from the moment the snow has melted in spring. This year the amount of snow (in autumn) was quite a surprise, we were able to have a lot of fun thanks to the big load of snow that mother nature had given us.

I started off my day by taking out the sledge from the shed, fixing it up a little bit and, of course, taking it for a ride. I own only one Siberian husky that is of age to run, so usually me and my neighbor combine our dogs and go for a run together.

The dogs were really excited because of the snow, and that made them work extra hard in front of the sledge. But still, us humans had to work hard as well, since the snow was so heavy and wet that it was too hard for the dogs to pull us all the way. Not that we minded, it was great to be back on the sledge!

After some rest and warming up by the fire, we started our afternoon hike. The snow makes everything look so romantic and breathtaking. The sun was setting quite early at the time, which made the scenery even more unforgettable.

During our hike we walked between some tracks of reindeer that had been there not so long ago. Luckily, with two huskies, it’s not hard to find their current location. After a couple of meters of sniffing their way through the snow, we were able to spot them in the distance, but sadly they decided to run away after a quick picture.

Of course, with a scenery this beautiful, you have to take pictures of your husky, just to add some to your already way too big photo collection.

After our hike we ate some small snacks and went off to our next activity: watching the northern lights. Word in the village was that it was going to be a breathtaking show tonight, so of course we didn’t want to miss out on it.

We made our way to the river and made a nice little campfire, prepared our cameras and then, we waited. But we didn’t need a lot of patience this night: just after 10 minutes, the show had already started.

Let’s be honest, in this case pictures say more then words.

Then we went off back to our cottage, where we would wake up the next morning knowing that the snow fun was only going to last for a couple hours more. Luckily the real winter is already around the corner. And I couldn’t be more excited about it!

Paradise for the beginner mountain biker and easy riding for the more experienced: Fiskars’ mountain bike trail network is fast gaining a reputation

In partnership with Visit Raseborg

Article by Mia Sinisalo

Mountain bike trail departure point on the map
ℹ Fiskars Village Trail Center’s website
ℹ Trail map (pdf)

I remember the moment I first learned to ride a bike without stabilizers. These days when I hop onto my bike and start peddling, I still get that same sense of freedom and thrill from the movement. When part of my life moved into the woods, it was only natural that cycling would soon follow. Mountain biking entered my life two years ago.

Those two years on the back of a mountain bike have been up and downhill, in every sense. The problem has been that my skills haven’t quite reached the level of my enthusiasm for mountain biking.

The search for the perfect trail came to a happy end, when I pedalled out of Fiskars Village Trail Center, which is about an hour’s drive from Helsinki. For me the best thing about the Fiskars trails was being able to achieve a level of relaxation while riding. I’m a somewhat cautious mountain biker, who only occasionally gets an adrenaline rush from executing some slightly more daring moves, riding a few small drops or down steeper slopes. Mostly this doesn’t happen. But in Fiskars the trails were just the right amount of meandering and bumpy, rising and falling, twisting and turning, so I got to ride longer distances without having to walk my bike or kick for more speed.

Because there were so many trail options with varying levels of difficulty, I got to test myself: was I really as cautious as I imagined?

I wasn’t.

Fiskars Village Trail Center

Fiskars Village Trail Center was founded in 2016 and it instantly became a popular destination amongst seriously enthusiastic mountain bikers as well as the cautiously curious.

The trails are specifically created for mountain biking. What luxury! Usually a mountain biker has to pedal on paths trampled by walkers, meant for the hiker, or on routes intended for motor vehicles. There is such a noticeable difference when you get to try trails designed for mountain bikers by mountain bikers.

The Trail Center’s bike rental centre can be found in Fiskars village’s workshop square, but the actual trails are, of course, in the forest surrounding the village. Fiskars Trail Center also organises different events from mountain biking expos to courses.

If you don’t own a bike, you can easily rent one via the centre’s website. Booking in advance is highly recommended, rather than just turning up randomly. And do make sure that you check the rental centre’s opening hours beforehand.

By renting from the centre, you get to test how it feels to ride a decent mountain bike. All bikes are quality mountain bikes by Canyon, which allow even beginners to get a good feel for the sport. There are also a couple of children’s mountain bikes at the centre.

Day 1: Flacksjön and Långbrobergen trails

The Fiskars trails have been designed with mountain bikers’ varying levels of ability in mind. Each trail’s level of difficulty is colour-coded:

green – easy
blue – moderate
red – difficult
black – extremely difficult

First I decided to test a combination of the the trails that run on the north east of the village: Flacksjön (8 km) and Långbrobergenin (5 km), which were classed as ‘moderate’. These were the newest routes from the Fiskars Trail Center’s selection.

‘When designing the routes and building them, we were specifically thinking about beginners and sunday riders, who just ride now and then’, says Marko Halttunen, from the Flowriders Association which runs the Fiskars Trail Center.

The route from the trail centre to the forest and onto the trails themselves is well marked. I’m an expert at getting lost, but managed to stay on track most of the time. There were only a couple of points where I needed to stop and check my location on my phone, worried that I’d missed a sign.

The trail had some easy sections, almost completely without roots or rocks, which I cycled along quickly and easily. The beginning section of the trail encouraged me to trust my own cycling skills, but there were times when I had to concentrate hard, especially when the trail narrowed and went down to Stensjö lake. Although I surpassed myself on a few stony and rocky bits, I left out the biggest drops and carried my bike through some short but steep parts. I managed to get into a good riding flow, which was only interrupted by the squawk of a deer, when a mother and her fawn leapt out of the way on the rocks.

The mountain bike season is at its busiest in Fiskars in the autumn and spring. I arrived during the summer heat, and had a refreshing wading session on Flasksjön’s beach. If I’d had a swimsuit with me, I’d have definitely gone swimming. Although riding in the forest you don’t get too hot, because the trees provide shade from the sun and the breeze from riding also cools you down. I also had plenty of water with me.

I don’t know if I covered all corners of the trail, but the part in the forest and getting to and from the trails took a total of 1,5 hrs. That was a perfect circuit length for that evening.

Day 2: Elevation changes, views and easy pedalling on a dirt road

On the second day of riding, I wished that I had company: I would have liked to have ridden with friends or on a guided group tour, because I feel that mountain biking is actually best in a group. When someone is cycling in front of you confidently and you know you musn’t slow down the person behind, you ride faster that you would by yourself, when you’re thinking about every stone and root.

Fiskars Trail Center’s trails on the east side work well for bigger groups, even if the group contains a mixture of beginners and experienced enduro cyclists. Everyone can cycle the routes from one trail to another together, and after that each one can find their own suitable trails with the help of a trail map, signs and painted arrows.

Elevation differences are typical of eastern mountain bike routes. If you want to sweat a bit and raise your pulse, then this is the place for you! There is some occasional relief from the up and down slopes on stretches in the woods and on dirt roads, giving you a chance to catch your breath or rest your burning thighs. There are also two easier, green routes on this side.

On Fiskars’ trails I realised that my enjoyment of mountain biking also depends on the trails, not just on me.

Finishing off a day of riding with good food and drink

Fiskars Trail Center’s inspiration is from abroad. Flowriders’ Marko Halttunen has been on many bike trips in different countries, and he wanted to bring the same atmosphere to Fiskars: the chance to ride on great trails in good company, and then relax at the end of the cycling day with good conversation, food and drink.

In Fiskars this works out perfectly. In addition to restaurants that choose to serve local food, Fiskars has its own brewing company, cider made from local apples and a distillery.

Throughout the year there are different local food festivals, including the Slow Food festival which is organised at the end of the summer, bringing together Western Uusimaa’s fishermen, bakeries, meat producers, garden farmers, organic farms and food artisans. Local food and mountain biking are a good combination, when you’ve ridden through the forest to the point of exhaustion and ravenous hunger.

Fiskars village is known for its handicrafts, design and art. After a day of cycling, you can slip straight into the holiday vibe, strolling along the shores of Fiskars river, with its bridges, and popping into handicraft boutiques and art exhibitions.

And don’t forget that Fiskars has plenty of other options for outdoor recreation. The village lies in the middle of the lush forest and countryside scenery of south coast Finland. Large oaks reach over paths, and cows graze on the grassy shores of the lake. For lovers of the outdoors, this means that in addition to mountain biking, you can go trail running, paddling and hiking.

Trail running is also permitted on the Fiskars Trail Center’s blue and green routes. If you run out of time to do all of the activities that you want, you can even spend the night at Fiskars. I returned already a week later to test more trails!

 

Translation: Becky Hastings

Sleighride at Konttila farm in winter, Puijo, Kuopio, Finland. Photo: Upe Nykänen

On a one-horse open sleigh at Puijo, Kuopio

Prancing through the snow, on a one-horse open sleigh? Come on, it’s not Xmas… Little did we expect that our day trip to Puijo hill on an ordinary winter day in February would include a sleighride!

Our main reason for visiting Konttila farm on top of Puijo ridge, only few kilometres from the city centre of Kuopio, was that there is a small café which serves also hot drinks along with a selection of sweet and savoury snacks. A mug of hot chocolate never goes amiss on a cold day like this: -18 °C.

Konttila farm in winter, Puijo, Kuopio, Finland. Photo: Upe Nykänen

The main building at Konttila dates back to 1770 and is among the oldest in Kuopio city. These days, the farm welcomes visitors on a daily basis all year round to learn about the surrounding nature as well as to its café that is located in the main building (just try the door handle). The farm is usually open until 6 p.m.

We were just about to leave the warmth of Konttila when our host asked if we’d be interested in a sleigh ride? Yes please!

Finnhorse Miilu at Konttila, Puijo, Kuopio, Finland. Photo: Upe Nykänen

 

Who would be doing the hard work? The 27 year old gelding Miilu (a Finnhorse) whose grandad Vieteri was a Finnish harness racing champion, just like Miilu’s uncle, an equally famous Viesker.

We walked to the end of the shed, sat down on the open sleigh and our host drew a warm blanket over our legs before we set off.

Sleighride at Konttila farm in winter, Puijo, Kuopio, Finland. Photo: Upe Nykänen

Miilu turned towards the track and we moved swiftly on top of the crisp white snow, with the lovely winter sun shining above us from the perfectly clear blue sky.

You just can’t compare this to a snowmobile ride.

Konttila farm in winter, Puijo, Kuopio, Finland. Photo: Upe Nykänen

The track took us round the open space, right next to the lovely, snowy forest, and at intervals, our host stopped Miilu so that we could take photos.

Sleighride at Konttila farm in winter, Puijo, Kuopio, Finland. Photo: Upe Nykänen

When we were getting closer to the main building of Konttila farm, we thought the ride was almost over, but now: our host led Miilu towards the small road. Finally, thought Miilu, and our sleigh picked up speed when he started trotting happily.

The lovely 15-minute sleighride really made the Puijo visit special.

Puijo tower at Kuopio, Finland. Photo: Upe Nykänen

However, our trip to Puijo wasn’t yet over. To finalize our great day on top of Puijo ridge we walked the few hundred meters from Konttila farm to Puijo Tower which isn’t just an observation tower but also has a nice restaurant/café.

View from Puijo tower at Kuopio, Finland. Photo: Upe Nykänen

Below our feet were the ski jumping tower, the downhill skiing slopes, and the forests of Puijo nature conservation area. Puijo Tower is well worth a visit as from there you can get a lovely view all over Kuopio and its surroundings, maybe even spot the location of Konttila Farm.

Thanks again to Miilu, we’ll definitely be back at Puijo!

Konttila Farm, Puijo, Kuopio, Finland on the map

Make friends with a reindeer – it’s easier than you think, as long as you’ve got some treats

In Northern Finland there are several reindeer parks where one can meet and feed some super cute domesticated reindeer.

One of these parks, a reindeer park called Kopara, is situated in Luosto area in the middle of Lapland. One day I went there with my husband and his daughter.

I must confess, I’m crazy about reindeer. I was much more excited about meeting these animals than the six-year-old was. She is born and raised in Lapland, so to her reindeer are not that exotic. I, however, come from Southern Finland, where there are no reindeer whatsoever.

In Lapland you can see reindeer herds roaming free practically anywhere. Those animals are quite shy: they are only semi-domestic. There are over 200 000 reindeer in Finland and each one of them has an owner. Somewhere.

In reindeer parks the animals are much braver: they are used to getting some treats from reindeer-loving tourists. That’s why they actually come running towards you to see if you have something yummy to give them.

In Kopara there is this big chest full of reindeer food in front of the fence. After having paid just a few euros you get to go there and feed the reindeer. Just take some food and hand it over to them. They won’t bite.

Reindeer don’t really enjoy being pet. They withdraw as soon as you run out of food pellets. Luckily, you can always give them some more treats from the chest. We spent about 15 minutes feeding these reindeer, before we got too cold (remember to wear some really warm clothes!)

In Kopara there is also a café and a souvenir boutique. They also offer a variety of reindeer experiences and they actually have a few celebrity reindeer as well. Read more here: Kopara homepage

This place is right next to Pyhä-Luosto National Park.

Learn more about Finnish reindeer here.

Spending a night in a hammock in every season

For few years, I had been sleeping many nights in my hammock in the woods of Finland. “Wait, you said sleeping in a hammock?” you might ask at this point.

Yes, in a hammock!

People know tents, but what comes for a good option for solo travelers and hikers, hammocks are slowly becoming an option.

People know what hammocks are, since many might have had some sort of hammock in their garden or backyard. But how many have been thinking to use it in the woods?

Few years ago i started looking for a tent for myself. I had been doing small day hikes in the local forests,  and I wanted to spend a night there too. While I was looking for reviews about certain tents, I found an article, A tent or a hammock?

This really got me interested about hammocks, and I wanted to find more information. I found sites like The Ultimate Hang and Hammock Forums. Also a well-known hammock guy Shug, has a great Youtube channel for information and how-to’s.

Basically a hammock is easy to set up: all you need is two trees. Depending on the length of your hammock, you have to find trees that are 4–5 meters apart.

At the Repovesi National Park in Southern Finland

I love hammocks because they are so versatile. It’s also great being able to see the weather outside. When I wake up, I just open the zipper and sit like I would sit in my bed. I can reach out and turn on the stove, and a bit later I can enjoy coffee in my bed.

It’s not hard to find two trees where I can set my hammock – it’s even easier than finding a good spot for a tent. No spiders, ants or other insects or snakes bother me while I sleep.

A bit later I bought my first hammock, Ticket To The Moon double. I have used it quite many times already. After getting some more experience I have bought a few other models as well, like DD Hammocks Frontline, Warbonnet XLC and Amok Draumr.

Hammock

Amok, DD Frontline, Ticket To The Moon and Warbonnet

There are many hammock manufacturers like Warbonnet, Amok, Ticket To The Moon, ENO, DD Hammocks etc. However, very few of them are sold here in Finland.

A simple hammock is a single big fabric, which are tied from the ends. These are called gathered end hammocks. Some manufacturers use parachute fabric such as silk, and some use different kinds of nylon. Fabric also gives the strength to the hammock, and there are certain user weight limits.

Most hammocks are one or two layer modes. A double layer allows you to put an insulation pad between the layers. Double layers might have the weight limit up to 300 kg.

Amok and Exped have models that require airpads to build a frame. Without the pad, the hammock is quite useless. In these hammocks you lay sideways, which has benefits such as a very comfortable lay. Amok has designed this model to be more adjustable, so you can also comfortably sit on it by pulling the adjustment straps.

Comfort lay

In the standard hammocks, you have to lay in the same diagonal direction (e.g., head on the left, feet on the right or vice versa). This way you will have the best possible lay in the hammock. It also helps to avoid possible knee or calf pressure that could make you uncomfortable. The foot end has to be a bit higher than the head end, so you won’t feel any sliding.

It is possible to sleep on your side, but stomach sleepers will have problems.

If the hammock is too tight, you feel shoulders squeezed. If it’s too loose, it has a calf ridge in the middle of the foot end, which causes pain to the feets. The longer the hammock is, the more comfortable you get. The hammock should be at least 1 meter longer that the user.

When the hammock is in banana shape and the suspensions are in a 30 degree angle down from the tree attachment points, that’s when you get the most comfortable sleeping position.

Suspension

Suspension is one the most important parts of the hammock. This will hold you between the trees. The best thing is to use so-called tree huggers, which are usually 2,5 cm wide straps. These straps are important, because they will also protect the tree bark. Some use a thick cords such as paracord, but they leave very bad pressure markings to the bark. The tree might be badly damaged from those ropes.

If the suspension is pulled too tight, it might break. This is because the forces are very high, bigger than in the 30 degree setup. A 30 degree angle has only the same weight as the user. Straight line might have 10 times of user weight.

There is many ways to hang a hammock. Some use hooks, carabiners, buckles, whoopie slings (dyneema cord) or just plain wide rope. Buckles and whoopie suspension are also adjustable, so it will be much easier to set.

Tarps

Hex, square, Hex modification from square tarp and hex with doors

Tarpaulins are usually known as tarps. A tarp will cover you from the sun, rain and wind. Most of them are made of nylon, some lightweight solutions are made of cuben fiber fabric.

Usual tarps are 3 meters by 3 meters, but also larger ones like 4 m x 4m are available. There are also so-called hex shape tarps, and some of them have doors. This allows you to cover yourself from the wind or rain much better. You can also set the regular square tarp as a hex with doors by using the loops sewed to the sides.

Insulation

To be able to sleep warm and comfortably, you need to have good insultation around you. To cover your back, a sleeping bag simply isn’t enough, since it will compress under you and loose its insulation.

One way is to use pads, such as foam or air pads. Both are good options, and depending on the weather and the pads R-value, it will insulate your back. Down sides are that air pads can not inflate fully, because the shape will affect to the lay. Other one is that it might slide under you, when you are turning or moving.

Underquilts are a great option, since they don’t affect to the lay. A quilt is around you, under the hammock, and will cover your back and also your sides. An underquilt has its own suspension, that usually is shock cord. They are attached to the hammock ends. An underquilt has to be set tidily under the hammock, so that it will seal well. Even small air gaps let the warm air escape, and you will have a cold back or cold feet.

Topquilts are basically sleeping bags without a zipper and a hood, and they are used the same way as a blanket. This allows you to move more freely and getting up is much easier. I use sleeping bags too, but they are sometimes very annoying to use, because you have to get in and wiggle like a worm to get in it well. I am a restless sleeper so I use sleeping bags in colder seasons.

Are hammock systems light? Yes and no.

There are many ultralight options like DD Hammocks superlight series. They need very little space and their total weights are less than a kilo. They have limitations too, for example the maximum user weight is a 100 kg.

Choosing light material will save weight, but it will also increase the price.

These are just the basics for the hammock. To find out more, I recommend these websites: Ultimate Hang, Shug’s youtube and Hammock Forums.

Warbonnet with super fly tarp. Both in porch mode.

Today I am mostly using the Warbonnet Blackbird XLC. It is quite a long hammock, 335 cm, and it offers many great features. Such as removable bugnet, designed footbox for better lay and comfort, and a great view outside. Really long straps with buckles are great, they protect the bark in the trees. Buckle suspension is easy to use and it holds well. Bugnet is removable, which changes it to a Traveler hammock. With the bugnet, you also have a storage shelf, which is very useful. I usually put my eyeglasses and my phone there. The total weight is 1,1 kg, and it has double layers with 180 kg weight limit. I have slept well many nights in the Warbonnet.

Warbonnet hammock and tarp review can be read in Finnish from HERE.

Super Fly’s

The tarp is a Warbonnet Super Fly, which has 2000 mm water barrier. It is 335 cm long and 305 cm wide.  Both ends have doors, which can be closed to get more cover from the wind and rain. This tarp is designed to be used in the winter as well. It has pull outs on both sides to make more space inside. This tarp is very light, weighing around 500 grams. With the stakes and cords the total weight is 700 grams. This tarp is well made using good materials, but the pull outs need to be sealed with silicon etc, so that any water won’t drip inside.

Cumulus Selva 600 underquilt

To cover my back from the cold temperatures of the Finnish winter, I bought new down underquilt, the Cumulus Selva 600. Its Pertex fabrics are a great protect from moisture. The outer fabric is also water-resistant. The hydrophobic down is also said to be less sensitive to moisture, although not everyone agrees. The loft is amazing and this is truly a quality work. This is size L, which means that it’s 235 cm long. The size M is available too, with 215 cm lenght, and in my opinion it’s better for regular hammocks. The size L works well with Warbonnet, because it is 45 cm longer than Ticket to the moon.

A draft collar helps to seal the air leaks from the ends.

Selva 600 is comfortable to use in -14°C. The limit is -22°C. I slept warm and cozy in -10°C.

Cumulus is well known for their down clothes and sleeping bags. You can read the full review from my site HERE.

As a top insulation, I use my Haglöfs Cornus +2 bag, mostly from late spring to later fall. In the summer I just use it as a blanket. In winter time I have my Savotta Military bag, which has comfort around -15°C.

A -10°C night behind, snug as a bug, warm and toasty

I have slept over a hundred nights in my hammock. To me it is a cozy bed, where I can read, sleep and even eat! Because I love to be near water, I have found great places where I can wake up and see the lake. We have our own Finnish hammock group where I have met great people who share the same interests. We have had a few meetings with lots people.

To me, hammocks are the perfect solution for sleeping in the woods. With a hammock I am able to choose my place better that with a tent. Surely, using a hammock requires more attention so that I won’t hurt myself. It’s more complex in some cases and needs more things to know, like knots for example. A backpack needs to be under the hammock or tied down to a tree.

It took some time to find myself a good hammock, and I have been enjoying the Finnish nature in many ways, all seasons, all weather, with friends, or alone.

 

Skiing in the Arctic Night

In midwinter there is light for only a couple of hours a day in Lapland. We decided to go for a two day skiing trip in Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park, to get a proper feel of the darkness during the shortest days of the year in December.

The route was marked on the map, starting from Koivarova parking lot, and went around Keimiötunturi and Sammaltunturi fells in Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park. The plan was to stay the night in one of the three open huts on the route, depending on how quickly we could move in the snow with sledges.

Packing in the parking lot. Me and my friends Pipsa and Salla had long skis, forest skis, special for deep snow. Our sleeping bags and food was packed in two sledges, inside waterproof bags.

The weather was not on our side

It was just above zero degrees of Celsius, around +2 C, when we started the journey. This is bad news for skiing. Snowflakes melt too much under the ski and there is absolutely no traction whatsoever. The skis glide very well, but without traction there is literally no way you can pull a sledge behind you.

We added some grip wax on all skis after the first 20 meters but the effect was minimal. I wished I had hairy skins to put under my skis. They would have worked.

So the first couple of hours our journey proceeded very slowly. It was nearly one meter ahead and two backwards, if there was even the tiniest hill. Our spirits were still high, but we started thinking maybe we have to stay the night at the first open hut only 4 kilometres away at lake Keimiöjärvi. At least there was a lovely sunset to enjoy, and the great Keimiö fell on our left side kept us company.

Me pulling the sledge. Luckily the track was visible, it was cleared by snowmobile. In deep powder snow we would have been exhausted in no time.

When finally reaching the first hut, Keimiöjärvi autiotupa, it was lunch time. We went to sit inside. There was everything one needs for perfect camping: firewood, a stove, some buckets to fetch snow in and pans so you can melt the snow for drinking or food. Sleeping places for 3 people, more if you squeeze. A dry toilet outside. Someone had left many candles on the big table which made me very happy.

Across the frozen lake and into the darkness

After lunch break it was only 2 pm, so we decided to keep going. It was always possible to return to this hut if the journey wouldn’t proceed at all due to non-existent grip. The second hut, Mustakero, we had to forget as it was situated on top of hill. No way we could climb up in this snow.

It was getting dark already so we wanted to cross the lake as soon as possible. You never know with frozen lakes, if there is a current or underwater spring that prevents the ice from properly freezing over.

This route was marked though and I felt pretty trusting there wouldn’t be any soft spots in the ice. Still, there was nervousness in the air. We had forgotten to bring ice claws. You should never cross unfamiliar waters without them, ice claws literally save your life if you fall in. You smash them on the ice and pull yourself up.

Crossing the lake, leaving the Keimiöjärvi open hut behind.

After crossing the lake with no casualties (phew), our path continued in the dark. The funny thing about darkness is, it never really is pitch black when there is snow on the ground. I didn’t even want to turn my headlamp on. I could see shades and trees, the fells around me. And I could see the amazing sky with a zillion stars!

What you don’t see, is depth. Downhills on our way were not steep, but all three of us managed to fall many times! Luckily snow was soft and there was a lot of it. The sledge is funny when coming downhill: first you have to pull it for the initial glide. Then gravity takes over and you feel a push on your back, as the sledge gives you extra speed! I wouldn’t dare to slide down a steep big hill, the speed would accelerate so fast I wouldn’t be able to do anything but yell.

Mustavaara hut

After the last rays of light were gone by 2.30 pm, the temperature dropped below zero, just enough to get some grip back. Our expedition managed to actually ski ahead now! Before no time we had travelled 5 km from the first hut to Mustavaara, an old reindeer herders’ hut. It has been estimated that this hut was built in the end of 1800’s, making it the oldest hut in the whole Pallas-Ylläs National Park.

Melting snow for drinking water.

In summer time there is drinking water practically everywhere. The waters in Lapland are so pure. In winter, you melt it from snow. But snow takes quite a while longer to bring to boil than liquid water, as you might recall from chemistry lessons. Still, it took surprisingly long, I thought.

For dinner we made avocado pasta, not the most traditional of Finnish dishes, but very quick to prepare and absolutely yummy!

The cute and old hut Mustavaara. Imagine this too is complete free for everyone to enjoy! Many thanks to Metsähallitus, the Finnish Administration of Forests, for the maintenance and firewood.

The next day

Our expedition team didn’t sleep too well as there were mice rattling (don’t leave food laying around) and wind howling in a snow blizzard. But we were more than happy to have experienced this old hut. After breakfast it was time to get going as daylight would last, again, for only a couple of hours.

Today it was about -2 C, just enough to get a decent grip of the snow. The way back around the fells was 15 km so it was going to be a long way – or not, depending on the path. The first 7 km were in great shape with hard path made by snowmobile. There were even proper ski tracks all the way from Mustavaara hut to hotel Jeris, 7 km leg. Our forest skis were too wide to fit the tracks though, they were meant for normal cross-country skis.

Skiing in deep snow

The last 7 km leg was something else. This part of the route hadn’t been opened, I don’t know why. Or perhaps it had snowed so much the track had been covered. It was quite a struggle as we had to cram in unbroken snow, in the dark. The benefit of tall, wide skis is that they glide better on top of snow. That is, IF the snow is hard enough to carry your weight. This snow was powder fresh fluff and we sank right through. We took turns in opening the route.

Also the terrain changed to very hilly. It was ever-changing uphill – downhill for at least 3 km. The last leg goes next to a reindeer fence so you can’t get lost. You just need to find the gate where you started off.

Obviously it’s hard to take good pictures when it is dark, but most of the time our skiing trip looked liked this.

It was fine with a good headlamp, but my friends had very dim headlamps and couldn’t see where they were skiing. Imagine skiing down at high speed in complete darkness without knowing where you will end up! They took it well though, and by that I mean, they landed softly when falling in the snow – with head first, butt first, sideways, you name it. I fell too, even though I had a good lamp and thus, no excuses…

Finally we recognised the gate in the fence and yelled out of excitement. It was a fun, challenging trip, I learned a lot about skiing in snow that keeps changing its form.

Starting point on the map

coordinates: lat:67° 55′ 18,488″ lon: 24° 9′ 35,108″

Skishoeing – fun and traditional way to enjoy winter magic

Short skis with skins are ancient, dating back 10 000 years. They represent skis as they were originally! Today they have been “invented” again to suit modern day winter adventurer. I tested skishoeing in lovely Pyhätunturi in the heart of Lapland.

skishoe1

Skishoes are short and wide. These are only 125 cm long, up to my shoulder. They have a hairy skin integrated on the backside for grip, but only partially. The bindings works for any shoes, I had my hiking boots with a couple of woollen socks.

Skishoes are literally a hybrid of skis and snowshoes.  But as you cannot have it all, they come with some compromises. They glide as skis, but not as well as proper skis. When climbing uphill they get traction like snowshoes but not quite as well as snowshoes when it gets steeper.

For me skishoeing was a new form of winter sport. Soon after setting off I decided I love it.

skishoe2

Skishoes glide surprisingly well on flat surface, you go faster than you would with snowshoes. The short size of skis makes it easy to navigate in the forest. Pyhätunturi fell with its skiing slopes is sunbathing at the background.

Nature trails in National Park

I got my skishoes for a test from Bliss adventure. As the day light broke (at nearly noon) we left for the 5 km marked path called Tunturiaapa nature trail in Pyhä-Luosto National Park.

In deep powder snow skishoes sink in the snow somewhat. Long skis would be better for floating on top of snow. But compared to snowshoes it still feels easier, in my opinion, as you don’t have to lift the whole foot up, just push the ski forward and save your sweat.

skishoe3

Me after one of my many falls! It took a while to learn just how to keep balance with skishoes. Luckily snow is soft. You can’t control them as well as you can proper backcountry skis.

The trail continued through the woods and out to the open marshland in deep snow. We had a lunch break at Tiaislaavu lean-to shelter, where there is firewood for everybody.

skishoe4

Lunch break at Tiaislaavu lean-to in Pyhä-Luosto National Park.

Great fun on small hills

The last leg of the round Tunturiaapa trail was full of small hills, so up and down we went. There the traction and gliding properties were really put to test. Climbing up a steep hill with skishoes is a task. The traction isn’t quite enough, snowshoes would be better. But on gentler hills they work like magic. We couldn’t resist playing around and went up and down some nice hills several times.

skishoe5

This was one of the steepest hills. Skiing down such a hill with new unfamiliar toys made me nervous, but it was actually a lot of fun!

Not a new hobby

There are still people living in the Altai mountains in northern Asia who use these kind of skis with actual animal skin on the bottom. The Tuwa people have been moving on snow like this for thousands of years. Instead of two poles in each hand, they use one long pole that balances on the way up and helps manoeuvre when skiing downhill.

I recommend skishoes to anyone who loves snow sports or winter trekking. It is a unique way of moving: faster than snowshoeing, slower but more versatile than skiing.

skishoe6

Photos: Joona Kivinen

Skishoes, snowshoes and fatbikes for rent at Bliss Adventure 

Visitor Centre Naava at Pyhä

Starting point of this trip on the map

cold hot fun

The real fun starts when it’s really cold

Winter in Finland brings all kind of opportunities. From winter sports to trying to catch the aurora borealis, it’s never really boring. When the temperature drops below -20C, I enjoy to go out with a thermos bottle of boiling tea or water. You’d think it’s to keep myself warm, right? Well, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

cold hot fun

Sunset vapor at -24C

That hot water will nearly insta-vaporize when it is thrown into the air.

When you attempt to do that, you can pour the hot water into a cup, so you have a few tries. Be sure you throw fast enough otherwise hot water could fall on you before it’s cooled down.

Vaporizing water in the cold air

Vaporizing water between trees

What else is in the photo is up to your imagination.

Winter fairy tale land – Koli

You don’t have to go all the way to Lapland to find beautiful winter landscapes. In North-Karelia you can find the most highest place of South-Finland. In the fell Koli you can find it’s peaks Ukko-Koli, Akka-Koli and Paha-Koli. People believe that these peaks got their name’s from powerful ancient gods.

You can use snowshoes or ski’s to get to the top of Koli. There is also a hotel and Koli National Park‘s nature center in the top. After hiking in the hills you can get a cup of coffee for example in the nature center Ukko’s cafeteria.

When the sky is clear, you can see lake Pielinen from the Koli hills. When the sky is misty, you just have to enjoy the magical spruce forests with snow and hard rime that accumulates on tree branches.

Old forests look magical in winter time. Village under the hills can be without snow on the trees, but when you climb up to the fell, usually you can find beautiful trees with snow and ice on them.

Finnish artists, photographers and nature-lovers have been inspired with this heritage landscape for centuries. Usually people say, that you should go to the Koli, when the sky is clear and sunny. I think you should definitely visit Koli in a foggy day also.

When almost everything is white, you start to realize, that it’s not really white. It’s blue, it’s purple, it’s orange and colors are changing sometimes really fast. Some camera’s go crazy and it’s difficult to capture the real color of the forests. But who know’s, what’s real and what’s unreal?

Some part’s of the trails are without winter maintenance, but usually paths are walked open by people, so you can even go walking there just with your winter shoes. Don’t hesitate to ask advice’s from nature center’s helpful workers.