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  • Writer's pictureKajsa Silow

Tent-life hacks

Whenever I need recovery and a good night's sleep I always put up a tent. And oh what a weekend!! Not that I really define my weekends since everything I work with is flex and distance hehe, but now my micro-vacay happened on a Saturday to Sunday. We were expecting a storm so I decided to head out solo into my icy mountains on my splitboard to do some stormy and rough winter expedition training, to explore and find new spots in my backyard, to find amazing views, to get some proper and distraction free me-time, to acclimatize to my new splitboard and hopefully also do a little bit of easy and safe snowboarding if I'd find some snow, and most of all - to just enjoy that which I love doing.

Saturday was sunny and warm and even though it's February it felt like nothing but spring. Normally this time of the year we have lots of snow, -15 degrees, glittering ice crystals in the air and frequent magical halos and winter light. Spring is super nice but it sure is a bit too early getting rain-showers, having naked black trees and bare ground popping up everywhere in the middle of a thin ice covered, hard packed snow sheet covering parts of the mountains. And this year I would even love for winter to remain longer than ever since I just bought a split, need to keep my training consequent and acclimatization going for Antarctica, and also because winter is the most beautiful and magical thing I know. I reached my spot and put up my tent, organized my camp and spent the evening shooting photos and regretting not bringing my tripod, enjoying the view and building a safety wall of snow blocks around my tent to keep the 20 m/s wind from shaking it and making noise during the night if the storm would arrive early. It didn't though, and instead I got a completely still, calm, clear, starlit, dead quiet night and I slept like a queen from 9-5:30. Being a morning person is prime when waking up in nature since you wouldn't wanna miss any minute of the night-sky slowly transforming into lighter shades of dusk, the world getting painted with color, the details forming and changing with every second and the mountains getting kissed by sunrays - a unique play that never is the same, and never will be the same again.

The storm never came. By 9 I had packed up my things and was ready to head home. The mountains got a little bit of sunrise before it turned windy, white, wet and even more icy, so there was no point in doing any splitboarding. Such a nice little teaser! Next week I'm heading to Stockholm for a film project with Stadium, but hopefully I get another night out next weekend when I return, hopefully in an even "wilder" place than our backyard.

Answers to your questions about tentlife

"What do you usually eat when your out alone? Do you cook different things depending on if it's summer och winter?"

I love to make my kind of daal with lots of spices and fresh vegetables when I'm camping (I actually won an outdoor cooking competition with that one hehe)! I prepare all the chopping at home and just eat that once since it requires a lot of weight and space in the backpack. Spicy coucous with chia, lentils, dried vegetables and vegetable broth, or fresh spinach/kale and garlic soup with crisp bread and hummus are two more lightweight dinners that I prefer. On a short night out like this weekend I usually eat homemade bread with homemade white bean or lentil hummus, avocado, spinach and kale. For breakfast I always eat oatmeal with chia, crushed hazelnuts, roasted coconut flakes, rose hip, seeds, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, dried black apricots and sugar free soy milk. I always bring some coffee, dried black apricots and make date-balls with nuts and (again) heaps of spices for extra energy. In the winter I like to keep it simple yet warm and spicy and sometimes I even take the opportunity to fast and only bring food for safety in case of emergency. The best thing though is that even the simplest of foods become heavenly tasty so my brain doesn't need to make it complicated since you eat with all your senses when you're outside. However, let me know if you want any recipes!

"Where do you take a shower if you're in the middle of nowhere?"

I don't haha. We shower way too much in our daily lives and we often don't need it, and as with food everything becomes really basic out in nature. Your needs change a lot and you can't think of everyday conveniences like showers, super clean clothes, straight hair or perfectly cooked dinners and all like you do at home. But when I'm out longer than 2 nights (or if I sweat a lot which I rather try not to do for safety and hygien reasons) I take a shower in lakes, oceans, rivers, waterfalls or any water hole I might find. In the winter when the world is frozen or if there is no water in sight, I clean up my critical areas with boiled snow from the kitchen or with baby wipes.

"How do you start? I want to head out with my kids but feel insecure :/"

Start the way you feel safe. If you don't know how to manage yourself in a tent, start with that (without your kids) and start doing it at a place you know and in temperatures that aren't critical, where you feel safe whatever that might happen or could go wrong. You might even wanna start with just putting it up in your backyard or to a spot near your home during the day and bring everything out as if you were out in the middle of nowhere, try packing, try all the gear, find the routines that suit you and to get an idea of what you need and want to bring (weight adds up easily). And most importantly - do this to find your safety routines. Even if I've been sleeping over 500 nights in a tent the last 4 years, I still never not bring a safety plan and gear even if I'm just in the mountains near my home. Over-plan it if you feel insecure, almost to the extent that it feels too easy - for then you'll have heaps of time to enjoy EVERYTHING when your out there and you won't feel any fear since you are well prepared and know what to do whatever that might happen.

"Are you never afraid as a woman to sleep alone in a tent? If you are, how are you thinking and what are you doing?"

No. When I used to watch scary movies and the news on a daily basis I used to be, but nowadays when I stopped feeding myself with bad stuff I never feel more secure and calm as when I'm alone in a tent. I also spend 50-200 nights in a tent every year all year round so for me it's one of my "safe homes". And that's why I do it so often, it makes me feel damn good and completely present, to meditate, recover and reset my values and spinning project brain back to zero. It such a boosting energizer!

"Are you afraid of bears?"

No, I actually "hope" I see one one day because it's so rare. Sometimes they see you, but humans rarely get to see them. However, I don't often choose to head out into certain areas alone in the springtime when they just woke up to find myself between a female and her cub or to risk waking one up too early. If I do choose those areas I pick spots that are not "typical bear" spots, near some human traces (like the mountains in my backyard) since bears don't choose to sleep there. But maybe I'm not afraid since I don't often choose to sleep alone in the deepest forest in the middle of the country up north far away from other people. I have no idea how I'd feel if I did. Also, since I sleep so often in a tent it has become my "safe zone", there are heaps of things that are more dangerous in a city, on the road or in a secured home with a roof and door lock. Such fears of unlikely things like a bear attack are only made up things in one's head and I choose to not make space for that which I can't control. I do all I can to lower any risks, but for me the most critical things I need to focus on is to know my terrain so I don't fall into any hidden water holes or break through ice, to know my gear so I don't get critically cold and freeze, and to know my navigation and stay safe so I don't get lost if the weather turns bad in a second or gives me complete whiteout.

"What do you wear during the night to not freeze?"

It depends on the temperature. But the most important thing is to do everything else right first, then come the clothes.

1. Bed: cellular mat + Exped winter sleeping mat (SynMat 7).

2. Sleeping bag: Marmot expedition sleeping bag (it's synthetic, old and huge and takes up half my 90L backpack) with extreme temp at about -15 to -25, I got it from my former colleague Skinnarmo who used it to the South Pole haha, yum!

3. Proper ventilation to prevent the tent from condensation

4. External heaters: a thermos filled with hot water, hand warmers and a Nalgene bottle filled with hot water to hug.

5. Clothes: Last night was about 0°C and I wore thick knee socks of wool, thermal longjohns, a fleece and a beanie. I always make sure to bring dry wool clothes and I never wear too tight clothes that might strain any blood flow to get a good night's sleep.

6. Extra clothes for exposed body parts and extra warmth: wrist warmers, neck warmer, wool gloves, wool bloomers, and a (synthetic) down jacket, my warmest jacket as an extra blanket.

7. "You should not wear clothes in your sleeping bag" is a myth. You should wear that which makes you comfortably temperated, but to keep in mind is that it's the air that isolates you and the distance to the cold ground or free air that keeps you warm, so if you wear clothes that put pressure on your sleeping bag it might make you cold in that area, then it's better to put your jacket on top as an extra blanket. Cover your body and keep your sleeping bag and mat fluffy!

"Would you rather use a sledge than a backpack?"

That's a really convenient option! I would love to have one if I had space to keep it at home and if I could afford one. They're really expensive so I haven't prioritized buying one yet. But sometimes I would choose to wear a backpack anyway because it helps me train my backpack-back and posture, my legs get extra weight, and I get used to heavy loads and get lots of balance training!

"Which kind of tent (regardless of brand) - dome or tunnel?" I love tunnel tents since they give more space per kilo, but I chose dome since it allows me to move it around easier and makes me independent of the terrain. A dome can be placed wherever, is independent of wind direction, I can carry it around to find the perfect view, tilt, base and put it on places where a tunnel can't be put up in a storm without a lot of extra effort.

"What's your top 3 emotions while doing tentlife in nature?"

Love this question! Could answer it for hours though haha. Complete presence, magical views and nature shows, and the endorphines and other great things that physical activity gives me.

"What's your EDS (that which you can't be without)?"

Fresh water, a Nalgene bottle for heat and camera for memories. The rest can be solved with nature's resources.

"What's the most important gear for a tent trip during winter (except the tent haha)?"

Heat systems (fire, gas, hot water, heaters, batteries, dry and warm clothes, rain protection)!

"I want to live a more adventurous life. Do you have any ideas of how I meet likeminded people?"

Move to Åre (and then study "Vildmarks- och äventyrsguide") haha! (True story though). When I lived in Skåne, Varberg and Gothenburg for instance, I had difficulties finding those who wanted to do crazy projects with me, head out on longer adventures and who headed for the lifestyle I did. I felt trapped in the life of "someone else", even though I worked as a blogger for Outside Magazine at that time and met people on all those trips aside of my ux-design job. I needed it daily so my way of meeting likeminded people was to apply for Adventure Academy in 2015, and that course gave me a much greater network, friends and colleagues within the business. I also called inspiring people and my role models to have a coffee with to them, to make friends with them, get mentorship, and just to talk to people with a mind like my own to not feel so lonely when living the city life. I did sponsored adventures which allowed me to influence others and make more people to contact me for more gigs and friendships, the "visual" real life storytelling is possibly the best way to make it easier for others to ask to join you. So just start doing stuff, take initiative, talk about your ideas and dreams, show people (not just call them) that you do what you want to do, and find groups on Facebook or IRL. And also: instagram has actually been my greatest portal when making new friends and colleagues within adventuring.

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