There was certainly a buzz of excitement leading up to our trip as none of the team had been exposed to quite such cold temperatures, the weather forecast indicated minus 18-20 before we left with a brisk Easterly wind.
Being outside in these temperatures knowing that you can head indoors is one thing but we were to spend two nights and three days camping in our Tentipi® branded Nordic Tipis, cooking outside and even catching our lunch through holes in the ice!
Tentipi® are based in the North of Sweden in a small town called Arvidsjaur less than 100 miles from the Arctic Circle. We had been kindly invited to visit the factory, meet the team and founder of Tentipi®, Bengt Grahn, and experience firsthand how this unique and award winning product would perform in the conditions that it was designed for.
Bengt was happy to share his design journey through the highs and lows, and it was clear that he liked to build a close and longstanding working relationship with co -workers and dealers alike. There is a distinct family feel to the business which has many similarities to Taunton Leisure.
After plenty of coffee, delicious homemade pastries and a salad lunch (exotic food for the arctic!) our guides Patrik and Conrad (both Tentipi employees) and the Taunton Leisure team changed into our cold weather gear and loaded up the Snow Mobiles which were our other buzz of excitement and mode of transport into the wilderness. They were capable of travelling at scary speeds across the ice and snow and hauled the trailers containing stoves, food logs (vital!) water and something to keep the spirits high around the camp fire!
After a few moments we were well beyond the boundaries of civilisation as we knew it, and were travelling through the vast pine trees and across frozen lakes in a simply beautiful wilderness to our camp for the evening. Setting up the Tentipi® branded Nordic tipis was second nature to our team as it is a quick and easy process, however the task of flattening the area of powdery snow to provide a base for our tents to sit on was quite another and we repeatedly sank well beyond our knees.
As some of the video clips will testify it was difficult to resist the child in all of us to fool around in the powder and for some (Braam!) to relive the ancient Lapish tradition of the head plant! Tents finally up, Eldfell wood burners installed, reindeer hides set down for insulation and our shelter was looking homely, add the Down bags courtesy of Rab and Mountain Equipment and it looked like we might survive our first night.
While we were making a meal of setting up our tent, Conrad was digging out the cooking and seating area and setting up the bar! He has worked for Tentipi® for some time with cutting and sewing tent fabrics being some of his responsibilities you could see he was well at home in the harsh outdoors.
We later found out that in his spare time he plays guitar for a heavy metal band and he definitely looks the part for that role! Patrik, our intrepid leader and instructor for the trip takes care of the sales and marketing side of things he clearly enjoyed the outdoors and demonstrated that living in these conditions was definitely second nature to him as he set about preparing a delicious meal for 10 cooked on a Muurika (a large metal skillet) over the camp fire.
Normally when you camp you have the issue of how to keep the fresh food cool, here the issue was how to stop it all freezing! Much of the food had to be kept inside the tents and the water stored close to the fire.
That night the temperature was heading towards -20 and as we warmed ourselves by the fire you could not keep gloves off for long and the occasional jog up the hill was required get the circulation going again. We later learnt that it had been at least -24 that night and even with the wood burner inside the tent hunkered in our down bags you could feel the numbing cold on your face. My water bottle was directly under the stove that night, admittedly on the snow, but it still froze solid! I am certain that I would not want to be out in these conditions without a stove for heating but bearing in mind that we only had one layer of tent fabric between us and the outside, the tent did feel remarkably cosy.
The morning routine was get the fire going and try to get some things defrosted for breakfast, adding milk to my muesli you could quickly stand your fork up in it! Have you ever tried cooking frozen eggs? I first had to peel them as if they were boiled!! Nick Baron was brought along for his skills as a barista and set about brewing the coffee to keep us charged for the next hour or two, this was a befitting start to our day around a camp fire.
Next up was some ice fishing for lunch and our journey to the fishing lake fortunately required a trek on the Snow Mobiles taking us through forest, more frozen lakes and simply wonderful scenery. Then, seemingly out of nowhere came our Fisherman on his ancient Snow Mobile to guide us to the best fishing for the day.
Once there, the stove was already going for more coffee and a luxurious seating area was cut into the snow complete with reindeer hides and a cosy fire. Now it was our turn to go to work and try to catch some lunch through the holes in the ice.
Armed with a fishing rod that looks like it came out of a lucky bag we baited up and dangled our lines through the mechanically drilled ice holes with high expectations yet two hours later we had nothing! Occasionally we had the odd nibble, but we were cold and starting to wonder if there was a plan B for lunch but clearly there wasn’t!
Suddenly we were in luck, Daryl turned a nudge of the hook into a superb catch of an Arctic Char, he was indeed a handsome and prize winning specimen, minutes later Nick had landed something similar and the two men had together saved the day. The two fish were whisked away to be prepared for lunch… have to say fish and chips by the fire have never tasted so good, so smiles all round and a chance to get the feet warmed up.
Later that evening at camp it was more of the same routine, trying to keep warm and another delicious camp fire meal from the Tentipi team, as more luck would have it someone produced some rather fine whisky to help celebrate the day.
In more than one way every one was in high spirits as we told tales and exaggerated about the one that got away! Later that evening Conrad pointed out the night sky and the rather feint showing of the Northern Lights, what better way to spend our last night in the snow.
We awoke to more fire, coffee and frozen eggs and then broke camp to start our journey home. As we packed things away I started to reflect one this wonderful trip and how lucky we had been to experience the Tentipi® branded Nordic tipis in the extreme conditions they are designed for and to put our other cold weather clothing and equipment to the test.
Many thanks to Rab and Mountain Equipment for supplying the down bags which we could not have survived without and we all had down jackets of our own from the same brands which were essential. I think it fair to say that we all had Merino wool base layers which remained on permanently as well as Smartwool merino socks all of which were in their element in these conditions.
I would just like to thank all of those who took part in the trip for being excellent company and contributing to the Swedish experience. For some it was perhaps just another day in the arctic conditions for us it was an amazing experience that will live on in our hearts for a long time to come. Thank you Tentipi®.
Most memorable moments:
Seeing the fish get landed, the smiles on the faces of Daryl and Nick followed by the fish lunch.
Most treasured piece of equipment:
After the Tentipi® Safir 9 that we used it had to be the Rab 1000g Andes bag, it was amazingly warm and perfect in size for my taller frame.
Best loved item of clothing:
Tricky as so many items performed so well but I think I will give the nod to the Berghaus Ilam down jacket from next winters collection as it was amazingly light, small to pack and a superb fit that could be used as mid or outer layer.
How fast the Snow Mobiles are and how easy to use, no speed cameras!
Managing Director – Taunton Leisure.