Think of long distance trails, and the Kungsleden isn’t one that readily leaps to mind. Yet when the idea for thru-hiking the 440 kilometer (270 mile) trail came up, several members of the DC UL Backpacking Meetup leapt at the opportunity to head to northern Sweden. It was a success. All ten – a mix of seasoned long distance backpackers and those new to the world of UL – who headed over to Sweden successfully thru-hiked the trail in late June (2013) over a period of 16 days.
Our journey started at the southern end of the trail in Hemavan on June 15, took us north of the Arctic Circle, and had us finish at Abisko on June 30. We had beautiful sunny days and periods of continuous rain that had us soaked to the bone. We encountered more mosquitoes than we ever thought possible, and had multiple legs of rowing (yes, boats) to keep us on the trail. If that wasn’t enough, five of us threw in a little side trip to Kebnekaise, Sweden’s highest point at 2106 meters (6909 feet), and three of us summited it at 11 p.m.
While no specific make or model of any piece of gear was carried by everyone in the group, two of us, “B~~~~” and “Shuttle”, both carried Gossamer Gear Mariposa Ultralight Backpacks. I (“B~~~~” ) had primarily been using a small rucksack for most of my weekend trips, but with the plan for Sweden being to carry 5 days’ worth of food at a time, I began looking for a larger expedition worthy pack with a more substantial suspension to comfortably handle anticipated full loads of 30 pounds or more.
After much research and consideration, I selected a Mariposa. The non-traditional long pocket on one side and the second upper pocket on the other were both features that mildly put me off during initial considerations, but in actual use I quickly discovered the positives of these pockets.
- A tent or tarp packs beautifully in the long side pocket, ready to be accessed quickly when pulling into camp or to be the last thing packed up when leaving, while staying separated from the rest of the gear when the shelter gets packed up wet.
- The upper pocket holds all the random small items that I want to access easily throughout the day but didn’t want in the hip belt pockets.
- The OTT (over-the-top) closure system allowed for easy adjustment to the consumable volume ebb and flow.
All this plus a frame and significant volume came in at a weight still under many of the other lightweight framed packs others were carrying.
As for me, Shuttle, I fell into the category of being one of the newcomers to Ultralight backpacking and long distance trips. I’ve spent the past year studying gear and evaluating options for a pack. I knew I wanted a pack that was strong enough to handle Sweden, but also versatile enough that I could still use it for weekend trips in the Mid-Atlantic.
The Mariposa fit the bill for me. Unlike B~~~~, the pockets were one of the biggest draws for me. I liked having different sized pockets to hold items I needed easily. The other bonus: being able to easily grab my water or other items from the pockets while wearing the pack. And as a woman, I found the construction of the hipbelt and shoulder straps to be remarkably comfortable.
The Kungsleden was the first (I hope) of many more long distance trips for me, and I’m looking forward to taking the Mariposa with me.