A Trekker’s Guide to Sweden
In the Alps you climb, in the Rockies you scramble, in the Sierras you hike, but in Sweden’s high country, you trek—like nowhere else on earth
Thanks in part to a public right to roam, known as allemansätten, the Swedes have an enviable and relaxed relationship with nature. This is especially true with trekking, their unofficial outdoor pastime, which is less about bagging peaks and more about chilling out with friends in beautiful places. Hut trips involve waffles. Alpine summit pushes begin from fully outfitted mountain stations. And, in certain regions, the official routes are only indicators of the day’s direction. Some 400 hiking trails crisscross the country, dotted with 350 well-maintained hostels, mountain stations, and huts. Where to start? Here are three of our favorite spots, recommended by locals and staffers at Fjällräven, the country’s homegrown gear and apparel maker.
Fjällräven Keb Eco-Shell JacketLong before U.S. companies even began exploring how to design eco-friendly membranes for waterproof apparel, Fjällräven was making fluorocarbon-free outerwear like the four-season Keb Eco-Shell Jacket, which pairs tightly woven recycled polyester with a proprietary, PFC-free waterproof coating to keep the elements out.
Keb and the High Peaks
“Keb” is short for Kebnekaise, which, at just under 7,000 feet, is Sweden’s highest peak. But Keb also stands for the region the massif resides in. Tucked up against Sweden’s northwest border, Keb is both remote (the closest town is a bus stop) and barren—think verdant alpine tundra, snowcapped summits, and alpine lakes. Which is to say the country is beautifully reminiscent of the Beartooths on the Wyoming-Montana line. Most folks make the 12-mile trek from Nikkaluokta (the bus stop) to the Keb Fjällstation—a full-service alpine hut complete with bunks, a restaurant, and hiking boot rentals. To continue to the summit of Keb from the mountain station, expect a 10-to-14-hour day. Want to get even farther afield? Do as Swedish pro freeskier Johan Jonsson does in summer and “aim for the area between the Kebnekaise massif and Kaitumjaure Lake. There are no hiking trails, but there’s great fly-fishing.”
Abisko Trekking TightsAt first glance, Fjällräven’s Trekking Tights might look like fancy yoga pants. But you better make that backcountry yoga. Reinforcing fabric over the knees and seat means you can scramble over and sit down on rocks and logs without fear of shredding fabric. The wide waistband won’t interfere with your pack strap, flat seams won’t chafe, and two side pockets and an accessory loop make it easy to keep essentials at hand.
Abisko and the Northern Parklands
North of Keb, Abisko National Park is only 30 square miles but serves as a vital hub for Scandinavian trekking. Sweden’s famous 270-mile Kungsleden (or King’s Trail) terminates in Abisko (above the Arctic Circle), where it meets the 500-mile Nordkalottruta (Arctic Trail), which rings Lapland, connecting Norway, Sweden, and Finland. Those are life-list distances for seasoned trekkers, but even four days in Abisko gets you a lot, says Elísabet Elfa Arnarsdottir, a product designer at Fjällraven. On a four-day product testing trip to put prototypes of the Abisko Trekking Tights through the paces, Elfa and co-workers rode the overnight train from Stockholm to Låktatjåkka and then set off. “Over the next four days we hiked in the mountains and valleys back to Abisko tourist station,” says Elísabet. “There was still snow in the valleys and we took the rain covers off our packs and used them as sleds. All of us turned into children. We sledded down and pitched out tents in the valley and then ran up to the mountaintops. At one point, taking it all in on a ridgetop, this huge herd of reindeer came beneath my feet. I can’t describe it, it’s was just magical.”
High Coast Hike TrousersMoving around on the jumbled High Coast in summer requires giant stepping. Fjällräven’s High Coast Hike Trousers are purpose-built for the conditions. Their quick-drying and stretchy fabric is made even more maneuverable by a gusseted crotch, while tapered cuffs keep the pants from getting hung up on vegetation.
Meander the High Coast
The term “High Coast” might make you think of Washington’s Olympic Mountains, but there’s different geology at play here. During the last ice age, the region was crushed by glaciers—and the land is still rebounding, hence the name High Coast. Here, too, you’ll find rocky Scandinavian peaks, dense evergreen forests, and remote lakes, but also caves, rich understories lush with lichen and ferns, and one of the top hiking destinations in the country, Slåttdalsskrevan, a 650-foot, crevasse-like gorge in solid rock that bisects the rocky summit of Slåttdalsberget peak. Fjällräven’s sustainability manager Christiane Dolva, who still wears her grandmother’s original Fjällräven jacket from the 1970s (“it’s still in style!”) is especially fond of Skuleskogen National Park. “It’s amazing. I’m actually going up there to run the High Coast Trail in August. It’s a mountain marathon. So a bit different than the High Coast camping I usually do, with two kids, aged four and six.” An 11 year veteran of sustainability, Dolva has worked in industries as varied as printing to airlines, but as a lifelong outdoors person, she was drawn to Fjällräven nearly four years ago. “The High Coast area is super nice. It evokes different emotions in you when you walk in the forest, as opposed to the higher peaks. It’s more intimate. The area has a really active outdoor community, but you can always go out and wander and be alone.
Övik Re-Wool ShirtÖvik is a progressive town when it comes to sustainability, and the Övik Re-Wool shirt has a green story to tell: It’s cut from recycled production-scrap wool. Technically, it’s not a high-performance piece, as it comes from Fjällräven’s casual Övik line. But because it’s wool and it features reinforcements at the shoulders for backpack straps, you can wear it as a light jacket in summer and as an insulating layer in winter.
“Ovik” Sweden’s Outdoor Town
If you’re looking to do a little trekking but also want to enjoy all the other outdoorsy awesomeness Sweden has to offer, head to “Ovik” (the full name is Örnsköldsvik). It’s the ideal launch point for forays to the High Coast, but also a mountain town by the sea, with multi-pitch rock climbing, forested mountain biking, and endless water-based activities, including sea kayaking, beach days, and sailing. For all of these reasons and more, Fjällräven was founded in Ovik in 1960 and remains headquartered there. “I love the changes of the seasons and to change my sports accordingly,” says Fjällräven’s Arnarsdottir, who loves to dig through the archives of the Ovik headquarters looking for inspiration in old buttons and fabrics. “Thanks to Sweden’s right to roam, it’s possible to camp anywhere, or to go into the forest and pick berries and mushrooms, or bathe at any coastline or in any lake. From Ovik you can rock climb in summer or downhill ski a little ski slope in the winter. There’s a via ferrata… There’s so much around every corner.”