Survival bushcraft camping adventure in cold outdoors of Sweden

by kaiconfusion

About 3 weeks survival camping in cold Sweden – Applied Bushcraft skills without tent, gas or matches… No roof, no walls, no heater, no telephone, no stove, no sleeping pad…

forest bushcraft campmagnificient landscape swedencampfire

This story is about a Bushcraft trip we made two years ago in Sweden in November 2011. The conditions weren’t really pleasant 9,5h of daylight, temperature plummeting below zero in the night almost constant fog and cloud cover and high humidity. The last days before we walked back to civilization the lake we made camp next to started to freeze in. It’ll be hard but I’ll try not to narrate to long….

For more detailed information’s about Bushcraft click on PAGES – How to build Shelters, How to find water, How to find Food, How to make Fire and How we build Boats… !


I developed the idea for this trip in the past years as I started to deeply concern myself with the philosophy of self-reliance and primitivism, bushcraft and survival skills. The interest in this is rooted in my personal analysis and interpretation of the dis-functionality of our modern times society and represents a central key to solve this dysfunctional dependency toward a self governed sustainable life. SEE – ANARCHO PRIMITIVISM

The idea magnificient landscape swedenWe wanted to head out to a relatively remote spot to live there in a down to earth reality. We wanted to practise our skills on how to live in the forest with a minimum of gear in an already harsh climate. November in Sweden is dark cold grey and wet. Perfect conditions for a great adventure! No roof, no telephone, no heater, no tent, no gas cooker, no sleeping pad… Prior to the trip I was searching on maps for a spot seclude and far from humane settlements in a distance from Berlin still able to reach without air plane and within our budget. Apart from that I searched for a good entry and exit point and a water way such as a river on which we could travel, that would help us navigate and that would supply us with water!

magnificient landscape sweden magnificient landscape swedenThis search took me a very long time cause if one is looking for wilderness one will soon realise there isn’t much left neither in the European continent nor anywhere in the world. Europe in particular has lost its wilderness many centuries ago… We started of from Berlin with our backpacks packet and a cheap grandmas trolley that we had found on one of our dumpster dive tours, packed full with dehydrated foods. After taking the city train, the intercity train, the ferry across the Baltic sea to Sweden, a bus, a train and another bus after more than 24h of travelling we finally got dropped of in the middle of nowhere in the dark and cold night. We had to travel that far to enter a region which still isn’t quite wild though government regulations actually permit people to stay in the forest at least for one night in opposite to every other European country Sweden has the so called “Allemansrätten” which translates to Everbodys right. Travelling overland is a conscious decision firstly to lower our environmental impact and secondly to experience the changes rather than being beamed from one reality to another. For any trip or activity it is crucial to look at it full scale. Permaculture design principles can supply one with the tools to a more holistic view on things. IMG_8541We started walking following my sense of orientation and from what I had memorised from the satellite view on Google maps. The first night under a  makeshift tarpaulin roof went well. The next morning mist and greyness all around us we were there – finally in the wild? I had longed so long for this and Kathie was brave and positively hoping for the best I guess… We started walking through the thick wet grey mist breathing in the fresh cold air of the countryside. We had to find a lake from where we were planning to travel by boat trough small rivers and lakes for about 30km until crossing a main road before finally reaching the sea – both of which could be our exit points.IMG_8544

After a long journey and a short night it is good to rest for a tea. On a wet ground on around 0°C degrees you shouldn’t sit and to give your self a booth you don’t need to carry vitamin tablets. Pine and spruce needles are an excellent source of vitamins C and are delicious too. Be careful though not all evergreen trees are edible! Keeping it simple. Quickly two branches put crosswise tide on with some string that we brought can easily be replaced though with spruce roots which are very strong and flexible and grow just under the moss or generally not very deep in the soil. The tarp wrapped around. Tea time shelter ready. camping flask and stove

We brought this Swiss army tool with us for quick effective cooking. You only need twigs to bring your tea to the boil in just a few minutes. Similar a CAMPING ROCKET STOVE! We wanted to bring as little gear as possible within our limits of course. Amongst that were two 3m x 5m tarpaulins which we didn’t bring for shelter making but for boat building, though as the days were really short just about 9,5 hours of daylight we ended up using them as a roof, saving us time so we could walk more. Even with the tarp for a roof we still had to find material to sleep on and firewood for the entire night as temperatures were between sub 0°C and 5°C.

It was grey and silent. The air full and clean. We felt alien but strong, in expectation of the harshness of this hibernating landscape. We were walking into solitude. IMG_8557 IMG_8560 The second night after along walk we reached a lake we weren’t really sure which one yet despite the good map that we had. It was obvious that we had to continue to walk the next day as the lake that we had found was filled with these fields of reeds not suitable for travelling by boat.

A-Frame shelter fire reflector

An important rule for camping, living and bushcraft survival is to set priorities which is to understand and asses your most important human needs and to serve these in the right order. It should always be shelter first, water second, fire third food fourth

An important feature for a good functioning shelter especially in the cold, is a fire reflector. Best is a big rock (as you see on the picture the left) as you don’t have to build it yourself and it acts as a heater as it stores the heat of the fire and can radiate heat into your shelter even hours after the fire has gone out if your shelter is close enough. A-Frame shelter fire reflector On the third day we had reached the lake and open water after some hard hours pulling our super heavy grandma trolley with all our provisions trough the dirt. Here we were going to make camp for a little longer to build boats. Since we had arrived in Sweden the thick fog cover hadn’t gone away so we had no comprehension on the real size or look of the lake before us. It was nice and quiet though surreal. The construction took much longer then expected and also the firewood making and cooking and shelter building used a lot of time and energy within our short daylight time gap and kept us super busy for the next 5 days.

We invested in some more fancy forest housing by building a nice tepee. It was a smoky though cosy and sparsely shelter. building a survival tepee in the forestbuilding a survival tepee in the forestbuilding a survival tepee in the forestsurvival tepee in the forest

IMG_8585 IMG_8607 IMG_8584 To complete our mission to build boats and travel with them we had to use the tarps and tear down our tepee and change shelter for one more night before travelling with our boats. For this one night we build a lean-to shelter with fire reflector keeping us toasty warm as long the fire is on. Spruce bows for a mattress just like every night and moss as insulation for the roof. lean-to survival shelterlean-to survival shelter Building boats I wanted to build a primitive canoe strong enough to hold both of us and our luggage. All that is needed is a tarpaulin, flexible green branches and plenty of string which can be replaced with natural materials such as spruce roots.

build your own boatIMG_8614IMG_8615build a canoe bushcraft IMG_8655IMG_8649

I hope the pictures are self-explanatory enough. All it really takes to build a boat like this is, is patience and motivation. This way of construction and even in a much simpler manner should work! At least in theory – it didn’t work for me. I made a very obvious mistake. I didn’t pay enough attention to the shape of the canoe. It was to deep, to narrow and the bow was too steep. I realised that only after finishing it – after three days of gathering material and assembling them, that boats usually are fairly flat at the bottom and don’t have to be real deep. It was buoyant enough to hold an Elk but it was very tippy and tipped over right away as we tried it out… Big failure! – but that is the best way to learn! But we had a plan B prepared as we couldn’t expect it to work first trial. A boat construction much simpler. IMG_8619 IMG_8618IMG_8625 This simple idea is called “donut boat”. Essential for building it is a tarpaulin or any big sized plastic sheet or a multifunctional army poncho. You use sticks as a framework. You fill the space between the two rows of sticks with hay, straw, twigs, pine or spruce needles etc. After that you bind everything nicely together and wrap the tarp around. You can stabilize the floor as we did with sticks that you stick in the walls so your weight doesn’t push directly on your tarp but it is channelled to the sides. For comfort you can also stuff the sitting area with moss or straw etc. Improvise a paddle from what is around or carve one with axe or knife. Off you go! These two only took us about a day!

 IMG_8626 donut boat IMG_8652 survival boat We were ready to continue our journey on the water and we did so with a lot of respect for the freezing cold water knowing if one of us would fall or even both of us with all our stuff wet or even sunk to the bottom, we would face a life threatening situation. But what do you know? The boats worked perfectly. The sun came out as we started paddling. We travelled with slow pace, since these boats don’t have a back row and are therefore bound to spine around. Since we had really poor visibility the first 10 days we didn’t know how big the lake really was. We only learned about its real size that day. It wasn’t really big and soon we came to its end where we expected a small river or at least a stream to connect to the next lake just as I had spotted on Google satellite view! We had to really focus not to get deeply disappointed when we understood that the river was a half meter narrow creek filled with rocks and fallen trees… We could not travel that way! All the hard work didn’t pay out. We had turn back! We had to walk…

After days of building different shelters and the three boats while maintain camp, hauling in fire wood sawing and splitting it to have fire for most of the day and the entire night, cooking etc. we were exhausted. But the harshness of the climate kept us going we had to anyway and the beauty of the landscape uplifted our spirits.


We made camp and build a simple double A-frame shelter. On the images you see Kathie in the morning and me weaving our spruce bow springy mattress. To insulate us effectively from the very cold ground the spruce bows have to be layered best by knee height with the bottom side facing up which creates a nice and cosy sleeping ground.


The next day we tried to make quite a big distance on foot that day and as it got late, we had to improvise a quick lean-to shelter in a very wet area with few resources to spend the night. We had our tarps recovered from deconstructing the boats in the morning. With the tarpaulins at hand for shelter building we had more time for walking. That meant we luckily didn’t have to build a roof from scratch every night! In an outdoor situation you have to plan your day and go with the flow of nature. You have to look for places to sleep while walking early enough to have time to build a shelter and make a fire. This lean-to though really uncomfortable, kept us warm with a fire and a fire reflector and a raised bed laid out with spruce bows keeping us dry and warm from the wet and cold ground. lean to forest shelterlean to forest shelter After a rather uncomfortable night on a poky tight “bed” we continued walking to search for a really beautiful place to spend a longer time. That has been our original plan for the trip, which didn’t work out due to the circumstances. The many duties that we had and the constant battle with time and cold was really exhausting. That day we got rewarded with a sunny day beautiful scenery and a magnificent lake where we found the perfect place! It provided everything we needed and it was beautiful! Our last and nicest shelter at the lake!  Double A-Frame Shelter in the making…


IMG_8738IMG_8736IMG_8735 IMG_8731IMG_8721

survival shelterIMG_8715lean-to survival shelter

primitive forest hutprimitive forest hut IMG_8699This place was our last camp on the journey. The first time on the trip we could take time for other things then just serving our very basic needs. As this place provided us with enough building materials and firewood, we had time to explore the area and to simply take it easy least a little bit. We could save some energy or actually recharge batteries with the gleaming sunlight these days. We had a rough timeframe for the trip since we had flights booked to Asia in December. The thought of going home started to come up especially in Kathie who started to have enough of the cold and daily physically demanding tasks to only meet our basic necessities. A tough but very real experience. It was wired to realise that most of our time we had been busy working not having time to enjoy our beautiful natural surrounding. Even though we spend only a short time (merely 3 weeks) in the bush, we could see that it takes a lot! to really stay, survive and establish oneself. If we hadn’t brought food we would have starved too. Every item that you bring with you foremost food, can save you hours and days of work! To go with even less gear in this climate can only be possible with more people so that work can be shared. After nearly three weeks we set out to walk back to Oskarshamn the nearest town. A ten hour walk from the solitude of the forest reaching to the first buildings, to paved roads, to the suburbs and back into town. We could experience the graduate changes from natural landscape to human landscapes. Just in time we caught the last bus – caught the train – the night ferry across the Baltic Sea – jumped in the intercity train the next morning back to Berlin back to where we had started. What has changed? We have! For me it was a great experience that has taught me a lot and that has encouraged me for much more …! Scenery…

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autumn melancholy landscape swedenautumn melancholy landscape swedenautumn melancholy landscape swedenautumn melancholy landscape sweden



Oskarshamn Region 02.11.2011 – 19.11.2011



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