Planning the route in advance
A winter trek starts at home. You can study the map sitting at your kitchen table and outline the route you want to follow, identify any obstacles you will meet along the way and investigate alternative routes. You can also make your pack list, test different alternatives, try different pieces of clothing and break in shoes. You also can start exercising well in advance of your trip since poor conditioning can ruin even the most promising trek. Try to be realistic about your preparations when planning your trek! (If winter camping feels a bit overwhelming, there are other ways of experiencing nature in the winter; you can stay at a mountain station or cabin and plan daytrips from this home base.)
Before heading out it is important that you gather as much information as possible about the area, your route, the weather, etc. Google and visit discussion forums on the internet, read guide books and route descriptions and check if the county administrative board or municipality has information about the area on their websites. Look at pictures and try to use the map to gain an understanding for what your route will be like. Contact local organisations – for example tourist offices and Friluftsfrämjandet – and talk with people who live or have been in the area before. Finally, it would be extremely helpful of you can find written informational material about the area.
When talking to others, it can be a good idea to consider the viability of what you are hearing. It is not unusual to receive information that is based on assumptions or hearsay or is simply misleading. This does not mean that the person is lying on purpose, but our memories are not always reliable and impressions and experiences can be overexaggerated after the fact. Some people can also be protective of the area where they come from, so they might offer information that almost discourages a visit. Just listen to what people have to say, find multiple sources and then piece together the information you received.
Using the information you have gathered and the location on the map, you can plan a reasonable route, places to stay and things to see. Also plan an alternative route in case the weather turns bad and/or an injury occurs and you need to shorten the trip. Are there any boat transports or roads that can be helpful if there is an accident? Emergency cabins or emergency telephones? One common mistake is to plan long days at the beginning of the trek. Experience shows that the first few days are the hardest since your pack is at its heaviest and you are not used to the activity levels. It is therefore best to plan shorter stages at a slower pace during the first few days, and do not forget to have a good routine for your breaks.
Only bring the absolute necessities
You will have to carry everything you pack in your backpack. The lighter your bag, the more enjoyable your trek, so avoid bringing “good to have” items. One thing you should not skimp on is food. You will be burning more energy than when you are at home and if the weather takes a turn for the worse or if you are delayed for another reason, you will need extra food. Always plan for the extras, even on day trips!
It can be a healthy exercise to play the “What should we do if the following happens” game. By thinking through different scenarios, you will get an idea of whether you have planned your equipment properly, if you have allowed enough time, if you have packed enough extra food, etc. This type of exercise can also mentally prepare you to improvise when you are in the outdoors.
Even if have planned very carefully, you must always be prepared to change your plans during the trek. The weather might change, you might have problems with equipment, an injury may have occurred or other situations may have arisen. Turn around and find protection if the weather becomes bad!