A survival trip in Sweden, one week on a self guided canoe expedition! Peddling from island to island in the Swedish wilderness. That sounds like the ultimate travel adventure, right? Something I had definitely never done before, so when I got the chance to join The Canoe Trip to Sweden I didn’t hesitate and signed up for this adventure travel trip.
As always I started reading about this canoe camping trip just a week before although the briefing came in a month earlier already. I found out that this was not your standard holiday in Sweden. Regardless the country this was an adventure into wilderness with a canoe. It could have been in Norway or Finland as well but The Canoe Trip is in Värmland, Sweden. In the briefing I found out that this was one of those canoe tours in Sweden on the lakes of Varmland close to the border of Norway.
Be prepared this is a self guided canoe trip on the lakes just by yourself. Camp overnight in the wild, cook your own food on a little stove and most of all enjoy the peaceful environment and the natural beauty here.
17 Things to know about The Canoe Trip
1. How to get to The Canoe Trip in Varmland Sweden?
There are several options to choose from: self drive, fly to Oslo and get a pick up or take the bus from either Lille (France), Brussel (Belgium) or Utrecht (Netherlands).
Bus to Sweden
I chose to take the bus from Utrecht. It was pretty comfy as the double decker bus was not completely full, but damn it the last time I sat in a bus for more than 18 hours was a long time ago! Not complaining here as when I was traveling in South America, India, Namibia, Argentina, etc. long bus journeys were a daily routine. Actually some of the best places in the world to backpack will involve long bus rides. So if adventure travel is your thing, be prepared to suffer a little! :)
But honestly I would not recommend you to take the bus from either Holland or Belgium. The trip is long, but the wait is even longer. On the way back I needed to wait 30 hours for a bus that would take almost 20 hours to bring me back to Holland. Felt like a waste of time…
The group just arrived at Basecamp North and set up their tents after the long bus ride.
The Canoe Trip was great fun, but when I arrived back at base camp North on Friday afternoon the adventure was over and I was ready to leave. Unfortunately the bus only left on Saturday 22.00 to drop me in Utrecht 19 hours later.
The bus journey has a weird itinerary through Friesland and does not take the shortest route from Utrecht to Varmland. Unfortunately the only boarding points in Belgium and Netherlands are Brussels and Utrecht.
Going to the canoe trip by your own is totally worth spending some extra euros on plus you can combine it with a city trip to Stockholm or Oslo.
2. Travel partner
You are stuck in a canoe for a week and sharing a tent with your travel partner so choose wisely. This canoe camping trip is surely about teamwork.
Traveling with my dad
It was the first time I actually took my dad on one of my adventure travel trips. Not sure how he felt about 20 hours in a bus, but that aside. The canoe trip in Sweden was a great way to spend some quality time with him. By far he was the oldest one and I guess I was the second oldest. The average age on The Canoe Trip is probably around 25, at least in my group.
3. Self guided tour on the Swedish lakes
Upon check in you will be handed an info book, including tips, routes, suggestions and a detailed map of the area. However you are completely free to peddle wherever you want and camp anywhere you feel like!
The canoe trip in Sweden is all about freedom! But you have to understand that this is a journey into the wilderness. Leaving all your daily routines behind.
You basically wake up in the morning, pack up your stuff, get into the canoe and self guide the lakes of Varmland finding your next camp destination for the night. Whatever you do in and between is totally up to you. You can go cliff jumping, relax on a deserted beach, find yourself a private island or chill in your canoe while floating on the lake.
A suggested itinerary is provided by the Canoe Trip organization in the info book. There are a couple routes: easy, medium, hard. This has nothing to do with the difficulty, it is all about the distance. With the provided detailed map it is pretty easy to self guide your canoe through the deserted lakes and the wilderness. Even though it is a self guided canoe trip getting lost is fairly impossible.
Not mentioned as a tip by The Canoe Trip but bring powerbanks (a few) so you can charge your phone. Even a Sweden canoe expedition is made easier with the navigation skills of Google Maps!
4. Phone reception on the lakes
Although the Lakes of Varmlands is a pretty remote area there is often a phone signal available, sometimes even 4G! Completely being disconnected on The Canoe Trip only happens when you switch off your phone on totally give over to your canoe in the Swedish wilderness.
5. Group trip or solo travel
The Canoe Trip is a solo travel adventure in to the wild. You will mostly just be by yourself on the lake unless you choose to peddle together with others. Many of the people joining the Canoe trip are travel buddies, best friends, brothers or couples. In my group there was also a group of 10 people, they all peddled together so you can also sign up as a group.
When your goal is to be alone in the wlderness it is fairly easy to realize. There is no need to follow the suggested itinerary and as you can camp basically anywhere it is really easy to find an isolated spot on the side of the lakes or on one of the many islands.
6. Safety issues
I think there is no need to discuss if traveling to Sweden is safe, especially not here on the lakes. But what you probably want to know is how the canoeing was and how safe that is.
First of all don't be afraid your canoe will flip over. After a week in a packed canoe I learned that it is pretty impossible to tip over your canoe. You may make some water when you enter the canoe with water shoes but that is about it.
Briefing upon arrival
I stayed at Base Camp North and here we got a proper briefing from a 86 year old man who knows the Varmlands like the back of his hands. This old commando is still running the show here and is much resected in the region. His professional briefing is worth a lot and his handy tips for this canoe trip in Sweden were very welcome.
Peddling around Varmlands is fairly easy, just don’t put yourself in danger and use common sense! When there is too much wind, don’t go out on the water. When there are waves, stay on shore. Simple things like that can make this adventure travel trip a lot more fun!
When checking in you will be handed a GPS tracker with a SOS button in case of an emergency, but don’t worry no ever needed to use this so far.
Peddling out for some midnight fun on the lake! It never really got dark in Varmland, Sweden.
7. Difficulty The Canoe Trip
So how is it to peddle all day on the lake? You can make the Canoe Trip as hard as you want to. If you don’t feel like peddling there is no one who pushes you. May be your travel buddy will, but that is it. Every morning and every evening during my trip the water was like a mirror so quiet. During the days there was some wind so now and then which made it sometimes really difficult to peddle. The bigger waves made it physically hard, but it was mostly mentally hard. Peddling with strong winds can go as fast as 2 km/h, without wind I guess you can reach up to 10km/h.
For example the last day we peddled against the wind and it was no fun. We should have stopped and chilled on the side for the wind to lay low, but we were stubborn. In the end we made it, but it took some effort. Still this should one of those lovely Sweden canoe holidays were enjoying has more priority than working out, right?
The Canoe Trip is a leisure trip, but be prepared to push some boundaries so now and then.
8. Where to sleep
I already said it a couple times, but you decide yourself where to sleep. Basically everywhere where you can put up your tent you are good to go. This canoe camping trip is tailored to those seeking adventure. There is some private land around the lake, but then mostly there is a sign saying no camping. The area is huge, so if you want to find your private spot you just need to find a place to board your canoe on the lake side.
There are many designated shelters. These places have a little shelter and a toilet and are suggested places to camp overnight. They are basically campgrounds. Shelters are of course a little busier as some people prefer to camp at a shelter every night. This because of the toilet or simply want to meet other travelers on self guided canoe trips. In case you don't sleep in a shelter and need to take shit you are provided a spade so you can dig a little hole. Adventure travel to the max, right? :)
in the forest you can see a little hut, those things are shelters.
I only slept at a shelter once, all the other nights I found my own spot on the lake sides of the Varmland.
9. Land transport canoe
The Canoe trip also involves some land transport, which seems a little difficult and yes it sometimes can be. You will be provided a set of wheels which you can strap under your canoe. When the roads are flat then the land transport is like walking with your dog. But there are also some steep sections that are a bit heavier. For a fit person it is all relatively easy to handle.
The signposting could definitely be better as at some land transport sections there were no signs at all. But I heard they are renewing them soon for an even smoother canoe trip in Sweden.
10. What to eat in the Swedish wilderness
You can opt for the Canoe Trip food package or bring everything yourself, which costs €80 for the trip. Easy choice people, let the professionals do this for you, saves you a lot of hassle.
Bringing your own food for a week taking into account that there is no place to keep things cool will already be a challenge I guess. I would for example have no clue what to bring. And on top of that you have to carry it all the way to the Canoe Trip base camp in Sweden yourself.
When you calculate it is just another €10 extra per day and all the food is included. Plus no hassle to buy everything yourself.
Upon arrival I got a box with a dozen things in it.
All this food was for two people for 7 days. Included were things like:
- 2 pots of hazelnutspread
- Adventure food packages
- Energy bars
- Noodle boxes
- Ravioli and other noodles
Check if the food package contains everything before you start peddling, because after you left it is too late.
Now of course you are curious how these adventure food packages taste, right? You are probably asking the wrong person, because I like everything. But in all honesty I mostly heard positive words about the food packages.
The green Adventure Food bags come in many different flavors:
- Chili con carne
- Pasta Bolognese
- Vegetable hotpot
- Bean soup
- Chicken curry
- Veggie couscous
- Veggie fruit rice
There are even packed some deserts for you:
- Chocolate mousse
- Vanilla mousse
11. What to pack for The Canoe Trip
Apart from the standard stuff recommended by The Canoe Trip organization I totally recommend you to bring the following.
Definitely bering one of these super easy to pack hammocks which you can strap between to trees. Basically anywhere they come in handy. Check out these hammocks on Amazon.
Find yourself a good book before your trip. There is enough chill time to go through a good book. These are the recent bestsellers.
Small camping chair
When bringing a hammock is not your thing a little camping chair is easy to carry as well and very comfy at the end of the day. The canoe seats have no backrest, so get yourself one with a backrest. Trust me it is totally worth it, check them here.
There is some cool wildlife to spot in Varmlands. I was lucky to see beavers, a snake and a fox. If you peddle out during the long evenings, just before sunset it is possible to spot bears, elands and more wildlife. Bring some binoculars on your canoe trip, its good fun, small and cheap.
The flashlight of your phone is easy to use as well, but it drains your battery and it occupies one hand. Get yourself a head torch and you can use both hands at the same time.
Pop up tent
Not encouraged to bring by the Canoe Trip, but I did it anyway and it was the best decision. My pop up tent has a radius of just 80cm and the canoe is more than 1m wide, so it fit in easily. Definitely bring a pop up tent on this canoe camping trip.
Don’t just bring one powerbank, bring many to charge your phone. Check out all the powerbanks on Amazon.
I am not a big fisher myself, but on the Canoe Trip it was cool to have one. I made mine on the spot with a stick and the equipment of friends. A simple fishing rod is surprisingly cheap and totally worth the money. Fishing in the evening is good fun!
I did not bring water shoes as I am a master on flipflops. Still I wish I had water shoes with me, it would have been easier and they are cheap to get.
As I said before your canoe will most probably never really make water, but to keep your valuables dry get yourself a dry bag to make sure.
Don’t just bring standard sunscreen, also bring sunblock for your lips. My lip burst!
Just don’t bring too many clothes. I literally only wore one swim short, some t-shirts and that is about it. For the evenings bring some long sleeves.
12. Best shelter
That one night that I did stay in a shelter it was probably the best place I stayed overnight on the whole canoe trip. This was not because of the shelter it was because of the location and I am happy to share it with you.
At the red circle you will find my favorite shelter in Varmlands.
Peddling off the beaten track and find a little peninsula away from the standard routes. Up here in this deserted shelter we saw beavers and loved the remoteness.
For the best Canoe Trip travel tips you are best off asking the people from the week before. You will meet them on your first day. They probably all look pretty tired but are happy to share their adventures with you and give you tips about this self guided canoe trip.
They were trying to keep their beers cold! Did not work with a water temperature of 26 degrees! LOL
Yes there are insects in Sweden, you are in to the wild. But in all honesty it was not that bad at all. There were only a few mosquitos and sometimes those annoying flies that sting. Some people found ticks so be aware of them.
Long time ago when doing volunteering work in the jungle in Costa Rica I learned how to deal with them. Everyone will advice you to bring mosquito repellent, but there literally is only one solution: wear long sleeves and long pants. I always wear my comfy Qatar Airways pyjama pants from that day I got to fly Qatar Airways First Class: Qsuite. Check out the video here.
14. Difference Camp South/North
There are 2 different base camps: North and South. It does not matter which camp you choose or get dropped both groups follow the same route just with a 1 day delay. So initially you never cross each others paths and shelters don’t get too crowded.
Campground at basecamp south.
Camp South does not have the old Swedish commando running the show so I heard their briefing was not as good as ours. Camp South though is a proper camping on a lawn, where at camp North you need to find a place to put up your tent in the forest.
15. Clockwise or counter clockwise route
Same here, there is hardly any difference. As the suggested routes are exactly the same only different shelters are highlighted. Regarding the land transport the same as you both have to cover the same altitude meters. Though I have to say the clockwise route has less steeper sections to deal with for sure. Also the wind direction can play a role.
You are assigned a route when checking in but you are still free to choose which way you go.
The Canoe Trip is very depending on the weather. I was extremely lucky and did not see a cloud for 6 days, but I don't know what I would have done when it would be pouring raining. A Canoe Trip in Sweden in the rain is definitely less fun and when there are strong winds peddling on the lakes can be extremely exhausting too. But like with everything, we can’t do anything about the weather!
17. Leave no trace
Last but not least, leave no trace! Always clean after you, bring your own garbage with you and respect this serene and beautiful nature up here in the Varmlands.
The Canoe Trip
I hope with these tips you will make the most of your Canoe tour in Sweden. Get out of that chair and do something active on your holiday. Sure it will be worth it! For more info about The Canoe Trip, check their website in the link.
Thanks for reading my adventure travel blog and for keeping up with the adventures of Traveltomtom. If you have any specific questions about the Canoe Trip Im happy to answer them, simply leave me a comment below.