The Kungsleden is a trail that begins in Abisko above the Arctic Circle in northern Sweden and finishes 440km later in Hemavan.
It is divided into five parts with the breaks in the sections falling where there is a road and access to public transport.
Although most people walk one or two sections, there are plenty who walk the whole path in one go. I’ve met people walking the whole way in as a little as two weeks (my mind boggles at this), but most take at least a month.
Even if you’re only walking one section you are going to have to think about what food to take with you.
The first two sections and the final section have STF huts spread roughly a day’s walk apart and many of these sell food. Even though you can buy food along the way you should still plan carefully and take at least some food with you. If you have special dietary needs you will definitely need to take food with you as the supplies in the huts are quite basic. If you are hiking later in the season you should also be prepared for the huts having sold out of certain items.
If you are walking the third and fourth sections of the Kungsleden, that is Kvikkjokk to Ammarnäs, then you really need to plan ahead as you will be carrying all your food with you.
It’s sometimes possible to buy food on the fourth section at Vounatjviken as there is a restaurant here. However, it is only open if people staying in the fishing camp have pre-booked. And as it’s a restaurant even though you’ll be able to get a meal if it’s open, you won’t be able to replenish your supplies.
On the fourth section there are a couple of huts, but these are locked and you need to collect a key in advance if you want to stay at them. Because they are unmanned no food is sold at them. The small village of Adolfström has a shop, but its supplies are limited and its opening hours few. Eight kilometres along the lake from Adolfström is Baverholmen which has a restaurant, but no shop.
So on these two sections you really will need to plan your meals in advance and carry a stove, pans and fuel.
Here’s a picture of cooking gear I carried on my recent trek. You can read more about it here.
So what sort of food is sold in the STF huts and how much is it?
Because of the very nature of the place – isolated, middle of nowhere – everything during the summer has to be walked in or brought in by helicopter. Because of this, the huts are stocked in March when the snow is thick and deep and it’s easy to get about with a snow mobile. This means two things:
- It’s not easy to get food supplied to the huts so the food on sale is a lot more expensive than you’ll find in supermarkets in the towns and cities.
- The food all has to be of the long-life variety. This means dried or canned.
It also means there’s not a lot of variety. Especially if you are vegetarian like me and don’t want to eat meatballs, cans of tuna or tubes of caviar.
The good think about buying food in the huts though is that you can buy what you need so you never have to carry more than necessary. Want a cup-a-soup? In a supermarket you’d have to buy a pack of four. In the huts the packs can be split so you can buy an individual sachet. Fancy pasta for dinner? In a supermarket you’d have to buy at least 500g. In the huts it’s sold loose and weighed so you can buy exactly the amount you need.
Some examples of the types of food for sale and the prices:
- Knäckebröd (crispbreads) 25 SEK / £2.25
- Coffee sachet 5 SEK / 45p
- 100g chocolate 30 SEK / £2.70
- Snickers 15 SEK / £1.35
- Tortellini 45 SEK / £4.05
- Boil in the bag rice 20 SEK / £1.80
- Biscuits 30 SEK / £2.70
- Meatballs 65 SEK / £5.85
- Oats 100ml 5 SEK / 45p
- Chilli con carne 65 SEK / £5.85
- Soup sachet 15 SEK / £1.35
- Instant mash 20 SEK / £1.80
- Macaroni 100ml 5 SEK / 45p
- Squeezy tube of cheese 175g/250g 50/55 SEK / £4.50/£4.95
As you can see, it’s not cheap. So even if you only plan to walk a section with plenty of huts you may still want to bring most of your own food. However, if you just use the huts for top-ups and if you wildcamp most nights then even with these prices, your overall spend won’t be very high.
So what did I bring?
My criteria for choosing food was:
- Light and packs down small
- Quick to cook so doesn’t need much gas
- Some food that only needs to be soaked in hot water for when I can’t cook and only have the hot water in my flask
- Little waste packaging
- Simple to prepare and doesn’t need lots of extra ingredients or oil to cook
- Tasty and nutritious
This is what I ended up with after touring my local supermarkets and visiting the sections I don’t usually go near.
I also had dehydrated courgettes and peppers which aren’t shown here. I bought a big bag of each and used my dehydrator to dehydrate them. They were so light and didn’t take up much space and I could add them to most things I cooked for extra taste and vitamins.
I could make soup in my flask by filling it with boiling water in the morning and adding some dehydrated veg and half a stock cube. By lunch time I had a nice, tasty, hot soup.
Noodles, Mug Shots and instant mash just needed hot water from my flask poured over them, so these were great to use when I needed to be quick. Because they only need boiling water I didn’t need to use much gas.
The pasta meals took about 6-8 minutes to cook, so although they used more gas than the instant food, it still wasn’t a lot. I know it’s possible to buy special camping meals where you can pour boiling water directly into the packet and within minutes you have the equivalent of a Sunday dinner, but these are really expensive.
Buying food like this in the supermarket helped me keep to a low budget. Noodles can be around 20p a pack and the Mug Shots were three for a pound. The pasta meals ranged from about 3op to 70p depending on the brand.
Cup-a-soups make a good pasta sauce. Once my pasta was cooked, instead of trying to drain the water, I’d stir a sachet of soup powder in. I didn’t bring pasta from home as I had the pasta meals and Mug Shots for my first few weeks. By the time I ran out, I was able to restock at the supermarket in Ammarnäs. For the last section of the walk I could also buy pasta at the huts.
This photo also shows my teabags, hot chocolate sachets and a bag of instant coffee.
Milk powder ended up being used for muesli rather than coffee. A spoonful of milk powder over my muesli meant I only had to add water. I took a mix of shop bought and home made dried fruit. There are plenty of blueberries to pick and eat along the way and I even found cloudberries on some sections. However, the dried fruit was more substantial and ensured I got some vitamins each day.
I’m showing English tubes of cheese and packets of crispbreads here. I didn’t actually take any from home with me, but bought them when I arrived. The knäckebröd are so bulky they ended up in a shopping bag tied to the outside of my backpack. I added the squeezy cheese to pasta and mashed potato as well as using it on knäckebröd.
I started out with a couple of packets of custard creams and rationed them out. Towards the end of the walk, when I was able to buy food, I bought Ballerina biscuits.
I kept a couple of muesli bars in easy to access pockets of my backpack and, along with dried fruit, they were good for a quick energy burst when I was flagging towards the end of the day.
Of course I needed chocolate. I couldn’t possibly contemplate walking all that way without it. I bought 90% cocoa solids chocolate so I would feel I’d had enough after a couple of pieces. This way it lasted me longer. And dark chocolate contains iron. So it’s healthy.
I also took a few packets of mints which I bought in Sweden. These particular mints have licorice in them and are delicious. I can’t buy them in the UK, so always stock up when I’m in Scandinavia or The Netherlands (both are parts of the word where licorice is really appreciated).
This photo also shows my stash of salt and pepper sachets collected from cafes in various countries.
Any food that I thought might suffer if it got wet, I kept in plastic bags. Loose food, like coffee and milk powder, I double-bagged to help prevent mess in my backpack if one bag got a hole in it.
I didn’t have a special bag to store my food in – there was too much of it. Instead I had it stuffed into nooks and crannies around my backpack, filling all the gaps and distributing the weight.
I took so much food because I knew I’d have at least two weeks when I wouldn’t be able to buy any and that would be followed by a third week when I’d have to carry full supplies. If I’d been able to buy food on these sections, I’d probably have taken less, though not too much less because the food is so expensive to buy on the trail and I didn’t want to remortgage my house to buy pasta and chocolate.
Have you had to carry all your own food for several weeks? What tips can you share?