Last week, we told you all about our dog sledding tour in the Arctic Circle in Swedish Lapland (click here to read about it!) When we booked our dog sledding trip, we weren't really sure what we were getting in to. As a result, the owner of White Trail Adventures, Daniella, fielded a LOT of questions from me. What do we bring? Is there power? Where should we stay the night before our tour starts? These were only a few of the questions that she answered for me. I also did a ton of research to figure some of my questions out for myself. So, to help others that may be planning a dog sledding trip, we have compiled this list of tips and questions that we had during the planning process.
1. The biggest question: what should I pack?
This goes without saying, but bring warm clothes. We found that our dry suit undergarments were perfect for this, but, if you don't happen to be a cold water diver, wool or fleece based clothing is the best. Dress in layers so that you can add or remove layers of clothing as necessary. I often got hot while harnessing and taking care of the dogs, but during our breaks I would get cold easily. I have a couple of Under Armour shirts and these worked great as a base layer. They do provide warm outer garments, so snow pants and/or ski jackets are not completely necessary. Also make sure you bring multiple pairs of wool (NEVER cotton!) socks. Wet socks, even if they are wool, can still make your feet feel cold. A dry pair of socks is an easy remedy for this.
For the evenings, the wilderness cabin is heated by a wood burning stove. While the cabin can get pretty warm, the floor stays pretty cold. A pair of slippers or house shoes are a good idea to help keep you feet warm. I didn't think about slippers, but I wish I had brought a pair.
The wilderness camp has a sauna for bathing, heated by a wood burning stove and a separate stove to heat up water (more on this later). We didn't use shampoo, but bar soap is an easy way to clean yourself. Those single use face wipes are also really handy for when the sauna isn't heated up, but you want to feel a little refreshed.
A head lamp or flash light is also a good idea. Remember the whole electricity thing? A flashlight is a little more convenient than trying to keep a candle lit.
Since you sleep in sleeping bags, a liner is also a good idea. Formal, premade ones can be expensive, so I just bought a couple of sheets, folded them in half lengthwise and sewed it up. Bam! Cheap, easy sleeping bag liner.
2. What should I not bring?
Anything that requires electricity. There isn't any at the camp, so it would just be added weight that the dogs would need to carry. If you are bringing a camera, make sure you bring an extra battery (and try to keep all your batteries as warm as possible by putting them in coat pockets/close to your body, they'll last longer that way since cold kills batteries pretty quickly).
Anything big and bulky. You will be limited in space on the sled, so only try to bring things that are absolutely necessary.
If you want to read, an e-reader is much easier (and lighter) than a regular book. But there is no need to go out and buy one just for this trip.
Don't take too many clothes. We made this mistake, but thankfully, it wasn't a huge issue. For a couple of days, all you'll need are clean underwear, a couple of t-shirts, a sweatshirt or warm sweater , and a pair of jeans or sweatpants for relaxing around the cabin. Anything is just extra. Oh, and if you're a girl, don't even worry about makeup. No one is going to care and it's actually nice not to worry about putting it on every morning :)
3. How should our luggage be packed?
The sleds are narrow, so backpacks/rucksack or duffle bags work well. Suit cases can be difficult or impossible to fit on the sleds. I used a regular back pack (not even a fancy backpacking one), and it worked great. Aaron used a waterproof bag which also worked well. The sleds can get a little wet, so if you're really worried about it, you can use a dry bag.
4. What are toilet and washing facilities like?
The toilet there is an outhouse (or a long drop, as we learned it was also called). Since it's winter, it really doesn't smell at all.
For bathing, the sauna is used. There is a separate stove for heating water and a large dewar of cold water as well. There are bowls and ladles for mixing the two waters so that they are a comfortable temperature (instead of scalding hot or freezing cold). You can then use this to bathe, kind of like a shower. There is a changing room next door to the sauna, but it is a cold, brief couple of step in between the two. It's quite refreshing after the heat and steam of the sauna though. And if you're brave, you can even jump in a snow bank and then run back into the sauna!
5. What is the food like? What if I have an allergy or food sensitivity?
The food is cooked by your guide and based on traditional Swedish food. If you have special dietary requirements, you can let them know. However, to get the real experience, try not to be too picky. If you have an allergy, by all means let them know, but be open minded about the food. It really is delicious :)
6. What are the sleeping arrangements?
The main cabin has three bedrooms, each with two bunk beds. There are also other cabins with beds. In all, the camp has the ability to sleep up to around 30 guests. Sleeping bags and pillows are provided, but a sleeping bag liner is a good idea. If you don't have one, White Trail Adventures will provide one.
7. Is there anything I really wish I had brought along?
Slippers. My feet are almost always cold and this trip was no exception. The cabin floor was cold and having a pair of slippers would have made it a lot more comfortable to walk around.
8. We will be arriving in Kiruna the day before or leaving the day after the tour finishes. Are there places to stay?
Of course! Kiruna is small, but it caters to tourists. If you want to splurge, you can stay at the Ice Hotel. White Trail Adventures can arrange transfers between their camp and the hotel for a fee, or you can stay at one of the hotels in town. We stayed at the Hotel Samegard, which was a little outside of the city center, but wasn't a far walk at all. Amenities were basic on the weekend, but on weekdays, there was a great breakfast included. There is a small guest kitchen for you to use as well. Even though we arrived late, and the owners arranged to get us the key when we arrived.
You could also stay at the Sami camp outside of town if you wanted to expand on your northern Swedish experience
9. What is transportation like in Kiruna?
Taxis are really common in Kiruna. There is also a bus. Since the airport is 20 minutes outside of town, you will need to either rent a car or take a taxi or the bus to get into town (it's much too far to walk, especially if you have a suitcase). The taxi cost is about 300 SEK (about 30€) each way for both of us. We did choose to share a taxi with others making the price per person about 150 SEK instead of 600 SEK for an individual taxi.
The bus is a little cheaper, but stops running at some point in the night. Additionally, it would have still been a 15 minute walk from the bus stop to our hotel at night. If you're staying in the city center, the bus is a good option, but for us, it made more sense to take a taxi.
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So those are some tips we learned after going dog sledding and spending some time in the arctic circle that we thought others could benefit from. If you have any more questions, let us know and we will do our best to answer them.