2008 – Criss-crossing the Arctic

On September 13th the three team members returned to Norwegian soil, having criss-crossed their way through the Arctic. Read below for more about the expedition, and the experiences they had with the Helsport equipment they took.

Trip report from the first stage: the length of Spitsbergen 

We undertook the first stage of our project “Criss-crossing the Arctic” in March-April, skiing the length of Spitsbergen. March 14th we got a snowscooter ride from Longyearbyen to Verlegenhuken, Spitsbergen’s most northerly point.

Our route southwards was roughly as follows: Åsgårdfonna, Widjefjorden, Mittag Lefflerbreen, Heyesbre, Østkysten, Ingelfieldbukta, Sørneset (Spitsbergen’s most southerly point), Van Keulenfjorden. 34 days later, on April 17th, we were picked up by snowscooter at Van Keulenfjorden and driven back to Longyearbyen. The trip can be summarised as very successful – impressive scenery, lots of good weather, cold, and occasionally exhausting.

We took the following Helsport gear:

Tent: Spitsbergen 4

Sleeping bags: Tempelfjorden with moisture-barrier inners

Bivuakk shoes

Conditions were, as mentioned above, cold. We were lucky to have a stable high-pressure system for the first 26 days. This meant mostly fine weather, cold temperatures, and little wind. By cold, we mean a consistent -30C degrees during the day and around -35C degrees overnight. The last 8 days were characterised by milder weather, precipitation, and wind. Thus the equipment was more often exposed to cold temperatures rather than wind. We spent 32 out of 34 nights in the tent. One night (Day 16) we stayed in a hut with a wood-burning stove which allowed us to dry our gear; the other night we spent in a bivvy.

 

Here the team report on their experiences with the equipment: 

Spitsbergen 4

We had no experience with this particular tent, but we’d often used Helsport tents on previous trips, including to Svalbard. We didn’t manage to test the equipment before we went, so were pleasantly surprised by the spaciousness of the Spitsbergen 4. From past experience we knew that even though there were three of us, a four-man tent would be right. In hindsight, we wondered if we could have coped with a 3 to save weight. However, the sleeping configuration made us happy with our choice. In the Spitsbergen 4 we lay cross-wise (along the doors, i.e. one in the middle with no direct access to the door). We did this so everyone would be able to sit upright without their head brushing the inner tent. This isn’t possible in the Spitsbergen 3, where you don’t have full headroom on the side. We think that the tent sizings are realistic about how many people they are suited for, especially with the Spitsbergen 4.

Even though we didn’t get a lot of wind, we found the Spitsbergen very stable. This, coupled with it being to easy to pitch due to equal poles and a symmetrical shape, made for a comfortable tent even when the weather started to worsen. On previous trips in cold environments we’ve noted that the equipment wears faster because of the temperature, but we didn’t notice this in the Helsport products. The tent shows little sign of having been used for 34 days.

In summary, we are very happy with the tent. It’s stable, durable, and spacious. Anything we noted was mainly minor, and did not affect the overall impression. We are therefore looking forward to the Spitsbergen 4 being our home again when we embark on the second leg of our project “Criss-crossing the Arctic” – across Greenland.

Tempelfjorden

We were very happy with the construction of the bags. The three-bag system worked well. A bit cumbersome getting in to the bags, but it got better with practice. We think the bags were spacious, had a good warm collar, effective tightening around the hood, a useful inner pocket that was well-placed, and comfy fleece fabric in the foot end.

In brief, despite some issues with humidity, we were satisfied with the bags. They did their most important job, which was to keep us warm. The system of three bags in one gives flexible temperature control, meaning this one bag will cover most situations, from very cold winter temperatures to summer heat. The only thing we would have wished was that it weighed less.

Bivuakk shoes

We are really happy with the bivuakk shoes. We particularly appreciated the well-insulated sole with its relatively good non-slip surface. On the coldest nights the shoes got a bit cold, so we chose to add a pair of down socks inside the shoe. This meant we were comfortable even down to -35C degrees.

 

To read more about the expedition, we recommend taking a look at the expedition’s website hjemmeside.