2013 – Gold digging in Alaska

In summer 2013, four geology students travelled to Alaska to dig for gold. Here's a report on their trip, and some feedback about the Kongsvold lavvo they took with them.

In the summer of 2013 we travelled to Alaska on a gold-digging trip. Helsport kindly gave us a Kongsvold lavvo to take along for the ride. The plan was to paddle the Sheenjek River for about a month, all the way down to the Dalton River Bridge. After about a week on the Sheenjek, we hit a bit of bad luck. We woke to find the river had risen 2 metres, without warning, and we’d lost all our food, a canoe, and lots of gear. About the only thing left standing was the Kongsvold lavvo, even with several of the guylines submerged. We had to be evacuated, a rather abrupt end to a trip that had been a long time in the planning. After a couple of days in Fairbanks with some nagging and lengthy chats with our insurance companies, we scraped together enough funds to head out on a new trip, this time to Beaver Creek. We had luck on our side, and the Alaskan Dream was fulfilled with gold in the pan, fishing adventures, long days of paddling under the midnight sun and, last but not least, amazing experiences with nature and wildlife. One of the most memorable experiences, both for us and for the Kongsvold lavvu, was as follows: after a long day paddling we set up camp on a gravel bank, intending to devour yet another meal of grayling. Our bellies full of fish, and ready for after-dinner coffee, we suddenly see a black bear leaning up against the Kongsvold lavvo and sniffing. There was no way this bear was going to ruin our trip, so we ran towards it with loaded weapons, yelling like crazy. The bear wasn’t particularly afraid of us, but understood that it wasn’t welcome, and strolled back into the bushes. The Kongsvold lavvo looked a little worse for wear after the encounter, covered in bear snot and with 4 long claw marks, but after a wash and a bit of care it was as good as new.

On long trips it’s great to have a lavvo you can stand up in. It’s also good to have robust parts, which are easily repairable if necessary. There’s plenty of space for 4 in the Kongsvold, given that it’s designed for 8. The size and ventilation slots in the lavvo means it doesn’t get too hot inside, even if it’s 25 degrees outside and the midnight sun is shining. The Kongsvold lavvo is robust and easy to pitch. Like other lavvos, it’s quite tall, with side exposure to strong winds. Putting rocks, logs or sand on the flaps means it will stand up to a fair amount, even if the pegs aren’t embedded well. Mosquito netting in the entrance and the top was particularly useful in Alaska, and we didn’t need to use an additional mosquito-proof top covering. The zip got a little stiff after several weeks’ use in the sand and gravel, but it lasted well. The “window hatches” are a bit low, and are difficult to use. The centre pole is heavy and doesn’t telescope away, which we found a bit impractical. The stuff sack is a good size, but the straps on the outside are a bit flimsy. All in all, the Kongsvold is excellent for canoe trips, where weight and space aren’t limited. It’s durable, easy to repair, mosquito-proof and suitable for long trips. Let’s hope it was sweat and the smell of humans that attracted the bear, and not the lavvu itself! Thanks Helsport!