Feb 3, 2022
Interview with Marie ''Majsan'' Karlsson about wintercamping.
Marie ‘Majsan’ Karlsson is our star store manager of the Houdini Hub in Åre, Sweden’s most popular ski town. And Majsan might just be their most popular inhabitant – you’d have a hard time finding someone in the town who doesn’t know her. Known for her optimism and lust for life, Majsan takes full advantage of life in the mountains. ‘When I feel like touring after work, I just pack my things and go. Being able to be on the mountain within 20 minutes from my home is something I’m still grateful for each day.’
The winter weather one finds in Åre makes for lots of adventures – including winter camping. But there’s a lot more to think about when you pitch a tent in minus temperatures in the looming darkness and a snowy environment than in friendly summer weather. Since we can’t think of anyone more weathered in winter camping, we asked Majsan for her top tips.
I’m actually terrified of heights. Going to Sylarna was a way of testing myself, to see if I could make it and learn how I would react when I had no choice but be out there.
Majsan didn’t always live in the mountains: ‘I grew up in the Swedish province of Småland’, Majsan says. ‘It’s a very flat area, with lots of lakes and lots of forest. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been fascinated by mountains, they always looked so majestic to me. I could look at them forever, even though I’m so scared of them. They make me feel so small, yet they make me want to be up there. I think they represent opportunity for me: They make me want to push myself further, be bigger than my fears. I feel like they give me the chance to grow as a human being.’
‘Growing up, sports and being outdoors were two big constants in my life: I was always moving and doing something. But at one point I was so tired of my life there, working the regular hours in a store… I didn’t feel like anything was happening. Everything fell into place when I moved to Åre about 12 years ago. All of a sudden, I felt freedom, possibilities and connected to my environment. Here, when I’m working until six, it takes me 20 minutes to get out if I want to do some skiing or go on a tour. Here, I meet so many people who live their lives in the way I like to live it too and it creates such a tight community: We’re all connected by what we care about, which in turn makes us all more connected to nature and each other.’
‘Winter camping can seem pretty intimidating, especially when you’re new to it. But there’s something so magical about sleeping outside, specifically in winter. Just the fact that it’s a possibility we have is nothing short of incredible. You do need to prepare yourself properly of course, camping in winter does require more effort. But I think that’s one of the aspects I like about it so much. It makes you feel more at one with nature – I know that sounds fluffy, but when your life depends on it, you automatically start paying attention to your environment more. It comes so naturally, and I think that’s such a beautiful thing.’
‘To anyone out there who’d like to try it for themselves I’d recommend investing in or borrowing a really warm sleeping bag. Get advice from experts in stores and make sure you get one that will suit your needs. A more fun tip would be to boil up some snow and fill a thermos with it. When it’s really cold, you can then put it in your sleeping bag to keep you warm. And always, always, always check your tent kit before leaving: About two years ago, I toured up the local mountains in Åre, it about 8pm and it was pitch black when we had to set camp. That’s when I discovered I’d left my tent pins at home. It was so windy, and we had no other choice than to turn back. It wasn’t too far luckily, but it was still 2 hours of hiking since it was too windy to ski down. Having brought enough energy and good spirits then very quickly becomes the most important!’
Majsan’s top tips for winter camping:
‘Check your kit before leaving: Are you sure you’ve got everything? A full tent set, a change of clothes, extra base layers and socks? Extra snacks and a thermos?’
‘Build a wall of snow around your tent to block the wind. This is essential for staying warm at night.’
‘Boil up some snow before going to bed that you can pour into a thermos. Sleep with the thermos at your feet or simply hold it – especially if you’re by yourself and don’t have the body heat of other people to help warm you up!’
‘You can prepare everything and still come across situations you hadn’t anticipated: Your most important asset then becomes a good mood, patience and determination. Snacks help too!’
‘Personally, I can’t do these trips without my Houdini Cloud anymore, I use it for everything. In the sleeping bag as extra reinforcement at my feet or a pillow, on the sleeping bag as an extra blanket, on my body when I’m putting up the tent – it’s the ultimate multitool for winter adventures.’