In the second episode of the Hawkins' Adventures podcast, you'll hear about wild camping and canoeing in Sweden, gear reviews on Waka Waka solar rechargeable torches, the Ultimate Navigation School and a story about cycling through the Sahara Desert.
Click 'Read more' below for the transcript!
Hello! Welcome to the second episode of the Hawkins’ Adventures podcast!
I’m Will Hawkins and this podcast is all about outdoor fun and adventure.
If you’re wondering who I am, I’m a former soldier, I’ve been a professional yacht crew and I’ve cycled down Africa.
In this episode, I’m going to cover canoeing and wild camping in Sweden.
You’ll hear about the latest pieces of outdoor gear I’ve been trying out, the Power+ and Light solar rechargeable torches made by Waka Waka.
Also, I’m going to talk to you about a great outdoor book called by The Adventurer’s Guide to Britain!
Plus, I’ll cover my outdoor website of the week, the Ultimate Navigation School.co.uk.
And, to finish up, it’s another adventure travelling memory about one moment cycling through the Sahara Desert in Algeria.
Right, let’s get on with it!
You may never have considered Sweden as a holiday destination, let alone a country for a summer adventure. Yet, my family and I have lasting memories of an adventure we had in Sweden, which included canoeing and wild camping in a nature reserve for five days.
In the middle of Sweden on the border with Norway there’s a nature reserve called the Rogen. It’s 120,000 acres of low hills, long lakes, mountains and rivers.
It’s packed with wildlife including reindeer, beavers, eagles, ospreys, wolverines, and fish.
The Rogen Nature reserve is perfect for canoe holidays, which is what we decided to do.
Penny, my wife, and I booked cheap flights to Stockholm Skavsta airport for the four of us and packed a rucksack each in late July. In Sweden, we picked up a small hire car and headed north, stopping for one night on the way up to a ski lodge near the small town, Funäsdalen.
The next day we headed into Funäsdalen to buy supplies and go to the outdoor shop where we’d book canoes and the cooking equipment we couldn’t carry on the flight.
Soon enough, we were in their transit van with the canoe on a trailer behind being taken to the drop-off point for our five-day adventure.
On the way, the driver said it was not a good idea to break a leg in the nature reserve. The nearest emergency helicopter was about four hours away and before we would have got a message out of the place.
At the drop off point, we then carried our canoes and equipment in five trips through the forest to the edge of the first lake. At the time, our children, Emily and Toby were 13 and 11, respectively. That was old enough to help out but not to carry a canoe between them.
It was hard work on the rocky path and planks over the marshes. But, it was worth it. The view of the lake was beautiful and the terrain was stunning.
We pushed off into the lake and began paddling into the crystal clear water. The water is so clean there that you can drink it straight out of the lake. And, we did. We needed it after the first carry, or portage.
A few kilometres later, and towards the end of the first lake, we decided to camp on a small island for the night. The island was about 50 metres long and about 20 metres wide with a few small trees on it. We set up our tents and got our food on the go.
The sunset was stunning that evening. It looked like the sky was on fire. It was only spoiled by the midges which came out. We had to don our head nets and cover up. Despite that, it was only time we had a problem with them on the trip.
The next morning, we broke camp and headed to the next portage point. We carried our canoes and gear along another rocky track to two boat sheds overlooking another picturesque, fresh water lake.
We paddled off and canoed through an area of small islands taking in the scenery.
The four of us had not seen much wildlife, let alone other people by now. But we were soon to see signs of both.
At the following portage, the track to the next setting off point was at the bottom of a steeper path. I decided to attempt pulling the canoes down a small waterfall instead by myself. I managed it. But, it was harder than I imagined, and I nearly tipped out some of our equipment.
We pushed off again and headed down a river which led to Lake Rogen. On the way, we passed a beaver’s lodge, but saw no dams.
After a kilometre or so, we came to the lake and decided to head south to find a place to camp. We camped around a headland on a flat area near an inlet. Opposite were two fishermen, who happened to be British.
The four of us decided to stay here for two nights. It was a great spot. We swam in the lake, fished (with no luck) and walked through the surrounding forest. Many of the fallen trees are thousands of years old.
A little further north on the lake shore is a warden’s hut where you can buy basic supplies and stay. We paddled up there on the second day and said hello to the warden who was there for the summer. There are no roads to the hut, so supplies have to be brought in by other means.
At night, we heard noises outside our tents. This turned out to be reindeer walking through our camp. It was wonderful waking up, poking our heads out of the tents to see the reindeer walking by.
When it was time to leave, we made our way back the way we had come up the river. We had two more night left in the nature reserve and camped on another small island for the first night. There, we spotted an osprey.
We paddled back up the same lakes and carried our canoes and gear back to the start point in the car park.
When our driver arrived, he dropped off a group of Brits in their twenties who were heading off for a ten-day trip into Norway in canoes.
If you decide to do a canoeing and wild camping trip to Sweden, make sure you are fit and prepared to live simply. It is a physical adventure.
You have to carry everything in and everything out, leaving no rubbish. Water is abundant and clean. But, you may not like the fact that going to the loo relies on you digging a hole in the ground and covering up your waste.
It was a great trip and one which our children still talk about as one of the best holidays they have ever had.
Nevertheless, after five days of wild camping, we were ready for hot shower and sauna.
Find out more about this trip in this episode’s podcast notes, or on my website at whawkins.uk
Now, it’s gear review time and it’s all about solar power and light.
Let’s face it. If you have smartphone, you probably think about how long its power will last when you are out in the hills. And, you are likely to use it occasionally as a torch.
Either way, if you use your smartphone a lot during the day for navigation, taking photos or videos, for example, you will drain the power quickly.
One solution is to carry a power bank, to charge your smartphone. Or, you could take a torch with you when you go camping to see where you’ve dropped your smartphone and save its power.
It’s not only expensive to buy batteries for torches. It’s a challenge to keep your smartphone charged when you are out and about and unable to connect to the mains.
Here’s one solution. How about using solar energy to charge your smartphone or torches?
You can do it with two solar powered torches from a Dutch company called Waka Waka.
I’ve two of their torches, the aptly named ‘Light’, and the ‘Power+’.
The Waka Waka Light is about the size of a standard smartphone and weighs next to nothing, so you won’t notice it in your backpack. It takes about 8 hours of sunshine to charge it and, apparently, lasts up to 40 hours on its dimmest setting. I’ve not tested that claim yet.
When it’s charging a small, green LED flashes to let you know it’s working.
On its front is a solar panel. On the back are two LED lights and a big, rubberised power button. You press the button once to turn it on to its brightest setting. Press it again for a dimmer setting and keep doing that for dimmer light until you eventually turn it off.
There’s a slot on the top through which you can slide some cord to tie it to your backpack to charge during the day.
And, there is a stand which you flip out so you can put it on a flat surface to charge it in the sun or use as a lamp at night.
To be honest, the Waka Waka Light has not been good at holding its charge. I’ve left it out to charge all day in the sun only for it to run out within in minutes. That’s a shame, because it promised to be so much more.
The better of the two Waka Waka solar powered torches is the Power+.
The Waka Waka Power+ is a solar powered torch and a power bank. It’s a little bigger, thicker and heavier than the Light. But, it weighs less than my smartphone. But, it is much better.
I took the Power+ away to Greece for two weeks and used it while travelling and sailing. I charged up my smartphone with it, and used it as a lamp at night when playing cards. During the day, I strapped the Power+ to a stay on the boat to charge it up.
Like the Waka Waka Light, the Power+ has a flip out stand, a cord loop, two LED lights on the back, as well as big power button. But, it also comes with a charging cable for your devices, plus LEDs to show you how much charge remains. And, you can charge the Power+ from the mains, if you have an adapter.
I charged my smartphone from around 4% power to 80% with the Power+, which I had left in the sun for 6 hours.
I’ve looped some cord through the slot on its top, so I can now hang it easily on my backpack to charge during the day.
Out of the two, the Waka Waka Power+ is the best. It’s more useful than the Waka Waka Light. And, it is more flexible in how you charge it.
For anyone who spends time ‘off grid’ I’d recommend the Power+. It comes in yellow or black and the retail price is €69.95. On Amazon UK it’s £59.99. You may find it cheaper elsewhere.
My outdoor website of the week is all about navigation.
Learning how to navigate across the ground is a vital outdoor skill. Learning how to interpret a map, appreciating time, distance and direction are important components of navigation.
But, navigation can feel daunting to novices. In my Army days, I used to get lost a lot, which my soldiers didn’t appreciate. I got lost on exercise in Kenya and the UK alike. But, I learnt the hard way and became a better navigator. I now enjoy it.
And, that’s why I like the Ultimate Navigation School website. It’s a charity which helps novices, hillwalkers and Mountain Rescue Teams learn how to safely find their way around in the great outdoors.
They run beginner to advanced level courses, night navigation courses and courses using GPS/sat nav systems. Plus they have specialist courses for emergency services and the military.
The Ultimate Navigation School runs their courses all over the UK from the Scottish Borders down to Exmoor in the South West.
A weekend foundation course costs £175. Accommodation is extra, and the School recommends a good place to stay near each course location where you will get a special room rate.
To find their website type in: ultimatenavigationschool.co.uk
It’s outdoor book review time!
My book this episode is ‘The Adventurer’s Guide to Britain’, 150 incredible experiences on land and water by Jen and Sim Benson.
If you need ideas for what and where to go for outdoor activities, this book is for you. Split up into regions, Jen and Simon pick out 150 adventurous activities from hiking Hadrian’s Wall to kayaking around the Isle of Mull to mountain biking The Long Mynd in Shropshire.
As well as a description of each experience, the guide provides a ‘Challenge Level’ of up to five stars for the most challenging, a start point using a grid reference and which Ordnance Survey map to use. Plus, they give suggestions on where to stay and other local highlights.
The authors illustrate each experience with a photograph or a rough map of the route or trail too.
It’s a super book and one which I will be sampling over the next year. I’ve already planned in some hiking, kayaking and mountain biking experiences.
The Adventurer’s Guide to Britain is published by Bloomsbury with a retail price of £16.99. However, you can buy it on Amazon for under £11, including delivery.
Here’s my adventure memory for this episode.
In late 1991, I was in the Sahara Desert with my brother, Dan. We were in Tamanrasset, an oasis town in southern Algeria.
We were getting ready to cross the bit of the desert where there was no road south to Niger. Just a series of concrete posts marking the piste to the border.
Dan and I had stayed for one night in a campsite in the town which was packed with fellow-travellers. Some were in Land Rovers, other on motorbikes or in old army lorries. I was recovering from stomach bug.
After a couple of days, when I felt better, we decided to go on a tour out into the desert to the Hoggar Mountains. It was a rough track out there, and we bumped along in the four-wheel drive vehicle out to a small settlement in the mountains.
We’d heard there was a French priest living alone in the mountains. Our tour guides were taking him supplies.
Dan and I arrived at the settlement where we went to a house which was to be our hostal for the night. We ate dinner and went to bed. The next morning, we got up before sunrise, had a light breakfast and made our way up a hill behind us.
At the top, the guide told us to find somewhere comfortable to sit and to wait for the sunrise.
As the sun began to rise, we could see it behind the Hoggar Mountains to our front. It was spectacular. The colours which shone through were stunning. The mountains are barren and rocky, but they looked beautiful.
It was perhaps the most memorable sunrise I have ever seen. And, it was well worth the money to see it.
A little later, we went to meet the priest. He was friendly and happy to see us. He showed us around his house which was built into the side of the rocky hill. His house was simple, but clean and civilised. He made us welcome and told us a little about his life out there in the desert.
Today, unfortunately, the Foreign Office advises against travelling to much of Algeria because of the threat of terrorism. We saw the beginnings of Islamic fundamentalism, witnessing some street protests.
Later on in Niger, we met travellers who’d been held up in the desert by bandits and had everything but what they stood up in stolen by them.
Nevertheless, the Sahara, and the Hoggar Mountains are an experience which I will never forget.
Right, that’s it. The end of the second episode of Hawkins’ Adventures.
Look in the notes below to find links to the gear, book and website I mentioned.
Please do send your feedback, follow and add this podcast as a favourite if you enjoyed it.
And, send me any questions you may have. You can contact me through my website whawkins.uk
In the next episode, I’ll be talking about the Dark Peak Challenge, a walking challenge in the Peak District. Plus, I’ll review another outdoor book, more equipment and recall an adventure memory from Cameroon.
Thank you again for listening. Find my website at whawkins.uk and I look forward to hearing from you.