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DIY kayaking adventure in Sweden

Last year, for whatever reason, I decided that in 2017 I wanted to go packrafting in Scandinavia. It was a part of the world I wanted to explore more of and for me, packrafting (or kayaking as it would become) would be something a bit different.

I’m not sure where the random idea came from but I’m starting to find that when an adventure idea keeps popping its wee head up, it’s for a reason. And if possible, there's only one thing to do. Make some adventure magic happen!

The research happened and the various logistics options were slimmed down - joining a full blown organised group to semi-supported or a DIY trip. Despite how tempting the group option was, the organiser in me just couldn’t resist thinking that surely I could do it myself….

So DIY it would be. I roped in an adventure partner-in-crime, sussed the best time of year to go, booked flights and kayak hire. And off we went.

We had just a few days in the Swedish archipelago of St Anna. But it felt like we’d been away for much longer (or maybe it was the combination of that with an unintentional digital detox, thanks to a blonde overtired phone moment!). The outdoors, the simplicity, the pace. It couldn’t have felt further from London.

The sun came out, and with it the welcomed lure of jumping into the refreshing water. And even the crazy downpours and what felt like fairly rough open channel sections were welcomed, throwing us more than we thought we’d be in for and giving my total beginner ability a wee boost.

All you need to know...

In case the photos look tempting (even in the rain, I promise it was magical!), here are details of our trip so you can plan your own DIY trip too -

Flights

  • Most people fly in Skavsta or Arlanda airports. We flew to Skavsta so the below transport information is based on flying in and out of there

  • We took a massive deep breath and flew with RyanAir. Unfortunately they lived up to their glowing reputation but we got to Sweden… eventually, and in one piece!
  • We flew Thursday morning and came back Monday night so three days full kayaking and then a bit Thursday night and Monday morning, picking up and returning the kayaks

Transport

  • St Anna archipelago doesn’t look too far south of Stockholm on the map but takes a while on transport so assume you’ll need a day at either at each for travel
  • Once you’ve arrived into Skavsta, catch a Flygbussarna airport busto Norrköping bus station. You can book the bus in advance online or when you arrive at the airport. If buying tickets there, you can use credit card on the bus (they don’t take cash) or buy tickets from the newsagent in the airport (opposite the money exchange). The ticket was 119 SEK single (or 238 SEK return) each and the journey took approximately 55 minutes

  • From Norrköping bus station, catch a bus to Söderköping station (which is outside the Tourist Info). The tickets aren’t sold in the bus terminal at Norrköping (not too logical this part, I know but bear with me) so again, you can either pay for it on the bus using credit card or buy a ticket from the newsagent, which is the building behind the bus terminal building. The ticket was 60 SEK and the journey took about 20 minutes (short trip this time!)

  • We’re not there just yet…. Once in Söderköping, the final bit of the journey is a taxi from Söderköping to St Anna. There used to be a bus but they don’t run anymore so the taxi is heavily subsidised and only cost 45 SEK per person and took approximately 30mins. You need to pre-book the taxi though the day before you arrive (it’s a small place and not quite like London with black cabs and ubers all over the show!), to Mon, St Anna. The taxi hire number is +46 (0) 771- 71 10 20 or you can ask the guys at Kajak Paradise to book it for you

    OR

  • If more than two of you or just up for splurging a bit more, I’d suggest hiring a car from Skavsta airport. If we were to go again, we'd probably hire a car as the delay we had leaving London had a knock-on. There are plenty of spaces to leave your car while out on the water and it's totally safe!

Kayak Hire & Kit

  • We hired kayaks from Kajak Paradise and I literally can’t recommend them enough!!! They were incredibly friendly, generous, helpful and accommodating - not only answered multiple questions over email but helped change our taxi pick-up after our flight delay and then waited for us to arrive, again after our flight delay. Plus I had the best farewell hug EVER! And nothing beats a good hug in my books :)

  • We hired single Tahe Fit 158 kayaks, which are the best for beginners (they have loads of other options too inc double kayaks!), and were 950 SEK each for 4 days (plus they offer a discount if you book and pay before the end of April… wahooo, bonus!)

  • If you’re not checking in luggage or not fussy about taking your own kit, they have kit you can hire if needed - from sleeping to kitchen equipment. And some kit available to buy. Plus you can buy gas canisters off them for cooking (we had an MSR Pocket Rocket with us) and they’ll provide you with large dry bags for everything (we left our luggage bags with them, and swapped for the dry bags)

  • They run from 12th May until 24th September, and open daily from 9am (plus the restaurant beside them, which does the most amazing all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast of meats and cheese… hmmmmmm cheese (!) is open until early August)

  • You can find kit lists on some of the other kayak hire sites which are fairly detailed but in case useful, we took:

    • Sleeping: tent (recommend taking a free-standing, if possible), sleeping bag and mat, liner (just me), base layers, head torch

    • In the kayak: waterproof jacket, sunglasses and hat, waterproof gloves (didn’t use all of the time though), base layer, singlet, shorts and flip flops/trainers (as we don’t own water specific shoes and didn’t want to buy any just for the trip but I ended up just going barefoot as found it comfier)

    • Out of the kayak: puffer, windproof layer (I’m a whimp and feel the cold!), base layer and leggings (obvs socks and underwear too!), beanie and merino buff

    • Other clothing: towel and swim stuff

    • Kitchen: stove, cutlery, sharp knife, chopping board, bowl, pot/pan set, seasoning, olive oil (we bought food from the supermarket and borrowed gas), lighter and tea towel/scrubber

    • Electronics: phone (unless wanting a digital detox) and charger, camera (unless just using your phone) / GoPro (whatever else floats your boat!), spare batteries

    • Others: pen and paper, string, straps for compressing tent, small dry bags for all of the above (and then put everything into the larger dry bags, they provided), rubbish bags (although can grab them from the supermarket), mini first aid kit inc sunblock and mozzie repellent (they loved the Kiwi blood.... arrgggg, evil things!) and toothbrush/paste

Kayaking Experience

  • St Anna archipelago is perfect for all levels and if you’re not keen being on the open channels/shipping lanes, where it can be rougher, then you can stick closer to the islands by the mainland

  • Kajak Paradise will walk you through everything you need to know before you leave, and offer lessons if you want a bit of a deeper dive before heading out on your own (we’d originally planned do that… well, as the total beginner of the two, I’d been keen to do this but after our flight delay, we didn’t have time and to be honest, I felt absolutely fine without it. It’s amazing how quickly you pick it up!)

Food & Water

  • Only a few islands have a food shop (which Kajak Paradise will point out) so recommend stocking up for a few days in Söderköping. There’s a supermarket not far from the bus station and then another one in the centre. The kayaks have quite a lot of space and buoyancy is your friend so if just heading out for a long weekend, like we did, then you’ll have plenty of capacity for 3-4 days worth of food
  • Some of the fishermen on the islands also sell smoked fish.... and you can smell the inviting auras coming from some of the houses as kayaking past 
  • The lovely peeps at Kajak Paradise will give you plastic bottles filled with tap water. Although the water in the archipelago is part fresh-water, they don’t recommend drinking it

Someone was a tad excited at smoked salmon! Courtesy of the shop at Harstena, open until 9pm

Where To Go… The Choices!

  • Kajak Paradise will provide you with maps in waterproof cases and a compass, plus arm you with loads of tips on places to go and if lucky (and more importantly, they’re not taking people out on tours), they might share some of their favourite wild camping spots (in Sweden, there’s the ‘Right to Public Access’ so it’s a campers paradise!)

  • We managed to cover some decent distances in a short timeframe (the islands are closer than they look on the map!) but it depends on the kind of trip you’re after - explore some of the bigger islands so less kayaking, or more kayaking and see more islands but not explore them in as much detail. We did the latter…. We headed up to the north, explored the middle and headed south

  • Some recommended stops are:

    • Kallso: good island for swimming. We couldn’t stray far on the first night so ended up here and it was perfect for a morning swim!

    • Missjo: if you feel like a drink in the sun, there’s a little pub and a friendly watchdog who likes to perch on the helm of one of the boats (but doesn’t look like he’d hurt a fly!)

    • Harstena: the largest island we visited with approx 30 people living there all year, and so picturesque. There’s a shop (if you like ice cream scoops and/or smoked salmon then you’re in luck!), bakery (the BEST bakery in the world… prepare yourselves as this woman can bake!) and restaurant (we had a couple of drinks on the balcony and such a pretty view)

Picturesque Harstena, in the south

So when are you booking your trip....!?

I can highly recommend a long weekend, kayaking in Sweden. Hopefully the above helps with any DIY planning and if any questions, just get in touch!

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