tisdag 14 april 2015

Bushcraft & canoeing course at Sjöviks folkhögskola

I've mentioned earlier that I spent 2 years doing a bushcraft course in Sweden with lots of canoeing and handicraft. Now it's the time of the year when people starts looking for a school and I thought I should let you know what this one is all about.

Building igloos in north Sweden (Jokkmokk)

It's official name is "Friluftsliv, hantverk och ledarskap" (Bushcraft, handicraft and leadership). It's a one to two years course mostly focused on bushcraft but where you make much of your gear yourself. The first year focuses mostly on the bushcraft and handicraft parts while on the second year the main focus is on the leadership.

If you take the course you'll very soon realize it's a very philosophical course, very far from the plastic outdoor life (or rather outdoor sports) most people do nowadays. You do it simple but not primitive. It's not a survival course, it teaches you how to live well in nature without hurting it. You don't use gas stoves and all food is made on open fire. And speaking of food, you buy raw ingredients and learn to dry them yourself before every trip. Since the fire is a central part of the trips synthetic materials won't work (and they hurt nature too). So it's all about natural materials in clothes, tarps/tents, and kitchenware. You'll notice this has many other benefits, you get closer to nature, your clothes are quiet and the rain don't sound like the sky is falling apart at night. Summarizing it you could say nothing new is taught at this course, what you learn is to live close to nature like your ancestors.

The course starts at the end of august, usually with a trip of up to ten days starting already the first day. During my two years this was a hiking trip in the mountains. This trip is prepared by the second years so you just have to tag along. After that it's about one trip a month (usually 5 day trips), 2 canoe trips in fall, then a few skiing trips in winter, one amazing skiing/hiking trip in the transition from winter to spring and then a wonderful canoe trip of close to 3 weeks in may.

You also get the option to live in a tipi during your year. I did this both years and it was an amazing experience. I fell asleep to the sound of the sparkling fire and woke up every morning to small birds flying into the tipi. And when I went outside the tipi the first thing I saw was the mist over the nearby lake. After my years in tipi I still can't sleep quite well inside and it happens that I just take my reindeer hide and sleeping bag and go sleep outside.

One amazing experience I had was an aurora at night outside my tipi. The only people who saw it was us living in tipi.

The handicrafts, as I mentioned are focused on natural materials. We built canvas canoes, paddles and skis, we felted gloves and socks, sewed sleeping bags, backpacks, anoraks, tarps and tents, knitted and much more, too much for me to remember it all. They give you very free hands to decide for yourself what to make.

There are two teachers, one is Bosse, who is the main teacher for the course. He's a very experienced paddler and canoe builder and a great teacher with lots of bushcraft knowledge.
The other teacher is Katha, a German woman full of energy who really knows how to lift the mood in the class. She teaches us the textile handicrafts and joins some trips here and there.

The second year is optional and gives a lot more freedom. During this year you focus on your own projects and work more independently. You also act as a leader for the first years during the trips. You make the important decisions and keep the group together. You might have to solve conflicts between group members, decide the path to take or when to make lunch. In my second year my big project was to build my own canvas canoe. But I also got time over to sew a backpack, make a hiking trip in Morocco and make many paddles.

The school has a very nice friendly atmosphere and also offers courses in music (folk, jazz, pop & rock and vocal), textile and traditional log house building among others.

At least during my years there, knowing Swedish was not a prerequisite. But an intention to learn is important and it makes your life a lot easier if you know some Swedish when you arrive.

If you are interested you can find some more information (in Swedish) and contact information here:

Some more pictures:

Me poling up a river

Foldable Swedish saw, I have no idea why it's called a SWEDISH saw.

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