In driving rain with storm winds whipping, a lot of people still enjoy hiking. It may be rough, but at the same time you feel both humbled and strong. Could that be the reason why Scandinavian outdoor brands like to display their products in extreme weather conditions?
Text: Sara Wänseth and Lena Hedman Photo: Darren Hamlin
THE FORECAST THE day before the tour was not looking good. The weather was going to be terrible. 55 millimeters of rain the first day and strong winds coming from the west. We decided to go for plan B. We shortened the toughest distances, changed the route and were extra meticulous with our safety preparations. But canceling? That was never an option. Our crew was made up of representatives from six strong brands from Sweden and Denmark. Outdoor professionals. We invited 40 enthusiastic authorized dealers from AS Adventure Group to test our products – for the tough conditions that they are made for. To endure harsh weather. We set out in good spirits with the sun still shining. Our goal was to hike around Steinfjellet (1,167 meters above sea level) on the border between Trøndelag in Norway and Jämtland in Sweden. We managed about four kilometers before the rain arrived. Or more accurately: Until the skies opened and the downpour came. Our planned outdoor dinner was moved to a warm traditional Sami tent, but there were no frowning faces. Everyone was having a great time and the sense of solidarity in the group grew stronger. And the reindeer meat tasted magical. It was just the beginning of bad weather. The rain continued during the night and intensified the following morning. The trails were completely flooded. We chose to walk off the trails for the most part and the participants got to use their map and compass.
THESE ROUGH CONDITIONS were sort of perfect for us. We – the Scandinavian outdoor brands – like showing what our products can do in really awful weather. Just take a look at our advertising. There are preferably headwinds, rainfall, snowstorms, sleet, wet trails … Joakim Thulin, Head of Strategic Insight at Berghs School of Communication agrees: “I imagine it serves as a broad opportunity to showcase the technical functions in a complex natural setting with multiple seasons. The security of knowing your jacket is going to do its job.” Joakim notes that within the Scandinavian outdoor industry, the extremes are reflected in storms and freezing temperatures and not extremes of heat or sun. It’s about the geographical aspect and the breadth of Scandinavian nature going from wet to windy to cold. Emelie Torstensson is the marketing manager at Woolpower in Sweden, one of the brands that participated in our somewhat wet walk. They manufacture a variety of clothes in Merino wool, including base layers, socks and t-shirts. “There’s nothing strange about it. If you see that someone is wearing these products when the weather is really nasty, it shows that the products are good and high quality. Plus, it’s an imagery that enhances the Swedish aspect. Many see the Swedish mountains as untouched and breathtaking. An image that shows harsh weather conditions reinforces that feeling. “We at Woolpower sell warm base layers and midlayers of wool. These are things you wear when it’s cold out, so it’s important to convey that cold feeling in the imagery.”
A LOT OF outdoor companies manufacture durable clothing that is not only wear-resistant but also environmentally friendly. The question is also whether images of bad weather can provide a “purer,” more ecological feeling? “The images signal purity and sincerity. The impression it creates is like a detoxification when we are exposed to powerful elements.There’s a communicative value there,” Joakim says. The cold and windy weather also provides a melancholy feeling that speaks to the Nordic soul. Joakim uses the example of Volvo’s Winter Saga from 2015, a melancholy commercial that serves as an homage to Sweden when it is at its harshest. “A thank you to the cold, the dark, the wind and the rain. Because without our harsh Swedish conditions, we would have never manufactured the cars we make. “I think it can get to the core of the melancholy Scandinavian soul. Also a little bit of ‘sisu’, that special Finnish perseverance. The sense that you need to overcome the elements – regardless of whether you’re buying new bicycle pedals or a new jacket,” says Joakim. There’s truth to that. If you truly want cred with friends who are outdoor enthusiasts, then you need to have been out and managed in really bad weather. That you have overcome the elements as a true, silent hero. That melancholy feeling might not have come through when we arrived at our camping site on Steinfjellet’s western slope. We were not tough, quiet wilderness types. On the contrary: Our laughter could probably be heard miles away. We helped set up our tents in the wet mountain vegetation and cooked together in a few larger group tents. Our solidarity became even stronger that evening and friendships were made across national borders. But we hadn’t seen the worst yet.
WE WERE QUITE surprised when all of Steinfjellet was covered in white the following morning. The snow was falling off the canvas of our tents when we stepped out into reality, and I believe many peoples’ phones were filled with images of winter and snow – in September. On the trail heading down, the weather got really tough, again – now with horizontal snow and strong winds. Many of us northerners like the feeling when it gets tough and grueling – when your body gets tired and nature is real and present. At that point, you have to be in the here and now and you have to solve one problem at a time. However, we were worried about how our guests would handle the unexpectedly harsh conditions … But thanks to snowball fights, supportive friends when it got too steep going downhill and smiling faces, we had a wonderful hike back down to the cabins and out of the cold. The weather really caused problems for those of us that organized the tour. However, all of the equipment worked wonderfully and the harsh weather led to the participants going home with lots of new experiences and useful knowledge. As well as some new friends.
OUTDOOR ACADEMY 2029
Place: Teveltunet and Steinfjellet, Norway.
Time: September 15–18, 2019.
Participants: 40 participants from the AS Adventure Group.
Brands: Haglöfs, Hestra, Ecco, Woolpower, Nordisk and Morakniv.