February Feature: Vegan-friendly Guiding Company Sweden Outdoor Life
[This year on Vegan Outdoor Adventures I want to feature a different vegan or vegan-friendly outdoor business each month.This month, I’m featuring Sweden Outdoor Life, a vegan-friendly guiding company that takes people on tours of the Swedish backcountry.]
From Sweden Outdoor Life: “We arrange adventure trips in the mountains of Sweden. These mountains offer northern lights and bottomless snow during winter and midnight sun with thriving wildlife during summer. We invite you to live this experience. On all our trips we serve home-dried gourmet vegetarian food, and we are very happy to arrange vegan food for you!”
> Find out more about upcoming trips here. <<
Check out this video for a glimpse of what you can expect on one of the tours:
A couple of months ago Sweden Outdoor Life co-founder and guide, Johan Ruben Lundström reached out to me, wanting to collaborate. I thought my planned monthly features would be an excellent place to start. Read on to find out more about the company. I dare you not to start daydreaming about exploring these incredible Swedish landscapes!
Exerpt from a Sweden Outdoor Life trip diary:
“Cold morning but a lot of warm quinoa and oats for breakfast. As we skied, the weather got better and better. The clouds covering the sun disappeared and we found ourselves surrounded by an amazing landscape of rolling hills and glimmering snow. We skied along a river in a wide valley until some climbing was needed to go eastwards toward Vaimok. When we finally had lunch, we had skied around 12km and completed most of the ascent. As soon as we sat down the whole sky turned even bluer and a strong sun heated us up. We had a two hour lunch with a long sun nap… The last two hours we spent crossing lakes and skiing down a nice downslope in which we could practice skiing technique. Everyone did very well! Both of the guides soon started having a strong urge for a styrofoam seat and rapidly made it to the huts. There we enjoyed the comfort of STF (Swedish Tourism Association) huts with large spaces, separate sleeping rooms, an open fireplace and a happy hutkeeper. After dinner we made a huge quantity of apple pie with vanilla sauce. Planning to eat the leftovers in tomorrow’s wind shelter. Sleep-in tomorrow. Approx. 20km today”
Learn more about Ruben and Sweden Outdoor Life in this Q&A:
Vegan Outdoor Adventures: What led you to start Sweden Outdoor Life?
Ruben: Well, my interest for the beautiful Swedish mountains was awoken early when my mum took me with her on her many mountain hikes in summer as well as winter. She even took me on the sled at times. So my interest was awoken early… Later I met with my guide friend Adam in the military service as a mountain ranger in the arctic region of Sweden, and we shared and learnt a lot from that period. It gave us confidence for guiding people to the outdoor life, which we coupled to our appreciation for the mountains. We realized we could actually help other people learn to appreciate this natural wilderness! After some years guiding friends to the mountains I bumped into Adirondack 46er Neal Andrews. He came to one of our trips and made us truly realize the value of the Swedish outdoors. And that we needed to do more outreach to help people internationally to come to find this amazing region. To finance this, Sweden Outdoor Life was born. Not with any interest or belief that we could make money, but simply to reach out further and to engage ourselves more in guiding people to the Swedish outdoor life…
VOA: How many trips have you guided to date?
Ruben: We have guided at least 2 trips per winter for friends since 2010, and after the start of our company around 2013 we have guided a couple of summer as well as winter trips each year. Good hike planning takes time, and we are both also pursuing engineering degrees in Sweden!
VOA: What are some examples of vegan meals and snacks you serve on your guided trips?
Ruben: We always dry and prepare the food ourselves, to ensure the highest quality and yumminess. So for the warm lunch and dinner we prepare every day we can offer for example root vegetable stew, soya baked cabbage with peanuts, quinoa with sun dried tomatoes and pesto, an amazing chili con beans, and of course thermoses full of Swedish blueberry soup. Breakfasts with oats or quinoa with a lot of healthy seeds and lingonberry jam. We want to offer a healthy mountain gourmet for everyone to see the benefits of a vegan or vegetarian diet. And it keeps the group morale high to have tasty food!
VOA: Your website says you work to minimize environmental impact on your trips. What kinds of things does this include?
Ruben: Vegetarian or vegan food is the largest contribution. For example, Scarborough et al. (2014) report that dietary green-house gas emissions for meat eaters are approximately twice as high as those for vegans. We also always go to the trip location with common transport methods like school buses, and while there we don’t take any snow mobiles or such to go further. We like travelling manually using our own muscles. So no noice or environmental pollution from machines. We always use the most clean fuel for our stoves. Another important aspect is that we plan carefully the routes according to the wishes of the indigenous people Sami. Among other things they herd reindeer we want to avoid disturbing. We also try to aid customers when they buy any needed personal equipment, so that they chose vegan friendly alternatives. Anything more you think about I could do? Tell me!
VOA: Where have people traveled from to join your guided trips?
Ruben: So far we have actually had most guests from the Adirondack region, which is why I’m so excited to have the opportunity to cooperate with Jessica from Vegan Outdoor Adventure; based in this very region! After a Swedish winter adventure presentation me and Adam held for the Geneseean valley chapter we are even more positive to the cooperation with the happy Adirondackers. But we do of course gladly invite people from all over the world!
VOA: Do you have any vegan gear that you’d consider essential to your guided trips?
Ruben: I have to admit that it’s been very hard to find some vegan friendly and trustworthy backcountry skiing boots. Especially for me with really cold feet. I need the very best and love to have an inner shoe inside the BC shoe… Does anyone have a good advice?
VOA: You serve home-dried gourmet vegetarian food on your guided trips. How do people react when they realize that they’ll be eating vegetarian?
Ruben: That is something we try to communicate early on in our marketing so I have yet to find people surprised on the actual trip. But we want to be proud of our vegetarianism and use it as much as we can to our advantage. Having said that, we do often have to “justify” this dietary choice from an environmental perspectice. We market ourself as a company that does trips in harmony with nature. That can be used as a logical reason to the choice of vegetarian food (especially when those who love meat are questioning why we don’t serve meat).
VOA: Do you get many requests for vegan meals?
Ruben: Actually this is the only way we want to run this company. Me and Adam are both vegetarians, and do not want to prepare food with meat even if we get payed for it. So our choice of serving vegetarian and/or vegan food is not so much due to customer request, but for personal ideas regarding the rights and obligations of humans. Having said that… as of yet, sadly not many customers have shown specific appreciation for the choice of only serving vegetarian or vegan meals. But we hope that such customers will begin to find us!
VOA: What upcoming trips do you have planned?
Ruben: I’d be so happy if you wanted us to join us for this winter trip to Padjelanta National Park. This is part of the world heritage site Laponia, the largest wilderness area in the world with an ancestral way of nomadic herding of animals (by the indigenous Sami). Check out more [about the region] here! We will ski past impressive peaks, watch the nordic lights in the night, and sleep in simple but comfortable mountain cabins. This also allows for voluntary yoga in morning or evenings, which I gladly will lead for you 🙂 . We also have some amazing hikes planned for this summer in Sarek National Park. When the wildlife is really thriving, using every second of the short summer season. Keep updated on our facebook page and on our newsletter!
VOA: How far in advance should people plan to book?
Ruben: The sooner, the easier for us to plan and the cheaper for you. Flights are also cheaper if booked in advance. Having said that, I’d be so happy to have you join us for our planned winter adventures this winter! Simply email me today [guide AT swedenoutdoorlife DOT com] and I will arrange a special Vegan Outdoor Adventure discount for you 🙂 .
VOA: What’s your favorite part about living in Sweden?
Ruben: That I can fully live the outdoor life! Actually I’m currently living in Norway and everyone here is just crazy about their mountain hikes. Every weekend the town becomes a ghost city, and the roads leaving town are completely jammed with cars. This however also becomes a slight inconveniece as you need to go to very remote areas to be completely alone and meet nature… And that is what I love to do. Meet and live nature.
VOA: You recently visited Canada and the US. What brought you to North America?
Ruben: On my way home from Colombia (in south america) where I studied and hiked for half a year! Of course I also wanted to meet my friends around the Adirondacks, though I never got to hike the mountains as I caught a cold in Toronto. Canada attracted me because I got the chance to attend a two-week yoga retreat. Which I also did, and learnt a lot of good things to bring home and use in my outdoor adventures. My next challenge is how to combine winter and snow with outdoor yoga, preferably under the northern lights…
VOA: What’s the most epic outdoor adventure you’ve ever been on?
Ruben: They are all epic, but of course I would like to put forward the crossing of the last wilderness of Europe last winter; Sarek National Park in Sweden. Have a look at the video of Sarek you find [at the top of] this page and be amazed. I have no good words to describe this amazing scenery.
VOA: As someone who has never been to Sweden, what could I expect to encounter on your guided trips?
Ruben: I think Neal Andrews, the 46er I mentioned before, said it best after his first adventure in the Swedish mountain wilderness: “We don’t have anything like this at home. You have to go to the Arctic. So open. No people. No trees. The vast rolling expanses and the true feeling of having so much space. The typical feeling small before the wonders of nature.” There is a rich and interesting indigenous Sami culture you will encounter during the trip, you will experience a beautiful and wild mountain wilderness, and you will have a genuine feeling of freedom to bring back home.
VOA: Have you been on any adventures outside of Sweden?
Ruben: Having spent 6 months in Colombia, I must say that this is also a great place to go on mountain hikes. On my last adventure I had the pleasure of having two ADKers joining me, one of which was struck by serious high altitude issues… Something I’ve never seen before in the relatively low altitude mountain of Sweden; where the tree-line is however found already at 600 meters as Sweden is so far north!
VOA: Thank you so much, Ruben! I look forward to following your adventures, and hopefully someday visiting Sweden and exploring the wilderness with you and Sweden Outdoor Life!
Enter your email here and stay up to date on everything happening here at VeganOutdoorAdventures.com: