10 Reasons the Lofoten Islands are Perfect for New Backpackers
After 60-hour work weeks and some heart pain, I needed a real break. I didn’t need one of those vacations where you play the part of dutiful vacationer during the day and spend the nights pouring over emails and the company’s social media accounts. I needed to feel lost: to lose track of all the data points, the to-do lists and etch in stone new memories with people I hold dear.
While increasingly an outdoor person, I’d never done any “official" backpacking. Even if only for one night, this sort of trip requires a new set of gear and poses new challenges. It’s the perfect trip to help you lose track of time, lets your phone run out of battery and take you to amazing places where you can breath deeper. It's a trip that's challenging, but not completely overrun by challenges.
My travels took place between July 17-24, 2016. July provides 24 hours of sunlight, but it also provides lots and lots of rain. We had marvelous weather and I’m sure that greatly influences my perspective. After our first night and day on the islands, our time was spent under sunny skies.
The Lofoten islands are the perfect refuge for someone who needs to totally disconnect and reboot, as well as a perfect place for your first backpacking trip. Here are 10 reasons why:
1. You’ll never be too far from the road. Only 474 square miles of land means that if the weather turns poor quickly and your gear isn’t holding up, you can always go back to your car and get back to town. Or as it happened with us, if you get on the wrong ferry and end up at the wrong starting point, you can always find your way back to the car to position yourself at the starting point of a new hike.
2. Twenty-four hours of daylight means you can stop hiking whenever you want and take as long as you want to pitch a tent. If you don’t have a backpacking routine for fresh water, pitching tents and making dinner, the continuous sunlight helps you to get in your own groove without the pressure of darkness. The photo below was taken at midnight.
3. No need to mess with preparing for predators. No need to worry about bears finding your food stash or mountain lions trying to eat your dog. These islands boast the friendliest wildlife: sheep, deer, bunnies and other fluff.
4. “All man’s right” means you don’t need to reserve a campground. In Norway, you can pitch a tent 500 feet away from an inhabited home or private establishment. The leave no trace principles that you find at many U.S. national parks do apply as well. On your first backpacking trip, you don’t have to worry about reaching a particular location or site, you can set up a tent anywhere - even just a few feet from a beautiful beach. Read more on Norway’s travel site.
5. You get mountain hiking at low altitudes. After moving to Colorado, I’ve become much more aware of the impact higher altitudes have on your body. The backpack already adds weight and complexity to the hiking, I can’t imagine if my first trip would have been at a high altitude as well. You won’t need as much water, you will get all the oxygen you need and still have the incredible views mountains can provide.
6. Hikes can take as many overnights as you’d like. As I mentioned earlier, the islands are small. Therefore, if you are feeling like just hiking out to a beach and back the next day, you can do that. If you’d like to take four days to hike across a couple mountains, you can also choose that. From my research, it looked like 10 days was the max you could take for backpacking.
7. Mosquitos were nowhere to be found. Slightly allergic and with prevalent nightmares of Minnesota summer camping trips, the no mosquitos were a huge plus for me. While it could be that I just didn’t hit the season for them, the lack of pesky bugs trying to grab their meal on the surface of your skin was a huge plus. Especially because a lack of showers seems to be a mosquito’s favorite perfume.
8. Civilization is close for the items you forgot or couldn’t bring on the plane. Bodo (the port town you fly to where the ferry departs for the islands) has a huge sporting goods store in the center of town. We grabbed a few last minute items there like gas canisters before getting on the ferry for the islands. Being new to much of our equipment, we didn’t realize we bought the wrong type of gas canisters. Luckily there are a few little towns on the islands with grocery stores. Once we realized our mistake, we grabbed the right canister at the grocery store. Also, this means you can buy beer for those nights by the Arctic Ocean.
9. It’s still challenging. While a lot of barriers can be removed, the island won’t leave you feeling as if you didn’t have hurdles and challenges to overcome. Path markers (two lines of paint on rocks here and there) can be incredibly difficult to spot. You have to build your skills of observation to see where the grass has been walked over or what pathway through the rocks looks the most doable. There is also a bit of scrambling on the hikes. It was a perfect challenge for my thighs to lift the weight of myself and the backpack over the boulders, as well as great practice for getting over my fear of heights. And although we didn’t get much rain, the effects were evident everywhere. The paths became small rivers and marshes, making it difficult not to slip on steep inclines. The rocks were also slippery, so we had to work the four contact points on often.
10. It’s magical. While it’s a perfect spot for beginners, the views and experiences you get are not necessarily “beginner” ones. They are incredible. There is a sense of magic on those islands and you’ll feel it too.
Convinced you want to visit? Take a peek at the itinerary we had for our Lofted Island trip and advice on preparing for your trip to the Lofoten Islands in Norway.