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Helen & Douglas Arctic Survival Challenge

13th Mar 2022 - 20th Mar 2022

8 days/Sweden /Challenging

Overview

The challenge is set 150km south of the Arctic Circle where we are immersed in the wilderness. The first part of our challenge is about adjusting to life in this extreme environment with expert instruction and supervision about how to travel around, how to light and maintain fires, how to chop wood and how to construct the shelters (including the snow holes) we will eventually stay in during the challenge. We will also have the opportunity to try cross country skiing, husky sledding and snowmobiling; typical modes of transport in the region.

Later in the week we begin the three-day survival phase where our shelter building skills are put to the test. Moving away from our log cabin, as a group we construct our own accommodation for each night. This includes a Scandinavian tent, a shelter and a snow hole called a quinzee. This harsh environment will test your survival instinct, whilst enjoying the peace, tranquillity and beauty of the wilderness and starry skies (clouds permitting).

A challenging trip for a person who leads an active lifestyle (e.g. someone who enjoys getting outdoors, taking part in sports, hill walking, running etc.). For someone who does not lead an active lifestyle this trip may feel even more of a challenge.

You will be accompanied throughout the challenge by a survival instructor, who (with his team) will provide full instruction for all the activities undertaken. You will also be accompanied by a Different Travel UK tour manager and Helen & Douglas House staff member.

Between the months of January and April, temperatures vary from 0°C during the day to –30°C overnight. You can expect the temperatures during the survival experience to be colder than the nearest city (Östersund) so please do not rely on weather forecast websites for an accurate view of the conditions but an approximate guideline. Based on historical averages you can expect a maximum daytime temperature of -1°C and a minimum night temperature of –26°C. In March the sun rises just before 6:45am and sets just after 5:40pm.

Despite the extremely cold temperatures, due to the dry atmosphere, the air is crisp and energising, quite unlike cold days in UK where you can feel very cold in relatively warm temperatures. The weather is variable so you should be prepared for a mixture of overcast days, bright sunshine and some snowfall.

Meals are provided as stated in the itinerary although there is the option for you to arrange your own freeze-dried meals if you would prefer. Please ensure that you notify us of any dietary requirements at the time of booking. Dietary requests cannot be catered for without advance arrangement. The majority of special diets, such as vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, etc., can be catered for but please note that we cannot guarantee that food preparation will have taken place in a contamination free environment.

You will stay at a very basic log cabin for three nights at the start of the trip and one night at the end. The cabin has no electricity or running water just a wood burner, basic kitchen, dining area, dormitory style rooms and an outside long drop toilet. A basic shower will be organised for the last day. You will also spend three nights in shelters you will build as a group, including a Scandinavian tent, a snow hole called a quinzee and a natural shelter (subject to temperature and weather conditions). In each of the shelters, watch will be kept during the night to stoke fires and maintain warmth, or keep candles lit during the night you stay in the quinzee. During the survival phase you will sleep in a warm sleeping bag within a bivi bag, on a roll mat (all provided).

The log cabin has two outside long-drop toilets. During the survival phase of the challenge, you will be situated in the wilderness where there are no toilet facilities available. You will need to find a secluded place to go, bury your waste and put any used toilet paper in a nappy bag (or similar), to dispose of responsibly on your return to the cabin. Your guides will give you a thorough briefing on toilet procedure and etiquette. There is no running water in the cabin. There is a separate shower building near the cabin which has a portable camping shower bag which you can fill with warm water and hang up to wash using melted snow on the last day of the trip. Due to the amount of firewood required to melt enough snow for washing, it is only possible to shower on the last day. You will have to melt snow to create water for washing dishes after cooking your meals.

If you wish to use the hot tub on the last day you will be required to wash before entering the water for hygiene reasons. You are asked to only use natural or biodegradable soap and shampoo to avoid contamination of the ground or nearby water sources. You are advised to bring a large pack of baby wipes to maintain your general hygiene during the trip. NB It is important that you take particular care regarding toilet hygiene and clean your hands with sanitizer after using the toilet and before cooking or eating.

You must be aged at least 18 to participate unaccompanied. It may be possible for you to participate if you are aged 16 or 17 years old if you are accompanied by a parent or guardian – please contact us for advice. There is no upper age limit. An ideal candidate for the trip would be someone who enjoys being out of their comfort zone and trying something new.

The trip is rated ‘challenging’ for a person who leads an active lifestyle (e.g. someone who enjoys getting outdoors, taking part in sports, hill walking, running etc.). For someone who does not lead an active lifestyle this trip may feel even more of a challenge.

You’ll be exposed to sub-zero temperatures, you will stay in very basic accommodation sleeping in shared mixed-gender dormitories, and participating in physical activities such as digging your snow hole, collecting, carrying, chopping and sawing firewood, carrying large containers of water, cross-country skiing, dog sledding, snowmobile driving, cooking for your team and keeping the log cabin clean and tidy. There will always be tasks to do and you will be active for the majority of each day with only evenings as downtime.

You must take personal responsibility to ensure you arrive in Sweden fit enough to participate fully in all of these activities and be willing to be a proactive, positive, hands-on and supportive team member. In addition to a good level of fitness, you must also be physiologically and psychologically well enough to cope with the extremely cold and basic conditions (temperatures can drop as low as -30°C). Please speak to your doctor for advice specific to your medical circumstances.

It is also very important that you are someone with excellent personal management skills such as knowing when to add and remove clothing layers to cope with the climate, knowing when to eat and drink if you are hungry or thirsty, ensuring your kit is organised so you know where everything you need is, being comfortable about informing your guide staff if you’re having difficulties with an activity or not feeling well, and so on.

This trip is not suitable for people unwilling to be part of a team or seeking a solo experience.

We require a medical form to be completed by everyone upon registering, and any pre-existing conditions, medications used and other medical issues must be specified. All your medical details are treated in the strictest confidence.

The information will be securely screened by a qualified medical professional, and details provided to your tour manager and local guides so our staff are adequately informed and prepared to support you during the trip. By completing this booking form you are giving consent for us to contact you confidentially with any follow up questions regarding your health.

If you declare any medical conditions you may be asked to provide more information, or we may request to contact your GP. We must be informed if any conditions or medication change, or if new conditions develop. If necessary confirmation of fitness to travel from your GP or specialist may be required.

In the event that your medical issues represent a concern for your safety and wellbeing, or the safety and wellbeing of others in the group, you may be recommended not to take part. If this happens your deposit will be refunded. Please note that we will never unreasonably deny participation on a trip nor contravene the Equality Act 2010.

Personal

Flight e-tickets + pre-departure info
Passport + copy
Driving License (for snowmobiling)
Insurance policy info + GHIC card
ATM card/credit card(s)
Whistle
LED head torch + spare batteries
Sunglasses (100% UV)
Adaptor (European)
Mobile phone + charger
Portable battery pack / powerbank

Clothing & Footwear

Winter snow boots* (e.g.Sorel)
Shoes/crocs/slippers for cabin
Thermal/ski socks (1 a day)
Underwear
Non-cotton thermal top x2
Non-cotton thermal bottoms x2
Warm fleece / long sleeve mid-layers
Non-cotton short sleeved t-shirt
Fleece lined soft shell trousers
Waterproof salopettes
Warm jacket (down or Primaloft)
Waterproof jacket and trousers
Swimwear
Buff x1-2 (www.buffwear.co,uk)
Warm gloves or mittens
Warm hat + spare
Liner gloves
Leather/gardening gloves (for handling hot pots etc)

Hygiene

Shampoo and shower gel*
Toothbrush and toothpaste*
Antiperspirant deodorant*
Wet wipes*
Toilet paper* (1-2 rolls)
Hand sanitizer
Small travel towel
Hair brush or comb
Nail brush (optional)
Feminine hygiene products*

First Aid Kit

Prescription medicine
Paracetamol
Plasters/blister plasters
Imodium (Loperamide)
Rehydration (e.g. Dioralyte)
Muscle rub (tiger balm/Deep Heat)
Anti-histamine tablets/cream
Antiseptic cream (e.g. Savlon)
Indigestion remedy (e.g. Gaviscon)
Lip balm with SPF protection
Sun cream (high SPF)
After sun/moisturiser
Ibuprofen
Hand warmers e.g. Hot Hands
Decongestant (optional)
Throat lozenges (optional)
Scissors/tweezers (optional)
Spare glasses/contact lenses

Optional

Camera + spare batteries
Video Camera + charger
iPod/MP3 player
Luggage organisers/bags
Snow goggles
Watch

Luggage

Large waterproof kit bag
Small kit bag/holdall
Daypack (25-30 litres)
Dry bags

Eating and Drinking

2x 1-litre flasks e.g. Thermos
1-litre water bottle (Nalgene/GSI)
Plastic mug with handle
Plastic spoon + fork or spork
Energy snacks
Tea/coffee/hot choc (optional)
Electrolyte tablets (optional)

Sleeping

Ear plugs (essential)
Sleeping bag (comfort 5°C)
Sleeping bag liner
Pyjamas (for cabin)
Pillowcase (for cabin)
Basic foam sleeping mat (optional for extra comfort)

Please note: This list is not exhaustive and does not account for your personal taste or preference. It should be used as a guideline only. If you have any questions or queries regarding this list which are not answered in the sections above please contact info@different-travel.com.

*Please ensure you pack your boots in your hand baggage in the unlikely event your luggage is delayed or goes missing.

*Please consider eco-friendly or biodegradable options. Consider shopping at Little Footprint Gifts.

Itinerary

Day 1 (Sunday 13 March 2022):

London – Östersund – Raftlaven
We will fly from London to Östersund (possibly via Stockholm). We drive for approximately 1 hour from the airport to our basic but cozy log cabin in the wilderness where we have a light evening snack and an orientation around the cabin (e.g. location of toilet facilities, where to find wood for the fire etc.). Breakfast and dinner each night at the cabin is cooked by pairs of team members on a rota, using the ingredients provided in the store cupboard and freezer, so this evening the first two pairs will need to plan the menu for breakfast and dinner the next day. We take it in turns to keep the log fire stoked through the night.
Meals: Dinner
Overnight: Log cabin

Day 2 (Monday 14 March 2022):

Cross country skiing and quinzee (snow hole) construction
After breakfast we will prepare a snack lunch to take with us for the day then have an important safety and cold-injuries briefing. After the briefing we will be fitted with our cross country skis and head out to explore the surrounding area on a track through the forest (no previous experience required). We return to the cabin this afternoon where we will take part in some fire lighting skills training which will be important for the days to come. Later, we walk or ski to the area where we will start constructing our quinzees (snow holes) which will be our home for a night later in the week.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Overnight: Log cabin

Day 3 (Tuesday 15 March 2022):

Snowmobile safari*
Today we set off for our snowmobile safari, approx. 1 hour drive from our cabin. Upon arrival we will be fitted for helmets and have a safety briefing. Dividing into pairs, we will practice handling the snowmobiles before setting off for a 5-6 hour round-trip through the forest, with each person taking turns driving. We stop for a hot lunch halfway through the day at a small hut before returning to the snowmobile centre and back to our cabin. After dinner we will continue building our quinzee.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Overnight: Log cabin

Day 4 (Wednesday 16 March 2022):

Husky sledding and Scandinavian tent
This morning you will travel approximately 20 minutes to a nearby frozen lake where you will meet your husky dog team. After a short briefing you will each take your own dog team (4 dogs per sled) for a ride around the lake before gathering around an open fire for a hot lunch. If time permits there may be an opportunity to try some ice fishing. Once we return to the cabin we have a briefing on safe handling techniques for knives and axes, which will be vital for our survival skills phase later in the week. Later this evening, we pack our bags for three nights and travel to a remote location where we will prepare the ground and erect a traditional Scandinavian tent complete with log burner. During the night we will split into pairs to take an hourly night watch to keep the log burner stoked and keep everyone comfortably warm.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner (freeze dried)
Overnight: Scandinavian tent

Day 5 (Thursday 17 March 2022):

Shelter building
Today we learn and put into practice some new skills by building a natural shelter only using the surrounding trees and foliage. Full instruction will be provided and you will learn important survival skills. Construction will take most of the day. Depending on the weather conditions we will light a fire and move in to our shelter for the night in time for dinner. If the temperatures are too severe we will sleep in the Scandinavian tent for another night, once again taking it in turns to stay awake and stoke the fire.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner (all meals freeze dried)
Overnight: Shelter (weather permitting)

Day 6 (Friday 18 March 2022):

Quinzee construction (snow hole)
Today we complete the construction of our quinzee (snow hole); digging out the interior and shaping it with spades to carve a domed ceiling, two entrances and a ledge for the candle. Late this evening we will move into our quinzee, place our candle and get settled in for the night. Inside the temperature will reach a relatively warm 0°C. Placing candles not only provides light but also has an important function of indicating there is sufficient oxygen present so we each take an hourly ‘candle watch’.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner (all meals freeze dried)
Overnight: Snow hole

Day 7 (Saturday 19 March 2022):

Free day, hot tub and sauna
After waking up very early this morning we say farewell to our quinzee and return to the cabin for breakfast. The rest of the day is free to enjoy some more skiing along the marked trail, or explore the local area on foot. It’s also important to ensure that all the fires in and around the cabin are kept burning so we can have a warm shower in the shower room then enjoy a traditional Swedish sauna and hot tub later in the evening. Tonight we have a celebratory dinner in the cabin, cooked by our survival instructors.
Meals: Breakfast (freeze dried), lunch (freeze dried), dinner
Overnight: Log cabin

Day 8 (Sunday 20 March 2022):

Raftlaven – Östersund – London
We depart from the cabin for the transfer to Östersund airport (approx. 1 hour) for our flight back to London (possibly via Stockholm).
Meals: Breakfast

*You must have a full driving licence to be able to drive a snowmobile. If you do not, you will still be able to be a passenger but will not be allowed to drive.

NB. The day-to-day program is subject to temperature, weather, general conditions and the ability of the group. While we do not anticipate any changes to the itinerary, we cannot be held responsible for changes made due to unexpected circumstances. Ultimately the safety and health of the group takes priority in all circumstances.

Costs & How to pay

Registration fee: £395
Sponsorship: £3680

SPONSORSHIP

There is a minimum sponsorship amount for each tour that you are required to raise in order to participate.

  • A registration fee is payable at the time of booking.
  • £2944 (80% of your sponsorship total) must be raised by 11 December 2020.
  • The final £736 (20% of your sponsorship total)) must be raised by 1 March 2021.
  • The amount the charity receives is at least 50% of the minimum sponsorship total.

What's included

  • Return flights from London
  • Airport taxes and charges
  • All transport in Sweden
  • Accommodation in a basic log cabin, a Scandinavian tent, a shelter and snow hole
  • All meals and drinking water
  • Sleeping equipment during survival challenge (sleeping bag, bivi bag and roll mat)
  • Equipment for cross country skiing, snow shoeing, husky sledding, snowmobiling etc.
  • English speaking survival instructors and support crew
  • UK Different Travel Tour Manager
  • UK training weekend (date TBC)

What's not included

  • Any necessary vaccinations
  • Personal expenses (e.g. transport to UK airport, drinks and snacks in Sweden)
  • Spending money (tips and gratuities, souvenirs)
  • Personal kit and equipment
  • Travel insurance or GHIC card

Got a Question?

If you’ve a question about this challenge that you can’t find the answer to within the given information then complete this quick form and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

COVID-19: Please read our latest updates here.