Hygge on a Winter Camp
What is Hygge?
This time last year, if you hadn’t heard all about “Hygge”, where were you? Hygge, the Danish concept of warmth, cosiness and being happy with the ones you love, was all the rage in the winter of 2017/18. Even now, if I type ‘Hygge’ into Amazon and filter by books, it’ll come up with more than 1000 results! I think warmth and cosiness is a bandwagon that us involved in the outdoors can jump onboard!
Now I know there are plenty of ultra-light enthusiasts out there who will scoff at this, but I know there are loads of things that we do on camp that would be covered by hygge. We even go out of our way to carry extra things, or maybe heavy things, to make life more comfortable and cosier on camp. I reached out to Jacob Nyborg Andreassen (@jacob_nyborg) on Instagram, a real-life Dane and outdoorsman. I asked him what Hygge means to him when he’s camping in the winter. His response?
“Get a fire going immediately after arriving, chop some wood to get warm, cook something in a pot that takes a while to get done.”
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That leads me to the first thing on my list.
This past summer, we in the UK and Ireland had some of the worst forest fires that I can recall but those dry and warm days are behind us. A warm fire is key in many of the books that I mentioned at the beginning of this post. We obviously love a fire, they’re warm, you can cook on them and I am a firm believer that there are mental health benefits to sitting around one and talking with your friends.
Fires are great but not at any cost. We use a lot of established Scout Campsites with dedicated firepits. When we’re wild camping we try as far as possible to follow Leave No Trace principals. We’ve both undertaken LNT Awareness Courses. One of those principals is Manage the Effect of Fire.
- A good fire will keep you warm
- It’ll give your group a focus point to sit around and unwind
- Managing a fire will keep your extremities warm as collect and process fuel
Now we’re talking. Every Hygge book going talks about food. Think about things that make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. For me, this Irish Beef stew is great. I also think a good chicken soup will be high on people’s comfort-list. Another way to embrace Hygge on camp is to bake! Try our Soda Bread recipe! A friend of ours Marko (I know, another Mark!) from the Field Studies Council loves to bake a cake on camp now! And he’s getting pretty good at it!
Hot drinks are pretty essential too. Coffee is a must but children might be tempted by our festive Hot Chocolate recipe. When camping with our Scouts, our young people also like to make a kettle of hot juice (blackcurrant works well), toasty and sweet, it will warm you to your core.
If you want to be happy, cosy and comfortable on your next camp, put a bit of effort and imagination into your food.
- Carry a better cooking setup
- Cast iron is really satisfying to use
- Use fresh produce where possible
- Cook things you want to eat; not just the lightest, simplest things
I asked my fellow Scouters, “What do you carry or bring, purely for comfort, even at the expense of a bigger or heavier pack?” A few people got in touch to talk about their sleep systems. There can be a lot of kit shaming around camping and bushcraft, especially on Social Media. If you want it and are prepared to carry it, bring it. Don’t let other people shame you into following what works for them.
A few people reached out to say they didn’t bother with sleeping bags in the winter. They literally take the duvet and pillow off their beds. Fair play! I’ll maybe not carry the duvet but there is definitely something to be said about a proper pillow on camp! This depends a lot on weight and pack size here. If you’re trekking and carry everything on your pack for miles and miles, you may have to make do with less. But if you’re on a standing camp and don’t need to travel too far, you can afford to take a bit more with you.
- A pillow: your fleece stuffed in your sleeping bag stuffsack is fine, but it’s not hygge
- Use a roll mat, Thermarest or under blanket – “A layer beneath is worth two above you”
- Carry dedicated pyjamas. Your day clothes will be damp with residual moisture
When I drove to North Cape in Norway, a 5000 mile round trip from Belfast, we camped along the way. We had a car and so afforded ourselves some luxuries. We carried these two blue lanterns. Hygge experts all agree, candle light is so much more relaxing and warming than electric. Long term readers of Campfire Kitchen will remember my salty guidelines for using torches on camp.
I remember a wild camp from a few years ago when a friend of ours, James, had carried two drink cans as a heavy luxury. When he’d finished them, he cut a section of the metal away of each with a penknife. He also punctured several holes in the aluminium. We sat bemused watching, probably waiting for him to cut himself, as he slid two citronella candles inside. He used several other rubbish items to make more hobo lanterns and dotted them around our campsite.
- Candle light > electric light
- Carry a lantern if possible
- Tealights are lightweight and tiny and can keep bugs at bay!
- Hobo lanterns are an easy option
So Hygge isn’t just for those wearing chunky woollen socks, hibernating indoors. One quarter of our year is winter and let’s face it, spring, summer and autumn can be touch-and-go too! So we need to make the most of what we get.
Ultra-light might be for you, but I like to enjoy myself when I’m out and for me that means having the ability to stay warm, sit outside with my friends around the fire and cooking tasty warming food! You’re probably already embracing some elements of Danish Hygge without even knowing it. Just ask yourself, do you go out of your way to make life cosier on camp?
We’d love to hear how you succumb to your inner Dane and how you think Hygge influences your camping and your pack load out.