Who should do Kungsleden?
I think walking Kungsleden is possible for anyone who is not unfit, and anyone who has done a few day hikes. It’s the perfect trail for the first time and solo backpacker! The trail is well worn, and well marked, so getting lost is fairly unlikely. And since I was walking alone, if I injured myself it wouldn’t be long before another person came by. The elevation gains are almost negligible, especially compared to my first backpacking trip in the Rockies. For me, walking between each STF hut, the greatest elevation gain was 100m to 300m stretches in a day. There are some small streams to ford, but usually they are hardly deep enough to wet the inside of your boots, unless it’s early in the season or it has been raining heavily. Probably the most difficult thing to cope with is the weather. It has been a particularly cold summer in the north this year, and I hiked in temperatures of +5C to 18C, almost daily rain, heavy rain, a wind storm gusting 16 to 20 m/s, and even light snow. Of course it’s also possible that the weather can get up to +25C, so it’s good to be prepared for a wide range of weather. The trip can also be done extremely comfortably by staying in huts and purchasing food on the way if you so wish!
Huts or tent?
There are several options on sleeping:
1. Sleeping in STF huts along the way. Cost 295/265 SEK for members during high season, for sites with/out sauna. Extremely comfortable! Well, not exactly a 5-star hotel, but almost as comfortable as any other urban, Swedish hostel considering you are sleeping in Europe’s last true wilderness.
2. Sleeping in your tent at the STF hut/campsite. Cost 110 SEK for members – not sure if this is per person or per tent since I didn’t tent. They get access to the kitchen for 2 hours for meals, sauna(?), and drying room.
3. Sleeping in your tent at any place along the way that appeals to you. Free, thanks to Swedish Allemansrätt!
3a. Using the STF huts for a few hours only. Cost 40 SEK for members. For those who plan to walk on from the STF site but want a few hours to comfortably cook indoors, or dry out their wet things.
And of course, any combination of the above. It’s not necessary to book ahead (with the exception of Kebnekaise mountain station, which I’ll write more about), since STF will always provide a place to sleep regardless of how full it is, even if it’s just a mattress on the floor. I heard that once, during a storm, a cabin was absolutely filled – several people to a bed, people sleeping on benches, tables, under the table – basically any flat surface. The only person who complained was a woman who took a bed to herself. If you plan to sleep only in the huts, then it’s only necessary to bring a sleep sheet, no sleeping bag is necessary in the summer as the blankets they provide are quite warm.
The STF huts take credit cards, which is really convenient. (Edit: As of 2013, the STF huts no longer take credit cards – bring cash!) If you plan to stay at STF sites and/or inside the Kebnekaise mountain station cabins, definitely get a membership card. At 300 SEK, you’ll quickly recover the cost savings at a rate of 100 SEK per night.
I planned to walk from hut-to-hut to lighten my load, though I carried 8 days worth of food (to keep my food costs down) because I wanted the flexibility of staying longer at a hut if the weather was bad or if I was feeling tired. It turned out to be a good decision to have that flexibility… Though I didn’t need to carry that much food later, I found out. I was really glad that I was sleeping inside because it poured almost daily! But next time, I would carry less food, and attempt to carry a tent and sleeping bag. And I would try to get off the beaten track as well. Still, the whole reason I wanted to walk Kungsleden was to gain backpacking experience in a relatively safe and easy way, and now I can push myself to do tougher trips.