23rd December 2016
The Arctic in mid-winter, not the sort of place for a wild camping holiday? The Barbey family braved the icy temperatures and took to the open road on their adventure to the Arctic Circle. Staying in the Approach Advance they explored Finland in a way not many others have…
We were already going to be testing the Approach Advance to its limits by taking it to the Finnish Artic to visit Father Christmas in winter. What if we took it right out of its comfort zone and did a wild camp while we were there?
By the time we reached Rovaniemi, the gateway town to the Arctic, we knew that any wild camp we might do would be taking the Approach Advance way out of its comfort zone, as well as our own. The region was experiencing a cold snap and temperatures were already well below the seasonal average, hovering around the -20 degree mark.
We spent the afternoon in Rovaniemi warming up in a café, snuggled under faux reindeer hides and drinking hot chocolate. Just at the point we thawed we headed down to lavvu (a wooden hut) by the frozen river for a short wilderness training in lighting fires with Theo from Wild About Lapland. Theo is an ex-Marine from the UK now running a wild tour company, if anyone could prepare us for this wild camp, he could.
If we start to freeze in the van, we can always light a fire in the lavvu. Just to boost our warmth, we had a hot supper at a service station, and then headed out into the arctic wilderness.
We finally found Olkkavaara Lake and levelled the motorhome where we could peep through trees towards the North, should the Northern Lights put on a display. It was already late. Just before the ignition was turned off, we checked the outside temperature. -27 degrees C. 15 degrees colder than the average lows for this time of year. We could pull out now and go and plug in at a service station. Or we could brave it and really prove the van’s wild side, and our own.
The temperature gauge inside the van showed the internal temperature at zero. We put on our pyjamas over our thermal underwear and tucked the children up in separate beds under duvets and spare blankets.
As the full moon glinted through the trees we settled down for the night to the sound of the gas heater churning.
Ah, that gas heater. What a gem! By the time we woke up in the morning, we were sweating. Far from icy arctic conditions, we had had to kick off our extra layers of bedding, and hats were thrown on the floor.
As we ate a late breakfast looking out over the half-dark lake, the room was so hot we didn’t even need jumpers. We finished the last crumb as the sun started rise and we spent the rest of the daylight hours outside, playing on the lake, and building the fire we hadn’t needed during the night in the lavvu. We even indulged in our first, and last, mince pies of 2016, warmed up over the flames and devoured as the sun started to set over the lake at about 1.30pm.
The 24-hours we spent in the Arctic was packed full of memories: ice-lakes, fires, snow angels and, snow that squeaks when you pivot on one foot. Sunrises and sunsets that make you gasp, temperatures that literally take your breath away.
At any point, we could have settled for comfort and ease and found somewhere else to stay, and yet the wild in us wanted to prove that we, and the van, were made of stronger stuff. How many people can say that they wild camped in a motorhome in the arctic? How many motorhome companies can say with pride that their motorhome took an ordinary family into the extraordinary realms of Dream Come True? Thank you, Bailey, for an extraordinary adventure.