Frequently Asked Questions

Kit & Clothing-Related Questions
What Equipment do you always provide?
What equipment might I be able to ask to borrow if I don't own it already?
What do I need to bring?
What are your top tips for staying warm and comfortable on safari?
Other tips of the trade on staying warm.
What should I wear, travelling to and from the arctic?


Dog Team Related Questions
How many dogs will be in my team?
How will you choose my team?
Do the same dogs always run together?
Do the dogs always run in the same positions?
Will I get to know the dogs in my team well?
What daily distance can the dogs run comfortably?
How fast do the dogs run?
Do the dogs know where they are going?
Downloadable Multiday Safari Kit List

Suggested Polar Reading

Other Common Questions
What is the sleeping accommodation like in the cabins you use?
What kind of food do you provide?
Do I need prior experience of dogsledding?
How fit do I need to be?
How cold does it get on safari?
How do you keep us safe on safari?
Will I see the Northern Lights?

Booking Related Questions
What type of insurance will I need?
What is your cancellation policy?
What is your minimum Group Size?
What is your maximum Group Size?
Can we make a private or group booking?
Who will guide us and in what language?
How flexible is the itinerary?
What services are not included?tr>


Kit & Clothing Related Questions

What Equipment do you provide?

The following items are available for use by each participant although you are welcome to use your own gear if you prefer (subject to our approval when we check your clothing and equipment through with you during your first evening):

An arctic jacket and pants or arctic snowsuit.
NB: If our standard outerwear is too warm at the end of the season we may substitute / supplement with standard waterproofs.
Sleeping bag
Snow boots.
All cutlery, pots and pans etc.
Thermos flasks for food and hot drinks

What equipment might I be able to ask to borrow if I don't own it already?

We have a limited amount of the items listed below which can be borrowed on prior request. We understand that not everyone taking part in our safaris has access to headtorches, goggles etc and please don't feel like you have to buy them just for this journey but do let us know ahead of time that you will need to borrow them since otherwise we may not have them available. NB: We may also have additional gear like thick jumpers if you are really struggling to find something suitable. However, if you are an outdoors person and already have and know how to use your own, then it is obviously best to use kit and clothing you are familiar with.

Mitts / gloves (subject to availability)
Winter buffs / neck protection extra socks (subject to availability)
head torch Balaclavas
Hats of various descriptions A Water bottle

What do I need to bring?

The following list is a guide of things you should consider bringing for a five day safari in the coldest part of the season. Please adjust the amount you bring depending on the length of your safari and the expected temperatures at the time of year when you will be visiting!

If you are visiting in March, for instance, you are pretty unlikely to need all of the layers mentioned since the days are pretty consistently warmer than in January and February.

Remember, too, that you aren't going to really be washing or changing clothes much and the guides, for instance, will probably have just one layer of outer clothing for the whole trip. They probably won't even take a change for the evenings since they know that the more that they take with them, the more they are likely to have to help the dogs to push the sleds up the hills! Changing clothes less often than normal in civilisation is just part and parcel of life in the arctic. We understand that for those of you less used to the outdoors, you might want to use some of the layers described as your hut (night) clothing just so that you feel refreshed from the change.

Please do NOT bring addtional clothing other than that mentioned below, since you simply won't be able to carry it with you.

The guides will check your equipment at the start of the safari to see how much you have brought and to ensure its suitability. At any time during the safari, if you feel cold or unwell, please tell the guide immediately.

The following is a summarised list of what you will need followed by paragraphs in which our selection is explained in more detail. This list can also be downloaded in pdf format, here:

Outerwear Shoes / Feet Core Body Core Legs Extremities Other
Thermal outerwear Provided Winter boots are Provided NO COTTON NO JEANS! 2 to 3 pairs of thin cheap under-gloves like Magic gloves Head torch & spare (lithium) batteries
Three pairs of thinner winter socks Underwear. Preferably wool or synthetic. No cotton. Underwear. Preferably wool or synthetic. No cotton. 1 or 2 pairs of warm gloves or mittens (if 2 pairs, one of each). Sunglasses (from February onwards) to deal with the snow reflection.
Three pairs of thicker woollen winter / mountaineering socks 2 lightweight wool or synthetic base tops 1 or 2 pairs of lightweight wool or synthetic thermal underwear bottoms.(Your second pair of tights can be used in the evenings / as an additional backup for super cold weather during the days). One lightweight, eg powerstretch, hat for general use. Goggles (available from us if necessary) are useful when the conditions are tough - less likely to be needed towards the end of the season.
1 pair of lightweight slippers / crocs (cheap warm Lappish slippers can be purchased here) 1 or 2 x mid-layer (eg 100 weight) fleece pullover / powerstretch tops 1 mid-warm layer powerstretch / fleece bottoms 1 windproof hat with good ear covering. 1 Travel towel (& optional bathing wear) - for wilderness saunas
1 warm fleece (eg powerstretch) / wool / synthetic (eg primaloft) layer top (or substitute with buffalo type clothing and a reduced base layer 'set') One or two winter buffs (Hetta Huskies' personalised buffs can be purchased at a good rate or borrowed here). Alternatively, replace one of these with a balaclava. Minimal first aid & toiletries (toothbrush & paste & personal meds & headache / anti-inflammatory / gastro tablets, blister protection, heat packs etc.)
Optional fleece vest or synthetic (eg primaloft) gillet A sleigh bag / day sack & a leave-behind drop bag
A sleeping bag liner.(subject to availability)
A water bottle (subject to availability)

What are your top tips for staying warm and comfortable?
1) Eat a good breakfast in the morning to keep your energy levels up but allow sufficient time for blood to circulate back around your body, away from your stomach.

2) If you need to pee – don’t hold it because you don’t want to deal with the hassle of your clothing layers. Get rid of it and you will soon feel warmer!

3) Work hard to keep your body temperature stable (by keeping yourself thinly enough clothed to not be perspiring!). We have given you tips on how to do this, throughout this section!


Other tips of the trade on staying warm.

Whatever the length of the safari, warm clothes are vital in keeping your core body temperature stable. We supply extreme-climate thermal snowsuits and snow boots for our multiday tours (and they can be hired for shorter tours) although some people prefer to use their own. For one-day safaris normal skiing or outdoor winter kit will generally also suffice. (In other words, the kit and clothing that you are using for moving around during the rest of your holiday in the Arctic).

Layering is key, starting from the bottom up...

As a general rule, it is wise to wear multiple thin layers of woollen or synthetic clothes rather than one thick layer since warm air then gets trapped between the layers and this in itself adds extra insulation.

Make sure that you do not have any cotton on your body at any point. ie NO JEANS.

Start with one or two sets of thermal underwear (depending on the degree to which you sweat and will need to change). These should be relatively tight to your body, thin, and a material that does not hold water but ideally, rather, wicks it away.

NB: The aim, in the arctic is to actually wear as little as possible to avoid sweating but getting the balance right is the hardest challenge for new arctic explorers like yourselves.

Wearing materials that 'breath' is very important since the worst possible thing that can happen is for a layer of sweat to build up between you and your clothing. When sweat cools here, it freezes. And moisture next to your skin pulls heat away from your body 70% faster than air so whenever you sweat and your clothes trap moisture, your temperature starts to fluctuate widely and you go into a overheat / freeze cycle. Hence, as soon as you start to feel too hot, regulate your body temperature – first by adjusting your head, neck and wrist layers and then by removing a layer of clothing. You may be surprised how little you actually need to wear, when moving around, to stay at the optimum temperature balance.

Ideally, one of your thermal tops should have a zipped or high neck, to help to keep your neck warm and to heat regulate to a degree since this is your vital layer in terms of immediately moving moisture away from the skin. One or two very thin layers of merino wool (or one thinner and one medium-weight layer) would be ideal (depending on what your choice for insulating layer is). NB: Even though we state that you should bring one to two sets of this (tops and bottoms), the second pair of thermal tights is more likely to be used as a change for the evenings / nightwear than as additional backup for super cold weather during the days, since you will anyway have a mid-layer tight to use and normally this is sufficient.

Mid layers

Your mid layer(s) continue to move moisture but also help to trap warm air next to your body. They - and indeed every subsequent layer - should fit easily over your base layer(s) without restricting your blood circulation / movements. Choose eg, Polartec® 100 microfleeces, powerstretch or heavier-weight natural woolen (eg merino) fibres which will keep on insulating even if wet.

You may not need both layers under your snowsuit if the temperature is warm but you will want to add layers if you happen to come in a -30 to -40C week. On warmer weeks, you can keep one set to change into as your indoor set / pyjamas and that might be more pleasant for everyone else. On colder weeks, everyone is going to be keeping all of their layers on even in the evenings so don't worry about changing clothes!

Insulating Layer

It is important to have at least one thicker fleece (eg Polartec 200 or 300), thicker woollen jumper or synthetic layer (Thinsulate® / primaloft) with you to add extra insulation if you get cold. Please note that it is extremely difficult to be able to predict whether you will actually need this layer since your outer clothing is very warm. However, if it is a cold week, you will appreciate it. Synthetic fabrics might be your best option for this layer unless you are a dye-hard wool fan, since they dry faster and have a higher warmth-to-weight ratio. Classic fleece's main drawbacks are wind permeability and bulk (it's less compressible than other fabrics). However, you do NOT need anything with a windproof layer in it - you get your windproofing from your insulating outer layer or your shell and adding a windblock material to an under-layer will just trap sweat.

Gillets

One thing that we do recommend (eg instead of an extra mid or base layer), is that you consider a fleece / powerstretch / down or synthetic (eg primaloft) gillet. Lightweight fleece gillets can be worn mid-layer or thick down ones as a substitute outerlayer when it isn't too cold. We find them really useful since they don't restrict you as much as wearing an additional standard layer and the freedom to move your arms more freely whilst maintaining your core temperature is quite a big bonus. You will see our guides utilising gillets in a number of different ways to help regulate their body temperatures!

Outerwear

We have chosen to issue snowmobile suits rather than down clothing because of the long periods of inactivity, followed by short but intense periods of activity which are common when driving a sled. The other advantage of snowmobile jackets is that their outer fabrics tend to be more robust than those on down jackets and subsequently, they stand up to wear and tear from the dogs better. The disadvantage over a shell and douvet combination is that they are heavier and less flexible when you start to get too hot.

Your standard outer layer’s function is to repel the elements whilst allowing, at the same time, the escape of moisture from your body. In warmer temperatures, shells made of breathable waterproof fabrics like eVent(R) are ideal since they protect you from the wind (and rain or snow) and allow sufficient sweat to escape that your under layers can remain dry (rather than driving you into a wet/cold cycle). In late Spring, this will be the only outer layer that you will likely need when actively driving the sled. However, when stopping for breaks on the multi-day safaris, you will also want to have an additional insulating layer made out of down or synthetic insulation like primaloft to exchange for your shell /to put on top of all of the rest of your clothing to trap warm air whilst you are stationary. And, since you will need to wear this thicker insulating layer of outer clothing constantly during colder months, we tend to issue the snowsuits season-round.

Legwear

People often neglect the need to keep their legs warm in favour of multiple layers on their tops. And, whilst t might be OK to pop to the supermarket wearing a douvet thrown on top of your normal fleece and a pair of jeans, if you are going to be outside in the arctic for any length of time, you also need to protect your legs from the inclement weather.

Hence, we recommend bringing two pairs of bottoms of different thicknesses (eg one thermal and one powerstretch) which can be worn underneath the sallopettes we will issue either separately or simultaneously as needed. The second can be worn as hut clothing / pyjamas at night, if not needed in the day.

Please note.....Jeans (cotton) are NOT OK!

Can I use my own clothes / a pertex-pile-type system?

If you want to wear your own outer clothing rather than using our thermal sallopettes and jackets, then you will a) need to persuade us that they are good enough and b) that you are experienced enough in sub-zero temperatures to be able to judge that, and c) have both decent insulating layers, a breathable shell, douvet jacket (or snowmobile jacket) and waterproof pants or sallopetes of reasonable thickness with you.

NB: Some of our clients are used to operating with Buffalo / Montane etc pertex-pile systems. If so, then you are likely used to being in the outdoors and you know how your body performs in such systems so don't feel that you have to change what you are used to, to follow our advice. Just ensure, please, that you bring sufficient base layers since the arctic might still be a tad chillier than you are used to!

If you are lucky, and the weather is 'warm', you might be fine in this kind of system even without our insulating outerwear on top for the majority of the trip - but we will likely give it to you anyway 'in case' the temperature really drops. Please note also that we cannot guarantee that the pertex will stand up to dog paws which jump up to greet you!

All in all, unless you really live or work outdoors in a similar climate or have taken part in similar tours with your own clothing and are totally familiar with how to use your own kit optimally in an arctic environment, it is probably just easier to use ours. However, on the flip side, if you have a functioning pertex pile etc outdoor closet - don't feel the need to go out and buy new gillets, powerstretch etc just for this safari....your existing outdoor wardrobe can definitely be made to work in combination with what we offer!

More information about your footwear

On our longer trips we will provide you with snowboots to use for the mushing itself but if you have something like winter crocs etc and / or hut booties to use outside of safari time, you will probably find the whole experience more enjoyable. Finnish people don't wear shoes indoors so on the cold cabin floors, slippers make a big difference and when you just pop outside to collect water or firewood or to take a dog to pee in the night, you can sometimes get away with quick-use winter crocs, for example.

When choosing your boots from us, choose them several sizes too large and make sure that they are also wide and high enough for your foot once you have several layers of socks on your feet. You should wear base layer socks that move moisture outwards, and one or more layers of natural fibre, eg woollen, socks or socks specific for Arctic use. Make sure that each layer leaves room for your toes to move so that blood can circulate freely or your feet will start to feel cramped and cold. You may feel a little clumsy in them on warmer days when you are wearing fewer sock layers but you will definitely appreciate them when the temperatures drop below -40C.

Just as with your clothing layer, you need to make sure that the insides of your boots always remain dry. Make sure you have enough socks with you to be able to change the socks, if need be, during each day of mushing (eg if you get wet feet!). Water transfers heat up to 25 times more quickly than air so having wet or damp feet is even worse than having squashed feet although both put you at added risk of developing frostbite.

If you have removable inners, always remove them as soon as you go indoors and hang them up to dry by the stove. If not, open the boots as wide as possible to allow warm air to dry inside them.

If you want to use your own footwear, make sure that you test them on day 1 of your safari (when you still have the option to swap to ours, back at the farm in the evening). What makes us hesitate most about accepting personal footwear as suitable is that most people buy their own shoes 'to fit' vs a size or two larger, as is needed for allowing air to circulate whilst wearing more socks than normal.

If you have unusually large or small feet (or there are children in the group), please let us know your size requirements ahead of time or we may not have footwear to fit!

Socks

• One of your three pairs of winter sock combinations (thinner and thicker pairs) should be kept within reach as a spare, in case of wet feet in the sleigh and one can be used in the evenings in the huts. If you also have a couple of good, thick, plastic supermarket bags to hand in your sleigh (keep your spare socks in them!) then, if your first pair of socks get wet, you can put your new pair on and then isolate them from your wet boots by putting the plastic bags in between.

• Ensure that your socks are big enough when worn in double layers (thinner sock closest to the skin – no cotton and ideally with a high wool content). Tight socks restrict the blood flow so it might be worth buying one pair one size up from your other socks in case you have to wear more on an exceptionally cold day (your boots would have to be big enough, however, to make this worthwhile).

• NB: Some of the very thick, more fleece-like socks that you can get reasonably cheaply from sports shops vs outdoor shops can also work really well and would be fine as the pair you will save as your emergency backup.

• 1 pair of slippers / crocs (to wear in the huts in the evening) - as light weight as possible! NB: We have accented this in red font, since you can buy warm Lappish slippers very cheaply in our souvenir shop if you wish.

Keeping hands warm

The choice between gloves and mitts on a not-so-cold day, is personal. Some people prefer to use mits, because they are warmer, and others, gloves, because of the added dexterity they offer. When it gets colder, however, we recommend that everyone swap to mitts so it is good to have both to hand.

If you happen to own only one or the other, that is fine - don't go and buy new ones just for this. You will be able to borrow your back-up pair of warm gloves / mits from us.

You will, though, need some practical pairs of inner gloves with you so that you can harness and unclip dogs from the teams. It is unlikely that your winter gloves will give you sufficient dexterity to do this. For this reason, we state that you should bring the 2-3 pairs of magic gloves. These definitely do not need to be expensive since they are anyway likely to get ripped by the lines or torn by the dogs but you need to be able to clip dogs onto and off leashes, harness them etc, whilst wearing this layer of gloves - and, interestingly, we have found that magic gloves often work better than so-called technical inner gloves for this.

One part of the body frequently overlooked as being important in heat regulation are the wrists. Many folk who live in the arctic wear wrist warmers when outdoors. At the very least, make sure that your mid-layers cover your wrists well and extend fully over your arms / that your gloves are long enough to ride high above your wrists for the same reason.

What should I wear around my neck / across my face and on my head?

For those of you used to being in cold places or in the mountains, you are no doubt familiar with the adage, 'if you have cold feet, put a hat on'. If they are still cold, add another!

In practicality, we try to teach to have all clothing done up against the elements and to first concentrate on having a good layering system for the 'gaps' between the body and head, between the arms and hands, and the head itself. Once you have a system in place, you can then regulate heat using layers of these and then by removing the clothing layers whilst also keeping at least one hat on your head, to avoid a sudden temperature swing. You will certainly feel colder, faster, if you don't have a good system for protecting your neck, head and face from the cold and we never allow folk to drive our sleighs unless they are wearing a good hat. There is a serious condition called 'Ice cream head' which can lead to in fainting when no hats are used - and this is clearly dangerous for the dogs. :)

Incidentally, having said all of the above, the myth about loosing most heat through your head than any other part of your body, is just that - a myth. It can be traced back to erronous interpretation of a semi-scientific study by the US army in the 50s. Clearly you will loose more heat through your head than through any other part of your body if the rest of your body is well covered and your head is bare. However, it is generally only around 20-30 percent or so of total heat loss. It is worth noting, however, that the relative proportions change with both exertion and with the ambient temperature - since head heat loss is linear with temperature (the lower the temperature, the higher the percentage of heat lost through the head. When exercising at about a work rate of 50% of aerobic capacity, head heat loss falls to less than half of heat loss at rest. It also changes if you are in water rather than in air.

All of that interesting stuff aside, you will likely need to alternate between two different thicknesses of hat to give you maximum temperature regulation potential. One should be lightweight thermal or woolen, in a material like powerstretch or wool for use when there isn’t a strong wind. It should still, ideally, cover your ears AND the top of your head.

The second should be thicker and more windproof for more extreme conditions and ideally be able to be put on top of the other hat if need be. Top layer hats with fur flaps, work well out here too since the fur doesn’t tend to freeze up. We have thick fur trapper-style hats which you can borrow from us if you only have normal winter beanies with you.

You will also need something to cover your face and and balaclavas / buffs enable you to cover as much skin on your face as possible on the more extreme days. We recommend merino or polar buffs which close off any open areas on the neck well and don't get too solid when being breathed through, during the day. Hetta Huskies' personalised winter and summer buffs can be bought from us at good prices.


Miscellaneous

  • We suggest bringing a number of other miscellaneous items including the following:
  • A lightweight travel towel / small towel - so that you can have a sauna / shower, when possible, during the safari.

  • A headtorch with spare batteries. NB: When it comes to selecting headtorches / spare head torch batteries, it would be ideal to choose a headtorch with a battery pack that can be warn within your clothing to preserve the life of the batteries. However, in reality, we all use simple petzl tikka-style torches for the sake of ease, so no worries if this is all you have - your batteries just won't last as long. Lithium batteries will keep their power far longer than standard batteries and are worth the extra money in this environment.

  • One very small personal first aid kit / one within your group. This should include any continuous-use medications that you need (eg asthma medications - and please let us know if you need medications and what for!) as well as heat packs for hands and feet, antiseptic / moisturising cream (in case of frostbite / cracked hands or feet), lip balm, throat lozenges, diarrhoea treatment (Imodium), painkillers and anti-inflammatory tablets, plasters and blister treatment. NB: Water-based cosmetics and creams can freeze on your skin so oil-based versions are preferable. You will also need sun protection from January onwards.

  • Toiletries. Please bring a very minimal amount - eg toothbrush, toothpaste and roll on/stick deodorant.


  • Optional Extra Items

    Remember that whatever extra weight you take with you, you will need to compensate for by pushing or running more behind the dogs.

    • • Most people want to record their experience on film but please consider the extra battery needs due to the temperature and the fact that it is pretty hard to take good photos with exposed hands when the temperature really drops. Hence, if you are in two minds as to whether to take a big camera or a point and press, the latter might be more practical in many ways.

      We recommend that if you do have with you items that use batteries, a) make sure they can be used in extreme conditions (check your user manuals), b) keep them as warm as possible - preferably close to your body and c)make sure you are adequately insured for loss or damage to your goods, including theft. Crime is relatively un-heard of but please don’t take chances. We do not accept any responsibility for theft, loss or damage to any of your goods.

    • NB: PLEASE NOTE that you won't be able to use a selfie-stick whilst sledging so there is little point in bringing one! Both hands have to be constantly and securely 'attached' to the handlebars when driving a sleigh. Similarly, go-pros must be securely attached to your own body (and, for the sake of the others in the group, please have this organised ahead of time to avoid holding the rest of the group up, on the start line!) vs the sleigh, unless by prior agreement and on a non-detachable / adjustable mount.

      We have seen too many clients on multiday safaris loose sleighs unnecessarily because they start to feel comfortable enough to play around with clip-on sticks or go-pros in their hands and we want to try to reduce the risk to you and the dogs.

      • You may bring a book and a game / MP3 player etc if you really need it (but this is extra weight for you and the dogs to push around the tour so please don't bring too much and everything you bring will require spare batteries!)


    • • We would recommend bringing a spare pair of prescription glasses or lenses with you, if needed, in case your main pair gets broken. There is no-where up here.

    • • Swiss army style pen-knife. (Locally-crafted knifes are seen on the belts of all locals, particularly mushers who may need to free dogs quickly from tangled lines. It will be possible to purchase one whilst here but it might be best to have your own to hand for the safari itself).

    • • Small sewing kit.

    • • Drinks bottle (bearing in mind that it will need to be able to be filled with hot water at the start of the day or it will quickly freeze and that, if it is very cold, it is not going to be usable anyway - but that in warmer weather, it can be nice to have a colder drink to hand than the hot water reserved for teas and coffees in the communal thermos flasks.


    What should I wear, travelling to and from the arctic?

    Don't worry about having exceptionally thick gear for the arrival and departure travel days. Any decent winter jacket / douvet will work fine. Similarly, normal shoes are fine for moving around in airports, hotels, and to and from cars and shops. We use slip-on shoes and jeans - basically normal clothing - with a douvet on top, for instance, when popping to the shops. (Slip-on clogs are particularly useful in Scandinavia since you have to take your shoes on and off upon entry to any house.) Hence, if you only want to bring one pair of shoes, then you can get around here quite comfortably with normal trainers, or winter crocs that you can also use as hut booties. Having said that, if you have a free day for optional activities built into your program, you may want to have your own heavier weight boots with you for snowmobiling or snowshoeing (ours are not good for the latter).

    Luggage

    If you can, use a soft-sided hold-all, sports bag or backpack as your main luggage since it is easier to place beneath the benches in our kota when you head out on your tour. If you use a large non-mouldable case, try to leave it, rather, in your hotel's locker-room, please. We can supply ikea-type bags or binliners for the gear you need to leave behind at the farm if you don't have anything suitable.

    You will also need to bring a large enough day-sack to fit the gear you want to take into the sleigh with you during the safari. Remember that you will be wearing most of the things on the list so you should really only need to have a very small bag of extra gear going with you on safari.

    If you are used to wearing a back-pack, you can obviously wear one whilst mushing but some people prefer to have nothing on their backs since this adds to the physicality of the experience as well as disturbing your centre of balance.


    Dog Team Related Questions

    How many dogs will be in my team?

    The teams generally consist of 4 to 6 dogs for solo sleighs depending on the safari, the conditions and your experience, weight and strength. We will make an estimate of what we believe the optimum number to be, prior to meeting you and we may, then, move the dogs around a little within the group after the first training ride, so that we can see that each team can progress at more or less the same speed.


    How will you choose my team?

    On safari we usually use four, five or six-dog teams. This is reviewed to suit individual mushers since, when training, we may use 8, 10 or 12 dog teams, depending on the experience, weight and strength of the guide. One thing that we have to be aware of is that all the teams must be able to progress at about the same pace. Hence, if we have some 50kg clients alongside some 110kg clients, they will likely have a pretty different number of dogs pulling their sleigh!

    We choose the dogs that will run together in each team by first looking at our distance records. We keep a computerised record of which dogs run each day and this generates an automatic guide as to which dogs should be run or rested on the following days (based on the distances they have run over the previous 7 outings). From the ‘green light’ dogs, we first select a primary leading pair that can not only work together but can also lead the first team (since all of the other leading dogs are generally following that first team, unless something has gone wrong en route).

    From that point on, we have a grand puzzle to complete. We choose as many additional lead dogs as will be needed for the number of teams that we need to put together that day and then find swing, team and wheel dogs that can run with each of those front combinations.

    We know which dogs can run together, which are unpredictably aggressive with other dogs (and with which ones) and which can never even be at opposite ends of a team from each other. We also have to be aware of injuries, pregnancies and heat and any dog in heat runs only in a female / castrated dog team in one of the last teams. (Some people think that it makes sense to put the dogs in heat in the front team so that all the others want to chase hard – however in reality, the scent that they leave when peeing etc just causes the following males to stop and sniff!).

    When choosing teams for the multi-day safaris, it is a little more complicated still...the multi-day safari lead dogs need to be stronger on GEE and HAW than those running on the short safaris, since the scent of the trails might not be so clear and they need to be able to both seek out the trail themselves (if covered by fresh snow, since we may not be able to open the tracks as well as we do the routes closer to home) and also respond to directions reliably. In addition, if they are to sleep overnight out in the wilderness away from their normal warm beds, we have to make sure that we choose dogs that have lots of Arctic fur.

    Whilst this all seems like it is a lot of work, it ensures that our dogs are well socialised and can run with many other dogs. It also means that most dogs run a comparable distance over the whole season as opposed to the burden of running just falling to the lead dogs or the best dogs. In reality, the dogs that tend to run the most are the gentlest ones who are always easy to find a space for, in any team.


    Do the same dogs always run together?

    No. We know the combinations that work particularly well together and also particularly badly and those that work well together tend to be kennelled near to each other and they will run together quite often. However, since the teams can be made up of anything from 4 to 12 dogs, this would mean that the leaders would run far more than the team dogs and that wouldn’t be good for either of them. Hence, the decision is finally made on the basis of the computerised system which tells us which dogs need to run and which dogs need to rest.


    Do the dogs always run in the same positions?

    Yes and no. It depends on the dog.

    In a six-dog team, the dogs are harnessed in three pairs. The two nearest the sled are the wheel-dogs, the middle huskies are the speed-dogs and the front two are the leaders. The wheel-dogs are normally larger dogs (often males) and provide the power. We rarely run lazy or smaller dogs in this position but this is a good position for dogs that tend to look behind them at who is following them (since there is no-one behind them to break their concentration). Dogs in the middle need to be the constant work horses – they should be looking forwards and pulling eagerly without turning around or barking at the dogs around them. These speed-dogs provide the stamina and regulate the team's speed, while the leaders are usually smaller (often female) and provide the intelligence.

    Many team dogs can also run in wheel. Some wheel dogs can run in team and most leaders can also run in team. Some leaders are so good, however, that they rarely run in a different position – that also applies to older leaders who don’t run so much and therefore are always put to ideal use when used. Similarly, some dogs are so lazy that they rarely run in wheel. Many farms get rid of their lazy dogs. We castrate them and then try to run them, eg as a 7th dog when we really only need 6! If we do not run them at all, they just get more and more out of shape compared to their team mates and that helps nobody. Occasionally, when we have more or less written a young dog off as being hopeless, we will finally find a pairing combination that seems to incentivise them to run. You never know!


    Will I get to know the dogs in my team well?

    Once you have become comfortable driving, you will start to look around you more and to enjoy the primeval sensation of driving through a pristine wilderness in an ancient mode of transport accompanied solely by the sound of the runners on the snow.

    Do not get too attached to any particular dog immediately as there may be some swapping of dogs between teams in the first two days, to make sure that all the teams are moving along at an even pace.

    By your third day of harnessing, feeding and bedding down your own team (if you wish), you will definitely have developed a strong bond with them. They will recognise you and your voice and will look to you for praise. You will know which ones always pull with all their might, which have the tendency to slacken off if you are not quick to reprimand etc. And you will no doubt be being offered many cuddles at every stop. In some cabins on some routes, it may even be possible to have one or two of the dogs snuggling up with you in your cabin and if so, that is when you will really come to appreciate how gentle and affectionate huskies are.

    The guides are very helpful and are pleased to pass on their years of dog-sledding experience, in an informal way, all week long.


    What daily distance can the dogs run comfortably?

    The question should, rather, be what daily distance are the human mushers capable of covering? The dogs are trained to run long distances and 50km is relatively short for them by the end of the season (where-as it is a lot in the first few weeks of December, when the snow has only just settled). However, whilst a good team can easily cover 80 to 90 kms in a day, we generally do not ask our dogs to run much more than 40km a day since we want to make sure that they are continually keen to run, day after day. 40km suddenly seems like a really long way, also, after a sudden heavy snowfall!


    How fast do the dogs run?

    The dogs run at different speeds, according to the distance to be covered. During a safari, we try hard to maintain a steady speed of about 10km per hour, for the safety of the dogs as well as that of the clients. This is a pleasant speed at which to view the arctic landscape. Having said that, it is rare to leave the farm at a speed under 25km per hour, so be prepared for a rush of adrenaline from the moment of departure.

    The endurance races of the most famous sledge dogs take place in North America. Among them the Iditarod (Alaska) and the West Yukon (Canada) are the equivalent for the mushers of the World Cup for a footballer or the Raid Gauloises / Eco Challenge races that Anna and Pasi used to do as professional adventure races. These races last for between 8 and 10 days for the fastest teams and up to 30 days for the slowest teams. The distances covered are about 1600km, sometimes more. During the sprint races (short distances over 1 or 2 days) the dogs can attain speeds of around 50km per hour. The most famous Scandinavian dog races are the 500km Femundlopet Race and the 1000km Finnmarkslopet based a short distance from our base, in Alta, Norway.


    Do the dogs know where they are going?

    Yes – at least, in theory – and particularly on our shorter safari routes although on these, the guides give the dogs physical directional clues from the snowmobiles to ensure that they choose the appropriate safari’s track. Obviously, since the huskies are animals, we cannot be 100% sure that they will always behave exactly as we would wish. Therefore, it is necessary to be ready for unexpected situations during the safaris (for example, when you order the leading dogs to turn left – ‘HAW’ – they may turn right – ‘GEE’ – or when the dogs suddenly stop running or, indeed, when they decide not to stop…). It is these unexpected moments that turn your safari into a real adventure and which leave you with memories that you will treasure forever.

    It is great to see how excited the dogs become when they turn off their standard 6km and 12km safari routes and head onto one of the longer 20km, 40km or multi-day routes since they – and the guides - know that they are ‘going exploring’.

    These safaris are led by an expert guide who knows the route and who will command his dog team using verbal directions. The other teams of huskies will follow this lead sled, even if the lead sled is out of sight. The safaris use trails where the snow is compacted. It is very difficult for the huskies (or the mushers) to move off the trails, across deep, uncompacted snow. Heavy, overnight snow can make the next day's mushing hard work. All the sleds have a brake, which the musher stands on to stop the sled. It is a courtesy to the dogs to warn them verbally before using the brake. Commands do not need to be shouted, as the dogs have very good hearing, nor do they need to be repeated continually. It is important to be consistent with your commands. A good musher works calmly, in harmony with the huskies.


    Suggested Polar Reading


    • South Pole: Windswept Dream by Kari Poppis Suomela (a coffee-table book about Pasi Ikonen and Poppis Suomela’s South Pole expedition).
    • • 'Winterdance' and 'The Grand Blanc' by Gary Paulsen
    • • Born to pull by Bob Cary
    • • MUSH! A beginner’s manual of sled dog training
    • • The Speed Mushing Manual: How to train Raching Dogs by Jim Welch
    • • Dog Driver: A guide for the serious musher by Miki Collins
    • • Honest Dogs by Brian Patrick O’Donoghue
    • • The Joy of Running Sled Dogs by Noel Flanders
    • • Attla Training and Racing Sled Dogs by George Attla
    • • Racing the White Silence by Killick Adam
    • • The First Crossing of Greenland by Fridtjof Nansen
    • • The South Pole: An Account of the Norwegian Antarctic Expedition in the Fram, 1910, 1912 by Roald Amundsen
    • • Scott’s Last Expedition: The Journals by Robert Falcon Scott
    • • I may be some time by Francis Spufford
    • • South: The Story of Shackleton’s Last Expedition 1914 – 17 by Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton
    • • Mrs Chippy’s Last Expedition: The Remarkable Journal of Shackleton’s Polar-Bound Cat by Caroline Alexander
    • • Endurance by Frank Arthur Worsley
    • • True North: Peary, Cook and the Race to the Pole by Bruce B. Henderson
    • • North by Fridtjof Nansen
    • • Ice Blink: The Tragic Fate of Sir John Franklin’s Lost Polar Expedition by Scott Cookman
    • • Race to the Pole: Tragedy, Heroism and Scott’s Antarctic Quest by Sir Ranulph Fiennes
    • • Shackleton by Roland Huntford
    • • Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing
    • • The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition by Caroline Alexander
    • • Cook & Peary: The Polar Controversy, Resolved by Robert M. Bryce
    • • Across the Top of the World: The Quest for the Northwest Passage by James P. Delgado
    • • The Cruise of the Corwin: Journal of the Arctic Expedition of 1881 by John Muir
    • • 'Eleven dogs, a man, a passion', 'Road Nimipi', 'Legend Atikamekw', 'The island of mystery Akpatok', 'On the road loggers' and 'Will they succeed in saving Kokom?' by François Beiger
    • • "ARKTIKA" = Four-year odyssey on the ice by Gilles Elkaim
    • • White Fang, Call of the Forest and The Son of the Wolf by Jack London
    • • 'Ten dogs for a dream' and 'My life for a dream' by François Varigas
    • • Wolf, The Siberian Odyssey, The Last Trapper, Cold du Voyageur, NORTH: Great Travel, The Odyssey White, The Northern Song, The Dream Hunter, Gold in the Snow, Otchum: Pack Leader, A Winter in the footsteps of Jack London by Nicolas Vanier
    • • Byron, Andy, Granite .. Runners Snow by John Muir
    • • The Cruise of the Corwin: Journal of the Arctic Expedition of 1881 by Perier-Crouzet
    • • Dog Sledding: The most beautiful Stories by Daniel Duhand
    • • Dog Sledding: The most beautiful Stories by Daniel Duhand
    • • Sledge Freedom by Marcelle Fressineau
    • • Sled Dogs and Veto Snow by Dominique Grandjean
    • • The Siberian Husky by J. Vallerino
    • • The Siberian Husky by Chantecler
    • • The Musher by José Giovanni
    • • The Voyageurs du Froid by Dominique cellura
    • • The world of Sled Dog by André Pilon
    • • Practical Handbook of Dogsledding by Sophie Licari
    • • NOULOUK by André Vacher

    • Other Common Questions

      What kind of sleeping accommodation is available in the cabins you use?

      The cabins we utilise are generally a mixture of traditional Lappish Kotas like our own farm kota (ie circular wooden constructions with basic reindeer-skin-covered sleeping platforms surrounding a central fireplace) and typical Finnish holiday cabins (with a mixture of normal beds and cabin beds).

      We occassionally also stay in holiday cabins with electricity (eg when we have larger groups or ones which request the chance to charge their phones). Some of the cabins have separate rooms where individuals can escape from the rest of the group, but most don't.

      Some have upper floors where people sleep in dormitary-style accommodation and a few of the more adventurous cabins on the high tundra are like Alpine refuges where you lay out your sleeping equipment on benches.

      Aside from for the high-tundra cabins which are only really assessible with smaller groups on the longest tours, most people say that they are pleasantly surprised with the quality of the accommodation but having a second holiday home in the wilderness is part and parcel of the Finnish spirit and people know how to live surprisingly comfortably even when there is no access to electricity or running water.


      What kind of food do you provide?

      Our multi-day safaris are inclusive of all meals and we are happy to either simply serve you or to have you take part in the daily preparation of food. Breakfast will consist of bread, porridge or muesli with dehydrated milk, coffee, tea, hot chocolate and some jam. Lunch will be bread, sandwiches and soups (and the thermos flasks we provide are an important part of your arctic survival kit). Dinner will be co-ordinated by the guide. Special dietary requirements can be accommodated with advance notice.


      Do I need prior experience of dogsledding?

      No. We will teach you everything that you need to know. Most of our clients are driving a dog sled for the first time and all manage fine – whether old or young, heavy or light (although we give those who are light some special tips on how to control their teams, and teenagers can drive only at the discretion of the guides). In other words, no previous experience, either of Arctic living or of dog sledding or skiing is required in order to enjoy mushing.

      Before every safari, the guides spend time giving a driving demonstration and safety information to those new to the sport. If you follow their simple guidelines you will know enough about how to move with the sleigh, help the dogs on the hills, etc, to enjoy your first safari experience. You will also have drilled into you the key imperative – that you must never let go of your team if you think that you are about to fall off! (We will give you some tips on how to make that realistic).

      All these safaris are designed to be suitable for both experienced mushers and for first-timers although some journeys are longer and therefore more physical, and some are more technically challenging and therefore more suitable for the adventurous than others.

      For those coming for longer safaris, we take into consideration factors like the snow condition, your experience, your age and weight and the distance you will be driving, when we are making up your ideal team prior on paper prior to arrival. You will generally a morning of familiarisation and basic skill-instruction before setting out on the first longer journey so you will feel confident and prepared for your adventure. At this time, we will have a look at the group and see if we judged the number of dogs needed, per team, accurately or not and will modify if need be, before setting out on the longer journeys.

      As well as learning the art of mushing, you will invariably come away knowing more about dogs and life in the Arctic. At the very least, you should have learned how to harness and un-harness a dog, how to hook them up in the line and then put back in their individual kennels with a well-earned treat.


      How fit do I need to be?

      Most moderately active people do not find a husky safari physically too challenging. Most people quickly pick up the art of dog-sledding. Mushers do not need to be exceptionally fit or strong. If you enjoy long walks, do any sport regularly or go to a gym, etc, chances are you will be more than fine on safari. If you are at all worried about your fitness, then it obviously makes sense to spend some time before coming, getting some additional exercise. The fitter you are, after all, the more enjoyable you will find the experience. Hiking, especially on hilly terrain, is good for building stamina.

      The guides will match the number of huskies in your team with your strength and size. A reasonable level of fitness, concentration and a sense of balance are the key attributes needed. The snow is soft and there is always someone around to catch a musher-less team but it is worth noting that you will definitely feel tired at the end of your first full day and your shoulders will probably be sore since you are repeating movements that are new to you whilst outdoors in cold conditions. Two or three days in, you will feel like a professional.

      What is just as important as physical suitability is your frame of mind. There will be times when the going is hard and other times when you are being lulled into a false sense of ease and security. Overall, so long as you have an open and curious mind, we are sure that you will find dog mushing to be a wonderful activity, very close to nature. You will really have the feeling that that there is no more appropriate way of travelling over the Arctic steppes, and you will understand why this was such an important part of life in the far North, in ancient times.

      Those who are willing to (and still have enough energy to) help out with the care of their huskies will get even more enjoyment from their holiday since they will gradually start to trust and respond to you and to see you as their source of food and cuddles. You don't have to be an out-and-out dog lover, though it certainly helps not to have a fear of dogs. All the huskies are handled regularly from when they are pups and are surprisingly friendly. Don’t be surprised if you come a little ‘standoffish’ with dogs, and go home wanting to own your own.


      How do you keep us safe on safari?

      During your first training day, the guides will explain how to harness and unharness your team and will give you detailed driving and safety instructions. During your first training ride, we will accompany you by snowmobile. However, once we know that you can handle your sleigh, we will not necessarily have a snowmobile out on safari with you at all times. Rather, we will have one or more guides accompanying you on the safari whilst driving their own teams. They will be able to ‘park’ their teams if need be to go to your aid. More importantly, they will make sure that you are zooming through the white wilderness in the correct directions.


      How cold does it get on safari?

      Although it is generally very cold on safari, mushers shouldn’t feel like it is too extreme since the gear that they are provided with is suitable for the conditions.

      In December, January and February the expected daytime temperature is between minus 5 C and minus 30 C, while at night it often falls to minus 40 C. In March we expect minus 5 C to minus 15 C and by April, spring is in the air with temperatures of zero to minus 5 C.

      In January there is enough light for outdoor activities from about 9 am until 3 pm. The long twilight hours are coloured with hues of blue, creating a fairy-tale atmosphere. When there is a full moon the snow reflects so much light that outdoor activities are possible even at midnight. The days quickly get longer and by March sunrise is at 7 am. In the far north in May, there is almost 24 hours of light and the sun only dips below the horizon for a couple of hours.


      Will I see the Northern Lights?

      This region has the highest rate of occurrence of the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) in Finland. This spectacle can be seen on average three out of four nights during the dark season, in clear weather. If you are here for a week, far from habitation, you have a good chance of seeing the lights although sometimes they are just a green glow in the sky and other-times, mesmerizing colours that run and weave across the heavens.


      Booking Related Questions

      What type of insurance will I need?

      Anyone from an EU country travelling within the EU should take out their own E111 policy before leaving home. This entitles you the same level of health care as native Finnish people enjoy. In most instances, you have to pay a minimal contribution towards your health costs, in Finland – for instance, dentist visits cost c. €30 as do your first visit to a doctor etc. However, a hospital stay will be of minimal expense. If you want to claim this expense back in its entirety, you obviously have to have insurance with a policy that will cover you for medical expenses, mountain search & rescue, personal accident, money & documents, any travel delay, personal liability, legal expenses & cancellation, as well as other circumstances for which you require cover. Check that they specifically cover dog sledding and any other activities that you may be taking part in, during your holiday.


      What is your Cancellation Policy?

      Cancellation no later than 45 days prior to departure: the deposit/payment shall be refunded minus a 10% of the full cost administration charge.

      Cancellation 45 to 20 days prior to departure: 50% of the full cost of the tour shall be refunded.

      Cancellation 20 to 0 days prior to departure or failure to meet up for departure shall not result in any refund.


      What is your minimum group size?

      For the 2 and 3 day safaris, 2 people are needed, at minimum, for a trip to go ahead and for anything longer than that, we generally run with a minimum of 4 people.

      If you specifically want a private safari, then we normally charge for 4 at minimum (we would charge for a full safari during the busiest weeks which are easy to sell).


      What is your maximum group size?

      Most wilderness cabins can comfortably accommodate 6 indivuals. Hence, that is generally the maximum number of clients we normally take on the individually booked tours. Having said that, we have frequently accepted requests from slightly larger family groups (up to 8 pax) who want to travel together and who are happy with a little less personal space and we very occassionally might have two smaller groups converge in the wilderness for one or two days out of five, when there is more than one accommodation option available in a remote location. Larger groups can generally only be accommodated, however, upon request since we then have to alter our routes so as to access the few larger cabins available in the area.


      Can we make a private or group booking?

      It is absolutely possible to book a private safari or even to request a higher guide: client ratio.

      In such instances, we will then also have more flexibility to tailor-make the product to your ideal scenario (in terms of the type of cabins used, the size of the cabins used (if you want to bring a slightly bigger group), the type of terrain travelled over, the total number of days on the tundra vs in the taiga etc).

      Having said that, we do have to protect the income we generate during the working season for the sake of the security and safety of the dogs through the whole year. Hence, we charge for a minimum of 4 pax in the non-peak season and a minimum of 6 pax in peak season if families or groups request a private tour.


      Who will guide us and in what language?

      Either Anna or Pasi or one of the Hetta Husky guides will greet and guide you during your safari experience. We will try to meet your language requirements and will choose members of staff to accompany you accordingly but the final decision will always come down to the ability and skill of the guide with the dogs and with the route.

      Within our guiding team, we generally always have fluent (native) Finnish, English, German and French speakers. We fairly often have Dutch / Flemmish-speaking, Spanish speaking and Russian-speaking guides. However, we would need to know in advance if you have any language requirements so that we can staff accordingly. Most people in Finland speak excellent English and you will have no trouble communicating with local people. If you would like to learn common greetings, etc, in Finnish, then we will be happy to help.


      How flexible is the Itinerary?

      As part of our standard safety plan, a key target is to deliver to promises. However, when operating in the Arctic, a degree of flexibility has to be imposed since we can only operate within the limitations of the prevailing conditions. When these are unexpectedly bad or there are changes to other circumstances, like access restrictions, beyond our control, we occasionally change our plans. Hence, our day-to-day schedules for the various products should be taken only as a general guide.


      What services are not included?

      Travel insurance, miscellaneous expenses, alcoholic drinks, souvenirs, optional extra activities like reindeer safaris, snowmobile safaris etc on your free days (although we can help you to organise these at no extra cost).