Why carry a backpack?

History and tips for the backpack
Sekk veiing på Rena av Leif Norberg 1400x720

Photo: Erling Riddervold from Lillehammer controls the weight of the backpack, 1958

All participants must carry a backpack weighing at least 3,5 kg (7.7 lbs) throughout the race. For safety reasons the backpack must contain wind proofed jacket and pants (long sleeved), dry and warm underwear, headwear/hat, buff/headover/balaclava, gloves/mittens, food and drink.

All the Birken races are founded upon the legendary escape that the Birkebeiners, Skjervald Skrukka and Torstein Skjevla, managed around New Year 1205/1206, rescuing the little prince Haakon Haakonssen from the Baglers.

It was a civil war in Norway and the two fractions - the Birkebeiners and the Baglers - fought each other to gain control of the main parts of the country. The leader of the Birkebeiners - King Sverre - died in 1202 after they have gained control over most part of Norway.

A boy is born
Two years later, the spring of 1204 a boy is born in the county of Østfold. He is the son of King Haakon Sverresson and the grandson of the late King Sverre and is named Haakon Haakonsson. His father - King Haakon Sverresson  - died just a couple of months before he was born. The little boy then becomes a prey for the enemies of the Birkebebeiners.

The dangerous journey
The Baglers - the worst enemy of the Birkebeiners - held the power in the countys Oslo and Oppland. They wanted to kill the future king of the Birkebeiners and sought to find the boy. The Birkebeiners was in haste to bring the boy to safety in Nidaros (Trondheim). The journey was very dangerous because they had to travel through the areas ruled by the Baglers.

At Christmas eve in 1205 the Birkebeiners arrived in Hamar and from there they rushed to a small farm in Lillehammer where they were able to hide and regain their strength during the Christmas week. On New Years Eve the boy had reach 18 months of age and they knew they had to continue the journey. They did not dare to go the "normal" route from Lillehammer to Nidaros through the valley of Gudbrandsdalen. Instead they decided to go over the mountain from Lillehammer to Rena and the valley of Østerdalen. The weather was really bad, and they chose two of their best skiers - Torstein Skevla and Skjervald Skrukka - to take the little boy over the mountain to the valley of Østerdalen. 

The journey was long and dangerous, but they reached Nidaros at last and Haakon Haakonsson became King. Under his reign all the civil wars ended.
(story made short.)

All competitors in Birken brings the history forward
In a few days it will be your turn to ski the mountains between Rena and Lillehammer. Luckily this does not hold Norways future, and you do not need to carry a future King, but the backpack you are carrying symbolizes the little boy Haakon Haakonsson. Each one of you honours the history of Norway.

Birkebeinerrennet is about the feeling of mastery. Sweat, tears, laughter and joy. Hours of hard training. Honor and glory. It is also about a dangerous journey over the mountain that was made 800 years ago.

The backpack: 3,5 kg and its content
From 1932 to 1992 the weight of the backpack was set to 5,5 kg. From 1993 the weight was reduced to 3,5 kg.
For safety reasons the backpack must contain:

  • Wind proofed jacket and pants (long sleeved)
  • Dry and warm underwear
  • Headwear/hat
  • Buff/headover/balaclava
  • Gloves/mittens.

We strongly recommend that all skiers also bring food, drink and ski wax. Sun cream and blister plasters is also recommended. Please check the weather forecast, and take necessary safety precautions.

Which backpack should you choose?
Finding a backpack that fits well is very important when you are going to ski 54 km. You should have a backpack that you don't even notice you have on your back! There are several things you should think about when choosing your backpack:

  • The right length for your back. Not too short - and certainly not too long.
  • The width of the shoulder straps should suit you. If you go with a backpack where the straps are too wide for you, they will get in the way and chafe when you double pole.
  • It may be a good idea to have a backpack that has hip straps with pockets, or a backpack that has shoulder straps with pockets. In these you can, for example, add your energy gel.
  • Above all, the backpack must sit well when you move! This means that you should actually test the backpack with its contents before you stand on the starting line at Rena.
  • The size of the backpack depends on what the aim of the run is. Some choose to bring more clothes and food because they will be out longer. Then it might be good to have a bag of 16-20 liters.


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