How to make your tent hygge

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‘What freedom is to Americans… hygge is to Danes,’ says Meik Wiking, CEO of Copenhagen’s Happiness Research Institute. But what is ‘hygge’? And how is it making people happy?

Pronounced ‘hoo-gah’ and used as both a noun and an adjective, the Danish concept has no literal translation in English. However, it can be essentially encompassed by the word cosy, with a splash of contentment, well-being and importantly, enjoying the simple things in life. The German have the similar ‘gemütlichkeit’ (friendliness, good cheer, feelings of warmth), and the Dutch have ‘gezelligheid’ (conviviality, cosiness).

A lifestyle of warmth and cosiness in pursuit of hygge has been a part of Danish culture since the early 19th century, when the word first appeared in writing. In 2016, the Danish way of life became a lifestyle trend in the UK, with hygge coming second in the Collins Words of the Year.

Once you adopt hygge into your life, particularly in the winter months, it’s easy to see why the idea is big in Scandinavia; when it’s too cold to think, nothing is a better antidote than getting cosy. Although it may not sound that important, the benefits of hygge could be – excuse the almost pun – huge. Being in the right space and frame of mind makes you much more receptive to learning (and passing on) skills for life and appreciating virtues, like patience.

The likelihood is you’ve already been hygge; if you’ve enjoyed a cup of warm cocoa by a fire, or cosied up to your pet on a soft rug, that’s pretty hygge. Since Scouts don’t let a little thing like cold weather get between them and their outdoors adventures, it could be handy to learn ways in which to make your tent hygge and ensuring you stay warm and content when the weather is harshly cold.

A good place to start would be your clothing, as there’s nothing hygge about being underdressed on a wintry cold night. Jogging bottoms – or ‘hyggebukser’, the Danish for ‘that pair of pants you wouldn’t wear in public’ – jumpers or hoodies, scarves, beanies and gloves; get the lot on and insulate yourself first and foremost from the chill. As Albus Dumbledore famously said, ‘One can never have enough socks.’

Next, you’ll need a serious sleeping bag. That thin, easy pack number you got as a hand-me-down may have been suitable for summer camp but a good, insulating sleeping bag, as well as some extra blankets if you can carry them, will keep your warmth inside and the cold out. Since we’re trying to camp cosily, why not also bring a fluffy cushion or even a soft toy to keep you company. 

Bring along your favourite mug to enjoy a warm beverage by the fire after you set up your camp. Good food and snacks are also crucial: nothing warms the soul like chocolate. If you have a larger tent or marquee to gather into, it could be worth bringing a small cosy rug or cushions, or otherwise decorating the shared space to try and ensure everyone in your group is nice and cosy.

Finally, candles are a big part of hygge for the Danes – they’re known to each burn 13 pounds of wax a year on average! However, as safety doesn’t allow for a cosy candlelit tent, a good lantern can bathe you in just as warm a glow. Better yet, if you’re able to set up some battery-powered fairy lights (again, being extremely careful around the safety of heat + flammable materials), there will doubtless be a cosy aura all around your tent.

You’re now ready to enjoy your uber-hygge tent. If you get stuck, you can find plenty of gear perfect for keeping cosy in the Scout Store.

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