30. Perfect pitch | Monocle

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In the summer of 2000 I was doing my Finnish military service. We were in a forest in the west of the country for battle practice. We had been carrying 20kg of military gear for many hours and had a long break ahead. One of the guys had an idea: pitch a tent and warm up the wood-burning stove until it became a sauna.

We gathered logs of birch and lit up the stove, or kamina, in the middle of the tent. The temperature shot up in no time and the stove was glowing red. As all Finns know, a good sauna is not about heat; it’s all about the humidity created as a result of throwing water on the stove. We used our rationed drinking water – not the best of ideas as we then had nothing to drink on the march that would follow.

Had the enemy seen our makeshift sauna tent, perhaps they too would have put down their weapons and stripped off for a steam

But it was worth it. As we sat outside the sauna to cool off, our bodies and minds relaxed. That was when the commanding officer arrived and saw us, two-dozen naked, sweaty men. “Easy pickings for the enemy,” he shouted. He had a point but, had the enemy seen our makeshift tent, perhaps they too would have put down their weapons and stripped off for a steam.

Transforming a tent into a sauna is something that most Finnish men know about, as all male Finns undergo a minimum of six months’ military service. The tents have been made for the military by Savotta for more than 50 years. The puolijoukkueteltta, as they’re called in Finnish, are sturdy, reliable and surprisingly enjoyable to be in. Savotta makes these same tents for civilian use – they’re light to carry and perfect for pitching up in a scenic spot of your choosing. So go on, get out into nature with a Finnish sauna tent in tow. No camouflage necessary.


How Savotta’s Hiisi 4 sauna tent works to maximum effect:

The walls and ceiling, made from a cotton/polyester blend, are fire retardant and mildew resistant.

A wood-burning stove with a stone rack and stones generates the heat. It also doubles up as somewhere to make a hot drink.

Wood from deciduous trees (which shed leaves annually) should be used as fuel. Coniferous trees can spark a lot and might cause damage to the tent roof.

Don’t heat the tent above 75c. Overheating could damage the tent and is unnecessary; it’s the steam that makes the sauna enjoyable, not hot air.

Ideally set up your tent on the edge of a lake so you can take an invigorating plunge afterwards.

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