South Carelian Military March 2019

Share on Facebook Share on Facebook

Our experience in the SCMM road and off-road divisions. There are never too many good marching events and the South Carelian Military March - organized for the tenth time this year - is definitely among the best in Finland. You can choose between a division that has your patrol avoid being detected while completing tasks, or a traditional march along roads. The idea is a straight-forward and fun challenge. This year we participated in both main divisions and here's our report.


Last year we prepared with a lot of SoMe presence in the form of a diary. This year we shelfed the video camera and focused on the fundamentals: traditional marching exercise solo or with a team and a hefty weight on the back to make it good practice. The terrain near our base of operations in Konala has a couple of hills, which provide a good route summit-to-summit-to-summit. Ascending hills with a backpack does wonders to your buttocks.

Neither division requires superhuman abilities, but a base level of physical condition is very good to have as well as preparation beforehand. It's a lot less frustrating and more safe that way. A good stamina is essential especially when you go into the forest in the night after little sleep.

Sodiers on a dirt road wearing camoflauge clothing and face paint.

The off road division starts on the roads before competitors spread up into patrols.

Tervis' thoughts on preparations

"I began to get ready for the march at the end of December 2018 with 15 km (9 mi) walks and a 10 kg (22 lbs) backpack. From the first steps, I documented and analyzed everything with Sports Tracker. My goal was to walk 100 kilometres per month, which means 25 km (15.5 mi) for one week. I walked alone and with buddies, in the freezing cold and milder weather, snowfall and clear days. I also started taking magnesium citrate supplements twice a day to avoid cramps, which amounted to a total number of zero for my entire practice routine and actual march.

All together I walked 329 km (204 mi) before SCMM and my longest single accomplishment was the 40 km (25 mi) Brandstein March, which was hosted earlier in the same month in Loviisa. It gave me good insight about route planning, energy intake and other activity during movement as well as recovery after the march."

Off road division

In the off road division patrols move from one checkpoint to another along routes they deem to be most suitable. Some checkpoints involve tasks. The total time is 24 hours, which of course isn't all walking. The shortest lines between checkpoints are about 45 km combined, but obviously the terrain, enemy activity and other factors you actually walk a significantly longer distance.

The scenario for this year was an adventurous patrol behind enemy lines. The guidance was rather blank and patrols had to prepare for basically anything that involves being in the bush with enemy presence. Apart from a few specific pieces of equipment and tasks the patrols had a lot of freedom to choose how to equip themselves, and it obviously came with the responsibility as well.

To make it less of a running competition, the organizers cut up some railroad track for each patrol to carry over the finishing line. The weight was about 5 kg (11 lbs) so it wasn't a horrible burden, but a piquant addition nonetheless.

The march was a combination of orienteering from one checkpoint to another and small tasks. Areas with enemy activity forced to consider the routes and standard of movement. Time penalties for being detected were brutal, so you really had to find the way with the most cover instead of the easiest and fastest route to the next CP.

Two soldiers at the edge of a forest next to a field.

Even the flat lands between actual obstacles was punishing on your feet and body.

Cowabunga it is

This year the chief planner had devised an infernal maze of checkpoints and activity areas: swamp and bog, open flats, more bog, hills, larger hills, open ground and some more swamp and bog. Obviously, a direct route wasn't going to be the fastest in these conditions. There was also some snow left from the winter to mix things up. For example, between CP4 and CP5 we cleverly thought we'd avoid enemy territory and go around it along old ruts: our idea was to utilize the ease of movement to make up for the longer distance. Alas, the ruts were filled with snow, mud or both to the knee, so it wasn't the walk in the park we envisioned.

Around half-way through, at CP11, the task was to cross a body of water and mandatory recovery. The bath was refreshing after being on our feet for the whole night and hit the spot, so to say. The recovery part involved building a shelter and ensure all men were in a combat-ready condition for the remaining march. At this point we replenished our water canteens: we had run very low for some time despite bringing a lot to begin with.

Three men swimming across a water with floating green bags. The water has some ice on it.

Swimming counts as marching, right? As long as you bring all your gear.
Photo: LauRes ry.

One of the more devilish areas was the peat fields of Konnunsuo swamp as well as Hyvättilänsuo swamp, which were around CP11-CP15. The terrain and enemy presence left very little reasonable routes to utilize and we got picked off by a sniper once, despite using a rut. Lesson learned; we got really low and enjoyed everything the spring swamp offered.

Person in camouflage clothing crossing a stream along a fallen tree.

A good fighter avoids uncomfortable things, like getting wet, to maintain combat readiness.

Step by step

Our patrol maintained high morale through the whole march. A few times we messed up with orienteering and some alternative route choices could have been made, but those were the worst setbacks we had - nothing major. We had some breaks according to need while maintaining momentum. Each of us had a beer in mind after crossing the finishing line, and when it comes to treats like that, sooner is better.

Overall we were on the move for 17 h 59 min and stopped for a combined 3 h 13 minutes. Pretty good ratio. The distance travelled was 74.3 km (46 mi). With task bonuses deducted and time penalties added our total time was 20 h 33 min, which got us 10th place. The march left a good feeling: Encouraging support was present, the organizing was functional and the terrain, routes and opposing forces provided challenges for the whole money.

A GPS device showing the above metnioned readings.

We didn't suffer from GPS jamming, these are accurate stats.

Pro tips

Orienteering and choice of routes. A little time spent beforehand can save a huge amount of time and effort later. Especially when you're tired and in the dark, think before you move.

Boots with membrane were a short straw. At some point you're up to your knees in the bog anyways, and at that point the membrane keeps water inside.

Make planned breaks and only do things that help you recover and maintain readiness. This eliminates unnecessary sitting around.

Example kit list

The gear as listed above.

Road division

The other challenge was marching on the roads, where the patrol had to tackle 50 kilometres (31 mi) of movement by foot with a 12-hour time limit. The route went along roads in Joutseno, offering a variable marching experience. Our patrol had the ambition to make it in less than nine hours. Here are some thoughts from along the way:

"The march went without trouble with high spirits, which is always a good thing. Afterwards, my condition dipped because of exhaustion. Still, I'm happy to have been there and being able to finish. Some things I learned on the way: whenever you change socks, keep a towel or rag handy to dry your feet, and put some vaseline between your toes."

"During the SCMM march the feeling was consistently good. The biggest reasons for this were the optimum marching weather and the route plans we made together, which included breaks for changing socks, lengths of breaks and dedicated tasks for each member during the march. Things were considered before any of it got to us. We also had a time goal, which was broken down into short legs to keep track of our advancement during the march."

The time goal was sadly not achieved this time, but our patrol did keep up a good pace. The final time was 9 h 46 min, which got us the 6th position in open category and 13th of 32 among all participants.

Three people walking on a dirt road in camouflage clothing.

On-road marching demonstrated by our off-road patrol.

Pro-Tips by Tervis

Practice marching, do it for real! Make calendar dates beforehand and stick to them. March in different conditions, vary the lengths and surfaces, remember to walk up some hills as well. Set goals, timed and otherwise, and when you reach them, set harder goals. Use a Sports Tracker or other means to keep track.

Learn to dring a swig of water every half an hour, even though you really don't need any hydration during shorter practice runs. Be dutiful about recovery! Learn how to maintain readiness before the march, during and afterwards. My principle was to remain combat ready after any march.

Remember energy intake during the march. Figure out beforehand what you'll eat and when. Carbs will run out after roughly 90 minutes after the start, so replenish them way beforehand. I kept an eye on my wristwatch and ate according to my plan. Carb gel worked well for me, I ate one every half an hour, which added up to 20 bags, much to the horror of my marching companions.

I also ate some mini salami and salted peanut-raisins every 30 minutes. For drinks, I had prepared 3 litres of Hartsport and 1 litre of water (adds up to a gallon of liquids). I ate on my feet and had no separate breaks for eating.

I taped my feet with some Leukoplast beforehand. This worked for me to avoid blisters. I changed my socks once. I put some vaseline between my buttocks and toes to avoid chafings, which worked for me. Keep these tips in mind!

Our medical bag had some magnesium powder for a quick need, a pack of Ibuprofen and tablets against heartburns and allergies.

Tracking and monitoring apps drain your battery, so keep a power bank with you.

Three fighters posing for the camera with arms on eachother's shoulders.

No medikit compares to the care of your mates.

Gear list

A map EKS 2019 with control points marked on it.

Area of operations on a map.

Related products

Särmä Merino Wool Socks
Särmä Merino Wool Socks
9.99 - 12.99 USD 12.99 USD
If you still use cotton socks, dump them now and get these instead. These are superb for outdoor use, but work just as well as formal wear too! These aren't thick, so they can be used around the year. Made with our own specs in Finland.
Särmä Hiking Socks, Merino Wool
Särmä Hiking Socks, Merino Wool
13.99 - 17.99 USD 17.99 USD
Anatomically designed hiking socks for demanding users and people who appreciate extra comfort in everyday life. Särmä Hiking Socks are made of lofty knit, moisture-wicking and have a proper fit to prevent blisters and keep you walking all day.
Särmä TST L1 Liner Gloves, Merino Wool, Green Särmä TST L1 Liner Gloves, Merino Wool, Black Särmä TST L1 Liner Gloves, Merino Wool, Khaki
Särmä TST L1 Liner Gloves, Merino Wool
Särmä TST L1 Liner Gloves, Merino Wool
26.99 USD
Cold and nasty weather is a very difficult environment for tasks that demand nimble fingers. The L1 liner gloves were designed to solve this very problem! These thin and snug-fitting merino liners fit under regular gloves to offer additional insulation without sacrificing the fine use of your fingers.
Särmä TST L1 T-shirt, Merino Wool, Green Särmä TST L1 T-shirt, Merino Wool, Black
Särmä TST L1 T-shirt, Merino Wool
Särmä TST L1 T-shirt, Merino Wool
36.99 USD
A purely functional merino wool T-shirt for active wear, made from merino wool, simply the best material you can wear next to the skin. Snug active fit, raglan sleeves and flatlock seams guarantee minimum chafe and maximum comfort, making this a damn good base layer for active, demanding use.
Särmä TST L1 Boxers, Merino Wool, Green Särmä TST L1 Boxers, Merino Wool, Black
Särmä TST L1 Boxers, Merino Wool
Särmä TST L1 Boxers, Merino Wool
29.99 USD
Designed with pure function in mind for demanding active use. The long, tight legs and high waist stay snugly and securely in place. The merino wool blend wicks moisture away and feels comfortable against the skin even in prolonged wear and varying conditions.
Särmä TST L1 Merino Wool Beanie, Green Särmä TST L1 Merino Wool Beanie, Black Särmä TST L1 Merino Wool Beanie, Khaki Särmä TST L1 Merino Wool Beanie, Orange
Särmä TST L1 Merino Wool Beanie
Särmä TST L1 Merino Wool Beanie
19.99 USD
Sometimes it´s the little things that make all the difference, this thin, lightweight merino cap is a fantastic piece of merino woolly coziness in a very handy little package. Fits right in your pocket and is lightweight enough for high activity wear. Fits perfectly under helmets and other headwear too!
Finnish Canteen, 1 l
Finnish Canteen, 1 l
7.99 USD
Finnish Army current model canteen. A very practical water bottle with a large opening and a metal hook for carrying without a pouch. You know this piece of kit is pretty good because the soldiers don't complain about it.
Särmä TST Tarp, M05 woodland camo
Särmä TST Tarp, M05 woodland camo
159.99 - 189.99 USD
Tarps are great, easy to use, easy to carry, and very versatile. The Särmä TST Tarp follows the basic tarp design rules but is made to meet Finnish military end-user requirements, including NIR-compliant M05 camouflage print. Available in two sizes, larger for 2-3 persons and smaller for 1-2 persons.
Savotta Jääkäri M backpack, green Savotta Jääkäri M Backpack, Brown Savotta Jääkäri M backpack, black Savotta Jääkäri M Backpack, M05 Woodland Camo
Savotta Jääkäri M backpack
Savotta Jääkäri M backpack
199.99 - 214.99 USD
Based on the Light Border Patrol Pack, the Jääkäri M is a natural heir to the throne, an updated modern day pack, a sturdy one that carries even a few days' worth of supplies comfortably.
Source WLPS hydration reservoir, 3L
Source WLPS hydration reservoir, 3L
37.99 USD
Widepac Low Profile System - the name says it all! This hydration bladder is specially designed for a comfortable carry in a backpack or combat vest.
Särmä TST L3 Loft Jacket, ranger green
Särmä TST L3 Loft Jacket
Särmä TST L3 Loft Jacket
149.99 USD
A very lightweight and breathable loft jacket with Climashield insulation. Packable enough to fit right in your pants' cargo pocket. Designed for use as an insulating mid-layer under your regular field jacket, can also be used as an outer layer during static breaks or other light activities.
Särmä TST L3 Wind jacket, ranger green
Särmä TST L3 Wind Jacket
Särmä TST L3 Wind Jacket
109.99 USD
A very lightweight and packable windshell layer jacket. Keeps freezing winds and light rain at bay while allowing moisture to freely evaporate. Primarily designed for layering between base layers and camouflage wear, but can also be used as a stand-alone jacket in light use.
Särmä TST L4 Field Jacket, M05 woodland camo Särmä TST L4 Field Jacket, M04 Desert Camo
Särmä TST L4 Field Jacket
Särmä TST L4 Field Jacket
169.99 USD
The L4 Field Jacket was designed for pure functionality. Smart materials and a purpose-built design guarantee the best possible comfort regardless of what type of fighting and/or sustainment load you´re carrying. This is a great alternative for the Finnish military-issue jacket, which suffers from a load of compromises due to the fact that it was designed to double up as parade wear.
Särmä TST L4 Field Pants. M05 woodland camo Särmä TST L4 Field Pants. M04 Desert Camo
Särmä TST L4 Field Pants
Särmä TST L4 Field Pants
159.99 USD
The L4 Field Pants were designed for pure functionality. Smart materials, a relaxed fit, and clever details make them what a pair of field pants should be, comfortable and utilitarian. These are a great alternative for the Finnish military-issue pants, which suffer from a load of compromises due to the fact that they were designed to double up as parade wear.
Särmä TST Boonie Hat, M05 woodland camo Särmä TST Boonie Hat, green Särmä TST Boonie Hat, black
Särmä TST Boonie Hat
Särmä TST Boonie Hat
39.99 USD
Based on the Finnish Defense Forces issued M05 Boonie hat, our design features proper foliage loops for attaching camouflage, something the official Finnish military issued boonies do not.
Suunto A-30 NH Compass
Suunto A-30 NH Compass
29.99 USD
A decent compass is one of the most important items one can own, especially if the great outdoors holds any charm for you. Compared to the basic A-10, the A-30 features some additional advanced features.
Särmä TST Rip-Off IFAK Pouch w. Mount, PALS, Horizontal Särmä TST Rip-Off IFAK Pouch w. Mount, PALS, Vertical Särmä TST Rip-Off IFAK Pouch w. Mount, Hanger
Särmä TST Rip-Off IFAK Pouch w. Mount
Särmä TST Rip-Off IFAK Pouch w. Mount
69.99 USD
Easily removable IFAK pouch. Comes with a dock of your choice to fit different needs.
Särmä TST Map Pouch, Green
Särmä TST Map Pouch
Särmä TST Map Pouch
39.99 USD
A proper good cargo pocket map pouch, designed to fit A4 size maps and papers, smaller notebooks, pens, and pencils, etc. small trinkets you may want to carry with you in the field. The model is based on an older Finnish army special forces issue map pouch with a load of little improvements and overall much-simplified construction.
Princeton Tec Fred headlamp, green Princeton Tec Fred headlamp, black
Princeton Tec Fred Headlamp, 200 lm
Princeton Tec Fred Headlamp, 200 lm
35.99 USD
Are you tired of the bulk and unnecessary complexity of most headlamps? Check this out. The Fred from Princeton Tec is exactly what most people really need in a high-quality package with a reasonable price.