Bjorn Olson is a Homer-based filmmaker, photographer, freelance writer, environmental activist, and wilderness adventurer. As a teenager, when his family moved from bush Alaska to Valdez, he became fascinated with mountaineering. Ice climbing, backcountry snowboarding, and sea kayaking were his cornerstone pursuits until 2005 when he purchased his first fat bike.
Over the last 16 years, Bjørn has focused his energy on exploring the backcountry of Alaska by fat bike in all seasons, often incorporating a packraft on these adventures. Some of his routes include Knik to Kotzebue (winter), Nome to Kivalina (winter), Stony River to Bethel (winter), Kotzebue to Point Hope (summer), Point Hope to Utqiagvik (summer), Cook Inlet to Bristol Bay (summer), Hope to Homer (summer), and Homer to Port Graham (summer).
Check out his work and learn more about his trips at mjolnirofbjorn.com, alaskansknowclimatechange.com, groundtruthtrekking.org, and kbayconservation.org. Follow him on Facebook @alaskabjornfilms, Instagram @fatbikebjorn, and Vimeo @mjolnirofbjorn.
Product descriptions by Bjorn Olson
The carbon fiber Salsa Mukluk is the epitome of a wilderness adventure bicycle for myriad reasons: carbon fiber is light, strong, corrosion resistant, and—with epoxy and carbon fiber cloth—it is field repairable. The bike allows for the widest wheel and tire combinations, which is the best insurance one can have when riding over soft, wet, or punchy terrain. The front triangle offers great stand-over with its sloping top tube, but there’s still ample space for a frame bag due to its steep down tube. There are a variety of mounting options for bottles and bags; and, most important of all, it has a superb geometry that is both comfortable and nimble. It also has adjustable and sliding dropouts, which allows one to easily configure it into a single speed.
Alpacka packrafts are easily the best lightweight and packable rafts on the market. The Caribou packraft is Alpacka’s bare-bones raft that was designed with cycling adventurers in mind. It is light (4.8 pounds); long (eight feet), which means it tracks well; has decent hull speed; and allows the paddler a full forward stroke with the bike strapped to the bow. It also rolls into a remarkably small size.
There are three modes of travel I tend to encounter when on summertime fat-bike adventures: cycling, packrafting, and bike-pushing. When cycling, I attempt to pack most of the gear, food, and raft onto the bike. When paddling, all gear is stowed in or atop the raft. But when pushing, it’s best to have a comfortable yet lightweight backpack to carry all the gear. The Hyperlite 2400 Southwest is the best lightweight pack I own.
Growing up with firearms, I always had doubts about bear spray. That changed in 2010 when my two adventure partners and I were charged by a brown bear near Tustumena Glacier. She was stressed, starved, and supporting three large cubs, and she meant business. Without the bear spray, I’m confident I would not be here today.
The simple technology of a Bic lighter is taken for granted, but its loss is devastating on a wilderness trip. I pack several, and wear one—wrapped in extra Gorilla Tape and with a small sewing needle and thread—as a necklace. With the lighter around my neck, I’m guaranteed not to lose it, and the fluid remains warm against my body, allowing me to provoke a reliable flame from it even at 40 below.
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