This article was produced in partnership with Fjällräven.
If thundering through northern Scandinavia by dog sled, traversing wild tundra, frozen lakes, and mountain forests by day, then sleeping under a blanket of stars (or huddled under, y’know, an actual blanket) by night sounds like an adventure of the highest pedigree, you’re right. And if luck has it, you can experience that very escapade.
After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Fjällräven Polar is back and better than ever. In April 2023, the flagship event returns with minor tweaks for its 25th year anniversary. Polar will bring 20 people from across the globe to Fjällräven’s testing grounds, the Scandinavian Arctic, for a six-day dog sled expedition, enabling them to experience a world completely foreign from their own.
Like previous years, Fjällräven Polar is not an event you can buy your way into. Instead, you’re encouraged to apply for a spot by completing three online challenges, which are reviewed by a committee of Fjällräven employees, alumni, and ambassadors, who ultimately select 20 finalists. The selection process is one of the larger improvements this year, opening Polar up to anyone.
“We’re looking for curious individuals—people who want to step outside their comfort zone and are open to something new,” says Claire Sisun, a global communications specialist at Fjällräven. “We don’t care so much about the size of your social media following or the likes you get. We want to give ordinary people a way to connect with nature and themselves. The three challenges show us who you are, your values, and how you’re living in harmony with nature.”
The History of Polar
Back in the early 1990s, Fjällräven founder, Åke Nordin, met Kenth Fjellborg, who was a pioneer among Sweden’s dog-sled racers and adventurers. Fjellborg had completed the Iditarod, running a team of 20 dogs across the harsh Alaskan wilderness over the course of three weeks. The race inspired Nordin and, from 1997 to 2006, Fjällräven Polar came to be a race akin to the Iditarod, declaring a winner at the end.
Problem is, the race didn’t mesh well with Nordin’s vision for Fjällräven and the brand’s core values of inspiring everyday people to discover the outdoors. The event was paused until 2012, when Fjällräven rolled out a new format. For the last decade, Fjällräven Polar hasn’t focused on racing at all. In fact, it isn’t even designed for dog-sled experts. It was—and still is—for curious, everyday adventurers.
“We’re focused education and inspiration,” says Sisun. “We believe that with the right equipment and the right knowledge, anyone can become an arctic explorer.”
Over the last 10 years, participants have faced myriad hurdles, everything from blizzards to below-freezing temperatures to the vast emptiness of the Arctic tundra. For a few lucky people, Fjällräven Polar is a unique opportunity to test their limits on the adventure of a lifetime.
“These challenges help transform people,” says MJ Smoot, Global Marketing Manager at Fjällräven. “It’s common to run into storms and have to adapt to weather conditions. Adaptability is a huge part of the trip.”
What Participants Should Expect
For the 20 selected by the jury, Fjällräven Polar is an all-expenses-paid trip, including flights, gear, and food. You’ll fly to Swedish Lapland to start the journey, where you’ll get the necessary training and skills. This includes everything from setting up your tent and using your stove to staying warm, making water, and protecting yourself against the elements. You’ll also meet your team of six dogs who you’ll look after for the journey.
With the training complete, you’ll set off into a stupefyingly pristine wilderness—one of the least forgiving places on planet Earth. You’ll drive your team by yourself across 300km of barren landscape—over mountains and through forests—all while learning from your dogs and the other mushers.
“As a brand, our goal is simple: inspiring people to walk with nature, fostering a greater appreciation for it,” says Smoot. “We believe getting outside and spending time in nature will help you to care more about the environment.”
This year’s route takes participants from the Jukkasjärvi area north to Sevujärvi, Kattuvuoma, Råstojaure and Pälstsa—one of Europe’s largest areas of permafrost—before finishing at the edge of the Norwegian fjords in Signaldalen, 200km above the Arctic Circle.
You’ll spend four nights sleeping in a tent, feeding your dogs, and living in temps as low as -22 degrees F. “A lot of the time it’s cold, windy, and dark, but anyone can enjoy it,” says Carl Hård af Segerstad, Global Events Manager at Fjällräven.
Polar is more than just a dog sledding adventure. “It shows you how to make changes in your life and that you really can take control of your situation,” says Segerstad. “If you can master the elements—keeping warm when it’s wet and cold, cooking outside, and feeling secure to sleep outside in winter—you’re empowered to take control of other parts of your life. The consequences of this are life changing.”
So, What Makes Fjällräven Polar Different?
There are very few adventures of this scope and magnitude that are open to everyone. While every other brand is focused on an exclusive professional team, Fjällräven has decided to inspire ordinary people.
“Polar completely removes you from your everyday life,” says Hård af Segerstad. “To experience real wilderness is, unfortunately, quite rare nowadays, but Polar proves that anyone can enjoy the Arctic with the right knowledge and equipment.”
Another unique part of Fjällräven Polar is that there are no prerequisites like winter camping, mushing, or Arctic travel experience. The same goes for financial barriers to entry and specific gear you need to own.
“We provide all the equipment and know-how needed to undertake an expedition like this,” says Hård af Segerstad. “If you have an open mind and are in good mental and physical condition, you’ll be ready to take on this challenge.”
Curious what the biggest obstacle of all is? It’s not the harsh weather, as you might expect, Hård af Segerstadsays. As the event manager, he’s been part of Fjällräven Polar multiple times.
“You’ll see potentially hostile conditions, but it’s more a mind game, knowing that you’re exposed to the elements, and the fear that builds up if you’re not used to being outside your comfort zone.”
Fortunately, Fjällräven brings along a team of experienced mushers and outdoor experts to make sure everyone—no matter their experience—is safe and feels confident the entire way.
“We want genuine, natural, curious explorers to apply to Polar because we believe anyone with the right mindset can be an Arctic explorer,” says Hård af Segerstad.
That means you.
Key Dates to Keep in Mind:
- Virtual global launch event: Monday October 24, 2022
- Challenge 1 released: Monday October 24, 2022, focused on your motives for applying
- Challenge 2 released: Sunday October 30, 2022, focused on overcoming your fears
- Challenge 3 released: Sunday November 6, 2022, focused on a more sustainable life
- Applications close: Sunday November 13, 2022
- Winners announced: Wednesday November 23, 2022
- Fjällräven Polar Expedition: March 30 to April 5, 2023
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