Nature is Purposeless…

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Emil Börner and Daniel Gustafsson set out on a bikepacking trip through Sweden’s Sylarna wilderness. It was Emil’s first bike trip in a year and a half after suffering a terrible tragedy during a transcontinental bike tour. Their weekend trip resulted in this incredibly beautiful and moving short film…

Words by Daniel Gustafsson, film/photos by Daniel & Emil Börner

Emil and I have a history of collaborating, creating films photography while out on adventures. Since 2010 we’ve travelled through different parts of the world and always looked for the spirit of adventure through the lens of human interaction and serendipitous encounters with strangers. As many of you already know – the bike is the perfect tool for just that!

Earlier on, we stayed mostly on regular roads with touring bikes, but have now traded in our road bikes for bikepacking rigs due to tragic circumstances. Emil and his girlfriend Johanna started a transcontinental bike tour in 2015 which ended abruptly on a low traffic road in Brazil when a car hit them both from behind at 90 mph. Johanna died instantly and Emil miraculously survived. He suffered severe traumatic brain injury and was transported home to Sweden.

Time passed and Emil got better both physically and mentally through support from his friends, family and most of all, the dream of sitting on a bike again. However, the thought of ever riding a trafficked road again, made him and his friends turn to mountain bikes.

One and a half years later, after many shorter rides, Emils rehabilitation and extensive preparations culminated in a bikepacking trip in the Swedish mountains. A short trip, not with the goal of covering huge distances, but instead to enjoy freedom far away from traffic and close to that what matters: friends, the horizon and evening campfires.

NOTE: Make sure to turn the volume up and HD on… Facebook defaults to off/low settings.

  • Bikepacking Sylarna, Sweden, Nature is Purposeless, film by Daniel Gustafsson & Emil Börner
  • Bikepacking Sylarna, Sweden, Nature is Purposeless, film by Daniel Gustafsson & Emil Börner

Bikepacking Sylarna, Sweden, Nature is Purposeless, film by Daniel Gustafsson & Emil Börner

How was it?

During this trip we wanted to have time to relax, cook proper gourmet food (even while in the mountains!) and hang out around the campfire. After discussing different places we decided on the wilderness of Sylarna that is located in the middle of Sweden in the commune Jämtland. An area that offers classic low alpine valleys with small birch trees, glaciers and magnificent peaks – of which the most famous are Sylarna and Helags.

This was a four day trip with three bike-days and one hike-day for summiting the Sylarna peak. The group consisted of Emil, Daniel, Linn and Angelica, all of whom had mixed riding experience. From newcomer to experienced, we had to find a good mix of distance and trail difficulty to offer the right type of challenge. We settled on Sylarna, since I had spent many weeks hiking there during childhood.

Foodwise we brought quite the extensive cuisine, ranging from pasta with dill and smoked salmon, to wilderness style mushroom risotto, and apple crumble pie with vanilla sauce!

Here’s more about planning a similar trip below …

  • Bikepacking Sylarna, Sweden, Nature is Purposeless, film by Daniel Gustafsson & Emil Börner
  • Bikepacking Sylarna, Sweden, Nature is Purposeless, film by Daniel Gustafsson & Emil Börner

Bikepacking Sylarna, Sweden, Nature is Purposeless, film by Daniel Gustafsson & Emil Börner

  • Bikepacking Sylarna, Sweden, Nature is Purposeless, film by Daniel Gustafsson & Emil Börner
  • Bikepacking Sylarna, Sweden, Nature is Purposeless, film by Daniel Gustafsson & Emil Börner
  • Bikepacking Sylarna, Sweden, Nature is Purposeless, film by Daniel Gustafsson & Emil Börner

Planning a Trip in Sylarna

The trails are quite technical with lots of roots and rocks. Especially the part of the trails that ascend and are worn in by hikers, exposing roots and rocks.

These areas are remote and you must bring food for the entire trip since there are no convenience stores around. However, you can restock small foodstuff at park stations. On the plus side, the water is in abundance so we only carried a couple liters in our Camelbaks for easy access.

In Sweden, many of these areas are easy to access by public transportation, not mattering whether you are a local, city dweller or tourist. No park fees, pitch your tent wherever. The land is open for everyone and camping is permitted, there is even a law for this called “Allemansrätten”. Just be sure to bring all your garbage back!

Navigation is possible by following trail signs, but to be safe be sure to pick-up a map of the area with a reasonable ratio, or use a modern gps computer like a Garmin with Open Street Maps. Make sure to check that the trails you would like to use are available on OSM.

Where

    Highlights

  • Classic low alpine valleys with small birch trees, glaciers and magnificent peaks
  • Many of the trails are not that occupied so less chance of meeting people, just be sure to choose the right one :)
  • Chance to see moose, reindeers even bear and other small critters roaming the countryside

Must know

  • Summer is the best time of the year to bikepack this area but late spring and early autumn also works.
  • Transportation: Main airport in Sweden is Arlanda, local airport: Östersund, trains: www.sj.se, bus from Stockholm: http://harjedalingen.se bringing bike is a little tricky so contact them before booking tickets, driving by car from Stockholm is about 10 hours included snacks/food stops.
  • No need for cash in these wilderness and most shops on route to the area accept credit cards.
  • Bigger tires are recommended (3” and above) when travelling with lots of gear since it is sometimes swampy and or sandy.
  • Maps are easy to find of the area or a GPS with Open street maps.
  • Camping is allowed pretty much everywhere
  • No entrance fee to area
  • Bikepacking in Swedish wilderness is generally safe.

Food/H20

  • Bring food for the entire trip
  • Pristine water sources with drinkable water
  • Bikepacking Sylarna, Sweden, Nature is Purposeless, film by Daniel Gustafsson & Emil Börner
  • Bikepacking Sylarna, Sweden, Nature is Purposeless, film by Daniel Gustafsson & Emil Börner
  • Bikepacking Sylarna, Sweden, Nature is Purposeless, film by Daniel Gustafsson & Emil Börner
  • Bikepacking Sylarna, Sweden, Nature is Purposeless, film by Daniel Gustafsson & Emil Börner
  • Bikepacking Sylarna, Sweden, Nature is Purposeless, film by Daniel Gustafsson & Emil Börner

From Emil, a big thanks to:

Surly bikes! Our Surly Long Haul Truckers got totally demolished in the crash. The Official Intergalactic Surly Regional HQ, being a brand who truly understands the spirit of adventure and long distance bike travel, were very kind and sent me a ECR frame that I have built together myself as a form of meditation. I am still scared of the violent nature of cars and traffic so building a 29+ mountain bike felt like the right choice when putting together my new adventure steed.

Rohloff AG and Anders Veloform! Other warm hearted contributors to my new bike were; Rohloff AG who sent me a Hub that I with the help of Anders Veloform in Gothenburg built into a wheel.

And the biggest thanks to all of my friends!

Video credits:

Filming/editing: Daniel Gustafsson, www.daniel-gustafsson.com
Speaker: Alan Watts
Music: Licensed from Epidemic Sounds
Production: Vimago AB, www.vimago.se

About Daniel Gustafsson and Emil Börner

Daniel Gustafsson has a career in filmmaking and on the side of regular work he has been documenting his travels through still photography and short films. Daniel met Emil in the summer of 2010 when they worked together at a summer camp for kids. Back then, Emil had a dream of biking from Sweden to China. The dream came true and during a month of the year long adventure Daniel accompanied Emil in Turkish Kurdistan. This sparked a friendship that brought plenty more adventures as well as the mutual idea of wanting to share the social encounters of the experiences. Follow Daniel on Instagram @danielgson and Emil @thebigtripse. Also, see more of Daniel’s work at daniel-gustafsson.com and find their Facebook page at facebook.com/Thebigtripse/.

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