For decades, Crofton Diack paddled the state’s raging rivers as an instructor for Outward Bound. But at 40 the Oregon native reinvented herself as a documentarian, shooting the acclaimed deafness-journey doc Hear and Now before heading off to film for National Geographic in some of the harshest, most remote spots in the world. Also a producer, today she splits her time gathering footage of Alaskan off-the-gridders in the Arctic for the TV show Life Below Zero and scouting locations across Oregon for movies and brands. Wherever she goes, she packs Portland along with her. “I’m always asked to do things I’ve never done before: drive a snow machine in a blinding storm, dog-mush, or just have the balls to get on a little plane and fly off into oblivion in 40-below weather. It’s like, ‘What the hell am I doing?’” she laughs. “Sometimes I want little creature comforts that remind me of home.”
“At home in Portland I have these Nomad candles by Crosby Elements—one comes with me into the field. It smells earthy, a bit like cedar trees. Often the day before I leave for the Arctic, I go on a walk at Oxbow Park to soak in the big trees. That candle is like being in the big trees. On trips, sometimes we live in an Arctic Oven tent. I bring a Nomad candle— because, let me tell you, sleeping in a tent with three dudes and gear is wretched.” $36 at Woonwinkel
“I love to bring Olympia Provisions sausages and pâtés with me on trips. I take three or four big logs of Salami Capri and Saucisson d’Alsace, and I bring By George cheeses, too. My coworkers and I get the glossy OP brochure—it’s like porn to us. I filmed the ice breakup on the Yukon River last year—it’s the most awe-inspiring thing. It’s incredibly dangerous, and, afterwards, when you realize it’s safe, you sit on the high bank and light a fire and eat your Olympia Provisions that you brought 3,000 miles north for just for this moment. This year, hopefully, I’ll film it again.” $10–75 at Olympia Provisions Southeast
“In Greenland [where I filmed Ice Cold Gold], we ate whale. Whale stew, whale pasta ... whale hidden in every dish imaginable. In the Arctic, a lot of the guys I film hunt and eat bear and caribou. But bear is yeeeuuk. Don’t try it. It’s so gamy. We once had spaghetti with bear meatballs. I just got a Finex cast-iron skillet, made locally by these amazing guys. I’m so excited about that. Even if I’m gonna cook bear meat, it’s gonna be good in the Finex. But hopefully it will be caribou.” $125 and up at finexusa.com
“In March, filming 35 miles off the Arctic Ocean, it was 45 below zero, with sustained wind for five days. I got frostbite on my thumb, my face gets exposed while I’m shooting, I tripped and fell in a whiteout. I bring Natural Science Beauty Home Base Body Balm because it gets so flipping cold. It’s really good. I put a little on my cheeks; on my hands—my hands hurt so bad sometimes. I was filming this woman on that trip and she gave me bear fat body balm—it was nice of her, but it smells like a dead animal. I stick with the Natural Science.
I haven’t figured out [skin care] in the Arctic summer yet. In the summer months I have to watch it because at any given time I’m covered with 300 mosquitos. And you’ve got 23 or 24 hours of light. So you’re just feeling fried in your mosquito suit. You get so dry but you don’t want anything on you. If I have to go pee, I’ll take my pants down and I’ll have 50 mosquitos on my ass crack. It’s so fucking horrible. I haven’t tried the Natural Science Balm in the summer yet. I’ll see if it works. I just don’t want it to attract mosquitos—but, god, they’re attracted to anything, so I guess it doesn’t matter.” $45 at WM Goods