After traversing across America for 22 months, paddling 22 rivers and waterways, and lugging an armada of expedition duds across 22 states, I get asked quite a lot about my gear. What works, what stands up, and value for money, what I’d recommend. So here it is: a comprehensive list of exactly what I’ve used and abused, and where you can find it.
My expedition companion is a circa 2009 Old Town Penobscot 16RX I lovingly call The Shannon, named after a now-defunct Taipei pub. The canoe is 16 feet long and 35 inches wide and bright red. She weighs in at 60 pounds and can carry up to 1,440 pounds (I routinely carry half of that). I like that the Penobscot is an old and trusted design, conjuring the Indigenous American lines of yester-century. Royalex is 20 pounds lighter than fiberglass, and they stopped supplying it in the early 2010s – so if you can find one second hand, and the specs work for you, I’d jump. The Royalex construction makes for a lightweight, affordable and highly resistant material to trek across this country, or yours.
ECONOMY WATERPROOF DRY BAGS:
I’m a huge fan of DryPak waterproof dry bags. I bought mine as a stop-gap in Astoria, Oregon and quite simply kept them on board. They’re affordable, easy to handle, and hold up incredibly well.
In the duffel, I selected their size Large and Extra-Large for this journey, lugging the duo right the way across the nation. Day in and night out, from sea to shining sea.
PREMIUM DRY BAGS:
On the upper end of the spectrum, I’ve trekked along this journey with a duo of additional dry bags. Canoeing long distance is more than just paddling. It’s hauling like a mule in fair weather and foul. These examples will cost you more, double as backpacks in and out of camp, and can likewise go the distance. I like the colors they call Coyote and Red.
Watershed Big Creek Dry Pack (Coyote)
And then there’s old-school-wise – at least in my book – nothing better than the Duluth “Monarch” canoe river bags of yore. Mine’s around about 100 years old, stencil-stamped “Outdoor Wilderness” (an old guide logo out of Ely, Minn., gateway to the Boundary Waters), and will undoubtedly last another 100 years, long, long after I’m gone. These routinely pop up on eBay, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace, and if you nab one, one can buy waterproof liners from the Duluth Trading Co. for around $5, which will (minus an earnest deluge) keep your gear dry.
CANOE SEAT BACKER
I’m a fan of the GCI SitBacker, which I see as a must. They do have a shelf life, however. I go through one every three to four months. So in my resupply boxes for the various seasons, I’ve got a new one waiting for me just around the bend.
Whether you’re paddling, cycling, or hiking, the right cook stove is key. The following MSR PocketRocket Stove Kit will last you a solid year on the trail — in 22 months, I’ve gone through. It stows away easy and the cook kit lights up my freeze dried meals in a flash. Through derechos and tornadoes and something-wicked-this-way-comes lightning storms, this stove kit has stood up.
FREEZE DRIED FOOD
I’ve gone through quite a few freeze-dried “adventure food” companies. And here are the ones I liked the best:
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