After traversing across America for 22 months, paddling 22 rivers and waterways, and schlepping an armada of expedition duds across 22 states, Neal gets asked quite a lot about his gear. What works, what stands up, and value for money, what he’d recommend (note as an Amazon associate, Neal earns from qualifying purchases). So here it is: a comprehensive list of exactly what he’s used and abused, plus links to where you can find it.
ECONOMY WATERPROOF DRY BAGS:
Neal’s a huge fan of DryPak waterproof dry bags. He bought his 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, he selected their size L and XL for this journey, lugging the duo right the way across the nation. Day in and night out, from sea to shining sea.
PREMIUM DRY PACK BAGS:
On the upper end of the spectrum, he adventured along this journey with a duo of premium pack 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 likewise go the distance. At Amazon you can get them for a better deal than NRS. Neal went with the Watershed Big Creek Dry Day Pack & the NRS 110L Heavy-Duty Bill’s Bag (do pay the extra $10 for the heavy-duty version).
CANOE SEAT BACKER
He’s a fan of the GCI SitBacker, which he sees as a must. They do have a shelf life, however. Neal went through one every three to four months of continuous paddling. So in his resupply boxes for the various seasons, he had a new one waiting for him just around the bend.
You want your towel to be ultra-light and dry fast, and the Sea-to-Summit Drylight towel was on board Neal’s journey from start to finish.
A good knife is a must. And the Buck Knives 110 Folding Hunter Lock-Back Knife is pretty cool. Neal used this knife coming down the Mississippi in 2009, on his first attempt to cross the country in 2018, and again in 2020-2021.
An expedition tent has two purposes: one, as a shelter for yourself and your gear; and two, as a place to safely store your gear as you walk into a village or town to re-supply. Neal utilized two tents on his 2020-2021 crossing. Neal’s first tent was a vintage, discontinued 1980s Moss Titan which model occasionally comes up on eBay. The second was the Big Agnes Battle Mountain 3-person tent. Why the 3-man for a single traveler? When it storms and snows and sleets and rains, you want to keep not only yourself but your gear dry. The Battle Mountain is a cinch to put up in the light or after dark, and will stand up to anything mother nature might hurl your way.
Neal used the Exped SynMat XP 7 Insulated Sleeping Pad in 2018 and again in 2020-2021. This pad is easy to inflate and deflate and absolutely goes the distance. It’ll keep your body in comfort whether you set up on sand, pebbles, grass, cement, or hard earth. In Neal’s 22-month crossing of America, he went through two, so if you use one every night for a year, it’ll see you through.
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, Neal went through two. The kit stows away easy and the cook kit lit up his freeze dried meals in a flash. Through derechos and tornadoes and something-wicked-this-way-comes thunder storms, this stove kit has stood up.
FREEZE DRIED FOOD
Neal went through quite a few freeze-dried “adventure food” companies. The following are the ones he liked the best:
Neal’s expedition companion was a circa 2009 Old Town Penobscot 16RX he lovingly calls The Shannon, named after a now-defunct Taipei pub. The canoe is 16 feet long, 35 inches wide and bright red. She weighs in at 60 pounds and can carry up to 1,440 pounds (Neal routinely carried half of that). He liked the Penobscot’s 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, he’d jump (he found his on Facebook Marketplace, but you can also try eBay and Craigslist). The Royalex construction makes for a lightweight, affordable and highly resistant material to trek across this country, or yours.
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As an Amazon associate, Neal earns from qualifying purchases.