A LIST OF EXPEDITION-TESTED & RECOMMENDED GEAR FROM THE “22 RIVERS” ODYSSEY
After schlepping an armada of expedition gear (a canoe and everything that goes with it) across America, Neal often gets asked about his gear list. What works, what holds up, and value for money, what he’d recommend.
So whether you’re headed onto the trail, the lakes, or the river, here it is: a comprehensive list of exactly what he’s tried-and-tested, plus links to where you can find it.
As an Amazon affiliate, if you buy something via the links below, Neal may earn a commission. Which will go towards his next adventure. Thanks!
On a long-haul expedition, a 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 on his 2020-2021 odyssey across America. The first tent was a vintage, now-discontinued 1980’s Moss Titan Tent, which model occasionally comes up second hand. The second was the best-selling Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL – UltralightBackpacking Tent — which now comes in a “Long” more generous version for those of us over 6 feet tall (note: the “Long” version gives you about 4 extra inches of leg room and overhead space). For the journey ahead, you want something solid, a shelter of substance. And the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL Tent will see you through.
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL – UltralightBackpacking Tent
Yes, you’ll want the Big Agnes Footprint to protect the undercarriage of your home away from home.
Big Agnes Footprints for Copper Spur Series Tents (HV UL, Hotel, Classic, Platinum, & Expedition)
For a camp chair you can use outside and inside your tent, the Helinox Chair Zero Ultralight foots the bill. The great thing about this style of chair that most campers don’t know is that yes, you can use it as pictured right side up, but if you flip it around, placing the back flat onto the inside of your tent and lean your back into the seat, it acts as a perfect backrest. You can slide it into your sleeping bag and just like that, penciling a journal entry or deciphering your maps, or reading a copy of The Complete Paddler is all the more pleasurable. The Helinox Chair Zero Ultralight is an excellent choice. Because, it’s an original and it’ll hold up. Time used: all 22 months.
Helinox Chair Zero Ultralight 1.1 Lb Backpacking Chair, Black
Neal used the Exped SynMat XP 7 Insulated Sleeping Pad in 2020-2021. This pad is easy to inflate and deflate and absolutely goes the distance. Neal found the Medium to be the perfect size for his 3-person tent – not too small and not too wide. It’ll keep your body in comfort whether you set up on sand, pebbles, grass, cement, or hard earth. Time used: in his 22-month crossing of America, Neal went through two. So if you use this model, you could absolutely use it every night for a year.
Exped SynMat XP 7 Insulated Sleeping Pad, Terracotta, Medium
Note: You might want to think about the Exped DeepSleep Mat 7.5 – Self-Inflating, Lightweight, and Comfortable Luxurious Sleeping Mat, Ocean, Medium Wide. It comes in at a little less money.
Exped DeepSleep Mat 7.5 – Self-Inflating, Lightweight, and Comfortable Luxurious Sleeping Mat, Ocean, Medium Wide
Neal utilized the Therm-a-Rest Compressible Travel Pillow and it worked out great. Compressing down for travel and opening right back up for sleep. And to lay against your upturned Helionix Camp Chair as the perfect inside-the-tent backrest. In two years of camping wild most nights, Neal went through two, so he can tell you that this pillow will last a good solid year on the trail. A super wise investment.
Therm-a-Rest Compressible Travel Pillow for Camping, Backpacking, Airplanes and Road Trips, Amethyst
On a journey by canoe across the country, you worry about wind temperature, the potential for severe weather, and a ton of other factors out on the water. So when you propel yourself safely to shore and set up camp for the night, you want to know and appreciate that you’re covered. That come 2am, you won’t find yourself too hot or too cold. And this is where the North Face “The One Bag” earns its price of admission. Slide yourself into a North Face “The One Bag” and you’re guaranteed to feel just right.
The North Face One Bag Camping Sleeping Bag
SLEEPING BAG LINER
The Sea to Summit Reactor Insulated Sleeping Bag Liner is easy to stuff inside your sleeping bag. It’ll keep you warm in the harshest of winters (Neal went through three), and come the warm months, you can use it as your sleeping bag by itself.
Sea to Summit Reactor Insulated Sleeping Bag Liner
THE COOKING SYSTEM
Whether you’re paddling, cycling, or hiking, the right cook stove is key. The following MSR PocketRocket Ultralight Camping and Backpacking Stove Kit will last you a solid year on the trail. Like other items on the list, 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. And with the double set of bowls and utensils, washing up is all the easier, and if you meet a fellow wayward traveller on adventure, you’re covered.
MSR PocketRocket Ultralight Camping and Backpacking Stove Kit
FREEZE DRIED FOOD
Neal went through quite a few freeze-dried “adventure food” companies. The following are the ones he liked the best:
GOOD TO-GO Food Kit Assortments | Dehydrated Backpacking and Camping | Lightweight | Easy to Prepare
Mountain House Expedition Bucket | Freeze Dried Backpacking & Camping Food | 30 Servings
Backpacker’s Pantry Pad Thai – Freeze Dried Backpacking & Camping Food – Emergency Food – 23 Grams of Protein, Vegan, Gluten Free
Backpacker’s Pantry Fettuccini Alfredo with Chicken – Freeze Dried Backpacking & Camping Food – Emergency Food – 40 Grams of Protein – 6 Count
Backpacker’s Pantry Shepherd’s Potato Stew with Beef – Freeze Dried Backpacking & Camping Food – Emergency Food – 27 Grams of Protein, Gluten-Free – 6 Count
Backpacker’s Pantry Three Cheese Mac & Cheese – Freeze Dried Backpacking & Camping Food – Emergency Food – 24 Grams of Protein, Vegetarian
ReadyWise Emergency Food Supply, Freeze-Dried Survival-Food Disaster Kit for Hurricane Preparedness, Camping Food, Prepper Supplies, Emergency Supplies, Entrée Variety-Pack Bucket, 120 Servings
SMALL DRY PACKS
Neal’s a huge fan of DryPak waterproof dry bags. He bought the following model as a stop-gap in Astoria, Oregon and quite simply kept it on board across the whole country. They’re affordable, easy to handle, and hold up incredibly well.
LARGE WATERPROOF DRY BAGS
On the upper end of the spectrum, Neal adventured along this journey with a premium dry bag. Canoeing long distance is more than just paddling. It’s hauling like a mule in fair weather and foul. This example will cost you more, double as a backpack in and out of camp, and likewise go the distance. At Amazon you can get them for a screaming deal. Neal went with the NRS 110L Heavy-Duty Bill’s Bag (do pay the extra $10 for the heavy-duty version).
NRS Zippered Expedition DriDuffel
THE BEAR VAULT
BearVault Bear Canister for Backpacking. 4 Sizes: BV500, BV475, BV450, BV425. Bear Resistant Food Container for Camping, Hiking, Fishing, Canoeing, Hunting, bikepacking. Bear Vault is Bear Safe!
Your marine radio is arguably the most important investment you’re going to make, and the Cobra MR HH350 FLT Handheld Floating VHF Radio is affordable, floatable, and will keep you in contact with the river traffic coming at you from all directions. With the radio, when you approach a fleet of idling tows or waiting barges, you can announce yourself to give them a heads up of your location and your intention. Communication on the water is absolutely key. You can also listen in to what the tow captains are saying to each other (going out of their way to help the other pass safely), and when they mention you and your kayak or canoe, you can chime in and tell them you see them and will stay out of their way. Having a marine radio shows respect for the other craft on the water, and I would argue, can save your life.
Cobra MR HH350 FLT Handheld Floating VHF Radio – 6 Watt, Submersible, Noise Cancelling Mic, Backlit LCD Display, NOAA Weather, and Memory Scan, Grey
Neal’s Muck Boots Edgewater Classics were an absolute necessity. As a paddler, you’re continually making your way onto what’s an often mucky shore. Going back and forth to get your gear out of your craft, and then come first light, pushing your way back out into the water. Neal found the Muck Boots Edgewater Classics will keep you dry (they’re 100% waterproof). And what’s really amazing is in the spring and the fall, they’ll keep your feet cool while in the snow and the sleet and the downpours of winter they’ll keep your feet warm. On his 22 month journey, he went through two pairs. So you can plan a single pair for a full year of abuse. They’re solid, sturdy, and equally important, will see you through.
Muck Boot Men’s Edgewater Classic Mid Calf Boot
In cold weather you want wool to keep your feet warm and dry. Smartwool Men Classic Hike Extra Cushion Crew socks go super nice with the Muck Boots above. They’re a little expensive, but they’re value for money – they last and they work.
Smartwool Men Classic Hike Extra Cushion Crew
attwood 14190-7 Water-Resistant Portable Clamp-On LED Light Kit with Marine Gray Finish
Neal’s expedition companion was a bright red Old Town Penobscot Canoe he lovingly called The Shannon (named after a now-defunct Taipei pub). He liked the Penobscot’s trusted design, conjuring the Indigenous American lines of yesteryear. He utilized the 1,500 pound payload, routinely carrying half of that. And then there was the peace of mind, that this is a canoe that was always going to go the distance. Should you desire a leisurely paddle across the lake, a hopscotch across the Boundary Waters, or a full-tilt trek across North America, the Old Town Penobscot Canoe is an exceptional choice.