The Great Adventure

Gear Drive

Here’s what scares me. It’s not just walking, biking and paddling farther than most people drive. It’s not the Mexico border, or the Amazon rainforest. It’s that it all starts so soon.

To calm myself I’ve been assembling my gear. Recently, readers asked what exactly I’m taking with me. What do you take to walk 8,000 miles?

The answer isn’t clear. I’ve priced everything out and I have a wishlist, but the money I’ve saved isn’t nearly enough. There are going to be some tough choices. 

Photo by Beth Varro.

Here’s the dream team:


$160 — OR Highland Bivy (like a tent coffin!)

$180 — 20°F rated sleeping bag, for my toesies.


$225 — ULA Camino Backpack (designed by backpackers, for backpackers)

$30 — A week of food… very, very simple food.


$60 — “MyBottle” water bottle with purifying straw. Sexy.

$45 — Gerber super lightweight hatchet. Perfect for home defense.

$140 — Shoes! Final pick TBA (so suspenseful)

$27 — Outdoor Research Drysack. Keeps my laptop dry even underwater!

$7 — Every adventurer carries rope.


$300 — Smartphone. (My first ever, don’t tell anyone.)

$485 — Smaller, lighter notebook computer. So’s you can still read these blog posts.

Grand total: $1659

I’ve saved $800 toward this, leaving $859 to go. And I’d like to ask you to help.

One of the things I’ve learned over and over from experienced backpackers is that gear is vital. The right equipment keeps you safe from injury and lets you tough out the worst conditions.

To help secure that gear before I go, I’ve started a donation page. Many of you have asked how you can help as I get ready to leave, and if you’re able, this is the best way. Please click below and help support the Great Adventure.

Any size gift helps. You can sponsor a specific piece of gear, or give your lucky number. The amount is totally up to you.

As a special incentive…

  • If you give $50 or more I will send you handwritten postcards from three cities: Minneapolis, St. Louis and New Orleans.
  • If you give $100 or more I’ll give you a private meditation lesson. We can do the session “in person” by Skype. And you get the postcards, too!

Gifts of any amount are truly appreciated, and will help me out every day. Thank you!


35 thoughts on “Gear Drive

  1. Have you considered obtaining sponsorships from companies, or grants from various organizations/companies?

    Also, I’m confused with your food amounts. How long are you planning the trip to be, and thus what are your total food costs?

    • Good question on the food. The trip will take a minimum of 2 years to reach Rio de Janeiro, and likely much longer. So obviously I’ll need more than one week of food! But I’ll only be carrying about a week’s worth when I set out, so I just put a week’s rations on there.

      It’s been hard looking for corporate sponsorships – I used to work in that field professionally, so I feel comfortable doing it, but most companies won’t sponsor anything that sounds vaguely religious. And it’s a little hard to honestly spin a quest to meet the gods any other way. Usually they want to sponsor charity walks.

      • That’s what I thought about, too. If your walk was for a specific charity, then a sponsorship would be easy to obtain. Religious or philosophical sponsorship is a tough one because, unless it’s evangelical (the largest of the mainstream religions with the most money in the U.S.) you won’t have much luck finding funding. However… I *hope* you will find some generous people out there who believe in what you are doing, Drew. Maybe not money-wise, but at the very least, who will help you get by.

  2. you might want to get the kindle app for you pc or phone, and download books on what plants and animals are edible, and how best to prepare them. basic fire-starting supplies and cooking gear might not be a bad choice. If you’re only going with a week of basic food, you will want to be able to supplement as you go along (since I don’t know how much “petty cash” you’re planning on having access to). I’d read through the survival/food books before or shortly into your trip. If something happens and your gear gets jacked, you might not be in a place to call off the trip. Best be prepared.

    my humble thoughts

    • Ah! Great suggestions Lucius. I should’ve said – this isn’t all the gear I’m taking with me, but I have some of the other stuff (such as fire making supplies) already from my previous outdoors experience.

      I feel pretty good about finding edible plants already, at least in the area I’m starting in, though I intend to learn new ones in each new biome I enter. I hadn’t thought of getting kindle books on the topic… do you think it’s safe learning which plants to eat from a book? I’ve only ever learned with in-person instruction before.

      • Well, no doubt in person is the best way to learn safe foods. That said, you get lost somewhere, a book with pictures and information on the plant and what it can be used for is a good back up. Certainly, better than trial an error, or just not knowing. Also, books on local animals is good. You want to know which ones can kill you when it comes to toxins and stuff.

        I know i’ve seen several pagan blogs talk about the need to get such books when first exploring your local area. Certainly, if they weren’t useful, they probably wouldn’t have been published since, well, near the beginning of mass publications. a physical book might be better than a kindle, but since you’re traveling, you wanna keep the weight down, rather than having to cart a book for every biome you go through.

        • Haha, this is awesome. I love it. (And it seems reasonable to me. I’ve often done a less rigorous version of eating one leaf and waiting two hours, but that’s in Wisconsin/Minnesota where I know that one leaf alone won’t kill me.)

  3. I’m sure that you’ve done all of your research on what gear you want/need, but have you checked a Military surplus store? They may have cheaper options for the pack, sleeping bag, hatchet and rope.

    I was just at CC Military Surplus over in Maplewood the other day getting some 550 cord and they have a ton of stuff.

    Also, if you are getting something like 550 cord, you can braid it to make it into useful things (ie: lanyard or even a bracelet) and then also have rope when needed.

  4. mike says:

    A large lightweight towel. It is an easy to carry multipurpose item. It can be used as a bandage, tourniquit, or to help tie a splint. You can use it as a sunshade, for insulation, for a makeshift pillow. You can soak it in any natural body of water to help you cool off, or wrap it around your head while it is dry to help keep you warm. These are just a few of the uses, and it is easy to carry or pack.

  5. Get the on-line book for plant ID so you can learn as you go, but if you speak the language ask local people if you are thinking of eating something you forage before you actually do. Learn a few basic common plants that are edible and stick with them when there is no one around to ask. Older people would probably know more about the local flora and fauna, and may enjoy being asked their opinion. ALthough you may not smoke , it might be a good idea to carry some tobacco on you to offer as a gift to elder folk in rural areas.

    • Great ideas Niniann. I especially love the tobacco idea. I’ll probably need to carry a variety of small gifts with me as befits the area… that would be a particularly transportable, yet thoughtful one.

  6. Arden says:

    So that water bottle. Probably just about the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life. EVER. Damn.

    I’m unable to help out this month, but: the minute you set up the serial fiction/personal stories journal stuff (are those the same thing?), let us know and I’ll be first in line… :)

    • Ha! I’m glad you asked, Arden. I do still hope to launch Confessions, which is dispatches from the great adventure (personal anecdotes). That will hopefully be available as a pay-what-you-will subscription in a month or so; I’m building the infrastructure right now.

      The serial fiction is, unfortunately, farther out. I have episodes written but need to decide on the format of the site and then build it.

      Glad to hear you’re interested in those – I’ll get them out as quick as I can.

  7. I *so* wish I had money, or more, to help you out. But does it help to let you know that during the “super full moon” last weekend I remembered you in my prayers and wishes?

    Just sayin’… spiritual support always helps. ;-)

    • I appreciate the spiritual support, Val. No one should feel obliged to donate – I understand we all have our financial hurdles. For those who are able to give it’s appreciated, but just having so many enthusiastic readers is a huge source of support on its own. Thanks for all you do.

  8. Jamie Van Nostrand says:

    Umm Drew – I distinctly remember sitting in a meeting with you wherein you said that it was inappropriate for a non-profit organization to ask for money using social media….What gives?


    • Hahaha. For those who don’t know, Jamie and I used to work together at a large museum – where we had very different views on online fundraising :)

      (And what I actually said was fundraising through Facebook tends to annoy your followers unless it’s done very, very infrequently!)

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