New Plan, Part II

In GEAR, Jessie and I, Travel by David58 Comments


Caveat: This is a post about gear. So many of you will get all glossy-eyed. Worse: it’s not even camera gear. This is a post about the gear I’ve chosen to live with on the on-going (if not somewhat interupted) nomadic adventure with Jessie. You will be forgiven if you just move on, not everyone cares about field kitchens and rooftop tents.

In February 2011 I sold my stuff, handed in the keys to the condo and left Vancouver with some haste. Just couldn’t wait to hit the road. That rush also meant I left home on a bit of a wing and a prayer, so I’m re-kitting the truck. I might not be able to walk just now but I can dream & scheme and start getting ready. One of the best resources I stumbled on was Kanz Outdoors. Run by Harald Kanz, this outfitter sells some top-rated expedition gear with excellent customer service. My mother nearly passed out when the UPS guys arrived within days of my getting home from the hospital.

My Autohome Columbus Variant rooftop tent (above on Jessie) has been amazing. I’ve slept some of the best sleeps of my life in this tent. My Western Mountaineering down sleeping bag is the most comfortable bag I’ve ever had. I could wear my Icebreaker clothing every day, and I did, right up until the Italian paramedics cut them from my broken little body when I had my accident. And when I asked Icebreaker if their warranty covered Italian EMTs with scissors, they said, “Not really” but replaced my clothes anyways. How’s that for fantastic service? My Patagonia H2No raingear rocks. Blundstone boots? Wouldn’t wear anything else.

A couple tiny Black Diamond ION headlamps slung over my rearview mirror mean I always have one, and the Black Diamond Titan (large) and Apollo (smaller) lanterns are amazing. The larger BD lantern takes D cells (4 of them!) so it’s get replaced by the Goal Zero Light-A-Life lanterns. My goal is to do this as sustainably as I possibly can for a vehicle-based trip. And for those looking at Jessie and thinking bad enviro-thoughts – she gives me 300 miles for a $50 tank of diesel, so she does extremely well! I’m also not powering an entire home.

My Virgin MiFi, while I was in the US, was awesome! Turned Jessie into a rolling WiFi hotspot for 5 devices. What’s not to love?! And while I only just got into the groove before the Italy trip, my 2 Hero GoPro HD cameras (mounted on Jessie in pics below) are SO, stinking cool, and infinitely mountable all over the Land Rover! I want one more. I have plans. Big plans. ๐Ÿ™‚

Rubbermaid ActionPackers to store my gear were really cheap and available, but they’re neither durable nor space efficient. I’ve replaced them with Zarges K470 aluminum cases, through Kanz Outdoors.

I had a small first aid kit and now looking long-term at this I’ve upgraded to a Denali Plus Wilderness Medical Kit from Wilderness Medical Systems . It’s not that I’m accident-prone or anything but, well, I tend to fall off walls and stuff. This kit ought to do me well, should I fall off a wall while holding it. ๐Ÿ™‚ I was going to get a kit to go into a Pelican 1600 EMT case but I’m trying to keep weight down. And, this’ll be a recurring theme, the customer service from the folks at WMS is amazing. I’ll be using them again.

The overly-trademarked PerfectFlowโ„ข InstaStartโ„ข Fold-N-Goโ„ข Colemanโ„ข stove was fine and worked well but for long-term travel and day-to-day living I wanted something more robust. I’ve replaced it with a Kanz Field Kitchen and stove that rocks so much it makes me smile. And if I want to hang it from a camel there are leather straps for that. And if I want to raft the Colorado, there’s a dry bag for that. Harald Kanz is the man, and this Field Kitchen is beautiful. And I’ll be getting a couple small refillable propane canisters, also from Kanz Outdoors. The small disposable, non-refillable, ones don’t sit well with me. While we’re talking Kanz, take a look at THIS and tell me it wouldn’t make a perfect field office! Add some foam and straps to hold laptops and harddrives down and you’ve got a perfect field office for post-production, etc. on the road. A perfect field office for someone with more space than I’ve got, but perfect all the same.

My no-name $300 12v fridge never worked. So it’s getting replaced with an Engel 35 which I’ve also ordered from Kanz. Putting ice in a cooler daily gets old, and when you’re carrying insulin as I am, and need cream for coffee, as I do, I need reliable protection from the heat.

Life on the road with cameras and ipads and laptops and lanterns means heavy power needs. I have two batteries in the Land Rover, one dedicated to powering gear, but pull over to camp for a couple days and you’ll want more power without turning the engine on. So I’ve picked up a couple solar panels, a solar generator, and an invertor, all from GoalZero, who is the first solar company I’ve seen to make this easy to understand. And their customer service is top notch. I wanted a specific package but I wanted flexible panels, not solid, and they made some suggestions and tweaks and made me my own package. A+ for the folks at GoalZero.

In addition to the new GoPro camera, I have finally picked up a BLUE-brand YETI USB-mic to record some things. I’m not going to give any hints, but this kind of mic seems like it might be just perfect for podcasts.

Inspiration is coming from Overland Journal, in part for the subject matter, and in part for the excellent writing and photography. And I finally tracked down a copy of The Vehicle-Dependent Expedition Guide. And speaking of tracking things down, I spent over a month without a hand-brake; the cable snapped just after San Francisco (probably because of San Francisco! Jessie and I nearly killed my editor, along with an $80,000 Mercedes sedan, on some of those hills) and I’ve just tracked down one of those too. So hurray for no more rocks as wheel chocks! (But you do need wheel chocks and THESE bad boys from ORTT are sweet! )

There will be more. The more entrenched in this adventure I become the more I simplify. Sadly that simplification often means getting rid of two or three things only to replace them with one that costs more. But I’m learning. Hoping to make it to Overland Expo in Arizona in 2012 and learn from the pros. If you’re coming let me know, we’ll get together for a meal and beer one evening. Otherwise, consider this the last of the Adventure-Geek-Out for a while. ๐Ÿ™‚


  1. Author

    LOL. Happy to help, Daniel. Geek away! Thanks for the kind words. The adventure continues regardless, but sure am looking forward to being reunited with Jessie!

  2. Man, I just seriously geeked out on this post! I’m getting caught up and so I’m a bit late to this, but as an aspiring freelance photographer/writer/world traveler, this kind of post is VERY interesting to me. Thanks for spilling the beans, here, Dave. Godspeed on your continued recovery and continued adventure.

  3. I would love to have the opportunity to travel like you. Hope you recover quickly so you can continue to enjoy traveling this beautiful planet making more amazing images.

  4. Dang it David! You inspired me again. Every time I read your dang blog I get inspired by you and its driving me nuts. Your making sitting in my little computer chair for my 8-10hrs at work dang uncomfortable……uggg,,,,,making me dream about outfitting my Subaru with a roof top tent and running around the USA taking photos! ugggg stop it! :OP….ok don’t stop I love it too much!

  5. Man, you and I need to sit back and have a beer for sure. I am also an lover of the camera and open road. But even more is that I have been in talks with Expedition Portal, Overland Journal’s web community. I am going to be helping them do some revamping of the way photos are integrated into the site. As that opportunity has come up, they have also invited me to some Overland Expos. Since I live in ABQ, NM, I want to try to get to AZ next year. If it all works out, a meal or beer is in order!

    I look forward to following you some more, picking up your books and hopefully meeting you.

  6. Hi David,
    Thanks for suggesting the waiting list. I’ve sent an email with the confirmation.

  7. Hey David,

    This post just had me check out all the gear and talking to my wife about some future plans to do adventures of this sort. She was game! Once we’re done school, we’ll be exploring the world.


  8. Author

    Vera, sorry to say the Ethiopian adventure is now full with a waiting list. But if you would like to get on that list, let me know and I’ll make sure you do. Thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Author

    Brian – Let’s do what we can to get that beer and talk in person about this out in the wild. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. David- All of your points are well taken, honest, and humbling. Living in this modern world is about juggling a lot of things, making sacrifices, and choosing your battles. Lives are measured in so much more than pounds of CO2, and I did not mean to suggest otherwise. Thanks for speaking your experience and for contributing so much to the community of consciousness.

  11. Author

    Brian, Not sure how to reply to this. I can’t see how my comment that I have a goal to do this adventure as sustainably as possible can be called “greenwash.” Would you prefer I said I don’t give a damn? In fact are we not on the same page? Why would anyone try to make decisions about their lifestyle and their carbon footprint if they didn’t share some of the same values?

    I do have a big footprint. But bigger than people with homes and children (think about that one – every friend of yours with kids has exponentially multiplied his own footprint) and a daily commute and laundry machines and dishwashers? I lived without a car for 6 years and walked where I could. I now live in a truck without heat or air conditioning and aim to provide my own power through solar. I eat locally when at all possible. I recycle. Is it perfect? No. The fact that I fly as much as I do is huge. I get that. So I try to offset it with other decisions. I think, in making your point, that you’ve been a bit harsh. I’m not trying to greewash anything, just to say that these things are important to me and where I can I am making decisions that allow me to be as responsible, sustainable, and leave-no-trace as possible. It’s a goal. I’m working towards it.

    But discuss this over a beer and a fire in Arizona, and have a chance to learn from someone who understands these things and cares enough about them to raise the subject? Yes please. Seriously, I’d love that.

  12. Whoa, if you think David’s carbon footprint is big, don’t come near my house! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  13. Hi David, I would love to join the Ethiopian adventure if it’s still possible. I’ve been trying for some time to fit one of your workshops around my schedule but it isn’t easy. January is one of the few months a can travel for a longer period and Ethiopia has been on top of my photographic agenda for a long time (it would be great to spend my birthday in a hot climate for a change) ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. I have been “sitting” with your post for a while. It’s interesting how we become invested in some people in blogisphere who inspire us and speak truths that connect us and who challenge us to move our own goalposts a bit further. In this way you, David, feel like a friend; someone I both like and trust. From your posts it seems that you too have made many friends in this process. So as your “friend” I found your reference to “sustainability” in this post ironic, so I guess I am challenging that greenwash, because of all of my friends, I can’t think of another who has a bigger carbon footprint. I am sure I will get negative comments from others in the community and my goal isn’t to shame or pick a fight or ride my high horse. We all make decisions and Lord knows that I ain’t no saint when it comes to using resources. But as someone who works everyday studying (and mitigating for) the impacts of climate change and other stressors on natural resources here in southern Arizona, I think it is important to be honest about our own footprints and begin to challenge our values and actions in this regard. Hopefully we can laugh about and discuss this and other things over a campfire and cold beer in the amazing wildlands of Arizona. Yell, maybe we will even drive there :+)

  15. Cool! Can I come with? Should I get my own Jessie, then? hehe! In any case, it sounds awesome, David! An overland trip has been on my list of to do’s for a few years now, and one for photographic purposes sounds even better! Glad to see you’re dreaming of your (near) future plans! Blessings on your continual recovery! :c)

  16. Author

    Thank you, Ron. Always nice to hear from you. I’m glad to. I really am. Life is short enough.

  17. David, this is good stuff. Thanks for sharing it.

    Vision is good. Gear is good too; nothing wrong with it.

    Hope your recovery is progressing well. Been thinking about you a lot lately. Don’t know if I ever said this explicitly, but I’m really glad you didn’t die when you fell. I know, I know, you are too; and so is your mom. ๐Ÿ™‚

    All the best,

  18. Pingback: Today’s Shared Links for July 14, 2011 – Chuqui 3.0

  19. Not sure how much driving you are doing in the wilderness, but these are invaluable for emergencies:
    We had one when driving in the more remote parts of Australia, luckily never needing to use it. It was a nice piece of mind in a small package for those times when a mobile phone doesn’t work.

  20. Hey David, Landys are cool, but it sounds like you have a serious gear habit/addiction! I need to get round to buying some of your beautiful books so I can support your habit:-) If it starts to get to expensive, come and live with me – I’m currently on a year long photography commission (involving sound and video production also) where I am travelling by bike and train. Having to power my own kit, including camping gear, around has certainly forced me to cut down. Just shout if you want to join me, or maybe I should join you as you look like you are having a great time too:-) Have fun, Mike

  21. Those Zarges look super cool (tough and stackable), but neither cheap nor light -should last though. Thought you had more Pelican/Storm cases; those aren’t exactly space efficient either. BTW- if you’ve had both, which do you like better (Storm vs Pelican)? B/c this is a gear post, did you see SBL just came out with belts?

  22. The Icebreaker customer service sounds absolutely how everyone should behave… congratulations… Got an Engel 45, which hasn’t been off since I bought it nearly 4 years ago.. one of the best purchases I have ever made… can plug it in anywhere, and simply works… Great to hear your recovery is going well, and you are already planning your next adventure… more power to you… best wishes,

  23. Author

    Dave – I don’t have, yet. But it’s coming. Kelly Kettles are amazing!

  24. You could be a salesman for outdoor travel equipment. Good descriptions and feedback on the products.

    By the way, what happened to the camera you were shooting with when you had your unfortunate fall from the wall? How about the camera card? Were you able to salvage the images?

    Just curious.

  25. WOW – awesome stuff, David. For a second, I thought I was reading transcript from a Nascar race, but a quick look at the head mast told me I was still on your blog. When you’re back in the ATL, will there be a “party at Zack’s place, part II?”

  26. I read this post and chuckled then had to send it on to my Hubby. He’s the ‘everything but camera-gear’ guy and I just know he’s going to drool. I am.

    I look at your list and think…oh, I have the cedar strip canoe! If you ever plan on coming through Minnesota give us a heads up, we could take a jaunt into the BWCA or the North Shore. I have a feeling you’d like it.

  27. Author

    Kathleen – Now yer getting it! ๐Ÿ™‚ You know you can drive from Alaska to Argentina? And ship trucks to Europe from whence one can drive to Africa and Asia? ๐Ÿ™‚ Not saying it’ll happen, but you never know…

  28. Exciting gear talk… can feel your energy growing… probably driving your mom crazy too.. and not just because of the delivery trucks… remember gotta get all that stuff back to Jessie too…

  29. What’s not to like? It is ALL good…looking forward to your adventures. Best of luck!

  30. Nice! So if you get a 2nd one, does that mean you have to outfit that one in Europe the same way? ๐Ÿ™‚
    This post actually makes me want to pack up and hit the road, back brace and all!
    Still waiting to hear that you have amended your North America route to include Wisconsin, a Chris Craft, beer, and a lake.

  31. Oh what fun it is to plan and shop.

    Bonus points to Icebreaker. They are a favorite at our house as well. We wear everything in their line right down to the underwear.

  32. Author

    Rosa – Oh, it’ll fit alright. But don’t think that I haven’t looked longingly at the longer Defender 110 many times. I just wish I had room for a cedar-strip canoe and a ๐Ÿ™‚

    Bruce, talk like that will get you into trouble. Or a free beer next time we’re together. Could go either way. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Art, welcome here!

    CJ – Stop buying cameras and come to Africa with us this January.

    HeidiRenee –

    Andrea – I will most certainly be in/around Toronto. Keep an eye on the blog. It’d be great to meet.

  33. About a month or so I go my own GoPro camera and love it. It mounts everywhere my bike, boat etc… I’m having a blast with it and want a second one. Can’t wait to see what you come up with.

  34. The best medicine/therapy to speed your healing is planning and preping for what you’ll do as soon as your body heals. Wonderful that you have your enthusiasm back!

  35. Just started reading your blog, and love it! Hoping to get my first good digital SLR this fall/winter (a Nikon D7000). Can’t wait to start having my own adventures!

  36. Laugh these post just make my end spind. The thpught of living in such a small space is wild! Glad to see you will be on the road sooner than later. September will be here soon ๐Ÿ™‚

    If you ever make into Toronto send me an email would love tomget a chance to meet you.


  37. Thanks David – next time we are in Portland or Bar Harbor (or maybe I can find them online) we’ll make sure to stop

  38. Author

    Ivan – No, Jessie is still living with friends in Atlanta. Hoping I can go get her at end of August, but might have to be end of September instead.

  39. Author

    HeidiRenee – Do you have a Mountain Equipment Co-op near you? Best bet is a couple solutions – one for day to day, the other for things like Kayaking. MEC has all kinds of little pouches, cases, dry-cases, etc. I use one that was made as a small toiletries kit, throw it in a small backpack or satchel. Not manly, per so, but it’s black and also holds some glucose and extras.

  40. Hi David! so glad you’re getting mobile again – we would love to see you and Jesse in New Brunswick anytime! This post reminded me that I had been meaning to ask you about your diabetic kit – is there anything you can recommend that is small, portable, masculine and waterproof? Jacob is 13 now and carries a camera case everywhere with him to hold his insulin (not on a pump yet) – but would like to go kayaking, etc and I’m at odds as to how to keep his gear dry, cool and small enough to tote around hands free – any suggestions?

  41. I’m so excited for you to get back out on the road and keep the adventure rolling. Your enthusiasm is, as always, infectious and inspiring. It sounds like all the road gear is going to be functional and fun. Podcast? Don’t mind if you do ๐Ÿ™‚

    Also, I want one of those roof tents. Like yesterday ๐Ÿ™‚ That thing looks so cool, and you’re pretty safe from bears ๐Ÿ˜€

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