On August 2nd Jackson Berger and I will head out west on another Fight to SOAR adventure. This time joining us will be Arkansas photographer and Overland Collective founder Josh Aldrige.
This trip will be a little different as I hope to try and make it more interactive. I'll be using Facebooks live feed, Instagram, snapchat and creating short episodes to make a social media reality adventure show. So be sure to like all of my social pages to follow along.
We will be showcasing gear, visiting National Parks, rivers, lakes and make some amazing memories with good ole friendship and adventure. Y'all know about me so let's start by introducing you to the guys and learning a little more about them.
Jackson is the Creative Lead for Flomotion, a Florida Lifestyle Apparel Company.
When he is not at the Flomotion headquarters, you can find him traversing some of the most remote locations across the globe. He currently shoots for Gray Outdoors in an effort to raise awareness for some of America's suffering rivers.
Jackson's goal in shooting photos is to capture the untouched beauty of the environment in an effort to inspire people to protect and preserve the planet. By capturing views that few people will ever get the opportunity to see, he hopes to be able to showcase the true beauty of the planet and maybe people will think twice about protecting the environment for future generations to enjoy.
1. What's one thing you've always wanted to do? Jax: Live out of a van for an extended period of time with the goal of seeing some of the most unique environments in the US while meeting interesting people along the way.
2. What's one piece of gear you always have on an adventure and why? Jax: My Canon 7D Mark ii. Although the the best pictures are the ones you never take...
3. What's the strangest thing you've eaten?
jax: Yak at Everest Base Camp.
4. If you could give one piece of advice what would it be? Jax: Don't get sucked into the treadmill of society. Break all the rules and never settle for something if it doesn't make you happy.
5. Have you ever had a close encounter with a wild animal? Jax: Never anything too serious. The thrill of knowing I'm surrounded by predators in the middle of the woods is one of my favorite parts of being off the grid.
Josh Aldridge is an adventure journalist and photographer, the founder of Overland Collective, and a contributing editor for Gear Junkie. His work has taken him to some of the world's most remote areas and over more miles of US highway than he cares to remember. When not out to sea or in the bush, he keeps busy modifying (or fixing) his old Jeep for the next trip, testing gear, and poring over maps. He lives in Fayetteville, AR with his wife—Natalie, and their two-and-a-half dogs—Hank, Indy Anna, and Meg (a rabbit with an identity crisis).
1. What's one thing you've always wanted to do? Josh: I've always wanted to follow Marco Polo's sea route from China to the Middle East.
2. What's one piece of gear you always have on an adventure and why? Josh: I carry a rigger's knife with a folding marlin spike. It's essential at sea and has proven incredibly useful on land as well.
3. What's the strangest thing you've eaten?
Josh: In my travels, I've eaten a lot of strange foods (and some stuff that really shouldn't be called food). The only thing I'd never eat again is balut. It's truly awful but I'm glad I tried it once.
4. If you could give one piece of advice what would it be? Josh: My advice to everyone is to remember that right and wrong aren't subjective. When faced with any choice, do what's right and let the consequence follow. You'll never regret it.
5. Have you ever had a close encounter with a wild animal? Josh: I've been attacked by a cayman, had a raccoon steal a granola bar out of my hand, been chased by elk, and had a rather unhappy hippo pop up a few feet away from where I was standing. That being said, my wildest and most dangerous encounters have always been with people.
In nature and in life everything has a series of stages it takes on its journey. The life of some rivers begins high in the mountains where alpine lakes fed from snow melt, meander down to create the headwaters to some of Americas largest rivers. It's this cycle of life for lakes and rivers I hope to showcase on this one of a kind SUP adventure.
On August 2nd Jackson Berger and I along with Garmin videographer Jake Martin and photographer Josh Aldrige will set off on a journey to the jagged lake filled mountains in the Sawtooth Wilderness in Idaho. We'll flyfish and hike SUPs 60 miles into and throughout this amazing area, this will be a first for SUP and will showcase one of the most beautiful wildernesses and rivers in the country. We will then hike out of the mountains to the salmon river and paddle 20 miles back to where we started to complete the trip.
This wilderness along with its connecting wild lands are crucial for the nation. As our nations population grows these areas shrink, so we must protect them with everything we have. With this expedition I hope to show you the magic of adventure, friendship, life of a river but most importantly the cycle. So I'm excited to present the new logo for the trip by Jackson Berger and welcome you to Gray Outdoors next Fight to SOAR expedition "The Cycle" presented by Garmin sponsored by Boardworks SUP, Orvis and GoalZero.
The National Park Service turns 100 years old this year and I was lucky enough to get invited to kick off NPS week for the Buffalo NPS. I was also asked to be a keynote speaker for the ARAP conference at horseshoe canyon ranch and talk about fight to SOAR and reconnecting our youth to the outdoors through SUP adventure.
The University of Arkansas outdoor rec department host a conference every year for young leaders of university outdoor programs from around the U.S. Its a held at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch which is a working dude ranch and one of the best climbing destinations in the nation.
The presentation was held in an old barn that had climbing holds lining its walls. This was my first real speaking engagement so my nerves were on high alert, but the atmosphere and amazing youth attending made it a lot easier to deal with. I haven't thrown a rope in a while, luckily they had a roping dummy outside so I got to distract myself with that and teach a few others to rope as well.
The presentation was a huge success and I think it hit home with a lot of the youth there. The next day was a full day of SUP camping clinics for the Buffalo National Park on the Buffalo River. I was very excited to introduce SUP and SUP camping to a lot of new people.
After the classes we took a paddle with a few of the students down the river. I love seeing people get excited about SUP and the outdoors and this little paddle made me the happiest teacher ever. In two miles I saw growth, pure honest joy and a fire inside each one of them that was ignited from this short adventure. Thanks to Garmin I was able document this trip and I'm working on a small video, I can't wait to share! We also had some amazing photographers Josh Aldrige and Terra Fondriest join us as well.
When I first started going out for extended periods on my stand up paddleboard (SUP) I remember paddling up to docks along the river and searching for outlets to get a quick charge. Getting tired of being run off docks and with trips getting farther away from civilization, I started using external batteries and eventually I started searching out solar panels. The purpose of these trips are to help connect people to the outdoors, spread awareness of its beauty and also the issues affecting it and in today's world electronics are a huge part of that. So I'm stoked to share a little bit of what I've learned with y'all about keeping them charged.
Before we get started lets determine what exactly you will be charging (phone, laptop, GPS, etc...) and figure how much it will take to charge them. Personally I usually carry an iPhone, two Garmin Virb cameras, Fenix 3 and rechargeable headlamp. Most smart phones run between 1400 - 3000 mAh (milliampere-hour), Action cameras 980 - 1100 mAh, Fenix 3 300 mAh, Headlamp 880 mAh, all of these require at least 5 volts to charge. So if you want to charge your iPhone 6s which the battery size on it is 1,750 mAh, you would need a external battery size of 8,000 -10, 000 mAh in order to get 4 to 6 charges out of it. Milliamp hours (mAh) is used to determine how long a battery will last with a constant power draw, also for storage as well.
External Battery requirements
External batteries come in all shapes and sizes, the larger the capacity usually the bigger and heavier the battery will be. So definitely think about the device you're charging and how long you will be away from power to determine the size battery you need.
- Figure out the size battery you will be charging
- Figure out how many times you want to charge it and how long you will be away from power.
- Once you figure out the size battery you're charging multiply that by how many charges you would like to get out of the external battery.
Other considerations are speed of charging, user friendliness, weight and accessories. When looking at the speed pay attention to the amps instead of the volts. Anything with an output of 2-3 amps will charge your device that much faster than a .5 - 1 amp battery. How easy is the battery to use? Does it charge more than one device and does it have a battery life display? Whats the weight and does it have a light built into the battery? These are all things to look at when selecting an external battery for your next adventure. Here are a few that I've used and like.
Goalzero Venture 30, check out full specs by clicking on the picture
Goalzero Sherpa 100, click on picture for full specs
GOpuck 5x, click pic for full specs
Solar Panel Requirements
Portable solar has come a long way and there are a multitude of companies making panels now ranging from 60$ to 600$ plus. Here is what you want to look for in selecting a panel that is right for you, output, portability, material. I've used and like the Goalzero 20watt nomad, Mercury10 watt instapark, Goalzero 7 watt nomad and 7 watt rollable powerfilm panel.
Panels run from 3 watts to 100 watts and higher, but what you want to think about is the amps that they produce. You can charge straight from the panel but it's best if you pair them with a external battery, most companies sell kits. If your panel is only feeding your device at .5 to .8 amps it will charge but will take longer, some panels are regulated in the output they provide. Here are some of the readings I got from each panel using a Droke USB tester.
From left to right 1st row: PowerFilm 7watt and GoalZero Nomad 7 watt
From left to right 2nd row: GoalZero Nomad 20 watt and Instapark Mercury 10 watt
This is important since you most likely will be backpacking or paddling with little storage for large bulky heavy panels, you need to think of how much room you have, length of trip and power needed. Most panels made now are very compact and durable, some are even rollable which is amazing, so this category is up to personal preference.
Left to right: GoalZero Sherpa 100/Nomad20 Kit, GoalZero Venture 30/Nomad 7 watt kit, Instapark Mercury 10 paired with GOpuck 5x, Rollable PowerFilm 7 watt panel
Most panels are made from mono-crystalline and some companies like Powerfilm are using a material that is flexible, rollable and waterproof. Most panels are safe for use in light rain and snow, Goalzero's Venture 30 has a weather rating of ipx6 which means it has been tested for heavy splashing and rain. The Venture 30 paired with a Nomad 7 or 20 is perfect for SUP and hiking adventures.
Left to right: PowerFilm 7 watt flexible and rollable, GoalZero Nomad 7 watt mono-crystalline, Instapark Mercury 10, GoalZero Nomad 20 watt
This is a brief breakdown of what I have learned throughout my travels, I know there is still quite a bit to learn but I hope this helps you in choosing a system that works for you. Fill free to comment or ask any questions you may have I'll answer them the best I can.
I'm excited to bring Kifaru to the Gray Outdoors family and I love teaming up with American made companies that love the outdoors. This year we have a unique trip planned for SUP adventuring and it wouldn't be possible with out the help of Kifaru and their amazing packs. Before our expedition in August we will be breaking down our gear and training for the trip.
Check them out at www.kifaru.net
I have been Leading SUP expeditions for while now and actually started teaching, Intro to SUP Expedition classes. I love helping paddlers break out of their normal routine and experience this side of the sport. The more they get out and enjoy the outdoors paddling on their local lakes and rivers the more they will want to protect those waterways. This is just a small insight into SUP camping, hopefully these tips will help you out if you’re interested in trying SUP camping.
Location and time of year
This is the first step in planning for your SUP camping adventure and one of the most important. What type of waters are you paddling, open water, boundary waters, rivers etc..? What time of year are you paddling, winter, spring, summer or fall? Knowing this will help you with decisions inmapping, permits, and gear selection for the trip.
There are many choices for this category, board size, volume, and material (styrene polymer, epoxy, blow moldedand inflatable) all depends again on the waters being traveled. A wrong and uneducated choice in this department will ruin a SUP camping trip. You should have a board big enough and with enough volume to carry your gear and yourself effectively. Your SUP selection should have front and back deck plugs for gear placement and correct weight distribution. If the trip is in a river with shallow shoals, rapids and rocks think about using an inflatable, Styrene polymer or a blow molded board. I will have more on this category and a better overview in another article including fin selection.
What to take
Remember you’re not in a canoe so space is limited and packing light and tight is your best choice. I recommend making a check list for your trip. I have a list I use for every trip and I add and subtract from it regularly after each trip.
A check list should include the following: Float plan, camping gear (tent, sleeping bag etc...), cookware and fuel, food menu for each day, clothing, safety gear, SUP gear, maps and permits, dry bags and miscellaneous items.
Once you’ve put together your list and all your gear go through it all and try to remove unnecessary items. We all seem to add things we don’t really need and tend to over pack. As you’re doing this visually inspect everything for damage so you can fix it before hand or replace the item.
Packing and Test fitting your board
When you’re packing take into mind this is a SUP camping trip and everything on your board will be getting soaked so you want a very good dry bag system I recommend (watershed drybags). I usually carry two to three main dry bags with me on all my tripsand they vary in size. I have a packing system for each bagwhich keeps similar items together camping/clothes, cooking/food and an easy access day bag. Inside each bag items will be separated in smaller bags so it’s easier to find them,this process will be different for everyone and change often until you get it dialed in. Remember you may also have to carry these items to portage around things so you want to make as few trips as possible, especially if you have to hike out of an area.
I highly recommend test fitting your board before hand in your back yard. I know a lot of people think this is unnecessary but it’s better to know beforehand instead of at the launch site. When test fitting your board think about weight distribution it’s similar to packing your backpack you don’t want to be top heavy. Pack your board with equal weight in the front and rearas best as possible for waterways with no whitewater, If you know there will be whitewater I like to pack my gear in the front.
Think of how you’re going to tie your gear down whether it’s with bungees, bungee cargo net, rope, or webbing, you want it tight enough so you don’t lose anything in case of a capsize. You also want to make this step easy and uncomplicated incase of emergencies and portages for a quick release and access.
Weather and Safety
Anytime you go on the water or on a camping trip you should know how to read the weather, water and have a good safety plan aka “Float Plan” and leave it with family and friends. Have the proper safety gear and know how to and be proficient in using it. If you’re camping on a river or along the ocean camp off the water’s edge. Always paddle with a buddy especially doing overnight trips.
Once you find out the location for your trip order a good map for the area. With this step you’ll map out locations of interest, mileage, put-in and take-out points, camping spots and safety check points. Don’t bite off more than you can handle with mileage. Add in a day or two just in case something happens or you want to explore in one spot a little longer.
Nutrition and Hydration
Make a meal plan for each day and carry the proper water filtration. Remember paddling 10+ miles a day equals a lot of calories being burned. There are a lot of articles on camping meal plans on the web. For water filtration I always carry a virus filter which eliminates all bacteria, if it’s really bad water I’ll also boil it.
There is a lot that goes into SUP camping and expedition paddling. Start small with a 1 or 2 night trip and work your way up from there, if you can attend a class do it it’s worth the money and time. When doing a SUP camping trip or expedition always remember to practice leave know trace camping, have fun but always be prepared and ready for anything to happen.
I teach 3 SUP camping classes a year check out my website for more info!
❖ Bring a spare paddle (3piece or 2 piece) and keep it within reach and secured.
❖ Make sure you have a proper fitting PFD and quick release leash.
❖ Have a good first aid kit, maps, permits, and sunscreen, bug repellant, flash light and knife within reach in a waterproof bag with easy access.
❖ You never know when bad weather will pop up so keep your rain gear out and ready where it’s easy to grab.
❖ Bring spare fin, board repair materials and parts.
❖ Always leave it better than you found it.
It's an honor and privilege to work with some of the most amazing companies in the outdoor industry and I'm excited to work closely with Garmin in 2016.
After months of planning and postponed dates due to wildfires the 2015 Fight to SOAR Montana expedition presented by AFTCO and sponsored by Optrix, Garmin, Watershed drybags, Southern Raft Supplies and Orvis was finally happening. This trip showcases the wildness and beauty of the South Fork Flathead River and how important the wild and scenic river designation is for our nations rivers. It also brings a unique adventure for fans and inspiration for our youth and adults to explore and protect these wild places. My team for this trip included adventure photographer Jackson Berger and Casey Shedd with American Fish and Tackle Co.
Memories rushed through my mind while waking up to the sounds of horses snorting, the rustling of hooves and gates clanging together as the packers prepared for our 30 mile horseback ride into the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Since I was 12 these smells and this mornings soundtrack was normal for me so I was comfortable, I couldn't say the same for photographer Jackson Berger and friend Casey Shedd. As we made are way up the dust filled trail nose to tail, I could tell this would be a long trip. Partly because my fury friend happened to be the laziest one of the bunch and we breathed in more dirt than fresh air. Once we climbed 15 miles up the pass and reached the downward trek 15 miles toward the river I noticed the smoldering remnants of the wildfires in the distance. My attention was brought immediately back with the sound of a mule stumbling along the trail, which wouldn't be that big of a deal except for the 200+ drop off along side the trail. After steep trails and smoldering grounds we finally made camp. The stars shined brighter than I've ever seen and as we roosted in our hammocks, an elk bugle filled the frozen night for a brief second. I laid there knowing how special this moment was and I just prayed the other guys felt the same. This is what I dream of, being in the wild, I'm in heaven.
In the morning we were all a little slow getting up due to the previous day's ride and from leaving the warmth of our Hammocks. The flames of the morning fire gave us all new life as it thawed out our frozen water bladders and us. After breaking down camp we made a 100 yard trek to to the river. While we inflated our paddleboards we thought about what we were told in town, that the fish may have moved out already this time of year. So we packed our boards and shoved off as we reached the first deep pool our minds were blown by the amount of fish swimming below us. Each pool we came to had over 100 cut throat with bull trout mixed in, it was crazy. As much as we wanted to stop and fish the water level was low and we had to push on to keep on schedule. I knew we were goin to have low water but I didn't realize the amount of time we would waste from dragging over shallow braided areas. No matter how much you plan and prepare you always have to roll with the punches and adapt and overcome on every expedition.
Throughout the next three days it would be the same routine of dragging boards while stumbling along the rocky bottom. Everyday the back and foot pain that ran through our muscles was subsided by the stunning beauty that surrounded us. Luckily every night we would also have amazing camp spots where we could fish in the evening and mornings before we left. Everyday was a new challenge, this wilderness and river was beautiful but you could tell if you didn't have your shit together it could take your life in a second. We would get to experience some close calls first hand as we made our way through the narrows and burned areas.
Approaching the middle section of the river the terrain changed, as the river banks steepen and the rapids roared louder with larger boulders sitting strategically in the center like a maze as the water rush through. Signs on the pack bridge and cardboard boxes along the river bank warned us of the dangerous narrow gorge and wild fires ahead of us. No matter who you are this begins to play games with your mind making you second guess your decisions. The thing is when your this deep in the wilderness you have to trust your training, abilities and be vigilant because turning back, calling someone or packing out is not an option. The wildfires that postponed our trip were still smoldering and the scorched mountain sides felt apocalyptic as we paddled through. This was a strong reminder of how powerful Mother Nature is, but also how important this cycle in life is as well. As we reached a narrow gap between two step rock walls, I read a sign on top reading dangerous gorge take out here. This was the last warning sign you'll see once you cross this threshold and everyone immediately became a little more serious.
Paddling down the walls closed tighter and up ahead I could hear a loud roar. Rounding a small turn I could see two sharp rocks sticking up between a small gap no wider than 4feet, it was natures strainer making us realize how treacherous this gorge can be. After 9 more portages, bruised knees and tired backs we finally reach the end of the gorge. We made it out with only one close call as one of the crew fell into the river after a portage with no vest on and a open dry suit, luckily I was close to grab him. This was probably the longest and most brutal day I've had in a long time and I loved every second of it.
After the gorge the river returned back to the familiar waters from above and we got to relax again. Smoke from smoldering fires filled the river bottom giving us a mystical feeling as we floated down. We had to be careful at choosing our camp sites now due to falling trees, which was brought to our attention one morning as a huge pine fell within 30 feet of our camp. Once we reach our final take out it was a mixture of emotions knowing we would be leaving the river the next day. For the past 6 days this river has been a mother to us it nourished our bodies with food and hydration it cleansed our bodies of stench and soothed us to sleep at night. We sat at the waterline talking and laughing reminiscing about the week doing everything we could not to leave. Before we left to make our last portage up to the airstrip were the next day a bush plane would come in to fly us out, we decided to fire off one of the bear spray cans. Jackson pulled the trigger and expecting a 30 foot stream of pepper spray we only got 4 feet. It made us laugh knowing that would've just been seasoning for a charging bear.
The next morning we had high winds and low clouds which scared me a little, not knowing if the plane would fly in that day. All of a sudden out of the clouds we heard a faint whining of an engine, then it appeared. It was a 4 seat Cessna that was probably the smallest plane I've seen. I was more nervous about this dam plane than I was of the Bears. Once up of the ground it was absolutely breathtaking seeing the river and surrounding area from a totally different perspective. Flying over everything I thought about something Casey said earlier in the week. People see these trips and they only see the pretty pictures and happy smiles, what they don't see is the brutal rocky miles, long days, and dangerous scenarios we go through. I loved seeing the change in him and watching him grow in the outdoors. This is why I started this project to bring people closer to the outdoors, create awareness and share my passion for it. On this trip we saw the effects of natural disasters which is ok its natural but what wasn't was the trash we saw on a river that shouldn't have any.
So excited and honored to have won SUP journey of the year for our Gray Outdoors Montana Fight to SOAR expedition presented by @aftco and sponsored by @garminoutdoor @optrix @watershed_drybags @southernraftsupply.
Thanks to the amazing photography by Jackson Berger we were able to bring the viewers along with us and showcase its wild beauty. Hopefully our trips inspire viewers to get out and explore and fight to protect these amazing places themselves!
Thank y'all for all the support and for voting it means so much I greatly appreciate everyone!!!
Starting Monday November 30th through December 4th we will be have a holiday special! Just use promo code "Forged30" for 30% discount on your order.
I'm excited to announce that our shop is now live! I will be adding new product throughout the up coming months with shirts, knives, and other custom gear.
I'm excited that our Fight to SOAR Montana expedition has been nominated for SUP journey of the year! You can vote everyday until it ends on the 30th of November. Thank you all for your support and for believing in what we are doing for our river and wild places!
I'm excited to announce our first batch of goodies from the Gray Outdoors "Forged by Nature" line. These sweet new lids will be on our new shop store soon along with some other cool products.
This is by far my most favorite picture that Jackson Berger has taken to date. It wasn't until now that truly understood why. In it everyone sees me standing alone in a river in the middle of the wilderness. What y'all don't see are all the people standing next to me that have helped me to get here. I'm never alone out here and this is where I feel the closest to God and everyone I've lost in my life. Yesterday my grandma passed away, she had a long and happy life and was loved by so many people.
A mother loves with a fierce passion that no man will ever understand. She is a teacher, nourisher, rock to lean on and a light house that guides you through life. Both my parents had amazing and beautiful mothers I was lucky to have known them and feel there love.
Parents never stop influencing a child's life it continues through adulthood. My grandparents and parents have made me who I am today and words will never be able to express how grateful I am. Rest in peace Big Momma thank you for everything you've done and given in this life.
Good morning everyone I hope y'all had an amazing weekend! This shot was our first morning in the Bob Marshall Wilderness and man what a night it was. The stars shined brighter than I've ever seen and as we roosted in our hammocks, an elk bugle filled the frozen night for a brief second. I laid there knowing how special this moment was and I just prayed the other guys felt the same. This is what I dream of, being in the wild, I'm in heaven.
In the morning we were all a little slow getting up due to the previous day's ride and from leaving the warmth of our Hammocks. The flames of a morning fire gave us all new life as it thawed out our frozen water bladders and us. We were all anxious to start our first day on the river and seeing if the fish were still hanging around.
The closer you look at a topo map the more it comes to life. Adding map pins to my routes helps me visualize everything a little better. The yellow pins show our 20 mile route on horseback into the wilderness, were we will camp and then make are way down the South Fork Flathead river. Showcasing the importance of the wild and scenic river designation and preserving our wild places.
Today is the two week countdown for the rescheduled Montana expedition presented by @aftco and sponsored by @garmin, @optrix and @orvis. The wildfires in the wilderness have diminished and we are set to go. These next two weeks we will be goin over trip plans and gear. Thank y'all for being patient with this trip, get ready for a wild one!