In some ways, Mikael Strandberg doesn't cut the steretypical image—tall, lean, square-jawed, grizzled—of a serious explorer. In fact, he's fairly short, balding and rounded in the middle. Still, the Swede manages to pull off plenty of fascinating, ambitious expeditions, including Chile-to-Alaska, Norway-to-South Africa and New Zealand-to-Egypt bicycle journies, 1,900-mile Patagonian horseback rides, Siberian river explorations and, most recently, a camel ride across Yemen and a 400-mile wintertime migration with Siberian reindeer herders.
That's why we perked up when we noticed Strandberg had listed 25 gear essentials for the beginning adventurer on his website. What's it take to get out there and explore the rarely-trodden corners of the globe? Well, some of it is predictable—basic camping gear, clothes, toiletries, sunglasses, headlamp, etc.—but there are a few surprises and special, hard-won insights that surprised us. For one, Strandberg apparently doesn't travel all that light. For his sleeping kit, he recommends the following for maximal comfort rather than weight:
Part of the ‘sleeping’ issue. Depending on where you are, either choose a foam ridge rest or an inflatable mattress—or both for full protection. A puncture on the inflatable one is not unusual. I use the Ridge rest and Therm-a-Rest from Cascade Designs.
Once again, should be chosen depending on area and goal. But, should always be good quality. You don’t want a leaking tent in a rainy area. I have always used the VE-25 from The North Face. It is big, but you need to feel comfortable when resting and taking care of yourself. This is vitally important. Do not bring a small tent just to avoid the weight.
Sleep is clearly important for the kind of make-or-break decision-making that happens every day on the most demanding of expeditions.
We thought for sure that, as a modern-day adventurer, Strandberg would recommend a GPS, if only in addition to a map and compass. But here's what he said:
Don’t bring a GPS. You need batteries to run it, you don’t exactly know where you have travelled and if it stops working, then you have a problem. A manual compass forces you to continuously to be aware exactly what the surroundings look like. Do bring a GPS for security, but not for navigation.
Together with a manual compass, maps are key equipment for travelling safely. Maps need to be relatively fresh and preferably no more than 1:200 000 in scale.
Also useful are his pointers on technology for sharing your adventures:
To document that great adventure! It depends what you want to do with the footage, but I use Canon XA-10 for film and my biggest favorite is Panasonic Lumix G2, which both takes good film and photos and is small enough to carry. And bring a GoPro camera. Cheap, funny and invaluable!
24. A small laptop.
Share your experiences! Today you can get a good, light, tough laptop with software which helps yopu hook up either on a mobile or a sat phone from anywhere. Explorersweb have the best kit to offer today.
25. Solar Panel
It is not only the laptop which needs electricity. This applies to cameras and headlamp. Exweb have the best solution today.
Strandberg doesn't say it, but it's these tools that make an explorer's life possible. If you're not documenting your adventures, and sharing what you find with the world at large—either via research, some form of journalism like documentary film or written story or, eventually, public speaking engagements—then you won't have one important (though perhaps less important than some think) item on his list:
Unfortunately you’re going to need it. But you don’t really need a lot to go out adventuring!
So what's with my initial observation about Strandberg's regular joe appearance? Well, it's only to say that—more important than any amount of high-tech gear you can horde or physical fitness you can train for—the most important requirements for a would-be adventurer are good attitude, an open mind and focus. These are all things that Strandberg possesses in spades, and perhaps you do, too.
To read the rest of Strandberg's list of essential adventuring gear, click through to MikaelStrandberg.com.