Who We Follow: Chris Burkard

There is no under abundance of great photographers to follow on social media. You can do a quick search for a photographer and find hundreds upon hundreds, all with a stellar body of work to look through.

In our opinion, none of them hold a candle to the epicness that Chris Burkard brings to the table. He is a self-taught photographer, author, and filmmaker from California who has won numerous awards for the work he’s done.

His client list may be long with recognizable big-name brands, but it’s the scope and beauty of the pictures captured on his adventures that captivates us. With stills from every imaginable corner of the world, he brings to life places some of us only imagine being able to go to.

Whether adventure, landscape, commercial stills, or any one of the videos Mr. Burkard has on his website, he takes you on an epic journey.

 

Editors Letter: Failure Does Not Mean Failure

In early May, I put together a trip in the hopes of generating an easy to navigate a route that could be used for new overlanders. I did what I always do before a trip. Pulled up Google Maps with the satellite view enabled and started tracing what looked like roads. A few hours later, I had a pretty good figure eight rough outlined that we would be able to track.

Fast forward to the weekend, and we had a total of 12 rigs and about 16 people. Our meeting spot went smoothly, camp the first night went smoothly, and then Saturday morning the frustrations started. Out of the roughly 200-250 miles we were supposed to do I think we managed 50 going forward. And as much or more going backward.

Both tracks we selected to run ended in dead-ends. To me, this is immensely frustrating as the lead for the group. We have to go back and explain down the line we had to turn around. And both turn arounds were less than ideal. To me, the weekend route was a complete failure.

But failure does not mean failure as the title implies. I’ve made it clear that meeting people is more fun for me than actually doing any trail rides. Our gathered group had great times at camp, and we did manage some trails without a dead-end on Sunday. So the weekend wasn’t a complete failure.

The whole point of exploring and adventuring is to have failures. We, as human beings, learn from our mistakes and failures. It shouldn’t be something to get frustrated over but rather to embrace it as part of the experience overall. Failure makes us better at what we do. The easy route is to go with what we know, and we feel it is safe. But that’s no fun. Sure it was frustrating to hit dead-ends, but I still had a blast with everyone that was there.

I’ll take the lessons learned from this last trip and apply them going forward. Failure will mean we found something new to explore. Failure will mean we turn around and find another way. Failure won’t mean failure any more in the traditional sense.

Nick @ Michigan Overland

Plantnet: The App Every Forager Should Have

If your family is like mine, then you enjoy going for a hike. One of my favorite things while out is looking for wild edibles. I can identify some plants, but I’m no expert. This makes my wife nervous since she doesn’t always believe me when I say, “I know what I’m putting in my mouth.” That’s where Plantnet comes in.

 

How Does It Work?

Plantnet uses the camera on your smartphone to take a picture of the plant you want to identify. Then it searches its database to find the closes match. Once the plant has been identified, you will have access to different pictures, a direct link to the Wikipedia page and a list of other familiar names.

I know what you’re thinking. What if I’m deep in the UP driving up the backside of Mount Arvon and I need to know if the leaf I used as toilet paper was poison ivy or something else. Well even if you don’t have signal, Plantnet will save the picture for you to look up later when it is available.

The app is split up into eight categories. Five of which are continents with sub-sections.

  • Europe and West Europe
  • America with, Canada, USA, Central America, Caribs, Amazonia, Tropical Andes, Martinique
  • Africa includes North Africa, Tropical Africa, Reunion, Mauritius Island, Comoro Islands
  • Asia and Eastern Mediterranean
  • The islands of Oceania-Pacific, New Caledonia, Hawaii, and French Polynesia

That means no matter where your adventure might take you, Plantnet will be with you.

 

Plantnet is available for both IOS and Android users.

Overlanding With An Infant: Tips For New Parents

In April of this year, I was blessed with my first child, Magnolia. Being an active family in the past few years, we didn’t quite know how to include our now three-month-old. After asking around for advice and not getting much, I decided to share our experience so other new parents can have something to look to for ideas.

Plan a Short Pre-trip

Typically every summer we plan a trip to Michigan’s UP. But we didn’t feel comfortable taking a five to eight-hour car ride with an infant. Luckily my parents are seasonal’s at a campground only two hours from where we live. This provided an excellent opportunity to get away for the Fourth of July weekend and see if Maggie would be okay.

The trip going north went smoothly. When we were about forty minutes from the campground, we had to pull off the highway for a feeding. This was expected since she didn’t want to eat before we left. Once we got there, It was nice to have friends and family to help watch her. It gave us both a chance to enjoy the sunshine and water. Being able to escape the heat into the A\C was really helpful. (Also a nice change for us.) It made it easy to keep her from overheating, and made a great spot for naps. Going home went alright, we left late after a day of fishing. While stopping for food before jumping on the highway, she started crying. After we calmed her down, she was okay for a while. Then she got hungry. Pulling over in a rest area to feed her, we noticed a storm in the distance. No matter what we tried we couldn’t get Maggie back down, and had to push through the storm with a crying baby for one hour. Something we’d like to try during a more extended trip is, doing a big feeding before we leave. That, combined with frequent planned stops, should (hopefully) make for a smoother ride.

Pack Lite

Even though we didn’t use everything we brought, it doesn’t mean it won’t be packed for the next trip.

  • whole pack diapers
  • two packs of wipes
  • sunscreen (used)
  • hats (used)
  • five outfits (used)
  • pack and play (not used)
  • bouncy seat (used)
  • playmat (not used)
  • sun tent (not used)
  • frozen breast milk (used)
  • nursing cover (used)
  • blankets (used)
  • baby monitor (used)
  • baby Tylenol (not used)

Know Where You Are

Going to the family campground was a great first outing for us because we know where everything was. No matter where you are at, it is always good to know where the closest hospital is. Another thing I would say is useful, is to know would be where the closet store is. Even though we brought a full pack of diapers and wipes, I wouldn’t want to chance running out.

Babies are unpredictable. When it comes to taking them out on the road, always prepare for the worst. As long as you are prepped for any occasion, you and your family can still have a fun and relaxing time outdoors.

The Minimalist Approach To Overlanding

I’ve always liked the idea of having less stuff and living a minimalist lifestyle. The problem is I like things. It doesn’t matter if it’s gear, clothes, movies, books, or whatever thing I might be into at the time. I like the physical items. Over the years, I’ve learned to get rid of certain material items that take up too much space in my small house (books and movies being the primary items). After a few trips into the woods, I wanted to see if I could take a minimalist approach to the gear I overland and camp with. This article is going to focus on strictly my camping gear and what I feel I can manage with for a weekend. In the future, I may expand on some other items.

The Background

One of the first outings I took as an “overlander” was with a bunch of equipment I did not need. It was just my oldest son and I going so I packed my three primary camping tubs into the back of my truck. Once we were on the trails, making camp, and needing to get to the gear, I realized this was an absolutely terrible idea. Not only did I not need all the equipment but it was continually rattling around as we traveled. The primary lesson learned from that trip was to travel with as little as possible and take more of a minimalist approach to hauling and using gear.

Pack too much and you’ll find you don’t need it.

Now there is no denying that if I had been out with my entire family (5 people), I probably would have needed most or all of the stuff in those bins. After that initial trip, I started looking at what I needed versus what I took. Most of the stuff didn’t even get used, and it ended up being more of a hassle to dig through bins to get to what I did need. The outcome was an article on having an adventure-ready set up in your rig.

The New System

I paired down everything I needed into a spare cooler I had. Other than some larger items, most of the gear fit. This included a weekend’s worth of dehydrated meals as emergency food, or if I wasn’t feeling into the groceries, I bought along. A second cooler was used to house all of the food that was needed for a weekend trip. This included all of the cold and non-cold items.

organization cover photo
The little amount of gear I try to carry.

I got a chance to test out my adventure ready set up a couple of times during a Manistee trip and then during a trip in the Grayling/Kalkaska area. It turns out I could whittle down my gear loadout even further than what I had. And to be honest, I added in my camp table and full-size stove to what I have. They fit neatly behind both coolers, so they were not a hassle to get to. Once again, I was able to determine I could remove and substitute some things.

Lightweight vs. Minimalism

There are two ways to look at gear reduction: the weight of items versus the number of items. Weight reduction is not necessary as an overlander because we can use our vehicles to carry heavier weight items. I think the definition of lightweight is pretty understandable, but I’ll give it to you anyway. Merriam-Webster gives one definition of lightweight as “of thin material or build and weighing less than average.”

Minimalism doesn’t focus on weight necessarily but rather “extreme spareness and simplicity,” again the definition comes from Merriam-Webster. The minimalist approach is what I want to focus on when dealing with packing gear for a trip. Some of that gear happens to fall into the lightweight category as well. Even after cutting my gear load out down to a third of what it was, I still found I had more than necessary.

I think there is a balancing act to be had between lightweight gear, approaching packing with the minimalist mindset, and functionality of the equipment you bring. For example, I have an MSR Pocket Rocket as part of my gear loadout and it works great. Functionality wise though I’d much rather use my two burner Coleman stove. So, in the end, I’ll probably transfer the backpacking stove to my survival bag. The survival bag travels along with me so it’ll be there regardless,  just not used as the primary cooking stove.

The Minimalist Approach

While the two cooler system works, the next project on my mind is a modular cargo system for the rear of my rig. I’ve got rough plans drummed up for a cubed drawer system that can work in one of two ways. If my third-row seat is either out or folded up, the cubes would lay flat, giving me drawer access to the rearmost cubes and top access to the front most cubes. If the rear seat is up, which is how it tends to be, then the cubes would stack one on another giving me access to all the available drawers.

When I planned out my idea, I started thinking about what I wanted to have stored in the drawers full time, so I didn’t have to keep packing things. What I took with me on my last trip would end up being more than what I could probably fit in the drawer space, so I had to start listing what the most used and essential was.

  • Cookstove and fuel canisters
  • Cook set
  • Utensils
  • Recovery gear
  • Medical kit
  • Tools
  • Lighting
  • Fire starting kit
  • Hammock/tent
  • Chair(s)
  • Camera

This ended up being what I came up with as full-time stored items. I didn’t include a table because the plans called for either storage for my table or a built-in slide out table. This list isn’t dependent on building my drawer system though. Until that project is done, I’ve taken the same approach and repacked my adventure box with this setup.

Approaches To Packing

There is any number of ways to go about packing light with a minimalist mindset. For me, I don’t mind having heavier items that serve a purpose, which is why my cook table still travels with me. If space claim in your rig is a problem or you’re just looking to run as light as possible, the following packing options might help.

Consolidation Is Key

It might seem like a good idea to carry around a bunch of kitchen gear or cooking gear, but realistically you can consolidate it down. You don’t have to buy each piece. I would recommend investing in something like the GSI Destination Kitchen and a nesting GSI Pinnacle Camper Cookset. Both pack down or nest together into a small footprint that can be stowed easily.

Take The Lightweight Approach

I know my approach is to go the minimalist route without much of a concern for weight, but if certain gear is needed consider going the lighter weight approach. Instead of taking a large foldout table, consider a smaller, more packable table. Pack clothing into a lightweight duffel bag instead of a hard case. Again with clothing, buy something that will stay fresh for days as opposed to packing multiple shirts or underwear. The cost is more for these items, but in the long run, you may only pack one t-shirt versus three or four.

Take The Ultralight Approach

Consider people who ride their bicycles or even motorcycles around the world on trips. The amount of packing space they have is considerably less than what someone with a four-wheel drive is going to have. Most of their stuff could probably fit in one pack in the front seat of any overlanding rig. I would venture to guess most of us could pack everything needed for a three day weekend into one bag and manage just fine.

Don’t Pack It

The last option is not to take it. If it hasn’t been used in a while or never, don’t pack it. Take it out of your kit and leave it at home. If you find you need a certain item, figure out if something you’ve already got packed can pull double duty. I’ve found I pack more camera gear than I probably need so I’m working towards carrying what I use in a smaller, more manageable bag.

Going Forward and A Crazy Idea

In the end, I’d like to have a loadout that can be used for just myself and also for my family that fits in my future drawer system without having to stuff things in. The most change will probably happen with my camp kitchen gear. I have about four different sets that I use items from. Eventually, I’ll possibly replace all of it with a nested cooking set like the GSI mentioned above.

Another idea I have had is to pack everything into a single bag and see if I can sustain myself for a weekend just out of that. This would include all of the necessary cooking items, food, tools, and clothing for a weekend. Because I like to hammock camp, it would also be easy enough to include this as well for sleeping in. Granted this doesn’t include certain items like drinking water, but a well set up rig would include water storage of some kind. While I currently do not have this, a 30 pack of stowed water bottles have worked well in the past.

Maybe this idea will materialize into a Michigan Overland trip of some kind; maybe it won’t. Maybe I’ll just end up testing it out myself on a trip. Who knows. Either way, I’m going to continue to ween down the gear I carry into as little as possible. I’m always interested in feedback, so feel free to leave a comment with some suggestions.

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Father’s Day Gift Ideas For The Overlanding Dad In Your Life

Father’s day is just a week away. If you have an overlanding dad (a DadVerlander or OverDadder as we have coined them) in your life and are unsure of what to get him, we’ve got you covered with some ideas below.

Subscription Box

There are a good number of subscription boxes available these days. You can get one for just about any hobby or thing you like. But, your dad is an overlander. Which probably means he enjoys gear. So go with a subscription box that deals exclusively with gear. Below are some suggestions on what we think he’d dig.

Battlbox

Battlbox is the grand-daddy of gear subscription boxes. Not many have had the staying power that they’ve had. Each month dad can receive one of three different tiered themed boxes from Battlbox. The theme is the same, but depending on the tier, you either get more or less gear.

Cairn

If your dad isn’t that into tactical gear, you can always go with a subscription box like Carin. Cairn offers more outdoors related gear rather than focusing on straight survival, shooting, or tactical gear. They come in at a low $29.95 per month and have been one of the longest-running outdoor gear boxes.

TacPack

TacPack deals more on the end of those who like to shoot and are into tactical gear. They offer one tier at $49.95 per month box that delivers all of the shooting, EDC, and tactical related gear right to your door.

A Watch

You can’t go wrong with a good watch for adventuring. Make sure it’s something sturdy, durable, and able to withstand a beating.

An Overly Expensive Cooler

That’s right. We went ahead and said it. Get him an overly expensive cooler. Yeti makes some good ones. Despite the price, there is a difference between these and your run of the mill Coleman. These coolers are designed to keep ice well and food and beverages cold for days. If it’s in the budget, go one step further and get him a refrigerator. No ice required and food and beverages can be kept for weeks at a time.

Training

Maybe he’s been eyeballing some medical courses. Or a shooting class. Or maybe even an overlanding specific course. Either way, you can’t go wrong by signing him for something you know will be invaluable to him while on the trail. Below are some suggestions on where and what to get them.

Keep & Bear

Keep & Bear offers several different types of training. Primarily they run CPL and handgun-related courses aimed at first-time shooters. From there, you can step it up into some more advanced courses dealing with topics like personal protection.

MDFI

What Keep & Bear doesn’t offer, MDFI probably does. MDFI runs a whole spectrum of courses. Everything from basic handgun and carbine up to advanced courses in shoot houses. Definitely worth checking out if dad is into that sort of thing.

Medical Training

First aid training can go a long way in making sure he stays safe while he’s out. Look up what’s available at your local Red Cross as a starter and then step it up into something more advanced.

Fieldcraft Mobility

This one is located outside of Michigan but well worth looking into. Fieldcraft Mobility offers two different overland related courses. They both cover a variety of topics from rig maintenance, gear, first aid, and survival topics.

Ask Him To Go Camping

This may seem the mushy and sentimental route, but I bet he’d love it. Better yet, plan the whole thing and just take him. Possibly to somewhere he hasn’t been before or might be on his bucket list of places to visit.