BY RICH BRAND
This is a quick list of my favorite products from my last adventure, paddling the length of the U.S. Pacific Coast from Seattle to San Diego. Each one of these four items comes with a story that explains why it became a true gear essential.
-- My Immersion Research drysuit saved my life on a rough evening two miles off the shore in Washington. Even prior to that, I had a degree of confidence having the right gear for the cold-water temperatures. I was hit by a rogue wave about 2 miles off the Washington coastline. It crashed on top of me and threw me from my kayak. The water was 48 degrees. The drysuit allowed me to not freak out instantly about the cold and to be able to focus on the task at hand, which was to get back in my kayak. It took two attempts to get in. Without it, this may be a completely different conversation or not one at all.
-- I did not use my Delorme InReach in this situation. If I was unable to get back in my kayak, I would have. It was more for tracking and a ‘find me’ rescue call if something went really wrong, regardless of where I was located. I knew if I was ever in serious trouble, I could reach help. It gave me a huge dose of peace of mind.
-- There were so many satisfying nights on the beach and quality camps along the Washington, Oregon, and northern California coastlines.The ability to wake up at 3 a.m. and see a million years above you just made for a quality and memorable experience. Any night camping on a beach counts as a satisfying day. After spending so many nights on empty beaches in my bivy, now my Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy goes with me on every adventure.
-- Finally, Backpackers Pantry meals kept me fueled up. In particular, their Fettuccine Alfredo with Chicken hit the spot when I need a filling meal to provide the energy I needed for the day.
The gear is just a vehicle to experience those amazing days. The one that will always stick with me was having my first up-close experience with a whale. I was near Moclips, Wash. I saw two huge gray whales pushing up the coast. The first one had past. I banged on my deck for some reason and the second one turned, breached, and was heading right toward me. I was looking directly down its backbone as it breached. I had NO IDEA what was about to happen. I am used to dogs coming toward me, but not 20-ton whales. It came to my port side and turned just before getting to me. It raised its pectoral fin out of the water a half a foot from my paddle. It was one of the scariest, most intense, and surreal experiences of my life.
I guess that’s why I am now circumnavigating the entire Eastern Seaboard of the U.S., plus parts of Canada: To inspire a younger generation to chase their dreams, follow their passions and to never give up. I want to show not only the beauty of our land, but the kind and amazing people that are everywhere. You just have to get out to meet them. Everything is possible, you just have to figure out the “how.”
I left New Orleans the first week in January and I’m now in Biloxi, Miss. The trip has been amazing, meeting so many cool people thus far, and the journey is just beginning. I am loving it.
Check back as I’ll be submitting Dispatches to C&K from the expedition, and follow me on Instagram for daily updates.
-- Read more about Brand’s adventure down the West Coast, and other hard lessons learned on a 36-day solo expedition down the California coast.
-- Check out more Go-to Gear as the Rediscover North America Crew shares six gear essentials from their Gulf-to-Arctic Expedition.