In 2011, Bryon Dorr bought a 4WD camper van. A passionate kayaker, Dorr spent the next few years whitewater vagabonding with his van as home base. He’d drive to bucket-list river sections, set up shop, camp — and paddle his guts out. Rinse in the river, and then repeat.
This lived experience chasing whitewater and living out of his rig eventually made him a leading voice in automotive and adventure journalism. His occupation these days — as GearJunkie’s Motors Editor — is informed and deepened by these early exploits dirtbagging by the river.
This September, Dorr led Columbia Sportswear’s Sea to Source overland expedition, in which he rallied up the heart of the Columbia River Basin. The route took him from the mouth of the Columbia near Astoria, Ore., to the tiny township of Canal Flats in Southeast British Columbia.
Along the way, he rendezvoused with friends (new and old) to tackle a variety of outdoor adventures and take in the majesty of the Pacific Northwest. To supplement the trip, Columbia outfitted Dorr with its new Landroamer footwear and apparel for vehicle-based travel.
“When planning the Sea to Source adventure up the Columbia River,” Dorr recounted, “my priority was finding the outdoor adventure gems along the way, through the super-diverse landscapes the river flows through. I was able to connect with professional adventurers and experience the local adventure flavors with them.”
With over a decade of experience behind the wheel, Dorr loves overland travel because it lets him access spectacular outdoor locales with his own top-quality gear. Coupled with a cozy spot to sleep at night, it’s become his favorite way to experience the outdoors.
That said, tackling a multisport overland adventure with over 1,000 miles of road is no small feat. Choosing the right gear and having a good mindset are essential parts of undertaking a road trip of such magnitude.
“I’m in the less-is-more camp,” Dorr said of his packing philosophy. “But I also like to have comfort and be self-reliant while on the road. That equates to bringing a good amount of gear that’s specific and purposeful for the adventures to be had.”
He often waits until the last minute to pack — but once he gets going, Dorr is super-organized and process-oriented. He meticulously lays everything out tidily on his garage floor, double-checks his inventory, and then packs his rig, piece by piece. Adding another level of order, Dorr uses packing cubes, duffel bags, and travel boxes to secure everything inside the vehicle.
“I think it’s really important to not only be able to easily find everything you’ve packed,” Dorr explained, “but also to have it secured in a way that, if you were to get in an accident, it wouldn’t fly around.”
Having the Right Gear for Planned (and Unplanned) Adventures
Having the right layers is foundational to packing well for any trip. And packing well means taking into account the expected climate, weather conditions, planned activities, and challenges you’re likely to face on the road. For his part, Dorr likes packing a range of layers for his overland trips — including base, mid, and outer layers as a starting point.
By combining street-worthy good looks with rugged outdoor utility, Columbia’s Landroamer collection checks many of these boxes simultaneously. At home in the city, on the coast, or in the middle of nowhere, the Landroamer collection is built for exploring in style — and rugged comfort.
Composed of a variety of shirts, midlayer pieces, and even a super-warm jacket, the Landroamer collection has all of your road trip needs covered.
The Landroamer Parka was one of Dorr’s go-to pieces during his Sea to Source expedition. “It is very warm, which makes it perfect for camping and for playing with my young kid this winter,” Dorr said of the jacket.
He was also impressed by the understated, yet full-featured Landroamer Utility Pant. “They are flexible, comfortable, and look sharp while out in the wilderness or out on the town.” Dorr took advantage of the Collection’s overlanding-specific footwear options for long days behind the wheel and extended on-foot side excursions.
From simple slip-ons, like the brand’s Camper Shoe, to the sturdy Explorer Waterproof Boot, the collection integrated details like tough, road-ready construction and rounded heels for no-catch footing behind the wheel.SHOP THE LANDROAMER COLLECTION
Bryon’s Top 5 Pieces of Overlanding Gear
Beyond the threads, Dorr always turns to a few fundamental toys and tools on his overlanding missions. Some of these are for planned activities — such as a river run — and some are for serendipity, just in case something goes awry or an unexpected opportunity presents itself.
Kayak: With his background in riversports, Dorr pretty much always brings a whitewater kayak on his overland adventures. “Whitewater paddling is a major passion of mine, and a great way to really experience new areas, in a way many don’t.”
Mountain bike: A mountain bike is a mainstay on many of Dorr’s road trips. “Not only is it a good way to explore local wilderness terrain,” he said, “but it’s also a great bugout vehicle if your adventure rig gets stuck or breaks down. A bike is a way faster way of getting help than just a pair of running shoes.”
Fire pit: While a fire isn’t an absolute necessity, Dorr notes that it adds a lot to the camping experience. Fire pits add a social beacon to the campground, providing a great gathering place to unwind and reminisce over a day’s adventures.
“A propane fire pit is a great option these days,” said Dorr. “As forest fire danger is often high, moving firewood around can bring unwanted bugs to new areas, and unless you’re at an organized campground, creating a fire pit leaves a mark on the natural world that won’t soon go away.”
Basic recovery gear: Regardless of whether Dorr is traveling in a group or solo in his vehicle, basic recovery gear is essential. “I always have at least a set of Maxtrax traction boards, a recovery rope, two soft shackles, and a quality jack appropriate for the vehicle,” said Dorr. “With these tools, I can get myself, and others, out of most situations. For solo vehicle travel, I also like to equip my vehicle with a winch, and bring along a full host of winching accessories.”
Human essentials: Water, snacks, warmth (firestarting equipment and a space blanket), and a sizable first-aid kit are all things that come with Bryon on every adventure.
How to Be Adventure-Ready
Through his van life and overlanding exploits over the past decade, Dorr has developed a philosophy of “being adventure-ready.” Having the right gear gets him halfway, but to Dorr, adventure readiness is both a physical and mental state.
Part of the thrill of exploration is enjoying your favorite activities, but Dorr always tries to sprinkle in new locales and experiences. From demanding endurance slogs to motorsports sessions to off-the-map travel, he uses novelty to deepen the richness of his adventures and make them more memorable and rewarding.
“I love trying new things all the time,” he said of his adventure-readiness philosophy. “In order to perform at a high enough level to enjoy and/or learn quickly, it’s important to have a baseline physical fitness and come into it with a great attitude.”
He cites running, yoga, meditation, weight training, and cycling as just a few ways to keep the body and mind in the right condition to tackle any adventure that presents itself. “And,” he continued, “adventuring regularly. If you adventure often enough, the adventures themselves are what keep you fit, and your brain firing on all cylinders.”
But beyond physical and mental fitness, “being adventure-ready” also includes an openness to new challenges. During Columbia’s Sea to Source expedition, Dorr tapped each zone along the Columbia River by interacting with it through outdoor adventure.
In Wenatchee, Wash., he met up with his friend Carl Montoya, who led him down one of his favorite MTB trails. Dorr hadn’t been biking in over 8 months and, by his own admission, was in no shape to ride a steep, gnarly downhill section.
After about a minute of warm-up in a paved parking lot, Dorr followed his friend down the “super-steep, rocky, rutted, and crazy loose singletrack trail,” while trying to look good for all the cameras that were rolling.
“I’m a solid mountain biker, but this was quite an off-the-couch moment,” he admitted. “I did crash a few times, but overall, I held it together on the difficult terrain. My mental focus, previous experiences, and baseline fitness made this possible, which is part of my ‘being adventure-ready’ ethos.”
Road Trip Hacks
Aside from the major mainstays and hard goods, Dorr also swears by a few fundamental accessories that make life easier for him on the road. These smaller details improve the flow and organization of Dorr’s rig and have earned their place in his overall kit.
Quick access to clean drinking water is always an absolute essential to keeping sharp and feeling good — especially on the road. To meet that need, Dorr loves Dometic’s 11L Water Jug due to its webbing carry handles, easy cleanability, and flow reducer for making the perfect pour.
For all things mobile, Dorr leans heavily on Peak Design’s Mobile Ecosystem of mounts, cases, and accessories. “They help me keep my cellphone charged and protected,” he explained. “I use Peak Design’s handlebar mount on my mountain bike and adventure motorcycle and its powered mount in my overland rig. A cellphone is such an invaluable tool for adventure these days, as it works as a great comms, nav, and photo/video system all-in-one.”
On the road, getting stuck is always top of mind, so Dorr travels equipped with a set of Maxtrax Recovery Boards. He’s recovered himself several times, and others more times than he can count, out of mud, snow, and sand.
“The key to these is how light they are, how easy they are to use/deploy, and how quickly they usually get the recovery done,” he said. “Even if I fly to the other side of the world to rent or buy a vehicle to adventure with, they’re the one piece of gear I don’t leave home without.”
Leaving No Trace (Except Your Tracks)
Part of keeping your kit dialed is making sure you leave nothing behind. While overlanding affords you the ability to access some of the remotest areas on the map, this privilege comes with the responsibility to Leave No Trace (except for your tracks).
During the Sea to Source — and on all of his wilderness trips — Dorr was mindful of LNT ethics.
On the team’s final camp of the trip, a dispersed site near the Canadian border, had a pre-existing fire ring. Upon arriving, they found the ring overflowing with trash and discarded camping supplies — which they promptly cleaned up.
That’s because keeping a tight rig doesn’t end at the tailgate. It includes looking after the wild spaces enjoyed along the way, and being good to the communities and people that inhabit them. And, as Dorr makes a habit, that means packing one of the most important — yet unsung — pieces of overlanding gear.
“I always have a trash bag on hand to not only pack out what I bring in, but also to clean up along the way,” said Dorr.FOLLOW THE SEA TO SOURCE EXPEDITION