After Over a Decade on the Road, it’s Time for Adventurer Dave Cornthwaite to Share His Best Packing Light Tips

Dave Cornthwaite
DC Yestival 2016. Photo credit: David Altabev

My name is Dave. I live on a houseboat in London and I split my time between travelling 1000 miles without a motor, and running an adventurous community-based nonprofit called, SayYesMore. I’ve been adventuring full-time since 2006 and write books, make films and speak about adventure and positive mindset. People call me crazy most days, but I think crazy is doing the same thing every day and still not enjoying it. I used to be crazy, but not anymore. 🙂

Dave Cornthwaite
Skate. BoardFree ©2012 Dave Cornthwaite. Photo by Holly Allen

How and why did you get into adventuring and traveling?

I hit a crossroads when I was 25 and realised my cat was way cooler than me. I decided to say yes more, a motto that has stuck with me, and started trying lots of new things. One of those new hobbies was long boarding, and just two weeks after trying it out for the first time, I quit my job and decided to try and break the world distance record on a skateboard. I’d never done any endurance activities so warmed up with a 900 mile journey from John O’Groats to Lands End, then crossed Australia on my board, over 3600 miles! That was the first of a project called, Expedition1000, 25 different journeys of 1000 miles or more, each using a different form of non-motorised transport. I’ve completed 14 of these, so far, just 11 to go!

I don’t train for these trips, I’m not much of an athlete – so take the first week or two slow while my body and mind gets used to a new way of moving. Travelling doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive, I try to keep it as simple as possible.

Dave Cornthwaite

How do you finance your adventures?

First rule is to keep them cheap. I travel without a motor and camp most nights, which really keeps the costs down. Over time I’ve become sustainable through my adventures, making money with books, films and speaking. I pay for most of my journeys myself, I like to keep control of my time and financial sponsorship always comes with extra commitment, which sometimes takes away from the freedom of the adventure. But as much as possible, I get my gear sponsored and work hard to write reviews, make films and post on social media to pay back that support. In turn that gives my own channels nice content so it’s a win-win.

I lived out of a bag for the best part of 10 years while I was learning how to do all the skills that I now make a living from, and that meant I spent very little and concentrated on the stuff that was important. Eventually, thankfully, it paid off.

How do you eat and sleep on the road?

Depending on the journey I’ll camp with a tent, a tipi or a hammock. All depends on the terrain I’m in and how I’m travelling (a kayak or paddle board enables me to carry heavier gear than hiking, for example.) I eat local food from markets and always carry a little stove to cook up a feast when I’m remote.

Dave Cornthwaite
Photo credit: Torsten Gabriellson

How do you bring your things with you?

This depends on the journey, again. If I’m on water, I’ll have everything double bagged in Aquapac and Palm Equipment dry bags. If I’m on a business trip, I have a neat little Eagle Creek wheely bag, which doubles as a rucksack, and wherever I go I use a colourful pack-it + system from Eagle Creek, it’s a series of pack dividers so I know where I’m storing my camera gear, underpants, camping stuff, etc.

My recommendation is always to pack light, the more stuff we have the more separate we are from our environment and experience. Plus, less stuff = less to carry = a cheaper trip! I’ve been on the move, often without motors for over a decade so have tried all kinds of packing systems and bags, like anything you eventually work out what’s best for you if you do it a lot.

Dave Cornthwaite
DC Aquapac Outdoor Champion

How do your bags and gear hold up?

I always put my bags through the mill on adventures, they get thrown down and dragged around, bashed by the ocean and pummelled by UV rays. Like I said above, I’ve worked out what gear really stands up to the environments I’m in and still gets the job done. And if I ever do need to do an on-the-move repair job a small roll of duct tape always comes in handy.

Any gear you wish you had brought with you from the beginning?

Not really. Sure, sometimes you pack badly but that’s a lesson for the next time. My biggest packing regrets are always when I’ve got too much stuff and can’t find anything!

Dave Cornthwaite

What has been your best adventuring purchase below $100?

A solar panel from PowerTraveller with an integrated battery. These shortened charging wires from Powertraveller help avoid all those in-bag tangling issues.

What is your best advice for other adventurers?

Hands down, it’s so important to know you’ve got a suitable, comfortable sleeping system. It doesn’t matter how hard your day is, if you know you’re going to sleep well it makes the world of difference. Don’t be afraid to pack a little pillow either, a scrunched up jacket isn’t always the most comfortable thing to rest your head on.

Dave Cornthwaite

What inspired you to write your books?

I think it’s really important to pass on whatever it is that we’ve learned, and if it’s wrapped up in a cool adventure story that inspires others to get moving then brilliant. Also, so often we have a life-changing experience but then when it’s passed it becomes not much more than a sentence at a talk or an anecdote over dinner. A book ensures that the whole story lives on.

Dave Cornthwaite

What will the future bring?

I still have eleven more journeys to go of Expedition1000, so at least 11,000 miles of non-motorised adventuring to come. I’m currently working on bringing to life a converted double decker bus, which is a co-working and learning space in the countryside south of London. It’s an adventure in itself, which will inspire so many other people to head off on their own journeys. See for more.

Visit Dave Cornthwaite on his website and follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

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