How Runner and Budget Adventurer Adam Parkison Plans, Organizes and Funds His Adventures

Travel Writer and Photographer Adam Parkison

My name is Adam Parkison, aka “Jungleboy.” I am a 28 year old freelance outdoor/travel writer and photographer. I like to move fast and light through the wildest places I can find, documenting what I see with words and pictures. I am also a competitive ultrarunner, which keeps me in good condition for my expeditions.

How and why did you get into adventuring and traveling?

As a child growing up in the boring, flat lands of Kansas, I read many books about adventure in far of lands, which fueled my wanderlust dreaming, and ultimately gave me the inspiration to go out and see the world for myself. Some of my favorite books include: Stranger in the Forest, by Eric Hansen. The Tree Where Man Was Born, by Peter Matthiessen. Adrift: 76 Days Lost At Sea, by Steven Callahan. And, The Mountains of My Life, by Walter Bonatti, to name only a few.

At the age of 19, I found myself bored and unhappy with my life, going to college and working at a bank. I took a chance on impulse, and moved to the Central African Republic, where I lived and worked for the next five years — mostly in a wilderness area called the Chinko River basin. There, I saw wild lions, elephants, hippos, and other creatures more absurd than the imagination could create. When civil war broke out in the country in 2013, I decided it was time to move on. I packed up my things and moved to Bozeman, Montana, where I first lived out of my car and started trail running in the mountains. Since then, I have carried out many fastpacking expeditions and running adventures across the mountain West and even Alaska. I now live in Glenwood Springs, Colorado with my wife and three children.

Travel Writer and Photographer Adam Parkison

How do you finance your adventures?

I am a normal guy with a family and a normal job. I have no sponsors (yet) and fund my own adventures. Out of necessity, I am a budget adventurer. I like to carry out one big expedition per year, like my solo 12-day trek across the Brooks Range, in Alaska – as well as many smaller, weekend expeditions – like my fastpacking expedition across the Beartooth range, in Montana. When planning a trip, I like to find the cheapest options available, for the biggest adventure. I’ll use my Alaskan expedition as an example: Instead of hiring an expensive bush pilot to drop me off by plane into the arctic tundra, I decided to fly to the town of Fairbanks, and then hitch a ride on a shuttle bus up the Dalton Highway, where I was dropped off on the side of the road, and I explored the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for two weeks, before returning to the road and getting picked up again. My total 15 day trip cost about $900 with a night in a hotel and airfare; It could have easily cost me $5000 if I didn’t plan it so carefully.

Another tip to funding your adventures is instead of spending all your money on expensive new gear that could otherwise be used to fund more adventures – there are many places to find quality used gear for very cheap. I look on craigslist.com, Facebook classifieds, and also used gear stores found scattered here in the US.

Travel Writer and Photographer Adam Parkison

How do you eat and sleep on the road?

Whether travelling through towns or far off in the wilderness – be it Africa, Alaska, or the mountains of Western USA, I try and stick to minimalistic sleeping and eating habits. I usually always carry a backpack that can hold 3500 cubic inches, or 60 liters of space. I always carry a lightweight sleeping bag or blanket of sorts. Right now, I am using a Brooks Range Elephant foot sleeping bag that weighs only 15 ounces. Then, I like to carry a tarp for shelter or an emergency. I am using an 8 foot by 5 foot section of TyVek construction tarp material currently. Also, a waterproof rain jacket is an essential item on my kit and I always use Gore-Tex fabrics.

For running adventures, it’s hard to beat Ultimate Direction hydration products, whether a Clutch handheld bottle, or the light and efficient AK Mountain Vest, hydration pack. For my kitchen, I carry a Jetboil stove with dehydrated food often times, even if just for an emergency. One of my favorite brands is AlpineAire, which has some gluten free options. Obviously, depending on weather and conditions, I might pack other items but in general, these are the key pieces I use.

When travelling far from home, or in a foreign country, I try and keep an open mindset and be flexible. I will try to sleep in someone’s home if given the option, but am ok sleeping inside of a vehicle, or under my tarp on the side of a road or trailhead. The same philosophy goes for food: I will try to eat the local cuisine when available, but carry some emergency dehydrated food supplies just in case. Most of the time I have found that food truly is an international language; that is, even when travelling to a foreign land, it is usually not difficult to find food by sign language or other means of communication.

Travel Writer and Photographer Adam Parkison

How do you bring your things with you?

When travelling abroad, especially while hopping from plane ride to plane ride, I find the minimalistic approach works best. I don’t carry big, bulky luggage with me. I try and fit everything in a traditional backpacking pack that I can strap over my shoulders. At the most, I will also have a small, waterproof case to carry my camera gear and laptop. I like to be mobile and have the flexibility to fit all my gear in a taxi and public bus easily.

Currently, I use my REI Flash 65 backpack which carries about 65 liters of space. I also like The North Face Terra 65 backpack, which carries about 70 liters. For transporting camera gear, I really enjoy the Pelican 1524 waterproof hard case, and for smaller trips, a Nanuk 910 waterproof hard case. This set-up works well for me.

More than anything, my sleeping bag and waterproof jacket are the two items I find most important to have the highest quality. Often times, their light weight and tough design makes them the most expensive items to have but it is worth it, especially when you are carrying all your belongings around all day. As mentioned, I use a Brooks Range Mountaineering sleeping bag, and a Gore-tex rain jacket, which I absolutely love. These items are very small and take up very little space in my pack.

Travel Writer and Photographer Adam Parkison

How do you organize things in your bags?

When travelling, I usually like a pack that has one main, bucket compartment that can fit my large items in. I like to have the freedom of organizing my softer gear to fit against by back support inside the pack, and the heavier harder items at the top of the pack, without having many different pockets that restricts my freedom to pack how I want.

In general, I find most large internal frame backpacks to be too complicated; you don’t need all the bells and whistles for it to be efficient and functional. For smaller items, I like to have small waterproof roll-up bags, like the Seal Line Blocker and BlockerLite dry sacks, that I can organize these various items more easily. One or two secondary pockets on the outside of the pack are perfect for items of gear that need to be reached quickly.

One piece of gear item I would really like to try out someday, would be a Hyperlite 3400 Southwest or 4400 Southwest backpacks. Their super tough, super light design is very interesting to me, and with only one large bucket compartment, it seems to fit my philosophy of ultralight travel perfectly.

Travel Writer and Photographer Adam Parkison

What has been your best adventuring purchase below $100?

The gear purchase I have found for under $100 (About $40 in fact) might be a combination of a Patagonia Duckbill cap, and a Buff original neck gaiter. Together, they can be used in almost any weather condition and climate. With the hat on top and the buff covering the ears, one can do activities in cold weather. When by itself, the neck gaiter can keep out bugs and block sunburn. And the hat by itself is cool enough for even the hottest of weather. In a place like Alaska and Sub-Sahara Africa, where bugs, heat, and cold change rapidly, it is a great combination.

Travel Writer and Photographer Adam Parkison

What kind of photos do you prefer to shoot?

As a photographer, I try and find unique perspectives that most people miss when they are outdoors. One of my favorite scenarios is when you focus on a single object, in the context of a giant picture. This might be an antler on the tundra ground in focus, with a big mountain backdrop out of focus. Or, a small human against a vast desert horizon. These types of photos are the hardest to find, and one must always keep an eye out for them in order not to miss those rare opportunities. But in general though, my absolute favorite photographs are of wildlife, especially in situations that seem out of the norm, or unexpected.

I once photographed a black bear eating pine cones in a white-bark-pine tree in Montana: all that can be seen is the bears face peeking out of the tree. Another photo I really like, is of two bull elk running across a snow field. It was dark, and the animals black outline is sharply defined against the white snow behind. And yet another favorite photo of mine is of a red fox carrying a ground squirrel in its mouth; a photo I captured in Alaska right after a rain storm, when the area was covered in a dense fog.

Travel Writer and Photographer Adam Parkison

What is your best advice for other adventurers?

The main mistake I see from other prospective travelers and adventurers is that their expectations for their trip is too big. For example, they might think that in order to travel to Patagonia National Park, in Chile, they will have to pay for an expensive, fully guided trip; when in reality, there are many, many very cheap options if they actually did the research.

Another problem is that they might plan for too many activities in a short amount of time, and are unable to complete them all, and end up feeling disappointed or stressed out their entire trip. My advice would be to plan less activities, and actually enjoy each day without stress. That way, they will get to know a place more intimately as well. These mistakes are all some of the first mistakes I made when travelling.

Travel Writer and Photographer Adam Parkison

What will the future bring?

There are two big projects in store for me currently: One, I am in the process of having my first book published- a memoir of my life in Africa. And two, I am planning a fastpacking trip along a very remote river in south-west Africa, to document its biodiversity and scenery before a proposed hydroelectric dam is built there, and the landscape is changed forever.

Visit Adam Parkinson on his website and follow him on Facebook and Instagram


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