Ed Stafford’s new book describes what some of the world’s greatest explorers took with them on their journey. Pam LeBlanc photo

Ever wonder what you’d need for a trip to the South Pole, a road trip across the Sahara Desert, or a flight across the Atlantic?

Survivalist Ed Stafford, who walked the Amazon River (with a guide) and has starred in his own series on the Discovery Channel, has put together a book that answers those questions.

“Expeditions Unpacked: What the Great Explorers Took into the Unknown” details 25 expeditions through the equipment the explorers took with them.

The book hits store shelves on Sept. 17, but I’ve been flipping through an advance copy. For me, the charm comes in reading about the non-essentials the explorers chose to take with them.

Jacques Cousteau packed a red knit beanie along with a shark cave and face mask. Pam LeBlanc photo

You might have guessed that Roald Amundsen took ski boots and skis on his expedition to the South Pole from 1910 to 1912, for example, but did you know he also packed a mandolin, a piano, a gramophone and a violin?

Amelia Earhart packed Dr. Berry’s Freckle ointment along with the essential parachutes, Bendix radio direction finder and an emergency raft on her flight across the Atlantic.

Thor Heyerdahl, who spent 101 days on a balsa wood raft during his Kon-Tiki Expedition, brought shark powder (whatever that is) and a parrot on his journey, although I’m baffled by an account of Heyerdahl’s encounter with a 50-foot whale shark with 3,000 teeth that could have “turned the Kon-Tiki to driftwood.”

Whale sharks don’t have teeth, and they’re not aggressive. They’re like giant catfish, and I’ve swum with a dozen of them at once off of Isla Mujeres.

The book covers all sorts of explorations, including sailing, bicycling, camel trekking, skiing and ballooning. I love the illustrations that go with each chapter – drawings of the supplies, unpacked and spread out.

During his first ascent of Everest in 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary tucked sardines, biscuits and tinned apricots into his luggage, along with walkie talkies, an ice axe, a nylon and cotton tent, woolen socks, crampons and goggles.

Eva Dickson, the first woman to drive across the Sahara, loaded her Chevrolet Confederate with a hunting rifle, a camping bed, a spare tire, gasoline and a copy of the Bible for her 27-day journey in 1932.

Amelia Earhart brought parachutes and a life raft, along with freckle cream. Pam LeBlanc photo

Not all the explorers mentioned made it out alive. Perhaps Lieutenant Colonel Percy Fawcett, who disappeared after heading into the Amazon basin to find the forgotten city, was missing a few key pieces when he packed flares, a mosquito net, accordion, sextant, fedora and a tweed jacket.

Stafford allots 10 pages to his own 860-day trek along the Amazon River from 2008 to 2010. Explorers have been hauling some of the same gear he took – a hammock, a sewing awl and a machete, for example – for centuries. But he enjoyed the luxury of modern technology his predecessors never had, like GPS, satellite communication equipment, a camcorder – and DEET to keep the mosquitos away.

About Pam

I’m Pam LeBlanc. Follow my blog to keep up with the best in outdoor travel and adventure. Thanks for visiting my site.

Where is Pam?

Click to open a larger map

Follow Pam