What Gear Do I Need for Foraging?
We tracked down one of the country's foremost fungi hunters to find out what's in his kit
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In the wild mushroom world, Larry Evans is a legend. He has foraged all over the world since the 1970s, taught classes on how to find mushrooms for more than 30 years, and organized seminars for dozens of organizations. After Ian Frazier profiled him for Outside in 2004, Evans became a local celebrity in his hometown of Missoula, Montana. As an amateur forager myself, I wanted to know about his kit, so I called Evans and asked for his top gear recommendations.
- Knife: Evans uses a custom knife he manufactures and sells. It has a curved blade with teeth on the back, a brush on the bottom, and a ruler on the handle. “The blade curves so you can use the knife at a slight angle to cut a mushroom. It’s good for poking in between stumps and things,” Evans says. The teeth and brush remove as much dirt from the mushroom as possible without cutting pieces off. The ruler helps with identification. “It’s nice to take a picture with [a ruler] because someone can look at the picture and have something for scale. Not everyone’s hand is the same size,” Evans says.
- Backpack: Evans hacked his pack so he can carry lots of mushrooms without squishing any. He starts with an old external frame bag, then removes the body to reveal just the frame and harness. Next he attaches a board to the base of the frame, then stacks commercial fruit bins (usually about four) on top. Each bin is tied to the frame for support and so it doesn’t come loose. Fully loaded, Evans can carry about 80 pounds of fungi.
- Shirt: When Evans doesn’t want to carry a pack, he just uses his shirt to carry the mushrooms. As a clever hack, he sews buttons on the collar, then creates corresponding holes at the bottom so he can attach the bottom of the shirt to the collar, creating a tub that allows him to work hands-free. “It looks really ridiculous,” Evans says.
- Footwear: “I’m not a good role model here,” Evans says. “I used to wear Red Wings and waffle stompers, but as I got older, I guess I got tougher.” Nowadays he just wears sandals, but I’d recommend something like the Oboz Wind River II Bdry because you’ll likely be in the backcountry and need a solid boot for protection and scrambling.
- Water: Finding mushrooms can take a long time and a lot of walking. “Most mushroom hunt failures are caused by dehydration, at least here in Montana,” Evans says. He knows the area where he forages, so he brings a couple standard water bottles and refills them straight from local streams. I’m more cautious, so if I’m going to be out for a long time and need to refill in a stream, I bring a simple, reliable physical filtration device like the MSR MiniWorks EX.
- GPS Device: It’s easy to get lost foraging because you’re looking at the ground and not paying attention to where you’re wandering. “Everyone is going to get lost. It’s just learning how to get found,” Evans says. He doesn't carry one, but suggests all new foragers use a GPS device just in case. I like the Garmin Oregon 700 Handheld because it’s easy to use and offers weather radar overlays so you can avoid getting caught in a storm.