Traveler Profile: Tanner Cibula (Survivalist, Backpacker, Traveler)

Today, in our Traveler Profiles series, we highlight Tanner Cibula, a backpacker, traveler, and self-reliance expert with an incurable urge to thrive and survive during challenging situations in the middle of nowhere.

Smiling man on a snowbank with the sun setting in the background
Tanner Cibula: Survivalist, Traveler & Backpacker

Tell us a little bit about yourself

Tanner Cibula is the name, and wilderness adventuring is the game! In the last five years, I’ve spent over a year of my life living in a tent as a full-time blogger, survival instructor, gear junkie, and expedition undertaker. However, my life hasn’t always been this way.

Growing up in Ohio led me to live a typical suburban lifestyle. My family didn’t hike or camp, as it just wasn’t the norm there. The first time I ever hiked, I was 18 years old. Wrestling seemed like my whole life at the time.

After a few wrestling injuries, I stopped the sport to take up the challenge of solo expeditions and embarked on multiple month-long wilderness trips. Around the same time, I began my self-reliance blog. Here I am a few years later, doing the exact same thing!

What’s your favorite travel/destination?

For backcountry adventures, Northern Minnesota’s forested landscape is second to none. Crystal-clear glaciated lakes occupy much of the area known as the Boundary Waters. I’ve spent months immersed in this environment, traveling by canoe, dogsled, and skis.

If I’m traveling to travel, I can’t shake my craving for tropical environments. Spending two months in Hawaii made me fall in love with sunshine, scuba diving, and fruit (especially pineapple). I love living in Ohio but often fantasize about moving onto a sailboat stationed in the tropics.

One of my dreams is to escape to one of Fiji’s deserted islands. Such an experience would promise the perfect fusion of tropical warmth and unspoiled wilderness. This particular adventure seems unparalleled and would be a dream come true. Now, I need to book my ticket!

Tell us a crazy travel/backpacking story

Man in blue shirt standing in front of a sign that says "YOU ARE NOW ENTERING THE FAMOUS ALASKA HIGHWAY, DAWSON CREEK B.C."
Driving the Alaska Highway was a once-in-a-lifetime experience

The summer after college, I drove 5,000 miles from Ohio to Alaska for under $1,000. This is a feat that I now find comical because I was extremely frugal on the way up to Alaska but the total opposite once I arrived.

I had a drastic perspective shift along the way, and I began embracing the notion that “you only live once.” I eventually decided a financial start-over would be a better idea, and I drained my bank account, living out of my means for the short two months I was there.

Looking back, it may not have been a great idea to max out all of my credit cards and spend my life savings, but I don’t regret it for a second. Driving to Alaska has been a dream of mine since I wrote about it in my journal at the age of 13, after all.

What backpack are you currently rocking?

My latest spontaneous gear purchase was the Cotopaxi Allpa, and I’m thrilled I bought it. This pack is everything I could ask for in a carry-on-style travel pack. It’s got suitcase-like compartments, a unique color profile, and, at 35 liters, it’s big enough for one-bag travel anywhere.

My Allpa has traveled with me across 15 states and two countries. I’m frugal at heart, but I feel confident that my impulsive $200 purchase was worth it. My only gripe about the pack lies in its 35-liter version, which unfortunately lacks a water bottle pocket—a minor inconvenience overall.

Over the years, I’ve amassed quite a collection of packs, and I believe my Allpa will stand the test of time. As you might relate, different occasions often call for different packs. The Allpa, however, seems to cover all types of travel scenarios, earning its place as my versatile long-term companion.

What’s your favorite piece of travel/backpacking gear and why?

Hand holding a Garmin GPS device in the snowy backcountry
The Garmin inReach Explorer+ is my favorite piece of gear

For a gear enthusiast like myself, picking a favorite piece of equipment is tough. I value gear that serves its purpose effectively and is tailored to the type of trip I’m on. While I have a favorite gadget overall, I also have a highly sentimental attachment to a backpack.

The Garmin inReach Explorer+ is my favorite piece of tech gear, not because it’s exciting, but because it’s essential! As someone who values home comfort, being away from my family is always a challenge. However, the inReach’s satellite communication capabilities allow me to stay in touch with loved ones and send an SOS call in case of emergency.

The Osprey Xenith 88 backpack has the honor of being my most special item overall. It holds a cherished place in my heart as it was the first item I ever acquired for backpacking. Over the years, it’s accompanied me on countless adventures, from the Appalachian Trail all the way up to Alaska.

Where are you headed next?

Next on my adventure agenda is a 50-day solo expedition into the Canadian wilderness. While I’ve been meticulously planning this for a while, committing to such an extended break from work poses its challenges. I’ll also undertake smaller, spontaneous trips leading up to the big 50-day journey this summer.

I plan to venture into the Ontario backcountry and navigate its vast terrain by canoe. My aim isn’t just to marvel at the beauty of the Boreal Forest but also to test my limits and hone my self-reliance skills in the untamed wilderness.

Canada has arguably the largest expanse of pristine wilderness left in the world (behind Antarctica). Much of this is called the Boreal Forest, which is characterized by its dense stands of coniferous trees such as spruce, pine, and fir interspersed with wetlands, lakes, and rivers.

Leave us with a helpful piece of travel/backpacking tip or life advice

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Enroll in a course or class to learn new skills in every destination you visit. For instance, while in Hawaii, I became scuba certified, and in Alaska, I took a survival, self-reliance, and mountaineering course. Next, I’ll journey to Costa Rica to immerse myself in the culture and take Spanish classes. The options for growth are endless.

I enroll in courses and classes across various locations to broaden my knowledge and skills and discover who I am and what I value. What’s fascinating about our world is that each geographic location holds its own unique offerings and specialties, allowing me to delve deeper into diverse experiences and perspectives.

While taking courses isn’t always cheap, doing so is an investment in ourselves that enriches our lives. It doesn’t require extravagance; it could be as simple as learning how to forage for wild plants or taking martial arts lessons in a different country. I’ve never regretted learning something new, and you probably won’t either.

Last Updated on March 23, 2024

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TPL Staff

This post was a collaborative effort, and was written more than one author from The Packable Life Team. Certain types of articles require multiple perspectives, which is why we team up when necessary to give you the best content possible.

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