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Bikes, Canoes, Islands, & Driftless Gravel on "The Drifty" Adventure This Summer.

The Drifty is an 8-day, unscripted adventure that takes place in the beautiful Driftless Region of Southern Wisconsin. Including live music, bikepacking, canoeing, and a community of adventurers, it packs a lot of variety and natural beauty into one unforgetable week. Here we chat with Jake Gafner, Founder of The Drifty and Lost Travel.

Learn more at The Drifty.

Why the Driftless area? You're doing Sicily, Vietnam, and Wisconsin's Driftless region. How did the Drifty originate and what makes it a destination worthy adventure?

Sometimes you don’t have to go far from home to find a good adventure. The Driftless region is a beautiful landscape with an interesting geological history. It’s home to hills which lead to fun (read: grueling) biking routes but it also leaves you feeling like you’re truly disconnected from the real world. The southern edge of the Driftless region features the Lower Wisconsin River which, at 92 miles, is the longest free-flowing stretch of river in the Midwest.

It was on the Wisconsin river, during a Labor Day paddling trip with our dog that we first dreamt up the concept for the Drifty. We had been traveling around the world quite a bit that year and seeing our home state with fresh eyes made us want to create a local trip for others.

People are on their own but it's also a coordinated community doing this together. Where does this fit on the spectrum of an unscripted, unguided adventure and community awesomeness?

The Drifty is community awesomeness x10. In the words of a participant Tom Lacy, “it’s a bunch of people heading in the same direction, by different routes. Shared misery, shared satisfaction.” There is a lot of camaraderie, particularly at the kickoff, during the river section, and at the finish. Most people do the Drifty in small groups of 2-5.

We provide the framework for an incredible adventure. We’ve arranged the hard stuff, coordinated some fun stuff along the way and do our best to make sure people have a rad time. Everybody comes together for a kickoff camp (food, drinks, live music, camping). The Lost Gear wagon will meet you at each of the transitions, and we finish with a party called Drifty Fest; with live music, a food truck, awards, and drinks.

The unscripted nature is because every day of our lives we’re told what to do. When we’re on PTO we don’t want our hands held which is why the Drifty is unguided and not fully planned out for you. If you want to camp the entire time, you can do that. If you want to plot the least hilly route through the Driftless region… go for it. Make it your own and share your stories at the finish line. We do use a GPS tracking system to make sure people aren’t royally lost.

What are your top 3-5 favorite parts of this adventure?

  1. It’s type-2 fun and for many people, the Drifty is a truly life-changing experience. Some people have quit their jobs, made the decision to go back to school, left relationships, had their perspectives change, and more… after completing the Drifty.

  2. Camping on the sandbars of the Wisconsin River is a highlight of this trip.

  3. The way that people organically come together throughout the trip makes me really happy; at Missouri Tavern, Wisconsin Riverside Resort, at random campsites, etc. This is what it’s all about.

  4. The situations that people get into can’t be predicted. People have hitchhiked with DNR agents, stayed at nudist camps, went bowling, biked into Minnesota, gotten very lost, and drank fresh milk from a cow tank.

  5. Everybody makes it their own. Some people coordinate their own SAG vehicle. Some people have friends/family camp with them during the biking portion….

Who should do this?

ALL people and ALL bikes are welcome. You can do the Drifty on a tandem bike, e-bike, longboard, pennyfarthing… whatever. We’ve had people as young as 18 and as old as 77 do the Drifty.

You should do the Drifty if you want a serious challenge AND you don’t take yourself too seriously. It is certainly a physical challenge; you should know how to paddle and swim as well as being capable of biking ~40 miles per day with bikepacking gear. That said, The Drifty is not a race, it’s an adventure.

People fly in from around North America for the Drifty; we’ve welcome folks from over 25 states and Canada for the trip.

If you sign up solo, you’ll meet friends to travel with at the kickoff camp. Groups are also welcome and we welcome bike clubs, travel groups and more to sign up. We have even had people coordinate guided trips within the Drifty… anything goes.

Anything else you want to add?

For Drifty 10 we’re crowdsourcing a theme. The official ballot for people to vote for a theme is HERE. Voting is open now through the end of the year.

Bike rentals are available for people that are flying in. To see the itinerary and learn more, visit




Plan a New Gravel Adventure

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