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Geared Up for South America!

“How is it possible to pack for seven months of travel?” “How big is your suitcase?” “How many changes of clothes did you bring?” “How can you have clothes for all different climates?”

These are just a few of the questions we are regularly asked about life on the road. And so, this post is devoted to answering a few of the questions about clothing, gear, and packing.

Ol and I would shake our heads when we saw people hiking with 40-60 pound packs. We especially loved Chileans who seemed to travel with their homes on their backs. They were easy to spot, as they usually had all kinds of things hanging off of their packs.

So, what did we pack for months of adventure in South America? We knew that we would be visiting the beaches of the Pacific, the Atlantic, and Easter Island. We knew that we would be trekking the high Andes of Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile and needed to bring our camping and cooking gear. We knew that we would be exploring deserts, hiking volcanoes and glaciers. We also needed to be prepared for tropical rivers, the amazon jungle, and wetlands. We would be spending months in cities and needed appropriate attire for visiting churches, museums, restaurants, and nights out on the town. Temperatures would range from the high 90’s to below freezing at high elevation.

The most important things about our gear was that it had to be light, and that it had to hold up to the elements and to the wear and tear of travel. Our lives could depend upon it.

We were fortunate that most of our outdoor gear was purchased for and tested on our 240 mile, 30 day trek of the John Muir Trail in California. We hiked at high altitude and a large portion of the trail was over 10,000 feet. So we knew that everything we had would hold up to the elements and to wear and tear.

The things that I was most worried about were: if our tent would hold up to the extreme weather and high winds of Patagonia; how would we keep our gear safe on buses or if we needed to store it while trekking; and, would it be easy to find fuel for our camping stove.

Some of our gear would be expensive to replace if it was lost or stolen because t is made of high tech materials, like titanium, carbon and which is strong and light. Much of the gear was purchased on sale and a lot of it was made by a small outfitter and would take months to replace if anything was stolen.

We decided that we would each carry only one back pack for all of our clothing and gear. Plus we had one small back pack to carry all of our electronics which would also double as a day pack for short hikes of a day walking around a city.

When we checked our bags in New Orleans for our flight to Cartagena, Colombia, our bags weighed about the same. My bag weighed 8.6 Kg and Ol’s weighed 9.2 Kg. We followed one simple rule on our journey, if we purchased anything, we had to get rid of something. We just didn’t have any room in our packs

Our Z-Pack backpacks fit in most overhead airplane bins. When traveling on small regional planes, they would have to be checked at the gate. We purchased light weight bag liners which also doubled as backpack carrying bags. They are made by our backpack maker, Z-pack and are light and would serve multiple functions. The bags would help us keep our back pack straps safe from conveyor belts and our gear safe from any thieves and pickpockets.

Every piece of gear was researched in advance of purchase. One of my favorite sites is I also read trail journals and blog posts of other travelers. I felt good about what we were bringing. My biggest surprise was that although we packed light, it was still too much. We quickly discovered that we could have each packed less clothing than we actually did and we ended up sending a lot of things back home.

Our first purchase, was a new pair of trekking boots. After a few years we had put miles and miles on our old boots. So I went to Outdoor Gear Lab and decided on Hoka 1. When our Amazon delivery came, we were like two little kids getting new shoes for school. Ol wasn’t thrilled about my color choice, but he instantly changed his mind when he found out that they were half price.

We loved our boots from day one. We both put them on and bounced around the living room. They were so lightweight and cushioned, like a cross between a slipper and a comfortable running shoe. Not only did they make our new adventure seem real, but they never let us down. They still look great, even though they have hundreds of kilometers on them and have been through, ice, mud, rocks, and rivers. There was no break in period and they were ridiculously light, had amazing traction, quick to dry and are the most comfortable shoes we both own.

Another great purchase was Life Straws and a Steripen. We would need a water treatment to keep us safe while hiking. What we found is that while we only used these items while we were hiking, they were important when we didn’t have bottled water readily available in the wilderness. However, we did find bottled water was available almost everywhere in cities, towns, and villages. Everyone should carry and keep a Steripen and Life Straws in an emergency kit for hiking, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc.

Another piece of gear that is great in case of emergencies, especially for solo travelers, was our emergency travel beacon. Our ResQLink, allows us to notify authorities of a life or death emergency anywhere in the world. If one of us is injured in a remote area, in a boat accident, or need help we simply push a button and military satellites will track our signal and notify our family and the authorities. Again, this should go in every emergency kit.

We love our Z-Pack backpacks. They are light, fit all of our gear, are comfortable, and made to fit our torsos. The same company also made our tent and our rain gear. All of Z-Pack’s gear is ultra light. Our tent held up to the sustained sixty mph winds of Patagonia. That is pretty amazing, considering it is waterproof, is completely screened for bugs, spacious enough for us to sit up in, and hold all of our gear. With titanium tent stakes it weighs just over a pound.

I am also in love with my sleeping bag by Mountain Western Engineering, USA. Again it is ultra light and it is a zero degree bag. Because it is made with goose feathers, I am never too hot or too cold and the loft is really comfortable. I used it it the mountains of Patagonia, Machu Picchu and on every overnight bus trip. The only time it let me down, was when it was locked under the bus at the Bolivian border and the bus driver ran off and left us to spend a freezing night on the bus. All I could do was fantasize about was my sleeping bag.

I also love our JetBoil stove. We needed it for trekking and it was great when we went car camping. Fuel was easy to find and the only inconvenience was that we would have to ditch the fuel if we were flying. So even though we ended up having to donate unused fuel a few times, hot tea and cocoa in the evening made up for it. Again, we had to laugh at the stoves used by other backpackers, some were so big we would use them only for tailgating.

Our last piece of essential gear that got lots of use is our Mountain Hardware down jackets. Ultralight, warm, and can fold into a very small space. They still look as good as they did four years ago when we purchased them.

We ended up sending some items home because we simply did not need them or because they were too heavy. We sent a package home during our first few weeks in Colombia, and we sent more home with our kids after their Christmas visit.

We had our daughter bring us a few things at Christmas because we both went down a pant size or two. There are also a few items that we highly recommend everyone should have, especially if you hike, boat, travel or live in a natural disaster area. This I marked as essential.

We each purchased a Panama hat in Colombia and after a few weeks in Peru, they were left behind. Things we lost along the way are also marked, 2 pairs of prescription glasses (hiking), 1 silk base layer (cleaners), 1 hiking pole (reason to go visit our friends Juan Pedro and Ruby) Our son Ollie left his Birkenstocks at a beach hotel while visiting. Items stolen zero, gear failure zero. We ended up coming home a little lighter than when we left.

Below is a list of the things that we packed in each of our backpacks. I have made notes showing if we sent an item home because we didn’t need it, if we replaced it, or if we lost it.

Day Pack:

(SH = Shipped Home) (R = Replaced) (L = Lost) (DN = DN)

Timbuk2 Waterproof Daypack (R)

2 Nalgalene /Waterbottles (L=Lost)

Adventurer Steripen UV water purifier (E)

Repel Eucalyptus Wipes (Didn’t Need = DN)

2 Rainleaf Microfiber towels

Neutrogena Age shield sunscreen

2 glacial stream water filter straws (E)

1 pair of Maui Jim Sport prescription sunglasses

1 pair of prescription sunglasses ( L)

1 Pair of prescription distance glasses (L)

2 pairs of reading glasses

1 chums

Copy of passports

Sea to summit small water proof bag

1 pack small bag

1- Resq Link Plus (E)

1- Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones (L) (R) Going through Airport Security Replaced with Beats wireless

Olympus digital Camera 620 G73507439 w/ (3 lenses) (SH) after 1 month iPhones take amazing pictures!

.25/.82ft - (SH)

.9m/2.96 80/30 equiv (SH)

.96m/3.2 ft (SH)

Olympus battery charger w/ 2 batteries (SH)

2 64 GB Memory cards (SH)

MacBook w/ extra plug ins charger

Kindle fire w/ charger (SH)

iPad mini w/ charger

2 - iphone7 (SH) One replaced with X at Christmas

1 - Mophie SN1439773405-BK w/charger

ZPack dry bag

Pacsafe smart travel gear cable lock (DN)

Oliver’s Backpack:

1-zpack backpack w/ waist belt 2 shoulder pockets

1-zpack duplex tent w/ stuff sack w/ 4 tent pole protectors

1- Pack titanium tent stakes

1- Sea to Summit silk liner w/ pillow (DN - SH)

1- pair black diamond flick lock alpine carbon cork hiking poles

1- Garmin Oregon 600 (SH)

1- Garmin harbinger clip (SH)

1- Thermarest Neo Air Sleeping Mat

1- Western mountaineering 6’6” Extreme Lite Series Versalite sleeping bag w/ Z-pack waterproof stuff sack

1 pair mens Vibram Hoka One Hiking Boots

1- large waterproof z-pack dry sack with convertible pillow

1- men’s Mountain Hardware down jacket 800 Down

1 Z-pack Rain Jacket and z-pack rain pants

1 goody boars hair brush

1 3 oz bottle Picaridin insect repellant

1- zpack ultra light warm hat

5- boxer briefs

1pair sealskin socks

1- Prana slim fit black jeans (R)

1- pair Z-pack waterproof rain mittens

1- Cabellas Hiking Pants mens belt (R)

1- Field and Stream Xl Mens long sleeve shirt (SH, DN)

1- Marmont Blue long sleeve shirt (R)

2- White /Black Nike long sleeve drifit shirt (SH - 1)

1-light swim shorts

1- pair Patagonia silk black base layer pants and shirt

3 - Nike dry fit short sleeve shirt red/blue/black (SH - 1 shirt)

1- Underarmour Ole Miss short sleeve shirt (SH)(R)

2- pairs smart wool socks

1 pair Outdoor Research black gaiters

1- pair mens Olukai leather slip on shoes

1- pair mens Teeva sandals (SH)

1- titanium cup w/zpack stuff sack (SH)(R)Should not have sent home!

1- titanium spork and food

1- Jetboil Flash stove

1- z-pack backpack airline duffel bag

1- Sea to Summit mosquito net w/stuff sack (SH)

1-Petzl e+Lite 50 Lumens

1- Ursack bear bag (SH)(DN)

1- Large Waterproof bag

1- pair plantar fascia shoe inserts

Jen’s Backpack:

1-zpack backpack w/ waist belt 2 shoulder pockets

1- Sea to Summit silk liner w/ pillow (SH- DN)

1- pair black diamond flick lock alpine carbon cork hiking poles (Lost one at end of hiking)

1- Thermarest Neo Air

1- Western mountaineering 6 ft Extreme Lite Series Versalite sleeping bag w/ Z-pack waterproof stuff sack

1 pair women’s Vibram Hoka One bootsX 40

1- large waterproof z-pack dry sack with convertible pillow

1- women’s Mountain Hardware down jacket L14-011 800 Down

1 zpack Rain Jacket and z-pack rain pants

1 3 oz bottle Picaridin insect repellant

1- zpack ultra light warm hat

1- zpack cashmere gloves

1 - thermarest zseat (SH)

1-pair sealskin socks

1- Prana slim fit black jeans

1- pair Patagonia silk black base layer pants and shirt

3 pairs smart wool socks

1 pair Outdoor Research small black gaiters

1- pair women’s Teeva sandals

1- titanium cup w/zpack stuff sack

1- titanium spork and food warmer

1- zpack Backpack airline duffel bag

1- Sea to Summit mosquito net w/stuff sack

1- Large Waterproof bag

1- pair plantar fascia shoe inserts

1 Asics dir fit long sleeve women (R)

1- pair north face hiking pants - (SH)

1- pair Columbia black hiking pants - omni shield (R)

1- Prana- gray dress

1- Escapada long black dress (SH)

1- Patagonia gray long sleeve wool sweater (R)

1- Prana long linen scarf (SH) (R)

1- extra large linen scarf Nordstrom (SH)

1- Nike featherlike drift hat (L)

1- Patagonia hiking sun hat (R)

1- pair Pantagonia sun gloves

1- pair Columbia omni-shield shorts (SH)

1- Prana white small sleeveless blouse (SH)

1- Pantagonia neck gaiter

1- Ahnu leather ballet flats

1- Prana headband (SH)

1- Ace knee brace

1- black diamond head lamp

2- Ibex smart wool bras black/gray

3 - VS underwear

2- pairs Patagonia underwear

2- pairs IBEX wool underwear

1- suit black w/ zipper swimsuit (SH)

1 white prana zip white sun shirt

1- pair aqua skin socks

2- Cotton bandanas

1 titanium shovel

1- storm whistle

1- Ultralight watertight medical kit

2- TSA Masterlock

1- blue cord

1- emergency blanket

1- signalling mirror

1- brunton compass

1 set shoelaces

1- sawyer squeeze water filter

2 - Thermarest field repair kit and valve kit

1- sea to summit clothesline

1- wipes, makeup and toiletries

2 Large zpack stuff sack

2 small zpack stuff sack

2 medium zpack stuff sack

1extra large zpack dry sack

We are already working on our gear list for our next adventure and I’m confident to say we will be traveling even lighter.

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