You realize just how critical gear selection becomes when you spend a week’s time out in the wilderness and you rely solely on the choices you have made in your pack. Luckily, I already had a general idea of my personal preferences [everyone is different!] and weeded out the unwanted on my “test drive” in Washington. I highly recommend testing your gear out on a shorter 1 to 2 night trip before diving into a longer and more demanding trek. This way you have an idea of how much to pack and ways you can refine your preferences for the ultimate experience.
Last summer I backpacked in the Hoh Rain Forest to test my gear out in preparation for my trip to South America. And thank goodness I did! I learned a lot from the experience and found out a few things about my gear that would have been such a pain down south. Like for one, trekking poles are bomb and not just for old folks. Secondly, I packed way too much and didn’t need about half of the stuff I brought. I also made adjustments to some main gear items like my tent, backpack, and sleeping bag. I went for lighter, higher quality items which of course come at an expensive price, but the idea was that they are a good investment and will last a lifetime. Over the years, you’ll tweak and adjust to find the perfect travel comfort that fits you. The more I travel, the less I pack every time because I always find myself asking “Do I really need this? Why did I pack so many clothes when I wear the same outfit everyday?”. Other people might prefer carrying a little more weight in sacrifice for the luxury of having more available to them. It’s your choice and your personal preference – learn your style.
- The classic debate – synthetic vs wool – in outdoor clothing. For me, there isn’t even a question because merino wool, hands down, is my favorite fabric for all of my attire needs when I hit the trails. It breathes well, dries amazingly quick, and still smelled [somewhat] great after a week’s worth of wear! The few synthetic shirts that I brought on the trip, I ended up ditching them because it became excessive weight for something that I wasn’t using. Ice Breaker’s gear might be pricey, but it is worth the splurge. By needing to change your outfits less frequently [sometimes I would wear the same shirt 4-5 days in a row], you won’t need to invest in nearly as much clothing and ultimately you save on money and space in your pack.
- I loved my LifeStraw! I brought it everywhere with me. When you travel outside of the US and discover that water is no longer free, buying bottled water every day can add up in expenses. With my LifeStraw, I could drink out of any tap, lake, or stream with peace of mind knowing that my water was being safely filtered. This reusable water bottle saves you money while helping the environment [less plastic waste is always a plus!].
Trekking poles – but not mine!
- Bringing my trekking poles was one of the best decisions I made for the circuit. They were a huge help in aiding my body with the support it needed to make it through the physically challenging 7 day hike. Steep inclines and declines can take a toll on your joints when you’re carrying a heavy pack. My trekking poles helped to stabilize my pack weight which reduced my chances of rolling an ankle and relieved the constant strain on my knees. Some of the younger, fitter folk we met on the trail were certainly too cool for poles. But let me tell you, I am not! I am 24 years old and I rocked my trekking poles with pride because guess whose body wasn’t shot by the end of the 137 km circuit? Mine. And I have my poles to thank for that!
Note: The need for trekking poles varies.
- The Buff headband is very versatile and a great addition to your pack. I love its material because it breathes really well while also keeping your head warm. I find a lot of headbands overwhelmingly suffocating on my head but this one was perfect. Torres del Paine [and all of Patagonia] is notorious for its crazy weather; and its wind is no exception! My Buff was great for keeping my hair out of my face while not letting my ears get chilly in those windy patches. When I wasn’t using my Buff, I would just slip it over my head and keep it around my neck for quick access when needed.
Vasque Breeze 2.0 Mid GTX Hiking Boots
- Even though I am an avid hiker and a lover of all adventure, this was my first time committing myself to a real pair of full-support hiking boots. When you want a solid pair of boots that come with all the features that truly make it worth your money [waterproof, durable, lightweight, and comfortable], you are looking at a hefty price! Which I am totally okay with spending if I know these boots will last me a lifetime, but I had this fear of becoming Cinderella in my hunt for the perfect boot and I can’t afford to try out several pairts of $200 boots only to realize that my feet absolutely hate them all. So, I’ve always opted for my running shoes. The only problem is, when you are hiking with something heavier than a day pack, running shoes will no longer make the cut. I have bad ankles to begin with, so I knew I would finally need to break my commitment phobia and buy a pair of hiking boots that would offer real support. By luck, I stumbled upon a pair of Vasque hiking boots that I felt confident would do the trick and it has been love ever since. Never once did I have to break them in. Never once have I gotten a blister. Never once have my feet gotten wet when stumbling into a shallow stream or trudging through murky mud puddles. Never once have I resented my decision to buy these boots – I absolutely love them!
My trekking poles – Black Diamond Distance Z trekking poles
- Like you read up above, trekking poles are awesome and I hope I have convinced you of that. My trekking poles though, not so awesome. I highly do NOT recommend collapsable trekking poles unless they have a locking mechanism. Mine did not and whenever the tip would get stuck in the mud or some brush, the pole would come apart and I would have to stop and snap it back together. It was super frustrating and aggravating when I was already exhausted just from hiking and it was the last thing that I wanted to fuss with on my trek.
Moutain Hardwear Laminina Z Flame Sleeping Bag
- I found this sleeping bag to be bittersweet. It was lightweight and kept me warm at night with no problems. I like that it is synthetic because I don’t have to worry about it getting wet. What I don’t like about it though, is its compactability – yes that is my new word. Basically it sucked to pack up every morning and it took all of my effort [and body weight] to compress it down to a suitable size that would fit in my pack. This is not ideal when you are taking a long trip and have to wake up every morning to a wrestling match with your sleeping bag. For those seasoned backpackers, setting up and breaking down camp becomes an art in which you try to perfect the motions as seamlessly and as painlessly as possible. A stubborn sleeping bag makes for a headache in this process and you end up dreading it every morning when you go to pack up camp. I am going to try a new compression sack and see if the one that it came with is the real problem, otherwise I am getting a new sleeping bag before my next big trip.
Mountain House Freeze Dried Food
- Just typing the name makes me want to hurl. The food was so unsatisfying after a long day’s hike. Generally you can get by with mediocre food because when you have just finished an 8 hr day of hiking, almost anything sounds good. Stale pretzels, mildly melted trail mix, off-brand granola bars – they all suddenly sound like heaven to your taste buds. Not Mountain House. On top of lacking quality flavor, they generally didn’t pack the same protein punch as other backpacking food brands. When comparing to Backpacker’s Pantry, Mountain House always had less protein in their servings. I’ll be making the switch back to Backpacker’s Pantry and never looking back.
Make sure you do your research so that you can enjoy more of this…
And spend less time looking like this…