Prior to planning for this trip I felt confident in my knowledgeable of gear. After months of research, I now realize that was naive of me; in our day and age there is very specific gear for very specific activities. The gear world is very vast and it is easy to get lost in. More importantly, it is easy to feel like you don’t have the right gear.
Our 14 months of travel will take us through many countries, different climates, multi day hikes, and a variety of activities. The name of the game is comfort and durability. As we will be living out of our backpacks, we need things to be light. Lighter packs means more comfort and thus more fun! Durability is important because after 9 months of travelling, we will start our thru hike of New Zealand. We want to be able to keep using the same gear without having to buy more.
Online gear research though youtube, blogs, facebook, and forums, quickly taught me one thing; it’s all very personal. It doesn’t matter how many reviews you have read, just because it worked for everyone else, does not mean it will work for you. Once you get the gear, go use it, preferably in crappy conditions. Among all the noise that is social media, I read somewhere, sometime: “adventure starts once things go wrong”. You cannot control all the variables out there, and testing your gear when things aren’t comfortable is when you will find out what works for you, keeps your spirits high, and helps you to keep going.
From the get go, I focused on the big three: Tent, sleeping bag+mat and backpack. Although we owned all of this gear already, everything was heavy and bulky. I started researching and quickly came across companies that I had never heard of, who focus on lightweight gear for hiking. These companies are called cottage companies and are based out of the United States. The US has some of the most established long distance hikes in the world with the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail. These trails have groomed well versed individuals in long distance hiking, whom after spending months on the trail, go home to start these companies and fill gaps in the market.
I found all of our big three gear, aside from our thermarests, through these companies. Our new tent is the 2 person Yama Mountain Gear Swiftline (http://www.yamamountaingear.com/swiftline-2P/ ). Shelters are complex and vary greatly in shapes and sizes. I was searching for a non free standing, large 2 person shelter with 2 doors. The swiftline fit the bill and didn’t break the bank. Although it is not the lightest tent out there coming in around 2 pounds, it is way better than our original tent which weighed 7 pounds. I chose not to get tarp system, even though it’s lighter, because I wanted some privacy, more cover, and a good bug net. There are also many other companies that make good lightweight shelters, see the list below this article to name a few.
Our backpacks were next, and those were just as hard to decide on. Lauren and I prioritize on different things so we got different packs. While Lauren likes efficiency and a minimum of features, I am a sucker for bells and whistles. In the end Lauren purchased the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 2400 (https://www.hyperlitemountaingear.com/2400-windrider.html) , a simple but highly functional pack. Almost 100% waterproof, 2 hip belt pockets and 3 stretchy mesh pockets on the outside. I purchased the Gossamer Mariposa 60 (http://gossamergear.com/mariposa-ultralight-backpack-all-bundle.html). While it is not waterproof, it has more pockets, a back pad that can easily be removed and used as a butt pad, and small slots to hold hiking poles. Ironically, my pack does not have a whistle while Lauren’s does.
Lastly I looked at purchasing a new sleeping bag. Lauren already owned a decent one and chose to stick with it. After much researching and watching endless youtube videos on the differences between a sleeping bag and a quilt, I chose to get the revelation quilt from enlightened equipment (http://www.enlightenedequipment.com/revelation/). Although fairly expensive, this quilt feels like heaven and I am very excited about it. I tested it one night in -2 degrees celsius and was happy with it. Lauren has yet to be convinced.
For the sleeping pads, both Lauren and I bought the thermarest neoair xlite. We thought about getting the regular foam pad but decided against it mostly because it is less compact. We will be doing a bunch of flying with our gear and it needs to all fit in the pack.
The rest of the gear came slowly and did not require as much research. For water, the consensus online seems to be the Sawyer squeeze (https://sawyer.com/products/sawyer-squeeze-filter-system-sp131/). It is light, small, and works well. Although there is a mini version which is lighter, flow rate is said to be much slower than the regular one. With two of us using the one filter, the regular sawyer squeeze seems to be the way to go.
For cooking, we already owned a pocket rocket which is very efficient and very light. The only other thing to purchase was a pot. Having been on trips before, we knew that a 1.5L pot works for us. I wanted to find a pot that was taller rather than the wide one we already owned. This new pot now enables us to keep a medium size gas can inside it and fit the lid on top. It’s all about efficient packing.
This gear has been tested on a few trips and will be more thoroughly tested on our first four months as we travel through South America. We will be reviewing all of the gear we brought as we go, please see the the link below for a full list of our gear.
Cool links to check out to help you find the right gear:
Good lightweight gear companies: