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Backpacking the Americas
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Ashley Makinson
(redeadnixon) - F
Backpacking the Americas on 09/05/2010 08:10:49 MDT Print View

In a year or so's time, I'm planning on doing a backpacking trip from La Paz (Bolivia) to Anchorage (Alaska),
I'm thinking of planning the route out as I go along, so I can find out from locals which roads to avoid, places to see etc.
I'm taking a small amount of tinned food and a bag rice or pasta with me, and then was thinking of trapping/fishing/hunting for meat etc (the tins will be used in emergencies only) to reduce weight.
My gear list (still a work in progress) is as follows:
-40+10L rucksack, (waterproof, no frame durable material etc)
-Gelert Solo Tent, was thinking of bringing a hammock/tarp instead.
-Foldable cooking stove & 2xfuel cans
-Cooking utensils (1person)
-Hatchet and Bushcraft knife/sharpening kit
-4 lengths of paracord
-Walking boots, and extra pair of trainers for in cities, when taking a break etc
-2 summer sleeping bags (rather than 1 summer 1 winter =less bulk)
-2 pairs of trekking pants, 2 pairs of lightweight shorts (1 for swimming)
-4 lightweight short sleeved shirts, 2 crew tops, waterproof/windproof coat(lightweight)
- 1 pair of waterproof gloves, warm hat and a buff/sunglasses
-wash bag with biodegradable soap, washing powder
-small 1st aid kit
-small survival kit (fishing line duct tape etc)
-half a sack of rice and 5 tins of tuna/beans
-digital camera extra batteries memory cards
-iPod loaded with music, ebooks, solar charger
-Compass and maps
-Passport/documentation, small amount of money
As I say it's a work in progress, any help with things I may/won't need would be greatly appreciated, also if anyone has backpacked south america before, tips would be of great use.

Edited by redeadnixon on 09/05/2010 08:14:09 MDT.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Backpacking the Americas on 09/05/2010 08:27:56 MDT Print View

Well if you were a member you could read this couples experience of their travels in the local you wish to explore.

I think you are packing way too much stuff.

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
elaborate on 09/05/2010 09:19:42 MDT Print View

Im not trying to ridicule you or anything. Just feel like since this is such a SERIOUS trip you need serious advice.

First off, how much have you been backpacking before? Bringing things like hatchets and sharpening kits leads me to believe you have little experience. Also brining two pairs of shoes, again seems to me to be a novice pursuit. You should find one pair of trail runners that fit you perfectly instead. If your going in winter boots may be considered, but leave the trail runners at home in that case. Also gore-tex socks can add waterproofness if you need it instead of relying on shoes/boots for that-which fail inevitably.

Taking tinned food again seems strange when you can have dehydrated food via maildrops or local stores that weigh much less.

Why do you need two pairs of trekking pants? If your going to bring two pairs and your set on it, why not have them perform different functions; ex: on insulates, one protects.

Trapping/fishing/hunting takes lots of time, time that can make your trip double or triple as long as you thought. Stick with fishing/trapping. Even then, you would have to carry traps-am i wrong?

Rice is super heavy, and if you say half a sack. I know how big a sack is, its huge. If your taking that much rice, you are obviously a novice.

Planning your trip as you go along? Seems like a recipe for DISASTER especially when your covering multi-continent distances. You must have a plan, then you must have various places to bug out along that planned route for starters. You have to consider each serious obstacle you may face, such as glaciers, availability of water supply, water borne-pathogens, rebel militias.
Please give us some of your experience, this whole thing just seems like a bad idea, and i didn't even go into land logistics/gear considerations.

You will need to consider a variety of self defense items since your traveling through potentially dangerous and unpredictable areas. At a minimum, bear pepper spray with its massive radius and spread would be necessary IMO. Especially if your alone, in which case you had better be experienced and able to read people since you plan on relying on "locals".


Edited by isaac.mouser on 09/05/2010 09:27:39 MDT.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: clothing on 09/05/2010 10:18:42 MDT Print View

I would bring 2 shirts or tees (not 4) and 2 convertible pants (not 2 pants and 2 shorts). Wear one outfit and leave the second as "bed clothes" / town wear -- switching between the two. No insulation jacket?

Edited by ben2world on 09/05/2010 10:20:22 MDT.

Scott Truong

Locale: Vancouver, BC
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. on 09/05/2010 11:07:15 MDT Print View

Great book, if you haven't already read it.

I'd imagine it's totally doable, great that you're even thinking about it.

I got one of these and it works super well, dehydrated lean ground beef works super well. Instant rice is a lot lighter.

- Nesco FD-75PR 700-Watt Food Dehydrator ($45)

- Hammock and tarp like a warbonnet blackbird or Hennessy would be a good idea. Especially in South/Central America.

- Chlorine Dioxide water purification tablets.

- An alcohol or woodburning stove (youtube and make)

- Bombproof rain gear (Event fabric)

- insulating synthetic or down jacket

- learn Spanish.

- a bank card w/more money than you think you'll need.

Why don't you read up on what Andrew Skurka does.

happy travels.

Ashley Makinson
(redeadnixon) - F
reply on 09/05/2010 18:10:14 MDT Print View

My plan was to train hop/hitch-hike in USA/mexico and camp out at certain places for 1-2 weeks at a time, I'd have 2-3 years to do whatever I wanted to do.
I was thinking about having a vague route set with places to see along the way, and plan it out in more detail as I go along, as I may change my mind and want to stay in a new place or change route to see something I didn't know about before.
And I think a knife/hatchet will be enough for self defence, if you're being held at gun point reaching for pepper spray will do nothing but give the theif a reason to shoot..
I say two pants as I'll be walking a hell of a way, so I'll wear one pair whilst walking, and wash/dry the other. Same with the shirts although, I guess 4 is overkill.
I'm still looking into a thicker coat, although was thinking of just buying a thick woolen poncho or jumper when i get there.
Also, trapping requires snare wire, the rest can be made from things around you. (Unless I'm going to the salt lakes, which I'm not)

Edited by redeadnixon on 09/05/2010 18:12:59 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Backpacking the Americas on 09/05/2010 18:15:04 MDT Print View

I have heard that La Paz can be a pretty rough neighborhood (although I have been only in Argentina, Chile, and Brazil). You might want to consider teaming up with other travelers for safety.


Troy Ammons
(tammons) - F - MLife
Re: Backpacking the Americas on 09/05/2010 23:09:49 MDT Print View

Sounds interesting.

I agree with above though and check out some safe routes and means of travel. Don't think I would really want to hitch through Mexico these days or for that fact any place in S America.

I would plan the route ahead of time and let some people know your itinerary.

I would not worry about what food you are going to initially carry because you cant carry enough to make a difference anyway over the long run.

You do however need to carry some means of buying what you need on the road.

Trapping/hunting/fishing, although it sounds great takes a lot of time, so if you are not staying in an area for a week or two, I cant see that working too well. You would be better off getting a job for a day or two and buying what you need.

Of the 3 fishing would be the best.

Odds are too low on trapping as you need to set 10-15 traps to increase percentage of game caught.

Hunting may not be always legal especially if you don't have a license and what will you hunt with anyway??

Hammock is good especially in the tropics if you want to stay off the ground, but guaranteed many multiple times on the trip you will not be able to hang and there will be bugs and lots of them. A tent is probably safer for the long haul unless you are used to hammocking.

You will constantly be buying, swapping and replacing stuff over the entire trip so have a way to get your hands on some $ on the road.

I would get a different type of stove that uses a more common fuel you can buy on the road like a white gas stove or an alcohol stove. Wood would work too.

Forget the hatchet unless you want it for defense.

A folding or collapsible saw like the little gerber is a much better and lighter tool. Besides if the police check you out the hatchet will probably be gone.

Make sure your bushcraft knife is within legal limits of where you will travel.

Paracord is good.

Forget the boots until you need them later.
Too heavy. Just take running shoes.

Change your sleeping bag setup to a 3 season + a summer bag.
You will need it up north.
Same idea but maybe start with a summer bag and pick up a 3 season on the road. No reason to lug around 2 bags all over S America and Mexico.

As far as food, forget the sack of rice and beans and tuna and count on re-supplying every 2-5 days. You should be carrying 2# of food per day.

You need some way to treat and carry water.

You need a lot of other things too along with mostly a solid plan. Didnt see any rain gear.

Depending on your route you are traveling from the Tropics, to desert, mountains etc. If you end up in the Pacific NW - wet and just plain soggy and cold.
AK can get freekin cold.

I have done long distance trips long ago similar only in the US and you run into many varied conditions and need to understand how to deal with them. IE I guarantee at some time on the trip you will get wet and cold and borderline hypothermic unless you are well prepared.

You really need a totally different set of gear in the tropics at your start from NW USA, Nw Canada and AK.

If you do end up in the NW USA, Canadian NW and or AK, just remember they have brown bears and grizzles, wolves, coyotes, Mountain Lions etc so handle and carry your food properly.

There are so many ways a trip like this could go bad that I cant even begin to count, but if you are serious, you need to do a ton of research and planning, and do some 2-3 week long shake downs.

Firstly to make sure you can handle it on the road for that long, 2nd to test out your gear. Many varied climate conditions on this trip.

On the road for that long, anything can happen at most anytime. My last similar trip was long ago. I ran into people that had been traveling for years.

We made it about 4 months and that was enough for me.
BTW I had a 0dF down bag, good pad, and a good tent and a Kelty Alpine pack and a lot of other good gear. The bag was way too hot for summer, but sure came in handy when it got really cold. We would travel for a while and work for a few days here and there, then off again. We traveled around the entire US from Florida to Washington State.

Have a safe trip and plan well.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: reply on 09/06/2010 00:00:09 MDT Print View


I like your plan! With a 2-3 year time frame, I agree that all you need is a very broad outline from A to B to C. But let local people, circumstances, other travelers you meet, and your own mood of the moment fill in the particulars. Go slow, stay in places that you like long enough to really get a feel for the place, and take detours to keep things spontaneous. I fully expect you will have tons of experiences that can only come by happenstance -- the kind that you can never plan for. Of course, plan ahead more in advance when heading away from civilization -- always keeping weather in mind -- and maybe plan a bit less when merely hopping from town to town...

Methinks the trick is to choose light and compact gear pieces -- so that you can travel 'indefinitely' in all temps down to whatever you reasonably expect to be the coldest that you will encounter. When you get to the point where everything fits easily inside a carry-on size backpack -- and the load is light enough that you can easily "get up and go" whenever and wherever -- carrying the pack all day without really feeling it -- then you've got it.

Edited by ben2world on 09/06/2010 00:14:29 MDT.

Ashley Makinson
(redeadnixon) - F
reply on 09/06/2010 08:11:34 MDT Print View

Thanks benjamin, that's exactly what I was thinking,
Also, I've been looking into durable raincoats as the one I have now is basically a waterproof fleece with a hood, works well enough (English, so lots of rain) in my climate but I reckon it would begin to fail after a while.
I guess a tent would be better, the one I found was only 1.5kg so that's not too bad.
I go wild camping a lot so cooking on an open fire is no problem for me.
Has anyone been wild camping in South America before by any chance?

Troy Ammons
(tammons) - F - MLife
Backpacking the Americas on 09/06/2010 08:30:36 MDT Print View

I agree with the lighter the better.

Never hiked or camped in south america but for the most part its sub-tropical and wet. If you do go wood to cook, maybe carry some trioxane fuel tablets as a backup.

It will be a lot safer and drier to just stay in hostels in S America and Mexico. They are cheap.

Be sure to get the series of shots before you go. Montezuma's Revenge would be a trip killer.

Edited by tammons on 09/06/2010 08:56:43 MDT.

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
corrections on 09/06/2010 09:08:07 MDT Print View

@ Troy
Hammocks nowadays have bugnets built in, it provides the exact same protection as a tent, no bug season is too great for it. No reason not to bring a hammock.


If they have a gun and you have a hatchet, you don't have a chance anyway. Gun vs gun is your only option then. Why do you think a hatchet would be an better against a gun? I cant figure that out.

Why do you want to goto places where you NEED to carry a hatchet for self-defnse?

Can you please outline some of the previous hikes you have done in the past? Their duration, season, and location.

Troy Ammons
(tammons) - F - MLife
Re: corrections on 09/06/2010 09:35:48 MDT Print View

More saying if you have a hammock and end up on the ground in the tropics you can have some issues with bugs even if you do have a net. There are some nasty bugs of all sorts down there. Personally I would take a hammock, but would be prepared for the ground or a raised platform if need be.
On the ground here in the USA where biting flies, gnats and mosquitoes are the buggy bug is not such a big deal.

I have read that hiking and camping in S America and Mexico can be dangerous. Just look at whats happening along the USA Mexico border. Didnt like 20 something illegal aliens just get killed by the drug cartels, not to mention that they grow Coca in Bolivia. Might be good for a pick me up, but I would not want to run into a process lab in the jungle while looking for a place to camp.

If you are thinking about defending yourself with a hachete, go see the movie Machete. I give it 1/2 star.

Edited by tammons on 09/06/2010 09:46:07 MDT.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Fear on 09/06/2010 12:36:20 MDT Print View

Border towns straddling between the world's BIGGEST drug market and its major supplier is not really a good illustration of hiking through the Americas. And in any case, very few killings are targeted at hikers or travelers.

I haven't yet been to South America -- but one thing I know: it is our own USofA that has some of the highest violent crime rates.

Generally, the non-traveler's fear of "the world out there" (getting lost, getting mugged, hurt or killed, etc.) is much the same fear as the non-hiker's fear of "the wilderness out there" (getting lost, hurt, eaten, hypothermia, etc). It's our basic, human "fear of the unknown" -- exacerbated by our news media. While the individual news reports may be factual, the relentless reporting of the negative, the dangerous and the controversial result in giving the uninitiated an exaggerated, woefully inaccurate perspective of what's really out there -- be it the back country or the foreign country.

Iraq, Afghanistan and part of the Congo notwithstanding -- methinks hikers and travelers can easily manage most parts of the world with just a bit of prior reading up, a bit of awareness and some common sense. That plus some traveling and hiking experience should suffice in managing most risks on the road or on the trail.

Edited by ben2world on 09/06/2010 12:40:56 MDT.

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
Ben on 09/06/2010 13:44:55 MDT Print View

Good points, but i don't think the poster has done enough prior reading. Thats my point. Thats why i requested a history of his/her(?) hiking experience.

Scott Truong

Locale: Vancouver, BC
Not Rambo.. on 09/06/2010 14:05:25 MDT Print View

Ben is right, the world is fairly safe for the common sense traveller.

I'd skip the whole idea of bringing a "gun" to protect yourself against crazy narcos... wtf.

They're expensive, he/she has to know how to use one, documentation to travel across borders with one.
I get the idea that Ashley is pretty young, doesn't have much money and is probably from Great Britain, not easy to access firearms.

Hammocks (like Hennessy/Warbonnet) should be able to go to ground. Isn't that what they use in the jungles?

Since OP has two years, Ashley has plenty of time to research and look for deals. A rod and reel and wire (if experienced or enthusiastic) would be cheap and light.

2 years, learn Spanish, it isn't that hard.

And dial in your footwear... google "PCT documentary".

NOte: I've never done anything remotely like this, but it's fun imagining what I'd do if I did. Thanks to the OP.

Edited by elf773 on 09/06/2010 14:09:15 MDT.

Ashley Makinson
(redeadnixon) - F
reply on 09/06/2010 14:29:16 MDT Print View

@ Ike, if I was actually held at gunpoint I'd just give them whatever they ask for.. just common sense. And the hatchet I was thinking more for cutting wood on the journey, it could be used when being held at knifepoint, but I doubt I'd risk getting stabbed for a hundred pounds or so.
I already know quite a lot of spanish from high school (did 5 years and the course was specifically designed for useful things only, ordering food, getting directions etc) althought I could do with brushing up.
My previous experience is mainly day long hikes (3 peaks challege etc) doing up to 25 miles in 1 day, but I've done overnight camps before, I guess I could do with some good practice before hand, maybe lands-end to john-o-groats (southern england to northern scotland) and camp out in the wild. I'm searching for some decent books on the edible flora/fauna of the countries I'd be visiting, but nothing beats first hand experience.

EDIT:@Benjamin, I've heard about Columbia, so I'll try and stay close to the coast, see the sights and pass through ASAP. Don't want to be one of those hostages your hear about.

Edited by redeadnixon on 09/06/2010 14:32:13 MDT.

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
practice on 09/06/2010 15:48:34 MDT Print View

correct, you should just give them ehat hey want. heres a suggestion: keep your money splt. keep a little in a wallet to give, the rest hidden on your body.

yes i think you need much much mre experince. i would start with a weekend long trip, proceed to 5 days, then do a week. after successfully doing a week, up it to two werks, then a month etc. learn how to coordinate food drops. prwctice in climates that simulate wwhat you will encounter. seems to me you need to get your feet wet first. you will quickly learn what you dont need and what pre-planning means when thigs go wrong. how old are you? out of curiosity, why did you decide to go from bolivia to brazil?

Edited by isaac.mouser on 09/06/2010 15:50:40 MDT.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: reply on 09/06/2010 16:11:11 MDT Print View

It's Colombia. I wouldn't short change the country. I understand it has lots to offer as well. Remember, the drug wars and such are not targeted at travelers. No guarantee, of course, just like no guarantees in life.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: practice on 09/06/2010 16:13:07 MDT Print View

(The original poster made no mention of Brazil.)

I've camped out in Argentina for ten days or so, but that was inside a national park. There was some concern over water quality.