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Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: A dire condition? on 04/15/2014 10:43:43 MDT Print View

Thanks Glenn, that's EXACTLY what I was thinking. Hostel to hostel tripping will be fabulous for you, Alexandra. Then in some places where trekking is more accepted go and rent some camping gear and go out for a day or two. But with the questions you are asking I have very little confidence in your ability to survive while actually camping out and providing your own food day after day.

Either you have actual wilderness backpacking experience or you don't, and again, not to sound harsh and mean but you should be staying in hostels NOT camping and cooking your food until you are far more experienced doing so. So either take some trips very close to home and close to your car to learn how to do this stuff, or just stick to traveling from hostel to hostel. It's a great way to travel and there is NOTHING wrong with that.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: A dire condition? on 04/15/2014 11:01:25 MDT Print View

Take Jen's advice on the half dome/quarter dome, it cheapish and about middle of the road. If you have no extensive experience it should nevertheless be comfortable for you without needing extra skills. It will shed moderate snow/wind. If it is snowing or blowing enough to warrant an actual 4-season style mountaineering tent I don't believe you personally should be there, but sounds like you will not experience that sort of thing. You shouldn't unless you are courting it.

To add one last point, and some of the other posts have pointed out, this site is way biased towards lightweight backpacking. Trekking, as in wearing a backpack while mostly traveling from city to city, and making use of local hostels and facilities, having your gear unceremonious dumped in a bus cargo hold, or strapped to the roof with the chicken crates, etc. THAT is a different type of thing, and there are much better sites out there devoted to that. You may feel like what you will be doing is closer to backpacking, but I think it is actually closer to traveling around with a pack.

Backpacking is an activity in the wilderness that usually ends after a week or two, where as extended travel for month at a time requires different strategies. I assume you are investigating these other sources of information and experience on the web. One place to start is to learn about how to have a kit that will keep you going essentially forever, but at minimal weight. I assume there are lots of people on other specific sites that have done close to what you are planning to to. Even a few on here, but my merely posting on here the average reply you get will tell you the dogma in terms of UL backpacking, and I think this may not be the correct specific context in your case.

Still you can learn a lot on here if you take thing in context.

Edited by millonas on 04/15/2014 20:38:54 MDT.

David Hyde
Contrarian advice on 04/15/2014 11:03:56 MDT Print View

Hi Alexandra,

You'll likely get some competing advice, and have to make some decisions. Here's my take after reading what it appears you intend to do. You're on a forum here for ultralight backpacking, which is a specialized activity, but your trip has some special needs which will not always be ultralight. I spent 9 months hitchhiking, freight train hopping, and stealth camping around the US a few years ago. I think that is somewhat more similar to what you'll experience. Varied climate, season, and both rural and urban camping.

First, it seems you won't really be in extreme winter conditions. Save a few bucks and don't sleep at the top of the Andes in a blizzard, it's not safe with minimal experience and it will make gear choices much easier. Also, judging by your previous comments, it seems that you need gear with these criteria: 1.'ll be using it daily for a long time. 2. Easy and're new at this and will be in a range of as yet unanticipated adventures. 3. Flexible...jungle, mountains, urban, different seasons, etc. 4. some bucks for your adventures.

OK, that said, here are some general recommendations:

1. Tent. Go with something durable, easy (freestanding) and packable, that doesn't cost too much. The REI tent ideas are excellent...durable, relatively cheap, and a forever guarantee. I might suggest the 1/4 dome or the flash, but the Passage 1 would also be a good option, it's a bit heavier but more durable, cheaper, and is green, the better for the stealth camping I suspect you'll end up doing at some point. A 1 person tent will be plenty for you unless you are traveling with a friend.

2. Sleeping bag. Here's where I'm going different than others. Get a water resistant down bag (marmot plasma, rei flash, marmot helium, Kelty Cosmic down) but get one that is lighter weight and rated for warmer weather (30-40 degrees). That will cover you in most of your situations. Add to that a good sleeping bag liner (such as: That will give you another 5-8 degrees of warmth when needed, and will work instead of the big bag in hot weather. So now you have options, based on bag, just liner, just bag, bag+ liner, bag+liner+ warmest clothes. You should be good down to a little below freezing. The liner gives you the extra advantage of keeping your bag cleaner, the liner being much more easily washable. Let me add one more thing here. I know you already have a sleep pad, but you might consider adding a closed cell pad like a thermarest zlight or solite. They are cheap and indestructible. I'm skeptical that any inflatable pad will survive a year in the conditions you'll be in.

3. Stove. Keep it simple. Snowpeak gigapower is the easiest to use, as long as you'll have access to canisters. Again, I don't see you in much below freezing weather, so cold weather stoves are a non-issue. Light, cheap, durable.

4. You haven't mentioned a backpack, but it's a key piece for you to consider. For this trip, DO NOT get an ultralight bag. You heard me right. Get a tough, durable, comfortable, supportive, preferably water resistant bag. It WILL fall off a bus in Guatamala, get crammed under 1000 pounds of luggage in Panama, get rained on in Peru for 5 days straight, and you'll sit on it every 10 minutes. Don't scrimp on the bag. Maybe Gregory, Dueter, or Arc'teryx would be a good choice. In any case, go to REI or wherever, try on a bunch, get one that is large enough, fits you perfectly, and has a very durable, water repellant construction and a substantial hip belt. These will weigh a bit more (3-5 pounds) but for the kind of trip you're doing, it seems essential.

5. Shoes/boots. Another really important consideration. For a trip like yours, I'd suggest a pair of comfortable, tough but light boots. Something that breathes and dries quickly. Then bring along a light pair of shoes/sandals for when you aren't carrying the bag. Forget waterproof boots. Quick drying will serve you better. Even classic leather might be ideal for your trip.

OK, let the flaming begin. I know folks here love ultralight gear, and it has a place and purpose. But I think the specifics of your trip demand thinking differently. Get the lightest gear you can...but that is reasonably priced, meets your needs, flexible, and most importantly will survive 18 months of torture.

David Hyde
PS on 04/15/2014 11:14:34 MDT Print View

You could also consider a synthetic bag...much cheaper and fewer worries if wet. It would have 2 big drawbacks. It will be bulkier and heavier. It also will get less warm as the trip progresses. I'd expect a synthetic bag to lose about 10 degrees of warmth when slept in every night over 18 months in jungle/dirty/hard conditions. But they're cheap. You could get one and then replace it half way through your trip if needed.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: Contrarian advice on 04/16/2014 08:54:43 MDT Print View

Actually David, I couldn't agree with you more.

I can't tell if she wants an actual WILDERNESS backpacking trip, or just the flexibility to sleep wherever during a trek of the Americas.
That makes a very real difference here.

One of the reasons I recommended the REI tents is because they are easy to set up, pretty bomber, returnable, and not too heavy.

+1 on your sleeping bag advice, too. But I'd just go with the synthetic. I think under world traveler situations it would be too difficult to care for an uber expensive UL down bag - just go straight for the cheapo synthetic and supplement with your clothes and a liner.

Bob Shaver
(rshaver) - F

Locale: West
More info to already good advice on 04/16/2014 11:41:55 MDT Print View

Alexandra's first post asked if the REI gear list was a good one. It looks to me like super overkill. I'd list a bunch of that stuff as "optional" and a bunch of it as "you don't need it".

Under optional, I'd list daypack, multifunction watch, ice axe (if you are traveling on glaciers), dishes (cup, bowl, spoon is all you need), bear canister (if you are traveling where its required), backup water treatment (one system that works is all you need), bandana, trowel, bear spray, shower bag.

you don't need it: pillow, collapsible sink, lantern, gaiters, binoculars, guidebook (take a map), eye shade, measuring cup (put marking on your drinking cup)

I don't know anything about hiking in the tropics or jungle, but a base group of gear for use in U.S. desert and mountain wilderness is described here, with pictures.

From that basic list, make modifications for tropics travel. If your goal is adventure, there is plenty of adventurous hiking in the U.S., Europe, New Zealand, Scandinavia, without the crazy (to my ignorant mind) risks involved in hiking through drug cartel country, or Shining Path country, or countries with an active kidnapping industry. Maybe I'm just a chicken.

Edited by rshaver on 04/16/2014 11:43:58 MDT.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Bad stove advice on 04/16/2014 12:40:44 MDT Print View

I have spent a fair amount of time in Mexico and Central America. I don't think I have ever seen a gas canister. I know I have not seen them for sale. I think if you purchase a gas burning stove, it will be a one time use product. Once the gas canister runs out, you won't be able to use it again.

I would get a stove that burns unleaded gasoline or alcohol. Gasoline is widely available. I'm not positive, but I think alcohol will fairly available through most of your route too. And an alcohol set up will be a lot lighter and simpler.

Alessandra Bisi

Locale: Playa del Carmen, QR, Mexico
MORE INFO/DETAILS on 04/21/2014 22:37:46 MDT Print View

I'm gonna try and clarify things a little better (having done more researches myself!), so to get slightly more specific advice (although I highly appreciate all of the above and I'm sorry my trip might be a bit unrelated to ultralight backpacking...)

I'll be backpacking (NOT hiking professionally!) throughout the whole of central and south America for the next year and a half or so (extremes of climates and temperatures - all 4 seasons!) and I have a 50L backpack. The gear I still need to purchase has, therefore, got to be as lightweight and as compact as possible, as well as, as sturdy and durable as possible (first 4/6 months will be spent in CA, next 9/12 months in SA in this order - along with LOWEST YEARLY NIGHT temperatures in the capitals of each country: Guatemala 54F, El Salvador 59F, Honduras 57F, Nicaragua 70F, Costa Rica 57F, Panama 72F, Colombia 45F, Ecuador 43F, Peru 55F, Bolivia 25F, Chile 37F, Argentina 45F, Uruguay 45F, Paraguay 54F, Brazil 61F, French Guiana 72F, Suriname 72F, Guyana 75F, Venezuela 57F). Plans can and will probably change though.
I also do see myself camping at higher altitudes and in different places at times.

I have no experience on the road whatsoever, I'll be mostly camping and/or doing couchsurfing or adventuring myself in the wilderness on my own (where I feel it will not to be dangerous), but I won't do HOSTELS (I hate them!). I suffer the cold a lot more than the average person, I'm a 6.1ft tall, skinny, 28 years old woman of 70kg with big bones and big feet (but I guess this doesn't matter!). :-)

I am still missing:

.Water filter
.Sleeping Bag

For a water filter, I'd like something that filters and purifies water, both at the same time (removing/destroying protozoa, bacteria and viruses), that can easily pour water into a pan/pot for boiling/cooking and it's compact, lightweight and not bulky.
I also would like that it didn't take forever to purify/filter water and that it filtered enough water for boiling/cooking and/or to fill up my 64oz hydratation system. Preferably I'd like a one in all thing, but may be I'll need two items to do the job?

Also, how should I measure my map (opened/closed/opened and folded into 2/4/6/8 etc.) to work out which map's case's size I need, please? I have an ITMB map of the whole of Central America and one of the whole of South America. Here the two links:;


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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: MORE INFO/DETAILS on 04/21/2014 22:49:32 MDT Print View

I do own a serious map case, but I haven't used it in years since it is too heavy and too hard to carry conveniently. Still, I need some way to protect my home-printed maps from rain.

I purchase a lot of nice printer paper of a 13x19 inch size. Those sheets come packaged inside a plastic liner inside a cardboard box. I found that the plastic liner works perfectly for me as a map case. Plus, it has no cost to me, so I can afford to shred one once in a while.


Hk Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Tres chicas South American traverse gear lists on 04/21/2014 22:54:55 MDT Print View

Look at these women's gear lists traversing South America. What they did was pair a lightweight sleeping bag (REI type stuff - not the custom variable length quilts) with down pants, light fleece R1 pants, and similar upper insulation in colder temps (though they ended mailing stuff back when it got too warm). They've done it so look through their posts and see what applies ...

Gotta know how to use it though, so I'd suggest a shakeout hike maybe from Canada down the US west coast for different temps. Especially combining sleep layers - may need a slightly larger size.

In terms of the tropics, I didn't need a sleeping bag at the lower 60F/upper 50F, though a silk travel sheet helped. Conversely, any mountaineering will require more equipment and more gear (insulation) ... with lots of training.

add: gear

Edited by hknewman on 04/21/2014 23:19:05 MDT.

Sumi Wada
(DetroitTigerFan) - F

Locale: Ann Arbor
Re: MORE INFO/DETAILS on 04/22/2014 13:50:21 MDT Print View

Sleeping bag. I'm going to suggest a TWO BAG strategy. I would get one good quality UL down bag, rated to 35-40 degrees or so, something like a Western Mountaineering HighLite. Also a synthetic quilt, also in the 35-40 degree range (Enlightened Equipment Prodigy, maybe?) One or the other *or both* will get you comfortably through all of your climates and conditions.

With this set-up, you'll have a back-up in case one gets wet or damaged. Also, I'm going to guess that you may want to wash them at some point in your journey. Washing and drying a 0-degree down bag on the road will be a daunting exercise; a 40deg synthetic quilt will be much more manageable.

I think you're also going to want some sort of lightweight liner. One that's easily washable and quick-drying. Not really for warmth, but mostly to keep your bags cleaner.

Tent. I would personally choose a smallish 2-person tent, either double-wall or mostly so. I think the REI Quarter Dome is a great suggestion. If I had to choose one tent from among the ones I own to live in for a year, I would choose my MSR Hubba Hubba.

Stove and cookware. I would try to find a contact in SA who can talk to you about what kind of fuels can be found there. For instance, I communicated with 'Cafenet El Sol' in Costa Rica about hiking in Corcovado. You cannot fly with any kind of fuel, so whatever you choose, you're going to have to buy fuel at the destination.

I would start with a 1L lidded pot, small frypan (6-7") and a GSI kettle. You won't find freeze-dried foods on the road, so you'll need to be able to actually cook. You seem focused on sleeping bags but I think the food aspect is going to be the biggest challenge you have.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Lessee.. on 04/22/2014 14:08:35 MDT Print View

Tent-> Eureka Timberline

Pack-> Kelty external frame

Sleeping bag-> Frostline DIY bag

Stove-> SVEA 123

Cookset-> Sigg Tourist

OOPS! Wrong century. Never mind...

David Hyde
water filer etc. on 04/22/2014 14:22:44 MDT Print View

Water filter is easy. Get a sawyer squeeze, light, portable, gets rid of almost everything, fits any commercial disposable water bottle, will last the whole trip, and it's cheep. The only thing it won't take care of is viruses. If you are worried about those, add some aqua chlorine dioxide tablets (such as aqua mira) or boil.

I like the 2 sleeping bag idea, but after seeing your temperature ranges, I think you'd still be fine with one good synthetic bag plus the warmest liner you can find. Same idea either way, layering for options and maximum washability.

The more I think about the stove, the more I agree that you probably need something that can handle multiple fuels. The MSR Dragonfly, while a bit heavier, is bombproof and will burn just about any flammable liquid, include widely available gasoline and diesel.

As to pots and pans, think about what you'll need. A pot to cook in, and maybe a small frying pan, a cup, a bowl, a spoon and fork and knife (I know! SUL people, but a year is a long time with no fork). The snowpeak titanium stuff is pretty bombproof, sets here:|camp-kitchen|cookware-and-dinnerware|camp-cookware|cooksets%3Bb%3Bfv20%3ATitanium&rx=true

Oh, and I'm still saying get a cheap closed cell sleeping pad...dirt cheap, light, and indestructible.

Sumi Wada
(DetroitTigerFan) - F

Locale: Ann Arbor
Sleeping Pad on 04/22/2014 14:41:10 MDT Print View

>> Oh, and I'm still saying get a cheap closed cell sleeping pad...dirt cheap, light, and indestructible.

I agree, if you can manage to sleep comfortably on one. If not, I would still consider a combination of a closed cell form pad plus a lightweight inflatable. Again, good to have a back-up plus a CCF pad is just really handy to have.

J Mag
So confusing on 04/22/2014 14:42:30 MDT Print View

This thread leaves me with so many questions but I will restrain myself to only one.

Why is someone planning an 18 month trip to places they have never been with gear they have never used for an activity they have never done (backpacking) and doing it alone? I haven't read every single post (and have not seen the past thread) but I must be really missing something here.

At this point the OP would be better served using google because there is much more that needs to be learned that this thread will not provide. Typing inverted canister stove into the "search box" at REI means there is sooooooo much left to learn. Oh and like I said earlier, backpacking every weekend would help.

I might sound like a bore but I actually really love stuff like this. I'm only 23 and have something similar (but shorter) planned for next year actually. I just love them so much more when I know people will be prepared and safe on their journey. Maybe the OP has more outdoors experience than I understand but I'm just going by what I am reading here.

I am hoping this trip is really far from now. Like 6 months to a year at least.

I'll show myself to the door now... please continue.

Edited by GoProGator on 04/22/2014 14:46:24 MDT.

David Hyde
sleeping bag and tent on 04/22/2014 14:44:14 MDT Print View

And if you just want links, here's a near perfect bag for you, the Marmot Cloudbreak 20 (also comes in a 30 model), about as light as non-down gets:

And here's a tent or two:

David Hyde
Re: So confusing on 04/22/2014 15:12:33 MDT Print View

Oh, I agree. She seems underprepared and underknowledgable. But she'll probably live, and learn a lot in the process.

When I was 27 I got a huge backpack that cost $20 from one of those "sidewalk luggage sales", loaded it with 70 pounds, and spent the next 9 month hitchhiking and hiking and riding trains around the US. I lived. I knew little.

By the time a settled down again, I learned:

-My boots were awesome (Asolo, love and miss those boots!), the only gear I'd buy again the trip.

-Eureka actually makes good, durable tents.

-How to sew. My backpack, as awful as it was, was in better shape when I got home.

-People are kind, and will help you out more than you would expect. A meal here, a place to sleep on the coldest day there.

-The human body adapts. Sleeping outside every night and hiking miles a day with a heavy load, I got in better shape and my senses became much more heightened.

-No place on Earth is colder than the outside of a train car passing through the peaks of the Rocky Mountains in February.

Anyway, I'm not saying don't prepare and that learning beforehand isn't useful, BUT I am saying that people set out to adventure long before the internet existed, that people live and eat just fine in Latin America and will provide help and knowledge we can't foresee, that the best tool is the brain, which will help to adapt and learn, and that some people learn best through experience. And we all learn more from our mistakes than our prepared successes.

J Mag
Re: Re: So confusing on 04/22/2014 15:34:07 MDT Print View

Exactly. This is why I recommend Jennifer's recommendation of hostels (which have been great IME) to explore the region.

I am the first person to tell you the danger of international travel is overblown here in the US. That said, it is a LOT different than traveling here in many ways. In my (limited) time in Central and South America, as a large 6'2 male I would still hesitate to travel through the region alone. As a woman I would never consider it. I agree that people are inherently good in my experience. Until you run into a group that aren't.

The "She'll probably live" part is what concerns me. There are certain areas in these regions that are not safe for foreigners and I just hope she has put much more effort into the research of her trip than her gear.

P.S. I am glad you had a great time and would love the opportunity to do something similar in the future.

Edited by GoProGator on 04/22/2014 15:40:57 MDT.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Re: Re: So confusing on 05/06/2014 17:08:28 MDT Print View

>>>Anyway, I'm not saying don't prepare and that learning beforehand isn't useful, BUT I am saying that people set out to adventure long before the internet existed, that people live and eat just fine in Latin America and will provide help and knowledge we can't foresee, that the best tool is the brain, which will help to adapt and learn, and that some people learn best through experience. And we all learn more from our mistakes than our prepared successes.

My first trip, EVER, was 1,500 miles by bike around the Northeast. 22 y.o.

I'm 24 now and probably less smart, but I'm having more fun. "Carry less, be more" also applies to forgetting essentials and making due. Even the worst crisis is solvable with a human brain in your kit list.