M The Global Test: One Gear List for Two Years and Five Continents

by Kristin Tennessen with Danny Milks

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Article Summary:

The dripping of rain on our single-wall tent, the rhythm of which had soothed us to sleep the evening before, slowly awakened us with a sense of dread. It was our fourth night sleeping in the same pasture campsite inside the granite walls of Cochamó Valley, Chile. The non-stop rain had slowed our trek to Argentina, resulting in a quickly dwindling food supply. Today we faced a choice: move east, or hike back out and take an expensive, long bus ride over the Andes to the neighboring country, all the while admitting defeat.

According to locals, it was the wettest summer in memory with significant precipitation on twenty-three of the last twenty-seven days. Rain does not usually hinder us, but the record rainfall had turned the trail, which we shared with pack mules, into a knee-deep mud and feces slurry. Our pace was slowed by cautiously crossing gushing rivers waist-deep, taking gentle steps so the sticky mud did not steal our shoes, searching for the seldom traveled trail, or avoiding machete-cut bamboo (the stumps punched holes in our clothes or worse yet, our skin).

As we organized for our venture to Villa Villega, Argentina through Cochamó Valley, we did not have a detailed trail map or reliable estimates of how far we would hike, so we bought enough food for eight days. Not only were we carrying all the food and gear necessary for the trip, but our backpacks held all that we needed for our two-year, round-the-world adventure.


h2 Travelmoon - The Big Jump


As most Americans tightened their belts during the economic crisis of 2009, we decided to allocate most of our savings to travel the world ultralight for two years. Danny's contract at UC Davis Outdoor Adventures was ending just as I was graduating, so setting out on our world tour in September was a natural choice. In August, during a family reunion, we surprised our loved ones with a wedding under the Golden Gate Bridge. A few weeks later, we flew to Guatemala City, commencing our world-wide honeymoon.

In the seven months since that flight, we have traveled through Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, and Ecuador. Whether we are changing buses in a bustling metropolis, backpacking through a granite canyon, camping on a tropical island beach, or summiting a snowy mountain, one fact remains the same: our packs are smaller and lighter than the packs of fellow backpackers that we have met along the way. Their jealous looks, and sometimes direct inquiries, prompted us to write this article.


h2 Prepared for Spontaneity

Our schedule allows us the freedom to stay in a place as long as we like, depending on our mood, the weather, or the ambiance of the place. From the beginning, Danny and I agreed that what we carried in our backpacks would never limit our explorations. The packs are light and mobile, yet contain our life essentials.

Before we departed on this extended vacation, we knew we wanted to travel the world, but had to limit our destinations by temperature and activity to ensure light packs. Although we are avid cyclists and backcountry skiers, we decided to forgo carrying this type of gear and focus on our first love, backpacking. Additionally, we prepared for snow on the ground, wet and windy storms, tropical forests, beaches, and deserts, but no tundra. Therefore, we can backpack through parks during all four seasons because our gear keeps us relatively comfortable in the heat and humidity, and warm while sleeping outside in temperatures just below freezing. Most importantly, we can carry our packs down crowded city blocks and onto small local buses.

ARTICLE OUTLINE

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