June 14, 2017
Preparing for this particular trip has been a big challenge, and will probably be the most challenging part once all is said and done. The moment I set foot on the trail, the easy part begins – putting one foot in front of the other while taking in some of the most amazing scenery in the world. Logistically, planning to undertake a thru-hike in another country is pretty daunting and has required a lot of preparation, something I’m not very used to.
On previous long US hikes, I’ve tended to rely on my strong improvisational skills. Planning for a long hike in the Peruvian Andes, on the other hand, I want to make sure that I read and learn as much as possible. Aside from dealing with the usual challenges that nature throws at you (i.e. weather, wildlife, etc.), I also have to make sure that safety is not an issue – something I’m not accustomed to dealing with in the US. In addition to safety, another factor will be dealing with elevation. The highest I’ve ever hiked is 14,500 ft (Mt. Whitney), while the trails I will be hiking in the Andes cross over into 17,000+ ft. This has caused me to have to adjust my plans in terms of how many miles I plan on covering each day. I think that doing 25+ miles/day is out of the question on this trip, which will mean more resupplies or carrying larger amounts of food.
The higher elevation also means having to adjust my gear accordingly. I planned this trip to coincide with the dry season of the Andes; however, in the Cordilleras Blanca and Huayhaush, the weather can change at any moment, so it’s important to be prepared. I’ve managed to cross-over most items from my standard UL (ultralight) set-up to keep my pack weight down, but I’ve had to make compromises in other areas, such as carrying a 4-season tent, which is much heavier than my usual 3-season tarp shelter. I’ll also be carrying warmer clothing and rain gear.
The following is a list of some of the essentials I’ll be using on this trip:
Granite Gear Crown2
I love the new and updated Crown2 because of how light and versatile it is. Weighing in at 36 oz with all features intact (lid, hip belt, inner frame), and stripped down to about 20 oz, this pack is probably my new favorite piece of gear. On this trip I’ve removed the hip belt and frame, but kept the lid for additional organization. Usually, if I manage to keep a low pack weight, the support from the hip belt isn’t necessary, and I like having the freedom of movement made possible without the belt.
Essential Add-ons: Granite Gear Cloud Cover Packfly
Backpack protection against rain or snow.
Very light (~4.5 lbs) and versatile for a 4-season tent. It is a good compromise between a UL tent and a full featured 4-season expedition tent. While I do not expect much rain or snow on this trip, high winds and cold temperatures will surely be an obstacle, and this tent has proven to withstand those elements.
Enlightened Equipment Revelation quilt 10 degrees
A piece of gear from my UL set-up, the EE Revelation Quilt weighs a mere 23 oz and will keep me warm down to 10 degrees. I’m a very hot sleeper so having the openness of a quilt is essential for me to have a good night’s sleep.
Therm-a-rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad
Another UL favorite, this sleeping pad is light and compact, weighing only 12 oz and rolling up into the size of a 1 liter water bottle. Despite these features, it is surprisingly comfortable and I always get a good night’s rest when I sleep on it. It’s also raised off the ground enough to keep me warm in below freezing temperatures.
This ultralight stuff sack is shaped like a pillow and has fleece on one side so I can rest my head on. When not in use, I store my clothing in it to keep my backpack well organized.
This rain jacket is a huge upgrade from my previous one. In the past I opted for the Outdoor Research Helium II Rain Jacket, one of the lightest in the market, which worked great during light rain storms, but after several bad experiences thru-hiking in bad weather, I’ve decided to forego an UL piece of equipment for this category and use something that will give me far better performance when the weather turns ugly.
The Cerium SL is quite possibly the lightest down jacket in the market, and if layered properly, is the only jacket I ever need on a thru-hike.
Arc’teryx Palisade Hiking Pants
My favorite feature of these pants is the slim fit and stretch, which makes them both comfortable and stylish. They also provide some water resistance.
I like to hike with a light jacket, especially at high altitude, but I have trouble with most jackets because they are too warm during high output activity. Enter the Incendo: this jacket is ultralight and extremely packable and is primarily meant to be used while hiking or trail running. It provides protection from wind and light rain and also provides good protection from the sun.
I’ve recently converted to trail runners for any thru-hike, and the Hydroventure fit the bill for what I want from a shoe. Roomy toe box, 3mm drop, and they are comfortable for wearing all day. The Hydroventure also have eVent waterproof which makes them great for any encounters with snow or shallow water crossings.
The name says it all. These socks are tough! I’ve hiked more than 2,000 miles on a single pair and they are still going strong.