His and Hers back-packing guide
Updated: Feb 26, 2020
It's mid Autumn in South America & we're about to embark on a back packing adventure holiday, taking in three countries over 4 weeks; Chile, Bolivia and Peru.
We will be experiencing temperatures from -10 degrees to +27 degrees C & experiencing a range of different cultures & environments. From the metropolis' of Santiago de Chile & La Paz de Bolivia to the Amazon jungle, Death Road, Salar de Uyuni & hiking the infamous Inca trail to Machu Picchu, we plan to do it all.
So what do you pack for this kind of a holiday you ask?
How can you call this a holiday you say! Glenn said that too the first time I suggested an Adventure holiday, then we did one in Croatia together and have never looked back.
What to think about?
Not only do you have to consider the weather, but you will be carrying everything on your back so you have to keep it light whilst still having all the essentials. This is no easy feat! Budget is also a consideration. You could go out and buy all the latest, light weight, uber versatile & trendy gear but it will cost you a small fortune, so if thrift is your speed (and it's ours) this blog is for you.
Where we shop
We shopped at Decathlon in London, a specialty sporting shop with a great range of specifically designed hiking gear at really affordable prices. You can also find tonnes of great deals on e-bay and other online shops, especially if you don't mind pre-loved goods, which is great for the planet and sustainable too.
The secret my friends is layers! When hiking & camping outdoors in cooler climates, you need a base layer, a mid layer and a waterproof outer layer. So hear comes the boring but very important stuff.
Merino wool is a natural fibre, comfortable, breathable & the least smelly, so great for base layers (including thermals, under garments, T-shirts & socks) but can be pricey. There are synthetic alternatives on the market too e.g. polyamide and polypropylene. We ended up with a combination of the natural & synthetic fibres, all of which are quick dry. Which performs better? Yet to be confirmed, but my money is on the wool.
In a mid layer we looked for a hooded fleece with pockets and long sleeves with finger holes (sleeves always fall short on me, a pet peeve). A good fleece is warm whilst still breathable so great for hiking.
An alternative is a down jacket, but these are usually pricier too. Down comes in natural and synthetic versions (no ducks harmed in the making of this product!) & generally has a better warmth to weight ratio than a fleece. However, it doesn't perform as well in the wet and is not as breathable. I ended up with both because I feel the cold and wanted to layer up when camping. I justified the additional down jacket as it comes in a bag & doubles as my travel pillow. We will update you on exactly what we liked and actually used on this trip in a future blog.
The outer layer is really just to protect from the wind & rain. I already owned a good rain coat, though it's slightly heavier than I would be taking if buying new. Glenn has bought a near new, super light weight rain coat on e-bay (at a great price) & a long sleeve collard shirt from Craghoppers to keep the mosquitos & sun away, they love his blood.
Apart from that, a good pair of hiking pants and a sturdy pair of hiking boots fulfils the basics.
The fun stuff
Then you need one or two outfits to wear for dinner and going out on the town so you don't feel like you're in hiking gear all the time, a swimsuit (thermal springs baby), waterproof gloves, beanie, scarf and underwear and you're done with clothes.
The small stuff
Then it's all the other stuff like toiletries, medications, first aid kits and electronics that can take up lots of precious real estate in the backpack. These tend to be very personal choices but we will take you through what we packed and you can decide if you need it or not. We share whatever products we can and since I have hair on my head and a functioning uterus (and thus more toiletries to carry), Glenn carries the first aid kit. That's how we roll baby.
Form over fashion
I've done my best to pack for function not fashion for a change. Honestly, I'm the sort of person who usually takes at least 5 pairs of shoes on holiday and a different outfit for every day so backpacking is always a struggle when it comes to packing only the essentials.
The last couple of times I backpacked it was 4-6 weeks of Summer around Europe in my twenties & I really don't recall putting much thought into it apart from how many pairs of bikinis, summer dresses and shoes I can fit in my pack. I mean I hiked up Mount Sinai in my Birkenstocks!
I have definitely learnt that lighter is better. Plus you will inevitably buy things along the way. A heavy pack takes the fun out of the trip & backpacking's as much about the journey as it is the destination.
Glenn & I have had our packs forever (since our first backpacking trips in 1995 and 2004). I'm sure there are much cooler, lighter options available now but we are kind of attached to ours. I love how our's zip all the way open like a suitcase so we can get to everything easily. The inner zip pockets keep dirty laundry and gear se making it easier to organise the pack. Glenn favours the stuff bag to organise his gear, it saves space but again, this is a personal choice, I've never really embraced the stuff bag.
OK, enough rambling! Let's see what's in the bag! For a full inventory click here
@GnTonefortheroad Packing Tip 1: Keep to a neutral colour palette so you can mix and match outfits. Choose clothes that are versatile and can serve multiple purposes.
@GnTonefortheroad Packing Tip 2: If you keep your pack to under 10kg you can avoid paying to check luggage and save time too. We didn't have to pay to check luggage on this trip so it was not an issue for us. If necessary I would have bought the food and toiletries on arrival.
If you have any questions please leave a comment on the blog page or send an email via the contacts page. You can follow all our adventures on instagram @gntonefortheroad as we #keepitreal #keepexploring #beyond40
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