CAMPING GEAR

Tent. In the quest for something light and compact, but roomy enough to take all my gear when the weather is bad, I went for an MSR Nook – 1.5kg, small pack size and very water tight. It doesn’t like strong winds though, as it is not designed as a 4-season tent. It’s half mesh inner is a good compromise; it can get a bit cold when the temperatures are below zero, but it allows air flow in the heat. I’ve always been a fan of MSR kit, so I trust its quality.

Sleeping Bag. You won’t find a bag that will handle all temperatures comfortably here in South America. On the Peruvian Altiplano at 4500m, the condensation from my breath froze on the rim of my bag; and in the Argentinian summer I once failed to sleep one wink in my tent as I lay sweating on my Thermarest. So I opted for a high-quality, 3 season down bag. I’ve been using Mountain Equipment down gear for years, so I chose a Mountain Equipment Xero 550. Unzipped and used as a duvet it is surprisingly cool, and if fully clothed it can handle temperatures well below zero. It packs small and very light (just over 1kg). Being a long-term Rab fan as well (another quality British brand), I also looked at their Neutrino Endurance bags, which have the advantage of a water-resistant outer shell. Bags like this from ME or Rab aren’t cheap, but you get what you pay for, and synthetic / cheap down are just too bulky if you want the warmth.

I’ve found using a thin cotton sleeping bag inner gives you a whole lot more flexibility – extra warmth if you need it, but the real winner it putting your Thermarest inside it (don’t get a mummy-shaped one) and then using the sleeping bag unzipped as a duvet in warm weather. Thermarest material on warm, bare skin is not so comfortable!

Sleeping mat.  I’m using a Thermarest, naturally. I use the lightweight ‘Prolite’ mat, and have had the same one for 9 years now. It no longer self-inflates, and for the life of me I can’t find why is partially deflates overnight, but it keeps soldiering on. Compact and warm enough even when it goes below zero.

Stove. My original plan saw me bringing my Peak 1 stove, so I could run it on unleaded fuel from the bike. However, it didn’t get passed baggage check at the airport, so I was forced to by a small gas stove locally and pick up camping gas canisters as I go. It turned out to be a blessing: so much simpler and cleaner (I often use it inside hostel rooms), and gas has been easy to find here in S America. Of course, this may not turn out to be the case in other parts of the world, where the Peak 1 may in fact be the stove of choice.

Water Filter and Bag. I have a Katadyn Mini Filter with me, which I’ve used for years. But to be honest, I hardly ever use it. I like to know it’s there for emergencies, but you can always find bottled water, or occasionally a clean mountain stream. When I need to carry a lot of water (Atacama Desert, for example) I use an MSR 6 Litre Dromedary Water Bag – large capacity, bomb-proof material and packs away easily.

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