People commonly ask us what we’ve packed to be prepared for our long trip starting on the PCT then on to Central and South America. Some people who we have met during our travels have commented on our small bags so perhaps I have something worthwhile to share here.
Here’s a trick for getting started:
Hike the PCT or any other months-long wilderness trail where you are required to carry everything you need and not a single thing more. In doing so you will learn how much uncomfortableness you can tolerate and how you can carry enough things to keep you just above your personal intolerable discomfort level (PIDL, haha).
If you don’t have time or energy for this, because let’s face it, most people don’t, then use this cheat sheet.
First, things I don’t need to pack to stay above my PIDL:
1) Shampoo/ Conditioner. Rinsing my hair in the shower works fine and washing it when I’m given free hair care products, for example in hotels or someone left their’s behind, is sufficient.
2) Hairbrush or comb when my hair was shoulder length or higher.
3) Those little bags that you use to put your stuff in before you put it in your big bag. No matter how light they are, they are still heavier and more expensive than a free plastic grocery bag.
4) New stuff. If I have an item that fulfills a purpose, even if it’s not ideal, for example it’s heavier, outdated, or has a small imperfection without compromising function, I will use it until it becomes non-functional.
What I have in my pack right now in Chañaral, Chile:
1) Sleeping bag and sleeping bag liner with stuff sack. REI Joule.
2) Sleeping pad with stuff sack and repair kit. Thermarest Neoair.
3) I use a pack liner because it gives me peace of mind that everything inside my pack will stay dry if I were to be wet from falling in a river, rain, or sweating like a Chulita wrestler. It also turns my backpack into a flotation device in case of a severe emergency such as getting caught in a flash flood or getting swept downstream. I do not use a pack cover. New Zealand Mountain Safety Council, Inc. yellow heavy duty plastic bag liner.
4) Clothes, details below. I pack them in 2 separate plastic bags. One bag for items I use a lot and one bag for items I do not use on a regular basis. On the PCT I used only 1 bag and packed significantly fewer items than what I’m currently lugging around S. America.
5) 37 liter Osprey Variant Backpack. I think I would need a bigger pack if Tim didn’t carry the tent.
6) Big Agnes Fly Creek 2 tent. Cozy but light and small. This isn’t actually in my pack, it’s in Tim’s, but I consider it personal gear that I wouldn’t travel without because I prefer camping in most circumstances.
7) 2 liter pot for cooking
8) Whisper Lite stove
9) Small or medium fuel canister
10) Small Lighter
11) 8 Waterproof matches with 2 birthday cake candles and some dry paper for emergencie
12) Needle and upholstery thread
13) Duct tape
14) First aid-details below
15) Full size travel towel
16) Loofah puff. I like to get serious in the shower and really scrub the layers of dirt off.
18) Tent footprint. I carry an REI one that I’ve had for a long time but would recommend getting a piece of Tyvek or plastic drop sheet to save space and weight if you’re starting fresh.
19) Toiletries, details below.
20) Hairbrush. Even though I only use this approximately 1-2 times per week, I really need it as long as I aspire to stay dreadlock free.
21) Rain coat. On the PCT I used a Frogg Togg to save weight but now I’m back to my Marmot.
22) UR sack. It gives me peace of mind any time I’m camping to tie my food up and to a tree or rock knowing an animal, including the ubiquitous city dogs roaming the streets freely, will not run away with it.
21) Purse. 6″x9″ Dakine.
22) Phone and charger
23) Wallet with license, debit card, credit card, CPR Card, Wilderness First Aid card, Hostelling International card, and $100 USD.
27) Reusable Grocery Bag. Baggu.
29) Poop kit. See below.
30) Lip balm with SPF
31) Sunblock minimum 30 SPF
33) Back up USB charger
34) Long handled, big mouth spoon.
35) 14+3 Salomon running pack
36) 1.5 L bladder
37) 2 packs of hand warmers
38) Body Glide
39) Ear plugs
40) Mosquito head net
41) Steri-pen and back up batteries. We use this a lot here so we can feel safe drinking water from the tap.
42) 3 hair ties
43) Fine gauge rope to use as drying line.
44) Passport copies and passport photos
45) Laundry detergent pouches (I only brought them because I had them.)
46) Black Diamond trekking poles.
I am carrying way more than I did on the hike, but social convention seems to disapprove when you smell strongly of urine, B.O., and dirty socks (unfortunate, I know).
My general rule is that if an item does not pack down small enough to fit in one hand then it’s too big and I won’t consider taking it. The one exception is my puffy jacket.
1) 3 short sleeved nice looking shirts (too many, I’ll probably pare down soon)
2) 1 pair of medium weight REI tights.
3) 2 dresses that double as nightgowns
4) 2 pairs of athletic shorts. UR sportswear and The North Face.
5) 2 long sleeve wool shirts. I have IceBreakers, 2 different weights, and LOVE them. I’ve had them for years, they still look like new, and they don’t get stinky until after they’ve been worn multiple times.
6) 1 short sleeve merino wool shirt.
7) 3 tank tops that can be worn as layers or alone. (Too many but I can’t let go.)
8) 1 skirt (planning to get rid of soon)
9) 5 pairs of underwear. I could do with less, and did on the PCT, but they are small and light so not bothered.
10) 2 pairs of cuff socks. Drymax and Wigwam.
11) 1 pair of thick wool socks. Icebreaker.
12) 800 fill puffy jacket. Marmot.
13) Patagonia Houdini Jacket
14) Patagonia Houdini Pants
15) Warm hat
16) Sun hat
19) Sport swimsuit for surfing
20) Bikini for swimming, thermal pools, hot tubs.
21) 2 sports bras
23) Pink Unitard. Luxury item?
1) 18 Bandaids, various sizes.
2) Few ibuprofen and acetaminophen
3) Small blunt ended sewing scissor
5) Role of tape
6) Super glue
8) Altitude sickness pill “Sorojchi Pills” bought in Bolivia.
9) Few Benadryl
10) Alcohol swabs, BZK swabs, skin prep swab
11) 2 three ml syringes with needles
12) 36x36x51″ triangular bandage with safety pins
14) Packed in a ziplock bag
2) Travel size toothpaste
3) Dental Floss
4) Half bar of Dial soap
6) Packed in a ziplock bag
1) Titanium trowel
2) Small hand sanitizer
3) Toilet paper
4) Packed in a ziplock bag