What equipment do you take on a long hiking trip or when backpacking in the developing world?
August 10, 2008 3:36 PM   Subscribe

This is a gear nerd thread soliciting your ideas and favorite equipment, related to hiking/trekking and traveling in third world nations. Here's a list with URLs of stuff I currently use, any ideas are welcome!

OK... I must admit that I'm somewhat of a gear nerd. I like reading a lot of reviews and doing research about travel products before I buy them, and usually end up with decent stuff. I've started this thread to solicit input on things you absolutely can't do without when traveling off the beaten path. Right now I'm working on a packing list for the below-listed backpack which covers a full 4 seasons of weather, from a central asian winter at 6000 ft elevation to tropical. The total weight is running a bit higher than I expected, and there's some compromises to be made, but any suggestions are welcome. Here's a few links to things I own and find useful, some are more situation specific like the cold-weather sleeping bag...

I'll use REI links because it's convenient and the pages load quickly, but this stuff's available from lots of sources.

A really nice but not cheap 80L size backpack, great hip belt and adjustability, good side zipper design. Kind of heavy by itself but a good base to work from if you're packing the whole thing to total around 45-55 pounds.
Bora 80 backpack

Pretty decent first aid kit, probably overkill for one person traveling alone, good for multiple people or cheap to keep in vehicles... (add individual alcohol wipes and some more serious painkillers, percocet or overseas-available 800mg ibuprofen. Also add enough 500 mg ciprofloxacin for a 3-4 week course for two people, just in case... it's lightweight and hardly takes up any room)
First Aid kit

-20C rated goose down sleeping bag, save a few hundred bucks by buying the REI house brand vs. North Face. Very well constructed, good double-zipper design. I get the impression this is made at the same factory in Vietnam that turns out a lot of name brand stuff.
-20C goose down sleeping bag

If you're going to be anywhere really cold and are packing a toque, bring a stretchy balaclava too... they weigh only 0.10 pounds or less and prevent you from losing a lot of heat off your head. No URL.

Petzl Tactikka Plus white LED headlamp, comes with a flip-down red filter to save your night vision. Three different brightness settings to save batteries.
LED headlamp

These Eagle Creek cubes, half cubes and quarter cubes are great for small stuff. Mesh lets you see what's inside it. Pack one full of socks, another full of underwear and then stuff the whole unit into your bag. Saves having a missing sock stuck under some stuff at the bottom of your backpack. The smaller one makes a good toiletry bag that doesn't collect moisture.
Cube, Half Cube and Quarter Cube

There's a bunch of other obvious stuff in my travel packing checklist (mosquito net, DEET, iodine tablets, new nalgene bottle without the BPA problem, thin synthetic cord for a impromptu laundry drying line, foam disposable earplugs, leatherman, etc).
posted by thewalrus to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
SteriPen. REI carries it, including as a set with a protective case with built in solar charger.
posted by -harlequin- at 3:56 PM on August 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

The review suggests that the solar case may be a bit heavy for backpacking, but didn't give a weight, so I just weighed mine. The solar case is 170 grams.
The solar case set also comes with a wall-adaptor so you can have the option of charging from the mains (which gets a full charge quicker than using solar). The adaptor is an additional 62 grams. It works with the mains power of any country (100-240V, 50/60Hz), but you'd need the appropriate socket adaptor to make it fit the holes.

posted by -harlequin- at 4:14 PM on August 10, 2008

Here is a previous AskMe, focusing on backpacking-as-in-traveling in warm places. If I'm traveling, rather than being in the wilderness, I skip the mountaineering pack because the dangling straps get caught on bus roof racks and a regular duffel is a lot easier to pack and unpack. For backpacking, I prefer a lighter and smaller pack to a larger and heavier one, but that only works if you are good at not bringing too much shit in the first place — if you've packed the kitchen sink, you will need a heavy pack to carry it. The pack I used last year was about half the weight of your pack, for example, and worked fine.

Personally I've never carried anything like that first aid kit except when traveling by car. Backpacking or traveling, I carry a basic blister kit, plus Advil or equivalent for headaches, plus sometimes antibiotics and giardia pills. Heavy duty painkillers are a good addition, too, depending on what borders you are going to be crossing. (I've known of people bringing syringes, latex gloves, and other supplies to try and avoid HIV exposure; I've never done so and have had really good luck with doctors and hospitals in far off places. YMMV.) My rule of thumb with first aid kits is to not bring any items that I am not ready and able to use unexpectedly in the dark in an emergency, and to not bring anything "just in case" that can be temporarily approximated with sticks, duct tape, and other common items.

If you're going to be anywhere really cold and are packing a toque, bring a stretchy balaclava too

This is the kind of belt-plus-suspenders packing that gets you a heavy pack. Bring what you need, and no more. That means sometimes just a warm hat, sometimes a warm balaclava, and perhaps in some extreme situations both. But carrying both "just in case" is like carrying a too-warm sleeping bag or three knives — it's extra weight for not much benefit.

Those seemingly insignificant choices add up, and result in some pretty serious weight. Buy a cheap postal scale and weigh everything. Bring it with you when you go shopping. Small choices add up, and create the need for a heavy pack, heavy boots...
posted by Forktine at 5:10 PM on August 10, 2008

I usually turn to The Gear Guy for questions like these. He's never failed me yet.

Backpacks: You can't really go wrong with the top brands. I've always been a huge fan of Dana Design, but I don't know how good they are today, now that they've become part of Marmot. Of utmost importance is fit. Make sure you get someone with lots of experience to fit your pack.

First Aid Kit: The REI kit is cool, but I think it's better to put one together yourself, with stuff you actually know how to use. Taking a course from the Red Cross would be my starting point.

Sleeping bag: A good down bag should last you a couple of decades, at least. Spending a bit more for serious, solid quality is a good idea. Check out Feathered Friends. Probably the best in North America. Of course, any decent bag will do little more than be a pillow in the tropics, as you mentioned.

Headlamp: Hell, yeah. Look no further.

Knife: I carried a Leatherman and a Victorinox Swiss Army Knife for years, and the Vict saw a lot more use. It's just quicker and easier to work with.

Eagle Creek cubes and SteriPen: Have never used them, love the idea, have resisted the temptation on account of added weight and complexity, but the real reason could be anti-newfangledism getoffmylawnitis.

Stuff I love: Smartwool socks, trekking poles, less is more.
posted by Cobalt at 6:08 PM on August 10, 2008

The headlamp is nice, but I prefer one that is less obtrusive. Same great features, but it packs a lot smaller. Was by far my favorite tool on my 4 month motorcycle/camping journey.
posted by wile e at 7:57 PM on August 10, 2008

I have the bora 80 pack. Its pretty amazing in that it JUST WON'T DIE. I've had it for 8 years and used it quite a lot, and if i cleaned it off, it would probably look brand new.

That being said, it's kind of excessive (for me). It has a lot of straps and doohickeys that i don't use and so they just had dangly mess.

Regarding the hat/balaclava: Just get a balaclava, and roll it up when you don't need your face covered. Plus: unless you're hiking or skiing in really frigid conditions (less than minus 12-15 celcius), a balaclava is probably more than you need.

Keep in mind that you can buy anything non-technical while you're travelling. Start your trip with your pack 20% empty. You'll enjoy the ease of packing/finding stuff if you don't accumulate much, and you'll have space to accumulate if you do. (In the case of the bora 80, pack it so that the extended top, the front pouch, and the detachable day pack could be empty and everything fits in the body of the bag.)
posted by Kololo at 9:36 PM on August 10, 2008

Get the 800+ page Compleat Walker - pages and pages of gear advice. If you like researching this stuff, you'll love this book.
posted by AnnaRat at 3:46 AM on August 11, 2008

Responsible items: - a MSR miniworks water filter. Will save you buying and disposing of a couple of dozen plastic water bottles per week if the tap water is unsafe to drink. I've filtered water throughout many majority or developing countries using one of these beauties and whatever water was to hand. Add iodine before filtering if concerned about virus in the water. You'll save the cost of the item within a few months of travel.

Handy item: a plastic fold up sink/bucket. Can't find a link but they hold 5 ltrs and fold into a small pouch. Can be used for washing, carrying food or water, any place you could use a bucket.

Don't forget... you can procure many of the things you need on the road. That sleeping bag that was so toasty in Mongolia will be a pain when you are lugging it around the beaches of the Andaman islands. You may be thinking about the thick blankets other Mongolians used and wonder if a better travel experience may have been had if you'd 'lived more like the locals'...
posted by Kerasia at 3:52 AM on August 11, 2008

Maps! Make sure you have lots of maps, on paper.
posted by Vindaloo at 5:52 AM on August 11, 2008

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