© 2019 O&P

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Last update 27/03/2018 (Whitehorse, YT)

 
 
 

Electronics

GPS – Garmin eTrex 20x + Li batteries (147g)

Oliver’s rating: ★★★★

Bring it again?: Yes

We chose this for its light weight and features (including storage capacity). What most impressed us, though, was its battery life. Keeping use to a reasonable minimum, we used <2 sets of lithium batteries over 1,487 km in 45 trail days.

The unit did not work perfectly. It froze occasionally, requiring a hard reset. Boot times were often long (~1min). This may have been a product of the size of track, waypoint and topographic files we'd loaded.

2019 update: This unit's still going strong. Technology changes quickly, and there are probably better and lighter options on the market, but we have no desire to trade this one in yet.

 

Smartphone technology, and the availability of good navigation apps, has increased a lot since we hiked the GPT in 2016, and lots of hikers now seem to be using phones as their main navigation tool. For now, though, we still recommend bringing a dedicated GPS unit - compared to a phone, they're more durable, and replaceable batteries remain the most reliable power option. If we were hiking this year, though, we might consider bringing a phone with us as well.

GPS map package – Garmin Chile Topo Deluxe

Oliver’s rating: ★★★★★

Bring it again?: Maybe (only if better alternatives do not exist)

Let’s be clear – this isn’t an awesome product. Contour lines are generally believable, but in some areas waterbodies and watercourses are laughably incorrect. Roads and trails are not reliably mapped – much better to rely on Jan’s trail files for these than Garmin.

Until there’s a better option out there, we’re stuck with this one. Incorporating real-world information (i.e. looking around and understanding the terrain around you) rather than solely relying on GPS data will keep you out of trouble.

We understand some hikers are now using other data sources (Open Street Map?) with some success. We recommend getting in touch with Jan to see what current best sources might be (as well as getting the latest version of his trail files).

2019 update: Looking at the other options available now, it doesn't seem like there's any reason to use this Garmin map package - much better data are available now, and much of it for free. We're not up on all the latest options - check in with the Hikers' Manual or GPT facebook group to find out what's good now.

Oliver's Camera – Olympus Tough TG4 (247g)

Oliver’s rating: ★★★★★

Bring it again?: No

​The wide range of shooting features in such a small package, and advertised durability, made this seem like a good choice for us. Indeed, we had fun with how much we could control about the photos and videos we were shooting. The built-in GPS, compass and barometric altimeter were also handy features for us as mountain-traveling, scenery-recording folk. We were also keen to try out the underwater capabilities on our post-hike diving trip to Sulawesi.

While we had high hopes, this expensive camera had unimpressive performance. While it’s touted as a tough camera (it’s even called Tough!), we managed to break the lens ring, meaning the lens assembly would fall apart at awkward times. We fixed it with Tuck Tape before buying a new part after the hike. Cause of the break was unknown – we’d been taking good care of it.

The camera also started metering incorrectly, shooting overly-dark images in low light. Frustratingly, this wasn’t a consistent pattern, so we couldn’t spoof it into compensating. Whether this was related to the broken lens ring, we couldn’t tell.

While we chose the camera for its durability and impressive set of features, it quickly became something that just wasn’t fun to use. I wish we’d bought something else.

As well, somewhere between the camera, the SD card and a computer in Los Angeles, we lost several hundred photos. Was it the camera’s fault? Dunno, but I don’t find myself siding with the camera too easily.

2019 update: Don't buy this camera. It continues to be lousy. Most recently, the waterproof cover for the recharge and download ports broke, meaning it's no longer a waterproof camera. I wish we hadn't spent so much on this piece of junk.

Oliver's headlamp – Black Diamond Spot + Li batteries (84g)

Oliver’s rating: ★★★★★

Bring it again?: No

In retrospect, I could have gotten away with a lighter headlamp (less weight, that is, not brighter). This one was plenty bright – really more than I absolutely needed. I appreciated the lock feature, which prevented it from accidentally turning on my my pack.

My initial thinking was that, if Piia was bringing a lightweight, low-powered headlamp, I’d benefit from having a brighter one, to use in emergencies or in case of midnight visitors. We encountered neither.

Piia's headlamp – Petzl e+lite + Lithium CR 2032 -battery (26g)

Piia’s rating: ★★★★★

Bring it again?: Yes

This has been my go-to headlamp for some time. It is very light and bright enough for chores around camp in pitch-black. I've used it for reading, fixing my gear and sometimes fixing myself. It has excellent battery life and many different light modes. I'm not a huge fan of the thin head band and if hiking in dark you should choose something brighter for your safety. But for chores this headlamp is perfect.

Piia's camera – Canon 6D (SD card, battery) + 24-105mm + Lowepro Zoom 50 AW (1447 g + 300 g)

Piia’s rating: ★★★

Bring it again?: Yes

Taking pictures of the landscapes, environment and people is one of the most important reasons I hike. So I tend to bring a camera that doesn't match the lightweight approach. The 6D is fairly light for a DSLR with quality specs, and I chose the 24-105mm lens because it gives a compromise of wide angle and zoom. The GPT is filled with mind-blowing views, beautiful and exciting flora and fauna and fascinating culture and for all those features this camera kit was a good choice.

I wasn't as happy with the bag though. I like my system of hooking a bag in front of me with four S-Biner dual carabiners (two on the chest, two on the waist) because it gives me an easy access, which the Lowepro bag allows. It also comes with a rain cover which protects the camera from light rain and with a front pocket that holds a snack, sunglasses or GPS/piece of map (folded). I pack the camera in a dry bag when it's pouring down. On the other hand it's quite heavy; if you're careful you don't need so much padding. You can easily save some grams by just using something for weather protection.

Monocular – Vortex Solo 10x36 (275g)

Oliver’s rating: ★★★★★

Bring it again?: No

As a biologist, I have a hard time heading into the mountains without binoculars. There’s just so much to see! This, then, was my one luxury item. I went with a monocular as a compromise on weight and size.

In the end, I rarely used this, and it was mostly dead weight. It also got pretty trashed by blowing grit and sand. It doesn’t work well anymore. I shouldn’t have brought it.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Piia's Miscellaneous Gear

Oliver's Miscellaneous Gear

Hiking poles – Black Diamond Trail Back (567g)

Oliver’s rating: ★★★★

Bring it again?: Yes

These were very standard poles, but they worked just fine. Following the hike (and subsequent couple of months hiking in Kyrgyzstan), they’ve held up without damage. I suppose I could have chosen fancier/more expensive ones, but it seems I didn’t need to.

I removed the hand straps, as I don’t use them.

We used these to pitch our TarpTent Stratospire 2 each night.

2019 update: Two years later, on a return to trip to Kyrgyzstan, I finally broke the tip off of one of these. For all the abuse I put these through, though, they owe me nothing.

Ankle brace – Bauerfiend MalleoTrain S (70g)

Oliver’s rating: N/A

Bring it again?: No

An old ankle injury re-emerged shortly before we began the GPT. After reviewing my options (and discussing with a physiotherapist), I settled on the Bauerfiend MalleoTrain S. It wasn’t the most supportive brace, but it was relatively light and breathable – both important qualities for the task at hand.

As it turned out, my ankle remained in better condition than I expected. I left the brace behind in our encomienda box after the first section. I didn’t end up using this long enough for a thorough review.

Sunglasses – Gant polarized (prescription) (54g)

Oliver’s rating: ★★★★

Bring it again?: Yes

My first pair of prescription polarized sunglasses – compared to using contacts, these were a gamechanger. I wore these all day, every day (except for rare rain days). They had big, goofy-looking lenses, but my eyes stayed happy. Of note – I carried by regular glasses in my shirt pocket, and always swapped over to them when meeting people on the trail.

We both think good quality sunglasses are mandatory GPT gear. You’ll fry your eyes and quit without them.

2019 update: An unexpected packraft flip, and these ended up somewhere on the bottom of a glacial river in Kyrgyzstan. I replaced them right away - polarized prescription glasses are the only way to go.

 
 
 
 

Knee brace – DonJoy Tru-Pull Lite (172g)

Piia’s rating: ★★★★

Bring it again?: Yes

I've had troubles with my knee alignment on previous hikes and this DonJoy knee brace has helped me considerably. It's sturdy and supportive enough but also light. I usually wear it against my skin and even though you get a little bit of skin irritation in hot conditions it's nothing too uncomfortable. If you use it extensively it gives you 2-3 years of good use before the fabric gets loose and doesn't feel fit anymore. I should emphasize that it's very important to get a right size for the brace to work well.

 

Against all odds my knee worked perfectly on GPT so I didn't end up needing the brace after all. I would still carry it on future hikes.

Hiking poles – Leki Micro Vario carbon (462g)

Piia’s rating: ★★★★

Bring it again?: Yes

Lightweight poles that are strong against vertical pressure. I've never broken them but they do feel weaker against shocks coming from the side. After two hiking seasons, ending with the GPT, the tip broke off which I wouldn't consider very durable. I'm also not big fan of the handle that makes your hands black when you get sweaty. I hope to replace the tip and keep using these poles until they break down and would consider Leki again.