Saturday, 6 April 2019

Face to Face with Fear

Every move I was acutely aware that one slip would be the last one. There was no ledge I might get stuck on or large plant/tree I could grab on the way down...

29 January, 2019 and the day after leaving the comfort of the Rancho at Puerto Español and the welcome company of Sergio Anselmino. The previous night I had camped next to the hut at Rio Sopresa and today continuing eastwards along the coast of Bahia Aguirre, one of the biggest bays of Peninsula Mitre in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. 

Rancho Sopresa - Peninsula Mitre
"Ascending a ridge coastline with some cliffs, i had got myself onto a section where it became almost vertical. Vertical with rocks that were crumbling in my hands, a fine gravel that refused to give any foothold and some small shrubs, a few of which were thankfully well anchored. On my back was a 35kg+ backpack, newly stocked up the two nights before in Puerto Español,  and my two trekking poles (which i was using as anchors where i could!). I was not even remotely equipped for this - from the bottom the ascent had seemed stable and nothing more steep than 45 degrees in one spot. By the time, i realised how this was turning out, going back was not an option, especially with the backpack seemingly trying to pull me off the cliff all the time. I had to find some way up unless some descent route miraculously revealed itself."

Bahia Aguirre - Peninsula Mitre
View down the cliff I ended up climbing up with the heavy backpack. 
(Yes, I even took a photo!)

"Every move I was acutely aware that one slip would be the last one. There was no ledge I might get stuck on or large plant/tree I could grab on the way down - the bushes there were would certainly not withstand that combination of weight and momentum! The real fear, the panic, was just below the surface and i was very much aware of it - i was actively “distracting” myself by concentrating on finding a way up and checking every hand hold, every foothold…attempting to make only sensible decisions."
--------------end diary quote

Facing your fears adds another challenge to the already considerable list of mental challenges during an extreme physical and solo expedition. This is where you're forced to get further out of  your comfort zone and do something which literally scares you - gets the heart racing, hands starting to sweat - mind running in a thousand directions as you look at what lies ahead. So how to deal with this because, as is well known, fear can be debilitating. The need to harness this in order to achieve what has to be done, and overcome it, is imperative. Simply suppressing it doesn't serve any purpose and in fact, the suppression might not be overly successful either. 

Adrenaline/extreme activities function as such because of a level of fear in us humans. Sure, call it being nervous but it all boils down to the fear that triggers the release of the adrenaline that will put the mind into super alert mode and the body into a higher level of physical functioning. This becomes addictive as athletes push for the bigger adrenaline rush through more extreme activities.

Peninsula Mitre
The views I got to enjoy a couple of hours later. 

Why am I telling you this? Simple, because it shows the harnessing of the fear to drive decisions and actions that have a higher chance of success. This means, example again, a skydiver does his pre-jump equipment check really thoroughly, revising mentally the emergency procedures in the case there being an equipment malfunction. Conditioning the mind results in this eventually being a ‘normal activity about which the person feels a bit nervous but positively looks forward to it…the adrenaline release also gets less as one gets more accustomed to it (remember it started with being at least a little bit scared the first time)

--------------diary quote
"I reached what seemed distinctly to me like a “junction” where I could continue the line (if you could call it that!) I was following or, go about three metres to the left and try go sort of around a rock pinnacle where it seemed there more stable bushes and footholds. The problem was that moving across those 3m, i would need to lunge and grab onto a largish bush - the type of bush that proved to mostly be pretty stable holds. This had to be done in such a way that the backpack didn't follow gravity…down! It was pretty heavy as it had just been refilled with provisions at Puerto Español, in other words a minimum of 35kg! (Just writing this has got my hands sweaty and my heart beating fast!!)"

"The first moves to the left i aimed at 2-3 times before finally just going for it, wondering briefly (…and unbelievably calm!!!) if someone flying over in a helicopter or plane would eventually see the body on the beach if I missed that grab. What bollocks!! Luckily it seemed to not be something stuck in my head although i do remember thinking it. Anyway, the lunge and grab worked and I stopped for a short breather."
-------------end diary quote

Bahía Aguirre - Peninsula Mitre
It's important to mention too that telling yourself “I can’t!” or “I’m really scared!” is a big no-no! This is totally counterproductive and must be avoided, at least suppress those thoughts (for the moment) and constructively think of how you’re going to overcome this hurdle which will also serve to distract you some from those negative thoughts. The adrenaline that will already be pumping will be making your mind more alert, sharper and help you. This is where harnessing what's happening both physically and mentally (via the adrenaline) is so important; you have just been gifted with a massive resource! No, it isn't that easy and it means taking a conscious decision - “I just have to do this, the only way that I can get out of this situation is by getting over this obstacle!”

-------------diary quote
Adrenaline really pumping now, I continued albeit slowly, very slowly and ascended up what happened to be the last 10m with the final 5m about 45 degrees - to me virtually horizontal at that moment! The GPS showed an ascent of just over 60m at the brief stop I did at the top - it was only about an half an hour later that i actually forced myself to stop and take my backpack off! Then I realised that my heart was still beating like crazy and the adrenaline still pumping! Later that night, images from the ascent would haunt me and keep me awake. 

Not only had I been completely out of my comfort zone, I had experienced a brief moment of fear which I’m not sure I’ve ever felt both mentally and physically simultaneously. This was not even a case of just being really nervous, this was on another level!
-------------end diary quote

Rio Bagualero - Peninsula Mitre

Conquering that fear, overcoming that hurdle...a very important step in becoming mentally and emotionally stronger. Don't allow it to haunt to you - remember, next time it's not something that's outside your comfort zone're old acquaintances now. 

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Gearing up for Extreme Trekking - Peninsula Mitre

This discussion on equipment/gear mainly pertains to trekking Peninsula Mitre and my personal experience. Obviously everyone has their preferred brands and/or equipment specifications so what you have may already be fine. These are my personal recommendations and although not intended to be a definitive list set in rock, I’ve tried to make it as comprehensive as possible. 
       It's also worth mentioning that I did not set out from the word go to do the whole distance around the tip of Tierra del Fuego. I decided to continue once I got to Rancho Ibarra (29km from Moat) based on discussions with someone who did the whole route the year before. My final decision was further subject to advice and recommendations from Sergio Anselmino. 
       This means that in some cases I did not have the best equipment for the distance and conditions but through my own outdoor and trekking experience, and the support of the individuals like Sergio I met, I was able to adapt and complete the trek. 

=>> Important

*This trek is recommended only for the experienced trekker. Not only are the mental and physical challenges huge but skills in route and trail finding, orientation with map & compass, camping in remote and challenging conditions and sometimes even basic tracking are required. 
**I have not been paid or sponsored by any brands I may have mentioned in this article. In fact, in many cases other brands may have something similar and/or better. 

I use a Garmin GPSMap 64s with maps uploaded from the OSM website. These maps are basic so I don't have topgraphic info or digital imagery. This can of course be purchased from various apps and providers online. Average battery life of 16 hours (2x normal AA batteries). Remember to keep the gps a bit insulated against cold otherwise those batteries will be gone in a couple of hours in the cold. 
Mobile phone 
    Personally I avoided using the cell phone as far as possible due to there then being additional batteries to charge. If you have good solar panels and a big powerbank (heavy!), it might be fine as there are a host of mapping and navigation apps. 
Compass (brújula)
You cannot go without this because if technology fails you, a map and compass navigation is all you have then. Make sure you know how to orientate yourself with a map and calculate magnetic declination relative to the map you're using. 
Map of Peninsula Mitre

I had the Pixmap ( 1:200 000 map of Canal Beagle (Onashaga) Peninsula Mitre. It served me well although obviously not as ideal as a 1:25/50 000 topo map. “
Conocer Ushuaia” website has some topographic maps of most of Tierra del Fuego ( For custom sizes search online for the Cartography department of the Tierra del Fuego province

Electronics & Communication 
Batteries for gps (pilas)
NiMh recommended but apparently the Lithium ones are even better. Rechargeable ones fine if you have a good solar panel to charge them with.
Solar panel/s (paneles solares)
Lightweight is the key here but also effective. If with various (2 at least) usb slots, even better. Then also those that consist of 2 or more panels in a 'folder' making it all the more flexible.
Satellite Communication
  Having some form of satellite communication device is certainly recommended. There are a variety on the market and probably as many pricing plans for satellite use. 
         My personal recommendation in this regard is one of the Garmin InReach gps products which offer an interactive sms-type messaging in case of an emergency whilst the location updates to a shareable online link. A bonus is being able to connect to a smartphone to use the larger screen and post updates with photos to social media. Remember that access to satellite communication requires an additional subscription cost either monthly or annually. 
Clothing (ropa)
Boots (botas)
Over-ankle and waterproof. Ankle support really important and with so much wet areas - turba, streams, mud and wet forest, waterproof (Goretex) makes a massive difference!

Salomon trekking boots
Gaiters (polainas)
Also with the boots for bushes but also for mud and wetlands, especially when everything is wet after the rain as well.
Wool socks (medias de lana)
Wool insulates even when wet, so in these latitudes and conditions there's no other choice really.
Over Trousers (thick) (sobre pantalones)
Waterproof, insulating and tough. This pretty much covers all it needs to do at any given time, many times at the same time. Cannot over-stress the importance of this.

Crossing Rio de los Bacas(Photo: Miguel Pira)
Waterproof trousers (pantalones impermeables)
(Zips open completely on both sides) Used this when it's absolutely pouring down with rain in addition to being in wet areas - can quickly put on over the 'over' trousers and minimises the risk, sometimes even negates it, of getting wet right through on the legs and arse.
River crossings (cruzando rios)
Lightweight trainers were perfect even though at a few short crossings I went barefoot. Would say anything with a decent rubber sole for rocky rivers - something that won't slip off accidentally either.
A small towel somewhere handy to dry your feet/legs on the other side. Also helps with the warmth factor when putting dry dry feet back into the socks and boots - even when the socks are damp from sweat or whatever. Good feeling feet!
Beanie (goro)
The winds can be freezing, even in the short breaks during the trek, and the jacket's hood won't keep your head and ears warm. Keep handy somewhere and preferably somewhere dry for when you need it.
In conjunction with the bandana (#10), always take 2 in case one is wet and/or one is lost. This served me well when I somehow lost my one beanie in Puerto Español.
For sun, dust and some warmth plus sometimes as a little towel. In conjunction with the beanie (9), always take 2 in case one is wet and/or one is lost.
Gloves (guantes)
Insulating and waterproof for trekking. Kept a pair handy in my trouser pockets all the time. In my pack, a light pair of fleece gloves.
Once again, an additional pair of thick waterproof gloves.
Ideally I would like to have a lighter but well insulating pair for when pitching or taking down the tent in cold conditions.
Underwear/Base layers (primeras capas de ropa)
Thermal type long sleeve shirt as well as a short sleeve version. The latter serves well on the warmer days as the body warms up quickly with the level of activity.
Then 2 pairs 'normal' underwear trunks although I'd prefer to have the same options available for my legs as my arms i.e. short and longs.
A lycra pair served well for the potentially deeper river crossings as it also drys very quickly.
Waterproof jacket (campera impermeable)
Tough and obviously waterproof. This jacket will very likely also take the brunt of the hammering when going through bushes, including thorny ones.
Polar fleece jacket (light) (campera polar)
For in the tent and is also my pillow; excellent after taking off a bunch of wet clothing.
Down jacket (campera de pluma)
This would be ideal and lighter than the fleece jacket, and my preferred choice but up to now don't have one.
2nd & 3rd Layers (segunda & tercera capas)
Shirts: 2-3 different ones that insulate well in layer and other that serves well on its own.
Trousers: at the moment only a lightweight trekking trousers but works well with the other layers I have at the moment.
Jacket-type: thin and light but works well as an inbetween layer.

Repairing the backpack
Repairs & Maintenance
Needles & thread (agujas y hilo)
Very important especially with long duration expeditions as need to do repairs to tent, backpack and possibly even boots.
So have thick needles for the 'big' repairs and then smaller for clothing as well. Different threads as required obviously.
Zip ties & duct tape (repairs) (cinta etc para reparaciones)
Doing repairs whilst on expedition in some or other form is almost guaranteed, sometimes due to due damage in the dense forest or rocks or just simply wear and tear. Having zip ties, duct tape and string/thin line is a must have!

Camping near Caleta San Mauricio
Camping & Trekking
Backpack (mochila)
This is an item that just has to be selected personally by each person as it relates to your height and ability to adjust to your body. What I can say in this regard is that for an expedition like Peninsula Mitre, a minimum 80 litre backpack is required due to the amount of provisions you have to carry. 
          The talller/larger guys (I’m not one of them!) even have 105litre packs. Having a large pack means you can distribute the lightweight and heavier items more evenly as one should. Also, smaller packs are not made for these kind of weights that we’re talking about here i.e. average 35kg in my case. 
Trekking poles (bastones)
This turned out to be my most important and most valuable gear on the trek. No trails means that many times you need to be able to test or check where your next step will be plus then support in ascents and descents and also when crossing rivers. An absolute “Must have”!
Carabiners (mosquetones) & Rope (cuerda)
Needing to attach something quickly to your backpack? Carabiners are always handy! Add to that a length of around 5m of rope (5-7mm) and you can then also lower your backpack down sections and follow safely behind. 
Tent (carpa)
Although an obvious piece of equipment, the selection of a tent correct for the potential conditions doesn't always get the attention it deserves. This is your shelter and your home out there, it's super important. It needs to be really  waterproof and able to withstand strong winds. 
         A 4-seasons tent is a necessity out in Peninsula Mitre. During the expedition I encountered all imaginable types of weather not least of all the infamous crazy winds of Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia. 
 Groundsheet (tela para protección del piso de la carpa, mayormente un plástico grueso)
Having a groundsheet makes a huge difference on selecting locations to pitch the tent with this extra layer of protection (and insulation!) between the tent floor and the ground. 
        **Remember to fold in sections that are protruding out from under the tent otherwise it catches up the rain water and creates a pool of water between the plastic sheet and the tent floor, water that will soak through after only a short time. 

Refugio 3 Amigod
Sleeping bag (bolsa de dormir)
Probably one of the most important items on your trek! They come in a variety of levels of warmth/insulation plus the options of down or synthetic filling. All have price implications and weight, so make sure that you understand well the different options. My bag had a comfort level to -5 degrees Celsius to -25 degrees extreme level. The kind of sleeping bag inner makes a difference and then whether you are in a well insulated tent or not. 
         A great plus is if it gets wet on the outside, through condensation or rain leaking into the tent for example, it's still dry on the inside. 
Sleeping bag inner (saco sábana para bolsa de dormir)
To me, almost as important as the sleeping bag itself. This limits and can prevent sweating against the sleeping bag fabric; a problem in freezing temperatures as the inside getting frozen is a massive problem. 
         Once again different types ranging from cotton sheet-type to super light silk to a much warmer polar fleece. I’ve been using the cotton sheet-type and even up to having ice on the outside of my sleeping bag, I was inside without a shirt or long trousers. 
Lightweight Fishing rod (caña de pesca)
This will not only give you the opportunity to add some much needed protein and variety to your meals, but also some relaxing moments in some of Peninsula Mitre’s most beautiful places. Not an expert on fishing myself I cannot recommend specific spoons, flies or hooks but the local fishing shops (and local fishermen) will happily share their knowledge before you head off. 

1st Aid/Medical Kit (Primeros auxilios)(botiquin)
Another important addition to the equipment although I also need to remind you of the golden rule; ensure that you know very well how and when to use every item in your 1st aid kit. 
         Doing at least a basic level course goes a long way to learning/refreshing essential skills. There are courses for wilderness first aid/medics which are even better and are more likely to cover scenarios that you may find yourself in in a remote  place like Peninsula Mitre.

Here's a list of what I take with that also packs down small (please add your own personal medication/s). Of course this is subject to the kind of trek you’re heading out on and how many people are in your group. 

Stretch bandages x2
Pressure bandage/ Wound dressing
Plasters (various sizes)
Butterfly strips
Gauze squares
Alcohol swabs
Medical alcohol
Hydrogen peroxide 
*Iodine solution 
Muscle strain/sprain cream
Pain tablets 
Antihistamine tablets
Eye drops
Sterile drops (eyes)
Asthma inhaler
Scissors (small)
Resuscitation mouthpiece with mask
Disposable latex gloves
Syringe x2
Needles x2
Safety pins (various sizes)
Stitches (thread &needle)

NOTE: I use zip lock type bags for all my clothing that's in my backpack as well as the electronics and first aid items. If necessary, a smaller one inside a thicker large one. Sleeping bag is inside 2 bags with a thicker large rubbish bag over. Light dry bags are obviously the best if you have access to them. 

I welcome any other recommendations and your thoughts in the comments, so please let me know what you think. 

Monday, 11 March 2019

Where Wild Horses Fly with the Wind

Mitre coastline

Considered one of the most isolated and inhospitable places in Argentina, Peninsula Mitre at the extreme southeastern tip of Tierra del Fuego is surrounded by an air of mystery, tales of explorers, shipwrecks, a quest for gold and lone gauchos who roam the land, where fiery wild horses run with the wind, seemingly flying over the pampas. Where the wind mercilessly forces trees to grow almost horizontally, smashing south Atlantic waves against imposing cliffs and penguins outnumber humans. 

Attracting adventurers and dreamers for centuries, Peninsula Mitre got its nails into me and i couldn't stay away, even less so just go in for a few days. “Go in” - “Enter” - “Exit” are the words used to describe a trip to this incredible place, words that one would expect to hear when speaking about some sanctuary, a place where there's an entry fee for the privilege to see what the place offers. There is always a price but we never know what the cost may be…am I willing to accept the potential cost?

Duchess of Albany
Finding information about trekking Peninsula Mitre is limited to a small number of books and then the decades and centuries of history. The books are limited in the context that they just relate the experience of the trekkers as does the more well-known documentary “Gauchos del Mar” which follows the traverse of surfers around Peninsula Mitre in their search for wild waves. The minimum period would be around 30 days. In addition, there's no public “list” of people (and their contact details) who have done the full traverse and with whom one could speak about the requirements for a trek that would be at least 400km if not starting from Ushuaia. Online the information is equally limited to that on some fauna and flora and then references to the books and documentary. 

Gauchos along the coast

At this stage you're probably already wondering why I would want to go and spend at least a month in such an inhospitable place without having much prior knowledge about it. Well, to those who know me, this is exactly the attraction for me; a place where very few venture and is filled with potential challenges, not the least being that there are no trails. I was at least going to explore a little bit that's east of the Beagle Channel…after I’ve trekked that coast as well from Ushuaia. There was a hunger in me to get to know this whole area unlike I’ve had to date in other places. 

Trekking the 95km from Ushuaia to Moat at the end of the Beagle Channel increased this hunger to know more and see wilderness landscapes that few have had the privilege to lay eyes on. With food supplies for only another two days, i returned to Ushuaia to top up provisions so i could do at least another 15 days - about 7 days and the same out again. So on 13 January i headed back with Ruben, a guy who did the full traverse a year ago and this time was only going to Bahia Sloggett. 

Bahía Sloggett (Photo-Elio Ruben Torres)
(Photo: Elio Rúben Torres)

The backpack was minimum 35kg and meaning trekking was going to be a daily challenge whether there's good terrain or not. The weather kept us indoors at Rancho Ibarra and the long chats about Peninsula Mitre continued to the point that on the first night I was already considering the feasibility of a full traverse - alone! He emphasised i neede to speak to Sergio Anselmino first who was at that stage at the racho in Puerto Español, Bahía Aguirre (this was initially going to be my turnaround point for the 15 days exploring but in Bahia Sloggett i was already at 7 days from Moat!) Sergio is an expert on Peninsula Mitre having done the full traverse at least 4 times, including with the guys of “Gauchos del Mar”. 

It took another four and a half days to get to Puerto Español but I was now in Peninsula Mitre proper, having “entered” when crossing the Rio Lopez at Bahía Sloggett. I spent 5 days with Sergio listening to his accounts of the traverses he did and advice and recommendations on routes etc. This is a man that's passionate about nature and his photography and all expressed through his love of Peninsula Mitre. From here, starts the most difficult section of the traverse, a minimum of 6 days with good weather and luck in finding routes, to Buen Suceso where there's a small detachment of the Argentinian Navy. 

Puerto Español, Bahía Aguirre

“Difficult” turned out to be an understatement of epic proportions! I’ve been travelling alone for about 18 years now and not a stranger to being alone in challenging conditions (see the section about my West African expedition) but this not only challenged me physically in every sense but also mentally. Each pace was intense, not daring to let your thoughts wander, even less so daring not looking where you put your foot next. Due to weather pinning me down at various places, this section also took me 10 days during which i had both, separately, my mentally hardest day and the hardest day physically of the whole traverse. 

Cabo Leticia
With my mind and body now more accustomed to the difficulty of daily trekking without trails through every imaginable terrain, I headed off from Buen Suceso to the tip at Cabo San Diego and the northeast coast. This was considerably “easier” terrain, obviously relative to the section I had just completed. But Peninsula Mitre wasn't finished with me, she still had some big rivers and extreme weather to share with me. On 2 March 2019 I crossed the Rio Irigoyen, the northeastern “exit/entry” and walked out the gates of the Estancia Maria Luisa, considered the end of the traverse. The next day was still another 12km rain trekking, albeit on a dirt road and hitchhiking, I arrived in Ushuaia the night of 3 March. 

Sleeping on the first night was virtually impossible with my mind still reeling with memories of a 60-day 460km traverse. It hadn't yet sunk in what I’d achieved but over the next couple of days with congratulations coming in and people shaking my hand, it's sort of more real now. What now you ask? Heck, my eyes are already scanning the maps of Tierra del Fuego but keep flitting back to Peninsula Mitre, that wild land that literally absorbed me and is now in my bloodstream like an incurable virus, admittedly not a bad one. I will be going back, exploring more and different parts, letting Mitre push me even more whilst sitting in the evening around a traditional barbecue with gaucho listening to tales and stories of the a place they call “The Forgotten Land”. 

Note: I will be publishing more in-depth articles on different sections and my experiences in the following days and weeks. 


Friday, 8 March 2019

Foodstuffs and Provisions in Peninsula Mitre

foodstuffs and provisions Peninsula Mitre

(These recommendations are based on my personal trekking experience over years and then more specifically as it related to me trekking solo around the Peninsula Mitre during my trek from Ushuaia to Estancia Maria Luisa in January to March 2019)

When going on a major trek like the full traverse of Peninsula Mitre in Tierra del Fuego (Argentina), the question immediately arises of what food will you take, how much and for how many days and then even more importantly; how will you carry it all. 

I carried food for a period of 10-15 days in the sense that I could have a decent meal for at least 10 days with then additional lightweight rations like soups and instant “meals” for another 5 days. This is important especially in Peninsula Mitre where you are going into a 5-day section for example; on Day 2 the weather pins you down for two days and then on Day 4 again, forcing you to stay three nights. That's 4-5 days extra already! Stops like this may happen for various reasons like needing a rest after an injury or having to make a huge detour. 

This does of course mean a heavy backpack but I think the backpack will be heavy no matter what. 

Additional supply options

Along the route: you will encounter refugios/ranchos where you can restock food supplies and/or eat with a gaucho or puestero (many times an asado - traditional barbeque). The following sites were good in this regard:

  • Rancho Ibarra and Rancho Julian (Bahía Sloggett) with Luis “Paisa” Andrade. Asado at Rancho Julian, Peninsula Mitre

  • Puerto Español (Bahía Aguirre) where I met Sergio Anselmino, an expert on expeditions in Peninsula Mitre and passionate about nature and his photography. Rancho Puerto Español, Bahía Aguirre. Peninsula Mitre

  • Bahía Valentin might have some supplies but don't count on it. Bahía Valentin, Peninsula Mitre

  • Buen Suceso with the Argentinian Navy detachment. 
  • Bahia Thetis on the northeast coast. Bahía Thetis, Peninsula Mitre

  • Estancia Policarpo that’s 1-2 days trek from Thetis. Estancia Policarpo

From here another resupply would not be necessary although you would stop at La Chaira post as well. 

Before the trek:

    • Send a container with supplies to Bahia Sloggett and/or Puerto Español with Luis “Paisa” Andrade from the Naval Prefectura in Moat. 
    • Send supplies with a yacht from the Ushuaia Yacht Club to Puerto Español. This depends completely on whether someone is sailing to Puerto Español plus whether they will take something extra with them. 
    • With the Argentinian Navy that sails every 45 days to Buen Suceso to change the relief at the Naval post.

Below I’ve detailed my thoughts and experiences on specific food items and mixes. The list is obviously subject also to the tastes and requirements of each trekker as well as whether they are trekking alone or with other people. 

Remember!! There is no reason to not be eating at least one delicious meal everyday. Not only is it for energy, but also does a lot for the morale when enjoying a tasty meal!

**NB: ziplock type bags super important in various sizes. Can also be used for clothing items.

Chocolate cereal mix
(Sergio Anselmino) - nesquik/drinking choc, pats, raisins, sesame seeds, cornflakes = or like muesli/cereal mix. Just add water hot or cold. Can also be eaten as is.

Any small sweets or caramelos as they're called, to suck on during the day at stops or when in the tent.

Energy gel packets
These are the gel packets with concentrated energy "drink" with caffeine etc. Helps on long days - not only for energy but to keep the mind alert.

"Instant" oats
To add to food that makes it nice and creamy - any dish. (Oats used is some 'whole' type of instant oats, might work with 'normal' oats)

Soups & arroz listo
The Knorr soups are phenomenal although Maggi is not bad either. The former is the brand generally available in Argentina.
Two kinds; the normal variety of soups and then the range of creamy soups.
The “arroz listo” (ready with meat pieces/vegetables and condiments) of Knorr is also very good and a very decent quantity - I mean it's a lot! 

Herbs & spices
Herbs de Provence, pesto mix (albahaca, ajo and dehydrated parmesan) used as condiment, black pepper, salt, comino (cumin), chilli/ají, pimenton (paprika), curry, and some more herbs like rosemary, laurel leaves etc.
Packets of pre-mixed herbs and spices are also good; obviously one could make up your own mixes before. 

Coffee & Tea
Obviously!! Sugar and then instant coffee. Also coffee in bags (like tea) with each can make twice.
*take ‘cloth’ coffee filter with anyway as sometimes find ground coffee in a puesto. Can also be used as a water filter. #waterfilter. The reason I’m not specifically recommending taking ground coffee is that I found after a hard day, an instant or bag coffee was quicker which means you can get that relaxing moment much quicker. It's a case of personal preference in this case. 

Only took spaghetti this time as it packs easier. I break it in half and then in smaller ziplock bags (that size works perfect in the small pot too).
For shorter trips can use other pastas too although they're bulky.
*take queso rallado if available!

Into packets of about a cup each. Sometimes use less as added to a soup or something.

Polenta (maize meal) & mash
Basic but a good source of carbs/energy and only hot water needed. Obviously can add herbs and spices as needed.
Instant mash is even easier to make and quicker - arguably more tasty too.

Dehydrated vegetables
Got from ex-guest in El Calafate. Absolutely brilliant to add to any dish and covers that necessity to have veggies.
Used to be able to buy in supermarkets but not sure at the moment.

Fresh produce
Always a tricky one this and literally a weighty issue. It doesn't always last either and should be evaluated case by case. The other thing is squashing them so something like tomato generally won't work (rather get packets of tomato paste then).
This time I got a whole garlic from Sergio which is excellent and lightweight.

Cubes (flavour/soups)
And now in packets with powder which is less bulky to pack. Something almost a must as even on its own can be like a cup of 'soup'. I always have them and always use them.

Cooking oil
Small plastic bottle. Unless going to fry a lot, don't really use much at all. Might help start a fire.


As a solo trekker, I had a small pot and pan set that fit into one another. Inside the pot I kept all my herbs and spices so they were all available immediately for whatever I was cooking. 

Example: start cooking or frying something in the pot and then adding more water for the pasta or rice. This way there's no need to drain off water and you have a full little pot of creamier/smoother food. 

Water bottles
In Mitre only have the 600ml bottle as there's a lot of water along the route.
But, also have an empty 2lt plastic with which I fill when I put up camp so I have water to cook with as well. This can also be filled in advance if I know that I'm likely going to be camping at a site without water.

As above, cooking oil might help. Plastic wrappers from the rubbish taken along also help to start a fire. Cotton wool works a treat and then some candle wax won't go amiss.
Then there's the option of having something like dried teabags that have been soaked in an oil or fuel of sorts before (obvious risk of contaminating other things in the backpack if not wrapped and packed well.)

Matches and gas lighters: always have extras in sealed (ziplock type bags) in addition to the ones you're using daily. If you have time, and patience, you can make one packet of matches waterproof by dipping the heads in candle wax. 

Camping Stove & Gas

I have a little camping stove that uses gas but with a hose connecting to the gas cylinder. This is a huge advantage over the stoves that screw in directly on top of the cylinders. Reason being that the latter is much more at risk of falling over plus with the flame higher, blocking the wind gets more complicated. In the case of my stove, getting the three legs level on the ground is much easier and I have a lightweight foldup sheet that I can setup around it to block the wind (about 15cm maximum high).