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 there.

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. 

Equipment List for Peninsula Mitre

Navigation 
GPS
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



Maps
I had the Pixmap (www.pixmap.org) 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 (www.conocerushuaia.com). 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.

Bandana
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 30-35kg 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 medication/medical supplies that 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
Cottonwool
Medical alcohol
Hydrogen peroxide 
Merthiolate
*Iodine solution 
Muscle strain/sprain cream
**Epipen
Pain tablets 
Antihistamine tablets
Antibiotics 
Eye drops
Sterile drops (eyes)
Asthma inhaler
Thermometer 
Tweezers
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. 


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