The Things I Carry – CDT Gear List

How much does your pack weigh?

I’m constantly getting asked what my pack weighs. This is a little difficult to answer because:

  1. I don’t walk around carrying a f@#king scale.
  2. It’s constantly changing.
  3. I have to carry it no matter how much it weighs, and sometimes ignorance is bliss.

When fully loaded with food, water, and other gear my pack rarely weighs more than 25 pounds (11.3kg). The precise weight of my pack can fluctuate dramatically. I may have to carry up to a week’s worth of food in Wyoming’s Wind River Range, but in Glacier National Park lies my shortest stretch between stores: 11 miles (18km), or about four hours. On a similar note, walking those 35 miles (56km) between water sources means lugging a lot of H2O, with my general rule being 1 liter per 5 miles (8km). Sometimes water is plentiful and I don’t carry any, just filtering some when I need to.

I’m constantly taking off and putting on various articles of clothing, which further changes the weight of my pack. In Glacier I may or may not be carrying an ice axe and microspikes (like crampons but smaller), which at a couple pounds (~1kg) are really heavy. From Canada through northern Wyoming, areas frequented by grizzlies, I’ll be carrying bear spray on my belt.

Are you ultralight?

Not in the typical sense of the term, which usually refers to dry weights of fewer than 10 pounds (4.5kg). To get that low you have to make some sacrifices on quality of gear and bring a lot less stuff. The former can be accomplished through using cuben fiber shelters and packs, which aren’t terribly durable. Having spent 12 months working in Yellowstone during college, I know that the Rocky Mountains can be an unforgiving and harsh environment. I’m not taking chances when it comes to being unprepared on the CDT, which often follows the exposed continental divide ridgeline.

The list below can and will change as the trail goes on, and I’m not always carrying everything described here. It depends on trail conditions and hosts of other factors. But it’s a good guide to what’s in my pack.


My pack and assorted other items drying out in Arctic Sweden.



Zpacks Arc Haul 62L – 24 oz, 680g

Zpacks is a fairly small operation run by some guy in Florida. Few companies make backpacks for people my size (or lack thereof). On the PCT I used a similar pack from the same company, albeit lighter and made of cuben fiber. That material didn’t prove to be terribly durable, and the shoulder straps were torn and coming off within the first six weeks. I’ve had this pack for a year and a half, having opted for a more durable plastic-like material. I used it for 10 weeks hiking through Iceland and Arctic Sweden, and again for six months in South America (Patagonia and the Peruvian Andes). It’s completely waterproof, and my stuff stays dry during storms without any liners.


My tent in use in southern Peru. It’s fairly spacious inside for a one-person tent, and I can fit both myself and my pack inside.


Tarptent Protrail – 26 oz, 740g

I had a Tarptent Notch beforehand, which I used on the PCT, the Arctic, and South America. I collectively spent around 9 months in that tent, and it was starting to give out by the end. This new one is fairly similar in that it saves weight by using trekking poles in lieu of separate tent poles. I’ve only spent about 7 nights in it, but this nylon shelter kept me warm and dry in some fairly intense storms at 15,500 feet (4700m) so I’ve been pretty satisfied.


Zpacks solo down sleeping bag.

Sleeping bag

Zpacks down 10F/-12C bag – 22.6 oz, 640g

I brought a 30F/-1C bag on the PCT and it was nowhere near warm enough, so I changed to this one in late 2015. This bag kept me toasty during nights that were well below freezing in the Arctic and Tierra del Fuego.

Cooking and Food

MSR Pocket Rocket – 3 oz, 85g

This is probably the most popular stove I’ve seen on the trail. I’ve been using this since southern California on the PCT, and I’ve had no issues since then. It uses gas canisters, which I’ve found to be pretty easy to find almost anywhere in the world.


My cooking set at work in the Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru.

330mL pot and lid – 2.6 oz, 75g

I got this for a few dollars from Walmart and used it on the PCT, in the Arctic, and in South America. It’s served me well and I have no complaints. I usually just boil water and add it to my food in a plastic bag, which means I don’t have to clean the pot or hang it in a tree with my food whilst around bears.

Plastic spork – 0.4 oz, 11g

A friend of mine I’ve known since middle school gave me a spork for my hike! I’m excited for it to make the journey from Canada to Mexico.

REI waterproof 10L nylon sack – 2.3 oz, 65g

This will be my food bag, which I’ll hang in trees out of reach of bears when appropriate. We’ll see if it’s actually waterproof during the first storm on trail.

Waterproof matches – 0.6 oz, 17g

In South America I had a lot of issues lighting my stove with ineffective, cheap lighters. So I’ll be using these matches probably until I run out and forget about how much I hate lighters.

Fuel canister – 12.8 oz, 360g (when full)

Isobutane-propane canister with a screw-on top. A full canister generally lasts me about four weeks, and decreases in weight over that time. I only cook dinner, and usually that’s just to boil water.


Amazon Kindle Paperwhite – 7.2 oz, 200g

I bought this for my 2015 PCT hike, and it’s served me well in the almost 30 countries and 2+ years since then. This thing seems almost indestructible, and the battery life is still strong. I read a lot, especially on my hiking breaks, in my tent before going to bed, and in cafes on my days off. I have dozens and dozens of books on this thing at any time, and I love being able to get new releases on the trail or in faraway corners of the globe.


My luxury item on trail.

Wall adapter and charging cords – 3 oz, 85g

This keeps my shit charged, and thus my sanity intact.

Anker 10,000 mAh portable battery – 6.4 oz, 180g

See above.

Earbuds – 0.2 oz, 6g

I got some off Amazon for around $10, and they’ve been surprisingly high quality and semi-indestructible.

Huawei Honor 8 with case

This cell phone replaced my 3.5 year old iPhone. I’ve had it about three months, and have subsequently become an android convert. This serves as the depository for all my music, podcasts, and audiobooks with the help of a 64GB SD card, tripling the device’s storage. I’ve also downloaded the Guthooks CDT app, with topo maps and my phone’s GPS hopefully helping me from becoming lost and dying of thirst in the wilderness.

I got an American pay-as-you-go SIM card from H2O Wireless, which leases bandwidth from AT&T towers. Verizon is much better on the trail, but is also more expensive and this phone is incompatible with their network. It costs $27 a month for 3GB of data with unlimited calls and texting. By American standards that’s a decent price. When I leave the US I can just stop paying each month, since I don’t have a contract. I miss paying less than $10 a month for cell phone plans in Europe and South America.

McMurdo Fast Find 220 – 5.3 oz, 150g

This is a personal locator beacon (PLB). If something happens, I can press a button on the PLB. The device will send my GPS coordinates via satellite to local search and rescue, and immediately notify my parents. Because the CDT is relatively remote and can have long stretches without seeing anybody on trail, I decided to carry a basic PLB. I previously rented and carried one on Stewart Island, where I did a week-long hike off the southern coast of New Zealand’s South Island.

Petzl e-Lite headlamp – 1 oz, 30g

A new, lightweight headlamp since my old one died in Peru. I’d had the old one for years and it was held together by tape, so it was probably time to get a new one anyways. The new one has an option for red light, which doesn’t destroy your night vision. I mostly use my headlamp at night, when I’m paranoid about bears and will snap awake at a twig breaking and flash it everywhere in a panic.

Worn Clothing

Alpaca wool gloves – 1.2 oz, 34g

I bought these for $3 from some woman at a market in Peru. They’re surprisingly warm.

Alpaca wool hat – 2 oz, 57g

Also bought this at a market for just a few bucks.


My shoes.

Altra Lone Peak 3.0 Trail Runners

Switching from boots to trail runners was so worth it. They’re much lighter, and they dry out in minutes when they get wet. It’s a lot easier on my body than heavier boots. At least 99% of thru hikers eschew boots in favor of trail runners or tennis shoes.

North Face fleece – 7 oz, 200g

I’ve taken this on every trip since the PCT, and it’s somehow withstood all the crazy wear I’ve put on it.


Toe socks look crazy but seem to help prevent blisters.

Injinji toe socks – 1.4 oz, 40g

These are my liner socks. Since using these I haven’t had a single blister.

Darn tough hiking socks – 2.2 oz, 60g

These are my outer layer of socks. They’re 65% wool, 31% nylon, and 4% spandex. At the recommendation of other PCT hikers, I picked these up in California and have been using them ever since. The company is based in Vermont, and the socks are supposedly actually made there.

Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket – 9.6 oz, 270g

I’ve totally worn out two of these synthetic jackets already. Considering I’ve worn one almost every day for 2.5 years in climates ranging from the Arctic to 1000 miles off Antarctica, I feel like that’s not terrible. There was a 50% off sale for men’s small, which I hope to be a little more durable than the boy’s XL size I wore previously. It’s proven to be extraordinarily waterproof and warm on previous hikes.

REI midweight long underwear bottoms – 6.2 oz, 175g

These are pretty lightweight and kept me warm on the PCT, in the Arctic, South America, and on cold nights in former Soviet republics with awful heating. They were on sale for less than $11 at REI. Being able to wear clothes for 14 year old boys has saved me tons of $$$.

REI tech hiking shirt – 5 oz, 140g

Basic synthetic shirts have served me well in the past, especially since they dry quickly. After wearing the same shirt almost everyday for 11 months I decided to get a new one.

Salomon running shorts – 3.8 oz, 110g

After having issues with hiking pants rubbing my waist raw on the PCT, I switched to basic running shorts for the Oregon and Washington sections. They worked out great on that trail, and I appreciate the weight savings from the liner (no need to carry underwear!). I’ll probably switch to long pants for the New Mexico desert section, which has some prickly brush. Until then, I can combine these with long underwear and/or rain pants for warmth and brush leg protection as needed.

Trash bag for clothes storage – 1.6 oz, 45g

Basic and lightweight solution for keeping my clothes together when in my pack. At night I put all the clothes I’m not wearing into this and use it as a pillow.

Extra pair of liner and hiking socks – 3.8 oz, 110g

I like to change out my hiking socks every couple of hours, which also gives me the opportunity to air out my feet.

Random Other Stuff

Deuce of Spades Trowel – 0.6 oz, 20g

I’ve never been able to dig a decent cathole with my shoes or trekking pole.


A pretty indestructible sleeping pad.

Small z-lite sleeping pad – 10.2 oz, 290g

After my inflatable sleeping pad punctured for the second time, I switched to this on the PCT and haven’t looked back. Almost every thru hiker had one, and it doubles as a seat on hiking breaks.

Frogg Toggs rain jacket and pants – 10 oz, 280g

This lightweight and not terribly durable rain suit served me well on the PCT. If needed, I have a sturdier (and heavier) raincoat I can have mailed out to me from Ohio.

Toilet paper – 1 oz, 30g

Pack it in, pack it out. Toilet paper can take a long time to decompose in many environments, so I pack it out in a ziploc bag and dispose of it in town.

Pocket knife – 0.8 oz, 23g

I’m not really sure where I got this, but a small knife always comes in handy in the backcountry.

Small first aid kit

Just some alcohol pads, band-aids, thread, and needle. The latter two I use more than anything else, mainly to fix rips and tears.

Random toiletries

I have a refillable 60mL sunscreen tube, travel size toothpaste, a travel toothbrush, chapstick, and hand sanitizer.

Wallet – 1.5 oz, 40g

Small ziploc bag with a credit card, debit card, national American ID card that’ll get me in and out of Mexico, and small amounts of cash. I hardly ever use cash in the US, but some places in the middle of nowhere don’t take card. My Schwab debit card refunds me all ATM fees from anywhere in the world (saved me $1300 in South America!).

Mosquito headnet – 1 oz, 30g

Please, God, never make me have to use this.


Studying the (paper) topo map in Iceland.

Paper maps – variable weight, up to 5 oz, 140g

Electronics can fail, so it’s good to have a backup. A veritable trail angel named Jonathan Ley updates CDT maps and routes every year, and has them available for free online. I ordered them printed from Yogi’s Books and sent to my parents’ house in Ohio. I’ll carry a few sections of trail maps at a time, mailing them to myself throughout the trail and getting rid of the old ones in town as appropriate.


My water filter of choice.

Sawyer squeeze water filter – 3 oz, 85g

I’ve done thousands and thousands of miles of trail with this, and I’ve been pretty satisfied. You don’t get the taste from using bleach or other liquid-based purifying schemes, and it can turn brown water clear. That’s pretty nifty. I use a 1.5L Evernew plastic water bladder to help filter. I just put the dirty water in the bladder, screw the Sawyer Squeeze onto the top of the bladder, and squeeze the bag until the water has all come out.

Two disposable plastic water bottles – 1 oz, 30g

These are lightweight and found pretty much everywhere.

Prepping for a Five Month Walk

One of the most frequent comments I get about preparing for a long distance hike like this is: That must take so much planning!

Yes and no.

My last semester at Ohio State, where I completed my undergraduate degree in geology, I spent many dozens of hours reading absolutely everything re all aspects of a successful thru hike. The internet is host to a plethora of past thru hikers detailing everything from gear reviews to resupply details on countless blogs, forums, and Facebook groups.


Laundry time in Washington on the PCT, about four months in.

Having done a five month hike once before, I really don’t need to do that again. The planning has thus been pretty easy. Many of the people I met on the PCT have done the CDT, and have been an invaluable source of information on such a relatively unfrequented trail.

Plus, I’ve been through all this before. I already know what socks and shoe combo helps me avoid blisters, how often to take a break to avoid injury, the point after which I get sick and tired of pop tarts (4 days), and the like.

That being said, I’ve opted to get some chores done before I hit the trail. Namely prepping mail drops.

Photo from Connor

Yogi’s Continental Divide Trail Handbook has been an invaluable research in planning all this. It’s also the only regularly updated guide out there, as far as I know. She did a great job putting together tons of info on hiking the CDT.

There are three main methods of resupply on a long distance trail:

  1. Buy food in town.
  2. Make food packages beforehand and have someone mail them to your location on trail.
  3. Buy food in town, but mail yourself resupply packages to locales with inadequate options or to avoid a difficult hitch.

Option three is my preference. In my opinion, it’s much easier to hitch into town and buy food for the next section from the grocery store. Sometimes that can be a small gas station store a five minute walk off trail, or hitching 15 miles when the trail intersects a road to a supermarket in a town.

Fun fact: Not wanting to walk on an exposed ridgeline during a thunderstorm, I waited out the bad weather while eating ice cream directly from the carton outside such a gas station in northern California. Some woman gave me $5, and a guy from the restaurant next door gave me his leftover fries.

I like having my dollars (after 21 months abroad it still seems so weird to be using USD) go to local businesses, and it also lets me adjust based on my tastes. One complaint I heard frequently on the PCT from those who mailed all their food for the five months was about repetitiveness. They quickly got tired of poptarts, trail mix, etc.

gang at wrightwood.jpg

Hanging out in a cafe during an unplanned town stop in Wrightwood, California on my 24th birthday. There was a snowstorm.

However, sometimes resupplying as you go just isn’t practical. It’s a difficult hitch to get to town, the general store doesn’t have much food, or you just don’t want to go into a larger city (i.e. Ashland in Oregon; after spending 4.5 months on trail, it was a bit of a shock to step off the bus in downtown Vancouver). Making packages along the way and sending them out can be a headache, especially when all I want to do in town is gorge on food and rest. So I’m making up some food drops, which my father has graciously offered to mail to me from Ohio. It’s a lot easier to do this when I have access to a car in Columbus, population 1.4 million, than on foot in some remote Wyoming town.

Here’s my resupply strategy, which will almost certainly change. Italics denote where I’ll be sending a package:

Montana/Idaho (the MT/ID border is the continental divide for a while, so I’ll be in both states)

  1. Show up at Canadian border with enough food for 29 miles.
  2. Many Glacier, Glacier National Park – Convenience store. Resupply for 56 miles.
  3. Two Medicine, Glacier National Park – Convenience store. Resupply for 11 miles.
  4. East Glacier, Glacier National Park – Small grocery store. Resupply 135 miles.
  5. Benchmark – Pick up box, 59 miles to next resupply.
  6. Lincoln – 20 mile hitch from Rogers Pass, resupply 67 miles.
  7. Helena – 15 mile hitch from MacDonald Pass, resupply 79 miles.
  8. Anaconda – on trail, resupply 101 miles.
  9. Darby – 30 mile hitch from Lost Trail Pass on Highway 93, resupply 123 miles.
  10. Leadore – 14 mile hitch, looks difficult (can call the Leadore Inn for a ride, $20). Pick up box, 56 miles to next resupply.
  11. Lima – 19 mile hitch, pick up box. 71 miles to next resupply.
  12. Sawtelle Resort, on trail. 38 miles to next resupply.Wyoming, third state!
  13. Old Faithful, on trail. 25 miles to next resupply.
  14. Grant Village – 7 mile hitch, resupply 79 miles to Dubois. – I worked here four summers in college, and am incredibly excited to go back to the mistake on the lake.

Wind River Range – Very remote and one of the scenic highlights of the trail. Can break it up and go off trail to go to Pinedale, or just do the whole thing in one go and carry more food. Carry a week’s worth of food and do an extended trip through here??

  1. South Pass City, pick up package. 119 miles to next resupply. Get rid of bear spray here? Think it’s the end of grizzlies.
  2. Rawlins, resupply on trail. ~150 miles to next resupply, can break it up by hitching into Encampment (looks like a hard hitch with poor resupply, probably not worth it).Colorado
  3. Steamboat Springs – 20 mile hitch, resupply 124 miles to Grand Lake. Looks like lodging is expensive.
  4. Grand Lake – Hostel and camping here. On trail resupply.
  5. Breckenridge – A couple hostels here. Buses between all the towns.
  6. Twin Lakes – On trail,resupply for 84 miles. Looks like lodging is pretty expensive.
  7. Salida – 21 mile hitch, resupply for 101 miles. Looks like the town has a nice hostel.
  8. Lake City (or Creede? Farther but looks a similar driving time) – 17 mile hitch, resupply for 118 miles. Hostel and camping.
  9. South Fork (or Pagosa Springs?) – 20 mile hitch, resupply for 64 miles.New Mexico
  10. Chama – hitch 12 miles, resupply for 93 miles.
  11. Ghost Ranch – on trail, mail food package with 54 miles of food.
  12. Cuba – on trail, resupply 118 miles.
    • MUST GET PAST MT. TAYLOR BEFORE WINTER!!!!! Should be good as long as I get through by the first week of October. Then I can take as long as I want to get to Mexico.
  1. Grants – on trail, resupply 101 miles.
  2. Pie Town – on trail, mail package here. Supposed to have great pies, but not really anything else. 140 miles to next resupply, but can break it up in Reserve (hard hitch).
  3. Doc Campbell’s – on trail, mail package here. 154 miles to next resupply.
  4. Deming – on trail, resupply for 58 miles to Palomas, Mexico.
  5. Columbus, NM, USA/Puerto Palomas, Chihuahua, Mexico. End of trail! Catch a train to New Orleans.

FAQs on the CDT


The Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and Appalachian Trail are the three main long-distance walks in the US. Together they’re known as the “triple crown” of American hiking.

The Pacific Crest Trail technically ends at the Canadian border, but there’s still a 15km walk to the closest road. Within 36 hours of stepping onto Canada’s Highway 3 in southern British Columbia, I’d hopped on the daily three day train from Vancouver to Chicago to pick up my visa from the Spanish consulate. Somewhere in the endless plains of North Dakota, I started researching the Continental Divide Trail (CDT).

Two years and 28 countries later, I’m just a couple weeks away from setting foot on the CDT. I’ll be blogging my journey on the trail and hope to be updating this every few days from the trail.

As this is the first post, it’ll be a bit longer. I’m hoping to answer the typical questions and blank faces I get when I mention that I’ll be walking from one end of the country to the other. I’ll upload more posts over the next couple weeks detailing exactly what I’m bringing, how I’m prepping for this, and other related stuffs.

What is the CDT?

The Continental Divide Trail, or CDT, is a hiking trail running the length of the American Rockies from Canada to Mexico. It follows the continental divide as much as it can, and thus involves a lot of walking on ridges at higher elevation (up to ~14k feet, or 4270m).

Unlike the Pacific Crest and Appalachian Trails, the CDT isn’t quite finished. This means that there are parts with extensive road walks, both dirt and paved. Furthermore, there’s no set route and any two thru hikers may consequently walk a fairly different trail. The length thus varies depending on what alternates one chooses, with the total distance racking up to somewhere between 2700 and 3100 miles (4300-5000km).

What do you do for food?

Although the CDT is comparatively remote, I’ll be able to hitch into town to buy food and take a break every five days or so. Sometimes there’s a small store in the middle of nowhere and you can buy basic provisions there, and other times I’ll have to mail myself food. The towns on the CDT tend to be much smaller than those on the PCT and AT.


The Appalachian Trail’s unofficial motto. The CDT’s is Embrace the brutality, since it has the reputation of being a pretty difficult trail.

What will you eat?

Non-perishable foods with high calorie contents. My general rule is not to bring anything with fewer than 100 calories per ounce (300 calories per 100g). The US is junk food mecca and grocery stores are absolutely massive, so this is pretty easy to manage. The only meal I cook is dinner, which is usually noodles or instant mashed potatoes. The rest of the day I’ll periodically eat a bunch of snacks, oftentimes peanut butter, pumpkin seeds, granola bars, and the like.

Have you read Wild?

Yes, I read it in my apartment in Madrid after having completed the PCT. This is a different trail, and unlike Ms. Strayed I didn’t shoot up heroin the night before starting my hike (she did about 40% of the trail, which is still a great accomplishment). I admire her ability to channel her grief from her mother’s death into written word, and do think she’s a skilled writer, but Wild really is not a good representation of trail life.

Where do you sleep?

I’ll be in my tent pretty much every night (though on the PCT I usually just rolled out my sleeping bag and slept under the stars).

Isn’t it dangerous?

Statistically I’m much safer on the trail than I am in an American city. Because this trail is more remote and less traveled than others I’ve done recently, I will be carrying a personal locator beacon (PLB) in case of an emergency. The PLB can connect to satellites to send my coordinates to search and rescue if something happens.

What if it rains?

I get wet.

What about bears?

There are grizzly bears in parts of Montana and Wyoming. I have hundreds of miles of solo backpacking experience in grizzly areas. As long as you take basic precautions, such as carrying bear spray, hanging food and scented items in a tree 100m from the tent, and making noise in low visibility areas, you probably won’t have any problems. Twisting an ankle is a much more likely issue than getting mauled by a bear. Bear spray has been shown to be more effective than firearms.

Which direction? 

I’ve opted to hike southbound from the Canadian border to Mexico. Starting in Canada lets me avoid the snow issues in southern Colorado that northbound hikers face in early June, as well as that state’s monsoon season. Colorado is one of the scenic highlights of the entire trail, and I want to be able to enjoy it in autumn without excessive snow.

There are some seasonal constraints with this. Southbounders must wait for the snow to melt in northern Montana, which generally means start dates of late June or early July. Then begins the race against winter, with the completion of Colorado recommended by the first week of October to avoid getting snowed in. Once you get through Colorado, you can generally do the New Mexico desert at your own pace.


More or less the route I’ll be taking, heading south from Canada to Mexico.

At the end of the CDT you can cross into Mexico for the day to get real Mexican food! I’ll be bringing my passport card to do this (Americans can enter Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean by land and boat with this card; it’ll double as my ID for the trail).

Another big reason for going southbound was that it let me spend an extra two months in South America visiting Iguazú Falls, Bolivia, and Peru.

How long will it take?

It took me 4.5 months to hike the PCT. I expect it to take me approximately 5 months to hike the CDT, though we’ll see.

What do you do all day?

Walk. I typically get up at sunrise and am hiking within 30 minutes of waking up. Depending on the terrain, I’ll walk for two hours at a pace of 3 miles per hour (5km per hour) and then take a short break. Rinse, wash, repeat all day until it gets dark. I listen to a lot of podcasts and music while hiking, or just enjoy the sounds of nature (though after a couple weeks this can get quite boring, hence the podcasts). I go to sleep at sunset.

On the PCT I walked up to 33.5 miles (54km) a day. Going 25 miles (40km) a day doesn’t stress out my back and feet nearly as much as higher mileages, so I’m hoping to not do more than that each day on the CDT.

What do you carry?

I’ll be doing a post soon with a list of everything I’ll be carrying including photos, weights, and description.

Why the f#@k would you do this?!

This is actually my second time walking across the continent. I thru hiked the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada in the summer of 2015. I miss being on the trail a lot and had such a fun time there that I’ve spent most of the past two years wanting to do it again.

  1. Long distance backpacking makes me realize how little I need to be happy, and I appreciate modern physical comforts much more than I would otherwise. Plus, it’s really nice to disconnect from the political shitstorm for a while and instead focus on my feet, the weather, and the beautiful scenery.
  2. It’s the right time because of health, time off, and finances. I don’t know what kinds of commitments I’ll have in the future, when it could be much more difficult to take five months off to do something like this. I’d rather not be one of those people who later wishes he’d done X, Y, and Z when he had the chance.
  3. The others I meet on long walks are pretty cool.


How do you keep your phone charged?

On the PCT I would charge my phone twice a week or so when I got to town. It was nice not being wired. This time I’ll be bringing a small battery to charge my phone, which will be my GPS, music depository, and podcast player.

How often do you have cell service?

I expect to have service once or twice a week. It could be more or less than that depending on where I am on trail.

How much does it cost?

I’ll be tracking this and post the results at the end. I anticipate it costing around $3500 for my five months on trail. I’m honestly not sure, but it’s not that expensive to walk all day and sleep in a tent. Most people’s budgets get drained by alcohol and motels, neither of which I use much. On the PCT I tended to spend much less than others. I prefer to stay in campgrounds while in town, eat a ton, and then head back to the trail.

Why don’t you just fly to Mexico?

That’s really not the point of this. I was asked a similar question many times on the PCT.

That sounds so physically demanding!

It is, though mainly just at the beginning. The difficult part isn’t so much walking a marathon, but rather getting up day after day and doing it over and over. After a few weeks it becomes much more of a mental challenge. Dealing with the aches and pushing through the monotony of doing nothing but walking is the real challenge.

Iquitos, Amazon

May is usually the dry season in the mountains north of Lima, but the locals said that over the past few years the seasons have been getting increasingly unpredictable. Although May is technically towards the end of autumn down here, because I’m in the tropics there’s really only an alternating wet and dry season. The weather forecast for the Cordillera Blanca, the next locale on my trekking wishlist, showed an abundance of pretty awful storms coming my way. It took about 15 seconds to decide to find something else to do for my last week in South America.

My hotel in Huaraz was by the market, away from the main “tourist” area. Since leaving Argentina for the comparatively impoverished Bolivia and Peru I’ve been opting for my own room in locally owned hotels, which often run from $3 to $15 a night. Cheaper than a bunk in a hostel in Patagonia! I’ve consequently had very little contact with anybody who’s not from here. I’d gotten a lot of my travel advice from other backpackers in hostels, so without this source I perused my Lonely Planet Peru guidebook and the Google Flights site.


Iquitos, in the Amazon, is the marked in red on the map of northern South America.

Flying in Peru is dirt cheap by American standards, and my guidebook’s description of Iquitos in the Amazon kept rising to the back of my mind, so I was excited to find $120 round-trip tickets to there from Lima.

With a population of half a million, Iquitos is the largest continental city with no access to the outside world by road. The only ways to get there are by plane or boat, with river access on the massive Amazon. It’s a popular stopover for backpackers taking weeks or months to traverse the continent from the Andes to the Atlantic, spending days at a time in hammocks on large riverboats plying the Amazon.

From the comfort of my fairly luxurious $15 hotel room in Huaraz I was able to arrange and pay for everything on my smartphone. I booked a ticket on Cruz del Sur (means Southern Cross, and there are so many bus companies named this on the western side of the Andes), which is the nicest of the gringo-class buses. Large seats, two bathrooms on board, and no stopping every 10 minutes to load and unload goats in Andean villages. Definitely worth the extra $12 for the 9 hour ride to Lima, the last 2.5 hours of which were just spent in the sprawling capital’s traffic.


Taxis have been so cheap in Peru that I’ve been taking them in lieu of public transit. In Lima I used Uber to minimize my chances of getting robbed by taxi drivers with machetes, and similar apps in other cities. My ride from the Iquitos airport to the hotel cost $3.

The flight to Iquitos took only 90 minutes, and it was nice not to have to deal with border controls on this national flight. I picked up my bag in the tiny airport and headed outside, where I was swarmed by taxi drivers. They were all charging $3 for the 6 mile (10km) ride downtown, which is the rate that signs in the airport advised.

As Iquitos has no roads to the outside world, there are virtually no cars. Instead, everyone rides a motorcycle or takes a rickshaw (motorcycle with a cart attached) around town. Just sticking out my hand I never had to wait more than 10 seconds for a rickshaw to pull over. Even at the gringo rate the rides were cheap, and I always took the first price. It usually came out to around 30 cents a kilometer.


At first I thought the cat on the left, lying on the floor of the Central Market, was dead. It wasn’t, but rather was taking a siesta in the oppressive midday humidity and heat. Thankfully, I took the advice I read online and got a room with air conditioning. It was a godsend.

I took a rickshaw ($1.50) to the north end of town on the banks of the Amazon, where I caught a boat ($1) 15 minutes to Padre Cocha. Multiple villages are linked to Iquitos by boats, and the transport to Padre Cocha departed about every 15 minutes in each direction.


The “dock” at Padre Cocha, a village on a tributary of the Amazon.

It was a 15 minute walk from the village to an endangered animal rescue run by a kindly Austrian woman, who with the help of western volunteers was nursing ocelots, jaguars, pocket monkeys (adorable little things that fit in your hand), and the like back to health.


Walking through the village of Padre Cocha.


More of Padre Cocha.


A graveyard just outside the village. It was so hot.

It would get oppressively hot around noon, but thankfully there were numerous ice cream shops all over town with strange flavors. The fruits available in the jungle were totally different from what I was used to, and the ice cream shops took full advantage of this. I definitely ate a lot of scoops of the camu camu flavor.


It was a holiday in the province, and so all the government employees marched down the main boulevard. Some of them goose stepped, which was a bit unexpected.


The city abruptly ends at the Amazon River and jungle. I took this photo of a young couple paddling out of the settlement from downtown.


Belén, a 20 minute walk outside of the downtown area, is home to some floating slums. There’s also a market in the area, which during the wet season is reachable by canoe. When I went to Belén the market was easily walked to, and I couldn’t find the jaguar teeth necklaces I’d heard about. I did see an endangered species of alligator on a grill.


I climbed to the top of a church’s bell tower and took this photo in the evening as a storm was rolling in. You can see where the city abruptly ends and the verdant jungle takes over.

Four and a half days in Iquitos was plenty, and by the end I was looking forward to getting out of the humidity. But it was definitely worth a visit! I don’t think I could ever deal with the incredible heat of a trans-Amazon journey.