When hiking in developing countries, take equipment that is durable, low maintenance and lightweight. Quality replacement options are often thin on the ground. You want gear that is going to last.
- Durability: When making your way to and from the trail, chances are you will be constantly getting in and out of dodgy old buses and pickup trucks. That being the case, your pack inevitably takes an absolute beating. In such circumstances, you want a pack that is constructed of durable materials. There are a number of different options on the market. For hiking in developing countries I recommend backpacks made of Cordura and Dyneema. I would stay away from Cuben Fiber models, which despite having good tensile strength, tend not to be quite as resistant to abrasion and puncture.
- Simplicity: Avoid packs with too many straps or zippers. The simpler the pack, the less chance that anything will fail, break or get caught.
- Size: Limit yourself to a pack with a maximum capacity of 65-70 litres. That should be sufficient to carry all necessary clothing and equipment, plus up to 5 days food. It’s a funny thing, but people who bring along 85-90 litre packs are more likely to find ways to fill them. If you limit yourself to a smaller size by necessity you are forced to bring only the essentials. Think practicality over superfluous luxuries. Your back and knees will be grateful.
- Go with a Tent: I recommend carrying a tent rather than a tarp or bivy sack while hiking in developing countries. Locals will often be curious as to the cost of camping equipment. The privacy of a tent enables the hiker not to have all their gear on display. This helps in avoiding the inevitable question, “how much does this cost?” Such queries can be uncomfortable, as they emphasise the discrepancy in affluence between yourself and your hosts. If asked about the price of a particular piece of equipment, I often try to deflect the question by indicating that the item was a gift from my family.
- Theft can occur. Whenever possible try camping away from village centres. A small padlock for your tent zippers is also a good idea.
- The Options: Alcohol or Multifuel stoves are your best bets. They can be carried hassle free on planes and finding fuel is rarely a problem. Click here for a table of International fuel names.
- Multi fuel stoves such as the MSR Whisperlite can run on practically anything. Petrol, white gas, kerosene. The downside? They are relatively heavy, and need to be regularly maintained in order to function at their optimum level. You will need to bring your own spare parts, as finding replacements in Third world countries can often be difficult.
- Alcohol stoves are my preference. They are practically maintenance free (just don’t step on them), super lightweight and denatured alcohol (methylated spirits) can be found throughout the world.
- Canister stoves are not practical for many developing countries. You cannot carry gas canisters on planes and outside of backpacking centres such as Kathmandu and Huaraz, it is often difficult to find replacement cartridges. In addition, most Third World countries do not have the means of recycling empty canisters, so environmentally speaking they are not a good idea.