Cordillera Blanca Traverse (CBT) Gear List

Overnighting in a shepherd’s hut during the fourth and final stage of the traverse.

I hiked the CBT in August/September, which is “dry” season in the Central Andes of South America. It is also winter,however, due to the fact that the Cordillera Blanca is situated so close to the equator, temperature fluctuations are relatively minor throughout the year. Temperatures at around 4000 metres (13,123 ft), typically ranged between 20 ºC and -10ºC (dropping further at higher altitudes).

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Updated Gear List (2019)

Below is a list of what I would take if I was to do the Cordillera Blanca Traverse again in 2019:

MLD Burn 13     Frameless, simple design, slim profile. I’ve been using the Burn since 2009.
Pack Liner (Trash Compactor Bag) 2     Cheap & effective
    15  0.43
MLD SoloMid XL 12     Very quick set up / Holds up well in a storm / Ideal amount of space for 6’1″ guy.
Guylines – Kelty Triptease  1     Guyline of choice for many years.
Stakes – Mix of sizes & styles (8) / Mostly MSR Groundhogs 2.8     Groundhogs are great; in addition to their durability, the red colour makes me less likely to lose them than the generic silver.
  15.8  0.45
Pad – Thermarest NeoAir XLite (Small) 8     Very comfy / Doubles as makeshift framesheet for pack / Put feet on backpack when sleeping.
Quilt – Katabatic Sawatch 15 24     Conservatively rated 15°F / Best quilts/bags I have used.
Groundsheet – Polycro plastic 1.3
    33.3  0.94  
LokSak 20×12 (Food Bag) 1.2     Hundreds of nights in the boonies using LokSaks. Never had a critter problem / Seals usually start to go after about six weeks of regular use. 
Gatorade Powder Container 1.8     For many years my rehydrating vessel of choice when going stoveless. 
Toaks Titanium Spork 0.3     Top end wrapped in orange tape so I won’t lose it.
Bic Lighter 0.2      
Reconstituted sports drink bottles (2) 2.4      
Platypus Hydration Bladder (2 LT) 1.2      
    7.1 0.2  
Sunscreen (repackaged in tiny btle.)        
Hand Sanitizer (repackaged in dropper btle.)       I haven’t had a case of the backcountry trots since 1999…….I think a big reason is diligent use of hand sanitizer.
Aquamira (repackaged in dropper btles.)        
Mini Toothbrush        
Toothpaste (mini tube)        
Dental Floss       Doubles as sewing thread
Antiseptic Wipes (2)       Clean cuts / wounds
Triple Antibiotic Cream (tiny tube)        
3M Micropore Medical Tape       Breathable, paper tape / Adheres well.
Ibuprofun (8)       Vitamin “I”
Toilet Paper        
Sewing Needle       One armed blind folks can sew better than me.
Duct Tape, Mini Tube Super Glue (repairs)       To compensate for lack of sewing skills
Nivea Lip Balm SPF 30       Kept with sunscreen & hand sanitizer in shoulder pocket. 
   5  0.14  
Rain Pants – Montbell Tachyon 1.9     Featherweight, dry in an instant, and a surprising amount of warmth for something that weighs less than 2oz.
Rain Jacket – Dri Ducks Ultralite 2 6     Light and breathable | As the entire hike is above treeline (i.e. no bushwhacking), its fragility is a non-issue.
Base layer – Montbell Merino Wool L.W. Tights 4.8     Not too thick, not too thin. Thumbs up.
Insulation – Montbell Superior Down Parka 8.6     Very warm for the weight / Snug hood / I’ve used this and it’s predecessor, the UL Down Jacket, for the past eight years.
Insulation –Montbell UL Thermawrap Vest 5.5     Synthetic insulation / Combine with merino base and rain jacket for hiking in freezing rain / Adds versatility to system.
Extra Socks – Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew 2.6     Three years old and still going strong.
Bandana (1) 0.5     Towel, neck/face protection, condensation wipe, convenience store holdups when low on cash.
Outdoor Research PL Sensor 400 Mittens 2.9     Great mittens. Combined with the inner gloves and rain mitts, hands are fine down to -15°C 
Warm Hat – Montbell Chameece Beanie 1.2     Excellent beanie / Not too thick / Stretchy enough to fit my big noggin / Don’t think it’s available in the US at the moment.
     34  0.96  
Phone – Samsung Galaxy S7 (Unlocked)  5.4     Good photos & Video / Have used an unlocked phone in recent years, to avoid heavy roaming charges when overseas. Just pick up a different SIM in each country and pay local rates.
Stuff sacks – HMG Cuben Fiber (3) 2.5      
Montbell Power Head Lamp 2     This headlamp has grown on me | Lightweight, double-click, four settings, good battery life, 160 Lumens max | No longer miss my old Black Diamond Spot.
Wallet/Credit Cards/Passport 0.7     Used thin plastic card holder as Wallet
Swiss Army Classic 1.3      
Suunto M3 Global 1.6     Lightweight, adjustable declination; heir to my long-time compass of choice, the Suunto M-2.
 Wall charger, cover, cord  3      
Small LokSaks for Valuables (2)  1     Protection for phone, charger, wallet
17.7  0.5  
 BASE WEIGHT  TOTAL 7.9lb   3.6kg   
Shorts – Patagonia Baggies (5″ seam)  8.1 Thumbs up | Very similar to long time favourites, Macpac Cross Terrains (no longer made).
Windshirt – Montbell Tachyon Anorak   1.9     On my third model / Each has lasted around 8 to 10,000 miles / Surprisingly durable & warm for something so featherweight.
Base layer – Montbell Merino Long Sleeve Zip Neck  5.9     Great baselayer / Not too thin, not too thick / Spot on for shoulder season conditions. 
Montbell Chameece Inner Gloves  0.9      Double thumbs up. Most durable liner gloves I’ve used; and I’ve used a lot over the years. 
Smartwool PhD UL Min Socks  1.6 These were a freebie from Winter OR, 2015 / Previously I’d never had much luck with thinner Smartwool models, but I have to say this pair has been very durable. 
Hat – Adapt-a-cap 2.5 Back from the dead. Had it repaired and sewed up. Not as good as new, but still functional / From what I’ve seen, the latest models have a different design, and aren’t in the same league as the old ones.
Shoes – Brooks Cascadia 12   24
 Fizan Compact – Hiking Pole (1)  5.6     Tent setup / Fencing practice during breaks; Tokyo 2020 here I come. 
Timex Ironman Watch  1.5      Light, cheap, durable, reliable. 
 Sunglasses  2     Polarized lenses / Wrap around lenses / 100% UVA and UVB Protection.
 54  1.53
 TOTAL WEIGHT  11.4lb   5.16


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8 Replies to “Cordillera Blanca Traverse (CBT) Gear List”

  1. This is a fantastic resource. Thank you! I’m planning a solo, fast pack trip in May 2017 – you’re info is invaluable in planning for it.

  2. Hi,
    I see you were using the Pepsi can stove at altitude.
    Most folk comment it doesn’t work well.
    I only boil water, never cook. Did you use the Alcohol de Quemar bought in the supermarkets?
    I have the Trail Designs set up but was going to take the MSR Whisperlite using benzina Blanca but it’s so heavy… but reliable!
    I always warmed my fuel in my jacket pocket….. so you had no problems making a brew???

    1. Hey Catherine,

      I suspect most folks that say that haven´t spent much time hiking at high elevations. I’ve used alcohol stoves at altitude for the past two decades (all through the Himalaya and Andes) , and although the burn time is a little slower, they have always worked; at least up until the highest points at which I have camped around 17-18,000ft.

      Yes, you can buy it in hardware stores and often pharmacies.



  3. Hey Cam!

    I am planning on doing the exact same trip this summer, and I have to say that your beta helps a lot on such a marginalised hike! Regarding footwear, I was curious on what you used for this one. Trail Runners as usual, or the cold and wetness of the alpine thundra got you to choose boots?


    1. Hi Colin,

      As it says in the gear list, I wore Brooks Cascadias. Not sure if I would call the route “marginalised.” I pioneered it in 2014, and I haven’t made much of an effort to spread the word. Based on my data, some friends of mine did it last year. I might put out a map set later this year; it is just a question of finding the time between work commitments.



      1. Hi!

        Thanks for your prompt answer! I guess I missed it when I read thru your gear list. Looking foward to see your map set!


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