Sunday Herald Sun - Escape
The gear you need
In 2014, I set off on a mission to reach a small Indigenous community deep in the Peruvian Andes, with non-profit group Willka Yachay. The expedition entailed traversing multiple summits of challenging snow-capped mountain ranges and enduring the freezing elements at an altitude of 5000m for days on end.
It’s one of my most exciting travel memories, but I’ll admit that I was freezing and uncomfortable the entire time, which could have been avoided if I had been better equipped.
It was a valuable lesson in how preparation and the right gear can hinder or enhance an experience. Here’s how you can be better prepared.
The backpack is the traveller’s best friend whether on a multi-day trek, day hike or trip around the world. My choice for multi-day adventures is the Mountain Designs Explorer 75L. With front strap pockets for a water bottle, phone and snacks, hip support and a central zip to access all parts of the bag (instead of just one at the top), it’s the epitome of efficiency.
No matter what the adventure, I nearly always take a small, lightweight Zephyr II tent. It weighs only 1.3kg, so I hardly notice it in my bag. It’s designed for all seasons – I can pull it out on a mountain in Kyrgyzstan or on the beach in an Australian summer.
I also take a Sea to Summit sleeping mat which takes about 30 seconds to blow up and keeps me 10cm off the ground. Combined with a Mountain Designs sleeping bag it brings my shelter pack to a total of 1.7kg.
In the wilderness water purification and nutrition are priorities. I’ve had to purify water many times, from a trek in the Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan to surviving in the Fijian jungle for 10 days as part of a Bear Grylls Eco-Challenge. But my new favourite piece of equipment is the Philips GoZero UV water bottle, which purifies water with a click of a button and also keeps it icy cold or warm for hours on end.
Pack less! Trust me, you won’t wear it and will rue the extra weight. My essentials: a lightweight down jacket – they pack down well, keep you warm and look stylish on a night out; a dry jacket – keeping the rain off you keeps you warm; thermals – a good merino thermal top and bottom take up a tenth of the space of a tracksuit and keep you far warmer; adventure buff – a versatile piece that can cover your eyes on a plane, protect your face from the elements or stop bleeding if necessary.
Nothing beats a warm meal after a big day or a hot coffee before you start – a backpacking stove is the answer. I light a campfire when it’s safe to, but a small gas cooker such as a Jetboil takes up next to no room in your backpack.
As a Sony ambassador, I’m fortunate to have every type of lens and camera. I recommend travelling light, though, and the Sony A7C is your perfect full-frame, USB rechargeable, smallest-on-the-market companion. I also always travel with the RX100VI, which fits in my pocket and can zoom 200mm (close).
While not crucial, a solar panel is a great addition if you’re spending time off the grid. As a photographer, I keep my panel on my backpack as I trek so that all of my electrical equipment is always charged.