Gearing up for Patagonia

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My plane ticket is booked. The training schedule I’ve committed to for months is winding down. The great adventure that is the Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race, a weeklong endurance event through Tierra del Fuego, Chile, kicks off on February 9th. I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t scared.

Indeed, this race is the most ambitious — some might say crazy! — event I have ever signed on to do. My four-person team will trek, bike, kayak, and climb in the forests and mountains of Patagonia for days on end. The race course will likely crest 400 miles in length.

Racers navigating the deep outback of Patagonia

But at least I should have the right gear for the job. Over the past two months, I’ve combed catalogs and phoned fellow gear junkies to come up with a best-of-the-best kit of equipment to battle exhaustion and the elements in the wilds of Patagonia.

As with most adventure races, the primary disciplines in Patagonia will be mountain biking, wilderness trekking, and kayaking. We will go for days between supply stops, toting food, sleeping bags, tents, outerwear, and survival gear in backpacks. We’ll drink water from streams. We’ll sleep a couple hours each night in the bush.

Racers on a long-distance biking leg during the 2009 race

On long races, speed of travel can be compromised by heavy gear. But too little gear is unsafe. For Patagonia, my team will attempt to ride that razor-edge middle line. We will go as light as possible — but not so light that our gear could be inadequate in a time of need.

For example, ultra-light tents from Terra Nova Equipment will provide shelter at night. Our team tents, two Terra Nova Laser models, weigh less than three pounds apiece when packed up. But feathery materials and minimalist design — including siliconized nylon fabric and needle-like tent pegs made of titanium — allow the company to create a waterproof shelter that can keep nasty weather at bay.

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Stephen Regenold is Founder of GearJunkie, which he launched as a nationally-syndicated newspaper column in 2002. As a journalist and writer, Regenold has covered the outdoors industry for two decades, including as a correspondent for the New York Times. A father of five, Regenold and his wife live in Minneapolis.