Monday, November 3, 2014

November 3rd, 2014: Getting my gear sorted and packed for Argentina (Part 1 - the non-essentials)

In a little over a month, I take off for Argentina and I wanted to post about my gear sort.  My Rainier trip is so short that I intend to take the bare minimum so there is no need to post much about that trip preparation.  Aconcagua, however, requires a bit more gear and there are some complications in our plans so I decided I would lay out what I intend to bring.  Here goes...the non-essentials first.

1.  Communications:  I spoke with Verizon and they assured me I could bring my Samsung Galaxy S4 (4.6 oz.) to Argentina, pop in a local sim card, and have full data and cell service (3G at least) for local prices.  They also offered their international plan for a mere US$3.99/min calling where I would be fortunate enough to keep my current number.  Needless to say, I declined their generous offer.  

So, I intend to go with my cell phone and my Spot locator (4 oz.) to send off updates with locations posted directly to the blog automagically.  You'll be able to follow us up the hill so be on the lookout for posts from Aconcagua.  Total weight:  8.6 oz.

Sherpa 50
2.  Power:  My phone, spot locator, camera, tunes, headlamp and Kindle require power so I need to either bring a ton of batteries or generate power from the sun and store it to some battery.  The latter is the best option for mountaineering; thus, I intend to bring my solar panel (Goal Zero 14 W) and goal zero sherpa 50 (total weight:  34 oz).  
Solar Panel
I also bring about 12 AAA batteries (Lithium Ion: 3.3 oz. for 12) for my headlamp because a ton of night climbing drains those batteries quickly.  My headlamp requires 3 AAA so I get 4 total battery changes with 12 AAA batteries.  Total weight:  37.3 oz.

3.  Photography:  For now, I think I might just use my phone.  It takes great pictures and I can store them to the device I intend to communicate with the rest of the world.  One thing I learned from my last trip was that taking pictures with my Canon Powershot S10 and then transferring pictures to my Nexus 7 just wasted battery power.  To save power and weight, I think I might try my phone as a camera replacement.  When I go to Nepal, I am contemplating a nicer pocket camera like the Sony DSC-RX100M III Cyber-shot Digital Still Camera (10.2 oz.).  Here is that beauty:
Christmas present?  Perhaps next year.

Any thoughts from those out there that know anything (i.e., anything = substantially more than I know) about cameras?  Total weight:  0 oz.

4.  Tunes:  Music is key to sanity in the hills.  I always take two Sandisk Sansa Clip+ 4 GB players and two pairs of cheap headphones.  
The Sansa Clip weighs nothing (0.8 oz. including headphones) and by bringing two, I can always have one charging and the other ready to play.  Additionally, these players are inexpensive (US$35) and take a microSD card (32 GB) so I can fill 'em up with music that easily lasts an entire expedition.  Cheap headphones weigh next to nothing but bringing additional ones eases the pain of my headphones failing for some odd reason - a reason that always happens on the mountain.  Total weight:  1.6 oz.

5.  Reading:  I love my Kindle (2nd Edition circa 2009) but I think I might trade up to a newer, nicer one.  
Every night, I crawl into bed and read for a few hours.  Reading makes those long nights speed by and when we get trapped in the tent for days on end to wait out weather fronts, I enjoy every one of my 50 or so books that I downloaded onto my kindle.  Plus, I even get to read my usual magazines (e.g., The Atlantic, New Yorker, Science Times, etc.) because I download them before I leave the airport for the wilderness.  My 2nd generation Kindle endured many adventures.  It simply works and lasts for weeks on end without recharging.  Unfortunately, the old Kindle requires a case for a reading light or I end up using my headlamp batteries that need replacing about every 4 days.  
A newer, backlit Kindle lasts far longer on a single charge, weighs a fraction of what my current Kindle weighs (6 oz. due to the case requirements for my current Kindle), and stores more books. Additionally, the newer Kindle seems to have more features compared to my old tired pal.  Maybe I will consider getting a newer one but the cost needs to be considered with respect to the weight savings. Total weight (2nd Edition with leather case):  19.6 oz.

6.  Internet (in civilization):  I bring my Nexus 7 (10.6 oz.) with me so I can write, read, check email, and surf the web for any climbing/local information.  The Nexus 7 is great for all of these activities and can last for a few days on a single charge.  Rarely do I bring it with me on the mountain but I did have it with me on Everest last year.  I might bring it with me to Mendoza but it will remain in my bag for the few weeks I am in the mountains.  

Total weight for non-essential gear taken onto the mountain:  67.1 oz. (4.2 lbs. or 1.9 kg)  

Sheesh!  Time to start shedding some weight for these non-essentials.  A new Kindle (US$79) would help me lose almost a full pound.  Perhaps a good bang for my buck.

Next post (Part 2) covers my climbing gear (essential).

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