Ask the expert

Jon Bowermaster

Fresh from the publication of his book Birthplace of the Winds: Storming Alaska's Islands of Fire and Ice, Jon Bowermaster is gearing up for a Cuban odyssey and, later this spring, a 60-day kayaking expedition in Vietnam. Jon's explorations include dogsled travels in the Arctic and Antarctica and first-ever raft descents in Chile and China. A resident of Paris and New York State, he is the author of six books and has chronicled numerous adventures (his own and others') for many popular magazines, including National Geographic, National Geographic Adventure, and National Geographic Traveler.

Let me know when Jon posts answers!

Expedition Adviser

Dogsledding the Antarctic? Paddling the Aleutians? Rafting an untested Chinese river? You name it, author-explorer Jon Bowermaster's been there, done that. And now he'll help you plan your own adventure. But type fast—any day now he's leaving for a two-month trip to kayak Vietnam.


Beginning the end of May, my friend and I are taking the 500-mile [800-kilometer] Santiago de Compostella pilgrimage from the southwest corner of France to Santiago. I want to pack as little as I can get away with, sleep in refugios, and shop in whatever hamlets would have the basics. What are your recommendations, including shoe and pack type?

—Donna Dixon, Bainbridge Island, Washington

Dear Donna,

My understanding of that pilgrimage is that you'll need plenty of moleskin and maybe even some kneepads…don't some of the more devoted trekkers crawl a portion of the route?

Traveling light, alpine style, makes perfect sense here since you'll never be far from a hostel or a borrowed bed. My recommendation always before such a trip is pack a couple days before you're scheduled to leave, then repack once, maybe twice. During that process you'll weed out half the stuff you originally thought was "absolutely necessary."

I've been wearing some great new trekking shoes made by 5.10. Noted for their climbing shoes, the rubber on the bottom of the 5.10 shoes is the most gripping I've worn, important especially if/when you encounter wet days along the route.

As for packs, some of them these days seem to be designed only for other designers, trying to top each other with new-fangled tricks, buttons, loops that are either impractical or confusing. I like a big, open pack with at least three, maybe four, even five side and/or top pockets. Once you've been on the trail for a few days you'll eventually remember the system for what goes where and it will save you from having to dig deep inside your pack each time you need a change of socks, another band-aid for your feet or a pen to capture that scene you just trudged past.

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