Fabulous quilts in Mindo’s cloud forest

As we traveled by bus from Otavalo to Mindo, the mountaintops disappeared under a dreamy veil of clouds. Elise was mesmerized and watched the landscape speed by through an open window. But then her little nose started to get red and she started to shiver. I realized that her jacket was locked away in the luggage compartment, and I worried I wouldn’t be able to keep her warm. But then I remembered that our brand new Enlightened Equipment quilts were in the backpack at my feet. Joy! I took one out and wrapped her up in it. The fabric is silky to the touch and not just ultralight but featherlight (I’m a bit obsessed with the weight of my gear) so you might not expect it to provide warmth, but my Little One went from cold to super cozy within a few moments. #happymom #happytraveler ! The quilts are a cool concept – unlike sleeping bags which restrict movement, they are more like a blanket with straps that attach beneath your sleeping pad, so you have more freedom of movement when sleeping. #cloudforest #enlightenedequipment #campingdonelight #myeequilt

Project Fi Phooey

After many hours of research, I thought I had landed upon the very best phone system to keep Elise safe during our travels – Google’s Project Fi, which provides unlimited talk in the US and unblocked texting in 135 countries with one world SIM card. It only works with Google phones, however, so I bought a Google Pixel for myself at Saturn and a secondhand (though brand-new) Pixel XL for Elise. Total investment: 1030€. I then signed up for Project Fi. I knew we wouldn’t be able to make use of the talk portion of the service, but I was more than willing to eat that cost, given the enormous benefit of worldwide texting with a single SIM, but nowhere die Google indicate that Project Fi DOES NOT WORK with European model Google phones. Only after hours of chat and phone tech support did it become clear that our shiny new Google phones were no more useful than any old cell phone requiring new SIMs in every country we visited. This was a serious concern for me, because it is not always possible to immediately buy and install SIM cards. How would Elise reach me if we got separated after we’d arrived in a new country, but before we could buy SIMs? Google’s response: we’ll refund the $14 shipping for the Project Fi SIMs. Oh, and we will update our FAQs so others don’t encounter this situation. Needless to say, the discovery had caused a sickening feeling in my stomach. The workaround I came up with was to use our 1&1 German SIMs in the Google phones so that – even if it costs 5€ a minute – Elise could call me anytime and anywhere. However, that required 1&1 to convert the house phone (Festnetz) to a cell phone SIM, and me to burden my sub-tenant so that I could dig through boxes to find the old house phone SIM. But the fun didn’t end there. The SIM did not fit Elise’s new Google phone and my efforts to trim it didn’t work. 1&1 gave me the addresses of 1&1 stores in town where they could trim it, but they turned out to be fictitious shops. (It was starting to get Kafkaesque.) Fortunately, a man at a Telecom shop got the SIM to fit by carving away the excess plastic with a special knife. It was good to have a solution where Google failed us, but I could have done without the added stress before our Big Departure.

Gearing up

Our entire lives will be on our backs while we travel round the world. As we are a mother-daughter team, we won’t have a strong guy to help carry the load. That means that each item we bring must not only be ultralight, but also multifunctional and high-tech. e.g. fabrics that breathe, dry fast, repel moisture, and keep us warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s warm, such as Merino wool and bamboo. We’ll also be trekking through Zika territory, so we need tops, pants and hats that are anti-mosquito. RE shoes, we each get max 2 pairs: a sturdy, but lightweight trekking shoe, and an everything-else shoe. I’ve already ordered mine – a surprisingly sleek pair of black Teva’s – which will be my beach, shower, and “dress up” shoe, lol. Besides my slim laptop and mirrorless camera, our camping gear will add the most weight to our packs. I tallied the weight of our existing ultralight gear to the ounce and discovered that I could shave off 4.93 pounds by replacing it with the newest (crazylight!) gear – but at a cost of around $431 per pound shaved. This means that, if you are a manufacturer of such gear, we want YOU to sponsor us! Here’s looking at you ZPacks and Englightend Equipment!