The Gear that 'Saved Our Lives' in Patagonia Race

 GearJunkie/YogaSlackers in the thick of it, deep in the wilds of Patagonia; photo by Justin Lotak.The Patagonian Expedition Race, held in southern Chile each February, has been dubbed “the last wild race.” It is one of the world’s most death-defying organized sporting events, a 10-day wilderness immersion where teams go far off-grid and do battle with deep forests, mountain passes, fjords, rivers, and swamps. This is all in the name of finding checkpoints on a map and, eventually, after hundreds of miles, the finish line.

Our team, GearJunkie/YogaSlackers, has raced in Patagonia for the last four years. We finished the 2013 race in 3rd place, and the course proved as tough as ever.

Third place for Team GearJunkie/YogaSlackers in the 2013 event. (Photo by Justin Lotak.) See you next year!The race destroys gear as well as bodies. This year, we decided to go as fast and light as possible to gain some speed. We picked a bad year for this strategy — Patagonia showed its fury last month, with some of the harshest weather we’ve ever seen. It was 10 straight days of rain and snow, high temps in the mid-30s (F), and winds up to 100mph.

This is not to mention the cold waters we paddled and swam in, and the immersive, day-long bushwhacks where you’re soaked head to toe and poked endlessly by sticks and thorns. . . ah, all good fun!

Trekking through swamps is a big part of the race; photo by Justin Lotak.In the end, our gear saved our lives. Not to be overly dramatic, but in truth our shell jackets, wool base layers, sleeping bags, tent — not to mention packs, shoes, crampons, pack rafts, and food — were key to us making it through the near-impossible course. One item in particular was exceptionally helpful throughout the race: our Wenger Sport Glasses.

Wenger Sport GlassesClear vision can save your life out there. We wear Wenger Sport Glasses, which have switchable lenses for adapting to different light. Changing lenses was easy even in inclement conditions with gloves on. Changing light conditions, especially on the Patagonian glaciers, necessitated several lens swaps a day.