AMAZON ON THE CHEAP

This story featured in the 2013 Buyer’s Guide issue.

The Man: Christian Bodegren
The Mission: Cross the Amazon Basin from North to South, alone and on a budget

By Conor Mihell

Swedish adventurer Christian Bodegren was drawn to kayaking because, as he puts it, “It’s an inexpensive way to travel.” Bodegren eschewed sponsorship and high-end gear during his nine-month transit of South America, preferring to rely on a hodgepodge of used gear and his own determination, creativity and skill. When he completed the expedition last June, Bodegren had no idea how many miles he had paddled. But he’d had a good time and captured a sense of life in the Amazon.

The Mission: To trace a water route from Venezuela to Argentina by sea kayak. “Of course,” says Bodegren, “I would have to travel countercurrent most of the way.” His route encompassed 12 major river systems, including the Orinoco, Amazon, and Guapore.

The Boat: Bodegren bought a 12-year-old Wilderness Systems Sealution XL from an outfitter in Venezuela. Fresh out of the rental fleet, the battle-scarred, 17-foot roto-molded sea kayak served Bodegren well—until it sprung a leak in western Brazil’s vast Mato Grosso swamp. “I thought I might sink,” Bodegren says. “It was very early morning, still dark, and I saw a light in the distance. It was a boat with people collecting termites, and one of them had some Durapoxy, which I used to repair the hole.”

The Paddle: After four months on the water, Bodegren’s Aqua-Bound Eagle Ray carbon paddle broke at the twist-and-lock ferrule. He MacGyvered a fix with duct tape and a bolt, and used it for five more months. For expedition work, Bodegren says a simpler three-hole snap-button ferrule is more robust.

The Shelter: While he admits to having to sleep in his kayak at least once, Bodegren primarily relied on a Deep Jungle Asym Zip XL from Hennessy Hammock. Bodegren’s lauds Hennessy’s customization options, including Velcro tabs that serve as a backup in case of a zipper malfunction.

The Stove: Normally, Bodegren turns to the simple, no-moving-parts reliability of a Trangia alcohol stove. But since he expected it would be difficult to find denatured alcohol in the Amazon, he went for the multi-fuel capability of an MSR XGK, a liquid-fuel mountaineering stove known for putting out mucho BTUs. Later in the trip, Bodegren took to soaking his pasta cold for several hours and rarely used the stove.

The Electronics: Despite his under-the-radar approach, Bodegren still carried a Wideye satellite terminal for voice and data communication, a laptop computer and Feather solar panels from HumanEdgeTech—all packed in a waterproof Pelican case.

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