Beach Camping in Northern Chile (Iquique – Tocopilla)

It’s tough to give a summary of the things I’ve done in northern Chile in the past weeks. But it involved a lot of freecamping at this beach or that beach, and the ruins of ghost mining towns in the Atacama desert region. This beach between Tocopilla and Iquique, found on the amazing app discovery called iOverlander (there’s an android version too! And of course it’s free), was one of those memorable places.

The morning light was sheer perfection, with the Chilean Coastal Range mountains rising up from the sea and only giving a little space for putting up my tent in between. I was a little worried about how far the water would rise during the night, but it didn’t even come close to my feet. My improvised camping stove – made of a beer can – has the wrong fuel. So I couldn’t make coffee, but that’s about the only thing that could make the morning after camping more perfect.

My camping gear is near complete now. I hope it will give me all the freedom I need on the road to take care of myself. My tent is my casa, my mattress and sleeping bag my cama. Just the cooking equipment I have is completely redundant; I can’t seem to find spiritus (denatured alcohol, to keep your cheese fondue hot and awesome!) anywhere besides the Netherlands, where it’s a regular household product.

The problem of investing in a real backpacking camping stove is that all outdoor companies have designed their own and sell it together with a specific gas tank. If you buy one system of one brand, you’re bound to only buy their fuel, but you can’t find their fuel on every continent just like that. It’s kind of like how Apple and Samsung make different chargers and that they don’t work on each other. Electricity is electricity regardless of device, so is almost all the fuel for camping stoves. Ah, the world would be such a better place if they just made one system functioning for all… Rant over.

It’s time to hit the road again though, next update will be the human settlement of Pisagua!


13 thoughts on “Beach Camping in Northern Chile (Iquique – Tocopilla)

  1. Pisagua sounds like something in GTA. Wikipedia tells me it literally translates as Pisswater

  2. I use Esbit stoves and the MSR pocket rocket. neva had a problem finding fuel. 🙂

    Liquid fuel…some people, in fact, alot of peepz like it but its not for me- its too time consuming.

    • Everything MSR is supposed to be a once in a lifetime investment, hence the price! Can’t find many international brands here though. There’s a Chilean tent and backpack maker called “Doite” and they’ve got a few funky things in their collection! For the rest there’s the North Face but they only sell one or two options of everything they have in their collection here. I miss huge outdoorsy shops like the Globetrotter in Berlin (adventurer’s paradise! I could spend a full day and night there and still not be bored). Chileans LOOOOVEEE camping though! Everyone owns a tent or two.

  3. I’ve got a trangia but no experience to use it yet. I need to buy fuel, but it looks like spiritus is just ethanol with different taste, smell and sometimes color too. Isn’t it?
    Unless I’m confusing something, ethanol used to be easily found in bottles on supermarkets in Brazil (I still need to check if something has changed tho), strange that it’d be different in Peru or Chile.

    • Scandinavian made 🙂 I’m not surprised you have one like that! I had a buddy who used a Trangia-like system and he loved it – even used lighter fluid to make it work. The point of that one is that you can use universally found fuel, but as it’s basically alcohol that you need to burn, it’s not as universal as you think (try getting that in Iran or any other country that forbids alcohol pretty much for any purpose). When I made my basic beer can stove – which is as simple as a Trangia – I also thought it was easy to find “spiritus”, but it looks like you have to look specifically for denatured alcohol/alcool desnaturante.. but where?

      • But my point is – according to Wikipedia, “Denatured alcohol is ethanol that has additives to make it poisonous, somewhat bad tasting, foul smelling or nauseating, to discourage recreational consumption. In some cases it is also dyed”. So I’m wondering if I’m confusing something, because it’s sounding for me like denatured or not denatured is the same alcohol, just with some more random stuff added to it when it’s denatured.

        • I think I should know by now after watching Breaking Bad, but I honestly don’t know what’s the difference! I think 100% alcohol might just burn up too quickly, so it has to have the right percentage of alcohol vs. other stuff to make it burn in a smooth way.. denatured or not.

          • Hey Iris! I went around looking for *denatured alcohol* and NOBODY knew what a heck what is it. LOL! I’ve checked in supermarkets, in camping stores and even in pharmacies. They just don’t know what is it. Then I decided to look for the regular alcohol that they sell in supermarkets in Brazil (the one I mentioned to you). According to the information on its bottle, “it has being denatured with Benzoato de Denatônio”. So, sounds like “alcool etílico” in Brazil is always denatured and this might be the same stuff as Spiritus you use for keeping your cheese fondue hot! (:

            I’ll try it out soon. o/

          • Please tell me what the outcome is! If it’s the same stuff that keeps the cheese fondue cheesy we might have a genuine breakthrough! 😉 check if it keeps burning at a slow and steady pace. The stuff I tried always said “WOOF” and then the flame was gone..

  4. I’m updating you with this finding because I thought you could be interested in looking for it in wherever you are right now and check out if it works the same way. I’d guess you might experience some differences anyways given the difference of air pressure and stuff, but if you try it I’d love to know how was it 🙂

    Hope I’ve helped and didn’t sound like bugging you or stuff!


    • You’re never bugging me with this! I’ve been frustrated over this issue ever since I tried cooking on the road. It’s been my main excuse for still eating fast food and after I bought three different “burn that shit down” products in France and Spain last year, I knew I couldn’t pursue a career in pyromania… 😉 I now succumbed to the pressure to buy an “official” camping stove with “official” fuel, but I’m sure I’ll have to go back one day to the hunt for “denatured alcohol” to cook my pot noodles.

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