March 29, 2011: Packing Update

I’m 3 months into the trip & have evaluated my packing prowess. Overall, I did pretty well.  But today I am going to the post office to mail home some superfluous stuff, so obviously, I wasn’t spot on.  For you packing nerds, this is an update of what worked & what didn’t. What I added & what am sending home.

The great cube debacle & other bag mishaps

Ok. The cubes were not the best idea. while the small cubes are GREAT for electronics & misc stuff, the big cubes do not work so great for clothes. They just take up too much damn space. they can’t fit into the contours of the pack, leaving pockets of wasted & valuable space. Clothes are now in stuff sacks, which squeeze into tight corners,  & the big cubes are going home. still loving the small cubes.

I brought a canvas messenger bag with the idea that it would function as a day bag when I was not on the road. The stap was not wide enough the bag didn’t have enough structure to hold books, camera, ipod, computer etc. It ended up digging into my shoulder & made the numerous massages necessary. It’s coming home. So, I bought a cool messenger bag in phnom Penh made from recycle cement bags by disabled artisans. The bag is super cool, very comfortable & carries a boatload of stuff. But it’s just too big to lug around. It’s coming home.

The perfect bag as it turns out is a 10 L dry bag. it’s comfortable even when chockablock full, it’s durable, lightweight, packs small & keeps everything dry which is important in a monsoon.

Great Bag, but too big

The other bag thing coming home is the pac safe. it’s heavy & if I lock my computer & other valuables in my pack I think it’s safe enough. Hopefully I won’t regret this decision, but i’m sick of carrying it around.


what the hell was i thinking? I agonized over the right containers for shampoo, conditioner, etc. oh, brother. there are travel sized stuff EVERYWHERE here. Bring nothing. you can buy it here. oh, & the lush solid shampoo bar (see below) was a total bust. turned to a big, goopy, gelatinous mess within a week.

I never did get a towel before i left. But i needed it. Douglas adams was right: A towel is a vital & necessary thing for a backpacker. I now have a good towel, courtesy of the somadevi hotel in siem reap.

bandanas: I love a bandana & use them often. They function as a: napkin, doo rag, sweat mop, satchel, towel, the list is endless. I brought 3, lost 2, bought 2 more & then Stan left me with 3 more. Thanks, buddy.


New & improved pack

I still have a book problem… but at least I don’t have to sit on my pack to close it & I don’t have to hear taxi & tuk tuk drivers grunt “ugh” when they lift it.


December 2010

I am a planner.  For me, part of the fun of traveling is the planning. Oh, I know there are scads of travelers who can buy a plane ticket, throw some underwear & a toothbrush in a bag & off they go hollering whoo hoo. Not me. I like to be prepared but I also like to travel light. So, naturally researching the art of  traveling light has become my latest obsession. I have taken 2 month long trips in the past couple of years both of which helped hone my packing skills and aided in the preparation for this upcoming adventure.

Because I like the convenience that traveling light brings, I wanted a small, manageable backpack . Here are just a few reasons I like to travel light:

  • Ability to hop on a motorcycle taxi without worrying about tipping the poor bastard over
  • no checked bag=no lost bag
  • Lugging around a heavy bag is an effing drag
  • I am lazy

Beloved Bag

I am fundamentally opposed to traveling with wheelies in the developing world. They just aren’t practical.  I was in Bolivia this past spring and was taking a boat from Copacabana to Isle del sol on lake Titicaca. There are no motorized vehicles on the island, and the town is at the very tippy top (nearly 13,000 feet). While waiting for the boat to depart I heard this “clickity-clack, clack, clack, clack” coming from the little pier. And there, on the pier,  was this young girl pulling a wheelie bag nearly as big as she. Chuckles were stifled as she wrestled & heaved this unwieldy bag onto the pile with the other bags. Landing at isle del sol we realized just how much of a slog we were in for. Just looking at the never ending stairs which began at 12,500 feet,  made me wheeze. Above the stairs were switchbacks. (The 10 y/o touts were scampering in front of us yelling, “alto, alto”) then there were more stairs. and more switchbacks. At one of the many rest stops I wondered aloud about the young girl & her wheelie. And within a couple of minutes we saw what happened to the wheelie: It had landed on a porters back. Girls, if you can’t manage your own bag, stay home.

The bag that has worked best for me is the eagle creek voyager 65L. It is a 45L pack with a 20L day pack. I only carry the day pack on “travel days. I strap it on the front of me and in it I put all my electronics, and all the stuff I need to get to easily & quickly while on the road. (And, yes, I know I look like a pack mule) For day tripping I use a canvas messenger bag that I can put in front of me if need be and my back doesn’t get all sweaty.

The List

I always make a list. The List prevents me from falling into the “oh-that-little-widget-(skirt,shoes, bag etc) may-come-in-handy” trap. Only the things on The List go in the pack. Check out the one bag guy, he has a lot of good tips.

Packing Cubes:      I am a proud cuber and I prefer the victorinox brand. They seem to be more sturdy than some of the others.  What I like about cubes is the ability to find whatever I need quickly & easily without tearing apart my pack. I have four. Two large & 2 small. Most everything fits in my cubes.

*I will be traveling to South east Asia & India on this adventure so I won’t need warm clothing. Clothing for cold climates takes up more room, but when I was in south america recently, I found the smartwool brand packs light & compact & kept me warm.

Toiletries: I use the LLbean small toiletry bag. The small is more than ample. It holds all my toiletries plus first aid stuff. you can see it here.

I recently purchased a solid shampoo bar from Lush on the recommendation from another traveler. So far I really like it.

First aid: Because I am a nurse I probably have more meds than most, but in very small quantities. For example I mix together in a travel pill bottle all my analgesics. Tylenol, motrin &  oxycodone. (Lighten up people, all 3 are easily distinguishable from one another). I also carry cipro, anti-diarrheals, antibiotic ear drops, sleeping tablets, benadryl, hydrocortisone cream and this homeopathic salve that is supposedly good for & on everything.

shoes: flip flops &  tevas. Yes. exactly 2 pair of footware.

Clothing: 3 pair cotton cargo/capris pants, 1 pr yoga pants, 3 short sleeved cotton shirts, linen tank, (I don’t like the high-tech, new fangled fabrics or knits). Long sleeved shirt, lightweight rain jacket, thin fleece jacket, 2 pair socks, 3 pair underwear. swimsuit.

Misc: washcloth, thin cotton towel (the ultra-absorbant microfiber towels feel strange & start to smell after while, despite laundering) hat,bandanas,sarong,headlamp,sink topper & clothes line,

I also have a small compression sack with a thin fleece blanket & blow up pillow. (ok, I know I am going to get a lot of shit about the travel pillow. It packs small & everytime I use it I am thankful that I have it. It makes those 15 hour bus/boat/train/plane rides more bearable)

Technology: Panasonic lumix camera, ipod, 11″ macbook air. (The macbook air is a bon voyage gift from my fantastic friends who are quite simply the best friends a girl could ever ask for. I love you all.)

Pacsafe: I debated about this for a while. I have never felt the need in all my travels to carry a pacsafe. However, this is longer trip & the hassle of having something stolen when I am away for so long, makes up for the extra weight. I have the 12l which will hold all my goodies while I am at the beach.

It is important to note that I am writing this while safely & snugly ensconced in Tony’s living room. What will be useful & what will be discarded along the way has yet to be determined. I’ll let you know how it all pans out.

Hey, you there, what’s in your bag?


One Response to Packing

  1. Lisa says:

    I’m a die-hard cube packer too! I love them and would never go anywhere without them. It fits in nicely with my anal, everything-has-a-place personality. Unlike my friends/sister who take the random approach and can never find anything as their pack looks like a bottomless pit of rags.

    I also agree about wheelies. I have lasting memories of watching young girls dragging them through the sand after offloading from a longboat in Thailand. It just doesn’t work!

    My last trip I took a small-ish (15litre?) dry bag. The intention was to use it to take stuff on kayak trips – but that never really happened. It was also to be used to protect the technology stuff when travelling on long boats in the wet season monsoons. That never happened either – the weather was fantastic. But! It turned out to be the perfect washing machine! Throw in the clothes, water and a bit of soap, seal it up, and shake. (Shake, shake, shake, shake your booty!) Viola – lovely clean clothes with minimum fuss.

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