A heavy backpack can turn your dreams into nightmares
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For an extended trip, one must plan regardless of what some people say. Making a simple list of imperative things to bring in the backpack, for example, can make life a lot easier including avoiding a dangerous situation. This is especially true if you are heading to visit a location where due to the weather, nature has made it a hostile environment and has very little tourism.
Memories of my first few trips of carrying around a backpack full of unnecessary clothing have made me aware of the importance of traveling with lightweight clothing and equipment well organized on my back.
Traveling while carrying 50 lbs. on my back? No thanks!
The first thing you need to know about being a traveling “backpacker” is what it actually feels like to have 50 lbs. on your back all while walking for two hours over ice, mud or sand. The first reaction you want to do is to leave you luggage where ever you are. You will no longer care about having 10 t-shirts in order not to repeat the same shirt in a 10 day period, I guarantee it!
For this reason, you need to carefully plan what you will bring with you and what will be left behind. If you plan an extended trip such as the one I am currently in, you may find yourself in temperatures between -10 degrees and 100 Fahrenheit! At times you might have to unload clothing since carrying winter clothes at 90+ degree temperature make no sense at all.
What are the proper clothes to carry on an extended trip?
The most basic information you need to have is the climate of the location you plan to be in. And depending on that is how you need to pack for you long awaited adventure. Obviously, we know that winter clothing is bulkier than summer clothes so we must plan accordingly.
No need to panic. If you choose the right attire for the trip your “partner pack” will not weigh as much as to make our lives miserable while exploring planet earth. But in order to do this, it is just as important to make the effort to leave behind all that is not necessary to carry in the pack. Many things that you do need can easily be purchased where ever place you happen to be at the time.
What are the absolute essentials in your pack? (Travel essentials list)
-Personal hygiene: Items such as toothbrush, toothpaste, soap and deodorant, a camping towel all essentials, but no need to purchase them in large containers. The added weight and space in your pack for weeks and/or months can be avoided by purchasing them in small amounts in places you are as you go.
– Medications: I personally take no meds. but if you feel you need them, bring a small amount of aspirin, ibuprofen and such. There are pharmacies everywhere as well as medical centers. No need to load yourself with the extra weight. Health insurance, on the other hand, that is imperative.
– A sarong: I have seen about 100 uses for this item. Some of them include but are not limited to a beach towel, a light blanket from the cool breeze of the air conditioner from the bus, pillow case, improvised shade or even a clothing item if you need to cover your legs in a place where the culture requires it such as in parts of Southeast Asia.
– Sunscreen: Either in hot or cold weather, it is important to protect ourselves from the sun. It is always a good idea to have a layer of good sunscreen when out in the sun.
– Underwear: You don’t have to go nuts thinking because they are relatively small items, and fill your pack with two dozen pair of socks and undies. I try to travel as light as possible. I personally carry 3 pairs of underwear, 3 pairs of running socks, 3 pairs of riding sock and 5 multi-use t-shirts-all synthetics. Synthetic material clothing is very important for long trips. They are light, take up less space, are more durable and when you wash then they dry much faster than natural fiber clothing.
– Rain gear: You never know when it’s going to rain so always be prepared. This is important not only to protect ourselves from getting wet and cold but also our backpack. Most likely you will be carrying electronics such as a camera, cell phone or like in my case, a computer and a tablet.
What to take as cold weather clothes?
Again, lets’ be well prepared for the climate changed and not allow the change of weather ruin our well-deserved, long planned journey. While it is important that we travel light it is just as important to be ready for those sub-zero temperature places we might end up passing through or staying even if for only short periods of time.
I have noticed in my recent travels that summer does not necessarily mean the hot weather. For example, if you are at 15,000 ft. above sea level in the summer and find yourself in La Paz, Bolivia you will experience evenings/nights in the 20’s. The cold climate of the high altitude does not recognize seasons, therefore be prepared.
Bringing quality thermal clothing is important on those cold days and nights. Among those clothing items I recommend the following:
– At least one: Thermal breathable long sleeve shirt to help keep the body heat we produce and at the same time eliminate the moisture from the sweat and at least one set of long johns. I would highly recommend Sub Sports COLD Men’s Thermal Compression Base Layer Long Sleeve Top/Terramar Women’s Thermasilk Scoop Neck Top and Noble Mount Men’s Classic Waffle Knit Thermal Top and Bottom Set/Rocky Women’s Thermal Set 2pc Long John Underwear Smooth Knit
. They seem to be the most effective and durable based on my experience.
– A coat: Now that we understand the importance of packing light and small, I recommend a combination raincoat, windbreaker and winter coat like The North Face Men’s Vortex Triclimate Jacket/The North Face Women’s Kalispell Triclimate Jacket
. It has a detachable liner that when removed can be used as a regular raincoat and when in place can protect against temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also wear layered clothing such as a sweatshirt underneath for lower temperatures.
– A pair of boots: Waterproof boots are a necessity for an extended trip. To keep your feet dry and warm a good quality boot such as Timberland White Ledge Waterproof Boot are a good choice due to the durability and comfort.
– Sandals: Do not make the mistake of carrying more than 2 pairs of footwear unless you are riding a motorcycle or practice a sport like myself (I am a runner). So, if you’re not hopping from country to country via motorcycle, the absolute most pair of shoes you would need to carry would be a total of three including running/sports shoes. But remember to choose the right kind of sandals. The kinds that can accompany you to the shower, cross a rocky stream, are stylish enough to use while walking around town and are extremely durable. Essentially you need to bring with you a pair of all-purpose footwear.
The ones I use are well-known by many travelers and the only ones I would recommend are KEEN Men’s Newport H2 Walking Sandal/KEEN Women’s Newport H2 Sandal. They are washable, synthetic, and have accompanied me through 10 countries in 14 months and do not remember a day that I have not worn them. They are somewhat pricey but well worth the money. And judging by the very light wear they show, I expect to continue wearing them daily for at least another year or two!
– Gloves, hats, and ear covers are a real necessity as well, without them you can literally freeze your extremities.
What to bring for warm weather?
Warm weather places go great with light backpacks. We talked about t-shirts and underwear so what would be left is a couple of shorts, bathing suit, a pair of jeans and lastly a ball cap and sunglasses for those bright sunny days.
The backpack: which would be the best choice?
An important factor to remember is not just the size of the pack but the ergo metrics, as that determines how comfortable it is to carry. It needs to fit well to our body structure and to the amount of activity we plan to do while carrying it.
As a backpacker, you need to carry your pack where ever you go. It would seem right to buy the biggest pack you can find. But remember, the bigger the bag the more stuff you will put in it. You also need to take into consideration the size for when you board a plane. With a smaller pack, you have the possibility of less weight thus reducing the chances of paying for that extra weight.
My recommendation would be a 55-liter backpack and not overload it. If you organize everything well everything should fit without any problems and maybe even have plenty of space left over for a few gifts. A very good choice could be the High Sierra Explorer 55 Internal Frame Pack, Black/Black/Silver. It has several compartments, waterproof capability and made of extremely durable material.
It is always good to carry a smaller backpack as you might use it for overnight or day trips while on your long journey. This one can be stored inside the large one when not in use.
Traveling is an awesome experience…
I’ll leave you with one final thought: A heavy backpack can turn that awesome experience of traveling into a true nightmare. Therefore, start your trip with as little weight as possible. Along the journey, you will always find stuff to buy, whether you need them off or not.
Please leave a comment and/or post your ideas on what to bring on an extended journey. You comment a very much greatly appreciated!