Summer’s coming, so a piece of advice on wandering. Popular myth is that if you’re about to travel for a bit longer time – one month or so – you need a lot of stuff in your backpack. In reality equipment for one month doesn’t differ much from what you’d take on a week trip. I am not a specialist in minimalistic packing, so far my longest trip was two months long, but still many people were shocked how I can pack in a relatively small backpack… here’s the answer. Maybe somebody will have some other useful solutions to share? Feel free to put it in the comment section!
1. Agree on basic rules
First things first – establish basic rules that will guide you later on. They will help to make the decision when you get hard time choosing whether to take a particular thing or to leave it.
My basic rules are:
– minimum weight, often at the expense of comfort (microfiber towel instead of regular one; really thin sleeping mat; two pairs of shoes etc.)
– looks are not that much important
– number of clothes can (and must be) replaced by frequent laundry
– yet being self-sufficient when comes to mountain trekking (full cooking and camping equipment)
2. Think of activities you have in plan
It is extremely important to think through situations planned along the way. Often outfit for a single event can add a significant weight to your backpack. I remember last year’s trip to Spain, where we decided to make the dream of dancing salsa somewhere in Spain come true. It demanded taking a classy shirt with me, and Dani has taken a dress – I don’t have to mention it was the one time they were used through the whole three weeks, in the meantime laying peacefully on the bottom of the backpacks. Still, worth it.
Camping away from civilization adds the most weight, because you need to carry all that cannot be purchased every day. So – cooking stove, gas, knife(s), pots. Last year I tested bringing a frying pan with me – again, totally worth it. I reduced the weight by removing the handle which carried the biggest part of grams. One of the hardest choices for me is photographic equipment – it is great to return from a trip with awesome photos, but lenses, tripod, filters… they all weight.
3. Keep track and evaluate
For several years now I’ve been making lists of everything that I take with me – really helps in the packing process. But the list is also important after returning, when it is necessary to evaluate each thing, if it was helpful or useless. This knowledge will help before the next trip, and also you can mark equipment that has gone lost or destroyed, to replace it ahead, not in a last-minute shopping spree. Knowing clearly what you’d need next summer allows to effectively take advantage of after-season sales.
4. Balance the quality
Huh, golden rule again. Don’t buy the cheapest, low-quality things, which can fail you in critical moment. Especially the crucial equipment – tent, sleeping bag, backpack, jacket and shoes. If one of these fails on the road you’re in big problem, mister. Your feet will tell you in a painful way about shoes hurting them. Your back will protest loudly every time you’ll put uncomfortable backpack with 12-15 kilos. And you’ll understand how important are tent and sleeping bag, when after cold, rainy, sleepless night you’ll fail to focus on finding a trail in the mountains or stay ill in a hostel instead of exploring another beautiful city.
At the same time hyper-quality equipment is not totally free of disadvantages. First – if you burn sleeve of your jacket with cooking stove, it doesn’t matter if it’s Patagonia, Jack Wolfskin or a no-name jacket. If you get caught by a nail, the hole in top-brand trousers looks the same as in the ones from lower end of market. And if it gets stolen… you’d cry after the expensive one much more.
So here’s the second problem with high-end equipment. Fear. Of it being stolen, damaged, dirty. Fear of it being used. Third thing is the cost. I tend to convert price of things (not only equipment, but also everyday items) on a strange currency – Days of Wandering. The more money you spend on equipment the less time you’ll be able to fund for the actual travelling.
As you can see, there’s no easy solution – balance.
5. Count weight. Of everything.
Yep. I know how crazy I sound to my girlfriend when I count 30 grams for a hat or 60 grams for a pair of socks. This weighs nothing, right? But if you add up this nothing + nothing +nothing, suddenly you get 1 kilo. And a kilo makes a difference.
This applies especially to my first-aid kit and my wash bag. Go to your bathroom and look on the back of bottle of deodorant, shower gel and tube of toothpaste. Basic things without which travelling becomes a sticky business, but they weight. Try to get miniature versions of them – Rosman and some pharmacies have concentrates or smaller packs. Your back will thank you later.
First-aid kit is the same. I try to take just the “hitting dose” of each medication – for stomach pain, fever, band-aid, painkillers, diarrhea medication. When I’ll run out of this small dose I can replenish it in a pharmacy, and so far I am lucky enough to get the most of the drugs expire.
Ok, enough theory. Below you can find an example of my packing list, that has evolved throughout all the bumming. So far – final version, but still in progress! Maybe in following weeks I will tell a bit more about particular items on the list.
1. Backpack with a raincover (2150 g)
Sleeping: (3050 g)
2. Sleeping bag
3. Sleeping mat
Clothing: (2820 g)
6. Long trousers convertible to short (2)
7. T-shirts (3)
8. Underwear (4)
9. Socks (4)
10. Fleece jacket
11. Fleece hat or buff
Shoes: (1200 g)
12. Trekking shoes
14. Stove + gas bottle
17. Aluminum bowls (2)
Hygiene: (300 g)
18. Microfibre towel
19. Washbag (shower gel/shampoo, toothpaste concentrate, little deodorant, washing powder)
Other equipment: (1200 g)
24. Spare shoelaces
25. Couple of rubber bands
27. Toilet paper
29. Map in a zip bag (only if going into mountains)
30. Pepper spray
31. Notebook and a pen
32. First-aid kit (elastic bandage, disinfectant gel, tweezers and small scissors, gauze, painkillers, diarrhea medicine, UV creme, protective lipstick)
33. Small foldable backpack
Electronics: (250 g)
36. Phone with wifi
Photographic equipment (about this maybe another time, in detail…)
Altogether not more than 12 kilos, counting everything, including what I’m wearing. Believe me, it is possible to survive on that