Thursday, July 30, 2009

Around the World Travel Guide Part 7 [Packs / Packing]

Helpful Tips for Planning a Year Long Trip Around the World Part 7
[Packs / Packing]

You’ve got your gear, and you’re ready to go. But – where are you going to keep everything you need for the duration of a year? Certainly not held in your arms, oh so tight. No – you will need a pack. But what type of pack?

Different Types of Packs
There are 40L packs, and there are 60L packs, and then there are 80L packs. And for those who feel as if they really hate their spine, there are also 120L packs. I will tell you right now, if you have a 120L pack, you are taking far too much stuff with you. Sure it pays to be prepared, but if you’re only in the extreme cold for two weeks, does it make sense to carry your winter gear the whole time? No – it is probably best to just buy gear on the road, or have a drop-off point along the route.

Some people swear by 40L packs, and there is a reason for this: they are carry-on sized. There is nothing better than jumping off a plane, and heading right to customs. Baggage claim? Not for you! No – you need not wait for the red light to flash, bags to fall, and yours to be in Hawaii instead of Tokyo (heartbreaking.) And this type of travel, I fully support for a week trip, or even a month trip – but for a year trip I suggest a larger pack. Why? Because even though you’re leaving with only a little bit of “stuff” odds are you’ll pick up souvenirs along the way. And who wouldn’t?

The Right Pack for World Travel
I travel with an 80L pack that has straps which allow it to be made thinner to compensate for its mostly empty interior at the beginning of the trip. My pack of choice? The ASOLO Navigator 80. When I first found this pack, I knew it was the one for me. It has all the features anyone could ever want. Plenty of pockets inside, a top opening for the main pouch, as well as a bottom opening for easy access (you can partition off the two sections with an inner zipper as well.) It has a shoulder trip, and briefcase handle – the backpack straps can be zipped away, to prevent “backpacker bias” when you check into some hotels. And it has a built in rain fly.

Not only this, but the pack also has a 20L detachable daypack zipped onto it, and a waist belt zipped on that can come off as a fanny pack, or toiletry case (with clip for hanging on shower, and built in mirror. For all intents and purposes this was the perfect pack.

The honeymoon ended, however, when I found the day pack wasn’t quite what I wanted (backpack daypacks may be more secure having two straps, but shoulder bags are easier to access, and prevent your back from being covered, and sweat soaking through whatever you’re wearing.) Not only that, but the weight distribution was way off with the pack attached, making it difficult to carry.

And the detachable shoulder strap I mentioned? It was connected with plastic clips. Plastic clips that snapped when the bag was only half filled. I have since replaced the clips with two climbing grade carabineers. This has solved that problem nicely.

So the pack isn’t perfect – but I still enjoy it for what it is. You know your needs best, try on a few. And remember, once you have it, put all your gear into the pack, and walk around for a few kilometers around your neighborhood. Not only will this get you used to the strange looks you’ll receive as a backpacker, you’ll also get to know if you’re over-packed or not.

Day Packs are a Must
You need to carry some things with you at all times (your valuables such as a netbook, camera, etc.) But you don't need those nineteen extra changes of clothing that you packed. So will you carry your huge pack through every country street you encounter? Of course not. You'll use your much smaller daypack for that. What else are you going to keep your novel in during flights, anyway?

There is one daypack that seems heads and tails, and straps and buckles, above the rest. This day pack could not be more highly recommended: The Mec Carry On Travel Pack.

The MEC Carry On Travel Pack is a 30L pack that is most easily, and conveniently, worn as a shoulder bag. From the outset, it has a very wide, and padded, strap for carrying comfort. The strap is connected to the pack itself by metal clips so that they will not snap under even the heaviest strain. For a more professional look this strap is removable for briefcase handling.

The main pocket is deep and spacious, but also butterfly opens for easy runs through customs. There is a pouch suitable for a laptop on one side, and a mesh zippered off area on the other to partition needed supplies from ones that are not required to be always accessible, but just as important to have on you. This main pocket has two holes on the zippers to make it suitable for locking.

On the outside there are three pockets. One smaller one near the top for items such as cell phones, glasses, keys, etc. which you always want in a quick grab area. Below that is a shallow long pocket for other needed objects. Then there is a secondary lockable pouch on the outside. Inside is the perfect amount of room for the novel and travel guide you’ve brought with you. As well there are two other sectioned off pockets that would hold your compass and headlamp quite nicely. Also, there is room for up to five pens in their own holders.

Why the only thing this pack couldn’t be used for is if you rented a bike, or a scooter. You can’t use one of those with a shoulder pack – but wait! This is a bag with a secret. A large pocket on the back conceals two backpack straps that can be taken out, or hidden away at any time making this a fully convertible all purpose pack. You really need no other.

What to Pack
So what do you need to pack for a world tour? There are a number of good lists out there and rather than reinventing the proverbial wheel, I’ll just point you in their directions.

Powered By Tofu: How to Pack for a 1 Year, Rough the World Trip
Oanda: Traveler’s Checklist
Canuck Abroad: Top Ten Things to Pack When Going on Vacation
Romow: Ten Things Every Woman Must Pack for Travel
Jamaica Jim: Your Caribbean Travel Check List
eHow: How to Pack for a RTW (‘Round the World Trip)

Adventure Travel Lounge: Things I Wish Weren’t in My Pack

Next Up:
We will look at the various jabs (needles / injections) you might need to get before you travel. You will also be directed to a number of government websites that list disease information. Medical insurance will also be discussed. Remember, when you travel, never take chances with your health.

Jump to other Parts
0. Index / Summary
1. Planning Destinations
2. Budget / Culling
3. Hotels vs Hostels
4. Internet Research
5. Tour Groups / Solo Travel
6. Important Travel Gear
7. Packs / Packing
8. Medical Requirements
9. Saying Goodbye / Staying Connected
10. No Fear Travel
Bonus: Overlooked Travel Tips and Tricks


  1. I wish I could travel longer term with a 40L pack, they are so handy and the fact they can be carried on is great too. But it's just not big enough for me.

    Having said that, I personally think 80L is way to big - I'm travelling for a year with a 60L pack and it carries everything I need, including a fair bit of bulky cold weather gear and my hiking boots, as well as various flashpackery electrical goods, if I had another 20L I'd just fill it with useless crap I don't need!

  2. I agree. Which is why if you get an 80L pack, you should get one that you can compress with straps or zippers down to a smaller size. But now, if for some reason I ever need the space, I will have it. I do so enjoy that option too.


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