Friday, April 25, 2008

Some thoughts on packing (light)

Let's talk about packing. Now that I'm heading back to Europe and doing the backpacking thing again, it's something that I've been thinking about lately and have to prepare for. I don't know if I ever mentioned how I packed for this trip. You must think, well, he's been gone for a longass time, must have brought a ton of things with him. Well, true, I do have a lot of different things, I just don't have a lot of stuff.

Backpacking is about packing light, about looking at everything you can possibly use out there and then breaking it down into the most necessary of things---the things that you won't be able to find out there---and then removing everything extraneous so that while you're walking, you don't look like I did when I was in the 7th grade, a tiny 90 pound Chinese boy carrying a locker's worth of binders and books. This is tougher than it sounds, because as the saying goes, "everything is essential, only some things more than others." You have to keep in mind, most small things can be bought along the way.

Let's talk numbers. 30-40 liters, maybe 50 liters max. That's not a very big amount, folks. That's about one backpack. Hence, the term, backpacking.

What did I bring on this trip? I started with:

  • Crumpler Karachi Outpost photography backpack, with foam dividers1 and laptop insert.
  • Macbook Pro, 15", with power cord
  • Canon EOS 30D Digital SLR
  • EF-S 17-55 mm f/2.8 IS lens
  • EF 75-300 f/3.5-5.6 lens. Thanks to Adrian for letting me borrow his zoom. I'm not carrying my fatty 70-200 across the world. That thing is too big.
  • Canon battery charger and extra battery
  • 60 GB 5th gen iPod. My storage for all the photos that I've been taking. I've filled 10 12 DVDs of photos, and that's after going through and deleting a bunch. About 45 50 gigabytes.
  • USB card reader
  • Cheap tripod1
  • Gorillapod SLR Zoom
  • Lonely Planet 2006 Edition Western Europe guidebook2
  • Leatherman uber-knife3
  • Sony Fontopia in-ear headphones (Asked for and got 25% off, $30, best evar)
  • Timex Ironman watch, the one Will Ferrel wore in Stranger Than Fiction.
  • Oakley Square Wire 2.0 Polarized. Now with more scratches than a DJ convention.
  • 1 tube of toothpaste small enough to go through airport security
  • 1 toothbrush, standard non electronic
  • 1 small bottle of shampoo*
  • 1 bar of travel soap*
  • 1 small bottle of gel*
  • 1 razor, few replacements*
  • 1 pair of khakis, dark olive
  • 1 pair of khakis, regular khaki color*
  • 2 AE collared shirts, one semifancy, one regular. Both blue (haha! It's like I have a uniform!)
  • 1 thin GAP jacket.
  • 1 REI travel undershirt*
  • 1 Nike (American) football dry fit shirt (used as undershirt)
  • 1 Travel towel*
  • 1 Travel boxers, Ex Officio
  • 1 Travel briefs, Ex Officio
  • 1 Joe Boxer knit boxers
  • 1 Old Navy dark blue tshirt*
  • 1 pair of 2 dollar sandals from WalMart*
  • 1 pair of Keen shoes (hybrid footwear, they call it) that I bought from REI a day before I left. These are amazing, taking all the terrain I've thrown at it and however many thousands of steps with pride. Because the toe end is shaped larger than the heel (for comfort) my Aunt calls them Mickey Mouse shoes.
* Vanished along the way.
1 I sent home because it was taking space, or a pain in my ass.
2 Left this with Joe in London.
3 On the way back to London, a security guy at the airport took it from me. Brought it all throughout the US and Europe for years, and they had to take it away at such a late stage. Go fig.

All that fits in my backpack. One backpack. I carry nothing else with me, no extra bags. Why did I pick this expensive ass Crumpler backpack (online $120 or so, you get ripped off at the photo store) instead of a $30 Jansport you can find at any sports shop? Because this bag is THICK, it's made to protect expensive photography equipment, and by design, you can only open it when it's taken off. Theft deterrent, protecting my stuff, carries everything. Works for me.

One backpack means I don't spend any time in the airport waiting for the baggage claim, dealing with the hassle of lost baggage or worrying about extra liabilities for all those thieves you hear about.

To many of you, this might come as a shocker. So little clothing! Ever try carrying a giant SLR, a laptop, extra electronic gadgetry, and then try to add a bunch of clothes? As my friend Cianar might say, "You ask the impossible!" I didn't have to bring all this stuff. I could have brought a point and shoot, 50 gigabytes of memory and left the laptop at home. But I don't have a point and shoot. Or 50 gigabytes of memory. And then I wouldn't have been able to capture these.

Compromise accepted.

Except for the pants, most things can be washed in the sink and dried within a few hours. Usually the people I stayed with would be so gracious as to let me use their laundry machine and keep my clothes so fresh and so clean, clean. Travel underwear and dry fit clothing (sweat wicking) is a godsend. As is that travel towel, which I am now lacking (sigh).

After being out here for a while, I heard that my dad also has bought a giant backpack, and plans to do some backpacking on his own, haha! Maybe it's never too late, eh? Although, I don't think I'm going to be as healthy as he is when I'm nearly 70 years old.

This also means I don't have any room for souvenirs. If you want something from the far ends of the earth, looks like you'll have to get it yourselves! Bahahaha! OK, this was a lie, I got some people in the Philippines souvenirs from Australia. And I got Cianar the special Seven Stars Custom cigs that he so loves (which, he'll be able to pack and use throughout Europe!) But that's it. Going back to Europe, I'm in backpack mode again.

Of course, I'm bound to pick up things along the way.
  • Countless bottles of toothpaste, gel, shampoo, bars of soap, extra razorblades, sunscreen.
  • Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. Left it with Joe in London.
  • Plug converters for Europe system, UK system, and eventually Australia. These also mysteriously vanished.
  • Beanie, gloves, scarf from H&M in various spots around Europe. Scotland just got too damn cold.
  • Extra in-ear rubber piece for my Sony headphones. Lost one, and these things became useless.
  • Fleece jacket from Uni Qlo in London. Bit more warmth.
  • Awesome thick jacket from China which Ling bargained down for. He is a master of in-your-face bargaining.
  • Haruki Murakami's Dance Dance Dance, Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, After Dark, Norwegian Wood, and Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman. I gave all these to Lesli. She'll give them a good home.
  • Pair of sandals that I picked up walking around Manila, in the Divisoria (dirt cheap mall), about $30, which I have used the entire time.
  • Dry-fit faux Nike, Adidas shirts, $3 each in Ho Chi Minh City. My Adidas shirt (my fave) I left it in Australia.
  • Two pairs of faux Adidas shorts, 150 pesos for both (almost $4, used as swim trunks)
  • Real Nike dry-fit shirt.
  • Bunch of T-shirts from SM here in Philippines.
  • Some cheap shorts, also from SM.
  • Bunch of extra boxers from SM.
  • Open Water PADI SCUBA certification.
  • Nike pants, $50 free, because I needed pants to get into this lounge/bar and Alix wanted everyone to go along and drink. He offered to pay for part of it, and ended up just buying them. Thanks Alix! Now my fave pants, they fit well and hold stuff in the pockets better.
  • Shitload of dive gear: Aquamundo 1st/2nd stage regulators, BCD, wetsuit, booties, Abeam mask and snorkel.
  • Suunto Stinger dive computer.
  • Canon PowerShot A720 IS camera, and WP-DC16 underwater case. Sold to someone here in the Philippines for small profit.
  • Crumpler messenger bag, for Europe. This is my first messenger bag ever, and I love it.
  • Haruki Murakami's After the Quake, Kafka on the Shore, A Wild Sheep Chase. For the upcoming trip (buying books in Europe is too expensive)
  • New travel/superabsorbent towel to replace my lost one.
  • And of course, countless memories of people, places, friends and family. The best things to pick up along the way!


squishy #2 said...

yay i have Keen shoes too!
you're finally on my cool list.
hahaha. jk.

Jenni Trang said...

I am inspired by your blogging... but I don't know if I can get up enough energy to blog myself... I'm glad I was able to be a little part of your adventures... even if it wasn't for too long. =)