After I got back from my Asia travels, I got a chance to reflect on my original RTW packing list and decide how to adjust it for my upcoming South America travels.
The reflections I had include:
- Lockable backpacks are useful when lockers are small or non-existent
- Dry barrel’s offer so much more than rain covers
- Dry sacks and packing separators speed up the check in/out part of travel
- Leave space in your main pack to buy clothes and repack with ease
- Don’t neglect the clothes you really love
- Go plain colours on tops or bottoms but not both or neither
- Other gear changes i made for my trip to South America
A lot of backpackers learn the hard way that a top loading pack becomes an absolute pain when wanting to pull out that pair of socks hidden at the bottom of your sack. Whilst any extra side or bottom zips help solve the problem for top loading packs, it’s never going to be as easy and efficient as a lockable zipping backpack – putting your pack on your bed and opening it right out to get to everything. Thankfully, I was given the tip off by mate and now, having used one for 6 months, I’ve understood many more advantages too. Coupled with separators and dry sacks, you could cope with any of the three following hostel dorm room locker scenarios.
There were plenty of times, when I arrived at hostels and found there to be little or no locker space. Certainly not enough for both packs. If you ask most backpackers, the thing that is worth the least in their back pack are their clothes. The clothing separators and dry sacks allowed me to pull out all my stuff seconds and use the lockable space most efficiently.
Scenario 1 – Huge Locker – Put everything into the locker
Scenario 2 – Small Locker – Put your day pack inside the locker and anything from your main pack that fits and leave the rest locked in your main pack on your bed.
Scenario 3 – No Locker – Take out your clothes separators and put everything of value (typically your day pack) into your main pack and leave that locked on your bed.
Dry Barrels, Dry Sacks and Separators
I got more comments from other travellers about my dry sacks and packing separators than anything else i brought with me. Using these allowed me to keep everything in my pack organised, protect it from water and speed up the check-in/out process every time you move.
For the first 5 months of my trip, I carried a rain cover for my day pack with me everywhere. Even before I got to use it, I never quite trusted the fact it only covered the outside half of your bag would be enough to protect my expensive electronic equipment. When I got to Hong Kong and had to use a poncho to see the atmospheric Heart Sutra in Lantau Island i knew the rain cover wasn’t going to cut it. So I bought a 15L Dry Barrel. I keep the Dry Barrel folded up in my day sack and in the even of rain, I just pull out the Dry Barrel and plunge my whole day sack in its entirety inside. No messing around – just move on with some guaranteed water protection and a very useful second day pack too.
I found that with my aggressive Asia itinerary, I had to do my best to minimise the time spent checking into a new dorm room, putting a quick day pack together (that didn’t contain all my valuables) and head out to sightsee. I’d found my Dry Barrel that useful second sack that I could just pull out, throw any essentials for the day in and move on, without pulling everything I wouldn’t need from my day sack. Being waterproof, meant it was perfect for beaches and physical activities. As for the “roll” aspect of the top of the bag and the cross strap, it meant the bag is pickpocket proof – it has to come off your bad, be unclipped and be unrolled to get things out.
I haven’t managed to find the exact Dry Barrel I bought online, but Amazon sells something very similar here.
Inside my main pack, I separated my gear with separators and dry sacks. Separators we used for clothes and dry sacks were used for electronics, miscellaneous items and my backup identification. What this meant was it made it extremely quick and easy to pull my most important items (anything in a dry sack) and my least important items (clothes) out in seconds. So when it came to sorting out what went into a locker, it was a trivial task.
Space in your pack
Backpackers don’t generally move from country to country filling their backpacks with memorabilia to take home to friends and family like a tourist would. Even so, I did find on my Asia travels that I bought clothes that matched the environment as I went along. Some Thai three-quarter length pants, a vest and a T-shirt in my case. If you start your travels with a full backpack, you won’t be able to take anything on without needing to throw away something you probably like.
The other reason to leave a little bit of space in your pack, is that chances are, you won’t pack your back as well when you’re rushing to check out your hostel to grab a bus as you would the first time you packed to leave home. A bit of tolerance eases the stress of needing to be precise about the way you put things back in.
Don’t neglect the clothes you really love
When I prepared for my first trip, I read that I wouldn’t need jeans if I was going to Asia. It’s true, that during the day they weren’t the most practical clothes but I certainly “missed” them when it came to the cooler part of the evening or a night out. Thankfully, when my mum flew out to Cambodia to meet me half way through my journey, she brought them along for me. The bottom line is, you know yourself better than others and don’t neglect the clothes you really love.
Go plain clothes on the tops or bottoms but not both or neither
On my first trip, I made the mistake of packing too many bright clothes. I think at the time, I was rebelling against the advice from textbooks that suggested plain colours for everything you took. The reason was a sound one – so you don’t need to worry about matching. Instead, I opted for the opposite and found myself, at times, looking like a smurf (blue T-shirt, red trousers), the incredible hulk (green vest, purple shorts) or a fruit salad (red trousers, yellow T-shirt). For my South America travels, I opted for a halfway house, with mostly neutral colours for trousers/shorts and bright colours for tops.
Other gear changes made for my trip to South America
Swapped – Rain Jacket
I swapped my super light rain jacket for something a bit heavier. For Asia, my jacket was really to avoid the occasional downpour. For South America, I needed something that I could use in the mountains of Patagonia and Peru. I opted for something both waterproof and windproof too.
Swapped – Vivo Barefoot Evo III Running Shoes (my original Vivos were throughly used for my Kung Fu training in China and day-to-day walking. I wore them out, so before I left, I got a new pair)
Added – Hiking shoes (knowing my South America plans included plenty of hiking I opted to take my own shoes)
Added – Sealskin socks (not shown – waterproof thermal socks)
Added – Merino wool ankle socks (not shown – great thermal socks)
Added – Skins Thermal Top
Added – Skins Thermal Bottoms
From what I’ve read, the mountains in Patagonia, Peru and Bolivia should be treated like deserts – hot during the day, but extremely cold at night. I decide to take my Skins thermal compression layers with me for this. Typically, when I go snowboarding, all I wear underneath my ski jacket/pants are these layers. They’re compression (so great for reducing muscle strains), wicks away sweat (to keep you dry when you sweat), but a thermal layer too (for warmth).
Added – Couple of bright T-shirts
Swapped – Red shirt
Added – Fleece vest
Added – Quick dry vest
Added – Quick dry collared T-Shirt
Swapped – Cotton vest
Removed – Yellow T-Shirt 🙁
Added – kung fu pants that I picked up from China (lightweight with elasticated bottoms)
Added – combo trouser/shorts (bottom part of the legs can be zipped off)
Added – smart-ish trekking pants (could double up as smart trousers for the evening)
Added – trusty pair of jeans.
Added – Afro Blonde Cap
Added – Silk Blanket (I bought this piece of red/blue silk in a silk farm in cambodia and had the seams stitched in Thailand so I could use it as a silk blanket for the beach)
Swapped – Snood for wiping sweat on treks, head coverage (from the sun) or neck coverage in the cold.
Removed – Daypack Raincover
Added – Cheap USB Adaptor (A cheap USB adaptor that I could leave in my dorm room that I wouldn’t cry about if it was taken)
Added – Multi purpose USB cable (that I could keep handy in my day pack for charging my iPhone and camera)
Added – Retractable mini USB cable.