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It's all about equipment! Backpack

This note describes the gears I used during my World Tour, and that you can see here. Actually the most important is not what you take with you on a trip... it's what you bring back home. For 2 reasons:

  1. There are plenty of things you believe that you would need, but that you throw away after a few weeks.
  2. You meet and share a lot with other travelers, some having excellent gears that you'll get and love. Several pieces of my equipment are inspired by Gehard, that also own the © on the title. Xie xie Amigo.

Preliminary considerations

Where to buy?

Thousands of places, of course. But I have particular good experiences with the following places:

About brands

Buy quality goods if you want them to last. Several brands are worth investing in, such as:

Packs

Those are one of the most critical parts, and I strongly recommend to try and buy proper packs.

Backpack

Of course, it should be very comfortable to carry and fit you perfectly as this will be the one that you use not only when moving, but also for treks that last more than 3 days. Must have a waist-belt.
There's 2 main categories of backpack: traveler style, that open on the whole length, and mountain style that open on the top. Clearly, for backpacking, the first model is the best, you avoid taking out all your gears all the time. Critical point of failure: the zip, so make sure you buy a good quality bag and never force on the zip.
Then the number of pockets: no, the more is not the better, because when you want to secure your back, that means also more zip to secure. Perso, my Lowe alpine TT Tour ND60 has only one large pocket and that's perfect.

Size: the bigger is your bag, the more you'll be willing to put in. But remember you have to carry it, and sometimes more than between the bus and a taxi. I've a 60l that is a little small when I have a sleeping bag and a tent (that are actually hanging outside), so a 80l would be better. Consider also that you'll have once in a while a few extra things, such as food for a trek, drinks for a boat cruise, hence a little extra room is recommended.

Weight: don't go above 20kg in total.

Some models have a daypack that is zipped on the back. Useless. It's too small to be used as daypack, and you precisely never want to have your daypack zipped on your backpack, as you want the latter with you all the time.

Side pockets are very handy to carry a bottle or trash.

Nice to have: a zippable cover that "close" the back (and hence the harness) for airplane transport.

Daypack

This is the pack that almost never leaves you, used for the valuables during visits, transport, ... and for small treks of 1-3 days. No, this is not to carry more things that don't fit in your backpack. Your daypack shall be almost empty all the time, and hence avoid permanently repacking things from one bag to the other. On top of that, when you're walking with your backpack on your back, and the daypack on your chest, having the latter full and heavy is not handy.

I've an Under Armour 25l.

Similarly to the backpack, it should be comfortable to carry and easy to secure.

Waterproof bags

Most of the time, people in charge of your luggage during transport don't care much about them when putting them on a roof or on a donkey, and water or oil can also appears in the trunk of a bus...

Hence it's a good idea to have several of those bags of different sizes to be able, when the conditions require it (trekking in rainy area, on boats, ...), to protect at least the electronic and the valuables, and ideally everything. I've 4 bags: a 65l that can hold almost all the content of my backpack, and several smaller° for the rest. Most of the time, the large one is used for my clean clothes, and the others for the netbook and other electronics. Eventually, for extra security and little pain, I pack the sleeping bag, tent and mat in classic plastic bags inside the regular pack.

You can also have a bag cover that is OK for a few drops, but don't expect too much of it as it covers only half of it...

More bags

No, no need for more bags, stick to 2.

Clothes

Pants

2 pairs of technical pants can save you the hassle of taking all the time the daypack: models with leg large side-pocket, large enough to carry a Lonely Planet and a bottle of water are perfect.
Also, some models have a zippable pocket behind the hand-pocket, ideal for the hiding wallet and make sure it won't fall accidentally (you can get that added to any pants for a few $ at the market.).
Eventually, the de-zippable legs are really appreciable in places where the temperature changes a lot over the day. And actually, you don't need to carry shorts on top of the pants.

Thermic

Warm technical underwear (long-sleeve top, long-john, gloves,...) are very light to carry, and a must for mountain trekking. I also have my old stylish ski jacket. It's much more efficient to use many thin layers that you can add or remove depending of your body temperature than having only one super heavy layer.

Rainproof (° depending on weather)

Rain jacket and pants can also save your life. Make sure the zips are sealed and breathable. Test them in your shower. Most of the entry-level products are crap and last 10'.

Locks and stealing

If you believe that a padlock will protect your gear, check that video. Sorry. The reason for having lock is only to refrain people to open it for free, but that will never stop them. So yes, it's useful, but don't rely only on them... . For planes in western countries, take TSA approved locks. Perso, I use only numeric locks (hence no key to loose), one small one for the backpack, and one cable-lock either to strap my daypack when going to swim, or in my hotel room.

I also have a few carabiners that are always useful to hang a bag more securely than just dropped on the floor.

Shoes

I carry 3 pairs of shoes

Water

Bottled water is sometime tricky to find, cost a lot of money and is not ecological at all. So I've opted for a Steripen Traveler that allow me to purify 1l of water in 1'. Very light, don't give any taste to water, and super-efficient. Note that there's 2 models, one with AA batteries that you find anywhere (note that you need lithium battery due to high power consumption instead of alkaline), and one smaller, but with batteries that will be a nightmare to replace.

I also have a Nalgene° 1l bottle with a small neck, adapted to the Steripen.

Camelback are handy for outdoor activities, but careful in cold conditions, I've seen useless due the pipe being fully frozen. Also make sure it’s empty if your bag might be pack under other bags or under pressure as it might leak.

Flashlight°

Not only you need one, but keep it always in the daypack. And take a frontal with AAA batteries. Some models have a red filter that is very useful to avoid dazzling other people when eating or chatting. Go for a Petzl, such as the Tikka 2.

First aid kit

I'm not keen on carrying a lot of drugs. Rational: you'll find everything at local drugstore, and the product they'll sell you is adapted to the local "flavor" of the disease.

Still, the basic stuff is recommended:

Note that the packaging of the drug is not designed for travelling, so you'll end of with mashed powder if you just pack them in a soft pouch. Find small hard cases for every type of tablet. Or a large hard case for the original packaging.

My bag

Diving

Planning to dive? the most important thing is a computer, typically Suunto have very good and handy wrist-type products. My Mosquito is more than 10 years old and works still very fine. And of course your diving card and log book.

Then your mask, snorkel and fins if you're going to islands or beaches to avoid having to rent stuff 3 times/day.

Navigation°

Always useful in a large city to know where you're going, or of course if you like hiking without guide, so a compass and altimeter are more than recommended. I've a Suunto Vector (also more than 10 years old) that do the job and that is not as show-off as the T-Touch.

Electronic

Camera

I'm using now a Pentax W90° (with a 32G SD) water/shock/ice-proof. Not the quality of SLR or mid-end cameras, but the safety to bring it back home. I've 2 extra batteries to have approximately 4 days of autonomy.

I've also a GoPro Hero (with a 16G SD) for diving or other fun activities. Note that for better underwater result, you need to find a case with a flat lens instead of the original one, as it struggle to focus. Make sure to check the screws of the black ring holding the lens, mine got lose, had to tighten them all...

A mini-tripod° allows self-picturing or help in dark conditions, and some "secure" straps are handy for extreme activities.

Music°

An iPod Nano (5th generation) 16G that is really nice for the long hours in buses or during a painful trekking.

Netbook

OK, I agree, it doesn't sounds like real backpacking, but I bought a netbook Asus EEE R105. Rational:

A soft case helps to protect it against shocks. Note that most of the hard disks have a physical protection mechanism (removing the head from the disk) when powered off, so make sure you never leave it on when moving.

Phone

Make sure it's SIM unlocked and tri-band, and ideally Wi-FI. I've an old Blackberry Curve. Prepaid SIM are very cheap everywhere and allow to book an hostel, check a schedule or keep in touch with people you meet on the way.

Charging

Many devices can be charged via USB. So instead of taking all the transformers, use a universal 100V-220V to USB converter and USB cables. If you plan to rent a car, you can get a car-lighter to USB adapter.

Adapter

Check out what plugs are used where you'll travel and get either small individual adapters, or a large universal one. Overall, you should be OK with the 2 rounds prongs and an adapter that has 2 slightly flexible flat prongs that can be used either as flat or as "triangle".

Money

I've a wallet that has a hidden zippable compartment used to carry the large notes and a couple of emergency US$. Moreover, it's large enough to hold my passport, so I carry it all the time with me. And also have a coin pocket and credit compartment.

I've 2 debit cards and 3 credit cards with me. One set that I've in my wallet all the time and that I use regularly. The others are back-up, hidden in my bags. There's of course a chance that those one get stolen discreetly, so they're well hidden, and I check periodically that they're still here. Not sure that that many are useful, but they're free in Switzerland...

See hints on money.

Guide books°

Except in Philippines, I've been happy so far with Lonely Planet. I much prefer the individual country books vs. the huge continent version, that contain so little information (approx 60-70% less) that it gets useless. I usually have the current country, plus 1-2 next countries in my backpack. As they are easy to find in most of the large cities, I buy the next one as soon as I'm out of a country. A bit heavy, but real useful. Note that it's also possible do buy on-line the PDF version of every chapter if you plan to spend a little time in a country and plan only to visit 1-2 places, but then you need to print it out as you don't want to hang around with your laptop (and reading that kind of document on an iPhone is really painful). See hints on guide books.

A local phrasebook will help to enrich your experience.

A map of the country or continent gives a better view of the distances than the one from the guide book.

Camping

Tent & matMy tent

To be partially "sleeping independent" on Easter Island and Patagonia (as I was there during peak season), I bought a one-person Doite Zolo Especial tent (note that as with many one-layer tents, I have a lot of condensation even with the doors open…), and a roll mat (that was real too hard) that I changed for a inflatable Alpine Aero Mat 3 seasons 183/51/2.5 from Mammut. It would require a full cooking equipment to be fully independent, but this is getting too much weight and space. Most of the camping sites are equipped with cooking gears and fridges.

Note that the main issue with camping, especially wild camping, is security of the belonging as obviously it's pretty easy to get into a tent...

Sleeping bag

A small and light The North Face (Limit -5°C & Extreme -22°C) is perfect. Note that you will not only use it for camping, but also in some guesthouses or buses typically in the Andes where heating is very rare and temperature can go really, really low in a few hours.

The rest

Here's the rest of my gears, that are not high-tech or don't require specific advices:

What's not needed

Some gears I've taken with but dropped, or I see a lot but wouldn't recommend:

Alternatively, if you've not sure that you need some gears, send me a list of them and I'll explain you how to live without.

What else could you take?

A proximity alarm by Secu4

A bluetooth device (credit-card format) that is paired with your cell phone and that you leave in your backpack. When the 2 devices are getting too far from each-other, both start ringing very loud.

GPS tracker

If your Mum is really worried, go for a GPS tracker. It sends your position once-in-a-while, and has emergency button that call rescue team. It might work fine in Europe or US, not sure though how long it will take to receive help in the middle of the jungle. The cool thing is that you can have a web page with a map and your real-time position. Drawback: one more electronic took to carry...

Hammock

A light hammock to relax during sunny days.

Solar charger

A flexible solar panel to recharge a camera battery or iPod during long treks.

Stitching glue

Commonly used nowadays in the medical world, glue has replaced the old needle and thread to stich minor cuts. Apparently, Loctite produce 2 versions of the same glue, one that is medically certified and costs a fortune, and the do-it-yourself version that is exactly the same but costs nothing. To be verified.

Petrol stove and cooking/eating gears

Much better than gas stove (you won't be carrying 3 half-empty canister). Don't need much for cooking and eating: a pot, optionally a cover that can be used as pa and a spoon.

Survival blanket

Small and light, and bring a little more security for a 1 day hike.

Business cards

Why not having a few business cards with email & facebook details, avoid writing down the same data over and over...

Inflatable "U" pillow

Yes, you might spend hours and hours in buses...

GoPro straps

Not convenient to glue a GoPro clip every time you have another helmet, hence a chest or helmet strap would be good.

Comments?

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Credit

© (February 2012) Fabien Fetter

© 2011 Fabien Fetter
Dernière mise à jour : 22.2.16