FIRST . . .
Think about your absolute basic needs to make you comfortable.
During a summer at Oxford in England, an elegantly dressed classmate travelled impressively minimally. Her method was layering . . . cashmere sweaters. She had about four of them with her, along with a rain jacket, Levis, dress slacks, couple of T-shirts, water-proof boots and well-made sandals. If I saw her packing, I would have thought her, uh, impractical. However, it worked so well, that we’ve adopted some of her ideas and that now pretty much how we now travel. Additions include a Mandarin silk jacket for evenings; it packs flat. Oh, and a bathing suit.
We learned from the classmate and while we travel exceptionally light, there are a few things necessary for comfort and for safety. Being flexible also opens up last-minute opportunities because you will not be carting lots of unneeded stuff around. The historic Singel Hotel in Amsterdam has a store room for those who decide to hop trains for a few days or weeks without having to lug around their stuff.
Compass, food and water containers, storm shelter such as the Kelty Salida 2 Person Tent (winner of Backpacker Magazine Editor’s Choice Awards), Kelty’s Grand Mesa (a free-standing design) or Acadia, REI’s Half-Dome 2-person tent, or The North Face Talus 4 Tent. All important, especially if you are hiking into any region new to you or if it’s an area known for its dramatic climate changes, i.e. anywhere in England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Oregon or Washington in the U.S. . . .
BASE LAYERS: Jackets
Always have a waterproof jacket with you. Our outer layers are lightweight and waterproof; everything else can be layered. I’m still wandering around with a 30-year-old Banana Republic jacket (made by the Ziegler’s, the original owners). The jacket is light weight, has sufficient pockets, IS waterproof, and folds inside itself so it can be used as a travel bag. Closest to it is Columbia’s Men’s HydroTech Packable Rain Jacket, which looks good and has it’s own stuff sack. Other possibilities: Outdoor Research Men’s Horizon Jacket, Columbia Sportswear Men’s Evapouration Jacket,
BACKPACKS, DAY PACKS
There are enough versions to pretty much get a one-size that works for everything.
Well worth checking out: Black Diamond Anthem Backpack which weighs about 2.5 pounds.
Suggestion: If you have friends who offer to loan you their 30-year-old favorite backpack, politely decline. Newer designs are lighter and mold better on your upper body, which makes wandering around much easier.
BOOTS, SHOES, HIKING SANDALS
The Right Shoes.
Think about where you are going, your plans, and expected the unexpected: You might come across a mountain you want to climb.
Buy new gear, especially foot wear, 30-60 days before you leave home, spend lots of time wandering on terrain similar to where you will be going if possible. Our favorites include Hi-Tec Men’s Altitude IV Hiking Boot, Teva, and just about anything by Merrill.
Be sure any shoes, boots or sandals are REALLY comfortable and fit well. If you don’t have a favorite for casual walking around try Teva with selections to cover just about any terrain. They are among the world’s leading sport-lifestyle companies. Something like the Teva Women’s Zirra Sandal will take you just about anywhere in the world. Be sure they are REALLY comfortable and fit well.
To make your trip enjoyable, unless you are going on a cruise ship where you do not have to pack/unpack/pack, or unless you have your own personal sherpa, travel light.
We spent two months on the road starting in Tahiti and ending in Japan (with Roratonga, New Zealand, Australia and Thailand in between) with this type of set up and did not feel inconvenienced at all.
If you are on a long trip, do what Europeans do: Ship home any items you no longer need or that you purchased enroute and don’t want to carry around.
If you travel where the dollar is still strong, consider purchasing needed items as you travel and follow the examples of European travellers: Ship it home. Don’t lug around things you don’t need.
If it doesn’t wheel, don’t travel with it. Wheeling your stuff around is MUCH easier on you, your friends and family. Make sure it can be picked up if need be, but roll it the rest of the time.
Nested or stack-on luggage with wheels is particularly practical if you’re wandering through countries by hopping trains and using local transportation to get around.
If you are using various modes of transportation Eagle Creek Luggage Load Warrior Wheeled Duffel 22 is particularly useful. Airplane aisles are getting narrower by the year, they are the width of food/beverage carts, which is narrower than lots of carry-on bags, i.e. less than 17 inches. I just returned from a trip where in order to fit down the aisle, two little side pockets had to be emptied. Luggage smaller than L14″ x W9″ x H22″ is typically referred to as a carry-on bag and will meet most domestic airlines’ carry-on size standards, but know that “puddle jumper” flights anywhere in the world might be on smaller aircraft; USAir between Arizona and Texas is so small that some carry-on won’t make it.
We were a 14-passenger flight from Ochos Rios to Kingston, Jamaica some years ago. That plane did everything but roll.
Be sure to measure and count your camera bag and/or laptop bag and/or purse/briefcase as separate carry-on items. Airplanes are getting stricter.