An X-ray of my bags – part 1

My beloved reader ,

Today I have decided to tackle a reoccuring travel dilemna : what to pack ? Whether you are preparing a long journey, or just procrastinating online, I hope you will have fun and get some good advice while reading this article.
There are plenty of different ways to travel . One does not pack his/her bag the same way for a week in Barcelona, two months in Bali, or a bicycle trip across Africa (yes, some people do that. Quite a few actually) .

As I have been wandering for a little over two years now, I have had the opportunity to experience a bit of everything : traveling alone , with friends, in big cities as well as in the countryside, spending nights in hotels or camping , and in all kinds of climates. Let’s zoom in the -ever changing- content of my backpack. In this first part : clothing.

GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS :

It is a fact that one needs to pack less stuff for three months on the road than for two weeks :  if you are on a long journey, you do your laundry on a regular basis. A few days worth of clothing is enough. With a little ingenuity you can always find a way to wash a thing or two in a corner sink . The two factors that will affect the amount of clothes you pack are :

  1. the type of climate,
  2. How many different climates you will encounter.

In hot countries, everything dries quickly overnight , so you can do your laundry daily . In cooler or humid climates , it may take two days to dry the laundry. packing a little more spare clothing makes life easier. Furthermore, it goes without saying that some destinations need specific clothing. Going from Cancun to Alaska through the Amazon rainforest in less than 6 months requires packing clothing to fit several climatic conditions.

Conclusion : prepare the journey, research climates for each region and know what to expect when you get there .

I’ll get back to it in another article , but I would also like to briefly mention the issue of spending. I hope to demonstrate that we can prepare a great backpack with a small budget.  For each garment, I indicated both a quality/brand new/expensive option, and a satisfying dirt cheap alternative. There is always a way to go with a limited budget. Just keep a cool head during preparation, and keep an eye out for good opportunities .

If you do not already have what you need in your closet , here’s a quick checklist before buying anything .

how to pack chart

 

So what to put in a backpack ?

- A RAIN (and wind !) JACKET -

parka leg I seem to have a recurring tendency to find myself in the middle of the desert the only day of the year when it rains cats and dogs. Add to this my strong dislike for cool drafts, and you know why my jacket and I are BFFs. Its strengths:

  • weighs less than a pound,
  • decently waterproof and windproof,
  • plenty of pockets everywhere.
  • Bonus: a good enough look in town.

To find this type of gem, there are two options:

- A big brand jacket (North Face or Patagonia kind ) with a Gore-tex layer ; comfortable , fluid, light , not bulky … It is a great pick… worth 200-500 $. Yep, that’s quite the budget ! Lucky us there are other options out there.

It is sometimes hard to get a Ferrari for the price of a Lada, so maybe drop the Gore Tex. If you’re not a hard-core hiker you can deal with it.

- If you are are lucky enough to have the french store Decathlon in your city (they are in 18 counyties), I strongly recommend you go pay them a visit. Is it basically a warehouse full of sports and techy items for a cheap price. There you can get a suitable rain jacket for 50€. The quality is not outstanding, but definitely good enough for a few years of occasionnal use. I love my jacket and I have never been happier to save myself 300$ !

- If you live in North America, the obvious option would be REI (in the US) and MEC (in Canada). You can check out used sports stores or local brands as well.

MAGIC TIP ; keep an eye on websites like Craigslist, Gumtree, leboncoin etc… They are a goldmine of good deals !

NOTE: If during a long journey you plan to do one or two serious treks ( type Macchu Pichu or Himalayas), research how to rent the necessary equipment at the foot of the mountain. This may prevent you from investing in expensive hardware and … to carry it the rest of the trip.

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- A PUFFY JACKET  -

doudoune legerI’m not going to lie, the puffy doughnut look has never been my favorite. But when it comes to travel, you’ve just found your dream item!

The down jacket offers the best weight / insulation possible, it can be taken with or without sleeves and hood . Not essential depending on the climate , but a useful complement to the wind breaker in cold temperatures. It is always better to separate the layers  and stack them as needed .

- The price range for a big brand/super good quality down jacket goes around 200$ to 300$ . Once again not the cheapest.
What to look for on the label : The density of down. Do not take acrylic padding that does not insulate much.

-Money saving tip : Uniqlo has released a big line of jackets with super good density down to a third of the price. Here I am happily dressed in golden top for the rest of the trip! ( and FYI, I am delighted with it)

TIP: stolen from my fellow travelers Max & Leo : saw a fine and soft fabric into a half size pillowcase, and stuff it with your puffy jacket every night for a comfortable and restful sleep. proven delightful in long bus or train rides.

KSU_9177

My awesome condom-shaped puffy jacket

 

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- AN EVERYDAY MIDLAYER -

sweater legerWhichever you like the most. You will wear this one almost every day . With or without hoods, urban or hippie , to each his own . Reader, if you have a favorite, this is the one! Otherwise, to help you in this choice that can be agonizing : here are my favorites from 2011 to 2013 .

After 24 months, I ‘m on my third sweater : the first was black , very old (but so dearly loved !) It ended up looking like a jellyfish, I left it in New York. The second was beige, very good ( a little thin ?) After a year I finally got bored , and switched to a wonderful sweater found in an alley in Vancouver’s Day bulky . The latest : I invested in a bright pink ice -breaker merino. We have been together for six months already and i still love him like the first day.

All these midlayers have in common to :

  • be good quality products,
  • be warm but not too warm. On a mild evening it is nice to put on a fleece to prevent the mosquito attack.
  • have a small hidden pocket to slide a credit card.
  • be comfortable.
  • have a hood , to roll in its cocoon when I take the bus … and not get lice from the person before (irrational phobia, i know)

Approximate Budget: € 60-110 each. If it seems a little expensive, try free stuff day on the streets, flea markets, or the salvation army and look for quality stuff.

. . . . . . . .

- The PANTS -

pantalons legerDear reader, if you intend to travel a lot in town, pack a pair of jeans . It is practical, comfortable, and it is always better to look like a expat’ than a tourist.

Otherwise, it is a big no no ! Jeans are heavy to carry and they take forever to dry. And it feels gross to wear them wet in the morning.

I have an unconditional love for the good old cargo pants . Unfortunately (or fortunately ?) They are kind of outdated. Forget Zara and H&M and head straight to the thrift stores . With a little persistence I found my happiness in a second-hand shop in Paris. € 10 for a pair worn for 10 months, unbeatable. How I love them : cotton with cargo pockets large enough to slide a small camera or a bunch of shells. Bonus points if it has a system to roll up the legs.

If you anticipate and get it on sale, you can find a good North face, Patagonia or similar brand for around 60$. I wore mine for over a year before it flew away in a storm in the Australian Outback . Otherwise I think it would have lasted the entire the trip . A quick visit to the Salvation Army , and here I am reconnecting with my first love , great cargo pants for $ 3.

It is also nice to have a second pair that looks a bit more proper, for cities or when you want to go out, but still lightweight and fast drying . Fluid cotton or linen pants do the job. If you feel a little hippie soul , dear reader, you can find light, colourful wide pants on all the hot beaches of the world. and good news they are pretty cheap too !

. . . . . . . .

- COWBOY’S UNDERWEAR -

leggings legeraka, multi-purpose leggings.

It can be worn as a base layer under summer pants or as pajamas, as well as under a dress ( when you want to hide these legs ) or shorts when you arrive at camp after a day of hiking.

They cost max 10$, i usually get rid of it when i get to hot places.

If most of the journey takes place in a rather cold zone , like Nepal in winter, there are more expensive leggings or merino fleece that can keep you warm. See Helly Hansen or Ice Breaker.

. . . . . . . .

-  SHORTS for a sexy Lara Croft style -

shorts legerOne or two, it’s up to you ! Are you going to the beach or the mountains? Are you going to use it as pajamas ? for running ?

I let you judge , dear reader. In terms of ranges , refer to the pants section .

 

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- For girls (and boys who play the bagpipes) , A dress or skirt -

You can start searching now . If you’re anal like me, here is your ideal dress :

It is super convenient when traveling.
It is most comfortable to sleep in.
It fits you beautifully to go dancing .
It is light to wear on the beach.
It is classy for receptions at the Ambassy (or meeting BF’s grandparents).
It is wrinkle-resistant for all the above reasons .
It can survive unwanted hot cycle dryer ( the guilty will recognize ) .
It dries faster than lightning.

Good luck!

. . . . . . . .

- A TANK TOP -

debardeur legerMine? Ultra light, fluid fabric and unwrinkable (unlike me after 2 years in the sun). Dries in 3min30 , It is so good we’ve been passing it on in the family for 15 years … looks brand new of course .

For the boys out there who are tempted to pack a wife beater : please don’t, or this is how people will perceive you .

credit www.get-foxy.com

credit www.get-foxy.com

A guy dressed like that attracts scams like a Bieber attracts shitty tattoos.

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- SHORT SLEEVE TSHIRTS -

tshirt mqnches courtes leger

my favorites feel smooth and light and still look OK cute. Soon we are headed to not-so-women-friendly countries. So it will be nice if they are not too transparent as well . Absolutely no need to spend money on it :  you will wreck them before the naturally die anyway, so 15$ each is way enough !

Otherwise there is also technical item, breathable and light blahblah. Great if you travel on foot : you can get the kind that does not have stitches on the shoulders, it makes a solid difference after 4 or 5 hours of walking.

 

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- A LONG SLEEVE TSHIRT -

tshirt manches longues leger

The ideal : a basic from Zara or H & M. Technical version is an Icebreaker merino wool . Lightweight, comfortable, great quality , and dries fairly quickly. Personally I opt instead for a basic long sleeve Etam or H & M or equivalent found in thrift . They last me an average of 8 months and they are more glamorous. Budget: 3 € to 29 € for a cheap, between 69 € and 100 € for merino .

 

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- One or two SHIRT LONG SLEEVE To look like Indiana Jones -

chemise manches longues leger

ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL if you plan to go across tropical climates. Apart from beeing an necessary component of the fight against mosquitoes, it looks classy, and it protects from the sun . Some places are just no fit for tank tops, no matter how sunny it is. The first time I went to western Africa, I got a ridiculous 3cm ² sunburn on top of my feet. Between ballerinas and pants, it was the only exposed area (and i’m far from being blond) . No shirt and I would have looked like a nice loabster.

 

.    .   .  . .  .   .    .

- Super sexy UNDERWEAR – .

Just a few tips : avoid fancy stuff that will get wrecked anyway, and make sure they do not show through your shirt, especially in conservative countries .

5 panties (or thongs , eh, I’m not fascist ) in a fabric that does not keep you warm and dries quickly. There was consensus on all cotton, I prefer with a mix of lycra .
3 pairs of socks; If you plan to walk a lot , the ideal socks are double layered to prevent nasty blisters.
if you don’t like to get cold, one warm fuzzy pair can make you very happy in Siberia-like buses or airplanes.
Well, of course, a beautiful swimsuit!

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- SHOES -

The choice of shoes is a highly personal matter. I can only speak of my own favorites.

To start with the obvious : a pair of flip flops. Even without going to the beach, it is used as indoor shoes . I always favor plastic to take my shower when hygiene is poor (yes, gross hostels, i’m talking to you) .
Then , well, of course, a pair of walking shoes.I always get merells, mainly because they fit me. There are plenty of other good brands out there, I renewed Canada. Super quality, comfort await you , I can not recommend this brand enough. Useful information : walking on flat surface (like tar on sidwalks) usesthe sole faster. Hence the point of the following:
It ay sound crazy, but there are plenty of good reasons to carry around a pair of joker shoes. it can be a pair of ballerinas , small Adidas and Puma work as well. . In Morocco I got leather sandals custom made with a good rubber sole underneath. They were super comfortable, and with that I could snoop in the medinas . At the moment I wear small Crocs sandals . Primarily for their undeniable aesthetic quality, but especially because I can walk for hours with it .

.    .   .  . .  .   .    .

I feel like a generous mood , I made a simple summary by climate. I even offer you the opportunity to practice your perfect french !

recapitulatif

 

Next post , backpack and camping gear .

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