The Return of The Packing List

Before I left home, I blithely put together a list of all the things I intended to pack. And then not quite as blithely read the very useful and wise feedback I got on Facebook from Bulungula Dave:

“Having the good fortune to have spent 7 of the last 14 years travelling round the world, I must say that I totally disagree with your packing list. I think it’s going to add massively to your stress levels lugging all that heavy stuff around on hot days searching for hotels, etc. I think the ideal situation that took me a couple of years to master is to have one backpack that can fit your day bag inside as well so that when walking the streets all hands are free to deal with whatever comes your way. You should aim to have a total weight of EVERYTHING being less than 10kg. You want to be able to just hop on the bus and slide your backpack into the inside roof compartments. The main things I would remove from your list is all the clothing. It is madness to try to pack for all climates. Pack for the first few countries and then buy and discard clothes along the way. 1 camera is enough. Are you planning on working on this trip? Otherwise ditch the laptop. You don’t need a laptop for blog posts – use an internet cafe, and carry a memory stick with your preferred software to load onto the internet cafe PC. If you really want to sit privately and write blog, use a smart phone or a mini-tablet… trust me, the downside of that is far outweighed by the downside of a R15000 piece of technology you’ll have to guard carefully for every day of your trip. You will never travel with a light heart if you have such valuables on you. Could you truly go swim in the sea while sleeping in a banana leaf beach shack knowing that your Macbook is lying there unprotected? I believe the beauty of travel (vs short holidays) is the freedom feeling that comes after a few months on the road. All you truly need is your money bag (for passport, money and cards) plus a camera. EVERYTHING else can be bought while travelling. I know you’ll ignore this advice, but perhaps will remember on a hot humid day in a steamy city lugging all your stuff around and wishing you could be strolling free with the bare necessities… OK, end of lecture. Happy travels!”

Of course, like the idiot I am, I ignored some of Dave’s advice. I did take my laptop and both cameras (which I haven’t had cause to regret – yet). I also took my climbing gear, which I do regret. After spending a month in Bariloche, Argentina’s capital of rock climbing, without going climbing once, my climbing shoes, harness and chalk bag will soon be sent home in disgrace.

However, after reading Dave’s comments (there were several more), I did remove quite a bit of stuff, cutting down my luggage from three bags to two, and eventually weighing in at just over the recommended 10kg mark. And, so far, I’ve been quite capable of carrying everything in a reasonably jaunty manner from bus station to backpackers and back again. (Thanks Dave!)

After almost two months of travel, and some very varied climates (sweltering in Santiago and freezing on a ferry through the fjords), here is what I now consider worth lugging around:

In the 40 Litre (useless, broke after first flight and had to be sewn up) K-Way Ultralite backpack

  • 5 cheap, very thin Pick ‘n Pay t-shirts (Same shirt, different colour)
  • 1 collared Cape Storm hiking shirt
  • 1 semi-smart cotton blouse (Can be hiked in too, though)
  • 1 leopard print top from Mr Price (Intended to be sexy. Not suitable for hiking)
  • 1 tank top (Ditto)
  • 2 Cape Storm puffadder fleeces
  • 1 long-sleeve shirt
  • 1 Cape Storm Furnace thermal vest (Doesn’t look like underwear. I hope.)
  • 1 windproof, waterproof (supposedly) jacket
  • 1 pair jeans
  • 1 pair jeggings
  • 1 pair Cape Storm convertible trouser-short dork things
  • 1 pair very short shorts (Got lots of whistles in Santiago wearing these today)
  • 1 pair leggings (Pyjama pants)
  • 5 pairs undies, 5 pairs of socks, 3 bras (Guys, you don’t need the latter)
  • Two cotton scarf/sarong things (Massively useful)
  • 1 porno orange Buff with sheep design
  • 1 bikini
  • 1 pair walking shoes
  • 1 pair flip flops
  • 3 peak caps (Don’t ask. I have a hat problem)
  • 1 beanie with ear flaps
  • 1 pair cheap fluffy gloves
  • 1 sleeping bag liner
  • 1 small cotton bath towel
  • 1 cotton laundry bag
  • 1 20 litre dry sack (Useless K-Way backpack doesn’t have a rain cover)
  • A year’s supply of prescription medicine, plus iboprofen, probiotics and seasick pills (bought for the ferry)
  • Toiletry bag
  • Lucky frog (He’s done an excellent job so far)

All clothes are darks/brights, not whites, and can thus all be washed in one laundry load. VNB!

In the 15 litre (decent, comfortable and properly made) Deuter daypack:

  • Macbook Air
  • Canon G1X (For serious photographic moments)
  • Canon S100 (For being a tourist and shooting flowers)
  • Small Gorilla pod (Tripod)
  • Kindle Touch
  • iPhone (SMS roaming only. I use WiFi otherwise)
  • Assorted chargers, spare batteries, flash drives etc.
  • Moneybelt with passports, vaccination cards etc
  • Swiss army knife (Useful mainly for plucking eyebrows and opening wine bottles)
  • Antique iPod shuffle
  • Extra pair headphones
  • 2 Eye masks (MUST have a back up – this is essential equipment! Much more so than a credit card, of which I only have 1, and which I managed to lose for the third, and final time yesterday.)
  • Ear plugs
  • Needle and some thread (Handy for sewing up crappy K-Way backpacks)
  • Business cards (Because I’m a professional bum, after all)
  • Plastic Swatch with smiley cloud design (I don’t normally wear a watch, but have learned that you cannot travel without one.)
  • Sunglasses

Toiletries are pretty simple:

  • Face scrub/cleanser stuff
  • Moisturiser
  • Sunblock
  • Floss
  • Mouthwash
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrush
  • Razor
  • Deodorant
  • Wet wipes
  • Small bottle of shampoo (doubles as shower gel)
  • Teeny tiny hairbrush
  • Self tan (not strictly necessary, but it’s my South American disguise)
  • Some make up
  • Not enough hairbands

I have no jewelry, no dresses and no smart shoes. This is going to pose an interesting problem over the festive season, when one is supposed to look semi-decent. Sigh. I like being scruffy!

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