Packing for Mobility: Part 1

Arriving by boat on Ko Lipe, Thailand from Langkawi, Malaysia. We would have really struggled with suitcases or bigger bags here! Photo by Steve Collier, 2015.

Arriving by boat on Ko Lipe, Thailand from Langkawi, Malaysia. We would have really struggled with suitcases or bigger bags here! Photo by Steve Collier, 2015.

In these posts, we aim to help you avoid all the unnecessary clutter and hassle that comes with hauling your whole home with you across the world and instead enjoy adventuring with a lighter load meaning you’ll be more mobile and you won’t develop a bad back! Here are some of the tips and equipment which you should find useful…

When we set out on our trip to the far side of the world we knew it was going to be long haul and the seasons in New Zealand are so variable that we needed gear for varying climates. Instead of spending more money on clothes and whatever we needed while we were away it made sense to take as much as we could fit into our bags. We did pick up a few invaluable items however which made our travelling a lot easier and more efficient.

To start with we bought a 65 litre Berghaus backpack (the latest version of which you can pick up here) which turned out to be perfect for what we needed. Low cost, not too big and enough features to help us manage our stuff without being conspicuous. Nic even had the slightly smaller, 60 litre version designed especially for female users.  For our first long term trip away, we did well to avoid the 80 litre nightmares we saw too many other travellers wearing but throughout the trip we constantly tried to shave off as much weight as possible by either sending items home or leaving them behind. These bags were comfortable, durable, affordable and came with inbuilt raincovers. What backpacker needs to spend £200 on a brand new backpack anyway? We also had the benefit of learning about packing cubes which made organising and compressing the contents of our bags infinitely simpler.  We still have both the backpacks an packing cubes all of which are still in great condition and ready for the next adventure.

As we hit Asia, the warmer clothes became obsolete. Even at a lowly 15ºC , as English folk (and temporary Kiwis) used to colder temperatures, shorts were the way to go from now on and thicker hoodies were replaced with thinner designs. As long as you keep your chest and core warm then your legs don’t matter as much in agreeable temperatures. Hiking in jeans isn’t advisable anyway although we kept ours for smart casual nights out etc.

Hearing so many other travellers preach the virtues of minimal packing was always in the back of our minds. Breezing through airport security with no need to check in hold luggage and having all our belongings with us in transit became a dream to aspire to! No more should our shoulders have to bare the weight of a small child in temperatures hot enough to cause heat exhaustion! No more would our bags be hurled on top of a bus before we drove along cratered roads in to dense jungle…

Our packing became super efficient and we really grasped the concept of keeping everything as lightweight and miniature as possible. Having a tube of this excellent travel wash really helped too as a small amount allowed us to keep our dirty laundry to a bare minimum after washing what we needed and drying it over a handy, elastic washing line.  As we started getting in to the habit of washing our clothes by hand in sinks or showers we realised how few clothes we actually needed. Clothes were the items which received the greatest cull over our eight months away and in the end, we even managed to condense packing cubes making unpacking our bags even easier.

Nic with her female focused, Berghaus backpack- rain cover on due to a Singapore drizzle. The weird shape on the left is due to walking poles. Photo by Steve Collier, 2015.

Nic with her female focused, Berghaus backpack- rain cover on due to a Singapore drizzle. The weird shape on the left is due to walking poles. Photo by Steve Collier, 2015.

If it’s your first trip and you’re reading this, you’ll most likely still take far too many clothes. Don’t worry. Everyone (except the truly brave) does it. It’s one of the great, eye opening realisations you encounter on the road, “Oh yeah, I don’t need as much as I thought I did.” If you do need to pick something up for that one night out in a super- trendy club, well guess what, there are shops around the world!

Fast forward to August, 2015 and a short trip to Belfast. Four days and a determination to take carry on only.

Before we left for our long term trip we’d each bought one of these packable daypacks from Life Venture. We used them every day on that trip and the size seemed to be ok for a short adventure across the Irish Sea. It worked. It turns out the 18 litre capacity we each had was more than enough and we even had room on the way back for souvenirs! Amongst other, smaller items we packed enough clothes to wear something different each day, a washbag, spare shoes and jackets. The standard carry on size is around 44 litres so whenever we decide to book another long term trip we’ll definitely be looking at downsizing our current backpacks. The bag itself folds down and converts in to a super- light and compact zip pocket so if you simply wanted it as a daypack it’s perfect. Love it.

On arriving at Luton airport we didn’t have to wait in line to check baggage in to the hold (we’d already checked ourselves in online before arriving) and on arriving in Belfast we walked straight past the baggage carousel to the exit. This saved us a lot of time and if you’re trying to catch a connecting flight or onward transport this could be the difference between boarding or waiting for potentially days for the next flight. We saved money on baggage fees which is incredibly satisfying when taking no frills, budget flights. The other benefit was simply the lack of stress and extra effort involved when arriving at your destination, tired, in need of a shower and not in the mood to haul a huge pack in to a taxi after bargaining with a taxi driver. For security purposes, you’ll never have to let go of your bags with a carry on either and you’ll never have your hold luggage become lost en route. Walking through the streets of Belfast with a regular bag helped us blend in too. If ever you’re in a town where you really don’t want to attract attention as a traveller a carry on bag is vital.

We’re still learning and trying to become even more efficient. The Belfast trip was a real eye opener as to what we needed for a shorter trip. Please try not to be like the people we saw checking in to hostels and struggling to board public transport laden with a backpack, large suitcase, day bag and loads of shoes/hoops/large umbrella/camera bag hanging off various straps! Trust is, this is a worryingly common sight on the road.

On the return journey from Nusa Lembongan to Bali we made sure we used a more reputable company and safer boat! Looks calm this end but on the Bali side, if you make the mistake of being tricked in to the public boat you'll have difficulty! If you want to go there MAKE SURE you go with these guys, Perama Tours! Photo by Steve Collier, 2015.

On the return journey from Nusa Lembongan to Bali we made sure we used a more reputable company and safer boat! Looks calm this end but on the Bali side, if you make the mistake of being tricked in to the public boat you’ll have difficulty! If you want to go there MAKE SURE you go with these guys, Perama Tours! Photo by Steve Collier, 2015.

The picture at the top of the post is from our arrival at the small Island of Ko Lipe off the coast of Thailand. The journey here involved a boat ride across choppy waters (at which point wheely suitcases were sliding across the boat) to then disembark on to a Thai longboat then again wading to shore on to the beach where we collected our passports.  A similar boat ride to the island of Nusa Lembongan off the coast of Bali involved wading in even deeper water (waist high) through heavy breaks with bags raised high above our heads and then attempting to grab hold of a rickety ladder on to a boat which was moving so much in the water it could easily have knocked us out. We’d been lied to and the boat we ended up taking wasn’t the boat we were supposed to, hence the lack of jetty and safety! The above picture is of the boat we took on the way back- the correct one. Much nicer. If we had been carrying any more luggage than what we had with us at the time, this would have been even more of a bloody nightmare! In other words, if these are the sort of journeys you want to make we highly recommend ditching suitcases as an absolute essential then looking to make your pack as light as possible.

Heading to Chiang Mai airport in the back of a Songthaew. Backpacks and day bags ready to go.

Heading to Chiang Mai airport in the back of a Songthaew. Backpacks and day bags ready to go. Photo by Steve Collier, 2015.

At some point we’ll get around to putting up a packing list of everything we take on a trip to give you some idea of how much you need and useful items.

Until then, get in touch via the comments below or via our Facebook page. Do you have any packing tips? Are you struggling with the amount you’re packing or perhaps you have a completely fresh take on packing your bags? Let us know and you may help us out.

Until next time…

Disclaimer: This post contains Amazon affiliate links to items we bought and used ourselves throughout our travels. If you decide to purchase these items via the above links, it could help us travel more. We don’t promote any items we haven’t used ourselves.

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “Packing for Mobility: Part 1

    • Brilliant! If you have any questions about NZ don’t hesitate to ask btw. We lived there for a while, travelled pretty much all of it and can’t wait to get back. I should say our packing has adapted again. We’re currently starting to use new backpacks. We have a Tortuga and an Osprey Farpoint which means we’re now carry on only. Recommended for sure. 🙂 We’ll do a comparison post soon.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s