February 19, 2016

What's in my Backpack?

I moved from a Quechua Forclaz 70L backpack to a a 38L backpack. I got the new backpack in Nepal, which I I did (totally impromptu trip) in late 2014. It is a fake NorthFace-logo'ed backpack that has backsupport as well; bought it for 1000 Nepalese Rupee(i.e, 1600 Indian Rupee or 24USD). There is a gap between the back-support and my spine which prevents the back of the backpack from getting wet due to perspiration. It also has a rain cover that sits folded at the bottom of the pack. The backpack works wonders anywhere from a 10-day to a 45-day trip.

So, What does the new backpack contain in a typical month long trip?

- 5-7 Quick Dry T-Shirts
- 2 Quick Dry Trousers/Pants(1 of them being detachable)
- 2 Quick Dry Shorts(that also double up as swimming trunks)
- 1 Quick Dry Foldable Cap
- 3-4 Underwears
- 1 Thin Towel(indian-style)
- 1 Sunglass
- Arpenaz 15 Ultralight Backpack - used for day trips and walks.
- Phone Charger
- Universal Adaptor
- Small pouch for medicines(tablets for loose-motion/Diarrhea/vomiting/headache/fever, lozenges for soar-throat, band-aid, gauze)
- Pouch containing - Washing soap, Mosquito Repellant cream, Sun-screen cream, 1 shaving razor, tissues, toothbrush, toopaste.
- Pouch containing - mint, chocolates, chewing gum
- Pouch containing - 1 head-phone, 1 rechargeable mechanical torch, few clips
- 1 carabiner+2 locks+keys
- Passport + Photos + 2 Pens + Few copies of passport and identity-proofs.

The total weight of the above is around 7kgs(or less) - perfect for flight cabins. Around 30% of the backpack remains empty with the above packed well - and this space is used to keep fruits and snacks bought locally. The Arpenaz 15 Ultralight Backpack folds to a fist size ball and works well for walks and day-trips when you want to carry the bare minimum. The backpack has 1 main compartment, 2 smaller ones which holds the smaller items. Other than this there are 2 side pockets and small pockets along the waist band.

The Quick Dry apparels have been the best investment, as it has reduced my load by a significant factor. Also, I can wash clothes every few days and wear them fresh. Haven't travelled or trekked in shoes for a long time now; but I think I will invest in a good pair of shoes that are easy to wear and is all-weather. I have stopped carrying camera(no more DSLR or point and shoot) for more than a year now, but carry my mobile. Am thinking of ditching my mobile also in the future. All clothes are packed in plastic covers so that they can withstand heavy rains. I carry a jacket on a need basis. I do not carry a swiss-army knife(though would love to) as it is not allowed in flights. I buy water-bottle locally and refill it whenever and wherever possible; I might change this in the future and move to a flask. I am also thinking of carrying an inflatable pillow henceforth, so that I can sleep anywhere without straining my neck. I am using a big plastic sheet as a poncho for now, but need to buy something more rugged.

I need to buy papersoap, a headlamp ... And a good automatic sports wrist watch that can withstand atleast 18m depth. I suspect a snorkeling gear will soon join forces later this year(unless i learn free-diving!), depending on where the vacation is. Washing the backpack after every sojourn keeps it grease and dirt free and the zippers remain operational. Understanding the different clips and straps in your backpack helps especially when you least expect it. I had discounted a few straps earlier on, but when I realized their use, I could compress my backpack further and reduce it's thickness. One needs to be in a relationship with their backpack(NOTE!!!); so comfortable with its design that you can operate it even when its utter dark.

So .... now I can avoid airport checkin luggage altogether and do not have to throw in my backpack in some corner of the bus or truck; it always stays with me. Am more mobile and agile with this setup and can move into and out from any place in matter of no time. The bag fits into most lockers at the dormitories as well. And a slew of other benefits!!

I do not think the current backpack will last more than a year or two with frequent travels; the next one would be the same class of backpack with similar capacity and size, albeit of a much better quality. Changing backpacks is not easy, especially when you have a name for your backpack!!! I call mine as 'Karma' (no intended puns!).

So, why this post? Well, I realized how much 'stuff' we always carry with us. 'Stuff' that just occupy space and are worthless. By letting go and carrying the most basic 'things', we not only have a lighter backpack but also gain from the other benefits. I do not buy 'stuff' during travels; if at all, I buy anything, it has been postcards and fridge magnets which sit easily inside the backpack, in the corners.

The important thing while choosing what to pack is to remember and understand your priorities first. What works for you, works for you alone. All the other blog posts(like this one) are just sharing their own details and can reveal a lot about the person's travel style.

If the backpack were set on fire, I will not be in a hurry to get anything out.....err..wait..I will run to get my passport out! But only the passport, and that too if I am in a foreign country.

Everything else is a copy of a copy of a copy.

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