Gear Review

Trip Start Oct 30, 2012
Trip End May 30, 2013

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Flag of United Kingdom  , Scotland,
Monday, May 6, 2013

Before we left, I wrote an entry about what was in our bags. Most people are amazed that we've
been travelling with only 35-40 litre packs. I say it's the only way to go.  Next time we will be even lighter as we had too much with us.  Here's what we learned and would change. 

The Negatives...

MOSQUITO NETS! This was our number one mistake! These are completely NOT necessary in SE Asia. Maybe if you're going to Africa, but not here. Or perhaps if you were going out in the forest with no shelter at all you might want them. Even when we were deep in virgin rain forest in Borneo we didn't need them. Buildings are either soundly built, or they provide nets (maybe a few small holes but adequate) and fans. These were not heavy to travel with, but did take up some space in the bags.

Repellent: we brought 2 bottles of 50% deet and 1 bottle of 100% and this was far too much. During the entire 6 months we didn't even go through one bottle between the 2 of us.  Bugs were not as bad as we thought.  Anyone stating otherwise needs to come to Algonquin Park with us in June.

Snorkels/Masks: these again are very bulky items for very limited use. Definitely not worth the money savings. When we went diving, you still rent a lot of equipment, so taking off one mask makes little difference in price. So for Brian, we would ax the snorkel and mask, but I would still take a mask as mine is prescription. 

Games: foolishly I packed away a couple word games, a mini deck of cards, yoyo, and never touched them again. Thankfully they didn't take up much space.

Cords: were the bain of Brian's existence. We could not believe the volume of cords, chargers and adapters we had even after cutting back a few. But having 2 cameras, 2 computers, a kindle, and mobile there is a lot! I guess there's one good thing about having an i-product. It can be your camera, video, computer and phone all in one!

Rain Jacket: on a last minute thought I crammed in my rain jacket (mostly to take up space). I have used it in New Zealand, but no where else on this trip. Brian did not bring his and he did miss it in New Zealand, but am still not sure if it would be worth carrying for the whole trip. It may have rained in SE Asia, but is far too hot to wear a real jacket.  Instead, we just bought a cheap poncho on the road and still didn't use them until New Zealand!  Brian bought a jacket at the op shop, used it for 6 weeks and then took it back before we flew out!

Swiss Army Knife: This is a great little contraption which always comes in handy (especially the knife, scissors and wine opener). However, there have been a few times that Brian wished for something more (fixing locks on bungalows). Therefore, next time we will be packing a Leatherman and will leave the SAK at home.

Repairs: in some last minute thoughts we crammed in a small roll of duck tape and some cinch straps. We must have still been using our cycle touring minds, as these were completely unnecessary and we didn't touch them once.

So, if we emptied out the mosquito nets, snorkel mask, snorkel, repellent, games, the cords and my rain jacket, each of our bags would only be half full. What is it that people are carrying?

The positives...

Canteens: These filter water bottles have been wonderful.  Not only did they save us buying water and contributing to the plastic crisis, we also didn't get sick! We loved watching people's
faces when we'd fill our bottles out of taps in scummy toilets in the middle of Cambodia :)

Headlamps: This was another last minute buy that has come in so handy. Whether it be loss of electricity in Laos, caving in Malaysia, night walks in Borneo, camping in Australia, or reading
under the covers we got lots of use out of these!

Brian's Do-dad (Nexus touch screen): Brian thought it would be a good thing to have  something other than the netbook for this trip (ACER, still going after our first trip). It is  something extra to carry, but it has been very useful. It has map software that's saved us on the streets of Kuala Lumpur as well as top-maps of Fiordland National Park. He could also download books from my Kindle, play games, surf and watch movies. But most importantly, we could both check email without fighting over one device!

Collapsible Bag: we had a small little carry bag/backpack thing that folds into almost nothing. Used so much! From shopping items to laundry to carrying snacks, etc. Must have!

Battery Run Razor: This was great for Brian to maintain his dapper appearance. On our last trip, we had no such thing and he had to constantly go from this, to this.

Moon Cup: I'm getting a little personal now so you can avert your eyes. A Mooncup is a great little thing which I will continue using after we finishing travelling. Not only does it take up almost no space, you're also not contributing to waste problems, spending money and trying to find adequate supplies while on the road.

Camera Battery: We bought a spare battery for my camera and it's saved me several times. Just a cheapy that doesn't hold nearly as much charge as the Nikon, but it's enough!

Bandana: don't take up much room and are fabulous for mopping up sweat in the jungle and keeping your hair out of your eyes. I lost mine and had to buy another.

Sleeping Bag Liners: Small and light we used them frequently in Asia. Sometimes because we were just a little bit cool and others because we didn't want to touch the surface we were sleeping on.  Treated with Permetherine we didn't have to worry about bedbugs either.

Kindle: fabulous! I like it more the longer I have it. Not only does it hold lots and lots of reading material, but I can also handle those bulky travel guides. We bought a nice leather case with a built in light...ace!

Keens: are still great! I have occasionally wished for hiking boots while in New Zealand, but it's the only place so far. I think this is more due to the fact that my shoes are very old.  They have now done 2 world trips and have lost almost all tread on the bottoms and the leather is getting very thin in places (Brian's new ones are fine). I am still pleased that they've lasted as long as they have and think I'll get them bronzed if and when I retire them.

On the road...

We did add a few things to our 'kit' along the way...

Flash Light: Brian got into wildlife spotting when we were in Malaysia. At night the rainforest is just full of creatures, many of which we couldn't illuminate with our headlamps. He found a super bright one which is really tiny. Only drawback was that it has a charger, which means more things in the cord bag...

Speaker: we also picked up a small little cube speaker. We had our earbuds, but this made watching movies together much more enjoyable. There were also a few times we just put on the tunes and enjoyed a glass of wine (but yes, it is something ELSE that needs a cord).

Clothing: My clothing needs did change along the way. I had packed a couple long skits and a long scarf for being in Asia, but have almost never pulled them out since.  Sometimes I hate knowing I'm carrying them around. The opposite was true for sweaters and trousers.  It was mostly too warm in Asia, but we needed them in OZ and NZ. Since we arrived in New Zealand's  Autumn, we simply went to a 2nd hand Shop and picked up what we needed. We did find out that wearing the same clothing for 5 months does create some wear and tear.

Camping gear: In Australia and New Zealand we wanted to do some camping to get out into nature and also to save a few dollars on expensive hostels!  However, we weren't willing to bring our own and carry them for 4 months first.  Instead, we bought a cheapy tent at Aussie Disposals for $30 OZ and it has done soooo well! It wasn't supposed to be waterproof, but has prooven itself again and again, even in heavy rains. It's small and easy to set up too. In addition, we bought a small stove for cooking which has worked great throughout the last few months. Cups, bowls and a single 'billy' pot for cooking and we were ready! Sleeping bags and sleeping pads we managed to beg borrow and steal from people along the way and got by quite well. All these items will be gifted to other travellers before we leave New Zealand.

Souveniers: Firstly, we didn't buy very much, and what we did buy we occasionally sent home in parcels. Can't wait to get back and open them all up! It will be like Christmas with travel memories!  Looking forward to seeing some fabric from Malaysia, seeds from Thailand, various cook books and spices, and many other little things I can't even remember about!  I guess the spinning wheel is our one exception!

* * * * *

Now that we've done a trip with small bags we are converted.  Other than the few negatives, we've learned from, we will never again travel with bulky bags.  To lift a mere 8-10kg onto your back for the day is almost a pleasure.  We were never bogged down with having to find a place to stay or needing to go straight to the transportation station, we could enjoy things along the way and had our hands free.  No awkward situations where bags couldn't fit inside taxis or tuk-tuks - many times our bags were on our laps during bus rides!  Even better, without the swiss army knife, our bags could go as carry-on and there's no time wasted waiting for luggage after arrival at the airport.  Customs and declaration officers don't even look at you and scammers aren't very interested either.  Less in the bags means quicker packing up times and less to get lost.  I cannot go on enough about how much we've enjoyed backpacking with small bags!

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