Monday, March 22, 2010

The Things We Carry

Now that we've been on this trip for 220 days, we are doing a backpack cleanse.  I wish this meant that we were actually washing the packs, because that is one thing I have dreams about!  Every time we put them into the cargo hold of some South East Asian local bus, I cringe!  I remember the time we weren't allowed to put them in one, not knowing why, only to stop at a cattle/goat farm next and put twenty or so goats down there instead!  I also think about the overnight bus that left Asa eaten alive by bed bugs the next morning and cringe to think we might have stow away critters in our packs.  But, I'm not talking about that kind of cleanse...I'm talking about the kind of cleanse where we take everything out of our packs and decide once again if we really need to carry it from place to place.

We have a few categories of things that we've been carrying. There are the things we use often. This includes our summer weather clothing. Or at least much of it, since there are a couple of shirts that I don't really like to wear now that they fit pretty strangely in the arms/shoulders.  We wear our sandals almost every day and Asa is better about wearing his trail runners than I am (I like to just hang mine from a loop on the back of my pack). We've used our sleeping bag liners quite a lot too. They are perfect for overnight buses, guest houses without blankets, and places with suspect levels of "clean."  Also included in this list is the current guide book for the country or region we are in, the camera, the netbook, the iPod, the Kindle, and the chargers and cords for most of these things.

There are the things we know we will need again, but wish we could magically store them somewhere else for now.  This is where all of my socks would go.  I don't wear them and can't remember the last time I wore the right shoes for them.  Our sleeping bags have gone unused since New Zealand but we know we'll need them again in Europe, so they take up lots of space in our backpacks.  Our colder weather clothes are sitting right next to our sleeping bags too; except for the few days we wore them in North Vietnam, we hadn't worn them since Christchurch, NZ.  Our gloves and hats also have been taking up space for that day when we might wear them in Europe. We are also carrying around a woven beach mat that came in handy in Malaysia but we haven't used since.  I'm hoping for some beach time soon!

There are the things that we haven't used much, but I'm glad we have them, just in case.  There's the water purifier, which we used in Malaysia until Asa got sick (we don't know why he got sick, but aren't taking chances any more). Along with the water purifier and our SPOT goes 12 AA batteries, because the battery life is pretty low for the purifier and we still hadn't changed the original set in the SPOT.  But, we never used the purifier enough to run out of even one set. And the SPOT is still kicking it with the set it came with.  We have 13 AAA batteries, for our headlamps and after complaining about the low light in my headlamp since we went caving in NZ, Asa just changed them for me.  I also carry a sewing kit, which I've used a few times (and should use it on those shirts that are fitting weirdly). I carry my crochet stuff, but finding wool/yarn and space for my projects isn't a priority with my super full pack. I also carry a special card/poster that our friends Greg, Laura, Sara Anne, and Brendan made us as our going away card.  Its a print out of a globe adorned with photos of our summer trip and how to ask for the bathroom in many languages. I love it! Its getting flimsy now from being in my purse, and I don't look at it every day, but I'm glad that I do have it!

Then there are the things that we packed determined to use them, but haven't.  Our rain pants are the biggest example of this.  We knew, knew without a doubt, that after hiking so much all summer we would hike in whatever weather presented itself in New Zealand. But, when it came time to tramp in the "weather" we just didn't want it to be wet weather. Also in this category are the vitamins we drove all the way across the country, poured into a ziplock, and carried every day in a backpack since. Asa took about two of them. They are now discolored and smell worse than any vitamin I've ever smelled (Asa just threw them away).  There's the nasal spray that the pharmacist in New Zealand recommended. It made Asa sneeze worse than the allergy it was supposed to treat. But we've still got it, because it was expensive (also just tossed)! There is my knee brace. My knee was killing me whenever I hiked down hill, even slightly back in the summer and fall. But after a month of resting it in October and the beginning of November, I haven't even thought of it (not even when we climbed up and down Mt. Kozi in Australia). Our travel coffee mugs have fallen from daily use since we got to South East Asia and they are big and bulky and clang around. I worry that they will fall from the pack, yet we still carry them. We also carry around a few tea bags. They are very old now, but we didn't want to waste them and we might like some hot tea someday, won't we? I've also carried those two picture communication books that I made thinking they would help with any language barriers. They haven't proved too useful, as they food pictures don't really match up to what is on offer here.

We have used up or broken a few things in our 220 days.  I've worn through my only pair of jeans and had to replace them. I've also had to replace two bras since the ones I brought totally ripped apart.  Asa had to go out today to try and find a guy who could repair his sandal, though he came back without the repair done because the shoe shiner wanted to screw it back together and that would injure his foot badly.  The worst loss of the trip was when I got out of the camper van in Australia and ripped the iPod radio transmitter from the dash because it got caught in my shoe.  It was a weird freak accident, but it made our long Aussie road trip and the following three Kiwi road trips less musical! Asa's rain hat has seen better days. Our playing cards are sticky and difficult to use these days as well (we actually bought a replacement set tonight).

So, we've taken everything out of the packs. Its a wonder that everything fit in them in the first place! Here's a photo of the contents of Asa's pack:
We hope to be able to send this stuff home (sorry Dad!) tomorrow from Singapore. Sending packages from Vietnam isn't advised and we have a pretty long lay over in Singapore anyway.  We are sending home the two smallest pack towels since we usually just share the biggest one, as well as the water purifier with its filter topper and a few of the batteries for it.  We will no longer need the South East Asia Rough Guide or the Vietnam Lonely Planet. We'll send back the Cu Chi Tunnel book, since it's out of print now in the States. The rain pants are going home; who are we trying to kid? An extra hat that I made for Asa at Christmas time is shipping out. We're sending back a few of cords and adapters that we don't use anymore (like the camera cord that we never use since the netbook has a card reader and my iPod headphones since we only have one jack in the iPod and Asa's are better). My knee brace is going back. We are also shipping one of the picture communication books. Asa's rain hat isn't coming with us; the brim is broken and a wire sticks out of it.  My old sunglasses are scratched up, and I scored those new ones the other day during our adventures in Saigon.

We'll see how the packing and moving around goes now!

Update: We shipped a box of stuff from Singapore Airport today, weighing a little over 6 kg (13.25 lbs) and costing $88 SD ($63 USD) to send, which although a lot of money is totally worth it. Our bags feel so light now. Here's the box of stuff at the Post Office in the airport (which is really nice, by the way):


  1. I don't think we have yet ever completely unpacked our packs...I'm too scared!! And I know there are teabags and oatmeal packs in never know!! Cheers!

  2. is it hard not to shop for little souvenirs? I love doing that. :)

    sarah fitz

  3. We still shop for things...we just don't buy them- until today! We bought some fancy Swiss Chocolates today to bring home! In most of the places we went the little souvenirs were actually handmade junky things. We bought one bag once and I've already had to sew it together twice...


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