Things don’t really change when you leave home and travel around the world. Especially relationships. We’ve brought some personal baggage on the trip with us (particularly, Rob doesn’t agree with everything I come up with. And particularly, I’m kind of extreme at times.) We also have a bit to say about the perfect backpack.
Going with flow…
I wish I got a photo of this!
Rob and I were sitting in a pub along the Panama Canal. We ordered a couple draft cerveza. They arrived with lots of head. Apparently the bartender has a worse pour than I do.
We’re talking, between the two mugs almost half of our beer was missing.
I wanted to ask for the rest of our beer.
Rob looked annoyed. Not at the beer. But at me. (He’ll deny it of course. At least he didn’t roll his eyes.) I think we should get what we paid for. He wants to just go with the flow.
We have different opinions about many things. I’m a neat freak. He likes to hang his running stuff off the curtain rods in our hotels. I’m a saver. He’s a spender. He used to be more laid back than me. Now I’m the easy one. If I was on my own, I may be living in a mud hut — a cool mud hut of course. He has much more sense than that.
But this post isn’t just about us. It’s also about the baggage we’ve packed our clothes in. What we should have brought. What we did right. And what we’d do next time.
We don’t all agree.
Don’t worry. We’re not trying to sell anything. No affiliate links here. It’s just what people have asked about since we’ve come back.
The Two Week Vacation
First off, wisdom and practicality dictate that when you’re packing for a year of travel, or any amount of long term tripping, you pack light — just for two weeks. Then you rinse and repeat. For weeks and weeks. Until everyone is sick of wearing the same clothes — wash after wash.
We’d certainly all repeat this strategy. We’ve each added several new pieces along the way and either worn out, left behind or lost a few things. But packing for two weeks is the only viable option to a manageable amount of luggage for long term travel.
We’ve all walked right out of our running shoes even though they were replaced just before leaving. ‘Bata’ seems to be a world wide chain and we laughed about our shoe shopping in both Thailand and the Canary Islands.
Carry-on versus Checked Bag
Somewhere in the planning process, we committed to bags that met most airline carry on regulations. We wanted something within certain dimensions and with a 40L capacity to ensure we didn’t go over the weight regulations.
Turns out, we have not once carried our packs onto the plane. In all our dozens of flights checked bags were always included in the cost of the ticket. So of course we’ve checked our bags rather than carry them on. I guess it’s nice to have the option to carry on. But then we’d have to ditch our toiletries.
Sidewalk and Taxi Peeves
Having pre-conceptions about the places we would stay and our various modes of transportation, packs that we carry on our backs seemed like the smart option.
Roller bags are difficult to pull over rough sidwalks and along roads with pot holes and crazy traffic. I had no plans to trek from one town to another on foot. But we wanted something that was easy to carry from the bus station to a hotel at least a few kilometres away.
Turns out, we regularly carry our stuff from train and bus stations to hotels or from hotel to hotel. Free exercise. But nowhere near kilometres away.
More importantly, carrying our stuff avoids overpriced tourist taxis and haggling. Or my biggest annoyance – the requirement of two taxis for the five of us. We’re talking places with few rules — minimal traffic regulations, barrier free heights, no helmets, no worries. Yet they continually tried to force us into two cabs. Italy I get it maybe.
But… really — Thailand?! Five or six on a motorcycle. Argentina! What exactly is holding your vehicle together?
The Well Reviewed Bag
I spent a considerable amount of time researching bags. In the end, I was pretty sure when I tried on the highly recommended Osprey Farpoint 40 litre that we’d end up leaving the store with more than a few of them.
Of course, we left backpack shopping for the last couple of weeks before leaving. Bushtukah, Mountain Equipment Coop, Cabela’s, even fingers do the walking, and etcetera etcetera…. Not one store in the Ottawa area carried the Osprey line.
With no time for an amazon delivery, we had to shop amongst what was offered. Fortunately, there was plenty of choice
Our Bags – What We Bought (and Brought)
Hannah has a 32.5 litre top loading backpack that we bought at Costco. She would like a couple more litres but would keep her top loading and hip strap set up. Overall, she’s the most comfortable with her pack on her back.
Her pack is kind of like Hermione’s Handbag. I don’t know how she fits all that stuff in it.
Both Ben and Emma have the 35 litre Gregory pack from Mountain Equipment Coop. It doesn’t have a hip strap but is carried on the back and has lots of awesome inner storage compartments. Unfortunately, packed for world travel, none of those storage compartments are of much use becasue there is no room to spare. It’s a perfect overnight bag though.
Emma says she’d like more room. So she could pack more.
Rob and I each opted for the 40 litre Gregory pack, also from MEC. There are fewer built-in storage compartments which I was loathe to give up for 5 more cubic litres. But even in the bigger pack it’s unlikely they’d be useable due to lack of space.
Rob would like more space but likes the carry pack style of the Gregory. He doesn’t miss the hip strap. At risk of that inevitable expanding stuff to fill the void, he should have opted for the 50 cubic litre pack given that we have yet to NOT check a bag.
I like the size of my 40 litre pack. And my storage set up. But if given a do-over, I’d go with a 40L roller bag with back pack straps. For both Ben and I.
At ten years old Ben was able to hoof his pack a few kilometres but he starts to sag a bit toward the end, especially when he can’t see the destination. I’ve ended up carrying Ben’s pack on my front with mine on my back too many times now. When searching for packs, I saw a roller back pack that I should have considered.
Otherwise, for me the 40L Gregory needs a hip strap. I don’t see the point of a sore back when it can be more comfortable.
Travel Necessity – The Packing Cube – Not Just for the OCD Traveler
I’m a bit OCD. I certainly love order. And at home I love containers. I love love love the five packing cubes that I carry in my backpack. And the four in Ben’s bag.
Like, every time I pull them out or pack them in, a bit of appreciation is in my conscience. I’m serious.
These packing cubes are not the ones that compress your clothes. They’re just a zippered cube with a mesh section. Personally, I have two black and two blue cubes. Dark clothing in the black, coloured in the blue. Not oft worn in the black. Sweater and long sleeved shirts in the blue. I also have a green cube with no mesh in which I store my dirty laundry. I also have a small zippered pouch for my delicates and another for my socks. Seven coloured sacks in my pack. I’m not just Dr Suess, I’m clever because it only takes me just a moment to find what I’m looking for. It’s quite thrilling really.
Trust me, these cubes make a huge difference when you’re living out of a suitcase.
Not everyone is as excited about their cubes. Rob has a bit of a kit explosion each time he opens his pack. He only has one cube and a few sacks. Cubes don’t work for Hannah in her top load pack but she loves her sacks. Emma has built in storage and two cubes. Ben ‘needs’ his cubes to stay organized and to have any hope of re-packing himself. Though he can’t remember what is in which cube.
I’m telling you, packing cubes are just short of brilliant. I’d like one more but I don’t know what I’d do with it.
In addition to our back packs, Rob, Hannah and I started out this trip with a book bag each. Lap tops, tablets, sweaters, hats, sunglasses, meds, etc. All those little things that you want handy or don’t want packed away in your checked bag. Emma added a book bag of her own in the middle of our trip and she loved it. Ben somehow managed to spread his stuff amongst us so was hands free. Diabolical.
What Would More Cubic Litres Really Accomplish?
Not unlike Parkinson’s Law where work expands to fill the time available, there seems to be a ‘stuff’ phenomena that works on the same principal. Both Rob and Hannah would like a larger backpack so that they have more empty space. It would certainly allow them to pack more carelessly. The fear is their stuff would expand to fill the space.
The Inevitable Overflow
Regardless of what we have and how well we packed it, we always seem to have an extra sack. Most often it’s filled with a bit of groceries, lunch or snacks. Sometimes it has Ben’s toys. Or we have a wet bag with swim suits. Sometimes we feel like a kit explosion.
Anyway… that’s our view on travel bags.
I will go more into the baggage that couples have. And what happens when you take it on a trip around the world. For a year. With three kids.
Well, that’s enough rambling for now. As always, thanks for reading. And don’t be shy — drop us a comment below.