Backpacking – the good,the bad and the ugly of living out of a pack.

Although being out and seeing the world is an amazing, intriguing and eye-opening experience some days just aren’t glamorous. Today as I was repacking my pack I was thinking about how living out of a large backpack is a bit of a double edged sword. In some ways it’s great and in other ways it can be annoying or even gross. So here goes my good, bad and ugly about long term living from one packs worth of items.

The Good

  • Never having the problem of too many clothes to choose from or what goes with what. No more spending hours trying on outfits in front of a mirror, if it’s clean (and bonus if it’s unworn) it’s good.

The bad

  • Handwashing. What a pain; soaping and rinsing clothes in a tiny budget hotel sink while your fingers get all wrinkled and your arms get sore from wringing them out. Then depending on the climate you hope they dry in time to repack without making the rest of your bag damp.

The ugly

  • Wearing clothes for multiple days in a row. The sniff test is all you need to check if you are presentable. Unfortunately the warmer the climate the less days you can rewear an item as it gets smelly pretty quick. Rewearing also means less washing so win-win right?! One thing I have never reworn is underwear, I haven’t stooped that low yet.

This post may be a bit of an over share but from what I’ve seen and heard while talking with other backpackers it’s the norm. So if you are planning on backpacking make sure a majority of the clothes you pack ‘match’. This way you won’t create too many odd outfits when your favourites are in the to-be-washed pile. So far I haven’t tried out the ever so attractive dress/skirt with walking shoes combo, shudder.

Some days I do some self indulgent wistful thinking about all my lovely clothes which are packed away in various locations around New Zealand. But for now it’s the same leggings and top I wore yesterday (and the day before that).

Our packs taking over the extra bed in the hotel.

Our packs taking over the extra bed in the hotel.

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Useful packing items – Resealable bags

Just finished packing my bag and I’ve found myself with a spare few moments as I wait for Tom to finish doing the same. He gets distracted by the internet/games so usually takes a little longer than me.

So I thought I’d tell you all about one of the most helpful and easy to carry items in my pack: Snap lock bags. Also known as zip lock or resealable bags etc etc. Not sure how these were missed off my post about useful travel items but here they are now. If you want to read that post you can check it out here

When we left New Zealand I had probably 50 of these with me in various sizes. A little over the top perhaps but they are so helpful. Now that we are five months into our trip I still have some left but not a huge amount.

Here are some of the things I’ve used them for:

  • Food (obviously) – I’ve put leftovers in them, as well as mixing oats, fruits and nuts to make muesli in one as well. Currently we have one in use for all the small condiments which we have collected like tomato sauce. Our oil is carefully sealed in one as well, definitely don’t want that leaking.
  • Liquid items – to protect my pack I use large snap locks for my conditioner, moisturiser and sunscreen. These I definitely don’t want to see ooze through the rest of my belongings.
  • Underwear – Even though I use packing cells it’s handy to have them separate. This way I can also see when I’m getting low and need to do some handwashing.
  • Laundry powder – On the subject of handwashing I have carried small bags of laundry detergent with me for our washing.
  • Electronics – Tom has all his plugs, cables and chargers inside a bag for easy access.
  • Shoes – Just in case there is dirt on the soles of my shoes I pop them inside a large bag. This also makes them quite easy to squish together.
  • Travel sick bags – Probably an over share but when you need it you need it.
  • Pills – Keeping various medications out of the way and in one place. Including the side of the box with the prescription sticker is a good idea for travelling as well.
  • Wet clothes – Such as swimwear if it hasn’t dried in time. No point getting the rest of your clothes salty and damp.
  • Beach bag – For anything you want to keep dry: change of clothes, phone, camera, money or food.

So I have a bit of a love for resealable bags. Even before traveling they were a well used item in my kitchen. Just remember that these are plastic so for the good of the environment try reuse them as well!

Does anyone else swear by these on their travels? What’s the weirdest way you have used one?

Puebla and Cholula

So after five weeks in one place we finally finished up in Mexico City and moved on. Not far mind you, Puebla was a short two hour bus trip and we arrived without fuss. Getting to our accommodation (again airbnb) was another issue entirely. A nice gentleman helpfully informed us that we could take a local bus then the new Metrobus line to get where we needed to go. Being brand new the Metrobus was even free the entire time we stayed in Puebla which was great. The only problem was that it was rush hour and the buses were packed full like sardine cans. Boarding with our packs was a mission and we finally squished on one. The weight of the pack plus the other people crammed shoulder to shoulder around us was quite unpleasant to say the least. We finally made it to our stop and popped out from the press of bodies in the bus into fresh air.

The Cathedral

The Cathedral

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Most useful packing items.

So we have been travelling for four months now! It’s crazy how fast the time goes. We have visited 15 destinations and eaten a whole lot of Mexican food. As we are only half way through the parts of this country we want to see it’s looking likely that we will have to pop out and see Guatemala or somewhere else nearby. This way we can return with a fresh six month visa to finish exploring Mexico. Any recommendations of where to go which would be an easy bus trip or cheap flight?

We are well aware by now that we packed way to much. Although a majority of the stuff in our packs has been utilised it was probably not necessary or is similar to something else we have packed; clothing I’m looking at you!

Our joke is that we carry our homes on our back like we are snails or turtles. They are all our worldly possessions available to us at the moment.

Our packs exploded and took over the room

Our packs exploded and took over another room

I thought I’d share the things we have found to be most useful in our packs so if anyone reading this plans on backpacking they can benefit from our experiences.

  • Packing cells – these are great for storing clothes so you don’t end up with loose undies etc. floating around your pack. They make for quick location of clothing and easier packing/unpacking. I have three as well as a stuff-sack for my puffa-jacket, and Tom has four. But this many is probably not necessary as we have too much stuff in general.
  • Sink stopper – for all the fun sink laundry you will need to do while backpacking. It’s unavoidable. Also a travel clothesline can be useful, ours is borrowed from Tom’s sister so hopefully we don’t lose it. The suction cups don’t really work unless you perfect the angle and only hang underwear but I’ve managed to rig it up in other ways for heavier items.
  • Utility knife – such as a Swiss Army or Leatherman (I’m sure there are other brands but these are all I know). We frequently use the scissors, Tom has used the tiny screwdriver to tighten the screw on his sunnies and the knives are fantastic for cutting up fruit for a snack. Just make sure you don’t forget it in your carry-on luggage on plane trips or you will lose it.

    Leatherman and a tiny first aid kit

    Leatherman and a tiny first aid kit

  • Roll up bag – we were given an Enviro-Sac by Tom’s mum before we left. It’s been great for taking to supermarkets and the mercado when we get food for cooking. Plus when not in use it’s super small. Though it is almost always in use as we end up carting food from town to city.
  • Merino or wool socks – they don’t smell, are comfy, durable and can be worn a few days in a row if needed. Actually any clothes made from merino or wool are amazing. We have quite a few t-shirts and jumpers which have been great additions to our packs.
  • Power board – along with our plug adaptor we packed a 4 plug board so we could charge multiple gadgets at once. It seems excessive but it’s used every day so has been worthwhile. If you are planning to travel with a camera, phone, tablet/laptop and others it could be a good choice for you as well.
  • Good walking shoes – I’m not talking about your Converse sneakers or pretty coloured Nikes either. Investing in a good pair of walking shoes will be a saviour for your feet and legs. We both purchased Merrell branded ones which don’t look too obnoxiously like hiking shoes. I’ll wear mine with jeans, leggings or shorts and they are so comfy for both a long day sightseeing in cities or museums as well as climbing mountains, caves or pyramids.

    Our walking shoes. Super comfy ones by Merrell

    Our walking shoes. Super comfy ones by Merrell

These are things which for us have been very handy. Could we live without them,  probably but they do make some tasks easier.

I’ll also post about our tech travel items, of which we also have a lot and explain the pros/cons of travelling with these.

What are some things you have found super helpful while travelling short or long term? I’d love to know, maybe they will influence how we pack in the future.

My packing sins

As we get closer to leaving Perth the day looms where I must put all my clothing and other items into my dreaded pack. So far I have had everything on my ‘wishlist’ laid out on a spare bed where I will look over it al least once daily, sometimes adding an item, occasionally removing one. The remainder of my belongings have been packed up and are in one of four places: bags/boxes to be put in storage, a suitcase which will accompany us back to Dunedin and most likely be ditched at my parents (thanks!), a used clothes recycling bin or the rubbish.

Now returning to the backpack; we have both purchased a Macpac Gemini 75l pack like this one, we decided on the canvas version as we would be travelling for quite some time and wanted it to be sturdy. Every time I look at my pack I give it an evil look, mentally willing it to fit everything I want inside. Wishful thinking at it’s best! I’ll update in future posts how the packs we chose work out and my final packing list.

Our chosen packs are Macpac Gemini 75l

Our chosen packs are Macpac Gemini 75l

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