Sunday, January 23, 2011

Gearing Up

Let's talk about travel packs.

Conventional wisdom says to take a bag that can convert from wheelie bag to backpack. And I wish conventional wisdom were right. But conventional travel wisdom also direly warns you against taking jeans on the road ("Heavy! Take too long to dry!") and advises you to buy all kinds of hideous lightweight khakis for travel.

Long ago, I worked out that the best stuff to take with you on a trip is pretty much the same stuff you'd wear out of the house at home. I don't mean heels or business attire. Just whatever you'd wear to meet a good friend for coffee. That's what you want to travel in. And do take a pair of jeans. Throw it in the bottom of your pack and forget it's there until you have to go out at night. A pair of jeans is warm and also can double as stylish. Your country isn't the only one where everyone wears jeans.

Back to my bag. Also known as that f*cking albatross. Luggage is a nightmare. There's no way around it. Want to check something out during a stopover? First, you need a place to securely stash your bag. Having a fight with a taxi driver and want to throw money at him and run? Too bad your bag is locked in his trunk. Stop in for a coffee at Starbuck's? Oops, sorry I didn't mean to hit/trip everyone in the room with my luggage.

Can I do the no-baggage challenge? No, I can't. That's fine if you're traveling for a short time, but I'm not, and anyway, I do like taking my camera and my laptop and a change of clothes, so if you want me to do that, um, how can I put this? Screw off. Go do your own trip and leave mine alone.

My current pack is one I bought online in 2000. It's an Eagle Creek "World Journey" (women's fit) and weights 6 lb, 3 oz when empty. That includes the zip-off daypack. The daypack is just can't zip it on and stuff it with something heavy, or you'll tip over, but you can wear it on your front to balance out the weight on your back, or carry it on the bus while you main bag goes in the hold or on the roof (don't forget to put the rain cover on it for the roof, to avoid dust). And you can pod-bag with your daypack and a collapsible extra bag. That is, you can stash a pod somewhere, like in a hotel luggage room, while you run off with your pared-down bag on a short excursion.

Nevertheless, I had high hopes that the world of luggage had improved over the last decade. If so, I could shave off a few pounds. Every ounce counts on the road. Believe me.

And I read a few articles that were like OMG GET A WHEEL/BACKPACK CONVERTIBLE NOW, I INSIST! So fine, maybe they're lighter?

No. Smaller capacity and two pounds heavier. That's a shame. I can't add on two pounds. I wouldn't mind wheels. My knees aren't so great anymore and I'm a lot lazier than I was in 2001. But lazier also means not carrying an extra two pounds for ten months.

But what about regular backpacks, I though. Perhaps they'd slimmed down.

No. I can save about five ounces, but that means less tough fabric.

I guess I'll stick with my old backpack then. And as my pal Ray pointed out, I can always buy a new one halfway through when I'm in Bangkok.

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