Well, my bag arrived today - this is what it looks like:
Keep in mind that this bag is small enough to be taken onto the plane as a carry on. This bag and my normal carry around bag (and I'm not sure about that one yet) are all I'm planning on taking for a month in
Europe. Pretty much everything I've read and listened to all stress the importance of packing light. This is also a good test for 'how long can I live out of a small frigging bag'. I'm thinking that with this and my normal carry around satchel I'd like to try it out and see.
So - what's in the bag? Note that I will be revising this list as time goes on - this is the initial list. Two things I've found helpful in the past for 'big trips'; first - I like to have the bag partially packed up and add stuff to it as I go. Sometimes you'll just have a little thought like "I should take some Q-tips" - toss at least one in right away to remind you. Picture as different countries might call them different things: http://tinyurl.com/23ga4k8 The second tip I heard on one of the various travel podcasts I'm listening to. They say that after you get your bag packed up, go shopping around your hometown with it for an hour or two. Or the day. How do you hold up after that? If it's too heavy, start dumping stuff out. That's brilliant. I also wanted to get a backpack instead of just dragging around my wheeled bag. Backpacks are a lot easier to wander around with outside of the airport. I suppose if someone is really slick and gets some nice aluminum wheels that can be put onto and taken off of their backpack/bag they'd have the best of both worlds.
Here's a partial list of what we've got in so far:
3 sweat pants.
Sources advise not taking jeans for a couple reasons - they are much heavier and also they dry a lot less quickly than other clothing. They also take up a lot more space in the bag. I'm not taking them because I only have one pair and can't remember the last time I wore them instead of my normal sweat pants.
4 t shirts
4 pair of socks & underwear
Bag of miscellaneous toiletries. Now, since fear has caused people to give up their rights: http://www.tsa.gov/ you'll want to make sure that the bag is clear. That's so when they are rooting around in your bag unrolling all of your carefully rolled clothing (yes, roll up your clothing) and messing it about, they can look at and dismiss your toiletries easily instead of up ending the bag and dumping it out into your suitcase.
Electric razor. I recommend on all cords and such, use twistie ties, rubber bands or some other clever thing to make the cords neat. This is partially because of the TSA wanting to muck about with your bag and partially because if you don't it can look like you've got some sort of weird explosive device in your bag and it will get searched beyond the x-ray machine. Which you don't want.
Power converter (for pretty much everywhere)
Mine looked less slick than this, came with a bag instead of a box and cost half the price. I've no idea if it works and no way of knowing till I get over there if it will blow up my shit or not. I guess that's the beauty of selling a product like that - by the time someone's pissed off, they're on the other side of the world seething in impotent rage. Sounds like a great product to sell. I mean, even if you're pissed at it, you're not going to remember 'oh it was Protege that sold me this - I'll get them'. No. You're just going to cry yourself to sleep at night. Now one thing I didn't like about it is that it says not to use it on computers and electronics of that nature. Now I ask you, who the fuck wants a power converter that you can't use on that sort of thing? What's the point? For curling irons? For fuck's sake. So, that is a product I really don't recommend just because it is either too shitty to use on your computer or they don't have enough confidence in their product to say 'oh - sure - use it on your computer'. Either way, not happy thus far with it and I haven't even gotten to plug it in anywhere.
All of my clothing is dark colors, fairly somber. I will only be taking probably one shirt that has any writing on it - and that is the shirt that has this on it:
Note that I have personally used that seller on e-bay before and got my shirt freakishly fast. It seems to be of good quality - I've worn it three times or so and it has utterly failed to fall apart. For people who haven't traveled before - I don't recommend bringing any kind of clothing with writing on it. Blending is the key. I am doing it because I am a freak and just like Firefly enough to want to make sure it has more world wide advertising. Don't know - that shirt might end up getting left behind (or in the bag) depending on how I feel.
Extra glasses. Lets face it - if your vision is very bad (as is mine) and your glasses get broken, lost or whatever you are fucked. Proper fucked if your vision is bad enough. So it doesn't hurt to take along extra glasses. You're going to want to put them either in a smaller bag you'll be carrying (like a secure shoulder bag - more on that later) or off to the side in your main bag/backpack. One thing that people don't often think about when they're packing their backpack is just how often they're going to be leaning on it. If you're not sure of the answer, it is a lot. I've seen people with breakable stuff in it trying hard not to lean on it but it is just too handy to do. It's like (if you packed it right) having a big pillow strapped to your back. Of course you are going to bloody well lean on it. Just arrange stuff with that in mind and you'll be OK.
Pad lock. A lot of hostels and such have lockers you can put your shit into. They don't come with the lock - you provide that. If you carry around a combination lock, you don't have to worry about losing your keys. Naturally, I'm a dumbass and got a key lock. I might have to get a new lock.
Cord. A bit of cord comes in useful - drying line, tying up people, hanging stuff off of yourself so you can look like a freak, whatever. Pack some cord. I believe that a lot of the little things (things that don't take up much room or weigh much) can really help out on the trip.
Things I've still got to get:
Hard rubber ball. Heard about this on one of the traveling podcast (I really have no creativity but I do know enough to study before I leave) that many places don't have drain plugs. My guess is that they don't want some dumbass flooding their hostel. The rubber ball works as one but is also multi-function. After I explained to Travis that I could bounce it off of the wall when I was bored, he said it would then roll under the bed - somewhere I couldn't get at it and where it would never be seen again.
Little locks. This is deter would be thieves. You stick them on the zippers of your backpack and it will keep them out. Unless they have a knife in which case you must ask yourself the question - did you bring a small sewing kit?
Extra house key. It is really amazing what you think about when you think "What happens if I lose everything I take?" It could happen - don't go home only to have to pay good money to replace the window of your house after you had to break in. My plan is to well hide the key somewhere in a park near my house (or where ever I don't think thieves will search) so that should I get back and need a key (having lost or had mine stolen) then I can get back into my house. As a side note - don't bring keys you won't need. If you aren't taking your car with you to
Europe and you're taking the bus to the airport from your home - you are an idiot if you lug around your car keys. If you do need to bring your car to the airport long term storage, I'd personally hide a copy of the car key no where near my car. Just remember where you hid it. If you get back, still have your keys you took with you - who cares? Ditch the extra key. Hiding it in a magnetized hideaway (something good car thieves with time look for) or under the wheel of your car - again, 'idiot'. If there is any justice in the world, the Mafia will leave a dead body in your trunk.
Now, a bit on bag security. I've had a rather...interesting...period in my formative years and will tell you how pickpockets and bag snatchers work. I want to preface this by saying 'most people aren't use to pickpockets' - especially in the
. I don't think they even have them in USA . http://tinyurl.com/3xmbals The reason I mention it for a trip to Australia Europe is they have some there. Your chances of meeting one are pretty low. I have lived in Europe for close to three years (being quite a dumbass, believe me - my excuse is I was young) and have never been pickpocketed. I'm not even sure that all of the people who claim to be pickpocketed were - many could just be idiots who left things lying around. The fact is that they (and other thieves) do exist. So, I'm putting up some stuff that may help.
Grab and run. Literally, they will just grab your bag and run off with it. Solutions, wear it strapped to you. If you are a woman wearing the purse in the 'fashionable' way, http://tinyurl.com/3xsp7p7 then, I'm sorry - your shit is gone. If you have delusions of 'hanging onto it' and such when some maniac grabs it and dashes off, you are probably dead wrong. They usually time it so that your hand isn't clutching it then go for it. That also goes for this silly bint http://tinyurl.com/33bffsk and this one http://tinyurl.com/2vx62nv Gone, gone gone. The best way to carry bags or purses is like http://tinyurl.com/32fxxte Unfortunately, she didn't keep her purse closed with tiny locks so she is getting pick pocketed. Now, if you have a rolling case, I'm thinking that could also be grabbed and gone pretty quick - another advantage for the backpack. When you sit down with your backpack off, do you lean it carefully against your leg or do you wrap a strap around your leg like a python? If you put the bag up in the luggage rack of the train, do you set it there carefully or do you fiendishly attach straps to the rack for the guy who dodges in, grabs it and tries to run out? Do you have enough straps attached so you don't have to worry about them breaking?
Professional pickpocket team. Professionals have three guys in their team. The spotter looks for and finds the targets. They signal the guy who actually picks the pocket. Forget the fancy name for that guy. The third guy is the 'hand off guy'. The pickpocketer either hands (or reverse pickpockets) this guy. That way even if you somehow notice the pickpocket and catch up to him - wallah! He doesn't have the wallet. You must be mistaken. There goes your passport, thanks, we'll sell it for $5000. Chump. Pros are pretty rare. Avoiding them isn't too hard. You just work on looking poor. Have tape put over imaginary holes in your pack, dress way down, don't look like a mark. In my case, this is easy as I *am* poor. Some people will have to work harder at it. Are you wearing a nifty looking wrist watch or a cheap piece of crap? Jewelry? Expensive cameras? While you can't necessarily look as poor as some of the people in countries you go to, you can look more poor than other tourists. Don't take this to the extreme where police try to get you out of the country thinking you are an out of work street person.
Kids! Hate these the most. They mob you and hold up a piece of cardboard under your face so you can't see their busy little fingers get into your pockets and such. Protecting against these (since you can't beat them to death as you should be able to) is harder - zippers and buttons on pockets, things that slow them down are pretty much your defense. You won't run into these except in the most dire third world countries. I'm thinking
Asia and Africa may have some of these delightful little bullet catcher wannabes but I would be shocked if we saw any in Europe.
Well, that's all for right now. I will be adding more to my bag (and perhaps subtracting some of what I added!) as time goes on ticking down the last 83 days till the (first) big trip.