By Nick O’Neill
The First-time Traveller (3 of 4)
What gear to take?
You know, it’s funny: it takes me longer to pack for a week in Santa Barbara than for a year-long trip around the world.
In Santa Barbara I want to have a choice of clothes to wear that match. For world travel I want a few clothes that will cover me in most eventualities. I also want to be mobile, and that means going light. Ever seen those European backpackers with a pack that starts below their knees and finishes above their head? No thanks! That’s too much like hard work.
A wise man once said, "Before you go on a trip, decide how much money you want to take and how much gear. Just before you leave, double the money and halve the gear."
I’ll tell ya, that’s pretty accurate. Remember, everything you take on "Day 1," you will be lugging on "Day Last." If you need to buy some underwear or a couple of t-shirts, guess what? They actually have them in other countries!
What gear would I take?
On a world trip that could include mountains, jungles, cities and deserts, I would try to cover myself as much as possible. Here’s some of my choices:
Backpack: I prefer a simple pack, sans 75 pockets and straps. I take a medium-sized pack to allow for important items, but one that doesn’t encourage me to be a "pack-rat." I’ve used a Lowe Alpine pack for a long time; The North Face is another excellent brand, and so is Dana Design.
Sleeping Mat: I’ve used a "Ridge Rest" for over a decade, on four continents, and have been really impressed. It weighs several ounces and is durable.
Sleeping Bag: For over a decade I’ve used a North Face extra-long. I use a hollow-fill bag which, while heavier than a down bag, has one important advantage: it will retain heat while wet. If you’re camping out without a tent and the morning dew soaks your bag, this will be a factor. Don’t buy the warmest bag on the market, because if it’s only 15°C, you’ll be sweating. Get one rated at 0°C or maybe -5°C if you plan on colder climates. Mountain Hardware has a good assortment of bags with different grades of hollow-fill. They also have mosquito hoods, for those annoying moments when the bugs come out.
Boots: A sturdy pair of boots is something that you will come to appreciate when far from home. My boots are made by Rockport and are very comfortable, as well as waterproof. When I worked on a farm in Australia and suffered in soaking wet boots every day, I learned the importance of waterproofing.
Sandals: Yeah, the Romans had it right! Sandals are the way to go in hot climates. When your feet can breathe you feel a whole lot better. You also save the bother of dealing with smelly socks. I’ve used my sandals in Hong Kong, Alaska and Nepal. When you want to wade across a river, boots ain’t the ticket, let me tell ya. I prefer Teva as I feel they make a quality sandal. They have three straps that can be adjusted to fit any foot.
Fleece: For those cold mornings you should definately bring at least one warm item, even if you’re only going to Bali. I carry a Patagonia fleece sweater as it is sturdy, warm and light.
Wet-Weather Gear: It might be sunny when you wake up, but two hours later when you’re hitch-hiking at the side of the road things may change. It’s important to keep your torso dry as much as possible. I carry a Gore-Tex jacket made by Berghaus. I’ve used this extensively on four continents, and it has performed well. Other brands which I like are The North Face and Spray Way.