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Packing for Southeast Asia

28 Sep

Last time I went backpacking I packed WAY too much. The six weeks I spent in Peru last summer (2010) was my first real travel experience and I didn’t  know what to expect. I brought things that I didn’t end up using, like my blow dryer and straightener. I even brought high heels, which I never wore once. It really depends on where you’re going and how long you’re going for. If I were going to Paris or London for a month I probably would bring high heels and some more high end clothing. If I were going for six months to a year then I definitely would bring heels and hair appliances.

Not to say that you shouldn’t bring those kinds of items. To each their own. I like to bring my makeup and a lot of people disagree with this decision, but I really don’t care. If I’m more than willing to carry the extra weight then why not?

Sometimes you need to make sacrifices though. I have a huge problem packing light, especially when it comes to clothes. After packing way too much clothes last time and having to throw out a lot of things that I liked, I had to force myself to make good choices when it came to packing for 7 weeks of backpacking around Southeast Asia.

So, here is everything and anything that I brought with me to Southeast Asia.

Note: I decided not to post this until after my trip because then I could tell you what I ended up using or not and what I ended up throwing out. This is my ORIGINAL LIST with descriptions. The words written in red are some comments after the trip was done. So, here’s the list:

Clothes

  • Shorts (4)- Yes, it’s a lot but I get so much use out of all of them.
  • Jeans (1)- This is probably the biggest ‘controversial’ item of clothing in the backpacking world. Yes, it’s going to be hot in SE Asia, but I always get use out of my jeans. If I don’t? Well, they’re an old pair so I can throw them out if need be. If I ever come back to SE Asia these will not be coming with me. Didn’t wear them once!
  • Black leggings (1)- For those possibly not-so-warm nights. Threw out.

  • Tank tops (4)
  • T-shirts (3)- Only needed one.
  • Long sleeve shirt (1)- Surprisingly got use out of this.
  • Nice shirts (3)- These are shirts that I can dress up or wear casually.
  • Hoodie (1) (not pictured)- For those cold A/C bus nights and for a pillow. Tons of use.
  • Cardigans (2) (not pictured)- Didn’t get any use out of these.

  • Bathing suits (2)
  • Underwear (10)- The more underwear the better, I say.
  • Socks (3)- One white, two black
  • Bras (4)- It sucks being a girl. Strapless, black, pink, and sports bra.

Yeah, I know it may seem like a lot of clothes to bring, but I don’t mind carrying the extra weight and, plus, it all fits into these little netted bags easily which makes them much more compact. These bags were my saviour.

Footwear

  • Running shoes- Didn’t use.
  • Flip flops for shower
  • Sturdy sandals (2)

Headwear

  • The Green Sombrero (obviously)
  • Straw fedora
  • Sunglasses
  • Bandana

Electronics

  • HP Mini Netbook (and case and charger)- Best thing I brought.
  • SD memory cards (3 x 2 GB)
  • Canon Powershot (and case and charger)- Lost it’s life in Vang Vieng, Laos. Bought new, crappy, waterproof Olympus in Hanoi, Vietnam. The Olympus Tough is CRAP, by the way. The waterproof-ness was handy, but the quality of the photos was terrible.
  • iPod touch (and charger and headphones)
  • Plug adapter for SE Asia
  • Old phone for alarm (and charger)
  • USB drive (2)
  • Headlamp- SO much use!

Toiletries

  • Toothbrush/toothpaste
  • Razor
  • Soap
  • Deodorant
  • Shampoo/conditioner
  • Bug spray
  • Sunscreen- If you need a lot like I did, bring a couple bottles because sunscreen is bloody expensive in Asia.
  • Make-up
  • Body spray (for the days I have to go without showering)
  • Brush and comb- Brush broke half way in. Had that brush for 7+ years. R.I.P.
  • Bobby pins/hair ties
  • Tweezers
  • Nail clippers
  • Band-Aids- Probably went through 100+ Band-Aids.
  • Tylenol

Other

  • Journal and pens
  • Guidebook (not pictured)/phrasebook- Didn’t need the phrasebook. Knowing how to say hello, thank you and maybe a few hand gestures can easily get you through SE Asia.
  • Books (2)- So I can exchange at a book exchange- Man, do I love book exchanges.
  • Money belt- Never used this for some reason. Guess I’m a little too trusting.
  • Travel pillowcase
  • Travel towel
  • Padlock (Not pictured)
  • Gum- Can’t live without it!- Ran out 😦
  • Toilet paper- I’m sure this will be my saviour- It was.
  • Passport, insurance info and contact info- Thank God for getting travel insurance because I broke a foot bone and needed a cast!
  • Passport photos for various visas- Most places ask for 2 photos but you only need one.
  • MONEY, debit card and credit card

Bags

  • Day bag
  • Dry sack- Came in handy.
  • Shoulder bag

And everything fits into my backpack perfectly!- By the end of my trip, with souvenirs and such, my pack was overly full, especially with clothes being so cheap in SE Asia.

Once again, I wish I brought less clothes. One day I’ll learn.

And there you have it. Agree or disagree with anything?

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Packing Tips For Camping or Canoeing

14 Jun

Okay, I know that what you would need to bring on a camping trip may seem obvious, there are A LOT of things that are easily overlooked.

I’ve been camping many times in my life and I’ve been on canoeing and hiking trips a few times as well. I’ve always had someone with me who knew what gear to bring and what was important for survival.

But it really depends on where you’re camping. If I’m at a campground that pretty much consists of lot beside lot of campsites then there really isn’t a lot to think about in terms of survival. There’s usually public bathrooms with showers, water pumps with clean, running water, and an in-site store with all your camping needs.

If I’m camping or canoeing in an area where I’m pretty much fending for myself, then there’s a lot more to consider, especially when you’re canoeing to your campsite (an island) leaving you with little access to anything except what nature has to offer.

I’ve been on a canoe trip in high school to Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. But, I had teachers who knew what equipment to bring and basically what was necessary for survival. I also met two amazing people that I ended up becoming great friends with.

That was three years ago. Now, three years later, those two friends, one other person, and myself decided to start our own tradition – a yearly canoe trip.

This May we did our ‘trial’ run with only four people. Each year afterwards we’ll add more and more people and hopefully start a tradition that lasts a long time.

It was a success, that’s for sure. That success was definitely based off of being prepared with proper equipment.

Luckily, my friends Steven and Chris had done our school’s yearly canoe trip every year that that attended high school, so they had a good idea of what we needed.

Anyway, here is an idea of what you should pack if ever participating in a trip similar to the one I made.

The Basics

Backpack: Obviously. The thing that sucks about going on a trip like this is that although you will be likely going for a week or less, you need more space for packing than you would need for months of backpacking. Three reasons: sleeping bag, food, and extra equipment.

Clothes: Especially warm clothing for the night! It gets really cold. Don’t forget a bathing suit too because you’ll be bathing in the lake most likely. Also, don’t forget a waterproof jacket.

Shoes/Sandals: If you’re going canoeing, you will have to portage no matter what. Sandals won’t cut it. So bring shoes that you don’t mind getting wet or dirty because they will get wet and they will get dirty. Sandals are good for around the campsite.

Tent: Self-explanatory I would think. My only advice would be to bring a tent that is as light as possible. Ours was a BIG ASS TENT making it really heavy and awkward when it was packed in its bag, which was terribly difficult to carry when portaging during the first day before setting up camp and when heading home on the last day.

Food: Carbs. Carbs. Carbs. Sugar. Sugar. Sugar. And lots of it. Canoeing and portaging will drain your energy so incredibly quickly.

– Lighter, matches, pots, utensils, flashlight, bug spray, sunscreen, sleeping bag, life jacket, carabiners, water bottle, toiletries, towel…

CANOE and PADDLES: If you forget these, then I’m not sure you’re cut out for canoeing.

The Not-So-Obvious

Water-purifer: If worst came to worst, you could boil water if you had a pot, but if you don’t want to drink hot water then you should bring something to purify the lake water. If you have some extra cash, then a water pump works great. We were on a budget so we just bought some iodine tablets. Although the water didn’t taste very good, we didn’t get sick once so I would say that they worked great.

Tarp: In case it rains. We put all our bags under the tarps every night. It actually did rain on one of the nights and all of our stuff was dry in the morning.

Stove: Only if you want to cook food, which you will.

Back-up stove: In case you need to boil water in emergencies or in case your primary stove doesn’t work. The type of ‘back-up’ stove you should get is good because it doesn’t involve propane/gasoline. Instead, it uses warming gel. Ours was a compact, folding stove . You light the warming gel and it heats — albeit slowly — your food! Pretty cool invention.

Fire starters: You light these and use them to help start a fire. Makes it a lot easier.

Rope: Multi-purpose. You can use it to tie things, use it as a clothesline, and, most importantly, to hang up your food at night! Bears WILL come if you leave food around. Don’t be stupid and forget to hang your food. Use carabiners to create a pulley type of system to hang the food.

Dry bag: Also for hanging your food. If it rains at night and you don’t hang your food in a dry bag you’ll wake up to wet, soggy food, which will suck big time. A dry bag will also come in handy if you have electronics. When I was canoeing I usually kept my camera around my neck because I was confident that our canoe wouldn’t tip, but when we were canoeing on windy days I kept it in my 10 L dry bag.

Saw: We brought a mini saw with us. Got wood? How else are you going to chop fire wood?

Map and compass: This is 100% necessary for a canoe trip. Unless you’ve completed the same route several times, you will need a map to navigate the lakes. A compass is essential even if you know the route well.

Walkies: If you’re traveling with a pair or more canoes bring walkie talkies. We got so much use out of these (especially when we were portaging) because everyone goes at their own pace so it’s easy to get separated. Also, you can pick up signals from other people in the area who have walkies, which would come in handy if you were lost or in some kind of trouble. A whistle would be good for this purpose as well.

Yoke pads: For portaging. The wood of the canoe takes a huge toll on your shoulders and yoke pads relief that pressure.

Bug net: Other than the obvious fact that bug nets are extremely fashionable, as much as you think you won’t need one because you have bug spray, BRING a bug net. Even if you won’t get bitten much while wearing bug spray, mosquitoes and black flies will swarm around your face, guaranteed, which is super annoying. Every time we had to get out of our canoe to portage, they would swarm around us. Every time we had to get back into our canoe after portaging, they would swarm us. It is not a good feeling. My bug net was a lifesaver.

And that’s how I made it through my first self-organized canoe trip through the amazing Algonquin Provincial Park. It was difficult, but highly rewarding, and being prepared made it that much less stressful.

On another note, don’t forget the booze! Nothing better than sitting back with good friends, drink in hand, while viewing a sunset after a long, hard day of canoeing.

What NOT to pack

29 Mar

My first post!

I’d like to start off by saying that I am currently NOT in South America, but I will be writing about my travels there. I have a journal full of stories—the good, the bad, and the ugly—that I’ve wanted to share ever since I returned from my trip.

So I thought, why not start a blog?

This was my first travel experience outside of the Canada and the United States, so I assure you that there will be A LOT of travel advice in this blog. This was also my first backpacking experience and let me tell you, there are SO many things I would’ve done differently. But hey, that’s what experiences are all about. You live and you learn. You make mistakes and you grow from them.

So I thought I’d start off with a post about packing. When I first left for Peru my backpack was completely full. I didn’t realize how big of a mistake this was especially since I loved everything item in my backpack and wasn’t really willing to throw out anything to make room. I ended up having to throw out a lot of things I brought for these reasons:

1)   My backpack was way too heavy.
2)   I needed room for souvenirs I was bringing home for myself and for others.
3)   I didn’t pack right for the weather so I had to buy some more weather-appropriate clothes and throw away my 100 pairs of shorts.

I still have the packing list I made, so I will give you an inventory of every single thing that I packed and then I will tell you where I went extremely wrong. Hopefully this can help first-time backpackers with their packing.

But first, I will talk about the backpack I used and why it is very wise to research before you buy anything. I, stupidly, did not do this.

My backpack:

Type: MEC Brio 60L

Weight: 2.5 kg

Pros: Looks nice, front-loading, comfortable, good quality

Cons: Heavy, too big

Worth it? Definitely. $99 Canadian, which is about the same in USD. Such a steal.

Will I continue using it? YES. For now, that is. Eventually I will invest in a better backpack. This was my first backpack and I had no idea what I was doing. I really should’ve done my homework when it came to something as big as this, but it’s okay to make mistakes. Shop around, read reviews, and more importantly, read travel blogs!

If I could choose all over again would I choose this pack? Probably not. I would’ve gone for a 40L and one that was a little less wide. When I had this bad boy all packed up I could barely lift it.

Did I see anyone with the same pack? I saw one person. A guy. For whatever that’s worth.

Keep in mind that everyone packs differently. Everyone has specific things they need to bring that others would never bring with them. Also, packing is completely destination dependent. You’re not going to pack the same clothes on a trip to Antarctica as you are to the Caribbean. You might not agree with everything I brought and I would love to hear your comments. To each their own, though.

List of what I packed

Clothes

  • 2 pairs of leggings
  • 2 pairs of jeans (threw one out)
  • 1 zip up hoodie (bought another one when I was in Peru)
  • 1 black cardigan
  • 1 light jacket
  • 10 pairs of underwear, 6 pairs of sock, 3 bras (one strapless)
  • 1 black dress, 1 colourful dress, and one black/purple dress (only needed 1 or 2)
  • 1 skirt
  • 7 t-shirts (threw out 3 of them)
  • 5 tank tops (only needed 3)
  • 3 nice shirts (only needed 1, maybe 2)
  • 1 long sleeve shirt (bought 1 more while in Peru)
  • 1 pair of black sports pants
  • 1 pair of capri pants
  • 5 pairs of shorts (only really needed 2 or 3)
  • 1 bathing suit


Shoes/Accessories

  • 1 sunhat
  • 1 pair of running shoes
  • 1 pair of heels (see below!)
  • 2 pairs of flip flops (threw one pair out)- only one pair is pictured
  • Bandana
  • 2 pairs of sunglasses

 

Toiletries (not pictured individually)

My toiletry bag compared to my friend Chris's!

  • 1 bottle of shampoo/1 bottle of conditioner
  • Bar of soap
  • Sunscreen
  • Women’s products
  • Tweezers, Nail clippers
  • 3 Disposable shavers
  • Makeup
  • Blow dryer
  • Hair straightener
  • Hair spray
  • Vaseline
  • Mini first aid kit
  • Hair ties, bobby pins, hair brush, comb

 

Electronics

  • iPod, headphones, and charger
  • iPod speakers (broke a week before my trip ended)- these actually got a lot of use
  • Canon Powershot, case and charger
  • Two 4 GB memory cards (should’ve brought 3 or 4)
  • USB drive


Other

  • Journal and Pens
  • Guidebook
  • Spanish phrasebook
  • 1 Book
  • Frisbee- not pictured
  • JanSport backpack for my daypack
  • 1 small shoulder bag
  • 1 roll of toilet paper (best thing I brought!)
  • Deck of cards- not pictured
  • Passport, insurance info, contact info, money, etc.

 

Note: ALL of this fit into my backpack, but it was filled right to the top.

Where I went wrong:

1) What I would reconsider for my next trip:

Straightener- I’m one of those girls who straightens her hair at least 5 out of 7 days a week. In Peru, I used it twice and only because I felt like I had to justify bringing it since it was too expensive to throw out. One reason why I love backpacking – no one cares about looks.

Hair dryer- To be fair, mine broke on Day 2 of my trip when I was using it to dry my flip flops. DON’T bring a hair dryer. You will NEVER use it.

High heels- WOW, I know. I’m a little embarrassed to put this one up here. I don’t feel like I need to explain my reasoning on this one.

Makeup- I’m not gonna lie, I did wear makeup. BUT I did bring way too much. Stick to the basics if you want to bring makeup (eyeliner, mascara, an eyeshadow). There’s nothing wrong with wearing makeup, even when you’re backpacking around South America.

Frisbee/Deck of cards- Threw both out.

Nice clothes- Brought way too much. Next time I’ll stick to a skirt, one or two nice tops, and one dress. You can always buy things in the places you visit if you need new clothes.

2) What I should’ve brought:

Money belt- Got to be safe!

Tape- So simple, yet always overlooked.

Scissors-You’d be surprised how many times you would kick yourself for not bringing scissors.

Some sort of organizer for my clothes (like a packing cube)- I just stuffed all my clothes in my bag and it was a pain-in-the-ass trying to find things.

Netbook (Now, this depends on how long my next trip will be. If it’s 2 months or less I probably won’t bring it because I can’t afford it, but if it’s for more than 2 months, I will definitely invest in one- Any suggestions?)

A clock (or a watch that has an alarm)- How did I forget this?!

Some kind of small pillow or pillow case (to stuff with clothes)- overnight buses can be killer without a pillow.

Travel Towel- I bought 2 very small towels in Peru, but they were still so bulky.

Button up shirt- everyone needs a button up.

Bottle opener- I needed one of these so many times. A corkscrew would be good too, so I’ll probably just get a Swiss Army knife next time

Head lamp- good for the obvious reasons, but also really good in hostels. There were so many times that I wanted something from my bag really late at night or early in the morning, but I felt too bad to turn on the lights. This would’ve been perfect.

More memory cards- you can never have enough.

Gum- I really wish I brought gum because it was impossible to find in Peru and gum would have been a lifesaver.

 

Also, be prepared to lose things. I swear I lost something every other day, including my credit card. Losing things while backpacking is like losing socks in the washing machine (which clearly end up in Narnia).