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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Toothpowder, Shrinking Pillow, and a 7 Ounce Jacket

Following up on one of my previous posts, 4 Principles to Packing Smart, I'm including a summary of my pack and other tidbits. Altogether, everything so far weighs less than 20 pounds.  There were a couple moments when I considered adding a sleeping bag to the mix so I don't have to rent / buy one down in LatAm for the various treks.  But, desire to carry a lighter load won over.  Anyway, heads up that this post is a little disjointed so bear with me here...

First, the backpack.  It's a Deuter pack with a 70 liter capacity.  It features adjustable aluminium stays, a breathable hollow chamber foam in the back, contoured shoulder and sternum straps, a pivoting VariFlex hip belt that helps to make sure the weight of the pack is distributed optimally across the hips, stabilizer straps to adjust ventilation and control, and compression straps that reduce the size of the pack if the load gets reduced.

On the side is a zip compartment that provides quick and easy access to maps, camera, etc. In the front, there's a bottom compartment for a sleeping bag or other light weight items. Conveniently, opening up this compartment reveals another zipper, which itself opens up into the bottom of the larger compartment (which opens at the very top of the bag). This provides super convenient access to things that are buried deep at the bottom of the pack.

In case I ever get lost, there's also the standard SOS label with emergency numbers and alpine emergency signals.

Here's a bird's eye view of everything that'll go in my pack - clothing, medicine for altitude / sea / malaria, mosquito repellent, sunscreen, etc.  I've removed all the superfluous packaging, so this is the bare bones everything.

Following my own 4 Principles to Packing Smart, I've made sure anything that goes in my backpack is packable, adaptable, critical, and / or element-proofed ("PACE").  Take, for example, my pillow (something that I regretted not having on my last trip after flopping around all night in the middle of the Thailand jungle).  It goes from being larger than my laptop to a third of its own size.

It's been my mission to make sure all my apparel items are versatile and lightweight.  Take the Uniqlo down jacket shown below, it weighs only ~7 ounces (!) but provides exactly the warmth and layering ability I need.  My North Face pants can be unzipped and turned into shorts. Yes, it's not exactly fashionable, but fashion isn't exactly the priority. My Under Armour polo shirts are fast-wicking and sunblocking, while not making me look like a complete bum. Finally, the Exofficio underwear are antimicrobial, anti-odor, and fast drying - meaning I technically only need two pair, one to wear, the other to dry after washing.  

With respect to storage, some backpackers use compression packs to compartmentalize their stuff, but I ended up just buying gallon sized ziploc bags at a fraction of the price. I've forked over an extra dollar or two for the freezer versions since they're thicker and less likely to fall apart on me.

In regards to airport security, one issue that I've encountered is the restrictions on bringing liquid as a carry on.  Since I'm hesitant to check my backpack (because of the many straps that may get stuck in the conveyor belt, it's held closed only by two buckles, etc.), I've had to figure out how to bring sufficient sunscreen, toothpaste, mosquito repellent, soap, etc. while meeting the TSA requirements Luckily, I discovered toothpowder from Eco-Dent.  It's extremely lightweight and compact - a bottle a third the size of a regular toothpaste tube is enough for at least 90 brushings.  For mosquito repellent, I'm bringing some in liquid form, but also bringing along Ben's Tender mosquito repellent wipes, which weigh barely anything.  For soap, I just grabbed a bar of soap from the Sheraton.


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