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Part 2
Designing Your Journey

7) Challenges and Limits

8) Resources for Planning and Traveling

9) The Route You Take

10) The Weeks Before you Leave

11) The Budget

12) The Stuff in Your Pack and Why

12—The Stuff in your Pack and Why

Travel light:

"Paul’s Laws of Packing for a Trip:

1. Take less stuff and more money.
2. If you don't have more money, take less stuff anyway.
3. If there's any doubt, don't take it.
4. Don't take that either.
5. See, you shouldn't have packed it. Give it away, or mail it home!

All backpack-toting travelers should have to get their luggage inspected twice at the airport--once for customs and once for taking dumb stuff. The dumb-stuff inspector would laugh and cluck as she tossed foolish items into a refuse bin and returned a pounds-lighter pack to the hapless wanderer. It would be a painful but important lesson. When better to learn it then before our poor traveler leaves the country."
Paul Otteson / The World Awaits / All Rights Reserved


"You'll need a light, well-made, durable, functional, comfortable backpack. Packs, like camel's backs, can be overloaded (read “overload” as “pain”). Pack size may matter, though it's possible to strap extra stuff to most packs. Of greater importance is the quality of the suspension system. Be particularly careful to load-test frameless packs, packs where the waist belt puts no weight on your hips, packs with narrow straps and thin pads, and “travel” packs that transform into suitcases. Just fill the pack full of books and walk around town for a couple hours. If something hurts, try a different pack."
Paul Otteson / The World Awaits / All Rights Reserved

A backpack is the only way to go as far as I'm concerned. Any other form of luggage is exactly that—luggage (as in 'to lug'). A well-made pack with comfortable suspension can almost become a part of you—especially if its as light as can be.

I like "convertible" packs. Good packs are made by MEI, Eagle Creek, Jandd, Pangaea, and a handful of other companies. Check out the Gear Links page.

"I'm not sure there's any advantage in the convertibility feature but I like it. In the suitcase mode, I look a bit more upscale in hotel lobbies, and there are no important straps to tempt hungry baggage-handling machinery. Some people take large stuff-sacks to cover their packs for flying. Others just take regular backpacks and hope for the best. Light-packers take rucksack-sized packs that are small enough to qualify as onboard luggage so they never have to deal with the waits and worries of checked baggage. I pack heavier for camping and cold. My M.E.I. is tried and true so I stick with it."
Paul Otteson / The World Awaits / All Rights Reserved

Camping Gear?

"To camp or not to camp, that is a question.

I pack for camping because countless places to sleep reveal themselves to me as I travel (almost all of which are very cheap or free) and because walking routes that involve nights without available indoor lodging can then become options on my list. Even if a friendly refuge could host me at the end of the trail, I sometimes prefer a lonely camp below a windswept ridge. These advantages clinch it for me. I camp, and I pack the gear that makes it possible."
Paul Otteson / The World Awaits / All Rights Reserved

Camping Basics:

Sleeping Bag—I prefer goose down for its durability, warmth, and light weight.

Sleeping Pad—The self-inflating pads like Thermarest are the best combinationn of of size, weight, warmth and comfort. Closed-cell foam is the most durable and warm, and it's cheap.

Tent—You need one for weather, bugs, and privacy. Go with an ultralight freestanding design.

Sheet/Sheetsack—While not exactly camping gear, they're great as bag substitutes in hot weather, and many hostels require or recommend one.

Most travelers don't camp—and despite the quote above, I'm often one of them. In a world peppered with great hostels, who needs to camp? Still, there's a certain magic to traveling self-contained.

I look at the question from all sides in the book. If I were offer advice to the uncertain, I'd say skip the camping gear. You can always pick some up on the road if you get inspired.


"To cook or not to cook, that is a question.

Cooking gear is flat-out unnecessary. Even if you're in the wilds, it's easy to go for days on a diet of biscuits, canned tuna, chocolate, powdered drinks, nuts, and dried fruit. In civilized areas, you'll find an endless array of groceries, cheap food stands, and moderately priced restaurants. Cooking is sometimes possible anyway if you hostel-hop in countries where the hostels have kitchens. Many small hotels and other types of lodging also have kitchen facilities available. Even so, I always pack a stove, pot, and utensils."
Paul Otteson / The World Awaits / All Rights Reserved


"To clothe or not to clothe, that is a . . . doesn't work this time.

Clothing selection should be about as commonsensical as it gets. “Take what you need,” says it all. I pack the minimal amount of clothing required to accommodate the range of activities and weather that I expect to encounter."

Paul Otteson / The World Awaits / All Rights Reserved

Necessities and Niceties

"Beyond the basics, there are more basics. Of epic importance are the paper and plastic goods that will get you across borders, buy you new boot soles, tell you where you are, and record what wants recording."
Paul Otteson / The World Awaits / All Rights Reserved

"Next comes the “maintenance” kit. It's hard to know where to draw the line when it comes to the stuff you use to clean, repair, and maintain yourself and your gear. You'll want to be able to fix holes, soles, poles, and more. You'll be maintaining everything from the cleanliness of your spoon to efficiency of your intestines."
Paul Otteson / The World Awaits / All Rights Reserved


"My one-and-only extra is photography equipment. Yet for me, to call photography an “extra” doesn't do justice to its importance. I take hundreds or thousands of photographs when I travel and use them for various purposes. My extra is a basic--just as yours should be. If it's basic to you, take it along. Pack light, pack happy."
Paul Otteson / The World Awaits / All Rights Reserved

And So...

"Long distance walking and light packs are a great combination. Many of my walks leave me far from lodging at the end of the day, but they don't have to. I might camp by a high lake, follow the road down into the valley, grab lunch in the village, and head up to a pass for the night. By simply shifting my schedule by half a day--going from valley to valley instead of pass to pass--I could carry a tentless pack and spend the night with new friends at the hostel.

It comes down to a choice between freedoms: being free from 10 or more pounds and the weariness that goes with them, or being free to cook some soup by a gentle stream and sleep dry and warm in the wilds."
Paul Otteson / The World Awaits / All Rights Reserved

For now, the coverage offered by chapters 13-21 is available only in the book:

13) Money
How not to lose or waste your bankroll
14) Transportation Over There
Short flights, ferries, trains, buses, cars, motorcycles, urban transit, taxis, less-than-taxis, bikes, hitchhiking, and dealing with them all
15) Finding a Place to Sleep
Strategies to make it easy
16) Staying Healthy & Safe
Preventing and Dealing with it all -- special section on Women and Safety
17) The Language Barrier
"No speaky English?"
18) Keeping in Touch
Mail, packages, phoning, telegrams
19) Bargaining, Bribery, and the Black Market
From reality to the dark side
20) Roadwork
All the small jobs
21) The Revealing Earth
Truths you should be ready to discover

Return to Chapter 11
Return to Road Reality