Tag Archives: Backpacking

Two Extreme Climates. One Tiny Backpack. What I Packed.

Hot and cold tops

Hot and cold tops

When I see women traveling with backpacks larger than mine, sometimes I feel a flash of envy. What are they stashing in the extra space? More shoes? A hair dryer? Faced with the challenge of packing for a six-week trip to Hawaii and Alaska in a 40-liter backpack, I almost gave in to size envy and upgraded.

I’m glad I didn’t. Despite the fact that my backpack was purchased for a nine-week Central American trip that required solely hot weather wear, the same reasons I originally selected it still trumped the enticement of another pair of shoes.

First, a larger backpack would mean frequently being separated from it—checking it at airports, surrendering it during bus rides or airport taxis—and I’m kind of neurotic that way. I like arriving at my destination knowing I’ll have my clothes and other essentials in hand. With six flights on the Seattle-Hawaii-Alaska-Seattle itinerary alone, that would be six times a bag could go astray; and since we’re frequently in places for a short amount of time, often only a night or two, reuniting with an errant bag could be difficult.

Second, being on the move so much means having to re-pack every few days. The less stuff, the shorter amount of time that chore takes.

Third, the bigger the bag the heavier it is to tote around.

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End of the Road

Red Rock Road Southern Utah

Our RV road trip is nearing an end. Some months ago we realized that this chapter of our lives was coming to a close. Now, the next chapter is starting to come into focus.

Over the next 18 months we expect to mostly complete our tour of the United States. We’ll spend this winter making our way up the Pacific Coast and be in position to hit Alaska next summer. Over the fall we’ll work our way back down through eastern Washington, Oregon and California. By the time we reach Yosemite National Park, we’ll mostly be done RVing.

From there we might go on a short tour to promote Shannon’s upcoming book, Writers between the Covers (depending on release date) or drive back east to hit some of the places in the middle of the country we missed. Either way, sometime in 2014 we expect to be finished with our North American road trip.

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What We Learned Backpacking for 2 Months

Caye Caulker Belize

40 liter packs are (almost) all you need

Imagine living out of a suitcase no bigger than a 1.5 square foot box. That’s basically what Shannon and I did for two months backpacking around Central America. We’re proud to report that not only did we have the smallest bags of anyone we met but that our 40 liter packs were perfectly adequate for this specific trip.

While “perfectly adequate” is a true enough description of what we experienced, “barely adequate” fits too. We’d have been in trouble if we needed to plan for colder weather or multiple seasons. Traveling through Central America we had the luxury of packing lightweight clothing, although the highlands of Guatemala got surprisingly chilly. I was happy to have a heavy fleece I didn’t originally intend to pack but brought along because Houston was so damn cold when we left.

Even in colder climates, we probably could have made the 40 liter backpacks work if not for all of the electronics we hauled: two laptops, a digital camera, a video camera, an iPhone, a surge protector, a universal power adapter, battery charger, and the cables needed to power all this junk. Leaving the electronics at home would have freed up almost an entire bag – but we’d never do that.

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The Independent Traveler

It’s dark in the hull of the water taxi. The light spilling through a small opening that serves as a door isn’t quite blinding. I can clearly make out turquoise water, although the spray kicked up by powerful boat engines does its best to obscure my view. Through the light, beyond the spray, and far over the water I can make out the silhouette of a large cruise ship.

My thoughts flash to what it must be like aboard: lavish buffets of familiar foods, theaters playing Hollywood films, spiffily dressed attendents ready to meet your every need with fluent English. No muss, no fuss; daily excursions whisk passengers to the mainland and back again. Everything is neat and tidy and perfectly organized.

Turning away from the water I look around at the motley crew of backpackers who are squeezed together in the small boat. There is the twenty-something couple from Australia making good progress on their around the world trip, a lone 40-year-old Canadian woman heading for some beach time before doing volunteer work in Guatemala, a family of three; independent travelers all.

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Preparing for an Extended Backpacking Excursion (Part II)

Last week we discussed travel bags, vaccination requirements and communication options for extended overseas travel. This week, we dive into money issues, travel insurance and more.

Money Matters

Managing your finances while traveling for months at a time requires far more preparation than for a typical vacation; especially when you can’t guarantee secure internet connections or uncompromised ATM machines. Here’s how we prepared:

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