Because we each only have a 70-liter backpack and a small day-pack, efficient packing decisions were essential for this trip. Not only did we have to consider that we would be visiting multiple cities with varying temperatures and climates, but also that our agenda included everything from sightseeing and exploring in major cities to living out of a campervan and going on multi-day hikes. We brought along a few items we could have done without, but several items have definitely been worth their weight and space. In no particular order:
Alastair found this little LuminAID PackLite lantern online and I’m totally smitten with it. It’s solar-powered so it requires no batteries, cables or fuel. It’s inflatable so it compacts nicely when not in use. It’s waterproof so rain doesn’t inhibit its use. It has three different settings of light intensity (plus a flashing mode). And it was created by two women who were architect grad-students tasked with creating a product to help post-earthquake relief efforts in Haiti.
Although I still prefer to hold a paper book in my hands while reading, I’m thankful for my Kindle for providing access to several books without the bulk and weight of lugging around a library. The battery lasts long enough to avoid frequent charging and it can be used in the dark which also avoids draining the batteries of a light source when reading in the evenings. Another benefit is the ability to upload documents to it. So, in addition to storing pleasure reads and travel guides, we’re also able to access copies of important documents like passports, accommodation reservations, etc.
Clothesline and Clothespins
Being able to occasionally do laundry becomes imperative, especially when hiking and living in the close quarters of a campervan. Sometimes this involves hand-washing in a sink but a few times we’ve taken advantage of actual laundry services or a washing machine at our accommodation. Regardless of the method of washing, our clothes usually get hung to dry. We’ve used the clothesline on multiple occasions for both drying and for airing out sleeping bags/liners when the weather allows. Super simple, but super handy!
Sleeping Bag Liner
Alastair knows that a cold wife is an unhappy wife, so one day he came home and presented me with a sleeping bag liner. It’s lightweight but adds a layer of warmth to keep me roasty toasty during the night. It also helps to keep my sleeping bag in a fresher state and is a nicer feel against my skin than the inside of the sleeping bag.
Fake Wedding Band
I decided to buy an inexpensive wedding band for the trip for a few reasons. For starters, I didn’t want to lose (or have stolen) or ruin my actual ring but still wanted to have a marker of being married to avoid any potential unwanted attention. Another benefit of wearing a ring is when going through immigration. Since we have different last names and our passports are from different countries, our wedding rings are really the only visual indicators that we’re actually married and considered family when entering countries together.
While we had the campervan we cooked a majority of our meals (vs eating out) which was helpful for budgeting. The benefits of tupperware are pretty obvious, but being able to salvage unused portions of ingredients has been a key component for efficiency in how we shop and cook (which subsequently saves money), and we’ve barely thrown away any food (an exception being a steak which turned green, as well as everything else in the cooler that was exposed to festering green steak juice).
Electricity is not always available for charging our devices, especially when traveling between campsites with limited/no facilitates and when backpacking for several days. Having a couple extra battery packs has been reassuring and given us peace of mind knowing we can boost our phone batteries to access navigation and other necessary information.
Maps.me and iOverlander apps
The company we rented the campervan from recommended downloading these two apps on our phone. Maps.me allows us to navigate offline, as well as calculate mileage for trip planning and scout out things like gas stations and grocery stores along the way. It also has several hiking trails noted, although we tend to trust the paper maps more for that piece.
iOverlander provides information, reviews and recommendations (or not) for accommodations and can also be used offline. It maps a variety of accommodation options including hostels, organized/paid campgrounds, free campgrounds, and wild camping spots. With wild camping spots in particular, we learned to read recommendations with caution as some people had (unknowingly?) trespassed onto private property or just happened to get away with staying overnight in a place where it wasn’t actually allowed. Thankfully we had good judgement and never encountered any issues with the places we selected. It can be clunky to use but it’s the only app we’re aware of that serves this function on an international scale.
Packing a water filter for the camping portion of the trip was always going to be an obvious choice, but I underestimated the usefulness of having a water filter while in bigger cities. Even in some of the major cities we’ve been, it is recommended to avoid drinking water from a tap. So, instead of continually purchasing bottled water we’ve been able to filter tap water in our hotel/hostel and refill water bottles to prep for the day. This has been helpful for the budget (especially considering the importance of staying hydrated at such high altitudes) and for not leaving behind a trail of empty plastic bottles everywhere we go.
Camera with WiFi
We wanted to be able to take higher-resolution photos than what our phones were capable of, and having a camera with WiFi has been an extra bonus. A lot of the photos I’ve been using for the blog have been taken with our camera and then transferred to my phone via WiFi. Without this feature I’d be relying solely on the pictures on my phone which usually aren’t as nice (and I don’t always have my phone with me when we’re out and about). Plus, it’s fun to be able to play with our pictures during the trip rather than waiting until we get home.