Camping setup on an around-the-world trip -- is it worth the weight?

RTW Gear Update: Sending Stuff Back

23 comments

I’ve continued to whittle away at the chiropractic nightmare that is my backpack, mostly by ditching a small item here or there, or clothing I wasn’t using. It all added up to a few pounds in savings, but a recent trip with just my daypack convinced me it was time to cut deeper.

I made a short two-day run to nearby Ayutthaya and decided to leave my main pack behind in storage. The experience of getting off the bus with only a single, 25-pound pack was a revelation. I was able to actually get out and walk around, getting a feel for my surroundings, before going to search for a room for the night. Before, I would have been lugging both my daypack and my larger, slightly-heavier main pack and would usually just limp straight to a guesthouse listed in a guidebook, sweating and miserable.

The writing was on the wall: my beloved camping setup was going home

The writing was on the wall: my beloved camping setup was going home. It made no sense to lug it around when I wouldn’t need it for 6 months or more. I’d bragged to myself that the full setup was “only 7 pounds” total, but the truth is that it all weighed in closer to 10. The ground sheet for the tent and a bag full of essential non-essentials like tent pole-splints, patches, and gadgets all added up quickly.

I’d already ditched the ThermaRest sleeping pad back in Trat — I’d put it in my daypack and was walking out of the hotel early one morning, bound for the Post Office to mail it home. The three women who worked the front office were all sleeping behind the counter and I noticed that one was sleeping face-down on bare tile. Sometimes the Universe is subtle and sometimes it’s not — I left it with them.

So today I bought a box from the Post Office and crammed it full. The sleeping bag wouldn’t fit, but it truly is only a pound and packs small, so I’m keeping it for now. Eight pounds and $30 lighter, my full setup weighs in somewhere around 42-43 pounds now and I can easily fit everything in one bag. Still heavy, but a lot more manageable.

Who wants to camp in this heat, anyway?

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Dustin Main April 10, 2010 at 5:23 pm

If only I could part with some of my tech, I could possibly make my pack lighter. Yet I want to buy more tech…

You can always pick up some cheap camping gear along the way. Might not be as light or as good, but cheap is cheap!
.-= Dustin Main´s last blog ..Photo of the Day – Night Visitor =-.

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wes April 11, 2010 at 8:08 am

I hear ya on the tech. That’s my main source of weight, but I have to have it…

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Joel April 10, 2010 at 8:02 pm

Good for you, Wes. I’d wondered what you’d shed and when. For the relative new traveler (myself included), I tend to think overpacking is okay and then discovering what you don’t need (quickly, hopefully). As long as you don’t spend a lot of money getting stuff you won’t use.

I’m still pretty heavy in my packing but I’m sure I’ll trim it down as I get closer to departure. I just have to keep reminding myself that saving $20 on the road is no reason to carry an extra 10 lbs. for several months.

Anything you wish you WOULD have brought along that you didn’t?
.-= Joel´s last blog ..World AIDS orphans day – May 7, 2010 =-.

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wes April 11, 2010 at 8:11 am

So far the main thing I wish I had brought was better hot-weather clothing. Some lightweight, cotton shirts would have been handy. I brought fancy tech-clothing (3 shirts and 2 pants) that have all proved to be worthless in this climate. 1 pair of pants got cut down to shorts and is now functional. 1 shirt went back and one got thrown away…

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Maria Staal April 10, 2010 at 8:10 pm

Very recognisable. I sent loads of stuff that I had initially taken with me, home and never missed it. You will probably shed more as you go along.

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Francoise April 10, 2010 at 10:47 pm

Congrats on the paring down :) Good to lose the excess at the start. You’re body will thank you.

I agree with Joel, it’s so easy to add stuff/gear to maybe save a few dollars down the road. I lugged around some extra toiletries that I didn’t use until near the end of my 6 months away last year.
.-= Francoise´s last blog ..My 3 Best Kept Travel Secrets =-.

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SpunkyGirl April 11, 2010 at 1:57 am

I always end up ditching things while on the road. This time I’m hoping to pack smarter and avoid the waste in money. haha

I’m sure your back appreciates the break :)
.-= SpunkyGirl´s last blog ..Backpacking the US- Hostels Aren’t The Only Option =-.

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Vagabond Roots April 11, 2010 at 2:20 am

Congrats on a lighter pack!

I’ve been giving mine the evil eye this week and am sorting through stuff to do the same. It’s tougher than it sounds to choose what goes and what stays.
.-= Vagabond Roots´s last blog ..The True Threat to Travellers – The Shower =-.

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Nomadic Chick April 11, 2010 at 3:51 am

Considering I don’t have a real plan or itinerary packing a tent/and light sleeping bag is a must. Oh man, I’ve got no address to mail stuff back to… except friends. Good call on the thermarest.
.-= Nomadic Chick´s last blog .. =-.

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brian April 11, 2010 at 6:36 am

42 lbs is still pretty heavy. Perhaps because you plan on camping is why you have that extra weight. How big is your backpack in liters?

I traveled with a 50L that came in about 30lbs after I sent home about 10-12 lbs worth of stuff from Hong Kong. I’ll TRY to use a 30-40L backpack next time and just limit myself to whatever can fit in the bag.
.-= brian´s last blog ..Why Spirit Airlines’ Paying for Carry-Ons Charge is in Everyone’s Future =-.

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wes April 11, 2010 at 8:14 am

Agreed, 42 is still a lot. Most of the weight now is tech-stuff that I can’t give up. Macbook, extra battery, SLR, extra lens, tripod… I do some freelance work from the road so I can’t step down to a netbook. The pack itself is now larger than I need (it’s a 10 yr old Arc’terex Bor 90 liter), so that’s an extra 3 pounds I could gain by buying a smaller pack. Cost and sentimentality (I loooove that pack) are holding me back on that one…

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Bethany April 11, 2010 at 11:29 am

Good for you – It’s hard to ditch stuff until your back hurts. When I ended up literally dragging my bag behind me at an airport I knew it was time for a change. The worst part is waking up, knowing that you have to somehow get it on your back. ugh. Have fun with a lighter load!
.-= Bethany´s last blog ..Somewhere in Time – Grand Canyon, Arizona =-.

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Casa De Hamilton Pool April 12, 2010 at 7:35 am

Plus you already got rid of your bandana earlier in the trip! : )

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AJ April 12, 2010 at 7:47 am

I canned my camping fantasies before I even left and glad I ditched it and the sleeping bag before I left. Glad I did since there were precious few areas open to do so in the off-season in Europe. Everything I had, including laptop came under 40 pounds after all said and done. I did end up inheriting a small day pack along the way that did come in handy for a few extra items I’d acquired along the way before mailing some of the excess. home. Nothing beats being able to hit the ground running in a new place without having to drag ass immediately to lodgings (or run at all!)

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wes April 12, 2010 at 10:23 am

Yeah, I can see off-season being tough for camping. During the season, though, I loved having camping gear — really made things a lot more affordable. And the campgrounds I stayed at were pretty swank…

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Josh |The Wander Project April 12, 2010 at 10:04 pm

I certainly don’t think there’s anything wrong with starting a little heavy and editing your gear down to the essentials once you’re on the move — after all, how are you supposed to know what’s truly essential ahead of time? You definitely made the right call here… “only” seven pounds… wow.

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Laura April 14, 2010 at 7:13 am

Hey Wes,
I was cruising around the web and came across a water bottle that would probably save you some hassle when it comes to packing up. Its called the vapur, and it just inflates and deflates like a capri sun pouch. it wouldn’t weigh any thing when not filled and can be folded and crammed, just like your favorite hat. Just thought I would let you know.

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wes April 14, 2010 at 8:35 am

Oh cool, Laura! Thanks a bunch :)

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Natalka May 10, 2010 at 11:32 pm

My daughter Andie and I travelled through Asia for 9 weeks last year with no more than 7kg (about 15lbs) packs each. We carried 65litre Eagle Creek packs. We also carried a portable scale. Even then we still sent clothing we didn’t use home. We never checked our bags and travelled light. We had everything we needed. If we purchased anything we would send a parcel home instead of carrying it. We purchased 100% silk sleeping bags on ebay for about $12.00 each (made in Vietnam) before we left. We later purchased several on the streets in Vietnam for about $5US. All the gizmo’s advertised in North America are mostly useless novelty. We never wore money belts (except for India). We took money from the ATM rather than carried multiple currencies. Buy as you need. No reason to carry heavy backpacks if you don’t have to. Our water bottles were the bottles we bought water in. Why carry a non disposable one? Oh yes, we also carried a 7 inch notebook which saved us from boredom and kept us connected to family. You will likely edit much more before yet. Good luck. Your blog is great!

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Matt | YearAroundTheWorld June 15, 2010 at 9:36 am

I’m thinking of ditching my camping gear too, even though it has been fun to have. I just don’t think I’ll do enough of it to warrant luging it around everywhere.
.-= Matt | YearAroundTheWorld´s last blog ..Daily Travel Photo: Playa del Carmen Beach =-.

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wes June 15, 2010 at 10:42 am

A hated giving it up, but I gotta tell ya: I’m glad to not by carrying it anymore. When you get to use it, it’s glorious — just not enough opportunities to justify it…

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Old Geezer January 8, 2011 at 12:14 am

Agree with Natalka. Traveling lite (one-bag, carry-on) is the ultimate travel wisdom. Any mistake, you buy en route. Anyway, seasoned travellers carrying 80L on their back, have always seemed over-seasoned to me.

Having said that, really like your blog.

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wes January 8, 2011 at 10:14 am

Yeah, less is definitely better. My pack is waaay too big — it’s a relic of my younger, more optimistic days. But it’s a solid pack, so I couldn’t justify buying a new one…

Thanks for the comment!

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