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What’s in our backpacks?
Hong Kong (China) to Coron (Philippines), Feb-15-10 / Mrt-10-10

People sometimes ask us what we are carrying in our backpacks. We are travelling for almost three years now, so we have by now quite a good idea about the stuff we really need during our travels. Of course, the exact content of the backpacks varies per country and per season. Once in a while we sent some items back home or leave them in the hotel, and at other moments we go to the market to buy new products. In general we can say that the things we carry can be divided in three groups: the items we use on a daily basis, the items that we use regularly, and the things that we seldom or never use.

Some of the gear that we use on a daily basis are our cloths. We each have two trousers, two shirts with short sleeves, two shirts with long sleeves and a fleece for the cold evenings or air-conditioned buses. Besides that, we each have three pairs of socks and three pieces of underwear. Last period, we also carried our winter jackets, but we will send them back home as soon as possible because we are not expecting to use them in the coming period. Regarding the shoes, we use our solid walking boots and for the evenings, strolls in the city and the hotel rooms, we each carry a pair of flip flops, because we are not eager to walk barefoot in the hotels where we are staying. Also the content of our toilet bag is limited. What you’ll find in here are the toothbrushes, the toothpaste, dental floss, a bar of soap, shampoo, a simple hand crème in case of a dry skin and a razor set with blades. We use the bar of soap as shaving soap and the lifespan of a razor blade is approximately two months. Ivonne also has a comb and some elastic band for in her hair. Another thing we use on a daily basis is our vitamin tablets. The intake of enough vitamins and minerals isn’t always very easy. Meat and rice is most of the time readily available, but vegetables are a different story. Like in the west, most people who go to a restaurant for a meal, don’t want to pay for vegetables. The main course consists of meat and rice, and if there are vegetables available, it is often just used as garnishing.

The spectacular Chinese New Year fireworks in Hong Kong
Also the electrical equipment that we have with us is used a lot. We carry a photo camera, a video camera and a laptop; of course with all the necessary related items like battery chargers, adapters, dvd’s and cables. Ivonne also writes on a daily basis in her diary. To prevent that our laptop can be stolen easily from our room, we carry a steel cable that we use to chain the laptop to a chair or a bed. Also our ‘sporks’ are often used. A spork is a crossing between a spoon and a fork that we use to put jam, honey or peanut butter on slices of bread. If possible, we try to eat wholemeal bread in the morning, because it significantly increases the quality of our bowel movement. If there isn’t bread available, we try to eat some kinds of cornflakes with milk for which we carry two synthetic bowls. We also use a travel guide very much. For every country we visit, and sometimes even a region, we buy a travel guide to help us determine what places to visit. It is often also a great help for travel information, hotels and restaurants. Unfortunately, we often carry more than one travel guide, because we sometimes visit a country more than once in a short period, which means that we can reuse the book. Now for example, we carry both a travel guide for the Philippines and for China, because we go back to China after our visit to the Philippines.

Subsequently, we also have a set of gear that we use on a regular basis. You can think of a mosquito net, sun bloc, mosquito repellent and the tokens we use for internet banking. Besides that, we carry a small case with regularly used small items like a pair of scissors, nail clippers, a lighter, adhesive tape, a water proof marker, super glue, elastic band and a piece of robe. We also use once in a while our sheet sleeping bag and pillow cover, because the bed linen of the hotels where we are sleeping is not always clean. Last months we also used our sleeping bags frequently, because we had cold weather in China, and the blankets that were provided by the hotel were not always sufficient. Normally we only carry one, but because we expected cold weather in China, we took two. One of them will be sent home soon. Another item worth mentioning is the bird field guide. We like to watch birds, and to make this activity even more fun, we carry a field guide to determine the feathered friends. Unfortunately, these books are thick and heavy.

Much of our gear displayed on the beds of our hotel room

The last category of stuff we have are the items that we almost never use. Fortunately, the first aid kit is one of those items. In this kit we have among other things: plasters, disinfect fluid, pain killers, malaria emergency treatments and a set of band-aid and needles. We also carry for each a spare set of glasses and some sets of daily contact lenses for the days that we are going to dive. And because we are not really beach people, also our swimming suits are part of this group of gear. The group also contains the head lamps we have. We use them in case of a power cut in our hotel, or when we go hiking all day; just for the situation that it gets dark earlier than expected. Also two cover bags can be found in our backpacks. We use them when we fly or when our backpacks travel on top of the bus on days that we expect rain. We lock the cover bags with two small padlocks.

And finally, we buy once in a while items that we use specifically for one country or region. We bought for example hand gloves, shawls and hats in China, to protect us from the cold. Here in the Philippines we bought so far two snorkel sets and a spray can of mosquito repellent to get rid of the annoying animals in our room. When we don’t need the stuff anymore, we leave the cheap items in the hotel and sent the more expensive ones home. So, we are constantly battling to keep the weight under control. Edwin’s backpack weights around 17 kilograms and Ivonne’s 13 kilograms. We don’t want them to become heavier, because that means more lugging around and probably also an excessive baggage fee, because most airlines in the region limit the free baggage allowance for domestic flights to 15 kilograms only.


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