Hello and welcome back to my blog! I haven't written here in a while but this article will be the first of many coming soon.
I changed how I vacation in 2019. Previously, I did camping road trips from home in my own vehicle. This year I started three camping road trips with a flight and rented a car at my destination. This article explains what I brought to make these trips successful. In other articles, I will cover many topics on how I improve my travel experience - everything from rental cars and food to navigation and photography tips to smartphone apps.
When I went car camping, I just loaded my SUV with gear. I brought a huge first aid kit, extra tarps, a spare sleeping bag and almost every lens I own. If I might need it, I brought it! It's a mindset change to only bring what you will definitely need but that's what's necessary when you fly. You have two restrictions with luggage - weight and volume. Checked bags can typically weigh up to 50 pounds (23 kilograms) and I don't want more than one. How do I get all my gear for camping, hiking, photography, birding and Shad in one 50-pound bag? Keep reading!
I don't want to waste any weight on the luggage itself so my checked bag is a lightweight and durable MEC duffel bag. It can really take a beating! I’ve dragged it through Toronto's Union Station more times than I can remember. Inside is:
- an Osprey Kestrel 38-litre backpack filled with:
- two stuff sacks of clothing (9-litre and 7-litre)
- a Woods Cascade 2-person tent compressed in a 9-litre dry bag
- a Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus sleeping pad
- one pair sweatpants (which can also be used as a pillow)
- a MEC Centaurus sleeping bag compressed in a 35-litre dry bag
- a tripod, hiking poles and tent poles all wrapped in a fleece sheet (sheet protects items during travel and can also be used as a pillow or for extra warmth)
- one pair trail shoes stuffed with socks and foldable water bottles (I bring three one-litre bottles and a 500 mL bottle);
- lightweight sandals (used when showering; can also be worn around camp)
- Tent pegs (optional)
- Tilley hat
- Jetboil Flash backpacking stove filled with duct tape, one large garbage bag, a tiny flashlight, add-water towels MEC towel
- a small toiletry bag
The keys for everything when travelling are versatility and weight, but that's particularly important with clothing. I'm frugal but I'll pay for a lightweight piece that will last years. I can fit ten T-shirts and two pair shorts in a 7-litre stuff sack and rain pants, wind jacket, long-sleeved base layer, sweater and socks in a 9-litre stuff sack.
- Wear your heaviest footwear on the plane. This lowers the weight of your checked bag. For example, wear hiking boots in summer and winter boots in winter.
- Don't bring books. Books are heavy so leave them at home. Much of what I used to bring in printed books is now on my phone (such as field guides for birding, audio books on Audible and offline maps on Google Maps).
- Don't bring large bottles of toiletries. Toiletries can be surprisingly heavy. Bring hotel sizes to lessen the weight of your checked bag.
- Don't bring laundry detergent or food. Buy them at your destination.
- Put smaller delicate items in a laptop bag. For example, I put binoculars, spare camera batteries, camera flash, tablet, headphones, iPhone cables and extra eyeglasses.
- Don't be afraid to fly with overweight carry-on bags. Flight attendants are much more likely to notice an oversize bag than an overweight one. I carry on two bags - a laptop bag and a GuraGear backpack filled with my camera gear and telescope. I have flown dozens of times when the latter is overweight and it has never been a problem.
- Put a coat with many large pockets on top of a carry-on bag. I use a heavy-duty GoreTex rain jacket. If someone forces me to lower the weight of my carry-on bag, I'm ready! I will take the coat out, fill its pockets with gear, and wear it on the plane. The weight of items on your person doesn't count. I'll wear an eight-pound camera necklace if I have to!
What is one item you absolutely have to bring when you travel? Let me know!