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Backpack Struggles- Confessions of a Terrible Packer

confessions of a terrible packer

confessions of a terrible packer

 

(How Not to Pack)

 

As a traveller, I know that it is all about travelling light. I know this, yet I can’t quite manage to actually follow the rule. I know how much of a nightmare it is to try to carry a backpack that weighs more than you, I know the shame felt when other sensible travellers zip past, their minuscule backpacks bopping in the wind while I’m still trying to lift mine off the ground. 

I know that it’s bad, and I have high hopes for my next trip that I will have learned from my mistakes, but the reality is that I’m not sure I can shake the habit!

My first backpacking experience was in Europe, and the struggle to climb the endless underground steps are now just a faded, amusing memory. The next trip was to Thailand, and that is where I was tricked. Somehow, I don’t have any memories of struggling with my bag. Maybe I blocked it out? But all I seem to remember is how helpful everyone was, like the staff from the guesthouses were we were staying and so on. I think that was what lured me into a false sense of security when it came to the next trip. I remember thinking that technically you could probably do South-East Asia with a suitcase!

 

The Biggest Backpack

 

When planning our 2011 trip, my two friends and I researched what bags to get, and we all fell in love with the Berghaus Jalan, because it had wheels!  We thought that we would never have to strain our backs again, except when crossing water or going up and down steps. There was also a peer pressure vibe going on, none of us wanted to be the one with a normal backpack when the others were cruising along on wheels.
And so, we bought them.
It turns out that the wheels were not as handy as I thought they would be. Sure, it was handy when, say, walking out of an accommodation to the reception, or moving it a couple of feet, as it beat having to put it on our backs every time, but it was far from smooth wheeling. (sorry!)
First of all, the handle at the top of the backpack was too low, so in order to wheel it, I had to stoop to one side and drag it behind me like Quasimodo. This was not very easy on the back, or the hips, or the neck, or even the hands, which were often raw red from gripping the nylon handle.

 

Feeling like an amateur

 

Then there was the shame factor. Feeling like an imposter tourist amongst all the backpackers was very embarrassing. It was awkward when we had to take it in turns to hoist our bags on to our backs, a two girl job. And when we were wheeling our bags while everyone else was ahead of us, that was bad. And when we had to lift our bags up, say when they were being strapped onto the roof of a truck, it was mortifying to be unable to lift the thing. (Although that could have been due to my weakling arms).

And when it was time to actually wear them on our backs, I found that the wheels would sometimes dig in to my ass and hips. I also felt like I could easily topple over at any minute.

So, all in all, it wasn’t great.

 
Then, by the end of the Asian leg of our trip, mine kind of broke. One of the metal bars came out of its pouch and was slightly bent so that even when I tried my best to get it back in, it would pop out, meaning that my bag was uneven, increasing the lopsided feeling, and making me even more afraid of tipping over.

 The great thing about the Berghaus was the storage. There was a detachable daypack, and a separate section at the bottom which was made of harder material. It opened completely, so it was easy to find things. It came with a laundry bag, which was nice.
The downside to the storage was that I used mine to its full potential. It was jam-packed leaving Dublin. I did have seven large books in it (before I had a Kindle), which I thought was a reasonable amount. I am a book junkie so I was terrified of running out, plus I had already bought lots of books about the places we were going to.
 Then we got to Bangkok, and of course I wanted to buy everything. The only thing was I had no space. My friend, who had a lighter bag than I, had already started to get rid of some of her clothes. I reluctantly dropped a few of my carefully chosen items and squashed my new purchases in.
From then on, all I could do was get rid of my books as fast as I could.

 

What have I learned from my last backpacking mistakes?

 

 So when I head back to Asia in March, I want to have learned from my last trip. I plan on getting a smaller bag, to start. But this time I will be bringing a notebook or tablet, so that’s an extra item I didn’t have before. I’ll have a Kindle, so that should help.
I don’t really know how I’ll cull from my packing list though, as the night before I set off last time I was sitting in a pile of clothes trying to eliminate the non-essentials. This time, I am hoping to reduce my packing by one third, but I have no idea what not to bring.
As I am such a weakling, I don’t really know what size bag I can carry comfortably. The way I feel now, a 20 litre would be heavy, but I have to be realistic about how much I will pack. As for my Berghaus, unfortunately it is destined to sit in the attic, filled with regret that this was not the start of a beautiful relationship that would see us travel the world together.

 

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5 Comments

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    Eve Koivula
    December 18, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    When I traveled abroad the first time in 1989 I learned how to pack a very simple way:
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