Monday, February 8, 2010

The Obligatory Packing List: Part II

In this installment of "What's In The Backpack," we'll cover drugs, gadgets, and other crap.

If you missed the intro or the first installment, clicky the linky.

So, let's talk about drugs.

staying healthy, or at least not dying

I learned my lesson about health on the road when I was in Peru, sick as a dog, and I had to walk from my hostel into town, explain my symptoms to the pharmacist, in Spanish, running a fever, while coughing up lung juice.  It was a good learning experience, for sure, and my Spanish was good enough to get the point across, but I don't trust that I'll get to the same point of fluency with Tagalog or Nepali.  Better to have a few doses of many drugs on hand--enough to buy me some time to get to an English-speaking doctor.
  • I'm bringing three antibiotics:  doxycycline (for malaria--still haven't decided if I will take it), azithromycin (for really bad stomach stuff), ciprofloxacin (for UTIs).  If I'm in a state where I need to take the zithro or cipro, a doctor's visit will be imminent.
  • I don't usually take a multi-vitamin, because I eat pretty well at home, but I can guarantee that there will be times when I'll need nutritional support on the road.  Wish I had these in Peru, actually.
  • The Steripen is a pretty nifty invention.  It uses UV light to render everything in your water unable to reproduce.  Result:  you can't get sick from drinking water containing bugs.  It does not filter chemicals, heavy metals, and other non-living toxins, though.  In Peru, I drank a LOT of bottled water, and every time one of my bottles went in the trash (no recycling), I winced.  I'm really glad that I'll be able to fill up a bottle from the tap, zap the water, and chug.  I got this specifically for the trip using an EMS credit.
  • Also bringing tape and a baggie to hold everything.
  • There's a lot of stuff in that little medicine kit.  I cleaned out my medicine cabinet!

    • Drugs: Diphenhydramine (Benadryl), Ibuprophen (Advil), Loperamide (Imodium), pink bismuth tabs (Pepto Bismol), Dimenhydrinate (Dramamine), Loratadine (Claritin), Simethicone (Gas-X), Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), Phenazopyridine (Pyridium).
    • Other: Bandaids, Alcohol wipes, Antiseptic wipes, Thermometer (wish I had one in Peru), Moleskin
staying clean, or at least less gross

  • Brush, comb, Dr. Bronner's, jojoba/ almond oil blend, and rock crystal deodorant:  this is how I stay (relatively) clean.
  • Lotion, Calico Jack perfume, and cinnamon essential oil:  my luxury items, since I don't wear and don't plan to bring makeup.  I'm bringing my own lotion (Dr. Bronner's Sun Dog, to be specific), because I can recognize and pronounce all of the ingredients, which is extremely rare and extremely awesome.
  • Tweezers, Q-tips, dental floss:  other good stuff to have.
  • Climb On Bar:  the most amazing skin-everything on the planet.  According to their website, it's useful for "burns, cuts, scrapes, rashes, cracked cuticles and heels, tissue nose, road rash, diaper rash, abrasions, poison ivy...all skin issues."  The only thing I haven't used it for is diaper rash.  I can recognize and pronounce all of the ingredients.
  • Gladrags:  if you have to ask, you probably don't want to know.
  • Sunscreen and DEET spray:  massive bottles.  I still don't know whether these products are readily available in SE Asia, S. Asia, Africa, and S. America.  These two might save my butt some day.
  • Case:  from the dollar store.
big stuff
  • Yes, I'm bringing a sleeping bag.  Yes, this is contrary to all RTW-travel advice.  I need one for NZ, I'd like to have one for couchsurfing, and the one I have packs down pretty small.  If it's not working out, I'll leave it behind (I inherited it back in 2002, so no loss to me) or ship it home.
  • I was really glad to have a small shoulder bag while I was in Peru.  Backpacks aren't allowed in some locations, it feels strange to take a backpack to a restaurant, and it's hard to keep an eye on something strapped to your back.  I made this little bag and the matching zippered clutch out of three bags I found in a dollar store.  Hurrah for sewing abilities!
  • Waterbottle and Packtowl.
  • I was really happy to have a small photo album with photos of my family, friends, job, home, and favorite activities when I was in Peru.  Even though it's a bit presumptuous to assume that other people want to hear about your life, it's a great ice breaker.  Almost uniformly, Peruvians loved pictures of my family (apparently the young ladies in my family are muy lindas).
  • Important papers go in a little plastic zipper pouch I found in a dollar store.  Important papers include:  NY drivers license, immunization history, spare ATM card, copy of passport, US dollars (with more hidden in other places in my backpack), travel insurance policy, passport pictures for visa applications.
little stuff
  • I wished I had a travel alarm clock in Peru.  I asked a hostel worker to wake me up early on the day I was going to Machu Picchu.  I even left a note in Spanish at the front desk.  Of course, there was no wake up call (fortunately, I woke up on my own).  I had a few other nights of very light sleep to make sure I got my early morning bus/ flight.
  • Pen, marker, and tape.  I'm bringing some duct tape, which holds the universe together; some masking tape, which is good for light-duty use; and some cellophane tape, which is good for taping together ripped currency.  Zip-ties secure zippers on a pack to keep out casual curiosity.
  • Speaking of security, I'm also bringing a home-made cable and a combo lock for hostel lockers and for locking my pack to something while I sleep on a bus or train.
  • The sewing kit is pretty basic.  Hint:  bring more safety pins than you think you'll need.
  • I'm bringing the camping multi-tool, mostly for the thermometer and the compass, although it also has a whistle, a small LED light, and a few other features.
  • The plug adapter was Dave's; I think it only works for NZ, Australia, and the UK, so it might stay in NZ.
  • The cassette converter is to listen to an iPod while we're driving around the South Island.  It's definitely staying in NZ.
  • I'm blind as a bat, so I cart around prescription sunglasses, a set of spare glasses, a strap for my glasses, and a small repair kit.
  • The case, not surprisingly, is from the dollar store.
the "turtle shell"

All of the stuff above, as well as the clothing in my previous post, goes in my large backpack.  In turn, the large backpack goes on my back, like I'm an oversized tortoise.  This pack supposedly holds 65L, plus a 10L detachable "daypack" on the top.  With all of my stuff in it (excepting the hiking boots, which I wear when I'm on the move), the top daypack is completely empty, the side pockets are completely empty, and the main compartment isn't full.  I estimate that my stuff takes up about 50L, but it's nice to have extra space so I don't have to cram everything in.  I can also put the contents of my day pack into my main pack, if the need arises.

the "kangaroo pouch"

Notes:  This section includes everything that goes in my carry-on piece of luggage. 
  • I have a small day pack that doubles as a carry-on piece of luggage.  When I also have my turtle shell, I wear the day pack on my front, a la Mama Kangaroo.
  • I'm bringing two books:  a field guide to the NZ forest, and a gift for a colleague and fellow reader.  Both will stay in NZ.
  • Can't forget the passport and the wallet with cash and ATM card.
  • I can sleep almost anywhere, but that doesn't mean I want to put myself through hell in the process.  I wished I had a neck pillow while I was in Peru.  Not leaving that behind again!  I did bring earplugs, and I'm definitely bringing them again.
  • My other waterbottle, and a wristwatch.
  • I like to keep my toothbrush and toothpaste in my carry-on for long trips.  A quick clean-up makes me feel fresher and more civilized.

Notes:  The electronics stuff goes in the daypack and stays with me.
  • My camera is a beat up piece of crap.  If I were a pickpocket, I wouldn't want to steal it.  Obviously, I used the camera to take the above picture, so it's not shown.  Also bringing a bunch of memory cards, the cable that connects the camera to the computer, and lens cleaning tissues.  The lens cleaners do double duty on my glasses.
  • Both the camera and the Steripen use AA batteries, so I've got a nifty battery charger and some rechargeable batteries.
  • My headlamp was a gift from my parents ages ago.  It's some tiny thing from Brookstone, but it's amazingly bright and compact.  This is the only headlamp I've ever used, and it's still going strong with a new set of batteries.
  • I debated whether to bring my iPod, but in the end, I'm going with "yes."  I've started listening to podcasts on long trips, and I also use it as a meditation timer.  Not a fan of the white earbuds, as they scream "rob me!",* but I don't care enough to replace them.
  • Of course, I have a dollar store case for this stuff.
  • My parents' holiday gift to me this year was a netbook, specifically the eeePC (I think it's fun to call it a wheeePC).  It came with a neoprene sleeve and charging cord, and I already had the small USB mouse.
*It bothers me that American English has no way to handle the exclamation mark/ comma/ quotation mark situation.  How can anyone learn American English when highly literate Yankees can barely write it correctly?  I will defer to British English in this case.  Exclamation mark, close quotation mark, comma.

Some stuff didn't make the cut.  What's staying home?  See part three.

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