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Gear Mail

*We’ve decided to dedicate Wednesdays to gear: the items we’ve bought, why we bought it, stuff we’ve returned. You get the idea.  We’d love to hear what you guys think, too – the good and the bad.  If we bought headlamps that you hated, we want to hear about it.  And, sometime (probably at the halfway mark of our trip) we’ll let you know what goodies treated us well & which ones we had to ditch along the way.

This Wednesday we’ll be focusing on a major item: the big bag!  We’ll each have 1 big bag to carry our clothes & toiletries in and 1 small bag to carry electronics, water, cards, a lightweight sweater & any other small items that might be handy/entertaining.  You’ll learn more about the small bags we picked in the next addition of Gear Mail.

Without any further ado, we introduce our main packs . . . REI Venus & Mars:

Me & Venus; Corey & Mars
No, we weren’t planning on getting the equivalent of each others bags or try to answer the cosmic question about why women & men are the way they are.  After hours at REI these were the packs we found suited us: comfortable – even with lots of weight in them, accessible, lightweight but spacious. I tried on 3 bags & Corey tried on 4.  In the end he was torn between this one and an Osprey model.
 
Going in I knew that I needed something that was going to be nice to my back.  Even though it’s a mild case, my scoliosis isn’t something I want to worry about halfway around the world.  I read a lot of good reviews about the Gregory Deva 70 pack, but it just didn’t seem to fit right on me.  My height was the main factor & the hip belt felt funny.
 
Obviously, we won’t be able to give a good review until we’re on the road, but here are some of the reasons we went with these packs:
  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable
  • Spacious
    (Venus is 65 liters & Mars is 75 liters)
  • Lots of compartments (7+)
  • Top & Panel loading
    (more than one way to get items in & out of the main pack)

While there is an ongoing debate in the independent travel community about packing a lot vs. the minimalist approach of taking as little as possible, we decided to go with what makes us feel comfortable.  We realize that our packs may be on the big side, but this is our first big trip and we’re happy with our decision.  Maybe we’ll go for the tiniest packs for our next big trip, but until we’ve experienced the road for ourselves, we won’t know.  The thought is, we’d rather take what we think we’ll need now & toss it along the way later. 

So, this will be our house (duplex?) for our big adventure.  Needless to say, we’re pretty excited! 

yeah, we’re pretty pumped!

Make sure to check out the next Gear Mail post on our daypacks!

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So it just dawned on us that while some of our readers are travellers, most of them are friends and family who’d like to know more about what it takes to go on a trip of this magnitude.  We have about a year & 1/2 left before our departure and here’s a list (in no particular order) of some of the big items that need to be done.

 Find Subletters AND/OR Sell/Store Belongings: We have gone back & forth as to whether we want to sublet or move out several times. Our living situation is pretty sweet right now, not only because Corey’s parents are our landlords, but it’s a really beautiful location. If we sublet we wouldn’t have to worry so much about storage or trying to sell our stuff. However, if we do decide to have a big garage sale and get rid of everything, then we won’t have anything to worry about while we’re on the road. I think this would be a hard step to take, but I’ve read so many blogs about how liberating this can be. For now, we are leaning towards subletting, but we’ll be sure to let you guys know once we decide.

 Get Proper Vaccinations: This is pretty self-explanatory, but we need to figure out all the places we plan to go or even those we think we might go and get our shots.  We’ll definitely need to get malaria medication and chances are we’ll attempt to get it from Canada, cause it’s cheaper.  It seems like most people get this taken care of about 4-6 months before their trip. 

Finalize Our Route:  We have a pretty good idea of what route we plan to take, but as the trip gets closer we will need to solidify this a bit more.  We think we want to start in Central or South America, but we’re not sure where to start.  Here’s a map of our plan (as of 2/13/11).

Purchase the Rest of Our Gear:  Up until now, we’ve been buying a bunch of small stuff that we know we’ll need.  For example, earplugs, toiletry kits, small dry sacks and our daypacks.  Now, it’s time to start purchasing those big-ticket items, like digital readers, headlamps, underwater camera – just to name a few.  We’d originally planned to get 2 iPads, but we recently came across more affordable tablets, so we’ll be doing more research on these in the upcoming months. 

Complete any Membership Registrations:  Some of the resources that we’ll try to utilize while we’re away are couchsurfing.com, workaway.info, airbnb.com, only-apartments.com & anyworkanywhere.com.  It’s not required, but recommended to get yourself verified on CouchSurfing, which involves making a donation and basically verifying your identity.  In order to register for WorkAway, there’s a fee of 24 Euros for 2 people, which is good for 2 years.  From what we can see, Air BnB & Only Apartments is like booking a hotel, so there shouldn’t be too much in registering & Anywork Anywhere will probably be utilized if we end up staying somewhere for a month or more.  These are some of the resources we have found, but are definitely open to any suggestions that you guys have come across.

Picking the Right Bank/Credit Cards:  This will be delegated to Corey, because it makes me dizzy trying to understand the ins & outs of credit and financials.  However, here are some articles we found on the Best Credit Cards for Travelers, Managing Your Money on the Road, & Banks Recommended by Travelers.  There’s also the issue with Americans having problems using their credit/debit cards overseas because we don’t have a Chip, which you can read more about here.

Get More Passport Photos:  This is for any visas that we’ll need while we’re on the road.  Again, this goes back to getting a better idea of all the places we plan to visit.  As Americans we’re pretty lucky in that we can visit all the places we wish to see without too much hassle, so this isn’t something we’re really worried about.  Here’s a list of Visa Requirements for US Citizens.

 To be honest this list is just the tip of the iceberg.  Other things we still need to figure out are trip insurance, slimming our packing list, travel clothing which won’t be purchased until about 2 months before our departure and that’s just to name a few. What did we miss?  What was the most challenging for those of you who are either on the road or already back?  We’d love to hear what you guys think. (Sorry for the lack of photos, we did try, but our internet is having a bad day)

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