Since we sometimes have a home base for a month and sometimes
don’t, we need a flexible luggage system. If we’re
renting an apartment, all we need to do is get everything
to the new location once. But if we’re traipsing about
the country, we need to be able to tote it all.
In any case, it is important to be able to carry or pull
all our stuff simultaneously without assistance. In most
circumstances, this means that each of us is wearing a normal-sized
backpack and perhaps a smaller item (travel purse or small
camera bag) while towing our larger backpacks (on wheels).
If the terrain is rough, however, we can wear our large
backpacks and put our normal-sized backpacks on our fronts.
This gives us the appearance of dwarves making an awkward
getaway, but it gets the job done. Specifically, we are
-Large backpack (1 each)
Swiss Army Victorinox Trek Pack Plus 22” (Susan)
and Trek Pack Plus 26” (Grace). Backpacks with
wheels are inherently not as comfortable as proper backpacking
packs, but these feel pretty good and have a waist belt
for extra support. They’re also lightweight, and
quite sturdy. Fortunately, we are rolling them a lot
more than carrying them. (Tip: When shopping for backpacks,
make sure you try them on with the waist strap and loaded
down with weight.)
-Normal-sized backpack (Susan)
This is an old North Face jobby. It’s not the
most comfortable, so we might replace it at some point,
but it’s big enough and flexible, and we can strap
stuff to the outside if necessary.
-Equipment backpack (Grace)
Crumpler Shrinkle (they have kinda’ weird names
for their products over at Crumpler). This is our coolest
piece of luggage – super flexible and built like
a tank. The main compartment is designed to hold a mess
of camera gear, and there’s another compartment
for a laptop. The main compartment is configurable with
velcro adjustable stiff padding, so we can make safe
little compartments that perfectly fit our particular
bits and bobs. The whole padded main compartment is
removable, which transforms the backpack into a good-sized
daypack. The laptop holder is also removable, so sometimes
we just take the laptop case to an internet café
without lugging the whole pack. And best of all, the
Crumpler doesn’t make us LOOK like we’re
carrying a bunch of techazoid stuff; it just looks like
a normal, skate-punk backpack.
-Extra daypack (1 shared)
Our large, wheeled Victorinox packs each came with
a free daypack that straps onto the outside. We left
one of these at home, but brought the other one with
us. It’s smaller than our normal backpacks, so
it makes a great daypack. For flights, it’s usually
flattened and stuffed inside one of the big packs, but
if we need to carry something extra, we can use it as
another piece of checked luggage or haul it around attached
to either of the big packs.
-Camera sling (Grace)
Tamrac Velocity 7. When we’re flying, we use
this as a small carry-on for non-camera stuff. When
we’re hiking or around town, we use it to carry
the camera since the Crumpler pack is usually too much
to lug around. It also has an optional waist belt for
when it gets heavy. It holds (just barely) the camera
with one of the medium-size lenses or the zoom lens
attached and another one loose, and we have an add-on
pouch that can fit the other medium-size lens if necessary
(see Equipment for lens details). We prefer the sling
variety because it can be worn like a backpack when
walking (more comfortable than a pouch) and can be moved
around to the front for access and safety when desired
(more convenient than a backpack, and sometimes there’s
no more room on Grace’s back anyway).
-Beach purse (Susan)
This is very light (no frame) and useful for short
excursions. It also packs down to nothing.
-Hidden money pouch
We rarely use this since we prefer secure pockets
for everyday, but it does come in handy when we’re
moving from location to location, and in the airports.
-Hanging toiletry bag
Swiss Army Victorinox. You’d be surprised how
great it is to be able to hang this puppy up in all
sorts of random bathrooms. It’s good-sized and
has a main pocket for larger bottles with a couple zip
up pockets on either side. It also has a waterproof
inner lining so it’s easy to clean up spills,
of which we’ve had several.
-Flexible mesh containers and flat-packing
Eagle Creek. These are great for organizing things
inside the backpacks (medicine, clothes that are still
clean, clothes that aren’t really clean but can
be worn 5 more times if need be, etc.). The flat-packing
folder thingie is for keeping shirts and dresses (or
dress, rather) relatively wrinkle-free and compact.
Lewis N. Clark. These are good for when our shoes
get really dirty (and also handy for carrying other
Lewis N. Clark. Surprisingly, this is one of our favorite
items. Keeping medicine organized and accessible is
a trick, and this thing is the perfect pony. It’s
more compact than carrying all the bottles and boxes
around. We’ve labeled each of the pouches and
keep the directions in the side folder.
These are worth their weight in gold, or at least
Clif Bars. They’re good for everything, including
keeping things organized; quarantining smelly or dirty
things until we can clean them, holding trash on long
hikes until we can throw it away; insuring against possible
shampoo or sunscreen explosions; or even storing food,
as if they were actually designed for this purpose.
(Tip: Pack lots of extra gallon-sized and sandwich-sized
bags in your luggage since you can’t get them
everywhere and if you can get them, you don’t
necessarily want 30 of them. And only buy the heavy-duty
Question about your large backpack (trek
pack plus) Did you have any trouble taking it as a carry
on? I was thinking of buying a travel bag and I'm debating
whether or not to buy the 26" or 22" size bag.
I know most US airlines don't really care, but some smaller
airlines and international airlines are strict, or simply
the overhead bin isn't big enough. Any suggestions on between
the 2 sizes? I almost NEVER check any luggage in, but try
to always just do carry on.
--Stephan L. (Oakland, California, USA); Aug 29, 2006
We actually checked both those
bags. We carried our small backpacks on and there would
just be no way they would let us do that with the big bags,
too. You can probably carry on the 22" sometimes, but
checking the 26" would be tough. Some airlines (and
some check-in agents) are very strict, so we sometimes even
had trouble carrying on our small backpacks (the one with
the laptop and the camera gear is quite heavy), especially
if we were flying in a small plane.
--Susan & Grace; Nov 4, 2006
Your trip sounds fantastic! Hope you
are continually safe and enjoying the world. I am about
to set out on a year-long trip of my own and found your
site fantastic. Quick question about your rolling backpacks:
how are they treating you? I bought a similar model, but
everyone is telling me to ditch it and bring a more traditional
backpack. Are you finding they work well? If you have any
great tips, I'm all ears.
--Elizabeth S. (Washington, USA); Feb 8, 2006
Many hardcore backpackers would
probably advise against the rolling packs, but we're really
glad that we chose ours. The arguments against them are
simple: 1) they're a bit heavier since they include the
wheel gear, and 2) they're not as comfortable as a proper,
The big reason we liked them is
that they're less tiring. If you're in a place with flat
ground (city, airport, etc.), then it's much less tiring
to drag them around since the weight is on the ground (instead
of on you). And of course, if you need to, you can carry
them on your back, but most of the time we didn't need to
do this. Also, we were not always on the go, so we simply
had to get our stuff from one place to the next, and then
we'd use daypacks for most of the time until our next move.
All this said, it really depends
on your trip. If you will be in lots of places with no roads
and you need to carry your pack into the jungle or along
dirt paths all the time, then maybe using a rolling pack
isn't the greatest idea. But if, on average, you will be
able to leave it on the ground and roll it, and once in
a while carry it, then we highly recommend them! We hope
--Susan & Grace; Feb 10, 2006
Thanks for the site and info its great.
Any problems with the pill case? Understood some countries
like to see your medicines in their original packages. I'm
on various meds as older and would prefer they were not
--Rory (London, England); Sep 10, 2005
We haven't had any trouble with
the pill case (it was only examined once, at Wilson Airport
in Kenya, where we explained that we were traveling for
a whole year, which seemed to do the trick). Just in case,
however, we carry the original labels for our medications.
You should also carry your prescriptions (or at least copies).
Some places will let you refill them on the road.