- First, it tightly compacts the bag and makes it difficult for a stranger to casually open.
- Second, it keeps the innards from straining the zippers if it's really packed tightly.
- Third, the rainbow strap is easy to spot if you and your bag get separated. The bags are black because black shows no grime, so they'll look better far longer than light-colored bags. But black bags all tend to look similar, and this will keep someone else from accidentally carrying off your bag.
The bills are folded in half and clamped down out of sight so they won't come tumbling out when I pull out my passport or vaccination papers. Normally I have this pouch fastened to a belt loop with the carabiner shown, then tucked down inside my pants (not in a pocket). This is very secure, and the least embarrassing if I need to pull it out in public. However, it's best to do this in a bathroom so you won't be observed.
While in the airport, the passport, a couple of $20s and the yellow "shot-sheet" are kept in a buttoned-down pocket for easy access. Although you may not need the yellow proof of vaccination at your destination, you might have to produce it if you have a layover in certain countries, even if you never leave the airport. Be sure to check before you leave home. BTW, the shots may run more than $100, even at a county health clinic, so be prepared!
Now, before we discuss what's in that larger bag, let's get through the frisking line so we can settle down, put our shoes back on, and peek inside. To get through the line, they'll ask you to put anything metal (belt buckles, nail clippers, keys, loose change, etc.) into a bowl on the conveyor belt, along with your shoes and all your bags.
Before the bags roll away out of sight, though fish out the little 1-quart plastic bag you prepared with all of your liquids, gels, and lotions in it to show to the attendant. It should look a lot like this one, at right, with anything that sloshes or squishes in clear sight ~ nothing should obscure anything else. The attendants can get really cross with you, or make you toss something in the trash if you don't get it right, so pay attention. To make sure you meet all the regulations, go online and look up the current requirements for the liquids bag.
If I were checking luggage, I would have put the combination sunscreen/insect repellent tubes into my luggage, because I won't need them until I get there. But I don't have that option, so the two big tubes are taking up a huge amount of space in my carry-on bag.
Always take first-aid items, because it's best to avoid getting any kind of infection in a foreign country. If you get stress cankers or rashes or if your cuts infect easily, make sure you go prepared. I've got an insect-sting reliever here, too, to avoid infected (scratched) insect bites. And eye drops for tired eyes.
Okay, finally, on to the big bag, the pack. By the way, I chose a pack because it gives me the option of carrying it in my hand or on my back. A wheeled piece would work, but rigid carry-on bags sometimes can't be crammed into the overhead space and are whisked away to the luggage compartment. So I prefer the pack. Even so, it is out of my sight during the trip so I always pack the most important things in my hand bag (if I can cram them in) so I can function if the pack is never seen again. I wouldn't be HAPPY, but I'd survive. So let's take a look ~ most of the contents are clothes. The sandals go in the bottom, as I won't use those until I get there. So does the day pack, the extra batteries, and the doorstop. The rest of it can go in wherever it fits, with the very top two items being the neck pillow and the throw. Actually I'll probably be wearing the throw, but if I've included it in the packing I'll be sure to have room to stuff it back in when I reach my destination and don't need it further.
The neck pillow I use is very light, just ten ounces, and filled with what looks like millet husks (you know, the outer covers of those tiny, round, cream-colored bird seeds?). I've tried inflatable pillows, and they're okay for short trips, but I've had two go flat on me. Waking up with a flat pillow and having to make do with a t-shirt is very annoying. If you have a long airport layover, you may end up in the corner under a bench on the carpet (I have, anyway). Your pillow will be your only consolation, so consider the options carefully.
The large water bottle in the pack has been tightly stuffed with clean underwear (I had to add "clean" because the description conjured up the most AWful vision). I'll need that bottle for hiking, but don't need to use it on the plane, so this is an excellent way to conserve room. (Notice it has a loop on it for attaching to a carabiner later.)
I found a very light rain-jacket with a hood for use in the jungle. It may serve as a long-sleeved shirt, too, but it may be too hot. I'll just have to wait and see. It is fairly multipurpose, with a hood, two huge pockets across the front (big enough for a sketchbook! Hooray!), and button-up sleeves.
In case you wonder how to tell if something like this is really waterproof, try to blow through it, really hard. If the air stops at the fabric, it's close to waterproof. If air strains through it, forget it ~ you'll be drenched in a downpour.
I also included an emergency plastic poncho. I used this in the very wet cloud forest in Costa Rica. If you have to fold it up wet, you can always dry it out later and repack it for the next emergency.
The red bandanna serves several purposes.
- It keeps sweat out of your eyes when tied around your forehead (and looks really jaunty).
- It hides a Bad Hair Day (although I cut my hair really short so I don't have that worry!)
- You can use it as a marker if you get lost or want to signal someone which way you went, or signal for yourself if you take a detour off the path and want to find your way back (it's probably better than Hansel's cookie crumbs, anyway).
- It is good for dumping treasures onto when you come back with a pocket full of goodies.
The rubber doorstop is to stick under the bottom edge of your hotel door, jammed in tight, to keep out unauthorized people.
I'm carrying one guidebook here, having checked into several. This one isn't strong on pictures, but it has lots of good information of where I'm going: history, climate, geography, things to try and things to avoid, good places to eat, with maps of the town I'll be in and sights I should see or avoid there. It's got info about various illnesses I should watch out for and what do for them. Since my Spanish consists only of stray words I've picked up here and there (although it may be better by the time I get there!) it's good to have a well-researched guidebook to keep me safe and knowledgeable.
I've mentioned safari pants before ~ these are very light-weight, fast-drying synthetic pants with lots of pockets, some zippered. On this pair, the legs zip off to change the pants into shorts, which you can do in the middle of a hike if you get heated up, then fold and tuck them into one of the big pockets for the to return to camp. Or they can start out as shorts with the legs in the pockets, available to zip on if the sun starts to burn or the bugs start to bite.
Finally, there are extra batteries, extra reading glasses, extra aspirin, extra energy bars, etc. I packed some of each of these in my fanny pack, as well, so these aren't my only supply.
Even if I lose all this, somehow, I could still get by with what's in my fanny pack (although I might not smell quite as good!).
I'll describe the whats and why-fores of the fanny pack in the next blog entry. Now for my next bout with Maria and the Spanish lessons!