Can someone bring me my shoes?

Posted in Travel at 13:49 by RjZ

So how did dragging too much camera equipment and too little clothes work for my recent trip to Thailand? Here’s the scoop:

Too much camera gear: thankfully, you really can’t have too much camera gear! I don’t change lenses nearly often enough and tend to walk around for a while with one and then change it for more walking, but, having more reach, both wide and long, makes for great fun and better pictures. I am not sure I actually got better pictures, but it least I felt like I could. I regularly used the ridiculous external flash, although I didn’t get a chance to use it wirelessly on such a short and fast-paced trip. Taking pictures with a flash is (for me) much more work than just snapping the photo and it slowed me down quite a bit and annoyed people around me some too, but it enabled many pictures that would have failed and if I get better with it, I’ll be able to do some amazing things without torturing those around me! The flash will go on the next trip!

What didn’t work about all that camera gear is my new bag. It’s a great bag, but it just isn’t comfortable to carry around all day, every day, everywhere. You weren’t thinking you could actually leave that expensive camera gear in your cheap hotel were you? Budget travel means carrying things with you 100% of the time. Passports, extra cash, and anything rather expensive really needs to stay attached to you if you expect to have it for the whole trip. The new bag is convenient and safe, but it could only carry camera stuff. No extra room for a guide book and none for water or food, but I needed somewhere to put those things, lest I die of thirst, lost in back streets of Bangkok. It also hurt my shoulder after 12 hours. Waaah! The bag stays home. Back to the store for something else.

Verdict: camera gear OK; but get a more convenient bag with room for other stuff too; even if you have to give up some rapid access to that zoom lens.

Too little clothes: actually, I wondered if I could pare down further. I don’t think that will be necessary, but I definitely didn’t want for an extra shirt or pair of pants. I bought a silly shirt to wear, just for fun and it was four dollars. If I needed clothes, I would have gladly bought some more. Toiletries and medications were also readily available. This won’t be true everywhere you travel, but it’s true in most places I’ve been. You can almost always bring less than you did and get what you need, when you need it, in country. I used stuff sacks to keep stuff sorted and this is a well worth it idea–it even helps you to keep inventory of those things you’ll need to buy when you’re there. A big stuff sack was an awesome addition when I needed to store the few things we weren’t taking on a trek with the hotel. You should get one of these if you don’t have one.

There is one more change though. I may not need a very big bag for the tiny amount of things I bring on a trip but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have a bigger bag that one can pack loosely. I carry my extra shoes (or sandals) clipped to the backpack with a carabiner. This is annoying at best, but became an actual problem when the shoes didn’t fit in a bus overhead so, I unclipped them, and then left them on the bus.

I went on an all day hike the next day, in sandals, which actually worked out just fine and then bought a pair of beat-up used shoes for a three-day trek, which also worked out fine, but simply having enough room to throw the shoes in the bag like my traveling partner did would have eliminated this hassle. So, go ahead and get a bigger bag; just make sure it’s a long, narrow one that will likely fit in small bus compartments and that you can compress a lot. Above all, don’t be tempted to fill it, you need the room during your trip.

On the other hand… you might not even need the shoes at all if your feet get tough enough and you have sturdy sandals. You’ll almost never see your local guides leading you in much more than flip-flops. As I said before, save the hiking boots for the trip to Annapurna base-camp. (Actually, you’ll likely have sherpas in old running shoes, maybe you don’t need them there either).

Meanwhile, if anyones going to Thailand in the next couple of days, my shoes might still be shuttling back and forth from Surat Thani to Phuket island on an A/C express bus. If your pack has room, maybe you could bring ‘em back for me?


  1. Kate (Outdoorsie) said,

    February 1, 2008 at 10:59

    Nice run-down RJ! Glad your trip went well. No pics up yet?

    I think guys have a bit of an unfair advantage in many ways in traveling (and not just security issues). Apart from having one fewer necessary piece of clothing to wear each day, men also don’t have to worry about packing for monthly annoyances. My husband always complains that my bag is bigger than his, but it almost has to be. I have hair to wash and comb and he doesn’t. I have prescriptions and he doesn’t. In Italy, I had to pack for churches that wouldn’t allow me entry without wearing a skirt, covering my shoulders and in extreme cases my head. I wish it were as simple as “take one pair of pants and two pairs of underwear”, but I think there’s just simply more baggage associated with being a woman and traveling.

  2. RjZ said,

    February 1, 2008 at 19:47

    Thanks, Kate! Nice to see you here! Hmm, I don’t buy that women have to carry much more. The monthy annoyance thing, sure, but typically, women’s underwear is tiny compared to mens (I, for one, am thankful for this!) as are the rest of their clothes. Women don’t have to bring skirts and tank tops and can get by with the same t-shirts and pants that I do. Even churches offer wraps for those when pants aren’t enough. (There might be exceptions to this, I’ll admit) It could be a whole blog posting, but I’ll never understand why women, who are naturally colder and more sensitive to temperature than men, continue to insist on wearing clothes that don’t cover as much and leave them exposed to drafts. I am glad they do, because they’re pretty that way, but I can’t say I would if I had the choice.

    As far as shampoo and other personal hygiene, I’ve still got hair and I bring bottles and something to comb my hair with, and I shave too, so that means a razor and blades (although I don’t bother with shaving cream–too big!) Prescriptions aren’t usually sexist; the only reason more women might have them is because they’re not as stubborn as many men.

    I am confident that there’s nothing wrong with the way you pack; anyone who spends as many nights outside as you can handle a little roughing it, but I don’t buy that there’s a huge necessary difference in our packs.

  3. Danice said,

    August 12, 2011 at 23:57

    Keep these arclties coming as they’ve opened many new doors for me.

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