Step 5: Gearing up

This is perhaps the most exciting (and expensive) step in the trip-planning phase. It is also extremely important.

The first mini-step here is deciding what type of trip you’re embarking on. Is this a comfort-trip where you want to see the world while enjoying your creature comforts? Or, is this a fly-by-wire adventure where you take what is absolutely essential and face the frontier with nothing but your spirit and a small backpack?

We, obviously, agreed on the latter.

1. Choosing the right backpack. 

Go on Google and type in “choosing the right travel backpack.” There are 17 million hits for this search – one for every blogger and adventure junkie that has every taken a trip on a backpack. What matters most in choosing a backpack is not so much what you want (because the options are limitless), it’s about what is feasible. We narrowed a few basic parameters for choosing our backpacks.

  1. Size – We’re taking a lot of flights, so we wanted packs that are flight-friendly. Checking in bags is great if you have a surplus of karma and are convinced you’ll never loose a bag. Our group has been burned too often by lost or misplaced baggage and dealing with Delta employees in Cleveland is hard enough, so we couldn’t imagine having to deal with JetStar employees in Manilla. Parameter: it had to be about 45 linear inches – that’s length + height + width = 45in. This is the generally agreed upon recommendation for all carry-on items.
  2. Comfort – Cliff, Ali, Ryan, and Jared placed special emphasis on comfort. They all went to outdoor stores to get measured and fitted for the right type of backpack. Frame vs. no frame. Internal frame vs. External frame. Internal metal frame vs. Internal polycarbonate frame. These were all the considerations that determined how comfortably they could carry a loaded pack around the desert in Northern India.
  3. Cost – By this point, the trip was adding up, so cost definitely became an issue. There were top-of-the-line North Face and Osprey packs available in the mid-$200 to upper-$300 range, but that was equivalent to our entire Philippines budget. On the low end, there were some sketchy packs available on e-Bay, but we couldn’t bet 30 days on a sketchy pack. We needed packs somewhere in between that delivered quality, durability, and met the previous two requirements as well.

Here’s how we ended up:

  • Hersh and Priya: Ultralight packers, chose the LL Bean Bigelows in Men’s (35) and Women’s (30). Entry-level, all-around pack for $71!
  • Steph: Light packer, chose the…
  • Ryan:  Medium packer, chose the Osprey Kestral 48 Liter. Not a bad price for the size ($150 ish), has plenty of adjustable straps to shrink it down for overhead compartments.
  • Cliff and Ali: Medium packers, chose the…
  • Jared: Heavy packer, chose the LL Bean AT 55. Larger, technical pack to accommodate his 2 extra weeks in Israel before the TOW.

Special shot-out to a reader, Allison Zimmerman, for her advice on where to find packs. Thanks, Allison.

2. Choosing the right apparel 

Once we had our packs, we had to decide on what to fill them with. Again, our criteria were simple: essentials only, adventure-focused, and nothing we can’t wash/toss. For Cliff, this meant leaving his suit at home. Here is the general philosophy we each took to packing:

  • Hersh – polyester wick-away fabric shirts, cotton shorts, and a few pairs of underwear; swim trunks, rain jacket, and flip-flops as well; one pair of shoes; generic everything – no brands/labels/etc.
  • Steph
  • Ryan – a fews days worth of cotton t-shirts, 2 pairs of shorts, 1 pair of jeans, a weeks worth of unmentionables, amphibious hiking shoes ($69 north face Padda II, I would definitely recommend them for a combo beach/hiking/backpacking trip), 1 pair of flip flops, medications (malaria pills, general meds for pain, allergies, bug repellent, hand sanitizer, etc.), and of course, the Aviators.
  • Cliff
  • Ali
  • Jared
  • Priya

3. Deciding on what gear/gadgets to bring


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