Shrinking bags and simpler travels

Technology and experience are further breaking down the barriers associated with the life of a permanent traveler, and reducing the weight on our shoulders. To the people who've met me or regularly read this journal of sorts, you know I've been traveling North America for the past two and a half years seeking out good times in a manner some people question heavily, but eventually come to a smiling understanding with.

I set out on this lifestyle to escape the stagnant routine I found myself in, "leading nowhere" doesn't say it right, it's the fact that I could see where it was going that got me off it. Predictability can be comforting, but doesn't lend itself to my best memories.

I've always loved technology, the internet especially sparked my interest along with a lot of the world, every day we're more connected. This further swung me towards a life on the go, I can easily stay connected with people I've known and continue to meet. I shoved my laptop in a backpack along with every other conceivable possession I thought I'd need for this new hobo lifestyle: clothes for all climates, tools, camping gear, toiletries and all kinds of others gear I thought I'd need.

Experience and technology have helped me shed a whole lot of it. At first, my backpack was stuffed to capacity, and in fact had my sleeping bag hanging off the outside, plus, I had two other smaller packs slung over my shoulders. Now I just have the one backpack, which has become increasingly more spacious.

Here's some of what I've gotten rid of, what I've learned and what's coming down the line to slim things down even more for the permanent traveler.

Shoes take up a lot of space, I started with a couple pairs and learned that all I need is Keens and smartwool socks. Keens (and I'm sure there's other brands of equal quality) are like sandals with the toe intact, smartwool is a great material that stays dry and warm. With this I've played basketball, hiked many miles in places like the grand canyon, floated down rivers, enjoyed the beach and trudged through the snow on NYC sidewalks. Extra shoes take up valuable space, unless you're into fancy ballroom dancing or something otherwise specific then there's no reason to have two pairs of shoes.

Smartwool is great for more than just socks, but underwear and shirts and more. It repels water, which means stink, which means you can get an extra couple days use out of your gear before washing, and that means you can pack less.

Like I said, technology is my friend. When I first started out, I had my laptop and two hard drives that stacked up to half the size of a toaster. Those eventually got replaced by one small enough to put in my pocket. Now it's gone all together, my photos and videos are stored online at full quality, thanks to Google. In fact just today they announced that Google Docs will now be able to store all types of files. Not only is this less weight, but better peace of mind, as a hard drive can be lost, but Googles servers cannot be... if they are I'm sure the world will be in flames and we'll be reaching for the whiskey as we watch it all come to a blazing end.

Even my laptop will soon be retired, as Android phones have caught up to be as powerful as the average computer was just 4 years ago, and are only getting better. Laser keyboards and mini projecters can provide the same full keyboard and screens we're used to without taking up the space, meaning your entire computer fits in your pocket.

As I get rid of more things I see opportunity to drop even more, combine more. I've long dreamed of a sleeping bag that functions also as a jacket and a backpack by unzipping at the waist. This is something I see happening this year, the idea has been stewing and resources are coming together. All and all this will cut my current load by a third or more while providing a warmer jacket than I currently have.

The less I have, the easier I can move about and with less to consider. More important than this is the barriers being broken down and the opportunities arising to aide travelers. Couchsurfing was one of the first sites I found for traveling specifically, allowing millions of people to go just about anywhere in the world and have a place to stay in the home of a friendly local. Google will help guide me to anything, and my own site, Trip Hopping, will show me all the people driving around who have an empty seat in their car for a passenger like myself.

I learned how to make a site like that just by poking around the internet for tutorials and answers; it's getting easier for people to get their ideas out there to provide great services. This is especially awesome now that the internet is on our phones just a pocket reach away. There's even a site for dumpster diving (which isn't nearly as nasty as it sounds, look into it), so even food can be more easily found.

While advances in mobile phones, websites, smartwool and sleeping bag jacket packs are at the surface of lightening the load, it's the common understanding that people of this planet are coming towards that has been igniting good times in all directions. We have access to more information now than any other time in our recorded history, communication gaps are narrowing and development is rapid as a result.

I'll continue to ditch, combine and shape my gear until it's next to nothing as long as I'm traveling, but my comfort comes from knowing good times don't care if you're traveling or how much crap you have, they'll find you and be waiting to be found anywhere at any moment.

For those interested, this is more or less what I do have now in my pack, in 3 sections:

  • Clothes
    • 5 or 6 shirts, including the airplane one with buttons
    • Pair of jeans
    • Pair of quick-dry shorts, double as swim suit
    • Pair of long johns underwear
    • 3 more pairs of smartwool, under armour and camping boxers
    • 3 pairs of smartwool socks, plus one thin pair
    • gloves, beanie, baseball cap
    • sweatshirt
    • rain jacket/windbreaker
  • Sleeping bag, 0 degrees + gortex bivy sack (waterproof layer) + mosquito headnet
  • Camelback daypack
    • laptop in case with charger + waterproof bag that holds laptop and more
    • android phone (with extra battery, coiled cable and combo car/wall outlet charger)
    • waterproof pack cover
    • water filter
    • small cooking pot
    • chromatic harmonica
    • small flask
    • camping towel (compresses to size of golfball)
    • toiletries
      • shampoo
      • dr. bronners (use for everything, soap, laundry, even tooth paste)
      • deodorant
      • foldable toothbrush + tooth paste
      • chapstick
      • nail clippers
      • small electric razor with regular blade attachment (the kind you need shaving cream for
    • passport
    • spork
    • multitool
    • solar charger for phone
    • book of matches or a lighter
I may be missing something, but that's the bulk of it, and there's always variables like granola bars and whatnot too. Trip on travelers.