Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ode to a Backpack

Yet another frivolous post thrown up for the sake of it while I don't have time to write a proper narrative. I'm in Chivay for a couple of hours with a slow connection and a sticky keyboard. I'm just come back from three days in Sibayo. This afternoon I'm heading to Cabanaconde, and will be back in Arequipa around Tuesday. Maybe, just maybe, there'll be time to write a couple of proper posts before we head to the daunting challenge of Nevado Ampato on Friday.

For now, I'll put in a plug for my Macpac 25-litre backpack which has been my sole piece of luggage in all of my trips between Arequipa, Chivay, Cabanaconde, Sibayo, and Cuzco. It gives you much more freedom and tranquility being able to travel with only one bag, that can be taken with you in all forms of transport and easily carried around between times. This backpack has allowed me to travel lightly, while still taking almost all of what I need for an average of 5 to 7 days. It has easily outperformed any other day-size pack I've had before.

My standard load on all these trips has been as follows (with me usually lightly dressed at departure in jeans, t-shirt, cap, socks and shoes):

--one pair nylon trekking pants, 2 t-shirts, 3 long-sleeved tops, one soft shell jacket with hood, 6 pairs socks, 4 pairs underwear, one pair long underwear, chullo, wool gloves

--2 paperback books, 2 notebooks, handful of A4 sheets and newspaper clippings

--camera, digital recorder, retractable USB cord, USB memory, couple of pens, cord and plug to recharge cellphone, instruction booklets for camera and digital recorder

--toilet bag with: electric shaver, cord and adaptor for recharging, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, moisturizer, hair gel, sun cream, silicone ear plugs with plastic case, nail scissors, various medicines and accoutrements (if this seems excessive, bear in mind that the climate and environment of the Peruvian sierra are extremely harsh on the gringo countenance, and I have to remain presentable for the variety of situations encountered in my research).

--roll of toilet paper, half litre of water, chocolate or small pack of biscuits.

All this fits comfortably inside the internal compartments of the pack. The books, notebooks and papers are isolated and kept flat in one compartment, and the electronic equipment and cables in another. I can easily access any of the above without having to rummage around or take out other things. After two months, my books are not even the slightest bit dog-eared.

As clothes get dirty, they're moved into the outer overload compartment. The available space in this depends on how much is in the interior compartments, so the pack remains balanced. Even at its fullest, the backpack fits into the overhead racks of the old buses that travel into the Colca Valley, and under the seat footrest of the comfortable coaches that go between the larger cities.

Once off the bus, it's extremely comfortable and easy to carry, with the profile of a school backpack. There's a handle on the outside that, at a push, could serve to lash a light sleeping bag to. The only drawback is that the waist belt seems superfluous; even with the heaviest loads the pack sits better with the shoulder straps drawn right up and the weight sitting high up on the back. So mostly I leave the waist belt tucked away, where it sits quite nicely without causing too much bother.

1 comment:

soph said...

If you were a girl you'd need that waist strap. Can't hack the weight on my shoulders.