Tuesday, June 18, 2013

To pack or not to pack: that is the question.

I have been asked a lot recently about how one packs for such a large and encompassing trip. My answers have ranged from, "Easy, you throw crap in a bag and hope it's the right stuff" to "I have no f$#%ing clue."

The other night this packing dilemma took on a whole new monster as I woke slightly* panicked due to this dream:

I was in Africa already and was waiting for my trusted hiking companion, Sarah, to arrive. I was in a town that according to my knowledge was to be the location of our Kilimanjaro departure. I sat and waited. No Sarah. I waited some more. No Sarah. I continued to wait and as I sat there I started to realize certain things.

1. I did not have my hiking boots.
2. I did not have trekking pants, a warm jacket or even my winter gloves.
3. I had some random granola bars
4. I had one sock. Not a pair. Just one, trusted smart wool sock.

At this point you can imagine the frenzy that took place and the cursing that ensued towards my brother, who clearly was responsible for packing my bags. After a few minutes of internally flipping out--no need to put on a scene in Africa, right?--I decided to descend from the meeting point which was a random rock out cropping nested slightly above the town to search for Sarah and scramble to find items that would ensure that I actually made it to the top of Kilimanjaro.

After reaching the town I wandered from busy street to busy street searching for the offices of our trekking company. I am not sure what I was looking for: would it have a neon blinking arrow? or be in the shape of a banana? Either way I wandered aimlessly with a backpack strapped to me that seemed impossibly heavy considering what it loaded up with: Damn, those Kashi granola bars. Should have gone with Quaker.

As my brain started to wake up, knowing to well that my alarm was about to blast off, I realized something. Standing on the street in that random African town it dawned on me that I had arrived a couple of weeks early. Feeling both relieved and like a total idiot I was enlightened to a few things:

1. I am wearing my hiking boots on the plane.
2. Don't let your brother pack your bags for you.
3. Bring socks, and lots of them.
4. Kashi granola bars are heavy--must be the damn flax seeds.

Clearly what to pack is a source of anxiety for me. I have read over hundreds of recommended lists, searched travel forums and poured over other peoples travel blogs in search of the best packing list. Considering that I will be taking only one 70L pack and a carry on this is my recommended packing strategy:

1. When in doubt, pack black.
2. Wear your most necessary clothes on the plane
3. Bring lots of good socks.
4. Bug spray is necessary.
5. So is imodiom.
6. Bring a camera, extra batteries and lots of memory cards
7. Everything else you can buy there.
8. Oh, and don't forget this thing called a passport...with proof of your yellow fever vaccine. 

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