Pack the Pack
I’m going to be doing this A LOT over the next 5 months.
Step 1: Compress sleeping bag and put into bottom of pack.
Step 2: Cinch down bag with rain gear on top.
Step 3: Use sleeping pad to create a barrel in main part of pack, then fill with a garbage bag. (This will keep the insides dry if I get rained on.)
Step 4: Start stuffing as tightly as possible, leaving no space unstuffed. Begin with items I’ll use least, such as my tent.
Step 5: I know I’ve done a good job if I can secure the strap over the top.
Step 6: Secure the brain and stuff sweater in.
Step 7: Pack the front compartment.
Step 8: Tent poles in the side pocket, and we’re all packed!
This beauty weighs 41 lbs and is all ready to go. I’ll be getting a plastic bag from the airlines to keep it safe while flying. I leave tomorrow, and still the only thing I’m nervous about is money! Money, money, money…
The Packing List
If you ever want to take a five and a half month trip through extremes of weather with only the pack on your back, there are quite a few blogs out there to help you. Every trip is different though, so you have to think about what is important for you to be comfortable while traveling. I’m going less minimalist than many other backpacker bloggers. This is partially because they often rely on buying things while abroad, which can be a good idea if you want to dress to blend in with the natives and just because you will inevitably forget something and have to buy it anyway. However, I don’t have enough money to plan on buying things I already own. The only way that my packing style will cost me extra money is in shipping my winter coat home. I figure that’s worth it - I have a really nice, big coat that kept me warm through the winter in Ukhta. It was pretty expensive and I expect to use it in cold weather for years to come. Thus, I much prefer to bring it and send it home than to go through the stress of trying to buy a good quality coat that doesn’t cost too much in Russia, which I would then have to sell or give away in the spring. In any case, it’s good to look at other people’s lists when planning a trip, if only for those small life-saver items that you might not think of on your own. So here’s mine:
Clothing (for a variety of activities including urban sight-seeing, mountain hiking, Siberian winter, European summer, wine tastings, and farm work in wet spring)
hiking pants, jeans, UnderArmour leggings, sleep shorts
turtleneck, 2 t-shirts, base upper layer, wool sweater
1 dress (can be worn alone in summer or over turtleneck and jeans in winter)
socks and underwear (with an extra plastic bag for the dirty ones!), 1 regular bra and 1 sports bra, leg warmers
hiking boots, Keen slip-on walking shoes (also good for trains), flip flops (for showers)
rain pants, rain shell, small puffy down jacket (this is great because it provides about the same warmth as a fleece but packs way smaller and also provides a bit of wind-breaking ability), winter coat
2 winter hats (one with earflaps for Siberia), winter gloves + liner gloves, scarf
The essentials: toothbrush and toothpaste, Dr. Bronner’s soap
Travel size shampoo (2), zit cream, nail clippers (I can’t live without these), q-tips, hair ties, SPF 15 chapstick (2), tiny bottle sunscreen for face, travel hairbrush, MSR pack towel, floss, deodorant
One exception to my rule: I will be buying baby wipes in Russia. Lifesaver when you’re going many days without showering.
Kindle, iPod, camera, Blackberry with WiFi and international SIM card, audio recorder (With an iPhone or similar modern technology this could all be condensed…)
chargers for all, extra memory card, international adapter/converter
(The mints aren’t really mints - that’s my sewing kit.)
notebook with essential info pasted in (time zones, embassy phone numbers, bank phone numbers, basic schedule), pens, wallet and passport, envelope with copies of all important documents (visas, passport, bank cards…)
Guide to Transsiberian, copies of relevant pages from other guidebooks (in a ziploc bag to guard against water)
(I got the Moscow public transport booklet when I studied abroad there in 2007. It’s a bit out of date now, but still great for detail of all the little streets in the city.)
0-degree F sleeping bag, sleeping pad
tent with footprint, rainfly, poles, and stakes
first aid kit with common medicines, wound closure kit, bandaids, cough drops, iodine caplets, etc.
rope, duct tape (wrapped around water bottles), small sewing kit and tent repair kit, tinder for fire-starting, hand sanitizer (also helps with fires)
water bottles (2), 2L water bladder
pocket knife, mini-leatherman tool, lighters, matches, rope, compass, headlamp
camp pot (inside: spoon and ziplocs containing sweet and savory spice mixes), mug for tea
Other random good things to have
Some food including trail mix, protein bars, and candy (to share on trains)
Sunglasses, bandannas for various uses, earplugs for noisy train/hostel companions
Deck of cards
Business cards, Pictures/postcards of Indianapolis to give to people I meet
This is all of it, minus the sleeping bag/pad, food, and winter coat.
Believe it or not, this all fits in my REI Venus 70L bag. (Well, minus a few things I’ll be carrying on - but once I arrive I’ll be able to rearrange, strap some things to the outside of the pack, and fit more inside.) I’m a big fan of my pack, by the way. I got it a little less than a year ago and have used it on several trips. I love the color and style, the placement of zippers and compartments, and most importantly, it fits me well and is super comfortable.
Soon to come will be the final packing and weighing. Expect drama!
I’ve declared my trip effectively planned now because if I look at one more page of one more guidebook, I will scream. I just want to start going and figure it out. It seems there is always more to do, though. Recently, I bought a Eurail Global Pass after doing lots of research and calculations, visiting the national railway sites of Romania, Ukraine, Bulgaria, and more countries, reading conflicting information, and rerouting to visit Bulgaria before Romania so that I don’t have to travel through Serbia to get to Croatia. (The Global Pass is not valid in Serbia.) All in all, I think I made the cheapest choice, but I can’t be sure. Also, it turns out I may be taking the very train I previously tried to catch in Iasi that doesn’t actually pass through Iasi. It will be a long two-and-a-half-day ride from Kiev to Sofia, and I’m very much looking forward to it.
I’ve also been e-mailing farms. I have one German farm potentially interested in hosting me and have written to two Bulgarian farms to which I have connections. One has replied offering to host me for a couple days as a guest, not a worker, which is wonderful, but I hope the other farm replies as well so that I can spend a week there. I haven’t heard from them yet. I didn’t join WOOF for these connections. To find farms in Germany I just did a google search and ended up finding some farms in the area I wanted offering country holidays for people who want to pay to stay on a farm. I e-mailed them anyway asking about work exchange, and one replied and said they don’t do that, but you should try this other farm. So I did, and voila. My German is pretty rusty, but that’s exactly why I’m pumped to spend a month on a farm there.
Tonight is Brendan’s birthday at Chatham Tap. Thank god.