Pairing down my gear: Part one


Before leaving Hawaii to become a homeless nomad, I spent months going over packing lists on numerous websites. I thought that I had come up with the perfect packing list for myself, which would be flexible enough for traveling through many countries. Of course, I was way too optimistic. This is the first in a series of posts, where I go through my gear, section by section, to determine what could be left behind.

As I left Honolulu my brown backpack weighed in at 26 pounds and my shoulder bag was 12 pounds, for a total of 38 pounds, well under the 40 pound limit I set for myself. By the time I arrived in Petaluma, California, I had decided that 38 pounds was far too much for comfortable travel.

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My backpack opened showing the packing cubes. The cubes made it very easy to deal with the TSA. All I had to say was, “If you would tell me the rough shape of what you need to look at, I can tell you what cube it is in.” It really speeded things up.

Once at my motel, I found that there was no traditional motel furniture, except the bed. There were some strange open shelves. As you can see from the photo below, my packing cubes worked very well in them. I was able to zip open the cubes for ready access to the contents, while keeping the junk well-organized.

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The odd shelves worked well with my packing cubes. each cube is numbered so that I can refer to my Packing Pro app to locate something before digging around for it. Of course some things have become memorized. Like I know that Cube #8 is my coffee kit. That is the cube that bothers TSA the most.

As soon as I had a chance in Petaluma, I unpacked each of the packing cubes and decided what I really didn’t think I was going to need going to Ecuador. Not long after I finished shorting out my gear, I drove down to the local post office and picked up one large One Rate Box and one medium One Rate Box. I was determined to removed as much from my luggage as possible before making my next flight. I didn’t pack up the box to go until just before leaving California, to give me time to change my mind about anything.

Cube #1

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Cube #1, contains various bits and pieces that really don’t fall into any one category, but a lot of them are listed in my packing list as  gadgets.

Original Contents of Cube #1:

Things removed from Pack:

  • Luggage lock: I decided that if I needed to gate check my luggage I could use zip-ties to secure the sippers. Wire ties, or zip-ties weigh a lot less.
  • Duct tape: All the travel blogs say that this is a must have item, but I decided that since I have never had used duct tape while traveling, it fell into the “Might Use” category, and I was trying to stay in the “Will Use” realm.
  • One coin sorter: I bought this item when I was planning on going to Europe first. Ecuador uses the US dollar as their currency, so I need no special sorter to keep me straight.
  • Seven international surge protector adapter tips: I found that Ecuador uses the A and B tips, which are the ones used in the US.
  • One small flashlight: Again, I think my phone can take care of this need.
  • Door lock: The door lock is something I use when I stay in sketchy hotels in the US. Since I am only going to be staying in AirBnbs as I travel, I really don’t need it.
  • Monocular: One of those things I have always traveled with, but rarely used. I figure that the zoom on my iPhone would be just as effective.
  • One roll of US postage Stamps: pretty useless, but I tossed them in at the last moment as I was packing in Honolulu. It is a bit surprising; the things that hop into your bag at the last minute.
  • The car escape tool: I really only feel that I needed when I am driving rental cars.

Things that remained:

  • Two pens, One mechanical pencil, Container of mechanical pencil leads and erasers: I have found that I should always travel with a few pens and pencils, for taking notes and filling out custom forms.
  • One set of earplugs in carrying case: My custom mate hearing protection was a must-have in my old job. I have become accustomed to using them whenever I am near loud people. Even at the sleep lounge in Quito, where you would have thought people would be quiet, they were a god-send when an American man and his daughter showed up just after midnight.
  • One international surge protector: I always keep my electronics on surge protectors at home or traveling.
  • A and B international surge protector adapter tips: The type of surge protector I bought uses tips that can be changed out for whatever county you are in.
  • Sewing Kit: sooner or later I will be using it.
  • Three aaa batteries: I am not really sure why I kept these in the bag. Batteries are sold all over Cuenca.

I am planning on returning to the US mainland before heading to Europe or Asia. All the countries I am planning on traveling in South and Central America use either the A or B power sockets. I am planning on leave the extra tips in the one rate box with my friend in Houston, and pick up the ones I need before heading the East or to the West.

While I was sorting through Cube #1 I realized that the A and B tips of the surge protector could be removed from the back  and plugged into the two power sockets on the front of the surge protector to save them from getting bent in my luggage.

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The surge protector with the tips in the outlets.

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The tips, shown to the left, are slotted into the back of the surge protector so that it can be used in whatever country you are in.

At the last minute before leaving Honolulu I added an Echo Dot, a Skyroam internet connection unit, and a Wemo Mini smart plug to my pack. These three items bounced around a little and had not yet been assigned to any one cube by the time I got to Petaluma. After this sort they were added to Cube #1 since there was so much room freed up.

My Echo Dot is first generation. I am looking forward to getting the latest version, when I return to the States. It might seem that an Echo Dot is something you really would not need as you travel, but I was convinced to take one by Mike Elgan, who writes the travel site Gastronomand. He was right, I have found that it is a must have for me. The only thing I use more than my Dot is my coffee kit. Alexia works very well in Ecuador, except that it doesn’t seem to know my location, so when I ask for a weather report, I must say “Alexia, what is the weather in Cuenca, Ecuador.” So far the smart plug has been useless, because the bedroom is too far from the living room, to use the echo to turn off the lamp when I go to bed. The AirBnb I have booked in Mexico is a studio, so I suspect the plug will come in handy there. The Skyroam mobile hotspot came in very handy in Petaluma where the motel WiFi was mostly unusable. It also doubles as a backup battery, so I was able to leave a heavy backup battery in Honolulu.

Cube #1, though small had a lot of little things in it, so it took up a whole blog post.

Further reading about my packing list can be foud at:

Finding the right bag for Travel
Initial Nomad Packing List
The Evolution of a Packing List
Packing List: Coffee, a Deep Dark Dive

Categories: Geek Life, Travel MinutiaTags: , , , , , ,

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