Baggage claim


[words and photograph © Mark Eveleigh]

The things you own end up owning you, so they say. It is true that we can get by on the road with far less than we believe we need at home. Stay on the road for long enough and you find that you become a creature of habit though – sometimes almost superstitious about your favourite pieces of kit. Some of the things here have been with me on literally hundreds of assignments and I wouldn’t feel the same hitting the road without them.

1/ I’ve had this battered Sigg water bottle since an expedition to Madagascar in the last year of the last millennium. It’s been through so many tough trips with me that I just wouldn’t feel right about buying a new one now. (There are dents in the bottom, where it was trampled by my feisty zebu pack-bull on that maiden voyage.)

2/ I hate the hassle of travelling with a surfboard but have frequently been desperately driven to beg/borrow/steal (or at least rent) whatever duct-tape shrouded log of a board I can get my hands on. My father has put up with my wave-deprivation many times and he reckons that I can sniff out surfboard resin at 5 miles. Even if boards are available there might not be a leash or wax within a hundred miles so I take my own. (I also take duct-tape – wrapped around my water bottle).

3/ I’d never take a long trip without a good book but I try to pick something inspirational in the (optimistic) hope that some fine writing will rub off on the travel stories that I have to file. Best of Outside Magazine is turning out to be an ideal choice.

4/ I spend upwards of eight months per year travelling and don’t get nearly enough time with my eight-year-old daughter, Lucia, who lives in Spain. The drawings she gives me when I go back (for some reason she thinks it’s hilarious to picture me in a tie) make me feel closer to her every time I open my kitbag.

5/ I’d never travel anywhere without my trusty hammock. I designed it myself and it comes complete with a mosquito net and a roof. I’m sitting in it as I write this post but unless I’m going to be on a serious jungle trek I don’t bring the net and roof.

6/ For years I travelled with a bush-knife that was given to me by the survival expert Ray Mears (he’d designed it himself). During a trip through the Chiapas jungle I gave it to the eight-year-old son of one of our Mayan guides. Only afterwards did it strike me that, in most parts of the world, it would have been considered a supremely irresponsible gift for an eight-year-old. That kid could handle a knife better than I could though and will probably treasure it for the rest of his life. I bought this replacement in Madrid at the start of the next expedition.

7/ How many photographers remember the old pre-digital days when we had to hit the road on a long assignment with two or three kilograms of film…? Then the digital revolution happened and for a while we were all able to travel light(er) again. These days I fill that same old film cooler-bag with two or three kilograms of cables, chargers, hard-drives, adaptors card-readers…

8/ I love barbecuing (or, even better, cooking on a campfire) and, although I admit I could easily get by without it, I appreciate the ease of cooking if I have a set of braai tongs handy.

9/ I’ve filled up more Moleskine’s than I can count from notes on the road. My handwriting is almost completely indecipherable so even I can’t tell what the old ones are about. (I once spent several hours in a police station in Zimbabwe answering questions and trying to explain what appeared to be coded messages).

10/ I could write a whole post on the uses I’ve put bandanas to (add your vote below and maybe I will). A few years ago I discovered Buffs and concluded that they are even more useful – I use them as ‘harnesses’ to swing my cameras from my backpack straps for example (takes the weight off but still keeps the camera ready in my hand). Lucia gave me these two so I try not to use them as campfire pot-handlers or as bandages.

Please click here for more posts in our “Baggage Claim” series

Baggage Claim pic


  • agentlabroad says:

    I vote yes on a bandana blog.
    As Istanbul slowly fills with tourists, I’m always amused by how so many think they need huge rucksacks with myriad nylon pockets to hold a whole buncha shit… to tour a city full of amenities. This is a nice reality check.

  • Backpacks are for trekking. I have several good backpacks and I am very happy to use them when I am actually on an expedition or spending time camping and walking in the bush. If I’m going to be in cities I’d much rather have my trusty battered old kitbag. Guess I’m not a ‘backpacker’ anymore then, huh?

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