80* – The number of airports we passed through last year.
74* – The number of days we spent living out of the back of a car, boat or train.
0 – The number of times we had to stagger along a hot, dusty city street under the weight of overloaded backpacks.
*Figures are approximate only (we’re writers, not accountants)
Just because you’re a “backpacker” doesn’t mean there’s no other option. Consider the advantages and you’ll soon realize it’s time to break away from the pack. It’s time to become a “kitbagger”.
Most people who are setting out on their first big trip rarely even consider an alternative to carrying a backpack, but take a look around and you’ll see that most experienced travellers became kitbaggers long ago. (Even before we even gave it a name.)
There was a time when I took pride in travelling light and could hit the road for three months with less stuff than I now load into my daypack. Nowadays we transport our entire office with us even on the shortest assignments, and need to find room for a cascading heap of hard-drives, extension cables, adaptors, photographic equipment. I rarely leave home with much less than 30kg (including that last bottle of duty-free gin, decanted into my trusty old Sigg bottle).
The decision whether to carry that weight on my back for the next few months or to simply haul it on kitbag wheels is a no-brainer.
From time to time I set out on more challenging assignments – trekking across Panama’s Darien Gap or into Borneo – and then I am more than happy to break out one of my trusty expedition packs and weigh anchor once again for the jungle. In all our assignments last year (including two months on safari in Africa) there were only 10 serious trekking days when we absolutely needed to carry backpacks. Since we were in the tropics, a sturdy daypack coupled with a dry-bag more than sufficed for those occasions.
Before you head for the airport next time, at least spare a thought for which sort of bag is suited to your trip. On a typical gap-year type, round-the-world jaunt there will be relatively few incidences when a backpack is preferable. There will be countless times, however, when you’ll whisper up a prayer of thanks for the foresight (ie this blog post) that turned you into a kitbagger. From the airport to the bus, to the hostel, to the bus, to the beach, to another hostel, to another bus, to a national park a tough, well-made kitbag on heavy-duty wheels is the easiest way to transport your kit across all but the roughest of dirt tracks.
Unless you choose a chic designer model, you’ll realize that your kit is less conspicuous than the state-of-the-art designer backpacks of fellow “glampers”. It is also conveniently loaded from the top so you can reach anything and whenever you stop you have a convenient seat on which to relax and watch the sweating backpackers stagger past.