A cold shower in a hot country is so much pleasanter than a hot shower in a cold country.
For the last 18 years (since I left UK for the last time) I’ve been happy with my cold shower decision. Having said that, there are times when a bit of luxury is appreciated even by the most frugal traveller. I’m no Thesiger. I don’t believe in making my way around the world with just a single pair of bush-shorts and my trusty Moleskine. I try to travel light though and have frequently ditched more luxury-brand luggage for my battered Coronel Tapioca kitbag. The Spanish travel company set up business in Madrid in 1989 and by the time I arrived in the city 8 years later they’d conquered by dint of making simple, durable gear that could take anything you threw at it. From time-to-time I was lucky enough to be sponsored by travel companies (Lowe Alpine, Polartec, TravelPro etc) but when I wasn’t I did ALL my shopping at any of Coronel Tapioca’s countless stores in Spain.
As I write this my Coronel Tapioca kitbag is here with me on the 34th floor of the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. It’s the second I’ve owned and it’s been through the lobbies of fine hotels in more than 20 countries. But it’s also been through more jungle camps, savannah lodges and beach bungalows than I can count. It’s been hauled in and out of dusty 4x4s and has spent countless nights shackled loosely to my travel hammock. It’s out-lasted not only other far more expensive brands I’ve tried…but it has also outlasted the company that produced it. From an immense chain of stores Coronel Tapioca shrank to the point where they have just one shoe-shop in Barcelona.
Some things are meant to last and some aren’t.
When you travel consistently you select travel equipment that is built to last. In the first quarter of this year alone I made more than 40 flights. Everything I travel with should be able to fit in my Coronel Tapioca kitbag (or for camera and computer equipment) in my equally durable National Geographic shoulder bag. My clothes need to be tough enough for bush travel and stylish enough – thanks to our old friends at Cape Union Mart – to get you into the exec lounges of the chicest hotels.
There is no room for wasted space though and everything must serve its purpose.
And, whenever possible, it should fit the hot shower test: sure we can live with cold showers but that occasional touch of luxury is always appreciated.
Pittards is an English company that makes leather travelling kit that has truly stood the test of time. The company was founded in 1826 and their Military Wet Pack has been in their range since it was designed for use by the British Army in 1920. Through the Second World War it was supplied to Air Force pilots who would have it with them when they were shot down (the idea being presumably that you’d have time for a shave and a wash-up before Jerry picked you up). It’s tough enough to handle any jungle expedition I could take it on but, with solid brass fastenings, Pittards quality leather and weatherproof cotton it has more than its share of that ‘hot-water luxury’.
Good travelling gear should be versatile too and the Military Wet Pack could serve many purposes. It is designed as a toilet bag but at times I’ve given the historical wet pack a new-millennia make-over by packing it with the chargers, batteries and cables that, unfortunately, make up a large percentage of my travel gear these days. There are plenty of handy pockets for adapters and plugs and the central strap section (presumably, originally designed to hold cut-throat razors) is also perfect for securing cables.
I also travel with a Pittards Brooklyn Travel Wallet which has retained its quality leather feel long after cheap substitutes would be ugly and sweat-stained by the tropics. Pittards gear is not cheap but it is built to last and it will certainly be around long after even my Coronel Tapioca kitbag has finally fallen to pieces.
An Indonesian taxi driver asked me the other day what we produce in England. It was the first time I’d been asked that question since we stopped producing cars and ships. For a while I was stumped.
Now I remember that maybe there is hope for us after all: 90 years after they started business Pittards is still producing leather goods in England.
Some things are made to last.