Stef’s Packing List and Kit Assessment

We are 7 months into the trip so I feel I can now give a reasonable assessment of the items I originally packed for the trip. I’ll start with attire.

Clothing: For shirts, I bought 3 long sleeve, 2 short sleeve and 2 tank tops. By far the best purchase was the SmartWool short sleeve T-shirt (pink). I wear it almost everyday, it’s comfortable, doesn’t wrinkle and never smells. It is fragile when wet so it can tear easily when washing and wringing out but otherwise, it’s the easiest shirt I’ve ever owned.

In hindsight, only 1 long sleeve button down and 1 thermal-style (HH purple) was needed. I find myself wearing the HH one even in warm climates in the evening although it’s designed for cold climates. Another one that I wear 10 days in a row before washing:)

Not surprisingly, the synthetic shirts did not stand up. I bought a Hally Hanson polo (black) which is really light and packs well but it smells after 2 minutes and doesn’t breathe so its hot (despite being supposedly a “cool” fabric).

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For trousers, I brought 4 in total. 1 North Face capri pant (top) which are comfortable and have a drawstring. I found the drawstring at the waist an absolute lifesaver as my weight has fluctuated a bit and I didn’t have a belt. The craghoppers at the bottom are my only shorts but I can only wear them when I have nothing in my pockets as they don’t have a drawstring like the other 2 do.

Women’s travel trousers unfortunetely lack good pockets, the exception are the craghoppers (bottom) which are great- I can cram passports, cameras and loads of other stuff in the brilliant side pocket. These also convert into shorts and although they aren’t cute, they are really functional.

REI travel trousers (middle) are also great but pockets are a problem and they have just started to tear in the pocket where I sometimes put my iphone.

The last pair I threw in last minute- an old pair of cotton gouchos intended for sleeping but actually, I wear them all the time. They are breezy and super comfy.

Socks- 3 pair CoolMax socks for warm climates, 1 pair medium wool for cool climates and trekking and 1 thick wool pair for Nepal (and cold nights). The coolmax socks double for liners when trekking. We got good socks and in combination with high quality boots, this saved our feet.

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Underwear- I started with 4 pair of underwear, 3 bras and 1 swimsuit. 2 pair of underwear were Ex-officio and they are the best!! I was so sad to lose a pair- and despite my best efforts to replace it, I couldn’t find anyone in Asia selling the brand! I also found 1 swimsuit was not enough since I found myself wearing it everyday in Thailand, Philippines and now in French Poly. I managed to find a good deal in Australia (surprising I know) and bought another one there for $5 at Target- yeah clearance!

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Footwear. Only 2 things- hiking boots and good sandals. We researched, tested and invested in footwear and it saved our feet more than once. I definitely recommend taking the time to find the BEST and spend a little more on footwear. The boots are Salomon womens hiking boots with Goretex and a locking hook which allow me to wear them as a shoe (you don’t have to tie them all the way up and the lock hook holds the lace in place). These are the best boots I have owned, we hiked for 3 weeks in the mountains of Nepal in them and they protected my feet and ankles from some extreme situations! I have worn them in both warm and cool climates and they do a good job of letting my feet breathe. Despite the harsh conditions- mountains, being strapped to the outside of my pack when not in use etc., they are still in excellent condition. We will wear them in New Zealand for warmth and South America for more trekking.

I paid about 135GBP for these- tried them on in a store but bought them online as it saved me about 20%. They are half a size larger than my normal footwear to accomodate thick socks. Definitely one of my best purchases.

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These KEEN closed toed sandals are the best. I cannot recommend them enough. I wear them everyday in hot climates and strap them to the outside of my pack when not in use. They are easy to kick on and off, comfortable to hike in, great in the water (dry quickly and don’t smell) and have saved my toes about a million times. They should be about $70 but I managed to snag mine on offer in the UK for 35 GBP. Worth every penny.

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Dive Kit (dive computer, mask, snorkel, wetsuit, fins, underwater housing for camera)- We brought a lot of our own kit to save us money on rentals and allow us to snorkel at length whenever we wanted:) The wetsuit was the cheapest we could find (70 GBP) and is meant for surfing but it’s been great. It’s a stretchy 3/2 (3mm on body and 2mm on arms and legs) and is compact enough to fit in a small dry bag. It’s been abused on the trip but is still in very good condition. The fins, John picked out the AquaLung HotShot fins which are much shorter than normal dive fins but still work great and live on the outside of our pack so they’re easy to travel with. They are also comfortable with or without socks, and full boots are not needed – unlike with most dive fins. These are starting to show signs of wear but should last to the end of the trip. Bought online for 65 GBP.

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My original mask case cracked on it’s first flight so I bought a tuperware container and put more stuff in it which actually worked out much better. I put my mask, computer, tank banger, anti-fog and dive cap (to keep the hair out of my face) in here and its worked great. The snorkel is great for travel too as it bends in 2 places so I can easily cram it in my rucksack.

The underwater camera housing is for our Olympus TOUGH 810 and is the smallest, cheapest camera/housing combo and it works great. There are obviously limitations on picture quality but for the size and price, it can’t be beat. We have been able to capture everything we wanted to so far!

Waterproof Documents Folder- is an non-negotiable item for every traveller. We keep all important things in here and actually ended up getting another one in the Philippines because the first was getting too full. In one I put all important docs, and in the other, all the souvenir-type things I want to keep like currency notes from some countries, travel journal, maps and itineraries, full dive log books, etc. I sent this home in Hong Kong but it’s nice to have 2 safe places to keep things.

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The “Yellow Bag” is our miscellaneous bag where we put things we needed and didn’t know where else to pack them. This is our most utilized bag so I keep it handy! The original contents included: universal drain plug, hand sanitizer, anti-itch cream, massage oil, duct tape, anti-fog, sewing kit, 100% DEET*, spare Body wash, laundry wash, head torch, soap, playing cards, Swiss army knife, tissues, 2 sporks, laundry clothes line (X2), & extra closures for rucksack bag. I have underlined most used items.

The contents of the bag after 7 months is roughly the same: electrolyte pack, tissues, 1 spork (the other broke), clothes line, string, sewing kit, duct tape, antiseptic wipes, massage oil, tiger balm, powder laundry detergent, 2 chopstick knife spoon sets, lip balm, swiss army knife, hat.

So all in all, we are using most things which is testament to the usefulness of other peoples blogs and travel recommendations!

* 100% DEET eats plastic (we learned this the hard way) so we have it for back-up and keep it in 2 zip lock bags. We buy insect spray with DEET as we go.

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Other necessities: We each brought a travel towel (XL) and a silk sleeping liner (RAB). Both of these things we use a lot so I’m glad we got good quality. The sleep liner has a pillow insert which makes it a bit more expensive but is integral to the usefulness of it as it protects your head from random pillows and anchors the whole thing so I don’t get too twisted during the night.

The medical kit we purchased then modified. We removed bulky or unnecessary items and packed it full of extra aspirin and other basic meds from home. We also brought 70 malarone (anti-malarial drug) and antibiotics which we kept in our toiletry kits. The malarone we got online which was cheap and fast. They were able to give us a prescription on the website and we got it in 2 working days. In Nepal, we replaced and augmented our medical kit with 3 types of anti-biotics and cold medicine. So far we haven’t needed much of it (knock on wood)- just cold & flu tablets and pain meds for the usual headaches etc.

The mosquito net we sent back home after 6 months- only used twice in Thailand. It was a bit bulky so we threw it in a box of gifts we sent home from Hong Kong at the last minutes :( Although we REALLY regret that now. We’re in French Polynesia at the moment and losing loads of sleep thanks to the annoying and plentiful mosquitos – and because there is no malaria here there is less paranoia about it and few places have mosquito nets provided.

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Pacsafe 55L. This is another gold star purchase. We use this pacsafe all the time but we usually just use it to lock up our day bags instead of re-packing our rucksack everyday. When we go out for the day, we put our laptop, cameras and documents folder in one of our day bags and lock it up with the pacsafe. It is pretty compact, easy to use and gives us peace of mind when away. We even took it to the beach with us when we are both snorkeling to lock up wallets etc. We lock it to a palm tree:)

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Review: Powergorilla by Powertraveller

Overview

The PowerGorilla forms the core component of my power-on-the-go strategy (see the page on our Kit List for details of the full setup), so it’s critical that it meets the power requirements for many different devices and performs well. I chose it for its flexibility and storage performance and it has definitely met my expectations in those areas. I’ve used it for over a year now – most seriously tested on our 18 days of trekking and peak climbing in Nepal.

Powergorilla charging from backpack flexible solar panel, powering iPhone and camera battery charger, at Island Peak Base Camp

Design and Features

Powergorilla excels in terms of flexibility of power input and output voltages. Output voltages can be selected from the single button on the front of the unit from the following options: USB 5V, 8.4V, 9.5V, 12V, 16V, 19V or 24V. It’s very easy to use. Furthermore it’s possible to both power a device from the USB 5V output at the same time as powering a device from the multi-voltage output at a different voltage – so I can charge my phone at the same time as a laptop. Powertraveller sells a number of standard power adaptor tips (I bought one for my laptop) or it’s possible to make up your own if necessary (I soldered a tip for my Li-Ion battery charger onto an appropriate cable – just make sure you get the polarity correct).

This flexibility enables me to use the unit to charge all of the following:
- 5V: iPhone x 2
- 12V: Universal Battery Charger for AA/AAA and Li-Ion camera batteries
- 19V: Asus Netbook

The unit can accept a charging voltage between 15 and 25V – further enhancing its flexibility – you don’t have to use the supplied AC adaptor – you can just use your laptop AC adaptor (or even better, a universal AC/DC/Auto/Air adaptor) – so you only carry one AC adaptor for all your charging needs (I ditched the AC adaptors for the Universal Battery Charger, Laptop and iPhones to reduce weight and bulk).

The design of the unit itself is a simple rectangular “brick” measuring 220 x 130 x 15mm and weighing quite a reasonable 631g. It comes with a neoprene protective cover and is easy to pack or slide down the back of a rucksack.

Performance

At the time of purchase in Nov 2010, this was the most powerful portable (sub 1kg) battery pack on the market, delivering 21000mah of storage at 5V (105 Watt-Hour Wh). Competitive products out there such as the Energizer XP18000 (90Wh) deliver less, and whilst there are some higher capacity options on the market now – such as the Hyperjuice (150Wh option for $350) – these are more expensive and more bulky (and less flexible, Hyperjuice is just designed for MacBooks). Powergorilla provides a good sweet-spot compromise between portability for long-term travel, and energy storage performance for use over a number of weeks.

In terms of charge performance, unscientifically I “reckon” that the powergorilla will charge both of our iPhones every day for 10 days when under heavy usage (say, 60% charge delivered to each iphone each day) – given the iPhones 1400mah battery size, this equates to around 16800 mah of charge delivered to the devices, an acceptable efficiency for a 21000mah battery pack. With careful usage, I reckon the powergorilla could keep two phones going for 3-6 weeks. Likewise, I reckon the pack can almost recharge my laptop twice from 20% to 100% (the laptop has a 56Wh battery) – which is again an acceptable efficiency and an excellent performance for 631g unit.

Charging efficiency is more difficult to gauge – you don’t care when charging from AC, it only matters when on solar. Charging from a 10W panel for 6-8 hours a day in the Himalayas via a universal DC adaptor appeared to store enough charge to deliver 60% charges to both iPhones each day.

The powergorilla handled the extreme cold in the Himalayas pretty well, all things considered, but it was important to have the solar panel to top up each day.

Durability and Reliability

The first Powergorilla that I received in Nov 2010 was Dead on Arrival. Powertraveller support replaced the item, which then worked flawlessly for over a year (only occasional usage one a month or so when travelling), until February 2012 – when after 3 months of heavy usage the pack died suddenly. All credit to powertraveller support – they sent a replacement to me in Singapore no questions asked (and covered the cost of shipping to Singapore), but it was a big hassle to not have it working just when I really needed it in a remote part of Indonesia. Reliability is essential for a travel product like this, because failure when in a remote part of the world could be extremely painful – and especially when it’s the central core of all your power storage and conversion as I use it. A rating of 1.0 has been upgraded to 3.0 due to the good support and hope that they have fixed the issues in subsequent product revisions.

Physically the unit seems pretty durable and the construction solid – the rubber grip and the neoprene case provide some protection – no probems here.

Price

The powergorilla is priced at RRP 150 GBP (235 USD) – but available at some retailers from around 120 GBP. This is expensive for a battery pack – but good value for a product which can charge all of your travel electronics and provide such a high capacity.

Conclusion

Excellent flexibility, performance, portability and good value – but reliability issues need to be fixed. Highly recommended (as long as my 3rd unit doesn’t die in the next 6 months of travel!)

Review Summary: PowerGorilla by Powertraveller
Design and Featureswww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Exceptional flexibility, easy to use and sensible design
Performancewww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Excellent power storage and charge performance for the weight/size
Durability & Reliabilitywww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Reliability problems but replacements provided and supported well by Powertraveller
Pricewww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Expensive but good value given the flexibility and excellent storage performance
Overallwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Excellent flexibility, performance, portability and good value - but reliability issues need to be fixed.

 

 
PowerGorilla in use at Island Peak Base Camp – Island Peak in the background (20,305 ft)