Three Reasons I Hate iPhones

Okay, I admit it, I’ve always been late to the technology game. I didn’t get a cell phone until after college (and I graduated in 2003) and I still have your basic flip phone, where if I want to send a text and the word I want to write starts with, say, “C,” I have to press the 2 button three times to get that C. I have a Twitter account, but for the life of me I can’t figure out what I’m supposed to post on it. I read other people’s posts, and I think, “Huh. I didn’t realize that was worth sharing.” Same goes with Facebook, where I maybe update my own status twice a week and where I’ve hidden a good portion of my so-called friends because their posts annoy the bejeezus out of me. Clearly I am not a technology geek. I admit it. But I’m not going to apologize for it. No, sirree. Instead, I’m going to tell you flat out why I hate iPhones. And Droids. And Blackberries. And every single other smartphone out there. Because I have good reasons, I swear. And because, well, I’m a curmudgeon, and I’m not afraid to admit that either.

So, without further ado, the three reasons I hate iPhones.

1. We’re losing our ability to socialize with the people right in front of us.
Admit it, you’ve gone out to dinner or to the bar with friends, and at least one person in your group spends more time on their phone (texting, checking Facebook, Tweeting) with someone not there than with you. Or you check in to a hostel, go to the common room, and find it completely silent as everyone uses their smartphone to update their website, get suggestions on where to eat from Twitter, or chat with their friends back at home. Or you’re sitting at the airport waiting for your delayed flight to take off, and instead of talking to you, your traveling partner turns on his smartphone and plays Scrabble against the computer. Once upon a time, we used to talk to people live and in person, not just through clever 140 character posts or via comments or through iPhone video chat. Once upon a time, instead of asking the Internet, we asked people at our hostel where they had been and what they’d recommend; we asked the lady at the corner how to get where we were going; we asked the local person next to us on the subway where they’d suggest going for dinner. Once upon a time, when we left our house and our computer behind, we were *gasp* on our own. And guess what? We did just fine.

2.We know everything, but we don’t talk about anything.
You’re at the bar, and a song comes on that you know but you can’t remember who sings it. Used to be that you’d talk it over with your friends, remembering the first time you heard it, or how it came on the radio while you were on that date with that girl and it seemed perfect. Eventually the artist comes to someone, who blurts it out, and you all nod and smile, and say “Yeah, that’s right.” But it wasn’t just about the artist. It was about everything else that song somehow contained. Now, ten beats in, we’ve typed the lyrics into our phone and we’ve got the artist. Conversation over. As I heard said recently, smartphones have absolutely killed bar arguments. As soon as there is a disagreement or even a question, everyone’s on their phone, and the discussion is settled before it can actually become a discussion. We all now *know* a hundred million things (i.e. the Bing commercials), but I’m not sure we’re really knowledgeable about anything. As multiple studies have shown, all our multitasking is changing the way we think, and it’s not in a way that’s increasing our IQs.

3. Everything has become the-house-is-on-fire important.
The smartphone vibrates. Incoming message. Must check now. Oh look, my brother just updated his status on Facebook. He just saw M.C. Hammer walking down the street. Isn’t that awesome? Isn’t your life so much better because you know that, and because you know it now, and not in two hours when you go home and get on your computer? Ohh, another vibration. Email from my mom. She wants me to forward her my Christmas flight info when I get a chance. Better do it now, even though Christmas is 273 days away. Let me do a quick search through my email, type her a short note, and send it. Won’t take but a minute. Ohh, something else. A tweet from that guy who writes that one blog that I read one time. He wants me to vote for his photo, so he can win a free trip to the moon. Just give me one sec while I do that, and then we can order dinner. Seriously, people? Seriously. Let me be clear. You are not that important. The world will not end if you fail to respond to a message within the first ten seconds of receiving it.  Get over yourself. Please. And thank you.

There you go. That’s what I have to say. Go ahead, tell me I’m wrong. I’m used to hearing it. (But don’t think you’re going to change my mind.)

The final decisions

We were going through our things tonight. We have a large maybe pile of things we may want to take with us (in addition to a much larger pile of things we are definitely not taking with us). This pile is the culmination of all of our planning and packing and putting aside anything we think might be useful on the trip. Now the job is to make those final decision about what is going with us and what is not.

So what is it about us that makes these decisions so difficult? Both Theresa and I have spent much of the day sitting in the basement with this pile completely immobilized by the whole process. There’s so much to consider, so many scenarios to envision. How many sets of clothes to take, which shirts balance which pants in the best combinations. How many possible layers to take. Whether to take waterproof pants. What electronics to take, and what plugs and adapters to take to make sure they can get power, including redundancies. What to include in our first aid kit, and what container to put all of these components in. What toiletries are really necessary and which are luxuries we can do without. What types of entertainment to take, and how much. Each decision has two important aspects to balance: how much they will improve our experience, and how much it will weigh us down to to carry it around.

We’ll eventually make all of these decisions, for better or for worse, and we will learn whether we chose right when the time comes. And fortunately, Theresa has already put a general packing list online to work from (unfortunately, I am a procrastinator and have done no such thing myself). But its one thing to make a list and its another to actually pull out those items and leave everything else behind. The questioning comes … the what ifs flow. Every possible permutation comes to mind. What is it about us that can’t just let go, throw what’s on our list in a bag and call it settled? After all, nearly everything we’ll need we’ll be able to buy almost anywhere we end up, almost certainly at a cheaper price.

I think it has to do with the principle of the thing. Of not wanting to be wrong. Of being comprehensively prepared. Being in control of the situation … oh, I have anticipated this problem have the answer for that right here. And the finality of the decisions is always harder than a decision you can easily fix. While I may be able to get a shirt in Argentina, I certainly won’t be able to grab my favorite lightweight polo that just got the ax. What about you? Do you find packing easy or hard? Does it bother you to think you may be missing something you might need down the road, or do you have the faith that you’ll come up with something (or the knowledge to know you couldn’t possibly be missing anything)? Fortunately, we’ve got three more days to finish this project!

5 Things I Should Not Have Left Behind

Following up on Theresa’s post about useful things abroad, here’s what I’m missing over here. Since we’re here for six weeks in the same apartment, this is obviously a different list than the backpacking standard list. Theresa, don’t forget these things when you come =). So here I am, less than a week into my stay in Stockholm, and already I’m finding many things I wish I had brought with me. Now, this is no disaster, since Theresa is coming this weekend and can save me on some of these things and Sweden is a developed nation and I have been able to purchase everything I needed, but it definitely could have saved me some money.

1. My travel towel – I left this with the RTW stuff and didn’t bring it here, assuming (incorrectly) that linens would be included where we are staying. Lesson learned, always keep this close by … as many of you have already discovered.

2. Umbrella – How silly of me to come to Stockholm without an umbrella. It’s drizzled/rained steadily for three of the five days I’ve been here, and twice I’ve had to lug myself back from the store, soaking myself and my cargo. An umbrella would’ve been useful. And oddly, they did not have them at the store either time.

3. Rug holding mats – This one I don’t think anyone could’ve seen coming, not that we had any to leave behind to start with. There’s a rug on our linoleum floor that flows so easily across the floor, it slips every time I step on it and I almost fall on my ass. Something must be done, but the concept of rug securing pads has apparently not reached Stockholm (even though they have many more linoleum floors covered by rugs), as I have seen no such product anywhere. Maybe the good folks at IKEA have something this weekend. Alternatively, I guess I could just take the rug up for my own safety, but that just makes a starkly bland room even less colorful.

4. Fitted bed sheets – Fitted sheets are just so much better than the flat undersheets common here. We also need our own flat topsheet. Even though I have my sleep sheet to take care of me now, I’m counting on Theresa to bring these over. I’m just accustomed to my American bed stylings and don’t sleep nearly as well otherwise. Jet lag doesn’t help with these things either.

5. Multi-outlet power strip – We have too many electronics! But they all have North American plugs. So we need a multi-outlet power strip to plug into our travel adapter so we can plug in our American gadgets (if this is a bad idea/dangerous, please let me know in the comments!)

My iPod is in Need of Your Help

I’m in the mood for soliciting help. Perhaps it’s because Jeff’s already gone to Sweden, leaving me to tie up all the loose ends alone that I’m feeling a little needy. It’s a bit overwhelming, I have to say, and when and where I can get help, I’m taking it. Did I mention that he left me with a car with a dead battery and a AAA membership that expired a few days ago? Thank God for friends! And also thank God for Craig’s List because Jeff also left me with a bookshelf, corner desk, and a couple of large items I was somehow supposed to dispose of on my own. (Just to be clear, he’s busy working his butt off over there in Sweden getting ready for his defense, not vacationing or anything, but I certainly could use him around here…or at least a clone of him.)

Anyhow, after all of your incredible input in regards to the packing list, I thought I’d come back to you all and ask for just a little more help. Please? I swear I won’t ask again for, well, at least a few days. This isn’t nearly as pressing of a matter as the packing list, but you know how sometimes you get something in your head and you just can’t do anything else until that one thing is taken care of? Well this is that thing at the moment—I need to know what music to load onto my iPod to keep me sane and happy while we travel.

Back in May, I wrote a list for Brave New Traveler of 30 songs that capture the spirit of travel. I’ll be making sure all of those are on my iPod. I’m sure I can use a little inspiration every now and then…or a reminder of why traveling is so wonderful. I’m guessing I’ll probably also want some songs that remind me of home. I’ll need to scan through my collection to see what immediately conjures up people or places that I’ll want to think of. But what else? What specifically? What songs have saved you on that 17-hour bus ride? What songs put you in a Zen place when you’re in your fifth hour of a flight delay? What will put me to sleep at night in a noisy hostel? What will keep me awake when I need to be extra alert?

Just so you know, I might have the most neglected iPod in America. I’m really not that much of a music person. I don’t know if I’ve even once updated my playlist in the year I’ve had the thing. People tell me, however, that I will absolutely want this on the trip, so I’m taking it. Now just tell me what to put on it. I’m open to all suggestions. I’m really a bit of a music idiot.

And thanks. You’re all swell. And if I can do anything for you just let me know. Or if I can give you something—a half jar of curry paste, a couple of cans of ginger ale, two rolls of toilet paper, a nearly full box of Q-tips—you just let me know.

Help Me Pack

I’m making what is hopefully our last run to REI this weekend (conveniently timed to coincide with their Labor Day Sale). I’ll probably also stop in at Target and maybe Hudson Trail Outfitters. We have most of the items on our packing list, but there a couple of things I still need to pick up. (Ex-Officio underwear at 30% off sounds like a deal to me!) Plus I just want to browse through the stores, looking for anything I might have forgotten but Lord knows I couldn’t survive the trip without. Before I head out on this final shopping expedition, however, I’d like your input. What items can you just not travel without? I don’t care if you’ve gone around the world, around the continent, or simply around the block, I want to know the one item that you never leave home without? Is it warm socks for the airplane? Photos of your family? A cable lock? Snacks? Your favorite underwear?

Leave a comment and let me know what your one (or ten) item(s) is (are). Maybe you’ll spur a thought in me or remind me of something I’m forgetting. My brain’s like a sieve these days, so I’d sure appreciate the help.

Computer: Check!

Finding a good travel laptop can be a difficult thing. You want something that is small, light, durable, has great battery life, and enough inputs to help you around the world. Oh, and cheap. We previously posted about trying to find a good travel laptop ever since we decided we were definitely going to take one. Well, I think we’ve found what we’ve been looking for, so take note if you’re in the same boat. It is actually a laptop we did not even consider in our first roundup (due to it not even being announced at the time and all).

Last year Asus released the eee pc, a small 7″ notebook for $400 that ran linux and basically was only good for accessing the internet. We mentioned in our previous post the myriad of reasons these would not work for us. They’re tiny, but that means tiny screens, cramped keyboards, poor battery life, no computing power. Turns out, this year companies are busy putting out slightly larger (and thus much more comfortable), substantially more powerful “netbooks.” There’s a larger eee pc, the HP Mini-Note, the Acer Aspire One, and the MSI Wind that have all come out in the last few months, and Dell is releasing one soon. They’re useful because they provide *just* enough power at a great price point, and we chose what I thought was the best of the bunch, the MSI Wind. The Wind has a 10″ screen (with 1024*600 resolution) and weighs just over two pounds (and the computer feels quiet durable), so already it fits those important criteria. Here it is lined up with my 13″ Macbook to give you an idea of just how small it is.

But its the fact that its pretty much a full-fledged computer otherwise that makes it really appealing. It has an Intel Atom processor, 1 GB RAM, 80 GB hard drive, SD card reader, webcam, 3 USB ports, and a “big size” keyboard. I’m typing on it right now and am not feeling cramped, Theresa’s small hands will probably find it perfect (I guess she’ll let you know when she gets around to playing with it). It runs Windows XP very well (and ambitious people have gotten OSX 10.5 running on it with little issues). The only downside so far is that it only comes with a 3 cell battery that lasts 2 hours or so, though there is supposed to be an add on 6 cell battery that will last 4-5 hours. Put those together and the computer should last 7 hours or so.

So we found what we’re looking for, a lightweight, long battery life computer that we can use to keep up with email, write on the blog, use skype, do light photo editing, and other odd things. The best part of it is yet to come though … the price. The MSRP for these is $499, which is way less than we were anticipating spending. This is useful both in saving money, and keeping us from over-worrying about the safety of our equipment all the time. $500 is a lot of money, but a $500 laptop is way more replaceable than a $2000 one. So overall, I’m highly pleased with what this computer can do, though we’ll have to test it out some more to be sure, and I think I’ll be even more pleased when I’m the one hauling it around the world.

So if you’re looking for a good travel laptop, take a look at these types of laptops. All of the brands I mentioned above are in the $500-700 range, they all have 8-10″ screens, and all are powerful enough for your everyday tasks. I went with the Wind because of the specifications at a lower price, but they all looked pretty useful and effective to me.

Tuning Out

Last Friday, an article I wrote about travel-related songs appeared on Brave New Traveler. (You should go check it out if you haven’t already.) Anyhow, writing it got me thinking about music and just how portable it is now. MP3 players (specifically the iPod) are ubiquitous these days. Almost everyone in the 35 and under crowd owns one, and a whole heck of a lot of people in the older age groups do too. With these gadgets, you can literally carry with you thousands of songs in your pocket. Pretty amazing. I’m certain Jeff and I will enjoy this technology multiple times while we’re on the road…on those marathon bus rides, in noisy hostel rooms, etc.

But sometimes, I’m tempted to just leave my iPod at home. Though I wrote that article on music and though I love me some good tunes, I’m not a music junkie. I’m not up on the latest bands, and half the time, I’d just rather ride in silence in the car than listen to the radio, so it’s not like I’d be missing some integral part of me. And, I have to admit, that I often find the iPod or other MP3 gadget to be more than a little annoying. For instance, while out hiking yesterday, we passed a fellow hiker walking with his earbuds in through a gorgeous stretch of woods where the birds were chirping and a creek was burbling. What? Why go out in nature if you can’t disconnect yourself? You’re missing half the experience of being outdoors.

Sometimes I think we’ve become so “connected” to technology that we’ve become entirely disconnected from the world. On my Metro ride everyday, I’d say at least 75% of the people in my car are listening to iPods. No one talks to each other. Everyone just pops in their earphones and escapes to their own world…while oftentimes taking others with them whether they want to go or not because apparently most of the world is deaf and must listen to their iPods at a volume that makes the earphones unnecessary. (Lord, I sound like an old person.) Now to be honest, I doubt too many people would talk on the Metro even without the iPods, but still, I find it bothersome when people use their iPods as a means of ignoring other people. Can you not take your stupid earphones out for one second while you’re checking out at the grocery (I’m sure the cashier would appreciate some acknowledgment), when your coworker comes to talk to you (Um, you are at work, and she shouldn’t have to yell over your music), or when you’re in the freaking great outdoors (Soundtrack already included).

On our trip, that totally oblivious iPod person is not the person I want to be. I’m traveling to learn more about the world, to become more in tune with it…not my favorite songs. What’s the point of traveling around the world, if I’m always going to escape into my own private world? Will having an iPod be an easy escape from a difficult situation? Will I miss out on a fabulous conversation with a local on a bus because I’m too busy listening to my music? Will I seem out of reach, uninterested, unaware if I pop a set of earphones in? In the end, will being “connected” cause me to be completely “disconnected”?

Data Mining

It seems we’re back in full swing here at LOW. This is because Theresa came home today with a stack of books about eight high, covering the full scope of South America. So it seems she was serious about her request to get things more organized once I got home. Anyway, stay tuned for plenty more updates and we get further and further planned. But that is not what I want to discuss today. I want help from all of you in internet-land.

South America Guidebooks

We have decided to take a computer with us. This, in fact, has been decided for a while, but thinking about it again has been sparked by the current inability of our desktop computer to stay powered on. Like a teenager (in fact, that might actually be how old it is), it’s getting very touchy when you ask it to do anything. So its time to start looking for a new one. Anyway, having a computer with us will make blogging so much easier, Theresa will be able to do some freelance writing, and we’ll be able to look at our pictures as we go, and perhaps watch a movie now and again.

So as the technically inclined one of our little duo, it pretty much falls to me to figure this out. But I’m struggling to figure out what type of computer we’ll want to have, let alone a particular model. Here’s what we’d ideally like: an easily portable, incredibly durable, powerful, long-lasting laptop for a minimum of dollars. These, unfortunately, don’t exist, and we’re going to have to compromise somewhere. Let me lay out some of the options I’ve been researching for you.

Ultra-portable: These are all the rage lately, like the eee pc and the samsung q1. They’re tiny, shiny, relatively inexpensive, and … not very useful at all. They combine tiny screens with poor processors and very little memory, which, with the amount of pictures we’ll take and work with, probably won’t cut it. Combine that with a tiny and uncomfortable keyboard and I don’t think we’re in business.

12″ and under: Businessman love these workhorse type computers. Small and light, pretty durable, relatively powerful, but very expensive. We’re talking over 2 grand for a computer that isn’t much more powerful than our finicky desktop (though hopefully they have much less sass). A top of the line computer in this class probably would be our choice if money was no object.

14″ and under: Now we’re getting into the relatively larger laptops (though the MacBook Air technically fits in this category). Nevertheless, as we’re just backpacking around, size and weight is a big issue. These are the laptops that are more inexpensive and more powerful, but with every dollar you save you sacrifice a little durability and a little size. I’m a big fan of Macs now that I use one at work, so a regular MacBook is definitely in the running. Its funny to talk about Apple as a value purchase, but the basic MacBook definitely represents one to me. I don’t like the lack of an SD port though. The MacBook Air doesn’t have enough ports in general to make me happy, and frankly, I’d be scared to break the thing.

So not that that is a complete review, but I’m sure many of you out there know much more about this than I do. Right now the competition seems to be between a MacBook and a higher end 12″ or so laptop. We’re looking for something that will have a quality, long lasting battery, an SD slot (I know the MacBook doesn’t have this =( ), decent power, all the internet connectivity ports you can cram in, durable construction, and low price. Does anyone know the magic solution? Has anyone traveled backpacker style with a laptop? What did you find to be the most important factors? Thanks for all the input guys.

Packing 101

Since our trial run with our bags, we’ve been asked a number of times, exactly what we are planning to put in said bags. Packing for a year is certainly a daunting task, especially when you need to carry everything that you need on your back. We’ve made a conscious decision to try to “follow the sun,” or travel in a direction in which we maximize good weather. Yet without ever venturing into winter, we’ll stay face a wide range of weather. Summer in Patagonia isn’t exactly warm, and it’s always cool at high elevations. The jungle, however, is going to be plenty warm, even if we were to be there in winter. We’ll also be doing an array of activities, from adventure trekking to museum and church visiting. Did I mention that packing isn’t easy? But we think we’ve come up with a pretty good packing list, and thus we’ve decided to share it here on our site. If you look at the menu bar at the top of the page, you’ll see a new addition called “Details”. Click on it and you’ll find a link to our packing list. (Although at this point it’s missing Jeff’s clothing list. He’ll be adding that himself soon. I have to at least pretend that he gets to decide what he’s taking 🙂 ) As our planning progresses, we’ll be adding more information to this page, so check back regularly.

Now go ahead and critique our list. Leave a comment telling me what I forgot to include or what I ought to leave behind.

Not Quite All Our Worldly Belongings

When it comes time to take a trip, the most important packing decision isn’t what clothes to take or what shoes to leave behind; it’s what bag to put it all in. We’ve all been saddled with the wrong bag at some point or another: the duffel that feels like a concrete block when it’s packed, the rolling suitcase that repeatedly flips over as your run for your flight; the backpack that makes you feel as if you’re going to topple over backwards. On a round the world trip, the last thing you want is to be aggravated by your bag, since you’re going to be spending lots and lots of quality time with it. (Lisa Lubin, a fellow round the world traveler, referred to her bag as her boyfriend in a recent blog post.) Last weekend Jeff and I, having picked up the bags he ordered from the REI sale, set about to deciding what we were going to use to lug around all the worldly possessions we’ll need.

A backpack is pretty much the only way to go on a trip such as this. If you’re doing a grand tour of world capitals, then maybe you can consider a rolling bag, but even then, think of those cute cobblestone European streets and imagine your bag bumping along them. Not pretty, right? And since we’re sticking to third world countries and chicken buses, a backpack it is. But what type. As we see it, there are two main options. One option is a travel backpack. This option is noted for its large zippered opening, which allows you to lay the bag flat and pack it in a manner similar to a duffel bag. It often features a zip-off daypack, and a panel that zips up to cover the straps and thus make it more airplane-friendly. Eagle Creek is a well-known manufacturer of this style of backpack. The second option is a trekking backpack. This pack can be identified by its top-loading style and its more streamlined style. These are the type of backpacks that people use on long hikes/treks, and are thus designed with comfort while carrying as the primary concern.

Loads and loads of RTW travelers will tell you that you’re an idiot if you choose to carry anything other than a travel backpack. Yet, despite much searching, neither Jeff nor I have found a bag of this style that we like. The problem I’ve had with most is the way in which they distribute weight. I feel like I’m going to end up on my back, legs flailing in the air, like an overturned turtle. I’m also not pleased by the starting weight of these packs. Since 25 pounds is already 25% of my bodyweight (and the maximum weight I plan to carry), I don’t want to start out with a pack that weighs 5 pounds empty. That’s more than one pair of shoes…and yes, I do plan to take four, and no don’t try to convince me otherwise.

So I think we’ve decided to go with the trekking style pack, which in the end, makes the most sense for us, as it’s what we are most comfortable with. It will also be ideal since we plan on doing a number of treks (Patagonia, Inca Trail, Anapurna Circuit, etc.) during our trip. But unfortunately, making that decision didn’t really put us any closer to choosing our bags. As you can see, we have a lot of options. (And this isn’t even showing the bag Jeff picked up on REI clearance a few days later.)

We were able to weed out a few of these relatively quickly, however. Both the blue-checked Gregory pack and the yellow BCA pack were determined to be too small, and the Eagle Creek pack was determined to be too large. (It’s also a travel backpack, and was never seriously in contention, although Jeff makes good use of it on his travels back and forth from Sweden. He left yesterday with that bag in tow, carrying much more gear for his one month stay there than we plan to take for our entire year. Given it is winter, and he does plan to travel to the Arctic Circle [more on that in a future post].)

So, how to make the final decision? We could only think of one good way and that was to get together all the gear we planned to take, pack it up in each of the bags, and try each on. And that’s what we did—digging through our drawers, cabinets, closets, and storage area to gather up all we planned to take. Being the listmaker that I am, I already had a packing list saved on the computer. Here’s what the gear looks like laid out. (Sorry, our bedspread makes a poor background.)

And then, fully aware of the pain that digging through a backpack (especially a toploader) in search of one shirt, sock, or pair of underwear can be, we organized all of our gear using stuff sacks and packing cubes. Hopefully, we’ll stay in most places for a number of nights in a row, allowing us to unpack and spread things out, but for those one night stays, this system will help us stay organized. The picture below shows all of my clothes, except socks, bras, and underwear which were in another small bag that didn’t make it into the picture. Not bad, huh?

My two contending backpacks were a 45L ultralight REI pack and a 52L Osprey pack. The Osprey is a new purchase, the REI pack has been on a number of trips with me, including our adventure through the Grand Canyon.

Jeff’s contenders were both REI packs, one the 50L Gemini that he’s used on our previous trips and the other a new 65L Ridgeline.

We both definitely feel some affection for our old packs…they’re tried and true friends. I, however, must say that I’m a little concerned about the ultralight material holding up on mine, and we both have some issues with size. Though everything does fit into our old bags, they’re both pretty darn full. Not a lot of room for error. As for the new packs, I think we were both pleasantly surprised, considering the sheer number of other packs we’ve tried and rejected. The extra space is nice, although I fear that it might tempt us to pack more than we need, and both proved comfortable. I was very pleased when I jumped on the scale with my fully-loaded pack and found it to weigh only 17 pounds! Admittedly, my toiletries weren’t in the pack and probably a few other odds and ends, but still it should end up quite manageable. (And let me say here that I only plan to carry the backpack at full weight between transportation and accommodations. On our trekking trips, I’ll pack just what I need and leave the rest at our hostel/hotel to be picked up upon our return.)

Final decision, you ask? Well, despite the fact that we filled all the competing bags up, weighed them, walked around with them, did side-by-side comparisons, and discussed every pro/con/detail that we could come up with, neither of us made a final decision. We each still have two bags in the running. But I think we’re okay with that. We’ll make our final choice when we’re packing for real (eek…that will be a bit scary). I think for now we’re content knowing that we each have a pack (or two) that we’ll be happy to heave and ho around the world.

(With Jeff’s old bag, my new bag, and our camera bag, this is what it looks like when everything is packed away. It will be interesting to see if it looks pretty much the same come departure day.)