April 26, 2018

Packing For a New Adventure

With my latest book finally off my desk and in the hands of my publisher, I have been getting itchy feet here at HQ. The trouble is that I come across so many great ideas for rail routes and places to visit by train. Almost too many. I note them down in a special little book, but my downfall is that don’t take immediate action on actually implementing them. Throughout my life I have always been a little over planned and (in my own opinion), not spontaneous enough. I spent too long in a business where everything was planned and executed from a long way out. My plans always had back up plans, and would pass from desk to desk months in advance of anything happening. People would call me up and ask about the contingencies for my back up plans. A back up plan for the back up plan! I would be judged at meetings by coloured charts showing my success or failure in risk mitigation.

Well I have decided to do something about this, so in a small but significant move I have packed up my bag this week ready to go. NLP guru Tony Robbins would be proud of me. I’m going to take immediate and positive action next time the next big idea arrives. My bag is going to sit by my front door at Expedition HQ, ready for business. Then when that idea for an adventure arrives, hopefully I will have the courage and focus to simply just go; walk out the door. “JFDI”, as people wearing red braces used to say annoyingly loudly in the office in the early 1990’s..

This brings me neatly on to what I have packed. I have experimented with my gear for several big trips, and not knowing the exact needs of where I will be travelling to, have packed a bag that will be sufficient for most environments. Most of this kit is proven and has served me well for over 100000 km of rails, from deserts to jungles, and from -30 to +30 degrees centigrade. The ultimate kit stress test was perhaps managing to blow up a MacBook in Tibet, as a result of high altitude and very dry air causing arcing as it charged. I should add that was immediately replaced on descent to Hong Kong at the genius bar of the Kowloon Apple store. I love Apple. There was no question of what I was doing with it, just help getting me going again, far away from home.

At this time of the year in the northern hemisphere I don’t think I will need my full winter gear, but I can always add my Siberian kit if the North Cape becomes a possibility. I have left my Timberland boots out, they work well in all climates, and also my lucky ushanka hat – mine has the badge of a Soviet Fleet Admiral, which always proves to be a talking point in countries that were once behind the Iron Curtain.

(click on image to enlarge)

I have written about my choice of luggage before in both of my books, Trans Siberian Adventures and A Bridge Even Further. Having tried all sorts of things, I favour a wheeled bag, but one with soft sides. These days I use one made by Eastpack. My day bag is a Tenba camera bag, which is comfy and very secure. I then have a simple light but strong nylon bag for shopping, so that I can grab food and water on the go and on platforms. I call this foraging.

Inside my main bag I use a system of packing cubes for my clothes. I have several smaller bags for things like wash kit, toilet sanitation, first aid, and fixing things should they break – not just my equipment, but the carriage too. My first aid kit could be the subject of an article in its own right. I basically take the view that I am unlikely to need to provide emergency treatment for major wounds for very long, but more likely to need to deal with travel related conditions when I might be some days from English speaking medical help. I therefore carry a range of painkillers, antibiotics, travel sickness and dehydration treatments. I showed it to a nurse when I was sick in Vietnam a couple of years ago, and she thought it was so good that she helped my make it even better. I keep sterile needles, dressings, prescriptions, inoculation records and copies of travel insurance documents in here too.

My writing and blogging gear is a bit bulky, but needed for my work. I use a straight MacBook (the thinest Mac out there) and a Fuji X-T20 camera with an external Rode microphone for film work. I carry a small Manfrotto tripod too. With these come a range of cables and adaptors for every occasion. The lesson seems to be that cables stop working at the worst moment unless you have a spare. But if you carry a spare, they never stop working..

I have added two Nalgene water bottles for the next trip in an effort to cut back on single use plastic. I’m still looking for the perfect insulated carrier for one of them to help me in hot environments. I carry a metal insulated mug and plenty of jasmine tea bags, as well as a coffee maker. The Handpresso machine I favour is missing from the main photo as it was not at HQ, so I have added a picture of it above in use on one of my Trans-Siberian runs. To eat with, I have a single light and strong ‘spork’ (a metal KFS is incredibly heavy). I can cut and prepare things with a Swiss Army knife – I favour the ‘Climber’ model, as it has scissors and hook in addition to the basic blades.

Other items include scales to weigh my bags, a strong combination cable lock, two power packs and a tactical pouch for knives, tools, torches, and a whistle. I also carry a notebook, a Kindle and a box of business cards. Not pictured, I use an old school iPhone (5) and a pair of noise cancelling Bose headphones, the on ear type. That way I can listen to as much Steely Dan and Pink Floyd as I like, without being disturbed, or disturbing others.

Oh, and I never leave home without at least one good adventure book either. I like passing it on to other travellers I meet when I have finished it. Its kind of a tradition.

I hope you found this of interest. Do you carry something on your adventures that I have forgotten?

3 Comments on “Packing For a New Adventure

May 3, 2018 at 3:35 pm

This will definitely help with my plans – need to check out handspresso. I favour rucksack travelling still. Always amazed how much you can squash inside. Like your spontaneity idea – hope it works!

August 26, 2021 at 1:24 pm

What are your thoughts on the new network of European sleeper trains that are planned to be rolled out over the next few years?

Matthew Woodward
December 29, 2021 at 2:41 pm

Hi Ben – I can’t believe they got so bad in the first place, so its just wonderful to see the private sector meeting latent passenger demand – and now surprise surprise the TOC’s are investing and reintroducing them!


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