July 11, 2010
As I tell people about my upcoming trip one of the questions I am almost always asked is: How do you pack for a 5-month trip to third world countries with different climates? The answer? Not easily! It is especially hard doing it in New York City because many of the big stores like REI, Columbia Sportswear, Magellans, and travmed don’t have big retail stores in the city so most of the shopping must be done online. The most important thing is to have good luggage. Before you start buying everything make sure you have something good to put it all into. I bought a 28-inch expandable black hard sided suitcase for my main suitcase, a crushable red duffel for the safari and other day trips, and of course my camera bag. I bought a small combination lock for each bag. I prefer those to the key kind because I am sure I would lose the key. I am also throwing in a crushable lesportsac tote to use as a purse, it is light weight with lots of compartments making it a perfect travel bag. I would suggest trying to find a lightweight suitcase, but I don’t suggest a duffel as your main bag because it is hard to organize things and you will end up emptying your entire suitcase looking for one thing at the bottom. I will talk more about choosing a camera bag later when I make my camera/electronic packing list post.
Before I get into details I wanted to give one tip to online shopping that I have been doing for years. Before you buy anything go to google and type in the name of the store and coupon codes. I’d say about 70% of the time I find a code for free shipping or a discount of some kind on websites like retailmenot.com or savings.com. These discounts really add up and saved me around $200 for this trip.
This entry is dedicated to medicines and insect repellents. For any trip you do to a third world country be it a 5-month journey or a 2-day stop over the most important thing is to be healthy. Find a travel doctor in your area and speak with her about your travels and figure out what shots and medications you need. Make sure you go to a reputable doctor that you trust and has the time to sit down and explain each medication to you. The shots aren’t as bad as they seem, many of them you only get once and the others are boosters you get in 5 or 10 year increments. The only new shot I had to get this time was rabies, which is a series of three shots over a month (a lot better than getting the 14 shots after your bitten if you haven’t been vaccinated)!
Half of my suitcase is going to be pills, I literally feel like a pharmacy on wheels. My dad was helping me go over a check list to make sure I had everything and I pulled all the little orange bottles out and lined them up and was stricken with giggles at how funny it all looked lined up. It reminded me of my swine flu still life from back in December and inspired a new medication still life. Each doctor prescribes a little differently, but the most important medications to make sure you have are: Antibiotics in case you get sick (cold/flu) while abroad, Anti-naseau and Anti-diarrhea medication, Malaria Pills, and any regular medication you take. If you are on any prescription medication you take regularly like birth control, heart medication, allergy medication you will probably not be able to find it where you are going so you will need to get you’re insurance company to give a travel waiver so you can get enough for your entire trip before you leave!
I would also suggest bringing along whatever you make take at home when sick like advil, tylenol, sudafed, cough medicine, imodium basically anything that would be hard to find where you’re going (and if you’re feeling sick and achy you don’t want to have to hunt down sudafed).
One of my top rules for easy travel is organization. For this trip I bought a bunch of smaller bags to put everything in inside my suitcase. A bag for shirts, another one for pants, another for toiletries etc…(you get the idea). Some like to buy a first aid kid already made, and there are some great out there, but I prefer to make my own. I can buy the kind of bandaids I like and put in only the things I need. I bought this bag and will put up a photo when i have bought everything to go inside of it. Some of the items you may not need or you may want to add more. A Suture/Syringe kit is a good idea if you are in any third world area, it is just a clean syringe in case you need a shot somewhere where the needles may be iffy. Also for all the ladies out there I would suggest a urination funnel, they sound gross and not something you want to talk about, but if you’re in some gross bathroom (or jungle) and a spider bites you on the tush, trust me you’ll want these! Some of the essentials I would suggest include: Bandaids, Blister Bandaids, Gauze, Ace Bandage, Hand Sanitizer, Toilet Paper, Bath Wipes, Electrolyte Replenishing Salts, Neosporin, Cortizone Cream, Sunscreen, Aloe Gel and a Suture Syringe Kit.
One of the most common ways people in third world countries get injured or sick is insects, so one of the most important precautions to stay healthy is insect repellents. There are some brands that sell clothes already infused with bug repellent, but personally I’ve found them ugly and unflattering so I decided to buy regular clothes and an insect repellent liquid treatment to use on the clothes. For a repellent for my body I wanted to go with one that has 90% deet or more so I went with Off! They come in little bottles so I bought a few to throw in my bag for the trip. For itch and pain relief I bought a few sticks of AfterBite, which always seems to help a little. Cortizone can help too and is always good to have in case you get a weird rash from something foreign (really important if hiking in jungles). A very important thing to have is a mosquito net, they come in all shapes and sizes and some are pre-treated with repellent and some are not. I have never used one before I so I did some research and found this mosquito net at REI that seems to be highly recommended because it comes with a spreader at the top to give some room inside the net (although be careful when I opened it up it was not smooth wood and got 3 splinters) and it keeps out even the really teeny tiny bugs. The last thing I suggest is a Sleep Liner, which was recommended to me by my travel doctor. It is for when you are sleeping in questionable sheets that could have bed bugs or other microscopic creepy crawlies lurking inside. It is like a big silk sleeping bag and folds up really small. Remember even with the mosquito net and liner to check your bed carefully before you get in it, I have heard horror stories of people sliding into their liners only to be bit by a gargantuan spider who also decided to make your liner home.
I hope this information helps you all with your travels! Please feel free to post additions or ask questions, I love hearing from you guys and will answer them if I can. Posting on clothes and random travel needs to come next and then I will finish with a post on my camera bag and other electronics so be sure to check back soon for those!