Posts Tagged ‘double packers’

Backpacking in the News

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Link to article: What not to bring backpacking: 10 things to leave at home

Chad Norwood's gear for a 6-month, round-the-world trip.

Chad Norwood's gear for a 6-month, round-the-world trip. (Source: chadn on Flickr.com)

I agree that the unnecessary weight of jeans and hiking boots should be avoided, especially in hot, humid places. (Looks like Chad packed both, in the above photo).

I’ve packed a sleeping bag before but rarely ended up using it (only while camping a couple times). I never backpack with a laptop — I use Internet cafes instead (see 9. Lost e-mails). I do travel with an SLR camera, but I don’t bring any additional lenses or flash units.

The author, Steve James, also concludes that “there is a common consensus that people who travel with guitars are tossers.” Good stuff (see 18. Playing Guitar).

A couple other packing techniques that chap my ass:

backpack-locknet

I think Spiderman shot a load on your bag.

Backpack locknets: What is the point of these? To prevent people from unzipping pockets or cutting into your massive pack while you’re wearing it? And when it’s stowed in a cargo area or closet on a train, bus or in a hostel, I’m pretty sure a would-be thief could cut through it with a standard pair of wire cutters.

This look should be avoided.

This is not a good look for you.

Double packing: You’re not carrying a baby. You don’t need to hang gear off your chest if you’re already hauling a load of shit on your back. Better to keep it all on your back and not have to bother with two packs. Besides, it looks ridiculous.

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36. Sewing on a flag from every country

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

flagpackI tried this, when I went on my first backpacking trip. It lasted all of five flag patches.

Ever try sewing a patch onto a weatherproof cordura nylon backpack, sans thimble? Not awesome. The patch is embroidered onto impenetrable wax. I thought it would be a good way to pass the time waiting for buses or right before bed. It wasn’t.

I wonder if anybody just started tacking them on with Krazy Glue…

Regardless, it was one of those things you look back on and ask yourself, “What the hell was I thinking?” Sorta like when you way overpacked on your first backpacking trip. Or when you did the double pack (big backpack on the back + small daypack on the front = retarded! See 6. Getting Pickpocketed). Or when you used to wear jammer shorts with striped tube socks pulled all the way up. Been there, done that.

With the flags, I learned I don’t need a merit badge per country — a stamp in the passport is satisfying enough and, from what I remember, cub scouts were a waste of time. The guys with the most badges were huge nerds.

One thing is certain: It’s a big beenou, an act of one-upmanship. It says: “Look at all the cool places I’ve been to. Wow, hey? Isn’t my patch collection terrific? This one’s really old (crossing arms in pride, head tilt). That was quite a few countries ago, heh heh. Yeah. I’m a real globetrotter (nodding).”

Even the Canada flag patch was a mistake. Other Canadians could already identify me by the MEC logo on my bag, the way I say “about” (I don’t say “aboot,” but anyway) and my passion for public health care. It was pointless. I soon realized I didn’t want people to interpret all these patches as: “Hey everybody! Look at me. I’m Canadian. I’m nice!”

I am pretty nice, though. Beenou. As for Americans sewing Canadian flags on their bags, well, that’s their prerogative (see 10. Anti-Americanism). I think.

Some of you would argue that I’m just a quitter. I tend to think of it less like quitting and more like developing good taste.

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6. Getting Pickpocketed

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

If you’ve never been pickpocketed before, you just wait. Perhaps you’ve heard stories, but it’s like they say on MTV: You think you know, but you have no idea. This is the story of getting pickpocketed.

Moneybelts suck, but more on that later. Your wallet is in the back pocket of your jeans. Your cellphone is secure in that trusty backpack strap pocket. You are now a target. It’s that simple. Pickpockets are watching you. You’ve been marked before you realize it; you likely won’t realize it until it’s too late.

They wait in train stations and crowded tourist areas, near signs reading “Beware of pickpockets.” As an innate response, people immediately touch their wallet locale upon reading such signs or hearing such announcements over the intercom. Pickpockets watch for this and therefore know where you’re hiding the goods.

But you’re a seasoned vet. You’ve traveled everywhere and heard all the horror stories. In Europe, you watch out for gypsies. In poor countries, you watch out for everybody. Consider the following scenario: A common pickpocket’s ploy is to approach somebody left watching a number of bags. As a backpacker, you’re often stuck with more than one bag to protect: either you’ve got two (Note: Double packers – huge one in the back, small one out front like a pregnant lady – are retarded.), or you’re watching somebody else’s while they take a shit, wait for train tickets, book a hostel room, etc.

Since pickpockets rarely work alone, a decoy will come up and ask you a benign question (e.g. Excuse me, what time is it? Do you know where the nearest ATM is? Where did you get that t-shirt?). In the millisecond it takes you to look at your watch/the ATM/your shirt, an associate has already snuck in from behind and snatched a bag. The decoy attempts to make small talk and holds your attention until the job is done, then graciously thanks you and continues on his way. You’ve been had.

No matter how prepared you think you are, you will not be ready: These people are professionals.

Nevertheless, I’ve attempted to break down the elements of a pickpocket heist, from personal experience (beenou), as a sort of cautionary tale:

  1. Crowds – The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Khao San Road in Bangkok and Las Ramblas in Barcelona are typical pickpocket havens. Naturally, if people are bumping into each other, it makes the job easier. And unless you grew up in downtown NYC or Tokyo, you’re pretty uncomfortable in a sea of bodies ebbing and flowing through the street. Pickpockets are like hyenas – they quickly single out the weaker prey. For example, if you’re wearing baggy pants, you could be in trouble (I was).
  2. Diversion – The main purpose of the diversion is to get into your field of view. Often, they catch you off guard with old women selling bouquets, children selling maps, or blind beggars stumbling into you. It may be as insignificant as a light shove in a packed subway car when the train sways unexpectedly. In my case, it was a gypsy/beggar dropping a handful of change in a mosh-pit-like crowd.
  3. Teamwork – As mentioned before, pickpockets rarely work alone. As the change – we’re talking pennies here – hit the ground, I was both baffled and surprised. I thought, “Why pennies?” Then, “This dude is dirty and scary looking, with piercing yellow-green gypsy eyes like the Afghan broad on the cover of National Geographic. I should get out of his way.” As I tried to step aside, he grabbed the base of my pant leg, insisting my foot was on some of his change. He started yelling in a foreign tongue. I shook my head and struggled to free my foot, but he twisted the material tighter and yelled louder. He refused to let go, so I reacted violently, punching him in the shoulder a few times.
  4. Forcing You to Make a Choice – I braced myself for a counter attack, expecting him to hit back. Instead, he let go of my leg and sprinted off. Again, I was confused. Then it hit me. I reached back to feel my vacant back pocket. They got me. I wasn’t forced to make a choice, but in cases where only one of your many bags is stolen, you may be. Chase after the thief, and you risk leaving your bags unguarded. Stay with your bags, and the stolen one is gone.
  5. The Aftermath – I went to the police station to file a report on my stolen wallet. A few days later, it turned up. Most pickpockets just take the cash out and ditch the ID, bank cards and credit cards with the wallet. Just another example of criminal ethics, like how rapists and child molesters get their asses kicked in prison. At the police station, there were so many similar pickpocketing cases, it felt like a support group. People were crying, consoling each other, and comparing elaborate pickpocketing scenarios. Cops shrugged and told us there was nothing they could do. I spoke with people who not only lost wallets, but bags containing cameras, laptops, passports – everything. Those people were going home. Their trip was over. So remember: Even when you think you’re in dire straits, there’s always somebody worse off than you.
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