Rolf Potts travels around
the world with no luggage

No-baggage field report: Week three

September 15, 2010 by Rolf Potts

Three weeks into the no-baggage journey, I’ve left Egypt for South Africa, where I am currently checking out the wildlife near Kruger National Park. At the risk of sounding like an echo of last week, I still don’t feel like I’m missing any key items of gear. My daily hygiene routine continues to keep me (and my clothes) clean, and I haven’t had any hassles at customs: I’ve just been covering a lot of ground in Europe and Africa and having great experiences along the way.

That said, I know those of you who have been following along might be curious about some issues I haven’t yet covered in these weekly progress dispatches. If you have lingering questions about any aspect of my no-luggage journey, please ask them in the comment section of this post, and I will address those issues in next week’s field report. (Just be sure to familiarize yourself with the previous posts, since I’ve already covered many topics concerning the journey. If for some reason you asked a question I didn’t answer in a previous post, please ask it again below.)

Recently someone asked me how my Blundstone boots were holding up in hot climates like Morocco and Egypt. Thus far they’ve been working so well that I rarely think of them. The dry heat of Northern Africa didn’t make my booted feet at all uncomfortable — though the true test of boot-comfort may well be humidity of Southeast Asia. Another workhorse clothing item has been my SeV cargo pants, which have been comfortable and functional enough to take for granted on a daily basis. The cargo pants did provide me with my first “wardrobe malfunction” of the trip, however: The draw-string on the self-cinching waist (which keeps the pants snug using plastic clamps and a braided-cotton cord accessible from inside the waist-pockets) broke while I was in Egypt. There was still enough cord threaded into the waist for the self-cinching system to work — but to keep things simple I ponied up and bought a leather belt for a little less than $10 at Cairo’s Khan el-Khalili market. The belt improves the fit of the cargo pants, and shouldn’t cost me more than an extra 30 seconds or so at airport security as I travel from country to country.

(By the way, I’ll put together a pros-versus-cons assessment of all my clothing and gear when this trip is completed — but for now my recommendation is that, in future designs, ScotteVest either use a more durable drawstring material for the cargo pants (plastic clamps have a way of fraying braided cotton when they’re used all day, every day) or employ a built-in belt system similar to what they use in their standard travel pants. I’ll continue to address clothing/gear utility issues like this as I think of them — but feel free to ask questions in the comments below if you’re curious about how a specific piece of clothing or gear is performing.)

The only other clothing issue of note this week concerns the weather. After a hot late-summer sojourn through Northern Africa, I’ve now traveled across the equator into the tail end of a South African winter. It’s not terribly cold during the day, but safari drives in open-topped Land Rovers can get pretty chilly in the early morning. This in mind, I’ve zipped the sleeves onto my Tropical Vest/Jacket (I’ve been stowing them in the back pocket since I left New York), and I’m wearing my Q-Zip pullover in addition to my t-shirts. I briefly considered buying a fleece to keep me warm during early-hour wildlife-viewing drives (temperatures can dip down to just above freezing when you figure in wind-chill) — but thus far the blankets and insulated ponchos provided by the safari operator have been working well against the cold. I’m guessing I’ll get through South Africa without having to buy any new insulation layers — although I might not be so lucky when I hit New Zealand a couple weeks from now (stay tuned on that).

On a final note, one of my lurking concerns before the trip was that I might have to buy or borrow a lot of items during the journey. Halfway into the six-week adventure, this has yet to be an issue. My 2-ounce tube of toothpaste ran out, but I replaced it for about a dollar at a Johannesburg drugstore. I picked up some mosquito repellent at the same drugstore — but it turns out I don’t really need it here in the Kruger National Park area, since most safari outfitters provide you with the stuff free of charge. Shampoo and soap have also been provided at most places I’ve stayed in the past three weeks, which means that (since hotel-shampoo can double as laundry soap) my bottles of detergent and Dr. Bronner’s soap remain 75% full. If I had it to do over again, I might have brought just one bottle of liquid soap (probably the Dr. Bronner’s) instead of two, and refilled it with shampoo as it got empty.

In the interest of traveling even lighter, I’ll probably dedicate a portion of next week’s field report to discarding a few items I haven’t used all that much. In the meantime, I look forward to exploring South Africa’s national parks and wildlife reserves over the course of the next several days!

 
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  • What a challenge! Keep us posted about your trip and every problem you meet on the way! I really hope you don't get too many issues with the change of tempareature along your trip. That could be a big issue...

  • The videos are great! I'm thoroughly enjoying the challenge. I love the excellent customer service provided by Scottevest. Haven't had any problems as of yet with the stuff I've purchased, but have no doubts that anything that goes wrong, they'll make it right. Keep up the great reports Rolf. Justin, video looks fine. An excellent shooting and editing job.

  • Friedchicken14

    Did anyone else have a problem with the mix in this video? The background music seemed to just as loud as Rolf if not louder.

  • Sounds okay to me... anyone else have a problem?

  • Gina

    No problem for me. The music is very much in the background.

  • BenC

    Rolf,

    I just returned (to Boston), from two weeks in the southern third of the South Island (Dunedin, Ivercargill, Te Anau, Milford Sound, Queenstown). Temps were in 40s, low 50s except for one evening. I never needed more than my ScotteVest fleece jacket, cotton sweater and tee shirt. Best I can tell their version of winter is very different than what we get at comparable Northern latitude on the East Coast. Of course, besides those detail, breathtaking scenery, no traffic, and the friendly Kiwis. I don't think you'll have a warmth issue, especially as its getting further to Spring.

  • SCOTTEVEST, Inc

    Rolf,

    I am loving your posts. Seems like your trip is going well. Please let me know if you'd like us to send you a replacement pair of pants. We have a 2 year warranty for things like this, and I want to treat you just like any other customer with a problem. Clothing is made by hand, and thus can have minor malfunctions, but we make it right. It would be helpful if you could tell me and your audience about some of the positive features of the clothing too. As far as any other issues, I would very much prefer if you could let me know as soon as possible as we can possibly make improvements NOW as we are in production now. Your feedback is much appreciated.

    In a prior posts a week or two ago, you mentioned a concern about the performance fabric holding odors, but you never followed up on that concern. I HATE performance fabric that retains odors, and we went to great lengths to select a branded fabric that does not retain odors. I hope that is your experience too. Please let me and your viewers know how your clothes are holding up to the challenge.

    Thanks, and keep up the good work!

    Scott Jordan, CEO
    www.scottevest.com
    scott@scottevest.com

  • MattBrownerHamlin

    I'm very impressed by the openness here and your willingness to engage this trip as a meaningful field test of your clothing's quality.

  • SCOTTEVEST, Inc

    Thanks Matt. I am very much looking forward to Rolf's feedback, and anxiously awaiting it.

    Scott

  • JP

    Hey Rolf, I just got my Sev travel pants and the moment I clipped on the plastic belt clamp, it broke. It's still usable but there's a linear crack on the plastic clamp. Otherwise the rest of the Qzip, tropical jacket are great. But they probably have to review the quality of the plastic belts.

  • Tyler

    Rolf, I spent all winter in New Zealand just over a year ago. It all depends on where you are gonna go and what you plan to do. The South Island is obviously much more cold than the North. I even went way up in the Southern Alps aka Arthur's Pass and it was fine even though there was tons of snow. I can give you tons of ideas of where to go and what to see. Regarding the coldness factor probably the most important thing you are probably gonna invest in is a wolly hat.This time of year though I think you will be more than fine.

  • All those giraffes! I am mad jealous.

  • Fraser

    The coldness of New Zealand will really depend on where you go - in the cities in the springtime, three layers will be all you'll need - but if you're doing any of that adventure-tourism stuff in the mountains, I guess you'll be wanting to pick up some warmer gear.

    If you spend any time in Wellington, I'd love to show you guys around (and I can sell you a down jacket for a very reasonable price, hah)

  • MattBrownerHamlin

    Two questions...

    1. I can really see the benefit so far of no bags when going between destinations - airports, cars, boats, etc. But are you carrying all items you have when you're staying in a city? Or do you leave the detergent, extra t-shirt, etc in your room while you're out for the day? Part of what I'm driving at is distinguishing between a bag that holds things and lodging that holds things while you're in one city for more than one day. Not that I have an alternative idea or anything, just an observation.

    2. On clothing, can you tell us more about your socks & what material you recommend for quick drying and not holding odor?

  • Sambast1

    Do you have a budget for this travel?

  • Stay tuned -- when the trip is over, we'll dedicate a post to our budget and how we spent it. Because so much of our budget is taken up by video production costs, BootsnAll is going to publish a price guide for the average traveler who wants to take a trip like ours.

  • SCOTTEVEST, Inc

    Justin, I look forward to seeing this. I was unaware that video production was costly, time consuming yes.

    Scott

  • Kelly

    One questions about security at airports -
    Have you had to explain away your lack of traveling gear? I was thinking security perosnnel might have lots fo questions why you don't have additional bags. Not having bags is one thing that I remember being mentioned to be curious about post 9-11.

  • SCOTTEVEST, Inc

    I was wondering the same thing.

  • Have you found it an issue at all to charge your ipod or camera since you've been on the road, since you haven't brought any chargers? And speaking of camera's, where are you uploading the photos you're taking on the trip thus far ;-) ?

  • I understand this is being done as a promo for scottsvest and I think that's cool. That said you have opened my eyes to possibly doing a hybrid of both... I'd like to be able to travel with only 1 pack and a small one, the size most kids have for going to school to keep cameras etc. I think that would be idea. Either way, nice work, good sir.

  • This is exactly what my wife and I are going to be doing during a two-week tour of Australia for our documentary film, Autumn Gem. We've already done several cross-country trips with minimal luggage; this time around, it's just two backpacks for us (Ivar Revel G2 and North Face Surge), along with a Scottevest for me. I'm finishing up a blog post about our gear selection on my site which will be out in a few days. Good luck packing light on your next trip!

  • MattBrownerHamlin

    Yeah this has been inspiring for me too. While I don't feel the need to go with no bags, a similar set up with one small daypack sounds like it would work for me. I may try it on an upcoming trip to Japan...

  • So fresh and so clean Rolf

    I have to say you have nearly inspired me to travel the world naked, with nothing buy a 12 pack of trojans and a large appetite.

    But I digress, I look forward to making my next trips that much less cumbersome by leaving the travel gizmos and folding chairs at home.

    Keep up the great work mate

  • Tim

    I don't believe you've updated us on the how well the stone is working or whether you've gone back to deodorant. Otherwise I love what you are providing. Wish I could see some more photos of the sites, maybe some photos from your iphone or something if possible.

  • pah

    Scottevest is discontinuing the Ultimate Cargo Pants. I wrote them to ask if they planned to make it in dark colors and they said they're selling off what stock they have and they won't make any more. So your suggestions are probably not going to help much.

  • SCOTTEVEST, Inc

    We are making a new version of cargo pants for next year.

  • seawolfeusn

    This is true. However, Scott Jordan had a Facebook video up asking about different types of fasteners for a new type of cargo pants they're creating. So the Ultimate Cargo Pants are probably being phased out in favor of this new type they're prototyping.

  • Grubstreetnm

    Marg's idea is great. I was also thinking that a bar of Ivory soap in a baggie is lightweight & works for everything.

  • Marg

    The only thing about the bar of soap is that once it gets wet it doesn't really dry out and gets messy.

  • Marg

    You can buy soap, shampoo, laundry soap, etc in very small, light packages of dry sheets. They work well, and are much more convenient than liquids. I found dry substitues for almost everything when the liquid ban came into effect.

  • This is great - thanks for the latest report! Not to rush things, but it will be fun to hear your post trip summary - I wonder if you'll change anything about your lifestyle at home as a result of this trip -- will you pare down your belongings? Or will it feel good to get back to having more choices? thanks again and look forward to more!

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