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!