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Wheels or not?

Travel Forums Travel Gear Wheels or not?

1. Posted by Mandad (Budding Member 5 posts) 30w

Hi, I'm travelling to Kenya and Tanzania for 3 weeks with friends. We have a 15kg per person limit due to a couple of small plane flights. Does any one have any experience/opinions on wheeled soft sided bags v regular duffle style bags?

[ Edit: Edited on 27-Mar-2016, at 18:36 by Mandad ]

2. Posted by OldPro (Respected Member 238 posts) 30w

I'd guess that a lot of people have an opinion but it is you that has to deal with the bag, not someone else.

I use a bag with wheels only when my travel will not require me to carry my bag anywhere. It's fine for the airport or on a paved sidewalk in a city. It's useless for a dirt road down the middle of a third world country village. It's fine if I will go from airport by taxi to a hotel and unpack for a week before doing the same thing again in reverse.

For any kind of trip where I will have to actually carry the bag myself, I use a travel pack. If you are not familiar with travel packs, they are a relatively new type of luggage that is designed specifically for those who may need to carry their bag themselves but do not need or want an outright backpack which is designed for wilderness travel and carrying on your back all day. A travel pack has a harness for carrying it on your back but the harness zips away behind a panel to make it airport carousel friendly.

As an example, two of the most popular travel packs are the Osprey Farpoint 40 and the Osprey Porter 46. You can see them here:

You will also see that Osprey do make travel packs with wheels on them as well. My personal opinion is that they are neither fish nor fowl and a step too far. Wheels add weight and that's all I need to know. If I am going to have to carry it on my back rather than wheel it, then I don't want the extra weight to carry. Trying to make one bag suit ALL needs, just results in compromises that go too far in my opinion.

So a wheeled bag for trips where I will not need to carry the bag at all. A travel pack for trips where I will need to carry it but want something that is airport carousel and overhead bin friendly. A backpack for wilderness trips where I will carry it on my back all day, every day.

3. Posted by berner256 (Travel Guru 526 posts) 30w

I've traveled a lot in Africa; and I've been in quite a few small planes, including flights in the Okavango Delta. Your best bet is to use a soft-sided bag (duffle or otherwise) without wheels that can fit nearly everywhere. There are lots of good bags available. Inside your main bag should be a smaller daypack that you can use for hikes or short trips. On some safaris, you'll leave your main bag behind, then go on a one, two or three-day trip in a small plane, or perhaps a boat or canoe.

My travel bags are the same, year in and year out. It's only the contents that change; tailored for the necessities of each trip.

You can check my maps for where I've been in Africa and elsewhere. I'm now in Buenos Aires, preparing to return tomorrow to Patagonia for hiking.

4. Posted by Mandad (Budding Member 5 posts) 30w

Thanks for all the information! Berner265, can you tell me what sized bag/litre capacity you would take for a 3 week trip?

5. Posted by berner256 (Travel Guru 526 posts) 30w

I carry a Red Oxx Air Boss, about 36 liters, on my trips, which usually last for several weeks or months. I also have a backpack of similar size for my two cameras and laptop. In my main bag is a waterproof Aquapac daybag that I roll up after leaving the removable backing at home. Clothes and other articles are compartmentalized with nylon sacks. I like and use Granite Gear Air Zippsacks. But they are increasingly hard to find. Decide what's best for you according to what's available in your area. The bag isn't quite as important as what you put inside. Lighter is better. Laundry service is available in many places; and you get it back quickly at reasonable cost. It also helps the local economy. I also wash clothes myself, so I carry a universal sink stopper. In developing countries, they sell bars of laundry soap that work well, as does shampoo. After wringing, wrap the damp clothes in a towel and pound it. It will dry more quickly.

Since you'll be in Africa, take a small LED flashlight, preferably with a lanyard. It will be useful. The usual suggestion of wearing khaki and light neutral colors is advisable. I don't take dark blue shirts in areas with tsetse flies. The fly traps you see in the bush are blue and black. There's a good chance you'll get insect bites. So take an ointment to calm the bites (which my doctor has prescribed and works well). Also, don't forget to take an antimalarial. I've used generic Malarone (atovaquone-proguanil) without side effects for as long as 90 days. Consult your doctor about what to take. The antimalarials don't guarantee you won't get the disease. So protect yourself with long-sleeve shirts, particularly at dawn and dusk; and perhaps use insect repellent, too.

On safari, the best animal sightings usually occur around dawn and dusk. It can be chilly during that time, so bring a windbreaker and/or light fleece. It also can be dusty, so protect your camera (I usually cover it with a microfiber towel or small plastic bag). Plastic shower caps work well, too.

I'll have limited, or no, Internet access for the next week or so.

[ Edit: Edited on 29-Mar-2016, at 03:54 by berner256 ]

6. Posted by OldPro (Respected Member 238 posts) 30w

For most trips I use a small backpack which is 29L. Whether you travel for 3 days or 3 months, there is no real difference in what you need to carry. Packing 10 pair of socks is no better than packing 3 pair. Sooner or later you need to wash things. The Rule of 3s for packing says, 'one to wear, one to wash, one to spare. Spending 10 minutes at night washing things is no different than getting into the habit of brushing your teeth before you go to bed.

The number one enemy of any traveller is weight. The way to avoid that is to find the lightest weight example of everything you need to pack. It is not about doing without, it is about finding the lightest example of everything you decide you need to take. So for example, someone might pack a Northface Venture rain jacket that weighs 14 ozs. or you can take a Marmot Mica that weighs 7ozs. Both work equally well. You can pack a t-shirt that weighs 6ozs. or one that weighs 4ozs. There is always a lighter example available. You just need to take the time to find it.

Taking a daypack if you feel you need to is just another example of finding the right one. I suggest the 20L Sea To Summit packable daypack which weighs 2.4oz. (new model 3.2oz.) See the photo here of it sitting on a hand.
I've never seen anything smaller or lighter than that. Tip: If you want to add a bit of padding and shape to it, what I do is find a piece of cardboard, cut it to size and fold it in an L shape with the short arm of the L on the bottom and the long arm going against your back. Works quite well and you just dispose of the cardboard when you're done with it.

Re washing, I always carry a bottle of Camp Suds which is concentrated (you only need a few drops) and will wash anything including you. A 4oz. bottle will last several months for me.

One thing I firmly believe. If you do not know the weight of every item you pack, you will be carrying more weight than you need to.

Berner256, there are dry bags and there are dry bags as I'm sure you know. Depending on just how dry you need it to be, you might want to take a look at the Sea to Summit packable dry bag which weighs 3.2ozs.
I wouldn't take it kayaking but for the odd rain shower it is quite adequate for keeping things dry. Where appropriate, there is a huge difference between its 3.2oz. and the 1-2lbs. of a 'real' dry bag.

7. Posted by Mandad (Budding Member 5 posts) 30w

Thank you both again!! Fabulous information :)

8. Posted by berner256 (Travel Guru 526 posts) 30w

OldPro, I often only travel with three changes of clothing. But I also like to tailor what I need for each trip. For example, on my current trip to South America, I knew I would be traveling at high elevations (12,000 to 15,000 feet) at near-freezing temperatures. So I bought along a down vest, along with a fleece and a rain jacket. I'll bring the same articles of clothing when I travel to the Himalayas in a few weeks.

I like my waterproof Aquapac. It's durable enough to protect my camera gear, even though it's somewhat heavier. It's been through a lot ... when waves washed over it last spring while I was on a fishing boat in choppy seas off of Timor-Leste; or when I hiked last October through wetlands in Guinea-Bissau to see salt-water hippos. I'm willing to add weight for durability. Some of the places I go are remote; and conditions aren't kind. So my gear has to be tough.

Every traveler has different requirements; and I also believe, for me, that every trip has different needs. So I'll bring my basics, but I'll also bring what's necessary for that trip. If I've forgotten something, I'll either buy it, or arrive at an alternative. Sometimes you have to be inventive.

9. Posted by OldPro (Respected Member 238 posts) 30w

I also take a down vest on some trips to layer along with my rain jacket. I no longer take a fleece though as it is too bulky. Max layers for me is a long sleeve t-shirt, long sleeve shirt, down vest and rain jacket. Good to near freezing if worn with a hat and gloves.

For hat and gloves I use a Buff and Columbia Omni Heat gloves. For those not familiar with Omni Heat, it basically reflects your own body heat back at you which works surprisingly well.
So even my hat and gloves are pretty much as lightweight as it is possible to get them down to.

I do agree any given trip may require some more specialized items obviously. Where I think people go wrong sometimes is in trying to accommodate too wide a range of activities and weather conditions in one trip. That is where I think some buying or renting can come in handy.

You don't need to carry a big winter jacket for 3 months for the 1 week you plan to spend in a really cold environment for example. You can buy or in some cases rent one (Katmandu comes to mind) when you need it. Often, depending on where that location is, you can buy one quite cheaply at a Charity Shop and then donate it back when you leave. I bit of 'inventive' as you say berner256 or wise planning can be all you need to keep the weight down for the rest of your trip.