Packing for a trip away is usually a last-minute thing for me, because the trip is rarely longer than a couple of days. I can (and all too often do) throw some things in the bag just before heading to the airport, and pick up any forgotten items at the destination if really necessary.
But China is going to be a different proposition altogether: one whole month, with everything I take being carried on my back for extended periods of time. I’ve done backpacking before of course, and know how heavy every unnecessary gram can be. But this time I want to be totally prepared as I’ve no idea how hard or easy it will be to buy things outside of the major cities.
So last Friday night I laid out all the essentials on my bed and fitted them into the pack. Space wasn’t a problem – in fact there is plenty of room to spare in my 70+15 litre pack – but the weight did seem borderline. I figured the only way to give it a proper test was to actually go somewhere and lug it around for a while. With an unexpectedly empty weekend ahead, I decided to go to Central early Saturday morning and see what my options for a hiking daytrip were…
The Blue Mountains were the most likely, I thought before I got to Central, but didn’t appeal too much because I’ve been there plenty of times. I really wanted to go somewhere new that wasn’t too far or expensive to get to – which turned out to be Bundanoon. At the end of the Southern Highlands line, it’s still technically part of the Cityrail network but takes almost three hours on two trains and a bus to get there. For $25 same-day return, it seemed perfect.
And it was, even more than I’d realised. For starters it’s pretty remote: only one other person took the bus from Moss Vale with me. Quite a pretty village too, with one decent cafe, one bad cafe, an odd general store and of course a pub. It was a cool, sometimes drizzly day and there is a national park with several bushwalks only 1.5km from the township. A great chance to test my new gear for warmth (did I mention it will get well below zero while I’m China?). I walked for about two hours with pack on back, trekking down (and up) the aptly-named Constitution Hill on my way out to the Grand Canyon lookout.
Overall a good test. Lessons learnt: I need new walking shoes (tick – that was Sunday’s mission), I need to trim the weight a bit, and I definitely need a warmer jacket for China. What I’ve got simply won’t be enough in sub-zero conditions
Shoe-wise, my blunnys were terrific. They’re good heavy duty working shoes, but they can double as something good looking for those occasions when you need something smarter. For my trip I just had those boots and a pair of thongs for something more casual.
PS… Kate’s facebook profile says it’s already freezing there.
Damien, you’re so organised. Impressive!
Depends where Kate is, I guess. Shanghai temps are currently 18-20 degrees max and mins about 15 degrees… whereas Lhasa in Tibet is around -3 during the day and -14 at night. I’m definitely gonna invest in a down jacket before I go!
As for shoes, I got a fancy-schmancy pair of Scarpas at an outdoor store on Sunday. They look like ordinary black/grey sneakers, but are waterproof yet breathe-able (Goretex) and have a top notch sole (Vibram). Uber-comfortable too.
And yes, Andrew: guilty as charged!
Damo the other thing to remember is that you will be heaps bigger than most of the Chinese – unless you are going to get some stuff made you might struggle to find clothes that are the right length in arm and leg length.
superb point – I hadn’t thought of that. But I’d already decided pack a full range of gear (but the bare minimum of) anyway…
One of the key aims of the China trip – apart from seeing China! – is to see what I really use during that month. It’ll be a good pointer to the much longer six month journey in the second half of next year