I am on another train ride, which means it is time for a GEAR REVIEW! (Applause – cheers – the crows goes wild…) Heh, I know. Just thought I would talk a little about how my gear is holding up, what I find useful, what sucks, etc…
This is not all encompassing, just a few items that stand out.
Lets start with clothes. Most of my clothes are quick drying, moisture wicking fabrics that I got at REI or have accumulated over the years.
Exofficio Zip off Pants with Buzz Off – These have been my go to pants so far. They are comfortable, light weight, block the wind and hold up well. The pockets are large enough that I can put a full guide book in them without it bothering me. Inside the right pocket is a Velcro pouch for change, chapstick or anything else small you don’t want falling out. Inside the left pocket is a hidden zipper pocket that is decent sized and can hold a wallet or other item you don’t want pick pocketed. It is so well hidden I didn’t find it until two days ago. No cargo pockets on these pants, but both rear pockets have Velcro flaps for they hold things well. The Buzz Off is a built in insect repellant that hold up for 26 washings. There are loops for a real belt and the pants button shut with a double button.
REI Zip off Cargo Pants – Similar to the Exofficio, but different. I did not realize how different until I started using them for more than one day. Pockets are a little smaller, big enough for a language guide, but not for a guide book. These pants have cargo pockets covered with Velcro flaps however, and the right one actually zips shut underneath the flap. The left one has a small pouch for items such as change and chapstick, but the actual pouch does not seal itself. Both are big enough ,but the top inch of the guide book sticks out, which is less than optimal. The back pockets both Velcro shut. No belt loops, but there is a waist cinch band that works just like a belt and clips together along with a snap button on the actual pants. These did not come as insect rappelling, but I soaked them in a solution that made them insect repellant for 6-10 washings.
I have two pairs of Exofficio quick dry breathing underwear, one boxers, the other boxer briefs. Both are very comfortable, dry fast, and breathe well. The boxer briefs ride up all the time and are uncomfortable while they are bunching, but once you are situated, they are fine. I also have two pairs of Patagonia Capelene boxers that I have been using since I was a sea kayak guide, and they are great. They dry fast, are soft as silk, and I love them. However, they don’t breathe as well as the Exofficio ones.
Two quick dry t-shirts, one Columbia, one Mountain Hardwear. The Columbia one is a little tighter, thicker, and warmer. It is blue. The Mountain Hardwear one is lighter, thinner, looser and light brown. Both dry fast, roll up tight, don’t wrinkle, and are good.
I have an REI black long sleeve thermal shirt that is a half zip. It has a collar of sorts that can go all the way up like a mock turtle neck for warmth, or zip it down a little and it is a collar, good to go out in or to a nicer place. This is my favorite shirt here where it is often cold. It is soft, stretchy, and dries fast. Many Koreans where black as well, so I blend in better.
I also have a long sleeve Columbia quick dry button down. It is red, and soaked in the same insect repellent as the REI pants. It is vented everywhere and the sleeves roll up and button so they stay up. I have not worn it yet since I have been here.
Another shirt I have not worn yet is a short sleeve button down Northface that is quick dry, vented, and double layered for moisture wicking ability. It is more of a tropical weather shirt, which Korea is not.
I have a green REI jacket that I got a while ago, it is only an outer shell, but it breathes, has a roll up hood, a chest pocket, and is very light weight. It has been cold, and I wear it a lot. But as I am heading south, less and less, and in Southeast Asia I will probably only wear it when it rains.
Socks and Shoes
Standard light hiking socks of a blend of materials, they are all fine, just of different thicknesses.
I have my Chocos here with me, but have yet to wear them. I also have a pair of Merrell light hiking shoes with Vibram souls that are amazing. They stretch enough that I can slip them off when I enter a place that you have to take your shoes off (restaurant, room, etc…) I also have hiked a long way in them, and they work like a charm on trails, wet rocks, city streets, and palace paths. I haven’t got them soaking wet yet, but I bet they would dry. They are light, bouncy and great.
So much for clothes.
The rest of my stuff is a random assortment.
My laptop, a cheaper HP that has been working fine, but I wish the battery life was longer. I haven’t run out yet, but it eats it up. It is small with a 14 inch screen, but I download my pictures to it every night, and then upload them when I get internet. It has wifi and all the other trappings new laptops come with, including a card reader which is nice and a built in webcam with microphone, which is crucial for Skype calls back to the parents. I also type my blogs on it while I am traveling then upload later.
My Nikon D50 dSLR camera. It is big, and I am split on it. I often find myself wanting a small, unobtrusive camera that I can just keep in my pocket, but then I love the control this camera gives me. It takes great pictures, and I have had it for a while. I just feel like such a tourist (which I am) when I have it out. Because it has many options, I find myself spending more time at locations trying to find great shots. If I had a point and shoot, I might get more candid shots, but less composed ones.
My cell phone, which is basically a little computer. Touch screen, slide out keyboard, I have been using it to take the videos you see, and for the occasional photo when my big camera is packed away. I have also been using it to plan out my itinerary and budget on pocket Excel and Word. It is easy to just put in what I spend in the excel sheet then put the phone back in my pocket.
I have an assortment of random gear, including power adapters – a must, and a little bendable tripod I can position anywhere, even around a tree limb. Haven’t used it yet. Also my iPod nano, and a med kit, along with my dop kit, which has toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, Doc Brauner’s everything soap which I use for shampoo, body wash, shaving crème etc…
That’s about it. I keep everything in my back pack, which is a High Sierra 45 pack. It has been good, is the right size and is holding up fine. I have a wire mesh cinch bag that I can fit most of my gear in inside of the pack so that I can lock it to my bed in hostels, and so people can’t razor the bag and steal my stuff, but it is annoying, and I tend to use it only when I am in a shared room in a hostel, as Korea is safe in general. When I am in Thailand and Southeast Asia, I will use it all the time.
If you made it this far, you are way too interested in how gear holds up, and you should probably quit your job and meet me over here.