November 2007 Archives

World Trip gear review

Well, in the past couple months I've been through some of the most arid desert land (Sinai) and jungles in 3 continents and in the South Pacific. I've been on islands, on boats, forded streams and climbed mountains. I've been around, so-to-speak and thought I'd give a few thoughts on the gear I took with me. Since this turned out to take up much more space than I would have thought, I've taken it off the main page, but you can see it by clicking on the posting title above for "World Trip gear review."

PackGregory Z55 (Blue)A-I used the pack more as a "more-portable" suitcase than as a pack, but I did do some hiking with it and it did well in all categories. It also fit in the overhead bins of most planes with a smaller footprint than many roll-ons, with airline agents of smaller, non-Western airlines being the biggest obstacle. I was worried that a strap might break from frequently carrying my 30+ lb load by one strap on occasions, but it held strong and was relatively comfortable. It has a zippered side-entry to ease packing and my only (minor) complaints are that it could benefit from a side water-bottle mesh pocket (which many packs have) and it's still a little difficult to get to things at the bottom of the pack.
HatREI Paddlers hatB+When I started buying gear, I'll admit that I started to panic about all the money I was spending and wanted to find a pretty cheap hat. I basically wanted a wide-brim hat to protect me from the sun. There were several options, but this was inexpensive (<$15) and seemed to do the purpose. It was light, cool and comfortable and my only real complaint was that the brim didn't stay straight or in the manner I wanted it. One side would be flipped up a little while the other side might be flat or tilting down. I would probably look for one that has a wire-lined brim or that has snaps to fasten the brim to the middle.
PantsREI Sahara Convertible PantsA-I took two pairs of pants on my trip and to my surprise, I liked the other pair the most. But these are still good pants. I've had them for a year or or and they are quite lightweight and water-resistant, with a number of pockets. If/when you get too hot, you can remove the legs and have some shorts to wear. I did that a number of times, although I for tall people like me, the resulting shorts aren't near as long as I would like. One other issue I had was with one of the zippered pockets, where the zipper had constant problems coming undone. That said, they are still nice to have and great for walking around in tall grasses or areas where you need just light protection.
PantsREI Adventures pantsAThese were actually my favorite pants on the trip and I got them for a nice discount on the clearance rack. They don't have zip-off legs or anything fancy, but do have 5 pockets in the front, with three of those being "hidden" zippered pockets. I used them frequently and they came in very helpful carrying a passport, cash and cards. And, I thought they were just really comfortable and I think they are the only trip clothing item I have worn since I got home.
ShirtColumbia Panorama shirtB+For the trip, I planned on taking a couple long-sleeved shirts and a couple short-sleeved ones. I needed the long-sleeved ones to be lightweight and wanted them to be able to roll up easily and have a fastener for the sleeves. I also wanted zippered pocket(s) on the front. My preference was the BuzzOff series from Ex Officio, but they were really expensive: ~$80. So, I got a couple of the Columbia Titanium series shirts instead, realizing afterwards that they were two different models. The first, and most expensive was this Panorama series shirt, which I got at Cabelas (near my house). It was comfortable and had a zippered pocket and seemed to fit the bill. I liked the shirt, but it had some problems. One problem was color bleeding. I didn't notice this until a cleaning lady washed it in Cameroon so maybe she did something, but since then whenever I was it, it heavily bleeds an orange-brown color (I had an orange-ish shirt), preventing me from washing it with lighter clothes and whites. This was annoying because I usually did my laundry in the sink and washed the different dirty clothes together to save on laundry soap. Another problem I had was that it seems to emit body odor more than the other clothes. I don't know why and maybe it was coincidence, but I kept noticing it. The third problem I'll mention is that the material snags. When walking through the jungle in Cameroon, there were vines that kept grabbing at me and my clothes. It didn't bother me too much except when I wore this shirt and it would yank threads out, causing problems elsewhere.
ShirtColumbia Silver Ridge II shirtAThis shirt was simpler than the Panorama and made of a different, more nylon-y material, and only had velcro-fastened pockets with no zipper. However, I got it for a steal on the REI clearance rack and enjoyed wearing the shirt. Like the pants, it was just comfortable and light, but sturdy. I'm not sure what all to say, but I don't really have any complaints and I liked it.
T-shirt B-I made the mistake of bringing a regular T-shirt along. Josh went out and bought some synthetic T-shirts made by UnderArmour. I thought it was a waste of money, but in hindsight it was probably a good choice. My complaint that gave the bad grade here is that when wet, they take forever to dry. That of course depends on the climate, but they don't dry easy. Josh's synthetics wicked off moisture easy and dried relatively quickly and that was often a factor on the trip as we were near water or doing laundry frequently. I learned for some of my other clothing that wearing it would help it dry faster, and by the end of the trip, I would wear the wet T-shirts in order to dry them out.
BootsLowa Renegade II GTX (2005)AAlthough I give these boots great marks, I'm not completely certain I'd bring them again. As boots they are great - very comfortable, waterproof (except when wading through streams that go up to your shins), and not too heavy. They don't have the sturdiest support, but that also makes them more comfortable. That said, they are boots and take up a lot of space inside a pack, as well as add some weight. They're also a bit pricey, although I got them about 30% off at an REI sale. For most of the terrain, I was fine in sandals, and when climbing a mountain peak in Fiji, I really wished I had brought my boots on the hike. That said, in the places I wore the boots, the natives were always in flip-flops or barefoot. Decide what terrain you'll be in and only take boots if you think you have to have them for that terrain.
SandalsTevaBMy Tevas were well used on the trip and I'm very glad I brought them, but they are several years old and I would have benefited from having some more appropriate ones, especially for areas where you are replacing boots (see above). The ones I have use thick leather bands and have a cork sole with a fairly rugged, hard-rubber bottom. My complaints are that they took a relatively long time to dry out when soaked, they would smell not-nice at times (the cork seemed to be bad at absorbing odors), they were a bit heavy and they didn't have great ankle and foot support. If you want to do this trip and only want one pair of footwear, get some kind of sport sandal that dries quickly and has more support for your foot. Josh brought some Chacos with the toe loop, and he liked them, but for rugged terrain you'll likely want more support.
Clothing InsecticideSawyer Clothing Treatment (permethrin)B+Since I didn't want to fork over a bunch of cash for the BuzzOff shirts, Josh showed me I could soak my clothes in this stuff and get the same protection. So I did that. Each bottle of this stuff is supposed to treat one pair of pants and one shirt. I got two bottles and soaked both pairs of pants, both long-sleeved shirts, a couple handkerchiefs I brought and my hat. The stuff is toxic and that made the treatment process a little trickier, along with the fact that there doesn't seem to be near enough liquid to do the job, but I got everything treated. It's supposed to be good for 6 washings, so I figured it'd be great. For the most part it did do fine and mosquitoes wouldn't land on my pants or treated shirts. However, it didn't last for 6 washings (I just know mosquitoes would land on the clothes near the end of the trip). Also, while it repels mosquitoes fine, it doesn't repel many or even most other bugs like biting flies. Additionally, it can irritate the skin a bit if in close contact (like the brim of my hat). Note that the instructions discourage use of the treatment on undergarments or in close proximity to skin, so I'm kind of on my own there.

Tour fraud

I wanted to avoid posting anything negative while I was on my trip-around-the-world. However, now that I'm back I do need to write a brief review of Victor Awasung, the operator of Equatorial Tours in Cameroon, and his bad behavior, in the hopes others don't get cheated. Josh wrote about it here and I'll add a few comments. We went looking for an exotic, off-the-beaten-path destination and we also wanted to see Africa; Cameroon fit the bill. We made it very clear many times that we wanted to help Equatorial Tours (EqT) and would write an honest but favorable review of them and try to help in other ways. Victor, the operator, seemed pleased at this. However, as he started to cheat us, he seemed to no longer care and had no regard for us, nor our finances, assuming we could easily cough up the $1300 he suddenly asked for. At first we thought there was a chance it could be legitimate, even though it was very hard to swallow. As Josh mentioned, we looked at many other options and finally decided to pay the extra money after we talked him down a little. The deliberations included the facts that we wouldn't get a refund for leaving early (thereby abandoning much of the pre-paid fee), that the cost of doing something else would be substantial and that we really wanted unique experiences like seeing gorillas in the wild. Now take the extra $1000 we paid, the hundred or so he borrowed and didn't repay, combined with wire transfer fees (that we shouldn't have had to pay if he had done his job correctly) and add some enormous phone charges (several hundred dollars). In all, Victor likely cost us over $1500 extra. That wasn't cool and his completely unrepentant demeanor implies he'd do it again without qualms. Perhaps he had exceptional circumstances on his end that helped him justify the thievery; I don't know. But we would warn any potential clients of EqT that in our opinion Victor Awasung and Equatorial Tours can't be trusted, which is a shame because they have some great employees as Josh mentioned.

I'm back!


I'm back; safe and sound. I'm healthy, 8 lbs lighter than when I left (was 13 lbs lighter just about 10 days ago), have a full beard and am happy to be home. Coming home wasn't actually that surreal, but when I try to think of the places I went at the beginning of my trip they seem forrr-eeee-ver ago. But I've had some interesting experiences that will last a lifetime. I've made some new connections and friends and it's been neat to have people following us. I plan on doing some more specific posts in the coming week or so, but for now I need to get back to my life. 2 months of mail to sort through, bills to organize, a car to register - all the fun things of a hyper-civilized life. There are benefits to that life though and I'm indulging myself in some of those:

  • using water from the faucet to brush my teeth
  • a nice bed
  • a proper shower
  • relatively no bugs (a biggie!)
  • a properly working shower and toilet
  • ...and there are a lot more
I've included a photo here so you can admire my beard (which is now trimmed down a bit).

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from November 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

September 2007 is the previous archive.

December 2007 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.