TIP: Cables

Cabling Mess

Get rid of this!

Here’s one I just discovered. Everything comes with leads and cables these days. PSPs, cameras, laptops and so on. I’ve got a little section of my daybag that I use to store all these and one thing that’s infuriating is when you’re trying to pull one cable out, only to have the whole lot tangled together.

So – hint one is to reduce the number of cables. If you can get a set which has one cable and a collection of adapters to plug in the end, then that reduced the spaghetti somewhat.

In addition, find some small plastic bags. Ziplok or normal, it makes no odds. Just the ones that cables are often slipped inside when you buy the kit are good.

Fold each cable and keep them in one of these. That way when you pull the cable out, the headphone buds or USB plug on the end won’t catch on anything else. You only pull out the one you need.

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Packing it in…

Gotchya! I meant packing everything into my rucksack…

This time, I have the experience of knowing what I need and don’t need; what I’d normally pack and never use and so on. I also have the “advantage” of a ludicrous 15kg limit on three of my upcoming flights, courtesy of the cheapskates at RyanAir (seriously, only use them if you have to – they’re awful).

I’ve opted to leave my “decent” camera at home and just take the pocket-sized one. I can live without it round Europe as I mainly like it for wildlife photography of which I’ll do more in Asia. The tipping point was worrying that I wouldn’t be able to take it on as carry-on luggage at Prestwick. RyanAir (them again) restrict you to one item of hand luggage, though the decider is normally the security staff.

Edinburgh have tried to stop me, but listened to my pleas and let me through back in November. I’ve heard tale of friends asked to put their handbag into their larger carry-on… and then threatened with arrest if they removed it once they were past security. Nuts. Absolutely nuts.

I can’t risk having to cram the camera into my rucksack as I don’t want it broken, so it’s staying at home. I’ll be meeting Leah in London in July to fly to Bangkok with Thai Airlines. They’ll let me on with it, no problem. And my luggage limit is 23kg with them as well.

Anyway, I’ll be gone for at least 2 months on this trip. Absolute minimum. Possibly, and likely, nearer 6. Or more. So what am I taking with me? What follows is a complete list. My rucksack currently weighs around 14kg if my parents’ bathroom scales are to be believed, plus I have a separate “daybag” style rucksack for my laptop. The list includes the clothes I’ll be wearing when I leave.

Clothing, etc

  • Cap
  • Walking boots
  • Lightweight sneakers
  • 3 x hankies
  • Fast-drying lightweight travel towel
  • 6 x pairs of underwear
  • 6 x pairs of socks
  • Light 3/4-length shorts
  • Light trousers with zip-off legs
  • Swimming trunks
  • Waterproof jacket (folds into pouch)
  • Regular t-shirt (Blue Dragon one)
  • Padded long-sleeved goalkeeper shirt
  • Long-sleeved t-shirt
  • Sleeveless t-shirt (if that makes sense)
  • 3 x football shirts (1 x England, 2 x Newcastle – can’t find the 3rd!)
  • 2 x CERN t-shirts (gift for a friend in London)
  • Sunglasses
  • Specs and contact lense stuff (may soon be ditching these… Story to come – and note that the lense fluid has to go into the main rucksack, not my carry-on due to the fact that I might try to blow a plane up with it)


  • Laptop and power supply
  • PSP, USB cable, charger, spare battery and headphones
  • MP3 player, batteries and headphones
  • Small camera, spare battery, charger, USB lead, 40m waterproof casing, small tripod
  • One plug that fits chargers for both camera and PSP
  • Mobile phone, charger and spare phone
  • Network cable
  • 5-point plug adapter
  • Multi-country plug adapter (so I need one set of these to power up to 5 things with the above)
  • Blank CDs, empty cases to mail them home in and secure box to keep them in
  • Petzl LED headlamp and spare batteries


  • Novel (A big, thick Dean Koontz one)
  • Another novel – gift for a friend in Cambridge
  • Day bag (to be replaced with a more fold-able one ASAP)
  • Marker pen for writing hitching signs
  • Large notebook – for writing large hitching signs in!
  • Small notebook
  • Pocket diary (flight / hostel details)
  • NUFC flag (bed decoration/privacy curtain)
  • Photocopies of passport and driving license
  • Passport and driving license
  • Graspop e-ticket and related travel documentation
  • Needle and thread
  • Lonely Planet’s Europe on a Shoestring (to be left in Cambridge or London)
  • Spare shoelaces – came in well handy when one of my rucksack straps broke/was nicked last time out
  • Dental floss – better than thread for fixing rucksacks
  • Painkillers, Strepsils, anti-squits medication, travel sickness pills, max strength flu tablets
  • Eucalyptus oil (anaesthetic, antiseptic, eases breathing with a stuffed nose, cures cancer…)
  • Sun cream (factor 40)
  • Razor, spare blades and small canister of gel
  • Nail clippers, tweezers
  • Scary big knife
  • Tent (to be left in Cambridge or London – need it for Graspop)
  • Sleeping bag
  • Earplugs
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrush

That’s yer lot. As you can tell, I’ll be swapping out a few items (the tent, two shirts and a couple of books) for my camera when I get back to the UK in 4 weeks. So, nice and lightweight as it goes. Watch the scales at the airport say my bag’s 5kg heavier than our bathroom ones do.

I need to buy a money belt as well. I can’t find the one I used last time, but they’re not expensive.

Next stop: Ireland. See you on the green side!

Last meal

Yup, had my last dinner in the Chamonix flat – El Paso Enchiladas. And darn good they were, too. The trick is, when you fold them, “stick” them shut with extra-hot salsa and a scattering of grated cheese before you pop them back in the oven. Yum.  Accompanied by my last bottle of out-of-date Newcastle Brown Ale.

All good things, etc., etc.  I’m going to miss the scenery more than anything else, I think. I’ve probably mentioned already, but there hasn’t been a single morning where I’ve not woken and looked at the mountains. Then left for the office and looked at the mountains. And popped out for lunch and… you get the idea.

I’ve already packed and made use of about every packing tip I’ve ever posted on here. I hope my rucksack’s under the limit – I don’t think it can hold more than 20kgs anyway. My pockets are laden with batteries, adaptors and other stuff that wouldn’t quite fit in anywhere else. I’ll be wearing one jumper with another tied round my waist, gloves shoved in the pockets and at least one cap on my head. And possibly my boarding goggles as well. Better that than having them crushed.

The only things left in the flat that belong to me are one pain chocolate (for supper), a squish of toothpaste, my toothbrush (to be thrown out in the morning, I need a new one) and the book I’m reading. Everything else is luggage’d up and in the office awaiting transportation to Geneva in the morning.

One more night…

TIP – use your clothing!

One restriction that can be very annoying these days is that of luggage weight. Another that really gets my goat is only being able to take one item of hand luggage onto a plane, unless you’re female in which case you can also carry on a handbag the size of Montana.

There’s a simple way to increase the amount of stuff you can get on as hold luggage – use your clothing as storage. I’m not talking about smuggling, just being able to carry as much from A to B as possible without having to resort to using hold baggage (and thus incurring expense and more waiting time).

Wear a jacket. Jackets have pockets and you can get a lot into them if you try. And remember, there’s no weight limit on what’s in your pockets like there may be for your cabin baggage. Not enough room in your bags for the extra jumper you might need? Wear it. OK, so you’re warm but you can take it off once you’re past security.

You don’t need to carry the stuff in your pockets forever, either. As soon as you’re past security head for one of the duty free shops. Most will happily give you a large carrier bag for free. Dump the stuff in there and you can store it in the overhead locker on the plane.

TIP – less luggage, more speed

If you can get away with a day-bag of reasonable dimensions, then do so. Make sure you don’t pack anything dangerous (Bowie knife, TNT, bottled water, 125g tube of toothpaste) in case you have problems with customs/security and get mistaken for a terrorist.

Quite a few airlines will let you check-in in advance – often days in advance – if you only have personal luggage. As long as you can print out your boarding card, you can skip the whole check-in queue at the airport. This means you can get away with arriving later and have that bit less stress. Plus, your luggage can’t go missing, and you can walk straight out at the other end. No having to stand for 15 minutes at a carousel wondering if your rucksack is in Bahrain.