If you are like me who trolls two hundred travel related websites everyday, you would have read loads of people writing about virtues of packing light. Celebrated travel writer Rolf Potts took it very seriously and went on to prove a point by travelling without any baggage (impressive, isn’t it?). Travel blogger ‘Backpacking Ninja’ recently wrote about how she slowly reduced the weight of her pack to 20% of what she once carried (equally impressive, no?). I think they are doing a great job by cutting the excesses when they are on the move. ‘Travel light’ is an advice that I have grown up listening to and seeing it written on train stations and inside the buses. But I refuse to take it. On conversation with a fellow travel blogger Lakshmi a few days ago (as she complained about too much stuff she is packing on her journey), I mentioned that I would rather travel with a big pack and carry all that I need.
I could not have shot this photograph without a tripod
My unwillingness to travel light is partially professional and is partially like an insurance. In most occasions when I do serious travel, I carry bulk of my photography gear with me, which adds up to a large percentage of the weight. A sturdy tripod that I usually carry everywhere is my biggest burden, yet I never leave it behind. There are times where I have never used the tripod during the journey and then there are times when I have used it for just ten minutes in a week-long journey. But in those few times when I have used it, I have come back with some satisfying images. And it does matters a lot to me. In the few occasions that I have left the tripod at home, I have rued about missing excellent photo-opportunities that could be capitalized only with a tripod. Having learned my lesson the hard way, I now always carry the tripod with me. Other photography gear adds up to the weight of the bag as well: a professional camera body adds a kilo while the lenses add two more. A few photography accessories may not add much weight, but they do take up some precious space.
I also prefer to carry at least an extra pair of clothes for every journey, sometimes two pairs if the journey is a long one and the season is of monsoons. If it is winter, I would rather keep myself warm and comfortable instead of packing light and getting troubled by the cold (this, despite the fact that I can take cold weather very well). In the days when I am travelling frequently and also have a lot of work in hand, I also carry my laptop so that I do not have to choose between work and travel. All these ensure that I always end up carrying a big pack stuffed from corner to corner.
All this extra weight causes some discomfort, but I would rather carry all the stuff than miss them during the journeys. As I see it, you are carrying the luggage on your back only for a very small duration of the journey. It will be resting somewhere in the luggage rack while you are travelling and will be left in a room when you are exploring a place. More often than not you don’t need to lug your luggage for more than a kilometer, which I don’t have a problem with even if it is very heavy.
If I am travelling for a week or longer, I usually pack a smaller day-pack inside a large pack. When I arrive at a place and go exploring the location, I leave the big pack behind and wander around with the day-pack. If I am on a short 2-3 day journey, I try to carry a medium sized pack or sometimes even carry two small bags.
One big exception is when I go on a trek and do not engage the services of porters or ponies to carry my stuff. In such occasions, I would think ten times before adding every microgram of unnecessary things into the bag. The tripod will have to stay home as well. I did my first Himalayan Trek (during which we climbed higher and higher without seeing a single incline for four days) eight years ago, carrying my own backpack which included a tripod. I survived that trip without too much trouble, but today I would rather try to keep my bags light in such times. I know I can enjoy the walk better that way.
And then there are occasions when I decide to travel without taking the camera with me. On such journeys, my baggage hardly weighs anything, even with that pair of extra clothes or winter wear.