There were 3 items that I prioritized and did the most research on when buying gear for my travels: my backpack, my footwear, and my rain jacket. My backpack would become my house, my footwear would keep my feet happy and healthy after endless miles of walking, and my rain jacket would keep me dry when caught in sudden torrential downpours. I knew that these items would make or break my trip in terms of comfort and sanity, so I put a lot of time into ensuring I found the best for my needs.
I did my research by looking online at the best of the best, reading other bloggers suggestions and reading endless reviews. When I made my trip to MEC to buy my gear I had a head start on knowing what features I wanted my gear to have, and what features I didn’t necessarily need or care for.
When the doors to MEC opened, I went straight to the backpack section. Oddly enough, the bag I went home with was the first bag I looked at- I like to think it was fate. I knew that I would spare no expense on my back pack- this was after all, my house for the next year or so. A nice Australian gentleman quickly approached me and began to assist me on my search- he was well traveled and experienced with backpacks-an absolute fountain of knowledge for this clueless girl! He helped me pick out a few bags, told me the differences between them, the pros and cons of each, and then loaded them up with some weight and had me walk around the store for a while with each. After toting each of them around for a bit, the choice was pretty easy- I wanted the Cadillac. Two hours later, I decided on the Deuter Quantum 55 litre plus 10 litre day pack DL Women’s fit. For more on the specs, check out the link above.
This bag has intense padding (which is essential for long term travel), loads of adjustments, a zip up to contain your back pack straps for when you check it into luggage at the airport (important so that your straps don’t get damaged), a detachable day pack, a highly adjustable steel frame, and a U zipper as well as a bottom loading zipper. This bag ran me $280 hefty dollars, but for my first house, I figured that wasn’t so bad!
Choosing a size of bag was something I wrestled quite a bit over. I am NOT a light packer… but I desperately did not want to be lugging around 80lbs of junk on my back and be miserable all the time. I thought the 55litre bag was a good medium between too big and too small; it was just right. Now that I had my bag, I could pick out the rest of my gear, knowing it all had to fit in that tiny home of mine.
The next most important item on my list was my shoes- the shoes I would spend walking thousands of miles around the globe in. I knew I wanted something lightweight, something Gortex and therefore waterproof, something with wicked grip, and most of all something that was highly supportive and comfortable. I wanted a hiker that I could also walk around town in and not be sweating in. I knew I didn’t want to bring a pair of hardcore hiking shoes as well as a pair of every day walking shoes- space is mighty limited in that bag of mine! I grabbed a few pairs and tried them all on, easily deciding on the Women’ Salomon X Gortex shoe.
I wasn’t crazy about the colour pink for shoes, but it was all they had so I took the plunge regardless of the vibrant colour (in retrospect, I should have just ordered the colour I wanted online later like I did with my sandals, but I just got too excited!). I’ve made sure I’ve worn these shoes on several occasions to break them in before I take to the road with them. I recently wore them in Whitehorse, trekking through a little snow, and completely submerged my foot by accident on a hike around Yellowknife’s Prospector’s trail. I wish I could say the Gore Tex was magic, however my feet did end up a little damp. I think because I opted for a shoe that has some breathability, I jeopardized their level of waterproofness. I’m still going to give these a go for my trip as they are super comfortable and supportive, but I will check in down the road to let you know how they stack up after some serious use trekking through trails in the wet season’s of countries. These set me back only $135 which I think was pretty reasonable for a good pair of trail hikers.
Aside from a great pair of hikers, I also needed a top quality pair of strap on sandals that I could walk around cities and trails for hours on end without getting achey feet. I did not want to be stuck walking city streets in my hikers when it was +40 degrees Celsius. I tried a couple of pairs on at MEC and found the winners easily. I went with the women’s Teva Tirra sandal in black with purple accent.
I ended up ordering these online rather than buying at MEC because they didn’t have the colour in the size I needed. I wanted black because I wanted something that wouldn’t look dirty easily, but that I would also be able to wear with clothing and still pass as slightly dressed up (as far as ‘dressed’ up can go with a strap on hiking sandal!) These sandals are incredibly comfortable, have amazing arch support, and loads of adjustments (can you tell I’m a fan of adjustments yet?!). As it’s the dead of winter and these just arrived 2 weeks ago, I haven’t had the chance to try them out in earnest, but I plan to start wearing them around the house to break them in a little. (And because it’s winter, and I’m under the protection of my house – and will only have to succumb to the teasing of family- I will be wearing socks in them to keep my toes warm! However, let me assure you, I have absolutely no intentions whatsoever of wearing socks in them while traveling!). Again, once I’ve given these a fair trial on my travels I will update you the overall rating of them. These sandals ran me $115 in total with shipping from the online Canadian Teva website. They would have cost me $89 if I had been able to purchase them through MEC, however I couldn’t even order them online at MEC, as they didn’t have them in stock after repeatedly checking for a month.
The third most important item on my list was a rain jacket. I knew I would be spending some time trekking around countries during wet season and I wanted to ensure I could stay as dry as possible. I tried on several jackets at our local sports store, talked to friends about their preferences, and tried on several more at MEC, Sportchek and Atmosphere. I took pictures of all of the tags of the jackets I liked and that fit me well, and then went home to research them and read reviews. I ended up deciding on the women’s Northface Venture Rain Jacket in the colour greystone.
I’ve only worn it a few times and haven’t been able to test out it’s level of waterproofness too much as I live in one of the driest cities in the country and we had one of driest summers in history (accompanied by the worst forest fire season in history). I wore it in fall during an anti-fracking protest when it was (miraculously!) raining and it kept me completely dry, but there was by no means a downpour. Once I’ve had a chance to march through torrential downpours in it, I will update you on my thoughts. I do however love the look, the colour and the fit. It comes down part way on my bottom, has loads of adjustments for the hood (yay, adjustments!), waist and wrists to keep water out. The hood also has a convenient beak to prevent water from dripping onto my face as well.
So far I’m happy with these purchases, but of course won’t know how they truly stand up to the travel world until I put them to the test in 2 short months! Stay tuned to find out how they stack up!