03 November 2015

With thanks to A W Holder


One of the things that you are advised to take with you is a copy of your important documents: Passports, driver's licenses, marriage certificate, birth certificates etc and to keep them in a safe place.

Being that there are 7 of us, the number of A4 pages increases rapidly, and I wanted a way to keep them crumple-free and fold-proof for the journey.

That's when I hit upon the idea of rolling them and stashing them in a rigid plastic tube instead of the standard cardboard paper towel tube, so it could be thrown in the bottom of our packs without fear of damage.

I didn't know how I was going to materialise the idea so headed to a plumbing supply store, feeling a little diminutive for asking for help with such a concept, but was heartily surprised to be served by a lovely woman who was so supportive and took service to the nth degree.  

She counted out 25 sheets of paper from the printer and we took this with us to the pipe section to see what would work.  I conceded that the 18-23mm that I thought I could use wouldn't have been big enough and settled for 43mm (called a 40mm as this is it's internal diameter); and that is with rolling the long edge of the paper around itself instead of the short one too.  Remember that once inside the tube, the paper expands to fit snuggly.

One of the great things about going to a plumbing supply instead of a hardware store is that I didn't have to buy 5 - 6 metres of the pipe.  1m was enough to get out the 2 tubes that I wanted and I ended up getting a bonus tube too which I can see being used for colouring pages in Kita's carry-on bag.  The ends themselves were the expensive part.

Each tube weighs less than 250g (including documents) which is the average weight of a t-shirt or two.  In some ways it is a bit heavy when you have to consider that you carry every single gram but in the long run for the length of time we would like to be away and the importance of having the documentation handy if we need it it's a sacrifice that makes sense.

For those of you keen to make one for yourself you will need:

  • length of pvc piping (the long edge of an A4 piece of paper is 29.7cm so I allowed for 1 extra cm and cut ours at 31cm)
  • 2 end caps
  • Some sort of hack-saw blade if you are buying a longer length of pipe and cutting it down (I used a Leatherman!)
  • Some sand-paper for coarsely sanding off the cut ends (I used 150 grit)

We decided not to glue one end cap on one end and rather leave both 'loose' (which when you put them on they are not!) so that if there was an issue of getting anything out of the tube we could push from one end and pull from the other.  Technically they are not water-tight and I could add some teflon tape perhaps to one end or the other but I am happy with the way they are.  The ends need a bit of torque/twist to get them off but that's good for something that may get caught on other objects in one's pack and you don't want the ends popping off randomly anyway.

It was a great feeling to be able to go from concept to creation in one day, and have another item barely hit our still-very-long to-do list before it was crossed off.

13 October 2015

Colour-coded packing cubes


I mentioned in passing that we'd got packing cubes for our overseas trip.

These very simple, light-weight bags are great.  We've already had a chance to try them out.

The sets have 4 different sizes in each, all with mesh, nylon and a zip. The largest has a handle too.


The idea is that you pack like with like ie all your tops together, all your underwear together, all your bottoms together etc.

When you need a top you grab the whole tops bag instead of ferreting through each and every piece of clothing in your pack or suitcase.

We are taking it a step further and using colour-coded bags for each person.  As we only plan on taking 4 checked-in packs everyone's packing cubes will be tossed in together.  So when we arrive at our accommodation the packs can be emptied and cubes distributed according to colour.  

The only down-side is that the stitching on one of mine has already come apart, so I will need to inspect each one and see if reinforcement needs to be done before we go.

06 October 2015

DIY stash sacks for our packs


There is no wrong or right answer when it comes to what to carry your clothing and stuff in, but let me fill you in on why we chose packs instead of suitcases in case you too are in the throes of decision-making.

  • There are some places in Europe where suitcases with wheels are not allowed (ie Venice).
  • We needed to be able to hold our children's hands in busy airports and the like.
  • To save money we will need to walk, bus, train and therefore will be more mobile with a pack.
  • The only time Atlas and I went overseas (for our honeymoon over 2 decades ago!) I remember the wobble of the suitcase and how unwieldy it was dragging it down Sydney's metropolitan streets & on/off the train.


We had already picked up a couple of packs from a garage sale, but thought that we needed at least one more so the 3 eldest of us could carry packs, if not the 4 eldest.  The other children would have their day packs (aka normal backpack).  

Thankfully due to providence we were able to order a pack from Bags2Go in Australia that was heavily discounted, and have it brought back by a family member that was travelling there.

Unfortunately it got ripped in transit, forcing us to think about how to stash it during our real trip.  We came up with the combination of a homemade oxford nylon bag, 2 re-purposed US mail bags (that we had previously got our homeschooling resources from USA in), and a Kathmandu bag that had been the wrapping of a christmas present years ago.  


Some other travellers recommend:

  • Wrapping your pack in food cling wrap (Glad wrap / Saran wrap).
  • Putting your pack into a large thick clear bag (not a black rubbish sack as it might be thrown out) and binding it tightly with packing tape.
  • Using a duffle bag to zip it into.
  • Popping it into a wash sack (usually made from Oxford nylon).
  • Using a pack liner as an outer bag 


As for our ripped pack, we hope that repairing it with duct tape underneath and Gear Aid Seam Grip along the 12cm tear will be all it needs.  Unfortunately once opened the tube of Seam Grip is hard to save for later repairs if needed but would be good in a pack repair kit along with the (mattress) needles, upholstery thread (or dental floss), duct tape, and thimble in case something happens on the road or trail.