I bought 2 new bags specifically for this trip and I feel obligated to review them, my choices in what to bring in general, and maybe things I really love vs. What I would do differently next time - maybe they can be future reference tips for me or anyone else who wants to do similar traveling.
Bag 1: LowePro Photo Sport 200 AW Backpack
I've been in love with my PorteenGear camera bag and it looks so chic, I was definitely considering that being my other bag but then I remembered all the times I've taken it on day trips and how bad my shoulders and back would hurt after carrying it around just a few hours! Well that certainly wouldn't do for a 6 month-long safari, now would it? So when Jake and I went to one of his favorite camera stores in Denver, they had a wide selection of bags to look at and by chance I came across a small LowePro bag I had discovered online a few days before and wanted to see it in person before buying.
They have two sizes in this style, one super small (seriously a day trip) and the other a bit bigger. I obviously needed the larger one and checked it out a ton before deciding it would probably be the best option, especially since it was carry-on size and fuck baggage fees, amiright? So off I went and ordered the cheapest one I could find, I believe I paid $118 at the time?
The Lowepro bag, after a month of usage, has proven noteworthy and without a doubt one of my favorite purchases of all time. They have black and orange available, and I chose black for this trip to not be an eye-sore and a tourist flag, but I think I may go for their smaller day bag when I get back in the flashier color.
There are two compartments, one for the camera, and one for whatever else you might fit in a bag. The camera compartment is classically padded with an adjustable insert divider to split the load. I have it adjusted to perfectly fit my flash and additional lens on one side, with my charger, camera body with lens attached, and accessory bag with flash gels on the other. Everything is comfortably snug and it remains easy to zip up the side. *The camera compartment zipper has broken at exactly the 3 month mark. I've had to ghetto-rig it shut with bungee cords and snap straps, which have been working pretty well actually and still make things easily accessible thankfully, or I'd be pretty pissed. I'm going to contact LowePro about the warranty and see what can be done. I'm still in love with the bag and believe I just have a lemon (some mediocre stitching), so we'll see what happens with a new bag.*
Then the top opens and in there I have my rain jacket, bathing suit, thermal shirt, long sleeve button up, 2 t-shirts, 3 tank tops, yoga pants, yoga shorts, outdoor pants, a pair of jeans, my hiking shoes, and 7 pairs of undies. I often cram my toiletries and soaps in there too and it seems to cinch just fine. Then I have a side pocket for bottles of water (that I just crammed more camera gear into: my mini tripod, battery grip, and batteries galore), a front pocket perfect for my notebook (that's paper, not a laptop), and a top zipper pocket for quick access items, but it's not very large or expandable (maybe the one thing I'd change). There are also two pockets on the hip belt (which I might add is extremely comfortable) and enough cinches and loops that I can tie or hang anything I could think of bringing. I bought D-ring clips since those are handy for random shit, as well as some more adjustable buckle straps and a large round of velcro strap to attach what extra things I need to on the outside. Everything sits perfectly on this bag and it remains extremely light and compact.
The back has a container for a Camelpak bladder (I bought a 3L one since I like to imagine being lost in the Sahara for 3 months) and the padding is stiff and supportive. There are also buckle straps on the bottom where I rolled up 3 of my RenFaire gypsy scarfs to better blend in with the locals (and I'm SOOO glad I did!!). Currently I have the blanket we bought in Chefchaouen rolled in there too and all four of those items just barely fit, but they're holding fine.
The outside is a nice nylon that so far has been very sturdy (though we'll see what years bring instead of a mere month) and it has a stowe-away rain cover too, woohoo!
As of now, it weighs in at 11ish kilos and is very comfortable to walk around in for long periods. Though when we had to change tactics to get on a RyanAir flight, Jake packed it to about 20kg and it got a bit uncomfortable after an hour of walking, though I probably could have adjusted it a little better, I still can't see myself doing it long periods. However, I don't see myself carrying that bag on ridiculous adventures that require lugging 20-30kg around and would have another bag for that most likely. My 10-12kg is just fine though.
Bag 2: Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag (Size XS)
A number of well-received name brands lay before me in all manner of sizes, shapes, and awesome colors. But I came across a decision between two - I think both were Timbuk2 bags....maybe I'll look online before I post this to confirm. And while I wanted a fuscia pink and purple ridiculous eye-catching bag, I chose for the subtle and more-fitting black. And it was their classic bag in the just-released mini format that had the right accessories and sale price for me.
I LOVE TIMBUK2 AND CAN SO SEE WHY HIPSTER CYCLISTS HAVE THEM. Not to mention how stoked I am that they made a mini replica of their most popular classic bag, because it is the bees knees. Another one of my fave purchases of all time. In fact, if I could have a top 3, it'd be these two bags and my Toms.
This bag has everything the larger classic bag, just mini in size. The strap adjusting eluded me for a bit, but when I saw a girl in Denver hoist her classic bag up, I realized I just needed to get with the program and deal with how weird it looks. It's grown on me and I no longer care about having a thick weird loop because it hangs pretty well. The quick adjust buckle is pretty handy when I have it pulled up to my upper back and need to throw it off quickly to access it.
There are so many goddamn pockets and zippers, I didn't even see them all until we were about to start our trip. There are two "hidden" zippers that are super hard to see if you're not looking for them, which is awesome for potential thefts, and one of them even has more compartments and zippers on the inside. It's a labyrinth of pockets! My wet-dream of bags. It has a long strap for a keyring inside, perfectly sized pockets for credit cards, IDs, and my passport. I have my bottle opener inside, my headlamp, my hard drive case, two bags of food, a huge camping cup/pot, all my meds, more toiletries, bug sprays, Emergen-C packets, my kindle, my tablet and its keyboard accessory case, and all my plug adapters and chargers.
When I use it as a day bag, I put my camera accessory bag, extra lens and camera inside with my kindle and tablet/keyboard and it closes just fine. That might be my favorite part about this bag. The velcro closures are top notch and on top of that there are two buckles that can be adjusted easily to cinch it as tight as you can get it, and it feels SO secure. Sometimes I stuff this thing so ridiculously that the velcro can't touch, but I just buckle it and cinch it tight and nothing comes close to falling out.
The entire inside and flap are also lined with waterproof plastic that I was able to test in South Africa's pouring rain and it kept everything perfectly dry. The thing feels like an indestructible rock. And the best part is how comfortable it sits. I carry that thing around all day as a day pack and barely notice it by the time I take it off after 6 hours of walking around town. It's so easy to access everything while still keeping it secure from other people. I'm so so so in love with it and am really excited to use it as my every day "purse" when I'm back in the states. Not to mention riding my bike around with it!