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The Land Before I Understood Time (Part Two)

I don’t write much about minimalism on this site even though it is one of my biggest interests. Distilling everything in your life down to only the things one needs is very liberating (I hope I communicated this sense with my last post regarding my PAYG iPhone), but at the same time, there comes a point where I don’t think I write often enough about minimalism that could add anything of value to the narrative of this website. Especially when there are other more informative websites devoted to the topic.

Anyway, as I mentioned in part one, I was preparing to leave the UK.

I’m now in HK and I thought it might be interesting by sharing with you the method by which I packed in preparation for my new life. So today this is where I can have a bit of fun. This post takes a different tone to part one, this is simply travelling with the right kind of bag and packing the things you believe you only really need. Of course how we can do this is entirely subjective.

It was Bruce Lee who said ‘Absorb what is useful, discard what is not and add what is uniquely your own’. It’s a quote I have always been mindful of. 

I made Swansea’s acquaintance in 2006; arriving in a car half filled with all my things lovingly rescued from my dad’s house and my evil, goatee-wearing, step brother. I quickly realised I didn’t need most of that stuff and during these six years I moved another three times in Swansea. Each time I moved I discarded more and more of the things I didn’t need anymore.

Throughout that time I always said to my various housemates and those interested that I would only take with me the things I could carry when I would eventually leave Swansea and this is what I did.

My Current Bags

Half the challenge is finding the right bag and naturally it has to work with what you’re going to pack. I had an 80 litre rucksack and a really dependable, travelled three continents, six countries, Crumpler laptop bag.

I only used the rucksack to ferry stuff between moving houses; I had never gone backpacking with it while I’ve lived in Swansea. It was wasted there so I gave it away to charity along with other stuff I had lying around. My favourite thing about it was the one big compartment; I can just get in, get what I want and get back out.

My Crumpler bag has seen much more use and the best thing about owning a Crumpler is that they don’t age. Besides the paint stains, it looks the same as the day I bought it, that surprises me considering how many floors its slept on and where I’ve slung it. The only trouble with the bag was its compartments that divided the space up inside and its own heft; a carry-on-luggage-stealing, 1.5 kilos (3.3 pounds). Airline restrictions are around the 8-10 kilo (17-25lbs) range so that’s quite a bite to take out of that weight restriction.

The Right Bag

I bought this bag last month* – the North Face Verto 26, to me it’s a perfect blend of the attributes taken from the previous two bags above. The Verto 26 has one large compartment and it only weighs 300grams, yes you read that right, 300 grams (0.66 pounds).

As you can see from the video, this is actually a day pack aimed at climbers and adventurers who need a second bag on extended treks; leaving their larger items at a base camp. It is assumed these people would be working from another larger bag like the one it’s replacing.

Before I found the Verto 26, I was always looking for the perfect bag that could accommodate a laptop, camera gear, change of clothes, iPad, cables, probably a pair of shoes, a towel and so forth, you know the normal stuff. I already practice travelling lighter than most people, but this would be taking it to a more extreme level.

The best part is the bag can be folded in on itself like so:

There’s a compartment inside the bag where everything can fit inside itself.


Crumpler, Verto and Rucksack.

The Verto 26 is the roughly the same size of the Crumpler, but with the simplicity of the Rucksack. The Crumpler is super study; it’s much more thicker and rigid because it’s padding is designed to protect photography gear and a laptop.

For This Trip

The Verto 26 works because I’m not taking large electronic items; I actually sold my laptop, camera and gave my iPad to my housemate and I made a bit of money on the side. I figured once I arrived in HK, I can buy their replacements and I would like to take advantage of the newer tech and cheaper prices HK offers.

Besides, this bag if it’s not already clear, is for hold luggage and is totally unsuitable for carrying electronic equipment because nobody should trust the airport baggage system. That is unless you’re travelling exclusively inside Japan!

First Packing Attempt

What can I fit inside? This was my first attempt with packing:

  • 2 x 2.5 portable hard drives with 2 firewire cables
  • 5 x pairs of underwear
  • 1 x shirt
  • 5 x T-shirts
  • 2 x sweat tops
  • 8 x books of various sizes
  • 1 x skipping rope
  • 1 x pair of combats

Man Bag

Some people have said, ‘Is that all’. But I’ll be carrying some other things on my person (I have a small man bag for important items and food).

  • 1 x iPhone 4S
  • 2 x pairs of headphones
  • 1 x iPod Shuffle
  • Travel documents
  • A4 wallet holding qualifications and certificates

The iPhone 4S ended up becoming the only computer for the first few weeks while I was in HK.

Second Packing Attempt

  • 2 x 2.5 portable hard drives with various cables
  • 5 x pairs of underwear
  • A shirt
  • 5 x T-shirts
  • 2 x sweat tops
  • Various pairs of socks
  • 8 x books of various sizes
  • A skipping rope
  • 2 x pair of trousers
  • Various toiletries, some of which were 4 bottles of contact lens solution.
  • 2 x hats
  • Protein shaker
  • Portable weighing scales
  • Towel
  • Gum shield and a padlock
  • Apple mouse
  • iRizer Laptop stand

Contents of the Verto 26 once I arrived in Hong Kong. Yes my underwear is colourful, what of it? :-)


Apart from setting off every red flag with Israeli security going into Israel and then heading back out, I would say yes. Considering the size of my bag, I was surprised by how often I got stopped. I’ll mention a lot more in the upcoming podcast, but to put it bluntly, it was fucking annoying. I’m going to go out of my way to avoid that country for the rest of my life, just like the USA.

Everything I brought with me I have used and anything I left behind I haven’t missed. As I’ve settled in, I have had to get rid of a few items of clothing because they don’t work in the Hong Kong heat.

Day to Day

Day to day, the Verto 26 isn’t as clever, I think the stitching will hold where I perceive it to be weak, but I noticed it isn’t the perfect bag on a daily basis. One reason is the lack of a spinal structure within the bag, of course being what it is, the Verto had to forgo this and padding in order to get it down to that 300 gram weight. So when I take the biggest item out of the bag which just so happened to take on the role of the spine for the bag, the bag collapsed. The previous two bags didn’t do this and could almost stand up on their own or they were rigid enough that you didn’t need to use one hand to keep the bag open. It’s a small things, but something others should be aware of, it’s like I’m adapting to the bag rather than the other way around.

With regard to the stitching, I’m making reference to the front attachment for securing the bag in a closed state, again because of the ability of the bag, it has to be small, but it’s also the only thing securing the lid down, if that goes, then I can’t close the bag.

One last thing, the noose for the entrance to the bag can’t be pulled as tight as I would like it, the build up of cord inside prevents this. This is only small, but I guess the bag is at its best when it’s full. Something which I don’t do since I’ve arrived here.

I’m still happy with it as a purchase, the bag doesn’t take up any space, it fits inside a clothes drawer and again weighs hardly anything. I’ll be keeping it around for a while.


*Which you can find even cheaper if you shop around.

On a side note my adventures in HK continue in photographic form on my tumblr, which can be found here.

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Written by jonathanjk

August 3, 2012 at 10:35


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