Remote Travel: How has your backpack changed?

Emergency medical kit

I recently had a conversation with a friend I’d met when we were both travelling in remote areas of China and India almost fifteen years ago. We were talking about how things have changed since then with everyone now carrying cellphones and computers with portable hard drives to do their work and/or just keep in touch. Back in the day I’d rely on a notebook, which I’d replace with whatever I could find locally when it was filled, and hope for a place that had a computer I could log on to just to check e-mail. The connections weren’t ever very good, so there is no way we could have successfully blogged our way through the wilderness like people do now. We also frequented GPOs in hopes of receiving letters from friends and family. But it wasn’t all about notes and communication.

We used to calculate exactly how many pairs of underwear, trousers, tops, warm layers, etc. that we could really live with as one set dried from hand-washing. Or decide if we could buy things locally when it wasn’t a country where you could only buy small, non-western sizes in everything. It was all about minimalism. The weight of every item gave its value. I suppose you still have to think about this if you are carrying things on your back, but there are certainly fewer places left in the world where you have to order money by filling in numerous forms if you want to exchange travellers’ cheques (remember those?) and wait a few days for it to arrive just so you can buy things you really need.

And, as far as health is concerned, does anyone carry their own needles and other medical accoutrement anymore? We used to fear being caught out at a border and having no choice but to get a Yellow Fever vaccination from a common needle plunged into a large bottle of serum. Does this still happen? Or is everywhere so connected that this kind of situation just doesn’t arise? What about anti-malarials, rehydration salts (ORS) or tampons? You couldn’t even buy deodorant in major Asian cities back then let alone out in the wop wops.

So, what about now? How has travel to remote places changed? Have you swopped toiletries for flash drives? What’s in the pack of the remote traveller these days?

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