With our trip to Nicaragua only a couple days away, it’s time for J and I to frantically start packing.Just kidding! As I’ve written before, I can tend to go a bit crazy with packing. Aside from grabbing a couple pieces of gear that are stashed chez my parents, I’m pretty much ready to roll. As for J… well, let’s say that her bag’s a work in progress.
J and I have a basic plan laid out for our week in Nicaragua: three main locations – Leon, Granada, and Moyogalpa on Ometepe Island (as well as overnight stays in Managua at the beginning and ending of our trip) – which will serve as our hubs for the slew of activities we’re looking at. Whether we end up hiking up volcanoes, renting bikes, visiting coffee plantations and cigar factories, sledding down volcanoes, surfing, swimming, strolling through the streets of Nicaragua’s old colonial cities, etc, we wanted to be ready for just about anything. As far as my kit goes, I think I’m ready for whatever Nicaragua throws my way.
This is the bag that I can’t live without, and that I can’t afford to have disappear on me.
The bag itself is a National Geographic NG-5162 Rucksack. Designed as a camera bag, it’s split into two main compartments: the bottom half has a modular divider system which you can arrange to fit cameras, lenses, etc, while the top is a single open chamber, into which I’ll cram a small packing cube with a change of clothes (shorts, shirt, socks, undies) and the toiletry kit – with Dr. Bronner’s soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, comb, first aid kit, and bug spray – at the top left. The bag also has two water bottle holders that fold up and stow inside the bag when not in use, and a laptop sleeve (which will instead hold the Kindle Paperwhite that’s sitting on top of the bag in this photo).
As for the rest of the gear pictured here: two lenses, a Nikon 50mm f/1.8G and a Nikon 85mm f/1.8D, a pair of nice, light primes that balance excellent image quality and compact size; a Voigtlander Bessa T rangefinder film camera, with a 21mm super wide angle lens attached; a Japan Camera Hunter film case, full of Kodak Ektar 100 and Kodak Portra 400 film; a Pelican case with two extra memory cards; a Sekonic light meter; a Petzl Tikka headlamp; and finally a Cokin filter holder and ND Grad filter.
Missing from the image are the implements I used to photograph this scene: my Nikon D800, a borrowed 35mm f/2.8 Ai-s lens, and my trusty Sirui tripod. The camera, my workhorse, is getting a little long in the tooth, but still cranks out beautiful images. The lens, borrowed from a coworker, is an old manual focus design, but it delivers great imaging resolution and is built like an absolute tank, while still being light weight. And being a decently wide-angle lens, it’s easy enough to nail focus manually.
Also missing from the shot is my rain jacket, a super lightweight MEC Hydrofoil, which was hanging up in the garage at the time, having just been sprayed with an extra coat of waterproofing. While it isn’t the rainy season in Nicaragua right now, a rain jacket is something I absolutely refuse to go without.
This is the second carry-on bag (my “personal item”). If I get caught at the gate for one of my bags being too big to bring on the plane, I’m okay checking this one, as it won’t have my expensive or fragile camera gear in it.
Bag #2 has the rest of my clothing: four pairs of socks, four pairs of underwear, an extra shirt, a tank top, an extra pair of shorts, Teva flip-flops, swim-trunks… all stuff that’s replaceable in a pinch if the bag misses a connecting flight or gets sent to the wrong place.
At the bottom of the image, just below the bag, is a small case of GoPro gear I borrowed from my father: a Hero 4, assorted mounts, a small floating grip, and different camera housing options. I’ll ultimately be getting a Hero 6 and a Karma Grip when I get back, but I wasn’t able to pull the trigger on that purchase in time. If I can fit the case into Bag #1, I’ll probably switch the GoPro case with the toiletry kit (as I can replace that stuff more easily than a lost GoPro).
Finally, the bag itself: a MEC Zephyr 25L daypack. I’ve had the bag for about two years now, and it’s been my daily carry bag continuously since I bought it. It’s travelled with me to China and the US. It’s a great bag, with a cavernous main compartment, an stuff-sack like external front pocket, a trampoline back to keep your back dry. All in all, a solid daypack. Even with a down jacket stuffed in the main compartment, I’ll have plenty of room to cram in coffee, rum, and cigars to bring home (which, of course, means I’ll have to check the bag for the flight home).
All the Rest
And that brings us to the stuff I’ll have on me. Apparently airlines frown on their patrons flying naked. I’ll have an old First Ascent down filled jacket with me for the trip between home and the Montreal airport (it is winter here, after all). This jacket’s perfect, as it compresses down super small when not in use (I don’t foresee many sub-zero nights in tropical Nicaragua), which lets me cram it into the bottom of Bag #2 when I don’t need it (or even use it as a pillow on the plane). I’ll also be wearing my trusty New Balance trail runners, a pair of super lightweight travel pants I picked up at a Bossini store in Hong Kong, an old synthetic, quick-drying Mountain Hardwear button down shirt, and a baseball cap to help keep me from getting two crispy when we reach our tropical destination. And of course, I’ll have my wallet, my passport, my greyhound ticket to Montreal, and my flight pass.
And there we have it! The entirety of the kit I’m bringing to Nicaragua. I may tweak a few things, or make small substitutions, but the contents of these two bags make up the core gear I’ll be bringing with me.