What's In Your Backpack, Rolf Potts, Travel Guru?

by Lola (Akinmade) Åkerström Nov 11, 2009
A leading name in the world of travel and vagabonding, award-winning travel writer and author Rolf Potts gives Matador a peek into his backpack before heading off to Genoa, Italy to claim his much-deserved Chatwin Prize for travel writing.
Rolf Potts

Photo credits: Rolf Potts

I’m not much of a gear-geek — and I tend not to bring much with me when I travel — so my selections are pretty simple.

Eagle Creek Voyage 65L

I’m a big advocate of packing as little as possible. In Vagabonding, I advise people to take a very small pack — one they can fit into the overhead bin of an airplane.

This Eagle Creek bag has worked best for me in this regard. It’s small and simple, and it has a removable daypack that I use constantly.

It doesn’t fit much unnecessary gear, and that’s kind of the point. Last summer, I traveled through Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, and Ethiopia with this pack, yet I never felt like I was missing anything.

Canon PowerShot SX110

I went through a phase where I didn’t take many photos on the road, since I felt like the camera was getting in the way of less self-conscious interactions.

I missed having the visual record of my travels, however, and now I tote a camera again. This one is small but powerful, and it seems to suit my needs well.

Moleskine X-small soft-cover notebooks

For well over a decade, I’ve been carrying small notebooks in my pocket — not just to record travel notes, but to keep notes at home as well. These Moleskine notebooks are small and flexible and durable — great for keeping in a pocket for weeks at a time.

They’re also kind of expensive, but most stationery stores in the developing world stock an equivalent — usually a plastic-covered variation of the pocket-notebook that works just as well.

Nylon stuff sacks

These bags are cheap to buy in camping stores (you can even make your own, if you know how to sew), and they help me keep my backpack-gear organized. They also fit into a pants-pocket when they’re empty — which makes them good for impromptu shopping trips, beach excursions, and such.

Ziplock bag full of vitamin C and multivitamins

This is a new addition to my gear, but I find it useful for keeping my health in order. The multivitamins help supplement my diet when the on-the-ground food situation is less than ideal. The vitamin C is good for fending off illness — I tend to take two pills a day if I’m taking a long plane ride, train or bus trip someplace.

More on Rolf Potts

Rolf Potts

Rolf Potts has reported from over fifty countries for dozens of major venues, including National Geographic Traveler, the New York Times Magazine, Outside, Slate.com, National Public Radio, and the Travel Channel.

Rolf is perhaps best known for promoting the ethic of independent travel, and his book on the subject, Vagabonding has been through ten printings and translated into several foreign languages.

For more Matador Network interviews with Rolf, check out the articles below:

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