My 100g OSK (Oh Shit Kit)

My 100g OSK (Oh Shit Kit)

When I was about 8 years old my familysunsites took a camping holiday in the South of France. The holiday was run by Sunsites who offered a ‘Magpie Club’ for kids. I remember it being a lot of fun; playing games, sports and earning coloured stickers through completing tasks. The gold and silver stickers were the most sought after and one day we were given a scavenger hunt task. I did not win. In fact I came last as I was unable to locate a tea bag. I earnt no gold or silver stickers that day. This scarred me and from that day forward I carried many of the things on the scavenger list in my pocket just in case. This included a tea bag which would regularly split in my pocket… a small price to pay, I felt.

Of course, over the years, I have managed to let go of most of the crap I used to carry in my deep coat pockets, but there remains a core set of small items (notably first aid related) that have proven remarkably useful over the years. Despite being a minimalist I do not believe in getting rid of things which add value to my life and so I created my ‘Oh Shit! Kit’ (OSK).

osk-closedI carry the OSK with me on a daily basis and the contents are designed to be TSA friendly so even the hyper paranoid security at Sydney (who confiscate TSA approved scissors and screwdrivers) can unclench. My most recent addition to the OSK is the case itself; an Eagle Creek Zip Stash clearly originally intended for cash and coins. It weighs just 16g with the key loop and has three distinct sections for organisation. It’s also water resistant and perfectly sized for the contents.

osk-contentsIn terms of First Aid I carry:

  • 2x Large Elastoplast Plasters 4g – for the elbow and knee grazes
  • 8x Medium Medistrip Plasters 5g – for cuts (most commonly used)
  • 10x Small Butterfly Plasters 4g – for deep cuts (to hold the cut closed)
  • 8x Ibuprofen 5g – my go to pain relief and long haul survival mechanism
  • 8x Paracetemol 5g – for pain relief on an empty stomach
  • 3x Lemsip 15g – surprisingly useful, mostly for other people who are suffering, but three sachets is enough to curb the effects of an oncoming cold

I also carry:

  • Sewing Kit (6x Thread, 4x Needles, 8x Buttons, 5x Safety Pins) 8g – This kit started out as a posh hotel freebie but I replaced the bag with a tiny ziplock and ditched the green and pink thread in favour of black (since I use this the most). I also replaced the needles with three quality needles, added the spare buttons from my suit and shirts, and threw in a few safety pins which do come in (mostly at weddings!)
  • Ultra Slim Stainless Steel Nail Clippers (Zwilling J.A. Henckels) 15g – I actually carry these, not for clipping nails, but in lieu of scissors which aren’t permitted in hand luggage. These clippers do a good job of trimming thread but are also strong enough to cut tags off clothing and I’ve even used them to extract a pair of scissors from the retail card (genius design right there).
  • Stainless Steel Tweezers 8g – Good for removal of splinters, and ticks (although I’ve never had to deal with that thankfully). I have also used these when fixing computers and phones in a pinch.
  • Titanium Pocket Bit 4g – The closest I am going to get to carrying a screwdriver these days but despite the size these things are cleverly designed. The key ring allows a good grip and enables decent torque. I’ve tightened up the screws on chair legs and even dismantled an old laptop with this thing.
  • Chapstick 9g – A remnant of Winter living in the UK but still useful for long haul flights in harsh aircon. I’m toying with replacing this with a small tube of antiseptic cream if I can find the right one.
  • Finally; Interdental brushes and Floss Stick 2g– These are stored in my Dopp kit but since I don’t carry that with me every day and occasionally need the services for that stray bit of spinach I carry spares here too.

So that’s it – TSA approved and 100g on the nose. Don’t leave home without it 😊

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The Ultimate Daypack

The Ultimate Daypack

In my experience the notion of ‘onebag’ is seldom actually a reflection of the number of bags carried by onebag travellers; because most travellers prefer to have a separate daypack for carrying at destinations on a daily basis (touristing / trekking etc).

Generally, these daypacks are around 20 litre capacity – enough for the daily essentials; a hoodie or coat, a bottle of water, a battery backup, sunscreen, basic first aid and maybe some food. Since this is very much a subset of a full travel packing list, using a onebag for this purpose is inefficient and weight wasteful, it also means completely emptying said onebag before it can be used as a daypack. The sensible solution is therefore a separate daypack which must be carried inside the onebag on travel days. Ideally, therefore, the daypack should be as light and small as possible, but remain functional and comfortable.

For thes2s last two years, I have been using the Sea to Summit UtraSil 20L Daypack which is a marvel of efficiency weighing a mere 72g and packing down to something little bigger than a tennis ball. It’s durable, fairly water resistant and spacious and I actually like it a lot.

If I were to criticise the S2S it would be the lack of water bottle pocket (an essential for trekking in hotter countries), the poor bag structure (a symptom of the material) and the uncomfortable straps which have a tendency to slip even when tight. I was also aware after a recent rather rainy trek in the Blue Mountains of Sydney that the ‘water resistant’ claim was not entirely true after my hoodie, which was safely packed away in the S2S, was decidedly damp on the train journey home.

matadorI recently discovered and purchased the Matador Freerain 24; a slightly larger, more expensive but altogether more feature rich daypack. The Matador addresses all of my issues with the S2S. With water bottle pockets on either side I’m spoilt for choice and despite being made from exactly the same Silnylon as the S2S, the Matador offers a much more impressive support and structure with a double layer face and thick but light and breathable shoulder straps.

The waterproof aspect is covered by taped internal seams and a rolltop in lieu of a zip and while the contents would not stay dry if the bag was submerged nothing got wet during my testing in the Sydney March showers (fairly heavy of late). I was also aware that sealing the bag with air inside created a balloon effect which demonstrated how airtight the bag is. The Matador Freerain24 is also black (or black/grey) – as opposed to the garish yellow/red/green/blue options of S2S which is a pretty big win for me and my monochrome simplicity.

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The bottle pocket on the size is brilliantly designed – deep enough for a large bottle (700ml Smart Water bottle in photo) and elasticated at the neck to prevent movement. Even holding the bag upside down the full 700ml water bottle did not shift.

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Fully loaded bag containing the following gear:

Main pocket:

  • 1x Arc’teryx Atom LT Hooded Jacket 358g
  • 1x Icebreaker Sierra Merino Hoodie 450g
  • 1x Packtowl Ultralite XL 104g

Front pocket:

  • 1x Anker AstroMini 3200 mAH Battery Backup 83g
  • 1x iPhone cable 18g
  • 1x Sunscreen 47g
  • 1x Bite cream 30g
  • 1x OSK (Oh Shit Kit containing plasters, painkillers etc) 40g
  • 1x Ray Ban Case & Cloth 50g

TOTAL = 1334g (inc 154g for the Matador)

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L-R: Meds, Sunnies case, Towel, Charger & Cable, Icebreaker Hoody, Matador Bag Arc’teryx Jacket

Of course all of these features come at a price. The Matador Freerain24 is 154g and almost twice the size of the S2S when packed down. It’s also more expensive at $59.99 USD compared to Sea to Summit’s $32.95 but for me, the extra cost and weight is worth it for the functionality (water bottle pocket, taped seams) and particularly the comfort when carrying.

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The Matador Freerain24 It is available now from the Matador website. Matador also offer a slightly cheaper and smaller 16L / 116g daypack for $49.99 but this has been sold out for a while now.

A Simple Life

simpleIt’s very easy to come across as judgemental or even ‘preachy’ when discussing life choices, and of course there is no right answer. For me, a happy life means simplicity and while I recognise that my approach is unlikely to work for you, here’s what works for me:

  1. I live out of hand luggage. I can pack up everything I own in minutes and carry it on to a plane; a grand total of 150 things which together weigh in at less than 20kg. I don’t deprive myself but equally I keep only what I need.
  2. I wear only one colour; black. I don’t have to think about what to wear each day, what to wash or buy. Laundry is a simple single load per week (less if travelling). Everything goes with everything, nothing gets stained, everything looks sharp.
  3. I wear the same clothes. My 7 pairs of socks are the same, my 8 tees are the same my 3 work shirts are the same. Almost everything is merino wool so nothing needs ironing, hang dries quickly and performs superbly whatever the weather.
  4. I live in Hotels or AirBnBs. My furniture, appliances, kitchenware, towels and bedding are all provided. I have no gas, electric, water or internet bills as they are all included. I pay nightly or weekly so I have no commitment.
  5. I don’t have a car. I rely on public transport (Uber when I have to) and generally I walk wherever possible. I love getting out in to nature when the weather is nice – which it usually is in Sydney.
  6. I don’t have debt. I pay off my credit cards every month and I detest shopping. My most expensive possessions are a 3 year old phone and a 4 year old laptop. I’m not rich but what matters is that I don’t need to be.
  7. I spend my money on experiences (almost always travel) and not on stuff. This is an easy decision when buying a new ‘thing’ means adding it to my pack weight, and it means getting to spend some quality time in some very beautiful places.
  8. I don’t drink, smoke, or do drugs. I’ve seen the impact on all of these on lives of those important to me, and while I try not to pass judgement these days, I don’t want that in my life.
  9. I don’t have a wife or kids. This is not a popular lifestyle choice but it suits me. I have always maintained that choosing to be with a person every day without obligation is far healthier than being forced to stay because of a title.
  10. I truly value time spent with family and friends. Taking myself a world away from everyone I loved was a strange but effective way to come to the stark realisation that relationships and experiences are really all that matter in life.

The greatest shirt ever made?

vidsnip1Way back in September 2015 I discovered a Kickstarter by the name of Libertad. Kyle wanted to make ‘the perfect travel shirt’ with the two guiding principles of ‘style’ and ‘performance’.

As a career man I wear formal shirts to work each day – always black, but despite many attempts to locate the perfect merino shirt I was losing hope. I had sampled the Wool & Prince Black Twill Button Down (far too heavy at 170gsm), the Wool & Prince Solid Black Button Down (still heavy and white buttons? Really?) and eventually landed on the Icebreaker Departure which had a fairly informal cut, awkwardly ‘frilly’ shoulders and a fairly weak structure, but at least it was a longsleeve black merino shirt so no stink, no ironing, quick drying and thermal perfection.

emailThe Libertad shirt was due to ship in January 2016 so I figured I could hold out on Icebreaker until then. Of course, as is common with Kickstarters, the inescapable delays began. While it’s easy as a consumer to get angry as the months roll on I really did feel for Kyle as he constantly kept his core faithful up for date with all the gory details of delays due to the small order size, issues with packaging and crucially issues with the initial weave of material. Eventually – just before Christmas 2016 the emails came that the shirt was about to ship. By then my initial batch of five Icebreaker Departure shirts had all failed and Icebreaker had discontinued them (presumably because of the poor construction). I had scavenged amazon.com and managed to secure three from some US outdoor store’s stockpile at outrageously inflated prices but after a few months even they were on their way out with small seam tears.

img_9938Just before New Years 2016 my Libertad shirt arrived. I’d opted for a Medium ‘tapered’ shirt and the first time I tried it on I was in love (apologies for the less than impressive photo). The cut is fantastic; Outlier make a big deal about their ‘pivot’ sleeves allowing full arm movement in a shirt, the Libertad shirt has a variant of this which is freeing but doesn’t result in bunched up parachutes behind the armpits when arms are not outstretched. The shoulder and chest is spacious but not baggy and the midriff perfectly pulled in a modern tapered cut that still allows room for a pasta lunch (if you know what I mean).

The material is beautiful, it’s 130gsm but feels altogether lighter than the Wool & Prince – in fact it is at 228g compared to the 236g W&P Solid Black (130gsm), 310g W&P Twill (170gsm) and the 256g Icebreaker Departure. It is softer and less itchy than W&P (although admittedly both shirts get significantly less itchy after a couple of washes) but sufficiently solid to maintain shape (unlike the Icebreaker shirt). It breathes beautifully – having tested it in some of the hottest weather Sydney has seen in the last decade, 42 degrees anyone? The weave is so fine that sweat is not wicked as quickly as, say, an Outlier Runweight tee, but this is to be expected from a structured weave necessary for a formal shirt.

cuffThere are some lovely features too – like a separate pen pocket within the chest pocket, a secret internal pocket, double buttons on the cuffs for a more fitted look. It also has a convertible cuff allowing for cufflinks for that altogether more professional look. It washes beautifully – even at home (low temperature – hang dry), requiring no ironing. The same could not be said for either of the W&P shirts.

All in all I would wholeheartedly recommend this shirt for any travelling professional. I have since bought another two and while I’m only a couple of months in to it, I feel like they will last me a good while yet. Libertad Travel shirt – available now for $129.

Paying rent for your stuff

This is the time of year I get to feel very smug about my Onebag lifestyle. I just booked my flights for Christmas. I will be away from Sydney for five weeks and during that time I won’t be paying a cent in rent. In fact the money saved in rent is thousands of dollars and pays for my flight with money left over. Being able to carry my life on my back allows me to live in an AirBnB which means I pay nothing when I’m not there. Of course I’m a good customer so the owner is very happy for me to pick up again when I get back which means I am essentially doing what many others are doing for the holiday season – an expensive flight to see loved ones – but offsetting the cost by not paying rent for my stuff.

Think about it – you go away for Christmas and you pay full-whack rent simply for your less important stuff. All the books, music and clothes you decide aren’t worthy of accompanying you on your trip actually cost you hunderds of dollars more than the stuff you take with you. It would probably be cheaper to put it all in storage and let go of your apartment but then you’d have to renegotiate a contract when you get back, plus pay for storage fees, removals, and all the hassle that goes with it.

You don’t own that stuff. That stuff owns you.

Losing Weight

Following some feedback on my Washbag / Dopp photos I have been exploring ways to reduce some of the weight. The two heaviest items were my electric toothbrush and electric razor – both of which I’ve managed to slim down somewhat.

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On the left is my Oral B Braun Professional Care 1000 rechargeable toothbrush that I’ve been carrying with me since September 2011 (£29.99). It’s an excellent brush – deep clean, with a timer. A bit noisy but I’ve never had any issues with it – very reliable. The brush weighs in at 130g (including the 4g head) and the charger weighs in at 123g (including the 8g black AU adapter). I would also stock up on the Oral B heads when they were cheap resulting in my carrying up to 8 of these 4g heads. I then decided that since 253g was a lot to carry for trips I would buy a separate non electric toothbrush – in this case a Colgate 360 (23g). Tot that up and I’m carrying a total of 308g for my teeth.

Enter the Colgate Omron Pro Clinical 150. I purchased this battery powered toothbrush six weeks ago from Priceline for a mere $20 (about £12). It weighs just 51g (including the 4g head and the two 7g AAA batteries). As always – Energizer Lithium is the way to go with batteries for the lightest weight and longest life. The brush itself is significantly quieter – probably because the head vibrates rather than spins – but the clean is certainly equivalent to the Oral B if not better. I’ve only been using it for six weeks so I guess time will tell but I’m pretty happy with the results. Also since this toothbrush is almost the same weight as my travel toothbrush I don’t mind carrying it on trips – allowing me to ditch the 360, and the heads are sold in packs of two so no risk of carrying too many.

I’ve slimmed down my toothbrush from 308g to 59g (or 276g to 51g without spare heads) and my teeth actually feel cleaner for it.

Next up; the electric razor:

I purchased the battery powered Philips PQ203 in September 2013 from Boots UK for £12. The shave is clean although it can be time consuming – not quite as effective as the three headed razors which weigh a lot more. It’s a neat little device that weighs in at 136g (including the two 15g AA batteries and the 6g cap)

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Happy with the Philips shave (as opposed to the Braun which I generally don’t like), I decided to see what new products they have – sure enough they have an improved travel shaver; the Philips Norelco PQ228 which charges from a USB port in the base. Again with only six weeks on the clock it’s difficult to gauge longevity but the shave is significantly better and the redisign makes the device more ergonomically pleasing 🙂 This weighs in at 114g (including the 6g cap) plus 13g for the USB cable (although I already carry one of these). OK so a drop in total weight of 9g from 136g to 127g isn’t exactly worth writing home about but given the improvement in shave I’d say it was a worthwhile purchase.

It’s also interesting that I moved from rechargeable to battery on the toothbrush but the other way on the razor. I guess my eco credentials remain balanced.

EDIT 02/03/17: Since writing this blog I have ditched the Philips PQ228 shaver. The 8-hr charge for 30-min of use became an imbuggerance – particularly when the thing died mid shave and I had to wait an hour before it would even turn on again. Initially I returned to my trusty Philips PQ203 but for Xmas I treated myself to a newer Philips Norelco PQ208 (AU$24 from eBay) which is, by all accounts, exactly the same as the PQ203 but with ‘self sharpening blades’. In any case I needed new blades which I couldn’t source separately. It also weighs marginally less at 130g (92g for the shaver, 2xAA 30g, Brush 2g, Guard 6g) thus negating 66% of my whopping 9g reduction on the PQ228 anyway.

EDC (Everyday Carry)

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It occurred to me that, having written about the content of my two bags, I really ought to finish off my list of possessions with my EDC so here it is. A nice short post because there’s only six items.

Ray Ban Black Aviators 31g
I used to follow the advice of Eddie Spaghetti who recommended not spending more than $10 on a pair of sunnies – then I discovered the quality and clarity of Ray Ban and I am utterly sold. They fold almost completely flat, they weigh less than cheaper brands but the quality is evident in the build and fit. They’re polarised and having worn them a lot in the last six months they haven’t scratched either. LINK

Ultimate Ears 600VI Headphones 18g
Everyone has their favourite brand of buds, I used to swear by Sennheiser having shunned Bose and Skullcandy, but then I discovered Ultimate Ears. The brand are owned by Logitech (not known for their audio) but damn these things sound immense. Deep bass with superb mid range. The passive noise cancelling is down to the fit of the foam buds and I stick to Comply Foam TX500 Isolation plus Wax Guard which fit my ears perfectly. LINK

Slimfold Micro Soft Shell RFID Wallet 18g (46g full)
This is actually my third Slimfold wallet and I absolutely love it. It weighs next to nothing and has an almost zero profile when empty a but is tough as nails, waterproof, and perfectly designed to hold all I need. I can fit whatever cash (notes) I have and up to 8 cards (including two in the back sleeves behind the RFID protection (so best not to use this for credit cards!). I hasten to add I have upgraded through choice each time (from Tyvek to Soft Shell to RFID Soft Shell). I’ve never had a Slimfold fail me. LINK

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ICE Unisex Quartz Watch 46g
I have been looking for a simple minimal watch for ages and I spotted a family member wearing this one on a recent trip to the UK. It is beautiful, elegant and simple. The strap is silicone which is very comfortable to wear and easy to clean (the watch is waterproof). All I need a watch to do is tell me the time, my smartphone does all the gimmicky things. It’s easy to read and fits my skinny wrists just fine. LINK

iPhone 6 128GB 129g
Case only pictured as the phone was used to take the picture. My eighth iPhone – safe to say I’m locked in to the cult of Apple when it comes to smartphones. There really isn’t much to say about this device that you likely don’t already know. It’s replaced so many things I would otherwise have to carry separately, and while the battery life is disappointing it’s ultimately a fine piece of kit and carrying all of my photos and music in my pocket still gives me a lot of satisfaction

Keys 17g
Not exactly essayworthy, simply the keys to the AirBnB I currently reside in. Thankfully not too many of them. I’ve certainly had worse.

That’s it. Nice and simple.