We couldn’t review our Hoboroll compression sack while we were in Chiang Mai. Hobo implies a certain level of home ownership (as in none) and at the time we had two: our actual home in Turkey and our temporary digs in northern Thailand.
I felt we really needed to give up one of these places before we could fully appreciate this new method for the discernible tramp of keeping our clothes organised, so we packed up our things and set off once again into the roughty toughty backpacker lifestyle.
The backpacker lifestyle for those that have yet to experience it is of pleasant homelessness. From check out time at our last guest house to check in time at our new hostel we share a brief and – let’s be honest, despite the picture I’m trying to summon here – very loose common bond with the gentlemen of the road in that we have no place to call our own.
I say loose because there is a romance associated with certain types of vagabondage which is far removed from the tabloid image of substance abuse, urinating in shop doorways and mental problems of modern, urban homelessness.
The word hobo, and the type of vagrancy I’m trying to play on here implies freight hopping, kippers slowly cooking over an open fire, camaraderie, and a few possessions wrapped up in a polka-dotted bindle.
Hobo is actually a good word for The Working Traveller. According to Wikipedia a tramp works only when they are forced to, a bum does not work at all, while hobos are workers who wander.
When I found this out I was very glad Gobi Gear chose to send us (there’s your disclaimer – we were sent a complimentary Hoboroll to judge) a modern version of the bindle. When grasping the handle and slinging my hoboroll over my shoulder I feel like I could put in a pretty decent shift on that new fangled railroad thingy that promises to open up the West.
The reality is of course a little different. The Hoboroll joins the layered system of bags within bags that make up the packing system of the modern digital nomad, working traveller or long term backpacker. At first the introduction of the new item threatened to upset the careful balance of underpants and socks here, other clothes here and stinking items there that make up the clothing arrangement in the bottom of my pack.
First impressions were good. It didn’t break the moment I pulled on the straps to compress the items shoved within. Soon after though I thought it had upset my former arrangements and wouldn’t fit into the same space that had previously contained the same items of clothing. I thought I’d turned square a round peg that had recently sat quite happily in a round hole.
A bit of pushing and shoving later it fit and brought back the memories that I had forgotten after a couple of months settled in Chiang Mai: that my previous system had always relied on a certain alchemy of prodding, poking and swearing to get every item of clothing needed for a nine month trip into a space that a two week vacationer would laugh at. The makers of the hoboroll claim it compresses items by 50 per cent but I will have to take their word for it as alternatively treading on really small people and hitting my head on something every second day in Asia has made me realise spatial recognition is not my super power.
Putting items in one end resulted initially in whatever was there before falling out the other side but a few minutes practice and I had got the knack of rolling everything up together that I wanted into one of the five compartments and shoving it in one end with one hand and pulling it along with the other.
Getting items out is even easier and an improvement on what went before. Before I would pull out my duffel bag in which I kept my clothes and rummage around for the item I wanted. If it was at the bottom I had to pull everything else out and replace it again. Now I take out the Hoboroll, loosen the straps, slide out a short or pair of trousers and tighten the compression straps again to compensate for the vacancy.
This new system is easier and I like it. It probably won’t completely replace my old way of doing things – dirty items and underwear will remain where they are – but for future trips I will pack the Hoboroll as it makes getting a clean t-shirt that bit less of a chore.
I daresay when I was a young backpackerling, hanging around in travel equipment stores looking to buy my first pack, I would have rubbed the bumfluff on my chin in a contemplative banner and chucked this in a shopping basket alongside all manner of other travel gadgets and gizmos. Some of these turned out to be a waste of beer money while others, old and worn, can still be found in my bag today.
Time will tell which one the Hoboroll will be but most of the items that have made the cut down the years are simple ways to keep related items together and organised. Our current trip is coming to an end but, fingers crossed, another one will start again soon and the Hoboroll will play a role in long term packing 5.0: my next attempt to work out the perfect packing system.
Get your own Hoboroll
The Hoboroll can be bought for $28 (under £20) from Gobi Gear. A 20% discount is offered to our readers purchasing a Hoboroll before January 30, 2014 if you use the code workingtravel2013.
Update: This post was originally written in 2013. Our hoboroll is still found in my bag today and continues to be an integral part of my packing system.