Once upon a time I travelled to Río Napo, Ecuador to climb rainforest trees, to photograph and film nature and to camp in the rainforest. Well, this required more equipment that could never possibly fit into just one single rucksack. The rucksack with my climbing gear alone weighed ca. 24 kg, plus the rucksack with the photo and film gear with ca. 12 kg, plus my rucksack with clothes and some minor stuff (ca. 10 kg). My apartment was only 500 m from the train station – not far enough to take a taxi and so I decided to walk to catch my train that would bring me to the airport. Well, shortly after starting to carry the 46 or so kg distributed over 3 rucksacks I felt like a camel asking myself what the hell I was doing. In Coca, the town where I started my adventure on the Río Napo I had of course to buy some food, a machete and other supplies. Thus the weight and number of luggage increased even more. Hmm, that was a good lesson on how quickly one can start to waste energy. After returning to Germany it started to work in my brain and I tried to figure out how to carry such an amount of luggage more efficiently.
The answer was obvious: my heaviest rucksack needed a trolley. BUT not one of those rucksacks with integrated small wheels that serve only on smooth and even terrain. And not one of the chunky trolleys which would increase the total weight of my luggage, and hence transport costs. My requirements were:
1. the trolley should be sturdy enough to handle the weight,
2. the wheels should be big enough to be used on rough terrain,
3. it should be cheap,
4. it should be light and
5. if possible, the trolley should be easily dismountable so I can put the parts into the rucksack for the flight or bus transport and put it quickly together when needed.
I bought an intermediately cheap trolley (ca. 30 €uros) that is used usually by elderly people for shopping (see photos below).
I discarded the bag, cut the handle chassis and discarded the upper part of it. I filed the edges of the tubes because they were a little bit rough in order to avoid cutting my finger or the rucksack fabric. I can dismount the wheels from the axis and fold the chassis together so it fits into the rucksack. Preferably the axis should be removable as well – in this case it is not, so I have to cover the ends in order to protect the rucksack when the chassis is inside. Also it should be placed in the rucksack in a way that it the probability to be destroyed when the rucksack is handled roughly by airport staff. Another point is that one needs at least one lashing strap to firmly fasten the rucksack to the trolley so it is stable and one can lift the whole trolley-rucksack unit if necessary. In the video on YouTube you can see how this works in real life. I have not tested the unit in the hardcore long run but first tests rendered it useful.
Up-date November 2020: After one month trip to the Yucatán peninsula, Mexico I can say that the trolley worked well. The only problem was during transport in the plane: the rucksack got a hole caused by one of the tubes of the trolley chassis. Thus a more compact or even completely collapsible chassis would be better.
How do you deal with heavy luggage items during expeditions?
More interesting links:
YouTube channel NaturaVista