The first time we went overseas – it seems like an eternity ago – we went on a six-week backpacking trip around Mexico. In those days, six weeks was an eternity for a holiday. A week or so before we left Australia we hit Kent Street in Sydney’s CBD, then home to a handful of adventure and outdoor shops, including Paddy Pallin. Now the road seems to be lined with the things!
Our main priority was buying a good quality backpack and out of all the shops we went to we most vividly remember the staff at Paddy Pallin, where we would eventually buy most of our gear. They asked us loads of questions about how we were travelling (plane, train, bus, etc), the style of travelling we did (hostels or hotels), how long we were travelling for, where we were going, and how much we were taking, even down to how many pairs of shoes.
Those backpacks lasted us many years and we always appreciated the fact that, based on their advice, we bought backpacks that were carry-on size rather than the huge ones you see people lugging around like pack mules, and that the straps could be tugged in and zipped away to create a smarter looking bag that we wouldn’t be embarrassed to take into a boutique hotel.
Not only did we never have to worry about our bags not coming around on the carousel, the carry-on size made us think about every single item that went into our packs when we travelled. Buying those bags was a great decision, based on great advice.
About five years ago when we were back in Australia for a four month-long trip researching guidebooks in the Outback, we returned to Paddy Pallin to get our wet weather gear, lightweight hiking pants and tops, and good, sturdy hiking boots. That gear has not only protected us in some of the most challenging conditions in Australia, but we’ve tested it out on hill tribe village treks in Thailand, wildlife safaris in Kenya, and exploring the deserts of Jordan.
Recently, we had an invitation to do a trip to Malaysian Borneo for a magazine commission that was simply too good to refuse. But our outdoor clothes and favourite hiking boots were in another bag in another state (a long story we won’t bore you with), and there wasn’t enough time to get hold of it. As a last resort, we went to Paddy Pallin for assistance.
To our immense relief, they kindly offered to outfit us with the gear we needed to get us through the trip: good walking shoes, waterproof jackets, and outdoor shirt and trousers.
We had thought about purchasing some gear online, but we’ve never really liked the idea of buying without trying – even when I buy a new camera bag I have to see it first – and I like to buy from people who care about what they do and are enthusiastic about helping you out.
We also needed to shop fast and shop smart – there was no time to return something if we got it home to find out it didn’t fit properly after all. Just like all those years ago when, armed with our first freshly-issued passports, we went to Paddy Pallin for our first backpacks, the staff quickly honed in on what we needed.
We loved our North Face and Colombia hiking boots but this time we went for something more low-cut, both settling on Salomon Exit 2 Peak shoes. The tricky bit was sizing and as we spend a lot of time in various countries with varying shoe sizes and standards, we weren’t sure what size we were in Australia, so the staff gave us a quick fitting.
We love the little ramp they have in the shop so you can check heel lift – one of the quickest ways to get blisters. We were also glad we spent time trying 1/2 sizes and finding a good balance between how thick our socks would be and the 1/2 sizes that the shoes come in.
If you intend doing lots of travelling and hiking and are only taking a couple of pairs of shoes (like we do), it’s so important to get the fit right as the last thing you want to do is have to abandon a pair of shoes because they never ever fitted right.
It may be easier to shop online from home and you might find slightly cheaper prices if you shop around. However, in our opinion, if you’re gearing up for the great outdoors, nothing beats a good old-fashioned in-store consultation with experts who know your needs and spend time helping you to try the gear out to find something that’s just right.
We see these sorts of purchases as long-term investments. Whether it’s a backpack or hiking boots, you’re buying gear that’s going to last you virtually forever. A wrong decision can make travelling far less enjoyable. And nobody wants that, do we?
Disclosure: Paddy Pallin provided us with some outdoor gear for our Borneo trip. They did not sponsor this post and the views above are our own, naturally.