National Geographic

Trail Notes: The Things They Carry

Near Logia, Ethiopia, 11°44'4'' N, 40°59'30'' E

Traveling with pastoralists is humbling. It is not so much a question of needs as of expectations. What will the world bring? None of us can know. How we accept this fact determines what we carry. As William Langewiesche has written, the desert teaches by taking away.

Kit carried by Mohamed Aidahis, cameleer. Camp near Logia, Ethiopia. Photograph by Paul Salopek

Cameleer Mohamed Aidahis’s kit: a jile (Afar knife), iron-tipped ax, spare shire (Afar sarong), windbreaker, two cakes of soap, “Scissors” brand matches, ball of tobacco, spare turban/wrap, water bottle. Photograph by Paul Salopek


Kader Yarri, cameleer kit. Near Logia, Ethiopia. Photograph by Paul Salopek

Cameleer Kader Yarri’s kit: spare shire, water bottle, snuff in plastic women’s cosmetics jar, spare turban/wrap. Photograph by Paul Salopek



There are 18 Comments. Add Yours.

  1. Bandkanon
    February 6, 2013

    It is amazing to think how our ancestors were able to pack their worldly possessions and travel hundreds or even thousands of miles. I wonder how they knew when to stop and decide that there is where they will make a new permanent home.

  2. Bear
    February 6, 2013

    What a difference for the desert guys. What is your kit like? Mine would be more like the top one.

  3. Shawn
    February 6, 2013

    What are you doing for food? I’m very interested in what you guys are eating.

    • Paul Salopek
      February 8, 2013

      The diet varies. Some days it is dry goods—cans, rice, biscuits. Other days it is Afar cuisine—usually goat milk and bread and on rarer occasions goat meat. Despite its lack of vegetables, the Afar food is probably healthier.

  4. Shawn Major
    February 7, 2013

    I suppose the cameleers are counting on you for food?

    • Paul Salopek
      February 8, 2013

      Yes and no. They eat Afar food when they tire of ferengi (foreigner) fare.

  5. Tess
    February 9, 2013

    My daughter wants to know what your sleeping conditions are like.

    • Paul Salopek
      February 13, 2013

      My Afar companions and I are mostly camping out. The distance between pastoralist settlements is often long. I don’t use a tent because I’d miss the moon. Thanks for writing.

  6. Carol Van Ness
    February 12, 2013

    Your journaling of this venture is amazing. It allows me to vicariously travel along with you, drinking in the sights and sounds of your path. Thank you for undertaking this journey. Travel safely.

  7. Phyllis
    February 14, 2013

    Your landscape is so like the desert of my childhood (near Dire Dawa) that it makes me homesick just to see the pictures! Are you on track with your projected timeline?

  8. alli
    February 27, 2013

    Wow cool ,i’m in social studies 😀

  9. Brenda
    January 4, 2014

    How do you dispose of trash?

  10. disneybaex
    April 28, 2014

    Wow, it’s crazy for me to think that you guys could go hundreds of miles without anything but these few items. I really don’t know how I would cope with the heat, lack of food and water, and without internet. You’re doing a great job, keep going.

  11. Vicki Jordan
    May 16, 2014

    What a reminder of how little we humans could live with.

  12. wow
    November 5, 2014

    you are amazing

  13. Karen
    March 31, 2016

    You’re camping out nearly every night? My body would be so weary but I guess you get used to it. I bet the views at night are amazing.

  14. ana regina
    April 22, 2016

    its amazing how you do all of the thing with only those materials. WOOW!

  15. Maria
    April 22, 2016

    How can you only carry those things? The bag is not to big right?

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