It’s the pastime of every soon-to-be-traveller, travel gear research. Internet searches, traipsing through travel gear shops, comparing prices, scouring travel blogs for reviews of what to buy and what not to buy. You try not to become obsessed by your upcoming adventure, but it’s fruitless. I know, I was there. And it was awesome.
Until it wasn’t.
Until I was so completely over spending $30 on another pair of quick-drying underwear, getting my moisture wicking confused with my quick drying, as the numbers on the screen of the register crept higher and higher towards ridiculous.
“That is IT,” Tyrhone and I would say as we lugged more bags out of the over-priced outdoors store.
I said it again the next day, as I carried out that last must-have purchase.
I feared we had over-done it, over-planned and overspent.
Just shy of three months (and three countries) later, and I’m both surprised and delighted to say that we did pretty well.
Sooooooo, I find it my duty, fellow soon-to-be travellers, holiday makers, or travel gear fetishists, to share my wisdom and knowledge with you!
I’m not going to bore you with the details of every item in our 40L back-packs, but there are a few things that stand out as good investments, a few things that are completely useless, and a few I couldn’t live without. And I want to share them with you so that you can ignore me completely and make your own packing mistakes.
The verdict: Awesome.
I had heart palpitations deciding on such a teeny-weeny pack, but I am honestly so glad we took the plunge. If I had a bigger pack, I’d fill it, simple as that. And I wouldn’t want to lug around a single gram more than what we are, in fact there is nothing more melt-down evoking than lugging a heavy pack around when you arrive in a new place and have to look for somewhere to stay. At least this way, my melt-downs are minimized (not eliminated!) which is a win-win for everyone involved and an important step towards world peace.
Verdict: Life saving.
Seriously, I would not have survived without these. I have a large, rectangular zip-up cube that fits all my clothes, and a smaller one for underwear. I can’t imagine travelling without them, as I am terribly disorganized and manage to mess up a guest-house room in seconds. At least this way, I know where my undies are.
The Humble Plastic Bag
Shunned by the environmentally conscious, coveted by the homeless and cursed by dolphins, you can’t knock the placky bag for its usefulness. I have a toiletries bag, but honestly, when we were moving every few days, the plastic bag was the most useful receptacle for the toothbrushes and body washes and that are always the last things to pack. I’d shove it in the front pocket of my pack, for easy access in the next place. They’re waterproof, durable (relatively) and best of all, free. Sorry, flipper.
Well, duh, this one goes without saying. I have three pairs of shoes:
- One pair of lighter-than-rubber-but-not-sure-what-they’re-made-of flip-flops, because I loved my Havaianas as much as the next guy, but they’re heavy. Mine are Nike and do the trick for the beach and dodgy toilets, but they’re light as a feather.
- One pair of ‘Fitflop‘ brand shoes, which although are on the pricey side, have been worth every cent. Comfortable and durable, they feel like walking on air thanks to the thick, spongy sole and the wide fabric over the foot to keep them in place. Sadly mine were recently misplaced/stolen, and whilst I’m definitely not blaming Tyrhone who was meant to carry them through the hotel lobby for me after they got drenched at Songkran, I’m quite gutted they’re gone. Thankfully, my Mum is bringing me a new pair when she comes to visit next week.
- Running/hiking shoes, which you can see a picture of here. I opted to leave my hiking boots home, as we weren’t planning any big treks, and it was a good choice. Of course, if you’re going trekking in Nepal or South America, for instance, you probably need proper boots.
Okay, even I’m getting bored now, and I’m the one writing!
- Small Travel Speaker, handy for watching “Idiot Abroad” episodes on the laptop, and for listening to music in our room, bungalow, hut or hotel.
- Podcasts. I discovered way too late, the value of a good comedy or music podcast for long, boring bus rides. I listened to a great documentary style one from “This American Life” about a guy who goes to China to visit the iPhone factory. Interesting…
- On that note, we also have some series on our hard drive, including travel shows from around the world, so that we can get ideas and inspiration. Nothing like sitting in a hostel in Laos dreaming of Argentina…
My point is, there will be times when splendid scenery and cultural immersion just isn’t cutting it, and you just want to see re-runs of “The Mighty Boosh”, so get prepared.
Stuff I Can’t Live Without…
- Pocket knife. It made it into my pack by the skin of its teeth, but the miniature swiss army knife that my sister bought me back from Switzerland about ten years ago has come in very handy. Mainly for cutting fruit, plucking my eyebrows (and that one, single hair that insists on growing from my chin), and cutting chip packets open. And yes, I do wash it. Thanks, sis.
- Aluminium Water Bottle. Okay, I could live without it, because bottled water is available everywhere, but I’m glad I don’t have to. Here in Thailand there are drinking water machines everywhere, and for 1 Baht, which roughly converts to, about… FREE, you can fill up your trendy looking bottle, whack it in the fridge overnight and have fresh, cool water for your adventures the next day. (Thank you to my friend Kell who bought it for me before I left!)
- Travel Towel. They feel funny and sometimes give me shivers when the fibres touch my skin, but apart from that my travel towel is a very well used piece in my travel-gear armoury. Light and quick-drying, they are useful for the beach or pool even when towels are provided, which sometimes they aren’t.
Useful tip: Travel towels double as pillows when placed inside a draw string bag, or just on their own. Travel pillows are for suckers, and those blow-up things, forget about it…
- Last but not least, I absolutely could not live without this little shoulder-purse-bag-thingy I have which fits my wallet, phone and, at a stretch, camera in it. I’m not in to those skin-coloured travel wallets you hide under your clothes, unless you’re planning on cruising into a Brazilian favela. Even then, I don’t think it matters what colour your purse is, or where you’re hiding it.
An electronic cable bag. See, told you it was boring, and I must have rolled my eyes a hundred times whilst Tyrhone picked one out. But I gotta say, it’s a godsend! It’s basically a toiletries bag with a few compartments and pockets, which makes accessing the trillion cables, charges and USB outputs that accompany our gazillion electronic devices – two laptops, two Sony E-readers, two cameras, two smart phones. It also holds our hard drive where we keep our important stuff like episodes of “Modern family.”
Kick-ass Universal Adaptors
Okay, there’s nothing boring about these, they rock. Every imaginable adapter is housed in a compact casing, simply access the ‘prong’ of your choice with the touch of a button. Yes, they’re around $20, and yes you need one each.
Silk Sleeping Sacks
When Tyrhone shelled out $50 each (on sale) for these babies, I almost had a hernia, but I have used mine HEAPS. They are light, which makes them suitable for tropical climates, and handy for places that only offer a bottom sheet and a blanket. I almost left mine on Koh Tonsay, Cambodia, but thankfully remembered it at the last-minute. Which is lucky because there have been times when I have only been able to get sleep by knowing my skin is not in contact with grubby sheets…
Things I Thought I Needed, But Didn’t
Expensive, Quick-drying underwear
Thankfully I got mine on sale, and I like them, but let’s get one thing straight:
THEY DO NOT DRY QUICKER THAN NORMAL UNDIES!!!
That felt good.
It’s ridiculous to be telling you what undies to buy, but seriously I agonised over this. Turns out the normal, microfiber jocks that I bought are lighter and faster drying than the “light weight, quick-drying” ones. Don’t believe everything you read on the pack, travel gear isn’t immune to unrealistic, untrue claims (i.e LIES), but they charge a premium for you to believe they are.
My microfiber bras (like a sports bra) and undies won’t be gracing the pages of a lingerie catalogue, but they’re great for traveling. And I got them from K-mart…
And finally, this one’s for you, Keith from Canada, if you’re still reading…
This is Keith’s comment on my other travel gear post, that I wrote before we left:
“I’d watch out for that clothesline with suction cups. They are the creation of the devil. The suction cups don’t seem to work. Good luck on the trip.”
Well Keith, you were right, creation of the devil, indeed. A piece of string is probably more useful as a clothes dryer than my suction-cupped, fancy-pants one. I should have listened…
Happy travels to you all, with special wishes to my friends and readers Carmel, Hannah and Kim who are heading off on their own adventures soon. Anyone else planning a holiday or an extended break? Not into travel at all and still want to say hi? Leave me a comment, I’m not fussy!!!!!
Want to make a difference and give back something to local communities whilst you travel? The Muskoka Foundation is a force for good, helping travelers make a difference in the lives of people in need. Check out their website if you’d like to get involved!