Travel Gear (Uncut)

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.

Here goes…

40L Back-packs

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.


Packing Cubes

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.


Comfy Shoes

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 ‘Fitflopbrand 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.


Last seen here

  • 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!

Fun stuff

  • Small Travel Speaker, handy for watching “Idiot Abroad” episodes on the laptop, and for listening to music in our room, bungalow, hut or hotel.

It’s actually the size of a golf ball


  • 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:


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!



Travel Gear (Uncut) — 21 Comments

  1. Yay, thank you! Brian just went through his first “test pack” yesterday. I can’t bring myself to do it yet- I HATE PACKING! Everything on your list is also on my list, except for that mini-speaker which I’m sure will go on our list just as soon as Brian gets word of it.

    It is soooo stressful shelling out all this money on all this stuff. Why is it so damn expensive to simplify?

    • The test pack is horrible, but necessary :) You guys must have so much extra stuff for your hiking/camping trip too! Don’t worry, it seems crazy expensive but when you think, this is it, this is all your stuff for the next year or two, it is worth it… I think… :)

  2. Thank you for this post! Tony and I have a backpack post we’re working on and we opted on going with 40L bags. Glad to hear that 3 months into your trip, you’re not regretting going with a smaller bag.

    We’re currently in that place where it seems like the bills and weird travel-specific crap are piling up around us and you’re just wondering how much of it you really need… we’ve managed to get good deals on the travel clothes we’ve picked up (mostly for Tony), but thankfully we decided that special undies were unnecessary. I was not sure about how important sleep sacks really are (I never used the one I had when I backpacked around Europe/the UK), but everyone who has gone to Asia says they’re a godsend, so we’ve picked up two poly-silk blend ones that roll up super small. I think all we need at this point are travel towels (which I am dreading just because they seem freakishly expensive given their size), but then hopefully we will be good to go!

    • Glad it helped a bit :) I know, it seems like overkill at the time, it’s a matter of deciding what you really need/want, and let’s face it, you can always pick things up abroad, which is something we forget in our trip planning sometimes :) Good luck! May the force be with you…

  3. Glad to hear you passing on your wisdom muffin. Stoked to see that the water bottle has a prime spot in the pack babe. How about the hammock has it still made the cut! X kel

    • Hmmm… I wish I could say yes I have used it, but there has been hammocks everywhere so far!! I am taking Mum away to a small village in two days, and I’m determined to use it! I’ll send you a photo :)

  4. I have some underwear I bought at Target for about $10 for 3 pairs and they seem to dry pretty fast. I was thinking I’d get those instead of the quick drying ones, so glad to hear the report back!

    Yesterday we went to the Columbia Sportswear employee store as part of an annual benefit we get from work during the month of April. They also sell Mountain Hardware stuff and I found that they have a decent selection of backpacks. It would awesome if we could get our packs for about half off there, but I told Shawn, if we each find one that isn’t available there for cheap, it’s going to be worth the extra money to be sure we have exactly what we want. Nice to see that you’re happy with the smaller pack, too. I used what was technically a day pack when I was in Europe for 10 weeks and ended up pretty happy about my choice. Are your clothes holding up with all the packing and unpacking?

    It does seem pretty ridiculous that we spend all this money to simplify, as Kim noted.

    I love that adapter.

    • Oh yeah, and do you listen to Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me? I just got into podcasts too. Love that one.

    • Hi Carmel, the clothes, well some of it is awesome and a few things are very disappointing, like some t-shirts I got that ‘pilled’ (the little balls) after the first wash. Devo. Sometimes the expensive stuff lets you down, but there is no way of knowing what is going to last and what isn’t. Less is definitely more though, sometimes we forget there are actually stores in other countries! Good Luck :)

  5. Nice run down of everything you have. I remember packing for my Africa adventure and being so overwhelmed, though I didn’t do too much research about travel gear. If I did another adventure, I likely would, though.

    I used and continue to use my 60L pack but also have a 40 L pack (I won at an REI event!) but have yet to use. I always think, “but I need the extra space” but the truth is, as you say, if you have the space you fill it up!
    And now living in Spain, when my travels commence June 1, my biggest worry is if the cheap local air line (monopoly airline) will let me carry on my 60L, even if it’s only half full.
    I always wondered about quick dry underwear! Good to know!

  6. My top 4 travel items ( I couldn’t resist):
    Sarong is my favorite thing to pack: towel, skirt, scarf, picnic blanket, etc.

    Yes to the pocket knife- always handy! I gave myself my very first hair cut with pocket knife scissors- not the best quality scissors but I did a fine job!

    Flip flops-

    Head lamp- I may look like a coal miner or a geek but it does the trick, especially when you’re multi tasking like trying to brush your teeth in the dark. No need to hold a flash light!

    Camera, ipod… those go without saying.

    • Thanks Lauren! Yes, a sarong is invaluable, good point! I also have a head torch, I probably should have included it, thank you for doing it here! So many uses, the primary one for me being reading at night in remote places where the power is cut, or going to the loo (very adventurous!).
      Thank you for your suggestions :)

  7. Fantastic advice! Those packing cubes sounds like a great solution to the backpack that opens from the top (I’m notorious for having my unmentionables spread around me while I hunt for a sweater). For me, I like to pick up a cheap bottle of kids’ two-in-one shampoo at the airport. Not only is it a cheaper way to clean hair than the grown-up variety, but I’ve used it as shaving cream, body wash and, in a pinch, facewash. After three weeks my face was crying out for an exfoliant, but for everything else it worked great!

    (I’ve heard that TAL episode; it actually got retracted a few weeks later with a new show)

  8. I agree with you about many of your must have items. For me, a travel towel is an absolute must given its light weight and easy drying capabilities.

  9. Thanks for this post. I have been completely absorbed in reading your amazing blog for the last couple of weeks. You are really inspiring me :) I am going to start my OE in 4 week starting with Australia and Europe. After reading your blog I really want to go to Asian countries too now.
    Just brought one of those clothes line sucker cups things the other day. It seems to stick onto stuff here in my house. Did you find that with yours before you went too?

  10. I’ve done two test packs now and managed to get everything into the main pack without having to rely on the daypack (I went for a 70l pack). Hoping to be able to go lighter still and I think that cable bag may be the next purchase
    Jimmy Dau recently posted..Pre Trip NervesMy Profile

    • Go as light as you can Jimmy, and yes the cable bag is a must! Hopefully Kathmandu has a sale on (’cause like we pretty much have shares in them now after all the money we spent there!)…