A few of our favorite things
In the months and weeks before we left home, reading how other travelers have packed for round-the-world trips helped our preparation immensely. We scribbled countless shopping, packing, and to-do lists and took over an entire room for our “staging area.” Now, for those of you setting off in the near or not-so-near future, we can return the favor and help you remember the obvious items (pants; your passport), the small, forgettable items (nail clippers; headlamp) and everything in between.
But first, we thought we’d share some of the more obscure pieces of gear that we’ve found immeasurably useful. Some of these are rather specific and if you’re using an iPhone for a camera or if you hate the outdoors you can probably ignore half this list. Regardless, here are a few of our favorite possessions:
Mini extension cord/splitter – These days, most people travel with at least one piece of electronic gadgetry (ipod/laptop/cellphone), and if you add in a camera with batteries to charge a cord such as this one will prove useful time and time again. Ours is six feet long and splits one socket into three, meaning we can charge everything from the comfort of a nearby table instead of crawling around on the floor. No joke, this might be the most useful item in our backpack.
Outdoor Research PL Base Gloves – After years of putting up with numb hands on winter video shoots, we finally found a fix for our month of skiing in Japan. These liner gloves are perfect for shooting photos out in the cold. Just thin enough that you can still feel every button and lens ring, and warm enough to take the bite out of the winter wind.
LaCie 500GB Rugged Drive – These are far and away the best hard drives for steady travel. While a flash drive may suffice for a shorter trip, if you’re going to be taking a few hundred GB (or in our case, several TB) worth of photos or videos, look no further. These drives are small, light, and, appropriately, quite rugged— I once saw a co-worker drop one to the floor from waist height, plug it in, and continue his work. As an added bonus, they’re powered through the computer via Firewire or USB, so there’s no need to trip over more cords or use up another power outlet.
Dakine Sequence Camera Backpack– This backpack has been used and abused every day since we left home, on top of three years worth of use beforehand. It’s awesome. It has a snug and stable fit, and is protective enough that you can ski or ride full tilt and not worry about crushing your gear in a fall. The internal camera block is removable, which we carry along on multi-day hiking trips inside our larger backpacking packs. A perfect pack for travel or action sports photography. Steph has a Dakine Heli-Pro ski/snowboard pack, which is equally excellent in its own right.
500mL Nalgene screw-top containers – Nothing beats this 16-oz container for food storage on a backpacking trip. Fill it with snacks during the day, eat dinner out of it at night, store leftovers or wash it out and brew a hot drink. It’s rigid so your food doesn’t get crushed, has a solid screw on lid, and it’s just the right size. Plus, it’s cheap—no need for anything fancy. Find them at any good outdoor store.
Pacsafe antitheft bag – We brought this to curb the nagging paranoia that comes with carting around lots of expensive camera gear. This 35L model is a metallic mesh that fits over our bag of camera and computer gear and locks around anything solid (bathroom pipes or the bed, usually) in a hostel room. While it’s hard to tell if it ever thwarted any thieves, the piece of mind it provided made us glad we had it along. Definitely recommended if you’re bringing along a DSLR, a laptop, or any large valuables and don’t want to bring them everywhere you go.
25L Dry bags – We kept our clothes in these, and put the camera in one during kayaking trips. They double as compression sacks and it’s quite nice knowing that even if it starts pouring you’ll have dry clothes at the end of the day. We’d recommend buying one with a transparent window so you can see where your things are instead of digging around blindly for the right t-shirt.
Travel first aid kit – We’ve used just about everything in our handy little kit, and mostly during regular travel, not backpacking trips. Band-aids of all sizes, gauze, an elastic bandage, moleskin, antiseptic wipes, antibiotic ointment, forceps (indispensable for tick removal!), and medical tape. Plus, add some basic meds like aceteminophen, ibuprofen, an antihistamine, and a little sewing kit. One thing that we found to be pretty useless was Imodium – just run to the pharmacy and get an actual antibiotic.
Sea to Summit Sleeping Bag Liners— These ultralight silk/cotton blend sleeping bag liners are perfect for sweltering nights. Many hotels in Asia don’t come with bedding – and now that we think about it, most hostels in Australia and New Zealand make you pay extra for these seemingly basic amenities.
There were a couple of things that we weren’t so enthusiastic about:
Gregory Backpacks – I’d love to give these backpacks a glowing review because the design is spot on. Zippers and pockets in all the right places, comfortable fit, and lightweight. However, both plastic supports for the waist belt have cracked on Nate’s pack and the front, most useful zipper has basically disintegrated. We’ll reserve judgment until we contact Gregory and ask for a new one, but it’s not a good feeling to buy a $350 backpack and watch it fall apart in less than a year.
Money belt – We brought these because everything we read seemed to suggest we should have one. Not necessary. I believe our money belts are the only thing we brought along and have not used once. Keep your passport and wallet in a front or zippered pants pocket. If you find yourself in a place where you wish you had your money tucked away near your crotch, perhaps you shouldn’t be there at all.
It’s the everyday things you’re likely to forget, so it’s worth listing off every item in our backpacks. We are quite proud of our packing list. It’s not easy to pack for 16 months abroad, but there’s hardly an item we didn’t use, and nothing we really wished we had brought along.
2 synthetic t-shirts
2 cotton t-shirt
2 cotton tank top (Steph)
1 built-in bra tank top (Steph)
1 lightweight cotton long-sleeve shirt
1 nicer lightweight long sleeve
1 warm winter thermal layer
1 fleece jacket
1 lightweight pants
1 pair shorts
1 pair knee-length shorts (Steph)
1 athletic shorts
1 pair sneakers
2 pairs warm socks
4 pairs cotton socks
1 regular bra (Steph)
1 sports bra (Steph)
7 underwear (Nate brought 3)
1 rain jacket
2 swim suits (Steph)
Steph bought a dress and a skirt in Thailand, but it took a while to find the right fit. Unless you are 5 feet tall and 95 pounds, it’s worth bringing these things from home. Flip-flops, hats, and sunglasses (of questionable quality) are available everywhere.
Sunscreen, razor, shampoo/conditioner, soap, hair ties, tweezers, scissors, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, deodorant, chapstick, nail clippers. Bring any must-have products with you, they’ll either be hard to find or more expensive abroad.
laptop, laptop charger
electronic outlet adapter set (unless you’re bringing appliances you won’t need a volt converter)
camera, lenses, batteries, charger
75 and 95 L Gregory backpacking packs
smaller Dakine day backpack (Steph)
Dakine Sequence camera backpack (Nate)
sleeping bag, with dry bag stuff sack
Thermarest sleeping pad
1 dry bag for clothing
1 small, absorbant quick-dry towel
first aid kit
2 combination locks (didn’t use these much)
Aquamira water purifier
1 Pacsafe antitheft bag
We did opt to purchase camping gear (tent, stove, pot, etc) upon landing in Australia. It was really the only way to go as we didn’t want to lug camping gear through Asia for four months. We purchased most items at Anaconda, which was exactly the kind of middle-of-the-road outdoor store we were looking for.
We won’t go through all our ski gear as that’s straightforward and also rather subjective, but it’s worth mentioning Luggage Forward. Getting our skis from Japan to New Zealand without us was a rather tricky and expensive puzzle to solve. Luggage Forward was the cheapest option we could find and conveniently picks up and drops off gear at the doorstep of your choice. If you are planning an equally convoluted trip involving various ski destinations and tropical beaches, we’d recommend it.