Four and a half years ago, we published a podcast called 15 essential items for a trip around the world. Looking back on it, there are many things that we still think are vital, and others that are not only not important, but positively useless. It’s a good thing that we think that changing your mind is a sign of positive development, right? So, what were those items, and are they REALLY essential?
1. A good backpack: yes
You need something to carry your gear in, and we still believe that a good backpack is the way to go. Depending on your travel style, though, you might prefer a wheelie bag or hybrid backpack/wheelie bag — the important thing is to think about what will work for you. We travel with carry-on sized bags only (35-40l) and highly recommend this option for ease of movement.
2. Good shoes: yes
We love walking, both hiking and wandering around cities — so we walk A LOT. Many travellers have commented to us that they walk a lot more when on the road than when at home, so investing in good shoes is certainly worthwhile. Get some good inserts and good socks to go with them. A pair of flip flops is great for casual wear, and you might want to consider a pair of nice shoes for wearing out.
3. A sleeping bag: no. Instead: silk sleeping bag liner
When we first started travelling, we had enormous sleeping bags which we eventually sent back to New Zealand. Soon, we had to replace them as we were heading off on another hike, but after the hike was over we didn’t use them for months. We did keep our silk sleeping bag liners, though, and have found them useful for extra warmth or emergency linen.
4. A rain jacket: yes. also: umbrella, pack cover
Definitely don’t skimp on this one. It will rain during your trip and you will have to go out in it. Choose one that’s stylish but waterproof. Craig’s had his Mountain Hardwear’s Xenon for about six years and has found it a great choice for flexibility and warmth. Umbrellas are great for city trips, and depending on your travel style, a pack cover might be worth the investment. We don’t use ours very often, but when we do, we’re glad to have them.
5. Thermal underwear: yes
Layers are the key for warmth. Don’t take big bulky jumpers, instead invest in several lightweight ones and perhaps some thermal underwear for the bottom layer. Merino wool is one of the best insulating layers but sadly, outside of New Zealand it can be prohibitively expensive. Polypropylene is also good. If you don’t want a dedicated thermal layer, just go for thin tops rather than thick jumpers; you’ll have more flexibility in your wardrobe. Leggings or stockings can also act as an insulating layer under jeans or other trousers.
6. A money belt: no. Instead: plastic bags
We still have our money belt, and we keep our passports and some other documents in it, but we almost never wear it. Sure, keeping your documents safe is important, but putting them in a safe or keeping them in your locked bag is also an option.
Plastic bags, though, are super useful: use them to separate clothes, carry food, store shoes. You’ll need zip-lock ones for your carry-on liquids if flying, and this type can be used as compression sacks as well.
7. A camera: yes, and/or smartphone
The current debate is whether to take a dedicated camera if you have a good smartphone. You probably want to take snapshots to record your experiences, and most smartphones have good enough cameras to do that. If you’re a photography enthusiast, you might want to take a real camera, but a camera in itself isn’t really essential anymore.
8. Travel adapter: yes
We still recommend taking a universal multi adapter that converts any plug to any other. These are a little bulky but we’ve found ours to be amazingly useful. You can find them (overpriced) at most airport shops; look out for Swiss Travel Products for a good brand.
9. A padlock: yes
Seriously, don’t leave home without at least one of these babies. You should lock your bag when it’s not on you, including when you check it on to a plane or leave a hostel. If you are flying to, from, or within the United States, make sure you have bought a TSA approved brand. Most top-stuffing bags don’t make for easy locking, but do your best. In a hostel, you can often use your padlock on a locker to keep your stuff safe. Just don’t give anyone the combination.
10. Ear plugs: yes
Loud bus trips, snoring dorm mates … you will definitely get your money’s worth out of a pair of ear plugs. Pick up three or four pairs in your local pharmacy or supermarket. Craig uses his in-ear earbuds for the same effect.
11. A travel towel: yes
One of the largest items many travellers have with them is a traditional beach towel. But you don’t need all that weight, especially when you’ve just dried yourself on it and it’s soaking wet. So grabbing a travel towel from your local camping or travel store will certainly be worth your while.
12. A travel clothes line: no. Instead: kitchenware
We used to use our travel clothes line all the time, but we didn’t miss it when it wore out and we threw it away. This might be because more hostels now have better laundries, or because we’re doing more couchsurfing these days. However, we swear by our kitchenware, which we use very often. The Light My Fire Sporks are fantastic, and our Orikaso flatpack plates, cups, and bowls also get a lot of use. A pocket knife might also be a good investment, depending on if you check in your bags or not. We don’t, so we often have to replace our knives after a series of flights.
13. A good personalised first-aid kit: yes
You never know what might go wrong, and having a first-aid kit is a definite must. Buy a basic kit from the pharmacy and stock it with extras such as paracetamol, ibuprofen, diarrhoea tablets, plasters, insect repellent, condoms and hand sanitizer. Also add any medication you need. Some of the medication sold over the counter in developing countries is dodgy, so take as much of your essential items as you can imagine needing, and a little more as a back up.
14. A journal: no. Instead: laptop or tablet
We want to be the kind of people who keep journals, but we just aren’t. If you are, pack a journal. Otherwise, you can record your travels by blog or email, and use your laptop or tablet to keep you entertained and connected as well.
15. A pack of cards: no. Instead: book or Kindle
A pack of cards is useful and we still recommend taking one, but a Kindle will store more hours of entertainment than cards will, especially if you’re alone.
In this podcast we also talk about arriving in Christchurch, New Zealand and play sounds from there and Kuala Lumpur. Our travel tip of the week is all about avoiding jetlag with Rescue Remedy. To listen, hit play above or check in iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud.