It’s been some time since we’ve highlighted the best of the travel gear we are carrying. While there are thousands of new product releases each year, there’s only so much stuff you can fit into a carry-on sized bag, so everything we carry is carefully considered in terms of both utility and weight.
Gadgets and tech advice
Since we work and travel, we carry more technology than most travellers. There’s no question, that long-term travellers will find carrying some kind of internet-enabled device a great boon.
Craig was bought an Amazon Kindle for his birthday, the model that’s now called the Kindle Keyboard 3G. It’s fantastic. Not only can we buy books in English or Spanish at 1/3 of the price of paperbacks in our home country of New Zealand, we can also carry hundreds of books where we used to only be able to carry half-a-dozen. The free 3G in many countries has also helped us find accommodation or our way around when dropped somewhere without a tourist information office.
We carry both an iPod touch and an iPhone as mobile communication and game centres. The most used programs on these are the mail, Skype, Twitter and Facebook apps — but we also use them to record and edit video as we travel.
Because the iPhone is unlocked, we can pick up local SIM cards when we’re in a country for some time. These prepay cards allow important people to get in touch with us, and let us make calls or use mobile internet when we need to without running up bills for services we never use (like calls at home!) or unexpected bills for data use or receiving calls or texts.
We were recently asked for our laptop recommendations on Facebook. We don’t really keep up with the latest developments, but we’re very happy with the laptops that we’re using: A Apple MacBook Pro 13″ and a MacBook Air 11″. These are both quite small and light, but they have the power necessary to run our small multimedia publishing company on the road.
In general, we’re carrying quite standard clothes. We look for light, quick-drying fabrics and tend to hand-wash clothes as we go, making use of washing machines when we can. There are a couple of interesting choices we’ve made that we thought might be helpful:
Mountain hardware jacket vs layers and shell
Before hiking the West Highland Way in 2007, Craig bought a technical hiking jacket by Mountain Hardwear (one of his favourite brands). This is still what he’s using today, but when not actually in use, it takes up almost 1/3 of his bag, and weighs heavily: several kilos.
Linda, on the other hand, prefers to have multiple thin layers; the thickest being a polarfleece jacket. For rainy days, she’s currently looking for a light, waterproof shell. It’s proving hard to find in Argentina.
Jeans aren’t light or quick-drying, but they function well enough for semi-formal events and they’re hard-wearing too. This is the first time Craig has been travelling with jeans, but they’ll probably get donated away as we head into warmer weather. The trick has been to always wear the jeans on days when we’re travelling/transiting — that way the additional weight isn’t being carried on your back.
Craig has finally found a backpack that suits, although its not quite perfect. The Northface Overhaul 32 is carry-on sized, has good pockets for organisation, and is both comfortable and expandable. However, the harness system is not that great and causes discomfort when carrying 11+ kilos for an hour or longer.
Linda’s still using — and loving — the Aarn Backfavour described in the best backpack for travel article we published last year.
Sea to Summit hyperlight bag
Since we don’t have the traditional backpacker’s backpack plus daybag combo, we needed something for shopping trips and shorter trips while we could leave our normal backpacks behind. We bought a hyperlight bag by Sea to Summit, which is excellent. It’s made from a thin, strong material and packs down to the size of a toddler’s fist.
Waterproof compression bag
The NorthFace bag is water resistant, but didn’t have any space for a waterproof pack cover, so to protect our electronics and passports from water damage, we bought a roll-top dry bag — more commonly used by divers or kayakers. Day to day, it serves to contain our power cables, hard-drives and chargers but it’s there to stuff other things into when on a boat or during a downpour.
Confiscated every time we take a flight, we buy a new bottle opener within a week or landing. One day that ridiculous law might be repealed!
Orikaso plates & Light My Fire sporks
We’ve been using this combination since we started travelling in 2006. Although the Orikaso set is beginning to discolour a little with age, the thin plastic plates, bowls and cups are still in use and wearing well.
While on the beach or at a park, we get a little bit of aerobic exercise with a material travel frisbee with a weighted edge. The one we’ve got comes from Kathmandu in New Zealand; but they have no online store.
We got these Ecousable water bottles in 2010 and we’re still carrying and using them. Just this week we lost one, with our friends’ dog deciding some of the plastic looked tasty. So now we’re down to one!
We’re not using
There are always things you take with you and don’t use enough to justify their place in your bag. We’re getting better at this, but … well, there’s always something!
We brought a compass with us — not just for hiking, they can be super-useful when exiting a subway station and figuring out where you need to go. This time, the iPhone’s compass and mapping features have completely taken over from the need to use this.
Kindle aside, we’ve got two large Spanish grammar books with us. We’re using them, but possibly not enough to justify the weight. Because they are exercise books with gap-fill and join-the-options exercises, they’d probably be better suited to an iPad app than an ebook format — and so we carry them while we’re trying to improve our Spanish.
How about your recommendations?
Are there things that you’ve learned to travel without, or things that you just have to have with you? Are there brands and models that you love? Leave a comment below.