I definitely pack too much for travel. Quite a lot of my bag is filled with extra clothes and random bits I probably don’t need. However, there are some things which have proved their usefulness over and over again.
If you’re considering a long trip here are the top ten things that I wouldn’t leave home without.
(Well, I’m sure I could survive without these but they really do make life easier… Unlike that kitchen sink I keep carting around.)
The Travel Tap from Drink Safe systems is a real life saver. Fill it up from practically any water source and have instant filtered water that won’t kill you. I’m not sure how it works – some combination of science and witchcraft – but it does work and it means you always have cheap, easy access to drinking water. It is not always pleasant to drink but it is always better than nothing and it’s reassuring to know you can get drinking water pretty much anywhere you go.
plus you get bonus points for saving money and the planet by reducing the number of plastic bottles of water you buy.
More info and other versions here http://www.drinksafe-systems.co.uk/products.php
Internet, camera, maps, music and everything else all in one tiny magic box. As well as faceapping and instatweeting the iPod is really useful for practical stuff like paying bills, checking exchange rates and self diagnosing that strange rash.
However, iPods really are very small and can feel a bit fragile. I got a surprisingly decent all over cover for £4 on Amazon. It keeps the iPod dust and scratch free and adds a bit of grip so it’s much easier to use as a camera.
Books are great. But they weigh a ton and take up loads of space. The latest basic kindle is really small, uncomplicated and rugged. Without any touchscreen or fancy stuff the battery last forever – or a whole bus ride in South America – which can be the same thing. The Kindle lets me carry a whole library of guide books, novels and articles – which is real joy and makes travelling much more rewarding.
There are book exchanges in hostels but those libraries are pretty anaemic. You’re pretty much limited to choosing between Dan Brown, Paul Ochello and Stig Larrson – the only sensible choice then is not to read at all.
My granddad always carried a pocket knife and, as a child, it struck me as a very gentlemanly thing to have. Now I have a knife. It’s not for fighting off villains or cutting a path through the jungle – but it is very handy for eating avocados and mangoes. Plus lots of other little uses from tightening the screws on my glasses to poking a massive spider to check that it is really dead.
This Victrionix one was about £12. And, whilst it doesn’t have a million useless bits for getting stones from horses hooves it does have one really sharp useful bit.
As a man of a certain age I don’t have the same level of natural head protection as I maybe once did. Also, as anyone who wears glasses knows a cap in the rain is an essential item until they invent tiny windscreen wipers.
This Carhartt cap has been pretty much glued to my head most days. Glued by sweat and dirt some days. It’s robust enough to withstand the dirt and being hand washed without completely falling apart. I just wish my hair had been as tough.
Made from some kind of compound usually found in Marvel comic books this ultralight t-shirt from Uniqlo is warm, breathable and dries under a light bulb. I also have boxers in the same line but I didn’t want to force the photo of those on you.
Water proof bags
A really messy bag is a quick route to madness I find. Being able to pack stuff into separate bags helps you quickly find the thing you want and know if anythings missing. These water proof bags are great for squeezing clothes right down, keeping them dry and staying organised.
Whilst having the basic Kindle is good for battery and ruggedness this small LED light is great for reading at night. It’s only a small light but just enough to read. This makes it ideal for reading on buses, planes or shared rooms without waking everyone else up. It also makes a really handy bedside light so you can find stuff in your bag or get to the bathroom and back without blinding everyone with a full on head torch.
This Billabong, bright blue nylon wallet may scream ‘teenage surfer-dude wannabe’ but it is very handy. I must have had this wallet for years and never used it. Originally I threw it in my bag as a back up for beach days. But now I use it all the time in place of my more ‘age appropriate’, nice leather one. The main reason is the security band thing that I can attach to my belt. Yes, it’s a very nerdy look but also very reassuring when you are in crowded buses and markets etc. It doesn’t stop me getting mugged but it does stop me from panicking about where my wallet is every 2 minutes. And besides at some point it will be so unfashionable it will look cool.
We ‘permanently borrowed’ these light travel blankets from one of the long haul flights. So simple yet so useful for cold morning buses, thin hotel bedding or long waits in train stations. I’m sure we could get some nicer ones but these are warm without being bulky and light enough to put in a day pack. We will return them on the next long haul flight. Promise.
So that’s my current, tech heavy top ten. Others which could have made the list were the silk sleeping bag liners that have kept us warm and bug free, the indestructible ‘genuine’ merrel trainers I bought in Vietnam for £20 or the £10 beard trimmer which helps keep me just the right side of hobo.
What’s your top 10?
It would be great to hear what your own must packs are and any top tips for clearing space and ditching that kitchen sink.