So, here’s what happened: I was getting ready to go on a mountain climbing, desert trekking, cross-country trip around Morocco, and I was GOING TO put this list of travel tools I can’t live with out up prior to leaving, with the intention of updating it upon my return.
In my planning, however, I failed to remember one key thing: That if I were a superhero, my moniker would surely be The Procrastinating Slacker. So oops, I forgot to get my life together and post this thing before I left. But no matter, here it is anyway.
I, however, DID get it together just enough before leaving for my wild adventure to post a video on YouTube of me going through most of these items as I was packing my backpack, so please head over there and take a look if you’re into watching people blab endlessly about stuff they bought and why!
Warning: I was looking in the completely wrong direction throughout the entire video (à la Michele Bachmann, circa 2011), but chose not to rerecord, because laziness.
Please note that while I’ve tried to link all items below back to the actual manufacturer’s websites, I am not an affiliate for any of these companies/items and am not being paid or compensated in any way, shape, or form to post these.
Backpack fitting is really a personal issue; everyone’s body is a little different, so it’s best to try on many packs before committing to one. That said, the Osprey Sirrus 36 is an all around awesome pack that I bet most people would enjoy. Unfortunately, I’m specifically talking about the older model, so you may have a harder time getting your hands on it. At the moment you can still find them from a couple of different sites and the good news is that you can save a lot of money since they are the outgoing model! I bought mine from REI Garage for $119.73, used a member coupon code, which dropped the price to $95.78, and then signed up for the REI credit card which gives you a $100 dollar REI gift card after your first purchase, so basically…FREE awesome backpack!
I don’t love it because it was basically free, I love it because it is very light weight, super functional, and the Airspeed Suspension system is to die for (you will get actual airflow between your pack and your back, which is super important if you’re a crazy person like me who likes to hike in the desert during the summer months)! Interestingly, the new model also has the Airspeed Suspension, but when my friend and I were testing out the old and the new versions, the new version dug into our shoulder blades really badly no matter how much we tried adjusting everything.
The new version has an adjustable back, which is nice in theory, but we traced the source of the should blade pain to the area that supports the adjustment mechanism. This is a terrible design flaw in my opinion, so get the old one if you can, or try both and let me know if I’m a crazy lady! The new version is also more structured so it’s actually harder to fit the same amount of stuff into it as you can in the old one. Most strikingly, my sleeping bag fit easily into the bottom zip section of the old version but only just barely fit (after much struggle) into the same section of the new version, and it ate up a whole lot of interior space. So yeah, no thanks. Osprey, whyyyyyy???
Update: I’m IN LOVE with this bag! After carrying it through Lisbon, Spain, and Morocco, I took it for an actual camping trip here in NY and it has done everything I needed it to do and, as a bonus, it never felt heavy, unwieldy, or uncomfortable!
I bought this small day pack to carry around when I don’t need to lug all of my stuff around but still want to use the hydration reservoir (3L capacity) from my Osprey Sirrus 36 pack. A lot of day packs only hold 2L reservoirs and are a lot more expensive that this one so I was intrigued. I scoured the internet for reviews and found that people were raving about this pack due to its lightweight, minimal, and durable design.
I ordered the special edition Strata Print Vin Rouge color and it is GORGEOUS. So much so that I won’t feel like a dork when I use it in lieu of a handbag during my stopovers in Lisbon and Barcelona before and after my upcoming Toubkal trek in Morocco. They do have a variety of colors though, so be sure to check out their special edition and regular lines.
I’ve taken the pack out on short hikes here in NY and 100% back up those raving reviews of others. It is so lightweight that it almost feels like you’re wearing nothing at all (and if you read that in Ned Flanders voice, we might need to be best friends), and even in hot muggy weather it didn’t give me that gross swampy back feeling that more substantial bags often do. Though it is a minimalist design, it is clearly well thought out as it has a clip for keys in the interior and a simple zipped pocket section; there is also a sleeve pocket for your hydration reservoir which will definitely fit 3L, if that’s what you’re working with. I also love that the hip belt is removable, an awesome feature if you’re carrying a light load for shorter distances.
Update: From hiking Mount Toubkal to walking the dunes of the Sahara, and meandering the streets of Lisbon and Barcelona, this functioned perfectly. Being so lightweight, I hardly even thought about it while wearing it and did not need to readjust multiple times to keep a comfortable fit. It worked beautifully with my 3 liter Osprey reservoir and worked equally as well for toting purchases around the souks of the Marrakech medina. I’m also very pleased with it’s durability as it still looks good as new (although it is in fact full of sand from the Sahara).
On a recent flight I sat next to two guys who spent the entire flight talking and, despite sitting directly next to each other, felt they had to yell to be heard. It was like no other situation I’ve ever had to deal with on a plane. Though they were sober, they sure acted drunk, and didn’t even pause between sentences to breathe. My craptastic in-ear headphones were no match for their rapid fire shout-talking session, which lasted from takeoff to touchdown. I wanted to pull out all of my hair.
My friend had a pair of Bose QuietComfort 20 Noise Cancelling headphones and wasn’t bothered by the boys’ ruckus at all, so I started looking into getting a pair for myself. Looking into them, I found a Reddit thread about noise cancelling headphone which started out with a whole lot of Bose bashing by serious audiophiles but then toward the end near-unanimous agreement that if you were specifically looking for in-ear, wired, noise cancelling headphone, Bose was actually your best bet.
I genuinely never thought I would buy a Bose product. I am not, afterall, your run of the mill 80s era yuppie type, but it seems that companies can be totally over-hyped and somewhat dated and still be great for specific niche areas. Up until this purchase, I had a pair of Klipsch over-ear bluetooth headphones, which were awesome but not at all practical considering that I try to travel as lightly as possible. The Bose set is super compact and comes with a nifty carrying case which doesn’t add much bulk at all. They also sound excellent, are extremely comfortable, and the noise cancelling feature blows me away. The earpiece itself is also constructed in such a way as to not randomly fall out of your ear every time you are so brazen as to think you can actually do something as strenuous as yawning while having headphones in (earbuds commonly pop right out of my tiny ear canals, can you tell I’m annoyed about it?) Seriously, beyond just travel, these babies are necessary if you work in an open office space or cubicle with some chatty ass neighbors (Hi Keith!).
I was jonesing for a GoPro Hero5 Black when they first came out, but I’m kinda cheap and didn’t want to spend that much on a camera I wasn’t sure I’d actually use that much. I read quite a few reviews on the Hero5 where they compared it to the Hero4 and found that (at least at that time) people were recommending waiting to upgrade for a variety of reasons most of which are far too technical for me to regurgitate here for you (I don’t really understand it all, but I more or less trust those who do).
The only reason I wanted the Hero5 was for the voice command function as I was going on a kayaking trip in Patagonia where my hands would be obscured by paddling mitts. When I got there, however, I realized that it was so ungodly windy and loud that there is no way voice commands would have worked anyway. Lucky for me, I had chosen to buy the Hero4 anyway, strapped it to the old noggin, hit record and was on my way (and got great footage). The best part is that I was able to buy it on eBay for less than $200 bucks from a seller who included 3 extra batteries, 3 different cases, a nice carrying case for all the bits, and a large assortment of other extras! So anyway, if you’re looking to get your first GoPro, don’t assume that just because there’s a new model that the old one sucks! Instead, put some serious thought into what you’re really going to use it for, how often, and what features are most important for your purposes. Save money today; spend money on awesome trips tomorrow!
Are you old enough to remember the big old sets of plugs people used to purchase to fit different outlets around the world? Sometimes you had the right adapter for a country but with the incorrect number of prongs, some times you had to get creative to make it all work (see below).
Mercifully, we now have all-in-one plugs, such as the model linked above; many now also include spots for usb charging, which means less crap for you to lug around. The model I’ve linked to is made by Kensington but there are a ton of brands that make these and it’s hard to go wrong, just read the reviews and make sure no one’s complaining that they burned their hotel down with it and you should be good to go. Definitely go with the USB compatible model. I’ve had my non-USB model for almost a decade, and can’t justify buying a new one until this one breaks…or gets left behind at a hotel someday.
Just like the travel plug adapter, this is a no-brainer. It suuuuucks to be out on the town in some awesome place and to have your phone/camera die from exuberant overuse. If you don’t already own one, grab one before your next trip and never again be left to rely on your travel companions to take pictures for you when your shit dies (they say they’ll email you those pictures when you get home, but they never will…sorry, Italian guy in Morocco, I swear I will send you those pics someday). I like this one by Anker because it is pretty compact for it’s amount of power and it feels solidly built. I used this a lot in Cuba because of power outages and after 5 days I still had a little juice left to spare!
I never thought I would have a favorite bandaid. It’s not really something you ever think about until you need one and have to use some sorry ass excuse for a bandaid which, of course, starts falling off only moments after application, and never mind their bulk and awkward shape getting in the way of doing just about anything once their on.
This sounds like the beginning of an infomercial, but I swear in this case regular bandaids really DO suck, and Nexcare Waterproof bandages really ARE the answer to all your problems! I am never without these, and especially not while traveling. They are pure magic for covering blisters and going about your day, and will even save the day if you get a cut in a weird place like between your thumb and forefinger. They stay in place like nothing I’ve ever used before and when they say waterproof, they mean it! I’ve had them stay in place, fully sealed, for 3+ days before, even with daily showers or trips to the beach.
This is a new purchase for me, it’s use will be three-fold on my upcoming trip to Morocco. It’s a cooling towel, meaning it can be dowsed in water and wrung out, and then science happens and makes you feel cooler. It also has a Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) of 50, meaning I can drape it on my shoulders or wrap it around my face for added sun protection in the desert. If the need should arise, I’ll be able to use it as a dust shield for my nose and mouth since it’s very lightweight and ventilated.
While I haven’t brought this out on a trip with me yet, I can say that it works great at the gym; but I’ll be sure to update this after I test it out in the desert!
Update: This cooling towel worked out SPECTACULARLY! On my Moroccan journey I used it as a sweat rag, an impromptu hat, and as an actual cooling towel. All aspects worked out great, but the BEST thing was when I dipped it into an open irrigation stream of cold run off water from the snow melting 2000 meters above us after our hike back down Mount Toubkal. I soaked it, wrung it out, and snapped it three times, according to the directions, and when I wrapped it over my head and ears it was sweet relief, as if someone had turned an air conditioner on. Seriously wonderful. I bought mine at Marshall’s for $5.99, but I would go so far as to say that if I had to buy it again, full price ($17.99 from the website linked above), I totally would and wouldn’t feel bad about it at all.
This water purifying bottle by Grayl is versatile and amazing. When my friend and I were planning a trip to Cuba it was hard to find any solid info regarding whether the water would be safe to drink or not. As it turns out, there are areas in Cuba where the water is fine, and then other areas where the water is not okay but for various reasons, all of which need to be considered when choosing a means of filtering water. Some water filters address everything but viruses, while others address a myriad of problems but won’t help at all if the problem is heavy metals. This is a problem if you’re a tourist and not really sure what the problem with the water is and only that you’ve been advised to not drink it, and an even bigger problem if your trip involves traveling to several different regions which may all have their own water issues.
After some research I found Grayl, which filters out everything while still being compact and easy to use. After reading reviews and watching some videos about it on Youtube, I took a chance. It was a real leap of faith using it for the first time, but everything turned out great! No diarrhea or projectile vomiting at all (well, not from the water anyway…damn you, mojitos)! An added benefit that I really enjoyed was not having to purchase any bottled water; this saves $$ while also reducing the amount of shit we’re all throwing into the ocean.
Update: I have now used the Grayl in both Cuba and Morocco with nothing but good experiences (i.e., no diarrhea or projectile vomiting). Highly recommended.
These meal replacement bars are really tasty and a great option whether you’re heading out on a trek or just stuck on a plane with no meal service (oh the humanity!). They are non-GMO and vegan (if you’re into that kinda thing) and tastewise it’s like a chocolate-peanut butter no bake cookie and an espresso had a baby. Carrying a couple of these around might prevent you from being that rude ass hangry traveler, and may even save you in an emergency.
Update: I am now firmly addicted to these bars. By the way, this particular variety has 370 calories and, as you can see, is about the size of my hand. I carried five of these around on my trip to Morocco and, though I didn’t end up needing more than one, it was very reassuring to know they were there just in case!