So, this is something rather different for me. I’ve seen a lot of posts about ‘Travel hacks’ & traveller’s ‘must have’ items and if you took all of them on board you’d probably end up with a dozen suitcases and in doing so, defeat the purpose.
Nevertheless, it has made me think about the way I travel and the things that have made my life easier. I thought I’d share a few here, not to tell you what you should or should not be carrying but more to show what kind of traveller I am and if it inspires you to come up with some ideas I’d love to hear your tips and tricks.
I will confess that there will be some Amazon advertisement links in this post but I promise they only relate to the items that I mention and it’s just a good way of breaking up a large bunch of text. It’s either that or photographs of plugs and toilet rolls!
My number one item is also part of my personal travel code:
Toilet paper – Always have a roll with you and make sure it’s in a waterproof bag, even a zip lock food bag will do to keep it dry. Don’t get me wrong I’m not one of those people that packs a suitcase full of bog roll (to be honest you’d never see me with a suitcase) but I do have a rule when I travel, If I come across a roll it goes with me. Leaving a hotel room on a day trip or checking out – Take that roll with you. I draw the line at nicking all the rolls from public toilets though as let’s face it the idea is not to get caught short without paper not leave everyone else in the same position.
Head Torch – I always have one with me. If I’m going on a trip where I’ll be outdoors a lot then I’ll take a proper headtorch like my Black Diamond Spot or the ever dependable Petzl Tikkina. If it’s just a normal trip I opt for my Petzl E-Lite. Without pushing products this is one thing I recommend everyone has in their kit. It weighs just 27g, its tiny just bigger than a 50p piece and thumb thickness but it provides plenty of light (26 lumens) and has a good battery life (30-50hrs of usage). This little beauty has saved me from stepping on snakes & spiders and getting run over by drunken moped drivers on numerous occasions. It’s also handy for finding your car keys when you drop them! The E-Lite is also cheap at less than £20. Shop around on eBay etc. and you can probably save £5 off that.
As with most tech there are constant advancements so it’s worth keep an eye out to make sure your getting the best item for your money. The latest advancement is USB charging which intrigues me a lot. Many of the newest top end headtorches include USB charging which could make life a lot easier if you’re travelling long term.
I suppose that leads nicely on to charging options. These days we are all carrying phones, kindles, laptops etc. and no one wants to lug around a myriad of cables and plugs. A good quality Multiple USB charger can be a life saver allowing you to charge several devices at the same time as long as you your uses USB that is.
A few things to look out for.
- If you struggle to sleep with bright lights make sure you get one without the pervasive glowing blue lights. No one really needs that since your device should tell you if its charging or not.
- Try and get a plug that has iSmart charging technology. This means that you can charge iPhone, iPad, Android phone and kindles all at the same time and the charger will use the correct voltage for the device.
- Don’t forget you may want to use the charger in other countries so pick one up with universal plug adaptors. I used to plug mine into a separate adaptor but that will only work for so long before something goes wrong. Cut out the middleman, get the whole kit in one.
I have recently discovered the joy of 2in1 USB cables, they are standard Micro USB cables with an Apple Lightning adaptor on the end. You can also get them in short sizes like the 25cm one below. This saves room and reduces the chances of damaging it by winding it up in a bundle.
I tend to go for Anker or RAVPower products as I have never had a problem with them.
Powerbanks – Charging on the go? Not essential these days but if you really need it then heed my advice, do your homework and don’t buy cheap. Make sure whatever you buy is the right size and weight for your needs, get the most ‘mAh’ (MiliAmp Hour – A measure of electrical power of a period of time) you can for your money & size, weight limitations. I use an Anker Powercore 10000mAh which you can pick up for £10-£15. It weights next to nothing, can charge an iPhone 6s 4 times before it needs recharging and is the size of a credit card. (Thumb thickness) Again, make sure you get a device with ismart capability so you can charge any device you want. Once again RAVPower products are equally reliable
My number one tip for purchasing a power bank is make sure your device has the mAh clearly displayed on it as I’ve had cheap ones and even a very expensive one without any markings seized going through customs. China is especially strict on this. Again, invest in a short 2in1 cable to keep it all compact.
Right, last bit of techy kit and it’s a simple one, my Kindle e-Reader. Don’t get me wrong I love the feel and smell of a good paper book but when it comes to comfortable travel I can’t tell you how much my kindle has changed my life. Whilst travelling I can easily get through a book a week so it really is not feasible to carry piles of books with me. I used to get around this by leaving my finished books at hostels, fantasising about the adventures those books would go on to have travelling around the world in the hands of different owners. The problem with that is that it’s hard to read the same book again when you have given it away and there is a limited choice of books to pick from in the hostels. The other downside is that there are so many other accommodation options these days that I don’t tend to spend so much time in hostels.
My Kindle allows me to take a whole library worth of reading books and Guide books with me, the battery lasts for weeks and it weighs less than 200g. I’ve only used the Kindle so I cannot vouch for the other e-readers on the market but I imagine they are all very similar.
I don’t really have many tips about e readers other than to sign up for twitter & email feeds like kindle daily deals and Bookbub, you will top quality books for as little as 99p and many free books from up and coming authors. Bookbub also gets occasional deals with top authors, they had copies of Dan Browns Inferno for 99p the day before it was released. Using an Amazon wish list, you can save all the books you want to buy and set it to notify you when it drops below a certain price which is very handy.
If I can give you any advice one readers it would simply be; Go buy one! My kindle cost less than £50. (get one on Amazon’s black Friday or Christmas deals for the best price)
Get Buff! – No don’t rush off and work out, although I wouldn’t discourage that either but rather go buy yourself a ‘Buff’. Buff is the brand name of the original seller now known as ‘The Original Buff’. They describe their product as “a multifunctional tubular accessory designed to keep you warm in the cold, it will also wick moisture (sweat) away from your skin to keep you cool when it is hot. The lightweight, breathable, microfibre fabric is extremely comfortable to wear and can be worn as a neckerchief, headband, wristband, mask, hair-band, balaclava, scarf, headband, scrunchie, pirate cap, beanie and bandana. The reality is that you can now buy these anywhere from outdoor shops to Amazon and even supermarkets. The quality varies but you don’t need to pay the £15 plus price tag attributed to the Original brand. I’ve used these in almost every climate and they are great, I have one looped to my bag like a hair scrunchie so it’s always accessible and as they say it can be used in many ways, I’ve used mine to keep my face warm, keep dust out of my face whilst driving through deserts and even to shield my senses from the smog in Beijing. If you’re into making fashion statements there are literally millions of patterns to choose from & I imagine you could get your own designs printed if you really wanted to.
Check out this Video from the Original Buff Team that shows you how many ways it can be used. http://buffnews.net/popdemo/popdemos.php?demo=1&bg=000
Water bottle – Obvious one here. You should be drinking as much water as possible when your active, anything from 1 – 4 litres a day depending on the activity and the climate. This becomes tricky if you’re not carrying any with you so for me a bottle is essential. It’s also good to think about the planet, let’s not keep buying cheap plastic bottles every day when we can carry one with us. These days good quality water bottles are not expensive and they are super light so if you end up having to pack or carry an empty bottle it won’t take up much space or weight. You can even buy collapsible bottles these days. There are many types on the market buy If I were you I would pick something as simple as possible, you don’t need to invest in filtration devices that you will inevitably have to replace. If you can’t find one with a clip attachment you can buy pockets that can be easily attached to belts/straps or rucksacks.
CamelBak devices are very popular but for long term I wouldn’t suggest using them as the reservoir takes up a lot of room in your pack and they can be tricky to clean on the road. The last thing you want is bacteria and dirt in the system making you sick.
Personalise your bottle so everyone knows it’s yours, you can use stickers, tape anything you want just don’t make it look too fancy or you risk getting it stolen.
I’m one of those people that doesn’t mind drinking plain water but if you struggle with it and need the flavour you can now purchase mini concentrated juices. One or two squirts in your bottle and suddenly it becomes far more palatable. The juices last ages and take up no room at all, I generally use the Robinsons sugar free its well-designed not to leak. I should credit my best friend for this one, on a trip to Thailand together a few years back I thought I was the bee’s knees of travelling and when I saw him using the mini juices I couldn’t believe I’d never thought of it. It’s good to be humbled every now and again. I find it keeps you open to good ideas.
Right then, just a few last things, I won’t go into too much detail here but if you were to rummage through my bag you will always find these somewhere.
• Duct Tape – Not an entire roll obviously, you don’t want your bags searched and customs and someone thinking you are playing a kidnap. Wrap a good few meters of it around a spare pen or hairbrush, it won’t take up much room and will be just as sticky when you need it. Duct tape fixes anything. I’ve fixed tyres, leaks, used them as bandages & splints. (that was most definitely an emergency situation we even used it to make a stretcher) I even used it to strap a hiking boot together when it fell to pieces in the middle of nowhere.
• Paracord (Also known as 550 cord) – I’m not getting all military on you I promise. This stuff can literally save your life it’s like string on drugs, lots of drugs and superpowers. It comes in many forms but aim for type 3, this is rated to hold up to 250kg. Even if you have 10m curled up in the bottom of your bag it won’t take up space or weight and can be used for washing lines to lowering kit down cliffs. Many people opt for the so-called survival bracelets which are fine and let’s be honest they are not a great fashion accessory so just keep it somewhere handy. Some of the bracelets even have a compass and a whistle included. It’s also easy to make your own or if you want more cord try making a belt. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKSGg2IuCLI
• Clips or a good quality Karabiner – If your carrying cord then it makes sense to have something to attach it to. Many people have mini clips or karabiners but I find they tend to break and for the weight you may as well get a couple of good quality lightweight wire gate Karabiners. They will literally last for ever, you can hang a mini off them and when they are not being used for outdoorsy or lifesaving efforts they are great for holding pairs of shoes or sandals together. I keep one attached to my water bottle and one between two loops on my pack. *Warning: Do not buy cheap or mini versions they must have a Kn rating of around 20+ when closed. (That’s Kilo Newtons for you and I) Otherwise they could fail if you really need to put a lot of weight on them. *
These are just of a few of the things that I always want with me whilst travelling, I didnt want to go on and on so I’ve missed out some of my other favourites like strong resealable sandwich bags for keeping topiletries, food even electrical cables safe. I also dont go anywhere without my toothbrush cap, keeps the head clean for much longer, no-one likes a stinky brush. I’d really appreciate any feedback or comments about this post and I’m interested in the items that you consider must haves. Drop me a line on here or Twitter, it’s great to connect. Through others we learn!