Seven of the Best Travel Gear Purchases I’ve Ever Made

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After travelling for the last ten months, I’ve learned to do more with less. I’ve also developed an aversion to buying things, aside from food of course. If I can’t carry it, I probably don’t need it. You’ve likely heard people preach about how liberating it is to have limited material possessions. These past few months have made me a true believer in the “less is more” movement.

Not only is my living space less cluttered but my mind feels lighter too. It’s difficult to grasp until you experience it for yourself. Until you actually carry all your possessions, and experience life as a tortoise does.  My few possessions have become integral parts of my life.  And I’ve developed a peculiar affection for some of them. There are the obvious things a traveler covets : a good bag, a sturdy pair of shoes, the right clothing, your passport etc. But, there have also been a few surprises along the way that have paid for themselves tenfold. Here are some of my favorites:

44L Tortuga Backpack

The importance of choosing the right pack cannot be overemphasized . This simple choice can turn an otherwise great trip into a painful experience. I prefer a smaller pack, but most backpacks are for hikers. They are often bulky, unwieldy, and don’t fit in aircraft overhead bins. Top loading trekking style packs are great for backcountry adventures. But when you want to change your socks, you have to dig through the entire pack just to find them. For the last year, I’ve carried my life in my trusty Tortuga.

I explored many options before settling on this pack. The big attraction is that it loads from the front, like a suitcase. This makes finding items a breeze. Another important feature is it’s size . The Tortuga has a 44 liter capacity, yet meets carry on regulations. Say goodbye to baggage fees! Recently, I managed to squeeze a midi keyboard, recording equipment, a microphone, my laptop, a 4/3 wetsuit, all my clothing, rain gear and various other items into the Tortuga. I still had room to spare. This pack is hands down one of the best purchases I’ve  made.

Note: I recently ripped one of the straps, and Tortuga offered to reimburse me for the repair and send me a brand new pack!

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Smartwool Socks

If you are like me, you have spent your life wearing simple cotton socks. I always scoffed at the notion of buying special socks for running, hiking, travelling… but now I think I understand. I have spent the better part of a year wearing three pairs of socks. But these aren’t any old socks. Smartwool socks combine wool’s natural features with modern technology. I can wear them for days on end without odor. I was dubious of this claim, but it is more or less true, much to the delight of anyone near me. They wash easily in the sink as well. These socks also keep my feet miraculously dry. Even in the wettest months of winter, when the rain comes at you from all directions, I was warm, not wet. Indeed, I was able to get by in Santander, Spain, where it rains on average 129 days a year. With these socks, my feet stayed moisture-free, even with wet shoes.

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20L Sea to Summit Lightweight Daypack

When I left California in June of 2015, I knew I would need this, but I had no idea how much I would use it. This simple, one-pocket bag fits in the palm of your hand, weighs 60g and can hold 20L of just about anything. Lightweight and made of durable Cordura fabric,heavy items like groceries, books and laptops are carried with ease .I recently managed to stuff a full wetsuit and towel into this trusty little bag. While I use it as my everyday bag , it’s also perfect for short 1-2 week trips.

I should mention, however, that the Sea to Summit Lightweight Daypack is very thin; pens and the sharp edges of books have punctured the bag from the inside out. I wrote to Sea to Summit, and they offered to replace it, free of charge, provided that I send in the old bag. The next day, the bag was stolen, along with my bass guitar! I explained the situation to the Spanish Sea to Summit representative, and he agreed to send me a new one!


 

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Universal Drainplug

There are more glamorous, exciting items like a MacBook or some fancy shoes that could be included here. This simple plug, however, is one of my most used items. It’s surprising how many sinks don’t have their own plugs. In far-flung rural areas, I expect it. But a fair share of hostels and hotels are lacking this essential tool. With it, I can wash my few articles of clothing, take a well deserved bath, or give myself a fresh shave. I think I bought it for about 50 cents. That’s a small price to pay for clean clothes, relaxation and rejuvenation.

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Sea to Summit 8L Drybag

I was born in Ireland where rain is a way of life. If it’s not raining, it’s guaranteed to rain sometime soon. But, despite my rainy roots, I grew up in Southern California. Here rain is like a good friend who almost always flakes out; you love him but he’s never there when you need him.

While researching items for my travels, several sources recommended drybags. I reluctantly bought one, thinking I was unlikely to need it. Once I experienced rain on a daily basis, I found out how important this little bag is for my laptop and other electronics. Chance of heavy rain? Planning a day near a river, lake or ocean? Pop your camera, phone and/or laptop into one of these waterproof bags. You’ll be glad you did. Even slight moisture or condensation can ruin your tech gear.

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Duct Tape

As anyone who has ever worked construction can tell you, duct tape provides a quick fix in most situations. When I get a tear in a pack, I can easily patch it with a piece of this durable material. When a surfboard fin made sashimi out of my big toe, it was duct tape that held my shredded skin together. Now I don’t recommend you carrying a whole roll of this stuff with you. I have a small cache of duct tape wrapped conveniently around the end of my toothbrush. Just enough to do the job and not so much to weigh you down. You will find a use for duct tape. I promise.

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Victorinox Swiss Army Knife

Switzerland doesn’t have much of an army and it has stayed neutral in Europe’s major conflicts. So it’s ironic that one of their most well known exports is the Victorinox Swiss Army Knife. It is recognized throughout the world as the original tool for adventurers and sportsmen.  My dad gave me his when I was about 10. I lost it of course. My most recent experience with this utility tool confirms its legendary status .

Last autumn, I had the pleasure of sharing  an apartment with a Welshman named  Kevin and a Brummy (someone from Birmingham) named Chris. Our Santander flat had a few sticks of furniture, a meager set of kitchen crockery, and Kevin’s classic red Swiss Army knife. This genius tool sliced, diced, sawed, uncorked and ground anything that entered our kitchen. Being bachelors, it didn’t occur to buy a proper kitchen knife. The Swiss Army Knife can do it all. The real test came at Thanksgiving, when I prepared a traditional meal for over 20 international colleagues. The pocketknife chopped every vegetable and carved every bird. A good Swiss Army knife is indispensable for travelers, outdoorsmen and, as it turned out, ill-equipped bachelors.

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