Lately we’ve been getting swamped with questions from readers about what the best tools and gadgets are for taking with you on extended trips. Since I’ve been globe trotting for quite a while now, I figure I’m fairly qualified to give you the low down on just what gadgets you may need, and more importantly, what you can leave at home.
So, today I’m going to lay out my own personal luggage for all to see (o la la). The clothing I take will vary depending on the destinations climate and what I will be doing there, but the items listed below are pretty much constant.
Keep in mind, I pack light. Real light. I opt for carry on, and rarely check luggage.
I suggest you leave the 5 piece luggage sets to large families and suburban housewives who go on a one week vacation every 2.5 years. As world citizens, we have more important things to focus on than tracking down our vintage Louis Vuitton luggage chests with LoJack.
If you insist on checking a bag, stick with something low-key like Samsonsite or Dadamo. Fancy, superfluous bags will make you a target…
“We become what we behold. We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.”
You need a bag. It keeps all of your crap from rolling about. If you are too cool to wear a backpack you can opt for a sleek and sexy shoulder strap bag, just keep in mind they aren’t nearly as sexy when you have to tote them through a huge airport or down the back alleys of a strange city.
This one may seem pretty simple, and it is, as long as you exercise good judgement when selecting a size.
Resist the urge to get a giant-monster-mega-bag! These will enable you to carry way too much stuff. Too much stuff is the enemy of peaceful travel. Get a small bag, and stock it with only the essentials.
You can purchase a local prepaid SIM card when you get to your destination. Depending on the purpose of my travel, I will get a few GB’s of data, but I will sometimes skip the phone entirely if I’m on vacation.
*NOTE* When traveling to third world countries I avoid taking the latest and greatest technology, as it is more likely to get stolen.You can get older phones on the cheap on eBay, or do like me and use an older phone you have laying around from a past upgrade.
I also have an über cheap Acer Chromebook. Sometimes I opt for the Chromebook when traveling to more remote locations (as noted above). It’s the epitome of a throw away computer, which is why I love it. If it were to get stolen or smashed I wouldn’t be nearly as bothered as if my precious MacBook met a similar fate. I got mine at Best Buy for $120 bucks. (Sweet!)
Ok so this is not exactly a gadget, but it as just as important. I started journaling a few years back, and have found it to be a great way of ridding my head of the swirling shadows of doubt, fear, and anxiety. I don’t do anything fancy, I just write down whatever is in my head for about 5 minutes as soon as I wake up. This seems to declutter my brain and help me focus.
Travel Charger Adapter
As with the metric system, some countries will try to be tricky and use weird ass outlets and electrical outputs (presumably just to piss you off). Carrying one of these with you will make you life a lot easier. If you forget, ask the hotel clerk if they have any extras, sometimes people forget and leave them behind. You can snag one for under five bucks on Amazon.
I have the Kindle Paperwhite model. I’m an avid reader, and although I was resistant to the “fake” book at first, I must now admit that I love it. It’s funny because the best thing about it is that you can’t do anything on it but read. No annoying ass bouncing icons to entice you to jump down the internet rabbit hole, no apps to waste time on social media. Just good old fashioned words. It’s much easier on my eyes than the iPad for reading. Bottom line, it’s freakin’ sweet.
Ethernet Cable & Thunderbolt Adapter
Because WiFi doesn’t always work…
I leave the iPad at home more often than not these days, but I figure it still deserves a place here. Before I got the lightweight Chromebook I would carry my iPad and Apple Bluetooth Keyboard. This is a great alternative to a laptop if you won’t be doing much other than email and web searches.
I’ve tried countless pairs, but in the end the standard issue Apple EarPods are my favorite. They always work, even after being washed or dropped in the mud, and they are the most comfortable to me for long term use. I am looking forward to Apple coming out with some Bluetooth earbuds though… *hint hint.
If I’m carrying a smart phone, or traveling somewhere I think will be particularly ugly and lame, I will skip this item. But, more times than not, I will throw it in the carry on. My favorite is the Canon PowerShot SD1000. It’s lightweight, reliable, and very well designed. Like the Kindle, the good thing about digital cameras is that they don’t allow you to surf the web, or check email.
It is so important to have unplugged time every now and then. I’ll be the first to admit that I suck at this, so I make it a point to limit my options for connectivity at times. When taking a hike through the Amazon rainforest, or paddling a canoe in Phang Nga Bay, let the internet wait. You’ll be a better person because of it.
What island evening would be complete without some relaxing steel drum tunes floating through the air? Since a tiny palm-sized speaker is much more cost effective and portable than hiring my own reggae band, I take this puppy with me everywhere. The best I’ve found is the Soundmatters Dash7. It’s super lightweight and uses a pair of 25mm “twoofers” to crank out high-fidelity tones.
…..Because the sun is……sunny.
This tiny thing puts out a ton of light, and comes in handy more often than you’d expect when trying to find your way back to the hostel after the sun sets.
These things are awesome. They absorb up to 7 times their weight in water, and can be folded up to comfortably fit in a pants pocket. They’re also anti-odor and anti-microbial. Best of all they can double as a blanket, scarf,or sarong.
That concludes our break down of the top gadgets for the road, but before we part ways I’d like to leave you with some advice…
Set a Settling Budget
Like I said I pack light these days. But I wasn’t always that way. I used to suffer from “in case I need it syndrome.” Hiking boots in case I go for a hike, dress shirt in case I go out to a fancy dinner, sun screen in case I’m outside a lot…. If you pack like this you’ll find yourself needing to rent a camel in no time.
I suggest you instead set a budget (for me it’s usually $50-$200) for anything you might need once you reach your destination. Having a budget is important, even if your not tight on cash, because you give yourself pre-permission to forget a necessity or two. I’ve found this practice to reduce anxiety and dramatically improve the quality of my trips.
Plus, finding shaving creme or a cell phone charger in an exotic location can prove to be a fun adventure all its own.
Remember, You Can Rent or Borrow it There
Following along the lines of the settling budget, remember that whatever attraction you’re visiting, you will be able to rent or borrow whatever you need once you arrive. Planning a hiking or camping adventure? No need to bring your tent from 2,000 miles away.
I’ve found, almost without exception, that equipment rental is available for a fraction of the cost of buying it at home and hefting it around the world.
What are your favorite essential gadgets and must-pack tools?