When we tell people we are carrying everything we own with us, they often ask us what we have. What are our essential items? Below we have created a list of all the items we take with us and consider “can’t live without.” We have accumulated these over the years; in our case our hobbies of hiking and backpacking complimented our careers as wildlife biologists so many of these items we initially picked up for work. Our firm belief is if you are going to buy something, buy it right. Make it a quality object that will last you years and pay itself off many times over in the long run. So if you were to go out and try to assemble all this gear in one day, you probably wouldn’t have any money left for a trip. But that doesn’t mean you should let the sticker shock stop you from piecing your own gear list together slowly and over time. Just focus on what works for you when it works for you. The rest will come in time.
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Table of contents:
The art of packing is a craft that spans the centuries. Our hunter gather ancestors were able to move around on foot covering hundreds of miles and yet nowadays we can’t manage to take a trip for the weekend without a checked bag, a carry-on, and a backpack we’re trying to write off as a personal item. Having too much luggage can cost you more money, slows you down, and is just an overall pain in the arse. That said, we’ve provided a list below of items we use to make hauling everything around the world as painless as possible. One of the biggest tips I keep in mind is to pack like I am only going for a long weekend, and then buy anything that I find myself absolutely needing later.
Selecting a backpacking pack is a very personal, and sometimes tedious, decision. The main points to look for in a pack are the size (volume of the bag), adjustability, and weight. These three aspects will play the biggest role in your future comfort wearing the pack and should be considered with care. We used these guidelines in selecting our own packs, which are the Men’s Osprey Aether 60L and the Women’s Osprey Ariel 65L.
We found this to be a topic that warranted its own post, which you can find in our Travel Gear Blog section, if you want more information. We also included a video in that post about how to properly fit your bag to you once you’ve purchased it.
Carry-on bag (rolling)
Necessity breeds invention, or in this instance consumerism. We were traveling from New Zealand to England and discovered the airline we were flying was going to charge us an insane amount for our checked luggage based on weight. We knew we needed to cut costs quickly, and the best option we could think of was with a larger carry-on than our small Osprey Daylight backpacks. Quick research led us to the Kathmandu 30L Hybrid Trolley; a mix of a roller suitcase and backpack. The option to wheel the bag while in the airport or put it on as a backpack if needed on crowded streets was a major selling point for us. The size was also perfect, as at 30L it fits almost all airline requirements for carry-on luggage and is spacious enough to be easily used as your only bag on shorter trips. It’s interior is well thought out with sizable pockets for storage and straps to keep items in place when having to open you bag for security checks. The bags material appears durable and the handle length is a comfortable height for both of us; however, if you are a taller person (over 6’) it may be a bit short for you. Even though we sort of stumbled on this bag by accident it is exactly what we had been wanting in a carry-on and can’t recommend it highly enough.
Compression sacks and/or stuff sacks are great for organization inside a bag, but I have also seen people go way overboard with them to where they become a hindrance. You don’t want to add so many bags that it starts becoming cumbersome or a significant part of your weight. Trial and error is really the best way to determine the right number of bags for you. Most of the sacks we have, Jared picked up at thrift stores over the years. Little free giveaway promotion bags get circulated and eventually end up in a box or basket at the thrift store, where you can pick them up sometimes for less than a dollar. We both use a larger stuff sack to hold socks and underwear, then we use a smaller one to hold parachute cord and straps, another to hold toiletries, another to stuff a micropuff into, etc… If you don’t have time to hunt for deals, don’t worry about it. You can always look for used or new ones on Amazon or Ebay. Also, try to get at least one bag that is waterproof. This dry sack can be used for clothes, a sleeping bag, or whatever you really don’t want getting wet, as this can be a little peace of mind in case your bag gets soaked.
My first camera case was an 80’s waist pouch for my DSLR. It worked great for several years, but as I invested more money into camera equipment and after the following incident, I decided to put a little more money into protecting my gear. I had just arrived in New Zealand and had purchased a new Sony a6000. I had packed the camera in the 80’s pouch inside my carry-on. While hauling my luggage to customs my carry-on fell off the luggage trolley and smashed the camera lens. I was glad I had purchased multiple forms of insurance on the camera beforehand, but it took three months to finally get the camera repaired. After that, I decided it was time to buy a Pelican case (I even lucked out by finding one on sale). It’s waterproof, drop proof, and nearly indestructible. I chose the Pelican 1400 because it fit my entire kit perfectly, and is small enough I can classify it as a personal item so I can take it in addition to my carry-on item. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to protect his or her gear. I’ve dreamed about these cases for years, and in a silly way once I finalized the layout in mine I felt like I had leveled up my photography.
We both use the same luggage locks, the REI Co-op Double Cable Lock and a set of the TSA Mini-Padlocks (package of 2). The double cable lock we only use when we are traveling by train or bus. We lock our bags together, and maybe to a nearby rail if one is handy, as the small loop makes it virtually impossible to lock them to much else. We use this lock mainly as a tactic to slow people down since having to snag both of our bags would be rather cumbersome. The TSA Mini-padlocks are nice to secure the backpack zippers together making it that much harder to for someone unzip and slip a hand in our bags while in crowds.
Get used to wearing the same thing more than once, or twice, more like 5 times in a row. When you pack light you have to be concise on what you need in terms of function and get creative on what an item can do beside just the obvious. We make our clothes work by picking pieces that are versatile and multi-purpose. Be creative, you’ll be amazed at how many outfit options you have with a limited number of clothing items.
I (Sera) bring two jackets, a Patagonia Nano Puff and Columbia 3-to-1 Interchange, with me as I tend to run cold. The puff functions as an outer-layer in warm-moderate temperatures. It’s compact-ability and warmth makes it ideal for travel and day hikes. In cold or inclement weather however, the Columbia outperforms the puff. It is comprised of an Omni-sealed wind/waterproof outer shell, and a warm, water-repellent liner that combine to make three jackets in one giving it a range of versatility. Unfortunately, this does make it bulky and heavy compared to the puff, which is its major detriment. If it were lighter and more compact I likely would only take it and leave the Patagonia behind.
I (Jared) initially brought a Patagonia Nano Puff and Marmot rain jacket with me. The nano puff is my go to in all forms of weather. I have had to stop using the Marmot rain jacket because it barely functions. If there is more than a light drizzle of rain lasting longer than five minutes I get soaked through the coat. I’m not sure if this particular jacket is defective, or all of Marmot’s rain jackets are like this, but either way I don’t recommend them unless you don’t mind getting wet.
We will be dividing this section up between us as we both have different pant requirements.
I (Sera) pack a maximum of five pairs of pants that I chose based on how I could get the most uses out of them. I bring one pair of jeans, one pair of hiking pants, and three pairs of leggings. I can wear my jeans (Gap boot leg) as a dressed-up pair of pants or hiking on a cold day. My official hiking pants (REI Sahara Roll-up) are great on hot days or when it’s raining since they are made from a lightweight, quick dry material. By being adjustable and rolling up I can also wear them as shorts in a pinch. Leggings can function as everyday wear, sleepwear, workout gear, or layers in the cold. I have a pair of thinner leggings for hotter climates and thicker for colder. In addition to my pants I have two pairs of shorts; one is a cotton pair and the other a pair of surf shorts. I use these as needed in hot weather and can mix in the lightweight leggings when I need a break from the sun.
I (Jared) bring three pairs of pants: a pair of hiking pants, sweats, and a pair of jeans. That should get a man through anything. In addition to pants, I carry one pair of Patagonia board shorts and a pair of hiking shorts. The Patagonia board shorts are probably my favorite article of clothing. I was initially hesitant about buying them due to the sticker shock, but a friend who owned a pair convinced me they were a worthy investment. I’ve never looked back. They’ve the only pair of board shorts I’ve owned in two years and they are still holding up great.
The most important aspect about buying underwear for travel is to pick something quick drying. This is important not just from a hygienic/comfort stance, but because sometimes you have to wash them in a sink and don’t have days for them to dry out. You want to buy products with the main component being nylon and spandex. Under Amor make great underwear. Jared also likes to take a couple of pairs of cotton boxers for sleeping.
Our experience with soggy, blistered, uncomfortable feet has made us more selective in our socks. We find that a lightweight wool or wool blend can provide comfort while avoiding the itchy, hot feeling wool socks are notorious for. The thicker material protects ankles and toes from blisters, but is thinner and cooler than traditionally bulky, all wool socks. My preference is Patagonia Lightweight Merino Hiking Crew Socks or Darn Tough Micro Crew Socks; while Jared favors Smartwool socks. All of these brands have proven themselves comfortable, didn’t cause rashy feet, are breathable, and hold up after multiple wears in boots. We each bring three-four pairs them and three pairs of cotton ankle socks, for running shoes and casual day walking.
Having cold feet gets old, and having to struggle to put your boots on in the dark when you have to pee while camping can be a pain. That is why we now always bring house-shoes (slippers). Look for a pair that has a sturdy sole that can work both indoors and outdoors. I have a pair of Dearfoam slippers I picked up from Costco; Jared’s are a pair from Smart Wool he bought about six years ago. Again, going to show that quality products last.
We love sandals. You don’t have to explain the value and comfort of tossing on a pair of flip-flops and taking off. However we like arch support in ours since we are often wearing them all day long and plain rubber ones don’t make the cut in that area. Jared has a pair of Chaco Z/2 Classic Sandals he scored at an REI sale. These are great because they provide a ton of arch support, can easily be worn for day hikes and can get wet with no issues. I have a pair of OluKai Pau flip-flops that give great support and the leather has never given me blisters. The major downside to these is they are leather so getting them wet isn’t a wise option.
When you are choosing hiking boots we recommend selecting a pair that provides ankle support, arch support, and are waterproof (because waterlogged feet are the worst). You don’t want to risk a sprained ankle in the backcountry if you don’t have to, and you never know where a puddle or stream crossing may be hiding. I have the Women’s Vasque Talus WP Hiking Boots while Jared has the Men’s Oboz Bridger BDry Hiking Boots. We have liked our respective boots so much that when our pair inevitably wears out we buy the exact same ones as replacements. Can’t do much better than that in my opinion.
Sunglasses or Sunnies
We both use and highly recommend buying sunglasses, “sunnies”, with polarized lenses. Polarized lenses allow you to see objects more clearly by cutting the glare and reducing the effects of UV lights. We still want to be able to see the world when we are in our 70s. Jared has a pair of Happy Lens from Spy, while I wear Peppers from REI. Proper fitting glasses can be tricky to find, so pick whatever style fits you. Our choices cover a range of price options; so don’t feel like only the expensive brands work.
There are many options out there from those with braided fibers so you can insert the clothes in them, to lines with suction cups on the end so you can hang them in the shower. Some are gimmicks and some I am sure come in handy from time to time. However, from a minimalist and multipurpose standpoint, we find that parachute cord can serve not just as a clothesline, but also to hang up tarps in rain for shelter or in the sun for shade. Parachute cord is light, cheap, and packs down very small, and since it is multipurpose we avoid having the duplicate clothesline. It can be picked up at any camping or military surplus store, or you can order it online. If you have no experience with tying knots to hang your line we have a handy tutorial video you can find here. (INSERT KNOT TYING VIDEO LINK)
This is not a tech review website. We only included this portion because we include electronics in our travel gear kit and wanted to be as honest in what we pack as we can be. It isn’t our aim to compare different products or make recommendations based on any industry standards. All the items we list below are ones we personally use because they meet our personal preferences. So please use your own discretion if you decide to add a device to your gear lists. Ask yourself what you need, and don’t buy below or too far above that criterium.
This opens the Apple vs. Windows debate that we don’t want to get into. Choose a computer and operating system that works for you. We have a 13” MacBook Air that we love because it is lightweight and durable. Plus I (Sera) am not much of a computer person so I personally find Apple’s user interface more intuitive than Windows products. A laptop can be very cumbersome to travel with if it’s large, so unless you absolutely need one we recommend leaving it at home when you go. That said, if you are living on the road full time and are already traveling with a heavier kit, the larger keyboard, processor, and display are great for blogging and photo/video editing.
I am passing this one over to Jared as he does most of the photography for the site:
I am a little bit of a geek when it comes to cameras. I will likely write a post for each of these in the future; but here I will attempt to provide a brief overview of the cameras I use. Right now I carry three cameras with us, five if you count our iPhones (I don’t). I use a Fujifilm x100s, a Sony a6000, and a Sony RX100. They all serve their purposes in their own ways based on their individual strengths. The X100s is stylish, does fantastic in low light situations, and the image quality is superb. I carry this one with me for street photography when traveling in cities, and is so good looking it can be used as an accessory. The a6000 has an incredibly fast shutter for action and wildlife, has a low cost underwater housing so I can take it snorkeling, diving, and paddle boarding with no worries, and it has a great timelapse app in it for shooting movement in beautiful landscape and night scenes. Both of these cameras are great, but they don’t fit in my pocket. For ultra-portability without sacrificing much quality, I use the Sony RX100. The video is even outstanding. Sony has come out with 5 versions since they released this model in 2012, and all of the members of this series are top-notch. I finally figured out that I need more than one camera for my purposes. I searched for one that could do it all, but for me it just didn’t exist. I may move back up to a bigger, heavier DSLR one day, but while I am traveling, these three suit my needs quite well.
Tablets are great to take while traveling! Generally they are small and lightweight, but more powerful than simply a smart phone. A tablet can flow between being your book, computer, and phone. There are a lot of great tablets on the market right now with a range of prices to fit most any budget. If you don’t have one it isn’t the end of the world, but we find ours a must in our gear list. Jared has an iPad mini because he enjoys using his for gaming as well as other tablet features, but I would be interested in trying out a Kindle Reader in the future.
Having an unlocked phone can be a trip saver. Many cellular companies today sell cheap SIM cards that can be tossed in your phone with a few pre-paid minutes and some data. Most smart phones are offered in an international version and we recommend you get that on your next upgrade if you don’t already have that version. If you don’t have a smart phone stop by a store or check amazon and pick up a cheap, for lack of a better term, “burner phone” to use on the trip. Many times you can get the same cheap pre-paid options with these phones. While you won’t have data, and all that entails, you will have something in case of emergencies or to use to make reservations and such. A perk of a non-smart phone is the battery generally lasts longer, meaning you aren’t dependent on daily charging.
Headphones are another instance of different strokes for different folks. A simple search reveals in-ear, over-ear, wireless, noise canceling, sport, with a mic, without a mic, and on and on. Obviously personal preference should be the deciding factor. We will make one comment on a product we don’t recommend, that most people seem to be in love with: Bose noise canceling headphones. They are large, heavy, and gave us both motion sickness. Instead, we recommend the Bose Soundsport Wireless headphones. Jared has a pair that he is crazy about. He also has a backup in-ear pair for when/if they die and long flights. I have a cheap pair of in-ear Skull Candy earbuds that take up basically no space whatsoever and the sound quality is good. However, on those longer flights or at work I often wish I had a pair for over the ears, as I find my ears start to ache after having something in them for a few hours.
Headlamps should be a critical component in your travel set. In a world where we rely heavily on electronic devices to function as flashlights be reminded that these have limited battery life. An old fashioned headlamp/torch can be a lifesaver. We had an instance where the power went out in a hotel we were staying in and we had to use our headlamps the entire night (if interested, you can read more on that hilarious experience here). So they aren’t just meant for camping. Choose one that has an adjustable headband and if possible with a red-light function. This comes in handy when you want to look for wildlife at night but not spook them off! I use a Petzl, which ran me around $20. Jared had a Petzl for ten years, lost it and bought a Black Diamond. It only lasted him a year and a half. He is returning to Petzl because it is smaller, lighter, the batteries last longer, and is more durable.
There are so many free apps/programs available for communication, and here is a list of the ones we use most often: Viber, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and iMessage. Obviously if you or whoever you’re trying to talk to doesn’t have an Apple product iMessage isn’t for you. I use both Viber and WhatsApp with my friends back home and abroad. They’re great as all you need is an Internet connection and you can send texts/videos to people all over the globe and can also make phone calls to people in your contact list for free. We don’t spend much time on Facebook but the Messenger app can be helpful in keeping in touch with those friends who don’t have Viber or Whatsapp, or those who don’t use smartphones or tablets (yes, those people do still exist). If privacy is a concern to you check out Signal or WhatsApp. I haven’t personally tried Signal but have had it recommended to me.
With so many free or inexpensive camera apps on the market we wanted to provide more in-depth information. Keep posted for a blog post with more details on this coming soon.
The two e-reader apps we use are Kindle and iBooks. Both are free and make purchasing, downloading, and reading books on a device seamless. The popularity of e-books means there isn’t a shortage of titles, and you can even check out books through the library on-line as an e-book! Sites like BookBub offer daily discounts on e-books, including free books, and you can keep track of your book list on apps like Goodreads. Additionally there are sites like Audible where you can download audiobooks if reading isn’t your favorite pastime. You do have to pay a monthly subscription fee with Audible, but they offer a free trail period to new users with a one free download. I’m sure there are plenty of others, so if you have any you prefer let us know in the comments section please.
Toiletries, sadly, are a must. They’re heavy, can spill all over the contents of your bag, and if not pulled out of your carry-on can result in a cavity search if you aren’t lucky. But that said they are nice when you want to feel so fresh and so clean clean. Tempting as it may be, don’t leave them off your list.
These can be picked up anywhere and really any of them will suffice. For example, I’ve nabbed them at a pharmacy in an airport before because I had a bottle of chocolate liqueur I wanted to bring home with me but no checked luggage. Make sure they are a maximum of 3oz and you can fit them all in a quart sized Ziplock bag. For a birthday I received the GoToob Bottle set of 3 that I travel with all the time. They have never leaked once on me, even the one with the broken lid (Jared dropped on the tile) has held up. They are a bit spendy, but I highly recommend them, as they are durable and lightweight. Plus the colors make it easier to differentiate between what’s in each bottle.
Towels are tricky, you obviously want to take one with you but how do you keep them from taking up an entire bag? I actually take two towels with me and let me explain how/why. My go to for drying off is the REI MultiTowel in small. There are many different size options with this particular towel, but I chose the small because it is so small and dries me off as well as a larger towel would. Plus it can be used for drying dishes when you’re in the backcountry. I also bring a Turkish towel with me, which I use as a mix of beach towel, cover-up, hair wrap, and scarf when needed. Both are lightweight and dry very quickly. You could easily just get a larger size of the MultiTowel and only use that, but I like the versatility the Turkish towel offers and justify taking both as they complement each other.
We scrimp on a lot of aspects of our lives, but we don’t when it comes to dental hygiene. I’d much prefer to spend a little more on a good toothbrush than fillings in the future. For this reason we lug around our electronic Phillips Sonicare toothbrushes, including a charger. They are heavy and take up precious space but the way they keep our teeth clean is worth it. You don’t want to try to meet people if you are worried about having funky breath. We bought the package set with two brushes from Costco about 2 years ago and I will never go back to a non-electric toothbrush again. P.S. don’t forget to floss! We recommend Oral-B’s Glide Pro-Health Comfort Floss. If you have sensitive gums, or don’t enjoy floss breaking apart in-between your teeth, give this a try. They even have a mint flavor!!
Scissors can come in handy in a multitude of ways. I use a small pair to cut my nails, they can be useful in removing tags or cutting frayed strings, or if you find yourself drunk one night and decide to cut your husbands beard you won’t need to use the dull, rusty kitchen scissors from the apartment you’re in mangling the job! Scissors have no shortage of uses and should be included in your kit. Just don’t forget to put them in a checked bag as TSA LOVES to take them. Apparently they too see the merit in having a pair around 😉
An obvious one, but don’t forget your earplugs. These will save your sanity on a 10hr overnight flight with a baby on board. Or in a hostel with a bunch of 18yr olds when you’re way too old to actually be staying there but simultaneously too cheap to find better lodging. If you have sensitive ear canals look for different sized earplugs that you can wear comfortably. Hearos are a really popular brand if you do decide you want to buy some. And if you don’t, keep the free ones they give you on the plane. Worst comes to worst create some out of tissues or toilet paper.
We are wildlife biologists so travel binoculars are a no-brainer as part of our travel gear. If you don’t like looking at wildlife they can also come in handy if you find yourself wanting to creep on a wedding happening at the same hotel you are staying in. Or so we hear…Jared uses a pair of Pentax DCF LV 9×28 while I have a set of Bushnell Trophy 10×28. Both are lighter and more compact than the ones we use for work, but still allow us to see whatever it is we are searching for.
It may seem like a daypack could be a somewhat redundant item, what with bringing a backpacking pack, a backpack/roller hybrid carry-on and maybe even a small bag, but they are worth packing. They make day hikes, and day trips around the city, much more comfortable since you have something to pack snacks, a water bottle, and whatever else you need for the day. We both have Osprey Daylite packs as they are small but there is plenty of space inside the pack, there is room for a bladder in the back or side pockets for traditional water bottles, and it has enough pockets to hold your smaller items without being a labyrinth. The one downside is that when you set the bag down the water bottles have a tendency to fall out, but this is easily fixed by using one of the side straps through the bottle lid.
Taking a paddleboard with you is a double-edged sword. They are heavy (the smaller one alone weighs in at 17kg), cumbersome, and now you have to drag the thing around behind you when you’re traveling. Which sucks a lot of the time. But since you have to check the bag anyway you can toss your clothes in and not need a second bag often; and when you do find places to paddle they are 100% worth the hassle. I have a Red Paddle Co 10’6” Ride and Jared has their 12’6” Explorer. We chose Red Paddle Co because their boards were the best we had tried, and they are able to inflate/ride very closely to traditional SUPs. We’ve recommended them to friends at home who have purchased some and love them, however we did notice some small differences between the 2015 and 2016 models. Be sure to check which year has the features you’re after before buying.
Here is a brief intro to choosing between a down or synthetic sleeping bag. Synthetic sleeping bags are often cheaper, can keep you warm even if they get wet, and are generally odor resistant, but as a downside tend to be a little heavier. Down on the other hand is very light, and now with lightweight waterproof shells on them they can still keep you dry in the event of a leak in your pack or tent. They do however tend to pick up a bit of an odor and as a result require a little more maintenance. We both use down bags since we want the lighter weight. Sera is tiny and as a result she gets cold easily, so she carries a Kelty Cosmic Down 0° bag that has kept her toasty warm on all our trips. I carry a REI Igneo waterproof down bag that I have been very happy with. In colder climates I can turn up the heat by sleeping in thermals and using a Mummy Liner. In warmer weather we use a Coolmax liner and leave our bags unzipped a little. A Mummy Liner is also nice to have when you are staying in hotels or hostels. We have slept inside them when the bedding situation where we were staying lacked cleanliness.
Finding safe drinking water can be a concern in many parts of the world and in the backcountry. It isn’t feasible to pack gallons of water with you in these instances so bringing along a water filter is your best option. We use the Sawyer Mini Water Filtration System and take it with us whenever we might need to filter water. It has a hollow fiber membrane filter that make it impossible for bacteria, protozoa, or cysts to pass through into your drinking water. The filters can be washed and reused, and they don’t require iodine or other chemicals, which is a major bonus. The MINI size is small and portable, but they have a variety of filter systems depending on your personal needs. You let gravity do all the work for you with this system so no pumping required, and the pouch allows you to filter water to save and take with you as you go. Another popular filter is the LifeStraw, which we haven’t tried but have friends who have used it. They found it awkward and somewhat impractical since you have to literally put the straw in the water and try to suck up fresh drinking water. They thought it took way too much effort to get water out, and the straw isn’t very long so you found yourself in some compromising situations to get a drink.
Small Multi Tool
As the name implies, a small multi-tool can be used for multiple purposes. They’re useful for filing rough edges when you drop your iPad, making small repairs on the go, and the security that you will always have a toothpick if you need it. Sera has a Classic Mini Swiss Army Knife by Victorinox while Jared prefers his Leatherman Squirt.
A reusable water bottle is invaluable. Most airlines now charge you for water and being dehydrated can really put a cramp in your day. Depending on what you want from your water bottle your options are endless. Many people today are crazy for the Hydroflask as it will keep your water cold for hours. The downside is the insulation required to keep the water cold in turn adds a lot of weight to your bottle. Jared uses a Platypus bladder and it is splendid! Since it is simply a plastic bladder the more you drink the lighter it gets. It won’t keep your water ice cold, but it beats having to carry around dead weight.
There is no shortage of ways to keep track of your travels with digital and paper journals. Paper notebooks come in virtually every size imaginable. Evernote, Microsoft Word, Google Pages, Notes, really anything you use to write with in turn can be used as a journal. Oddly, we found using the voice memo option on our phones was our favorite way to record things. Voice memos kept our memories more candid and we could capture our emotions more vividly.
You’ll find on the road that you may need to patch your clothes up from time to time. We travel with a sewing kit for this very reason. You can find travel size kits at places like Target or Walmart, or Amazon, that contain a few sewing needles, pins, and some thread to make quick repairs. It makes for a cheaper alternative than buying new clothes every time you get a small hole in something or lose a button.
Cooking is one of our favorite things to do, even when we travel. We’ve had countless meals with million dollar views that would have cost us hundreds in a restaurant, but instead ran us around $10 total. To save yourself money, and possibly indigestion, we suggest bringing along a few basic kitchen items. While obviously dining out while you travel is a must, it’s nice to know you can whip up something if need be.
Having a Leatherman or Swiss Army knife are great, but I don’t always want to use the same blade I cut a splinter out of my finger with to cut up my veggies for dinner that night. For this reason we have separate kitchen knives. I carry a Victorinox 4-inch paring spear point knife while Jared carries the the serrated blade version. We like having both serrated and smooth edged blades since cutting, chopping, mincing, etc. is easier with the proper blade for the job. Victorinox make quality knives at very affordable prices, and the small size makes both easily portable.
Coffee is virtually the only thing that gets me out of bed some days. And I don’t dare risk a bad cup on those mornings, so for that reason we always travel with our Aeropress. We love it so much we wrote an entire blog post about it, which you can check out in our blog section.
We like having our own on the go cutlery because we don’t like wasting plastic utensils. More and more people are using reusable water bottles, here’s to hoping the reusable utensils movement takes off soon too. Previously we had the Light My Fire 2-in-1 Spork, but one broke when we were stirring a single-serving yogurt. So I don’t recommend those. Now we have a To-Go Ware Repeat Reusable Bamboo Set. The set comes with a spoon, fork, knife, and chopsticks; all contained in a handy holster so nothing gets lost. We replaced the bamboo knives with our Victorinox knives in this holster keeping our entire kitchen cutlery set in one place. The bamboo is so light you hardly notice it and the chopsticks are surprisingly useful!
Realistically, this is an item you will only need if you plan to go camping or backpacking. While camp stoves today are lightweight and pack down surprisingly small, they aren’t something you need if you are planning a two-week trip to Italy. We were given our Trangia 25-8 HA stove as a wedding gift, and we love it. The big selling points of Trangia are you can customize your kit easily based on your needs and budget, the windshields allow you to use it even in heavy winds (we can testify to that personally), and with its spirit based fuel you don’t have to buy expensive iso-butane canisters. The fuel for these can be found in most countries at any grocery store as methylated spirits. The stoves elements are designed to nest inside each other and the ultra light aluminum keeps the weight down. It won’t boil your water in two minutes like a Jetboil, but we wouldn’t trade in our Trangia.
C.R.E.A.M. and ain’t nothing in this world for free. This means you will need a way to access all your hard earned money while abroad. You can avoid the copious fees banks love to charge you (i.e. ATM fees, international fees, transfer fees, etc.) by doing a little financial homework before you leave. We have provided a sort of cheat sheet list below to help you keep the banks from cheating you out of your own money while you’re traveling.
Please remember though, we aren’t financial advisors. Be sure to check with yours before you make any financial decisions. Neither the content or questions/comments below have been approved or authorized by bank advertisers. They are solely the opinion of the authors.
Travel Credit Card
Our go-to travel credit card is the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Back in 2014 we read a blog post from The Points Guy comparing different cards based on reward points. We highly recommend you check out his page for more information about the card options available, as he can give you much more detail on that subject than we can right now. Bare in mind, the card reward points game changes regularly and there could easily be a better card on the market at the moment. However, with its 2x the points on every dollar spent on travel and dining, it has made the most sense for us.
Travel Friendly Bank
When we started looking for a travel friendly bank our main criteria was a bank that didn’t charge us foreign transaction fees and would refund ATM fees. We had both been burned by these fees at our previous banks and didn’t want to repeat that mistake. This led us to Charles Schwab. Check out this great article from Nerd Wallet comparing different debit cards to find what works best for you.
For moving your money across borders, also known as international wire transfers, we highly recommend using Transferwise. This is an in-depth topic, so if you are interested in learning more about it check out our blog post discussing the details and benefits of Transferwise.