Here is the whole list of things I have found necessary in various situations. I will go them through more carefully later in the article.
Down/synthetic jacket – Patagonia
Passport holder – Bellroy Passport Sleeve
Headlight – Petzl Tikka XP+
Fast drying thin hoodie
Wallet with chain
Cheap digital watch
Good small headphones
Small Leatherman tool
Residency country SIM
Extra credit/debit card
Small light lock
Extra US dollars
Minimalistic goretex jacket
I’ve had loads of different bottles but Nalgene bottle is my all time favourite choice for long time travelling. You really need one, it’s much better for everyone (including earth) to horde less plastic bottles and buy only fill ups instead. Here are the facts that make Nalgene the best water container around:
- One litre size is ideal for backpacking and traveling. It’s big enough that you don’t have to fill it after a couple of sips and it’s small enough to be carried around with ease. If you use water purification tablets, they almost always work on one litre bottles. One tab per litre.
- You can pour boiling water into it. It’s also BPA free so it has no nasty chemicals. It’s also almost non-destructible design.
- Wide mouth design is super easy to fill up from stream and to keep clean. Just right amount of threads (0.75 rounds) for fast opening.
- It has measure table in millilitres – very handy when cooking dried trekking meals.
!! This is important !! Buy the transparent model, that’s the only one that has any real value in wilderness when you have to check the quality of water from the streams.
The only weakness Nalgene has is that it’s a bitch to drink in a bumpy SUV or a bus. You’ll spill all over yourself until you figure out the technique. It’s handy to use it with carabiner. Don’t buy the cheapest ones. They will break eventually.
Another good choice would be Klean Canteens Classic steel bottle with steel cap. Downsides are that the size is wrong for water purification pills and it’s harder to clean because of narrower design. The good thing is that in extreme situations you can boil the water straight in the fire.
No matter where you go you will get cold at some point. Down jacket is a must when climbing mountains or any highlands, traveling many different countries on same trip or even taking a freezing overnight bus in Asia. Here is the catch: down jacket has the best value for size and weight for warmth. There are also jackets with synthetic insulations. They are almost as warm as the down ones but work much better if they get soaked. Here are some things worth noticing:
- Get the basic model with low weight and minimalistic design
- Hoodie models are better for they are warmer
- Down comes in many qualities, higher the fill power number the more it compresses. The warmth ratio will stay the same. Choose anything between 650 and 850 and you are fine. 900+ might be even too fine as it may trap moisture more easily
!!! Important !!! Don’t wash it in 3 dollar laundry. Actually, never wash it while traveling. You need specific down washing solution for it anyways and there is no point carrying it with you.
You can also use down jacket as a pillow on long bus rides and flights.
Patagonia makes good down jackets and their down is ethical. Also their synthetic Primaloft insulation is top-notch.
What’s your most valued item when traveling? Your passport. You want to value and protect it. Here is a protector that stands (out in a good way). High quality leather and proper craftmanship.
It can hold:
- Two extra credit cards (more if you stack them)
- One standard sized passport
- Flight tickets, international vaccines certification
- It also has superhandy tiny ballpoint pen for immigration and customs papers
Whatever you, do you need light. I’ve had many headlights and Petzl Tikka RXP (here is the new model) is by far the best I’ve owned. You can trust these ones with your life. It’s handy to have rechargeable headlight so you don’t have to carry extra batteries around. One charge lasts weeks in normal use.
The best feature in this headlight is it’s reactive light mode that measures available light and adjusts light power automatically. It’s very useful in everyday situations and leaves both hands free for work. And it saves battery compared to “normal” models… a lot.
- Superbright LED for extreme visibility
- 190 hour battery
- Rechargable lithium battery
- Rainproof design
The only downside I have found is that if you pack it too tight in you backpack, it sometimes might switch on… major flaw but it’s pretty much the same problem with all headlights.
Other really good choice would be Black Diamond ReVolt headlight. It has one major advantage over Petzl Tikka XP+, you can use both regular and rechargable batteries with this one. It not a feature that you really need if you stay usually within power grid, but for extreme folk it’s a must.
If I had to choose one cloth for deserted island this would be it. Model doesn’t really matter as long as it’s fast drying, has long sleeves and comes with a hood. Mine is from Under Armour. It’s actually really good quality. After one year of traveling it still looks like new. Try to avoid the ones with flashy colors. The cheaper it looks the better.
Wallet pouch with chain
Be safe and use a wallet that is attached to your clothes somehow. It’s way harder to steal that way. And don’t keep it in your backpocket. Try to keep one hand on the wallet in extreme crowds such as in rush hour busses. Only carry the amount of cash you need for the day or the maximum your travel insurance will cover. Don’t carry credit or debit cards with you. They will get skimmed at some point no matter how careful you are.
The best way to get around is not your phone but a tiny compass. It’s really easy to get disoriented in big cities or middle of jungle but with small compass you’ll always know which way you are heading. Life saver and weights only like 10 grams.
Suunto has the best one. It comes with a clip so it’s easy to attach to a watch or to you wallet for example.
I wouldn’t go for the cheap ones. Suunto is very reputable Finnish brand. They know their stuff. Keep in mind that there two types of compasses around. One for northern hemisphere and other for southern.
Sometimes it’s really vital to know what the time it is and if your cellphone is dying, cheap digital watch is the best choice. It should be rainproof, back illuminated and minimal in design so it doesn’t attract bad guys. I have this one and it works pretty damn well. You can also save your emergency and contact information into it.
The only downside is that if you are sleeping in noisy environment the alarm sound might not be strong enough to wake you up. I heard Suunto watches have pretty loud alarm sound. Check them out as well. They are wayy more expensive though.
The only way to sleep in dormitories, busses and noisy places in general. Actually I have been using these over ten years every night. Guarantees good night sleep.
Bilson 303S (S for small, L for very large ear canals) small ear plugs fits most.
Unbeatable price value.
Worth gold in weight and will save you from boredom on looong bus rides. You want to get a pair that will also block some of the background noise as well. I have never used noise cancelling ones, but I don’t think they are worth investing… I’ve had many headphones, both in-ear and regular, but the best ones for traveling and the ones I have at the moment are Bower & Wilkins C5 S2. They are a bit expensive but the music quality is outstanding. Built quality is also very good, I have sat on them accidentally for hours and even stepped on them and they are still fine… the only downside besides the price is that they are a bit bigger and might not fit very small ears. Try to check them out before buying.
If your ears can’t stand in-ear headphones, take a look at Bose QC25 headphones. Even though they are really expensive they are great for traveling. They block steady background noise pretty damn well. Excellent choice for airplanes.
The only multitool you need. Especially can opener and pliers are very usefull when you really need them. Also knife might come handy at some point. Go for the light models and choose one that suits your budget.
I have Leatherman Kick but since it’s obsolete, I would pick something like this if I were you Leatherman – Squirt PS4.
Resident country SIM
This is actually very important. Do not throw away your old SIM-card at the airport even though you think you won’t need it anymore. You will need it for confirming suspicious (but legit) bank transactions. I lost mine and it has been a huge problem.
Extra credit/debit card
Your card can get skimmed or stolen. It’s a bitch to transfer money constantly through Western Union and getting a new card sent to you takes time. It’s best to have two cards just in case.
There will be times when you need it – for dormitory lockers, beachside bungalows and storing your stuff during extreme activities. It really doesn’t have to be very sturdy, even a small lock is fine. All the locks are breakable if needed. It’s just a matter of principal in the end.
Extra US dollars
It’s the most used currency around the world and has better exchange rates than Euros for example. Keep in mind that some countries such as Myanmar only accept pristine and latest USDs so go to your local bank and change your money especially for Asian countries.
Blocks wind and rain. Very handy and packs well. Excellent and extremely warm combo with down jacket. Buy as minimalist and lightweight design as possible. Only one chest pocket is enough. Hood is a must. Remember that no Goretex jacket is 100% waterproof and will leak in torrential rain sooner or later. The only fabric that is 100% waterproof is rubber and plastic raincover. Get one for serious trekking during rainy season. If you don’t know how to make fire in pouring rain you’ll be in trouble without proper raingear. For anything else Goretex is good enough.
I have this one and I have been pretty happy with it.
What not to bring:
Here are also some things you won’t need. Don’t take them with you, they will only add extra weight and make you miserable in a long run.
Absolutely useless. Takes huge amount of space and takes ages to dry up. Use tiny cotton towel, or as a girl, big fast drying towel such as this.
Too much extra weight and someone will steal it eventually. The thing is that if you have many people hanging around, someone else will have a speaker and you can enjoy that one. Otherwise a cellphone in a mug is good enough replacement.
The most stupid thing I have ever carried with me. Completely useless. Most of the times you won’t even find a proper table to use it on. When traveling with laptop you’ll use it on your lap or on bed 99% of the time. Not worth bothering.
When you wear the same clothes (t-shirts, pants, shoes) constantly for a long time they will get destroyed. They will have nasty stains, get ripped in a local laundry or just disappear. Buy them cheap and look cheap. The cheaper your clothes look, the safer you are in along run.
Jewelry or expensive watch
Absolutely useless while traveling. Will attract thieves and beggars like flies. Also you might get hurt more easily if someone tries to get them by force.
When mosquitos are a problem also the locals know about it and will use mosquito nets. If your room doesn’t have one, you can ask and hosts will very probably deliver it. If not, change place. I used to carry one for months back in the days and used it only once. The only reason I would be carry one again is if I would sleep in a hammock outside.
Too clumsy and bulky for traveling. The inflatable ones will break sooner or later and the cheap ones are impossible to fix. Use you down jacket as a pillow.
Too many clothes
Handwash them as often as possible. Take only the clothes you need. All the extra clothes are just extra weight. Buy new ones on the go if you really need.
Torch is useless when you have a good headlight. Headlight frees your hands.
It’s such a big trouble to even find a bank that accepts them. To cash them you pay at least 10% – 20% extra. Not worth the trouble.
For thieves it’s the easiest place to find fast cash. They are usually have clips which are super easy to open. Not worth the risk. They also look stupid.
Too much makeup
Girls don’t wear make-up in tropics when traveling. Get used to it. You are beautiful without.
They will get trashed. I have been laughing so hard watching girls stumble in ankle deep mud with white Cons. They will never recover.
Lonely Planet books
Buy PDF:s instead. Buy only the chapters you need. Lonely Planet has really lost its meaning when Wi-Fis are available worldwide.
So that’s it! Enjoy your adventures!
And one more thing…. if you find yourself carrying things you don’t need, ditch it. Some local will be happy to keep care of it for you. Peace.