I love travel gear. In fact, I just love anything that carries out its function in a well-designed way (which is partly the reason I’m obsessed with tiny homes. But that’s another story). But I rarely spend money on specialized travel gear. $30 for packing cubes? I’d rather save the money and reuse some old toiletries bags I have lying around. They may not be quite as neat, but they do the job of organizing my clothes inside my backpack.
But sometimes, just sometimes, I buy something specifically designed for travel. Below are the things I’ve found most useful, and thus a worthwhile investment.
Multifunction head gear
I’ve always laughed at people who wear these superfluous, fashionable multifunction bandana thingies. And then somewhere in Patagonia I thought it might be a good idea to have a scarf that could easily fit in my pocket. So I bought one (cost ARS$35).
I haven’t really made use of the multiple styles you can wear these things in, and it doesn’t replace my regular scarf. But it has been a super balaclava against cold and dust, as well as a neck-warmer in chilly buildings.
Patagonia travel pants
These are probably the best thing I’ve ever bought in my entire life. Really.
I’ve never had anything made by Patagonia before (mostly because it’s bloody expensive). However, when I saw these roll-up, quick-dry pants for sale in an outlet village in Maine for $50 I couldn’t resist (especially since my previous pair of go-to travel pants had just about worn out).
Why I love them: they dry really fast, they’re wrinkle-free, they’re made of a really light, comfy material which, to some extent, repels water (although they’re not waterproof), they look really nice (not as if I’m about to go trekking), and they convert to 3/4 lengths.
Okay, so I’m obviously trekking here. But you can see how these pants could be worn around town without looking so much like a tourist who got lost on safari. Also, check out that awesome foldable backpack and rain jacket (see below).
I already have a really nice daypack, but it has a big frame which stops it from being easily packable. So, these backpacks from Eastern Mountain Sports, which fold inside themselves to pack down small and light, seemed just perfect for our trip. And so far they’ve been great. They actually fit a lot in them (30 litres) so we’ve used them for multi-day trips when everyone else had to carry a half-empty giant backpack. [My rain jacket also folds up inside itself. See, I told you I love these kind of things.]
Slip on shoes
Jon bought these at EMS, for about $40 and he’s loved wearing them. Because they’re cloth, they fold down really flat making it easy to slide into a small space in your backpack. After almost 6 months of daily use they’re beginning to show wear and tear, but will still last for a while longer.
USB travel charger
I was actually given this thing ages ago, but never used it much before. There are various plug types which slide on to make it compatible with most sockets you’ll encounter while travelling. Although it’s meant as an iPod charger, anything with a USB can make use of it (my camera, for instance). And the cable is pretty long so it’s nice for charging your device whilst lying in bed.
I’d wanted one of these for ages and finally bought a medium size one for $14, just before setting off for South America. Previously, I’ve just used a regular towel cut in half, but this TekTowel is so much better. It dries fast and takes up only a little space in my pack. Enough said.
Dried garlic flakes, chili and oregano. They’ve been our savior in badly-stocked hostel kitchens (especially in Argentina, where nothing is spicy enough). We carried them around in their little plastic bags inside a small tupperware – easy to slip in our backpack, and easy to use in preparing all sorts of meals.