Whether you’re spending a week backcountry or going on a trip around the world you may need to take some gear that can make your traveling easier and more enjoyable. Because let’s face it, unless you’re MacGyver, having a ball-point pen and a paper clip will only get you so far. The enclosed list contains a few essential items I’ve taken with me on my travels and can be useful on yours.
Fenix brand flashlights are known for their high quality and high lumen output in a small package. I have the LD22 that uses two AA batteries and provides a blinding output of 215 Lumens. Perfect for a surprise exploration of a pitch-black abandoned underground army cave, the power goes out or if you’re on an unlit street at night. Attachments such as a diffuser lens, diffuser tip for a lantern-like 360 degree light, red filter adapter to save your night vision and emergency traffic wand increases the versatility of this flashlight. There’s also a bicycle mount for it. I originally had the LD10 version which required only a single AA battery and purchased it from a Fenix flashlight reseller in the Toronto area. Smaller clip-on flashlights like the Pelican VB3 will produce a lot less light yet you can clip it on your hat, shirt pocket or even use it as a book-light.
Who needs to carry around a separate battery charger when you can use USB batteries? Simply open up the top of the battery to reveal the USB adapter and plug it into any USB port to charge. Takes about 8 hours to charge and performs just as well as regular AA batteries. I originally bought mine from Solio (Better Energy Systems). Click here for the manufacturer’s web site.
Going to a party, stuck on the side of the road, need to light the back of your backpack or need an emergency signaling light, non-toxic chemical glow sticks can be useful in a variety of settings. The “family pack” size allows you to carry a couple smaller glow sticks instead of longer/larger ones. Though a longer one will be more visible in real emergencies.
A great sound signaling device if you’re lost in the woods or even biking down a path and want to alert others of your presence with 100+ decibels of “HERE I AM”!!. A pea-less whistle is one of those just in case items that hopefully you’ll never need to use. I have a fox-40 whistle from Mountain Equipment Co-op.
Para cord/static cord (up to 25 feet)
Traveling and washing your clothes in a sink, now what? Hang your clothes using para-cord or static cord. Or if you’re setting up camp in the woods wrap the rope knee-high around a few trees along your camp perimeter and hang a bear bell on it. Any medium to large size animal wandering into the campsite will hit the cord and trigger the bell. Also makes for great backup shoelaces.
Lose threads, lighting candles or make it easier to meet people who ask you for a light in bars/pubs. Though in some places someone will come to you asking for a light as a pretext to get close to you and rob you.
Not just for the backcountry, if you’re in a new city and have become lost then a small basic compass can quickly help you get your bearings. Some even have a built-in thermometer. Yes, most smartphones have an internal compass and GPS to help find your way; the downside is that it drains your battery faster.
Some hikers use bear bells while on the trail to alert (and scare off) wildlife for personal safety. I’ve used a bear bell when mountain biking down the Swiss Alps. I hung it off my handle bar. As I was going down the mountain trail hikers would move out of the way (thinking I was a mountain goat) so I wouldn’t need to slow down or stop. And if you’re in a hotel room where you want additional safety hang the bear bell off the door knob. That way if someone tries to break into your room the noise might scare them off or you’ll have more time to react if you’re still in the room. You can even attach it to your backpack while sitting at an outdoor cafe. If someone tries to steal your bag when you are not looking the bell will tip you off. Some bells have a small magnet in the bell’s pouch to keep the metal pea from moving when you don’t want it to make noise.
Nail clippers help you maintain a level of personal hygiene. And if you get a one that’s good enough it can also cut/trim loose thread from your clothing, trim your beard, snip off blisters, ad hoc wire cutters or cut thin rope.
Ultra-light hikers use their dental floss to patch up clothing as it saves weight; since investing in products that are dual use is always a wise choice. I still prefer to patch up my ripped socks and other clothing the regular way. Bringing a mini sewing kit on your travels is always a good since you can quickly fix small rips/tears in what little clothing you bring on your trip.
Lightweight, inexpensive and offering a variety of uses other then their original design having a carabineer comes in handy. You can clip bags together, hang shoes off your backpack when you switch to sandals, use it as a key ring, dog leash attachment and the larger ones can be used in self-defense situations as makeshift brass knuckles.
A stainless steel canteen is great for storing liquids without the worry of plastic/toxin leeching in to your fluids. You can put a variety of drinks in it and doesn’t retain flavours. Carry it empty when checking through airport customs then fill it up after. It also makes a good self-defense tool (when full).
Mini Pop-Up Speaker
I currently am using an inexpensive mini pop-up speaker from The Source (RadioShack), which was the cheapest one at $10. It has a 3.5 mm jack to plug into your electronic device and charges it’s internal battery via USB port. I’ve used it extensively watching movies from my netbook and plugging it in to my smartphone to listen to music.
First Aid Kit
If you aren’t getting blisters, bruises, cuts or scrapes then you must be vacationing at all-inclusive resort hotel and beach. Carrying a least a couple band-aids, medical tape and gauze is the least you can do for day or extended trips.
Credit Card Multitool
If you don’t have room for a whistle, tweezers, flashlight or pocket knife than a credit-card sized multitool may be just the thing for you. There are different versions where some have a magnifying glass and compass and others have a built in whistle and LED light. If traveling by air you’ll most likely have to check in it your luggage since it comes with a small knife.
Travel Size Duct Tape
No bigger than a roll of coins you can carry travel size duct tape. Perfect for quick repairs of your ripped umbrella, rain jacket, backpack, ski gloves or even create a makeshift bookmark, belt or reflective lettering. If you do a web search you’ll find hundreds of alternate uses for duct tape. You can buy travel size duct tape at outdoor stores or make your own by getting a drinking straw and wrapping around a larger roll of tape to make a travel size roll.
Just like duct tape, a bandana has a variety of uses. A sampling of uses include a makeshift coffee filter, luggage identifier, a tourniquet, small pillow, flagging down a car, a patch for worn out pants, dust/wind mask and sleeping mask. And since it doesn’t take up a lot of space you can always carry two.
No matter what shoes you wear your feet will always stay dry by wearing Gore-Tex® Socks. Very useful when traveling through a variety of climates and only have a pair or runners, walking shoes or water-resistant (only) hikers. Though they don’t breath so well and after prolonged wear you will get moisture buildup from within.
I have a couple in my luggage to keep the scent fresh. You can even put them in your shoes or sleeping bag. Note: dryer sheets do not repel mosquitoes despite what the urban myth says.
You’re stuck at the airport because the plane’s been delayed (again) or you’ve been on that train or bus for more than ten hours and you’re feeling a little dirty. Having a travel size pack of baby-wipes will give you that fresh feeling when you don’t have access to a shower. Baby wipes will also come in handy if you’re not carrying a small amount of toilet paper when nature calls and there isn’t a “square to spare” in the stall.
Other travel items include an travel alarm clock so you don’t miss your next flight and a small notebook and pen to quickly write things down. You can store most of these items in a small pouch for easier organization. Having the right essentials will make your next trip go more smoothly.