Pre-trip planning, post #3: gear

This post is the third in a series on pre-trip planning (see the Intro, post #1: researchpost #2: travel insurance, and post #4: technology).

Ahh. Gear. The expense I always fail to calculate into my trip budget. Each of us packs differently, and each of us has different “must-have” items that we take on the road. Here is my own personal must-pack list.
Daypack: My latest obsession is to pack earplugs and a blindfold (or a Buff headband)— these two things can make even the loudest airport departure lounge feel like a private hotel room. A small headlamp always seems to come in handy. Also in the daypack: headphones, a few pens (the ones at the visa counter never seem to work), iPod, a camera and charger, a book or reading material, alarm clock (or iPhone), a small packet of Advil, and sleeping pills if I’m going on a long overnight journey. My favorite daypack has a special pouch for a Camelback water bladder, which is essential if I’m going hiking. My sunglasses are usually on my head or in my daypack.

Main pack: I’m religious about packing DEET-based mosquito spray, otherwise the mosquitoes feast on me. The good chemical stuff  isn’t always available abroad and the herbal repellants do not do the trick for me. I always pack a sarong, which does triple duty as a light towel/beach blanket/bedsheet. Also in the main pack: an electric converter or adapter, a Swiss army knife, and water sterilization pills if I’m going hiking or traveling to a country where I can’t drink the tap water.

For toiletries, I’m a huge fan of the non-breakable Nalgene bottles—nothing worse than having your shampoo bottle leak on all your stuff. I also love these kinds of toothbrush covers. Duct tape, string, washing powder, and extra ziplock bags always come in handy. Wet wipes/hand sanitizer are useful for trips where you won’t see a shower for a while.

The latest buzz has been about the Steripen (I’ve heard great things, but haven’t tried it) and I’m loving my NEOS

overshoes (pictured at right), which are a cross between a gaiter and a boot.

Posted by | Comments (7)  | March 9, 2012
Category: General

7 Responses to “Pre-trip planning, post #3: gear”

  1. Pete Says:

    Be very careful about relying on a Steripen — they can be very touchy. I used one (the execrably-named “Adventurer” Opti) intermittently during almost five months in South America and it worked flawlessly until near the end of the journey. Back in Aotearoa/NZ I changed the batteries for a new set (lithium) and the pen failed after about half a dozen uses. I changed batteries (lithium again) and it works sometimes but not always on the first attempt. If you read the Amazon reviews you’ll find other people have had similar problems. I’m no electronics expert (far from it), but it seems the unit will fail as soon as the batteries lose even a small amount of charge. Don’t try rechargeables, and if access to safe water will be critical, always take a backup system like purification tablets or a filter straw.

    Remember also that if the water’s turbid a steripen probably won’t work, it doesn’t remove chemical contaminants, and it doesn’t make foul water taste sweet.

    Short version: in appropriate circumstances and when it works, it’s great, but don’t rely on it.

  2. K-eM Says:

    I actually don’t use a toothbrush cover anymore. I took one of the ones you linked to on one of my last trips to Africa. Since it was a warm, humid cubby, a bug took up residence. I’m not real fussy, having grown up in Africa, so I went ahead and continued to use the toothbrush. However, since I use a clear vinyl 3-1-1 bag as my regular toiletries kit, I didn’t feel like I needed a toothbrush cover for travel. And I really don’t need bugs taking up residence when I’m stationary. 😉

  3. Tim L. Says:

    “Don’t use rechargeables” is complete bunk on the Steripen. You can even buy a solar power charger case to juice them back up—both come bundled with it if you want. I’ve used two versions for years without a single problem. You obviously got a lemon. I’m not saying they’re bulletproof—no piece of electronics is—but they’re used by people who are in very harsh conditions every day. Apart from the GoPro camera, probably the most commonly packed item for adventure travelers.

    I like the new Freedom version the best though because you can recharge it by USB. No batteries to change at all! Review here:

  4. Pete Says:

    Tim, yes, you’re right about the rechargeables; thanks for the correction. Nevertheless, battery choice does seem to be important (see the advice from the manufacturer). Steripen explicitly does not recommend alkaline and NiCad batteries for some models and for the others, including the Adventurer, the recommendations seem to be all branded lithium batteries.

    Yes, some people don’t get lemons, but others do, including a friend who bought a different model and had similar problems; more to the point, see the reviews (good and bad) at Best Backpacking Reviews or REI.

    I like the sound of the Freedom version; if your experience so far proves typical, then it’d be an excellent choice for travellers (with the provisos I mentioned).

  5. Pre-trip planning, post #2: travel insurance | Vagablogging :: Rolf Potts Vagabonding Blog Says:

    […] post is the second in a series on pre-trip planning (see the Intro, post #1: research, post #3: gear, and post #4: […]