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