Thoughts on Travel Gear for an Around the World Adventure

It is hard to believe it has already been 5 months on the road. Roaming around the world can make time accelerate. Life is good.  We are having a great time, meeting all sorts of interesting folks and exploring fascinating lands. Apart from spending time with family and friends, we are not missing too much – at least not yet. We would love to be able to cook a little bit more and miss “Sundays”, but we may book into more AirBnB spots during the rest of our trip so we are expecting more opportunities for both.

Our gear is working out well. After 3 months or so, we shipped about 5 lbs. of extra clothes and some extra electronics accessories back to the States. We also shipped a water filter and mosquito net back  – these were just not necessary for our travels.

On the electronics front, we no longer have any doubts that a laptop, tablet, smartphone, and two Kindles are the right amount. It felt like a lot initially, but we are using everything regularly. Apart from a smashed iPhone screen that I replaced in Capetown, everything is working great. We have been 100% Wi-Fi and have used Skype, Whats App, WeChat and e-mail for communication. We have not bought a single SIM card while on the road. Being completely independent of any telecom or cable company is WONDERFUL. Wi-Fi is prevalent in most countries now and usually free.  Asia has had the best.  Wi-Fi was free and fast. South Africa had the worst Wi-Fi experience.  It was pay-for the most part and relatively slow.  India tended to be free but very constricted and often unusable in public spots.

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For keeping everything charged, we use this universal charger from Monster with a universal adapter that has worked everywhere (with the exception of some spots in South Africa).

 

 

It is a pretty tight set up – only 2 pieces and can charge up to 5 electronics at once. (It gets a little hot when you load it up that much though.)  We shipped all our iPad and iPhone charges back to the States to minimize the load. And when we absolutely need a mobile charge, this Jackery travel charger has done the job. It is not small and a bit heavy, but it packs the watts to get both our smartphone and tablet fired up and rolling quickly (although their mobile app is a bit wonky providing time-based notifications, not charge-based, reminding you to charge it).

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The laundry gear outlined in our previous post here has worked very well. The soap tabs didn’t work well so we just use shampoo when we wash in sinks (which also limits what we need to lug around with us).  The clothesline is working fantastic and we are both very careful not to leave it behind in a room (easy to do given it is usually out on a patio or balcony).  To date, we have both only left one item each behind in a hotel room – incredible given the number of hotel rooms where we have stayed, and we were able to recover one of the items.  However, mostly, we have been using laundry services as they are readily available and inexpensive in all the countries we have visited so far with the exception of India.  (It is quite a luxury  to drop laundry off some where in the morning and pick it up that night smelling fresh and in some cases, ironed.)

Most importantly, the luggage is working really well.  Susan would like something a bit larger, but the packs feel like the right size for balancing manageability with storage space. We love the wheels, and they have only challenged us once – in Northern Thailand where we had a 300 m walk on dirt road with a bamboo bridge. But the pack’s duffel handles make carrying them short distances very easy.  The day packs are being used constantly for countless reasons including day hikes, carrying groceries, being students or just roaming around cities visiting the sites.  The bags are holding up relatively well – no broken zippers or holes yet.  The waterproof coating is falling off a bit. I suspect that it does not like as much sunlight and heat as we have thrown at it.  Eagle Creek has agreed to replace (lifetime warranty), but we need to be in a country where they are actually sold.

the pack

We bought some travel organizers that we both love. I was a bit skeptical and thought they were a bit gimmicky at first, but they solve the issue of locating items in a duffel bag by allowing you to sort your cloths, keeping things well organized and nicely pressed (relatively).  We are now big fans and highly recommend. They are lightweight and, the large one has a plastic board that keeps shirts from getting too wrinkled.

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We are also using a couple of these compression bags for dirty laundry. They keep dirty and wet laundry away from everything else, and the compression is great when it has been a couple weeks since the last wash. They do not look too sturdy, and the “ziploc” closure has fallen off a couple times, but it pops back on and the bags are holding up. We also highly recommend these.  They really are the perfect laundry bag.

 

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When you are literally packing and unpacking on a daily basis for weeks at a time, these bags make all the difference and help you “breath in with the smile and breath out with the happy”.

We are heading into the mountains of Peru and Colombia in March so we expect to do a bit of re-configuring but likely only temporarily.  We are planning to buy larger day packs that could support 3-5 day outings, are better equipped for longer hikes of 6-8 hours and have a bit more waterproofing, if we are in sustained rainy situations. We have a bunch of colder weather gear that we need to purchase because our shipment from the States with our hiking gear got stuck in Argentine customs, and we could not get it out.

This guy has been invaluable for so many reasons but especially the scissors and cork screw. We have been using the original Huntsman, but the updated version has some nice new features.

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Unfortunately, we had it confiscated at the airport when a last minute reconfiguration of our gear was required and we left it in our carry-on bag.  Luckily, we borrowed one from Raghu in Pune for the remainder of our trip (and we have already used a dozen times since then).

We are settling in to life with much less.  It is amazing what one does not need. Of course, when you are not going into an office or seeing anyone twice in the same week, you need a lot less clothes.  But even so, we suspect one outcome of this trip will be downsizing in a number of areas.

We are thinking about buying a better camera, but there are some benefits to the one we have.  We are making do with an iPhone 6 Plus and a 10+ year old Cannon Elf.  The nice thing about the Cannon is that it is fast and manageable with one hand so it is great for biking. It is also small, tough and survived many drops. It is bullet-proof and ours has a tremendous number of dents and divots to prove it.  An SLR with bigger lenses would definitely give us better photos, but it is another thing to lug around and worry about. So at this point, we are sticking with what we have.

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But perhaps my favorite travel gear is my Civilian Rewind Duo Retractable Cable Security Wallet. For someone who loses things regularly and has been traveling in “pickpocket” countries for sometime, this also provides peace of mind. There are only two spots for it – 1) hooked to my belt or 2) hooked to the inside pocket of my backpack.  When it is not in one of those two spots, there is drama, but that is rare.  It is thin, lightweight and holds cards and money. Carrying cash is something different for us. We have been accustomed to plastic in the States, but cash is still king in many spots. (South America, where we are now, is very cash-oriented).

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So that is it.  This is the gear with which we are traveling. Apart from clothes, we don’t have too much more.  We are compiling our thoughts on clothes for an around the world adventure so stay tuned for Susan’s “Steve Jobs” approach and our arguments in favor of polyester.

 

 

 

Airing Our Dirty Laundry

In Thailand’s 80+ degree temperatures and 95-100% humidity, it does not take too long to blow through a bunch of fresh clothes. “Light packing” and our preference for a daily run does not help either.  It was not surprising when we started considering laundry only a few days into our travels.

We have found a few basic options for laundry on the road:

  1. Do it yourself – Not bad if you are traveling prepared. We typically have not gone this route in the past, and some of our friends know how much we like to bring along on our trips to avoid it. Humongous bags were not an option given the length and various locations we are planning to visit.
  2. Hotel laundry – An option, especially in SEA, but can be slow.
  3.  A laundry service – Asia is filled with them, and they are efficient and inexpensive.  This is a great option because we have found it takes 24-36 hours to dry anything this week in the hotel room with all the rain and humidity.

Like a seasoned diviner, Susan quickly located a laundry service in the corner IMG_1046alley around the block from our hotel in Bangkok, and she made a new friend. The relationship has blossomed over the last few days and created mutual euphoria for all involved with daily visits and commerce on one side and freshly cleaned ( wonderful smelling), folded garments on the other. At USD .30 cents per 2.2 lbs, we pay extra, and everyone is happy!

For those times when we will be doing it ourselves, we have found some handy items to throw in the bag:

  1. Tide sticks – The key to these is they help you  avoid laundry for a few more days.
  2. Soap tabs – Awesome 50 to a pack, and a couple will do the trick. Super small and light.
  3. Universal stopper – We cannot take credit for this one.  The traveling Irish folks recommended this handy item. A small chunk of rubber goodness.
  4. Clothes line – This one from Sea to Summit is very small with built-in hanging points.

Everyone has Baggage

Does Size Matter?

Hitting the road for a while requires some significant consideration about what to pack and in what to pack it.  Many travelers are hardcore about carry-on only luggage.  Indeed, in the last few years of business travel, we have been advocates of the carry-on only approach, but carry-on bags and backpacks limit you to somewhere in the 30-45L range which we did not think would give us the flexibility for this trip that we wanted. We chose a 58L bag with an integrated day pack that provides another 25L of storage and gives us the option of a small overnight bag for short trips from our temporary home bases.

Wheels vs Straps

Another key decision for us was to determine what type of bag we wanted to use.  Duffels were definitely out – while there are some great durable, waterproof options out there and they tend to be cavernous; duffels do not offer a lot of carrying options and can often be clumsy and heavy. We looked hard at a number of backpack options – many which have methods of hiding straps and belts for airplane travel. Backpacks are the standard selection for most extended travelers, but there is one down side – the pack is always on your back – no other carrying options.  Also, we found a limited amount of options for women. Wheeled options were interesting to us because a lot of our travel may be with trains and buses, and it will be nice to have the option to put the weight on your wheels (and off of your back).  However, most wheeled luggage is heavy and the wheel structure can take up space, but we think we found a great option that minimizes these issues.  The true test will be 30 days into the trip.

The Selection

the packWe both went with the Eagle Creek Switchback 26 pack which we feel provides a lot of options for carry and transport.  The main pack can be used with wheels or as a backpack.  The day pack can be attached to main pack, attached to the handle in wheeled mode or used as a backpack by sharing the main packs removable shoulder and belt straps. It has a great design for locking the zippers for the main pack and day pack, and the material looks ready to take the wear and tear of a year of travel.  And the day pack swallows a 15-inch laptop without a problem.

We bought it at LuggagePros.Com which had a fantastic price as compared with REI, eBags, and Amazon.  If you are buying luggage or backpacks, we would highly recommend checking out this site.