I like to travel with as little as possible, and in this post I’ve outlined what I take on all my trips. I’ll be doing a separate post later to cover my money and health kit, so stay tuned for those.
I try and only travel with a small rucksack, unless I’m going for longer than two months or I’m camping, in which case I take a large rucksack. I used to travel with a wheelie suitcase until I realised they are unwieldy, impractical and bad for your back! Now I get really frustrated whenever I see people wheeling their things around. Guys – get on board with the rucksack! The one I use is a Mountain Warehouse Merlin 30L Backpack, which has lots of pockets, plus a nifty compartment for my laptop. Though I usually check in my rucksack when I’m flying, in which case the laptop comes with me as carry-on. Although it looks small, it can fit enough in there to last a couple of months. You don’t need half the things you think you do anyway, so a small bag forces you to pack light.
If I’m going away for longer than a couple of months, or I need to take kit such as a tent or sleeping back, I use my big rucksack. I have a Kathmandu Interloper, which comes with a detachable daypack that you can take this instead of the Merlin if you’re going on shorter journeys.
For hand luggage, I use a fabric messenger bag/handbag with plenty of pockets, such as this one. I don’t use a rucksack because that’s what I take as my main bag. So a messenger bag/handbag goes across my body for safety and easy access to important items. I also pack a lightweight tote bag that can be rolled up and used as a day bag once I get where I’m going.
I have two laptops, and depending on how long I’ll be away, or where I’ll be going, I’ll take either my trusty Apple 13-Inch Macbook Pro or my, HP Stream 11, which is lightweight and cheap, so if something were to happen to it, I wouldn’t mind too much. I tend to swap out the lightweight models as newer ones come on the market. You could always take something like a Macbook AIR which is beautiful and light. But what I like about the HP Stream is that I don’t care about it too much so I can take it to places where theft is more common and not be hyperventilating every time it’s out of sight. I guess the Macbook Air would be a good option for safer countries. One day I’ll swap my Macbook Pro for an Air for European trips.
And I always take a portable hard drive for downloading photos and videos and backing up my laptop on a near-daily basis. This is separate from the external hard drive I keep at home, with the same information on. When I’m in less safe areas, I back up my photos and documents daily and keep the hard drive either in the hotel/hostel safe or locked in a separate bag. I use a WD drive but there are lots of lightweight drives on the market today. I also take a couple of small USB sticks for extra portable storage.
As with the laptop, the camera kit I take with me totally depends on what I’ll be doing. For many trips I’m fine just with a smartphone. But for trips where I know the photo ops are going to be amazing, or I need to include images in my work, then I’ll take a digital SLR. I personally prefer Nikon (though I’ve had good results with my trusty Canon PowerShot) and have used a D60 for years now. I take a couple of different lenses – usually a 50mm for portraits and crowd scenes, and a 55-200mm. If I were to upgrade now, I’d buy something like a D3400. I don’t like to travel with anything too heavy or expensive so this would be about right.
Huawei P8 Lite (unlocked cheaper smartphone for travel to less safe regions)
3. Headphones and noise reduction
I’m not keen on loud places so I take earplugs and noise-reducing headphones wherever I go, even around town where I live. The ability to focus, work, read and/or sleep/rest is a great bonus. I have a couple of different sets of headphones as I like to leave one at home and take one away with me. The main criteria are the comfort of the earpads and the ability to adjust the volume without having to touch your phone or computer. A decent pair like the Sennheiser should be good for flying and noisy journeys. But you can equally get away with something like the Lindy’s, which are less than half the price and which I’ve used for a couple of years now to good effect. I combine these with a pair of Muffle wax earplugs from Boots. I’ve tried MANY types of earplugs and these are by far the best. Trust me. One earplug divided in two is ample for a week’s worth of peace. For the ultimate in noise-reduction, I pop in a pair of Muffles then wear my headphones over the top and play music or meditation. With this killer combo you can zone out anywhere.
If I’m camping or staying somewhere I know will have really uncomfortable mattresses (most of Asia then), I’ll take a Thermarest. I also like to pack a small travel kettle, which I can usually fit into the Merlin Rucksack stuffed with a sarong to save space. The benefits of travelling with a kettle are threefold: (1) You can boil water each night to drink the following day, thus saving on bottled water and reducing plastic waste; (2) You can have hot tea and coffee any time you please; (3) You can make a hot-water bottle, which is great for cold nights and/or period pains. I also take a bar of laundry soap for hand-washing clothes. Seeing as I try and pack light, I usually have to wash my laundry as I go, and a bar of soap lasts so much longer than a tube. On shorter trips, I use opt to use my Shampoo Bar instead as it doubles up for laundry. And I always take my mini Swiss Army Knife.
I’m hyper sun aware, so I carry a big straw hat to shelter me from the sun, a baseball cap for the same reason – which can be worn underneath a hood/cycle helmet/riding hat etc, – and plenty of sunscreen. My favourite is by TechniBlock, which makes an invisible spray-on SPF 50 and an SPF40 with added citronella insect repellent. I also love The Altruist, which is developed by a UK skin cancer expert and donates to a charity that helps children with skin conditions in Africa.
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