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LIZ'S TOP PICKS - EQUIPMENT - ELECTRONICS - CLOTHING - PERSONAL CARE - HEALTH - SUPPLIES - LEFT BEHIND

I'm not selling any of these products, this is only a collection of impressions about some of the things I have traveled with, or plan to travel with. As I use them, I will add updates. Remember that not all items are appropriate for all travels, and the importance of packing light cannot be overstated: when in doubt, leave it out! Where practical, I have added links to manufacturers or retailers for anyone who wants more information. Text in GREEN has been added since my latest trip.

 

 
 

Lexan Cutlery Set

GSI

A budget traveler's best bet. This cutlery triad is small, very light, and quite useful. I could carry the set around with me everywhere (except when flying, because of the knife), so it was handy whenever I dined, picnic-fashion. The lexan plastic is billed as "virtually indestructible" and so it was, for at least three months. However, in the midst of the fourth month, the rigors of travel proved too much, and the fork lost parts of three tines.The money I saved by self-catering, though, will far more than offset the price to replace the fork.

 
 
 

Tote Bag

Container Store

The little packet unzips into a full size tote bag, with handles and a zipper closure. It's not the most robust construction (a concession to weight, no doubt), but it does the job fairly well. I like the low-profile, basic black design, but I've discovered that the best way to blend in like a local is to carry a plastic bag from that city's supermarket or department store.

 
 
 

Duct Tape

The magic fix-all, I wouldn't want to travel without it. You can buy a little flattened roll in sporting goods stores, or you can make your own by wrapping a length of tape around a straw.

 
 
 

Sewing Kit

I kept it simple: a couple of needles, a few straight pins, safety pins and buttons, and a bobbin of strong black thread. With the help of the scissors from the Swiss Army knife, it was all I needed to keep my clothes wearable, and I was even able to help out a few fellow travelers as well.

 
 
 

Swim Goggles

After a couple of months, I began to wonder why I had packed these. Then I spent some time near the water and finally they proved their value... in the swimming-pool blue clarity of the Mediterranean, I delighted in watching the dances of the fish, and I could play in the waves without worrying about losing a contact lens.

 
 
 

Mesh Bags

These nylon mesh bags with zipper closure across the top are probably the single most important reason I lost almost nothing in four months of continuous travel. I used one to keep my small clothing items (socks, underwear, scarves) together, and one for small electronic gear (phone charger, battery charger, hard drive for photo storage, etc.). I used a larger one to keep dirty clothes separate from clean clothes. The mesh allows everything to shift and compress for maximum compactness, provides excellent ventilation, and still keeps things together and organized. A good (although possibly less robust) alternative would be the net bags sold to wash delicate laundry (look for them in drugstores).

 
 
 

Day Pack

Jansport

I got this Tree Frog day pack just days before I left, and I'm glad I did. This became like another appendage for me, carried everywhere. The lockable zippers gave me a sense of security, the built-in rainfly protected everything when the sky opened up. The organizer section kept phone, binoculars, headlamp, etc. safe and easy to access. The main compartment was large enough to carry guidebooks, jacket, water, snacks, photo supplies, etc. Padded straps and ergonomic design made carrying all this comfortable.

 
 
 

Eyeglass Repair Kit

Costco Optical

The key chain design hides two tiny screwdrivers, and came in handy for tightening the screws on my eyeglasses, and those of a fellow traveler as well. The kit also comes with a little capsule containing replacement screws.

 
 
 

Mini Notebook

Absolutely one of the most essential pieces of equipment I brought with me... a great place to jot down everything, from addresses of people you meet, to train schedules, hostel and hotel information, quick observations and thoughts. Measuring just 2-3/4" x 3-3/4" it has an elastic band that keeps it neatly and securely closed. The bright color makes it easy to find, and hard to lose.

 
 
 

Journal

Moleskine

Moleskine has been the journal of choice for adventurers and artists for decades, including Van Gogh, Hemingway and Picasso. The elastic closure keeps things neat, the accordion pocket in the back is handy for tucking away small bits and pieces, and the ribbon marker keeps my place.

 
 
 

Whistle

Survival equipment, because you never know when you might need to make a lot of noise. I never have needed to use this, but it gives me peace of mind to know I have it. I clipped a compass, lip balm, micro light and mini Swiss Army knife to this, for the ultimate micro multi-purpose travel kit.

 
 

Jar Opener

This flat rubber disk can open jars, but I use it as a universal drain plug, when doing hand wash in the sink. Weighs practically nothing, takes up no space. Very good for making sure one doesn't lose a contact lens down a foreign sink.

 
 

Bag Clips

A little convenience item for securing half-full bags of crackers, etc. Recommended for keeping cracker crumbs out of the bottom of your day pack, although a rubber band can also be used. The can also double as makeshift clothespins.

 
 

Neck Pouch

Samsonite

Another security choice, I like it in addition to a money belt (easier to access when wearing a dress). Just DON'T do what so many tourists do, and wear it on the outside! I found this especially handy for keeping multiple currencies separated, since it has two zippered compartments.

 
 

Umbrella

I bought this compact and light umbrella years ago at Ross, and it's still serving me well. Even survived a blustery day at Stonehenge, where it was turned inside out and still managed to pop back into shape. I've had this since 1999 and it's still going strong.

 
 

Picture Translator

Kwikpoint

Laminated pictorial guide that can assist me in getting my point across in situations where I lack the necessary language skills--just point to the pictures to make myself understood anywhere. I didn't actually ever use this on my last trip, but it didn't add much weight or bulk, so I would consider taking it along on any trip where I expected big language barriers.

 
 

Earplanes

Cirrus

If you have ever had problems with unrelieved ear pressure (particularly quick descents after long flights), you know how excruciating the pain can be. These things are a life-saver if you must fly with a sinus cold, but otherwise they're not strictly necessary.

 
 

Ear Plugs

In shared sleeping situations, like hostel dorms, trains or planes, you need a way to control unwanted noise so you can get your rest. Earplugs soften the snores, conversations, traffic, etc., and let you catch all 40 winks. Good for peace of mind, even if, as on my last trip, you never actually use them.

 
 

Mini Calendar

Day-Timer

Low-tech emergency backup for carrying essential contact and scheduling information. Tiny, it measures just 3" x 4.5", and is about 1/4" thick. I used this A LOT for planning ahead and keeping track of where I went and what I did. Easy to use, no batteries required.

 
 

Lock & Cable

Kryptonite

A robust combination lock (no keys to lose!) and a light but strong security cable. The lock is necessary for many hostels that provide lockers but no locks, and the cable comes in handy for securing my big pack on long train trips. Despite the weight, I was happy to have this...it worked perfectly for securing the door of the night train from Munich to Prague.

 
 

Neck Pillow

This seemed like an extravagance for overly soft travelers ... until I realized how unbearably uncomfortable it is to try to sleep sitting up in a plane or train seat. An unsupported neck leads to stiffness and pain that can last for days. The inflatable pillow props up the head to avoid that sudden head snap as one loses consciousness, and supports the neck to allow greater relaxation. I think for my next trip I may try to save the bulk of this by just rolling up my jacket or a blanket into the proper shape.

 
 
 

Sleep Mask

Eagle Creek

More help with a good night's sleep, the mask shields out unwanted light (whether it be in airplanes or shared hostel dorms). Fortunately I didn't really need this on my last trip, and a folded bandana could easily, though less stylishly, serve the same purpose.

 
 
 

Clothes Line

Rick Steves

This elastic clothesline has suction cups and hooks so one can attach in almost anywhere (although the suction cups are of limited value, since they can't hold much weight, and wet clothes are heavy), and the braided elastic needs no clothes pins to secure wet things. I didn't end up using this as much last trip as I did the trip before... more places seem to be providing ways to hang up hand wash... perhaps they are realizing that we are going to do it whether it's allowed it or not!

 
 
 

Lip Balm Leash

Chap-Grip

Handy little neoprene gadget, keeps lip balm clipped to day pack or belt loop or around the neck ...makes it very convenient to keep lips properly protected. Not absolutely necessary, but hey, I never lost my tube of lip balm!

 
 
 

Glasses

An heir and a spare, plus a copy of my current prescription (just in case): I've been told by no less than global travel guru Edward Hasbrouck that most people who wear contacts find themselves switching back to glasses in short order on long-term treks. This makes sense to me, especially when you consider the discomfort of dry air in planes and blowing dust in rustic locations. Despite what Edward said, I still found myself using my contacts most days (for the superior peripheral vision), but looked forward every evening to changing into glasses, to give my eyes a rest.

 
 
 

Clip-on Sunglasses

CostCo Optical

Handy for quickly switching from dark to bright situations when wearing my prescription glasses, these polarized lenses really cut glare and reduce eyestrain. If you're taking glasses, and the lenses are not the photo-sensitive kind, these are a good idea.

 
 

Lens Cloth

Microfiber lens cloth, a handy accessory when dealing with glasses...

 
 
 

Glasses Holder

EK Excessories

This is the best glasses holder I have found... it grabs on to the end of my specs, and hangs on for dear life. The style is low-key and comfortable. The only feature I'd add is buoyancy, but you can't have everything. I still have my sunglasses after four months of hard travel, so I guess that speaks for itself.

 
 
 

Contact Lenses

Going to take my contacts, because I like the additional peripheral vision they provide, although I have been advised that I will probably prefer the comfort and ease of use of glasses. Used my contacts most days during the four months, and they held up well, but the little case I kept them in is really falling apart.

 
 
 

Passport Holder

Travelon

In these days of heightened airport security, this convenient microfiber pouch holds passport, driver's license, plane tickets and even a pen. It has a snap closure to protect privacy when not at a check point, and a neck strap to free up hands. Very convenient to have for airports, but not much use to carry around otherwise. If you're packing very light, I would say skip it.

 
 
 

Shoe Bag

Eagle Creek

Laminated mesh combines durability with impermeability, making this a convenient way to store anything muddy or messy. I liked this bag, it's a good size and well-made... I'll use it again.

 
 
 

Europe Phrase Book

Lonely Planet

A little help in basic communication--compactly covers the basics in 14 different languages. A great help for deciphering menus and mystery products on grocery shelves, as well as asking for directions and, of course, making new friends.

 
 

Binoculars

Zeiss

Lightness, sharpness and toughness were the qualities that made these Victory Compact 8 x 20 B T binoculars by Zeiss so attractive. The field of view is sharp from edge to edge, and they come with a lifetime transferable warranty. Also, they're waterproof and fold up very compactly. I carried these everywhere with me, and I was delighted with their performance, whether it be in enjoying the theatre in London or the opera in Rome, admiring the stained glass in the cathedral at Chartes, spotting a submarine off the Isle of Skye or getting a closer look at an elk in the Scottish Highlands. If you're going to see the world, why not get the best possible view?

 
 
 

 Travel Pack

Eagle Creek

I'd be embarrassed to tell you how much time I spent trying on different packs before I made the leap to purchasing this one. The Eagle Creek Ultimate Journey (women's fit) has good capacity, flexibility, strong support, and the Eagle Creek lifetime guarantee. It also comes with a detachable convertible lumbar pack/full size day pack. If you're going to be taking as much stuff with you as I did, this is a very good choice, but for my next trip I may look for something a little smaller and lighter. I must say the compartment structure suited me very well, neatly separating clothes and non-clothes items, with three different ways to zip open the main compartment. Also, a number of handy compression straps which, when tightened, actually made a very big difference in my perception of the heaviness of the pack. Without its well-designed suspension system I could not have comfortably carried as much as I did.

 
 
 

Money Belt

Eagle Creek

I went upscale with this money belt -- it's silk. I figure anything it'll be getting a lot of wear, so I might as well spend a little more and go for comfort. After four months of almost continuous wear, I can say this belt has its good points and its drawbacks. The silk fabric was comfortable and did not pick up any strong odors, but the waist belt was not always secure (that is, it occasionally came undone without warning), and the buckle even rubbed enough to give me a sore at one point. I will try a different belt next time.

 
 
 

Travel Lock

Eagle Creek

These locks are small and strong, and you can program in your own, easy-to-remember 3-digit combination (no keys to lose!). I continue to stand by these locks as the best all-around on the market, until someone comes up with something as secure but lighter in weight. When flying, I took them off so they would not be cut off if security wanted to examine my luggage.

 
 
 

Compass

Rick Steves

This little compass attaches like a key chain to my day pack, and I can use it to quickly orient myself. It was nice to have for peace of mind, although I usually just asked people for help if I was lost.

 
 
 

Travel Towel

Micronet

This towel strikes a good balance between effectiveness and aesthetic appeal. Its microfibers soak up water easily and dry quickly, but it also has the soft pliability you expect from a towel. This towel worked better than any other travel towel I have tried. It dried very quickly, was slow to pick up off odors, and when it finally got smelly, I could wash it in the shower along with myself, and then wring it out enough to dry myself off afterwards. Bravo! The 20" x 40" size is enough to get me dry, but not really enough to modestly wrap myself up in, but the savings in bulk and size are usually worth it to me.

 
 
 

Toiletry Bag

Eagle Creek

This is a well-constructed bag with lots of handy pockets and features, including a little velcro-attached mirror, a spill-proof zippered section, and an open mesh section for allowing things like toothbrushes to dry. A very fine bag of adequate size that held up excellently during four months of continuous use.

 
 
 

Sleep Sheet

DreamSack

A lot of hostels require you to have your own sleep sheet, but even when linens are provided, having a sleep sheet of my own can help prevent bed bug bites, and this DreamSack is 100% silk for light, cool comfort. A real delight to sleep in... while I enjoyed the space and freedom of the "double" size, I think I would opt for the single to save weight and bulk in the pack.

 
 
 

Sunglasses

Gargoyle

These are the best sunglasses I've ever owned, which isn't saying a lot since I used to go with the under $10 ones. Now, I've finally seen the light (but not the glare!). These glasses wrap around for great peripheral vision, the lenses are distortion-free and polarized, and of course block all that nasty UV. These held up well in my travels, I will take them along again.

 
 
 

Knife

Swiss Army

The most basic Swiss Army knife, the Classic, weighs just an ounce and is wonderfully useful. I just need to remember that on flying days it goes in checked luggage, not carry-on. Indispensable for opening packages, slicing apples, and cutting up guidebooks.

 
 
 

Storage Bag

REI

This nylon bag is made to store sleeping bags, but it's the perfect size to use as a cover for my big pack when it's being transported (i.e. in airline checked luggage or on top of a bus, etc.). I could waterproof the fabric for a little extra protection. I like how this bag performed, the light nylon fabric easily slipped over all the buckles and straps, and its bright blue color made finding my pack at baggage claim easier, too.

 
 
 

Papers:

Passport, driver's license, eyeglass prescription, photos of family/friends/home, hostel membership card, ticket information, rail pass, health insurance information, international health certificate, photocopies of all important documents, extra passport photos...

 
 
 

LIZ'S TOP PICKS - EQUIPMENT - ELECTRONICS - CLOTHING - PERSONAL CARE - HEALTH - SUPPLIES - LEFT BEHIND

       

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