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

These are the also-rans, the runners-up, the abandoned. They are the things I considered taking with me, but then in the end decided to leave at home, or took with me and at some point sent home. In some cases I found something I think will work better for my particular needs, in other cases there just wasn't room to spare. I share them here because I think it's interesting to see what didn't make the cut, and why. 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.

 

 
 

Dress

TravelSmith

This all-purpose dress is a lot of good things: simple (no buttons to lose, no zippers to break), comfortable (supplex/lycra makes it stretchy, no wrinkles, quick drying) and versatile (can be dressed up or down to suit many occasions). The drawbacks are: it's heavy (as travel clothes go), and it's not easy to access a money belt. So, partway through my last journey, in an effort to lighten my load, I sent it home.

 
 
 

Flashlight

Princeton Tec

Tough, light and bright with three white LEDs, powered by four AAA batteries. Ultimately I decided it's overkill to have this with me in addition to the headlamp.

 
 
 

GPS

eTrex

Getting lost is something I'm exceptionally good at, but this global positioning device can help. Hard to lose in bright yellow, the solid, waterproof design holds up to lots of punishment. It can also be fun for geocaching. As much as I wanted this to work, I found it nearly useless in the places I needed it most -- the medieval town centers. The tall buildings and twisted narrow streets made it nearly impossible to make contact with enough satellites to triangulate my position. Instead I was forced to develop my map reading skills, which certainly served me well.
 
 
 

Handheld Computer

Palm

The Palm m125 has the virtue of being powered by AAA batteries, and is expandable with SD memory cards. It can serve as a place to keep contact data handy, and a means to journal electronically. While I appreciated its compactness, it turned out to be a poor substitute for a laptop computer, failing me halfway through my trip, giving me only the choice of erasing everything in its memory, or turning it off. Thus it became an expensive paperweight until I sent it home.

 
 
 

Portable Keyboard

Palm

This keyboard is a wonder: full size when opened, small (just a little larger than a deck of cards) and solid when folded, it attaches to the Palm computer for easy typing. While it worked just fine, without an operational Palm to attach it to, it also became a useless burden, and was sent home.

 
 
 

Water Purifier

Steri-Pen

Time Magazine calls this one of the best inventions of 2001: Cutting-edge technology, this device uses ultraviolet light to render harmless both virus and bacteria in drinking water--no filtering, no bad taste. About the size of an electric toothbrush, it uses AA batteries. For weight reasons, I decided not to bring this along... in Europe the water is drinkable pretty much everywhere, so it seemed like overkill. In more questionable areas, I still think it could be quite useful.

 
 
 

Zip Ties

Recently the Air Travel Security folks told us not to lock our checked bags, which makes me uncomfortable since there are so many stories of theft by baggage handlers (although considering how many bags come through fine, I'm sure it's relatively uncommon). To be on the safe side, I've got a whole bag of little plastic zip ties, which will safely secure my zippers, and cannot be removed unless cut, so at least I'll know if anyone's been poking around.The security procedures and requirements are different in different countries, and I was told to leave my locks on when flying recently from Amsterdam to London. Zip ties are not the most convenient thing, since they require a sharp blade to release, and are not reusable. Some people I met use safety pins to slow down light-fingered thieves. I still like combination locks best, if allowed.

 
 

Repair Kit

Gear Aid

For emergency repairs to clothes, packs and gear, this compact kit appears to have it all: seam adhesive, patches, sewing supplies, pack hardware, etc. neatly arranged in one handy zippered pouch. For compact packing reasons, I took only the sewing stuff and the duct tape with me from this kit, because the rest seemed like overkill.

 
 
 

Paint Set

Van Gogh

I had hoped to get a lot of mileage out of this little paint set. It's so small the brush comes apart in the middle and the brush head is stored inside the handle. The lid doubles as a mixing tray. What was I thinking, that I could slow down enough to paint? I had only strength and concentration enough to snap pictures, and leave the paintings for later, at home. I do still love this set, and would consider taking with me if I were staying in one place for an extended time.

 
 
 

Watercolor Postcards

Van Gogh

Pre-cut to a mailable size, these small sheets of watercolor paper are padded on both the top and bottom, to hold the sheet taught until the paint is dry, keeping warping at a minimum. Great idea, but sacrificed to the ideals of lighter packing.

 
 
 

Water Reservoir

Camelbak

The way I figure it, staying adequately hydrated increases my chances of staying healthy on the road. This model of Camelbak is insulated to keep the water cooler in hot climates and prevent it from freezing in really cold conditions. It holds two liters, and has a wide mouth opening for easier cleaning. Sometimes simpler is better... actually a lot of the time, simpler is better. In this case, I opted for a pedestrian plastic water bottle, which could be discarded and replaced once it was too battered.

 
 

Travel Chopsticks

Snow Peak

The source of food poisoning doesn't have to be the food; bacteria can cling to poorly washed cutlery as well. These chopsticks are elegant, but also light and practical: they unscrew in the middle and the wooden part is stored neatly inside the metal cylinder. I love these things, and will definitely take them with me on my next trip to Asia, but for Europe I took a fork, knife and spoon.

 
 

Trekking Poles

Leki

I've selected the Leki Ultralite Ti Air Ergo Trekking Poles--they are among the lightest made (14 ounces for the pair) and most compact (at their shortest only 23 inches). They do lack shock absorbers and positive angle grips (which would add to length and weight). For more on trekking poles, see my journal entry. While I didn't end up taking these on my last trip, due to space and weight considerations, I still like them very much and use them for hiking. I would consider taking them with me on any trip where hiking was a major activity.

 
 
 

Compression Sack

Granite Gear

A tough, strong bag with straps cleverly positioned to make compressing a bulky sleeping bag or jacket easier. I was shocked at how compact I was able to get my sleeping bag. It stayed home with the sleeping bag on my last trip.

 
 
 

Sleeping Bag

North Face

The North Face Windstorm 3D seems like a good choice for my journeys -- I wanted synthetic fill, which (unlike down) will still keep me warm even if it gets wet (and is much easier to dry out, too). The Polarguard insulation is nearly as light and compact as down (at 2 lbs. 2 oz., its advertised stuffed size is 7-1⁄2" x 12”, but I can get it even smaller using a compression sack.) Temperature rated at 35 degrees, it won't keep me super toasty, but I don't intend to do much camping, just to have it for added flexibility and extra insurance against any cold sleeping situation. I didn't take it on my Europe trip, and didn't need it, as I stayed in hostels, hotels and people's homes during an unseasonably warm spring and summer.

 
 
 

Emergency Blanket

Coghlin's

A little survival gear, this "space blanket" is neither cozy nor wooly, but in an extreme situation could keep hypothermia at bay. In less dire circumstances, it can provide a dry place to sit for a picnic. Folded up, it's smaller than a pack of playing cards, weighing in at around 2 oz. In the end I didn't take this, and didn't miss it, but would consider taking it on another trip, if conditions indicated it might be useful.

 
 

Sunglass Case

Eagle Creek

Padded case for holding sunglasses, has a clip to keep it from being left behind. This falls into my "nice, but not necessary" category, plus the case was rather bulky, so I opted to keep my sunglasses in a compartment of my day pack, and they didn't suffer too much.

 
 

Spill-proof Bags

Eagle Creek

Handy for organizing all the ephemera, can keep moisture in or out as necessary. These were lovely, but ziplock bags can fulfill the same functions nearly as well with less weight and bulk.

 
 

Door Stop

Just a simple rubber wedge, but it's a little additional peace of mind, security that adds to a good night's sleep. In the end decided it's weight and bulk were not necessary, but if I were traveling in rougher conditions, I would reconsider taking it along.

 
 

Hairbrush

Conair

This tiny travel hairbrush is fine, but I'm going to go with the little folding one which takes up even less space.

 
 
 

Convertible Pants

REI

These pants allow you to zip off the legs so that they become shorts, and there's even a pocket on the side of the shorts to stow the zipped off parts. They're made of nylon so they're very light, cool and compact. I'm leaving them behind because the shorts are shorter than I would like (modest me!).

 
 
 

Cardigan

TravelSmith

Made of micro fleece, this cardigan is soft, light and warm, doesn't wrinkle and dries quickly. It also has a zippered interior pocket for keeping tickets and pocket money secure and handy. Looks classy with a skirt, too. So why not take it? I've decided to go with the fleece shirt, which fulfills mostly the same functions, but is at home in the backwoods as well as the main streets.

 
 
 

Security Mesh

Pacsafe

The fine folks at Backpacker Magazine named it Editor's Choice, and say that it's well worth the extra pound, but with changing airport security rules, it looks like I wouldn't be able to use it when checking my baggage, and someone very determined could still slit my bag through the mesh. Also I wonder if it might not make the pack even more attractive to thieves, since it shouts out to people there's something in there worth protecting. I've decided to save some weight and space and take a combination lock and cable instead.

 
 

Ribbed Short Sleeve T-Shirt

TravelSmith

Overkill to have two white tees ... I just couldn't spare the space.

 
 
 

Warm Hat

Bula

A good hat, but I was concerned about it blowing away in high winds, or falling off in the middle of trying to sleep through a freezing night, so I got something more secure. Still love my Bula headband, though.

 
 
 

 Sandals

Chaco

They are exceptionally well made and built to last, and I love the company's values. I just wish they were lighter and more compact, and had some padding in the straps. After a day of wearing these, I had hot spots where the straps rubbed, and my feet were tired from picking up all that weight with each step. Still, they are sexy, and I much prefer the simple black straps to the more elaborate design of the Tevas I'm taking.

 
 
 

Skirt

TravelSmith

Billed as the "Ultimate Travel Skirt" I have this in black, sand, and olive...it's really lightweight, dries fast and resists wrinkles. It also has a secret, velcro-secured pocket to thwart pickpockets. In the end it just came down to not enough room for everything, and so skirts with buttons down the front (which can fall off or gap) were left at home.
 
 
 

Dress

TravelSmith

They call this their "Indispensable Dress," and it even Good Housekeeping gives it their "Best Overall" seal of approval. This is a great, all-purpose dress, simple (no buttons, zippers), comfortable (supplex/lycra makes it stretchy, no wrinkles, quick drying) and versatile (can be dressed up or down to suit many occasions). Mine's charcoal gray, not quite so formal as the basic black they're selling at TravelSmith now. My only complaint is I wish they'd build a zipper into the side under the arm so I can easily access a money belt. I actually wear this one a lot at home, but find it too heavy for practical traveling.

 
 

Gaiters

Threshold

If you haven't become hip to the usefulness of gaiters yet, allow me to introduce you: Gaiters slip on your lower leg, over shoes and pants, to keep out unwanted snow, rain, pebbles, etc. It's my hope that I can get by with more comfortable low cut shoes, and spare myself the bulk and weight of big boots, but still get most of the protection of boots by using gaiters instead. Didn't end up taking them on the last trip, but would consider including them in a trip to rougher territory.

 
 

Rain Pants

Helly Hansen

Something to keep my lower half dry in the worst weather, ultimately I decided to stick to an umbrella and a rain coat, and not worry about the rest.

 
 
 

Vest

TravelSmith

This vest ingeniously hides eight "organizer pockets" behind two zippered panels in front, providing the benefits of a photojournalist-style vest but with a smoother, simpler look. The cotton-nylon blend is a bit heavier than I think is ideal, (and will take a good bit of time to dry if it gets wet) but I'm willing to give it a try and see if its usefulness outweighs these concerns. I cut it out of my packing list as I was ruthless about taking the bare minimum. There are times it might have been useful, but overall I didn't miss it.

 
 

Long Sleeve T-Shirt

TravelSmith

This long-sleeve t-shirt goes well with all my pants and skirts, is made of coolmax for quick drying and no wrinkles. Another victim of light packing, if I had been traveling in cooler climes, it would have come along.

 
 

Pants

TravelSmith

They call these "Explorer Pants" so of course I wanted them. They're Supplex nylon treated with QuickWick, to pull sweat away from the skin. Very light, compact and cool. The very thing that makes these pants so light and compact also has a drawback: the nylon makes a swishing sound as I walk, and did not feel as comfortable against my skin as other types of fabrics.

 
 
 

Socks

Wigwam

These Tech 2 Hikers are cushioned, anti-microbial, acrylic/marino wool for temperature control and resiliency. The only problem is the thick cushioning makes for too tight a fit in my shoes, so I'm going without them.

 
 
 

Insulated Vest

TravelSmith

Thermolite vest weighs practically nothing and can add an extra layer for temperature control, but it's just too redundant, and I can't spare the space.

 
 
 

Soy Nuts

Mighty Mo Munchies

Soy nuts are a great source of protein, and these are organic and quite tasty, too. I especially like the cajun flavor. I think their packaging will stand up to the squashing and shocks of life on the road, and they're quite lightweight for the nutrition they pack. They are being left behind because of changing checked luggage regulations, which recommend against packing food in checked luggage (the last thing I need is a bomb-sniffing dog with a taste for cajun).

 
 
 

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

 

       

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