I don’t believe in “travel gear”, for the most part. Unless you’re engaging in extended, high performance activities (i.e., a week long hike through the Himalayas) or traveling frequently, I think most of what you need can be selected from what you already have in your home.
That said, every once in awhile I spurge on a travel goodie that proves worth it’s weight in gold.
This is not my “must have” packing list, or even the first few pieces of travel gear I’d buy – that’s a post for another day. These are just things I’ve gotten recently that I’ve really enjoyed – and I’m not even getting anything from anyone to tell you about them!
As you can see, my, er, practical side tends to win when choosing travel gear – the silver backpack was a distinct departure from the theme of black, black and black – so you’ll have to forgive my photoshop-y efforts to liven up the selection.
1. REI Primaloft Convertable Jacket.
I bought this on the recommendation of a friend (“Primaloft is amazing! The Marines use it!”) before a ten day trip to Europe last January. I wanted to bring only one bag, and I knew that January in Scandinavia is no laughing matter. Seeing as my normal winter coats are all from 1965 via Goodwill, I decided it might be worth the investment to find something warm, packable, and lightweight. I found this one on the post-Christmas sale rack, and I’m in love. It’s light, warm, and packs into its own internal pocket. It’s warm enough to get you through 15 degree weather (especially when layered with long johns and a sweater), and it’s water resistant. The model I bought also has a zip-off hood and sleeves, so it doubles as a vest when the weather is a little warmer. REI no longer stocks the convertible model I purchased (which is a much brighter turquoise than the one pictured!) but you can buy a similar version here.
2. Pacsafe VentureSafe 25 Liter Backpack.
This was a very generous Christmas gift from some wonderful friends, to replace my 15 year old Lowepro camera backpack which had seen me around the world twice and through high school and college (I miss you, come back to me!). It carries so much sentimental value that it still has a place of honor in my closet.
I couldn’t have hoped for a better replacement than this one. Its first outing was the same trip to Europe that I mentioned above, and this pack is phenomenal. It’s small enough to carry around all day without turning my back into an unnavigable net of knots and bruises, and big enough to hold a (modest) 10-day winter wardrobe. It comes with a laptop pocket, is lined with steel mesh to prevent bag slashers, and every zipper secures into its own clip to prevent nimble fingers from “borrowing” your things. Unfortunately, it looks like PacSafe has discontinued this model – but you can keep an eye out for something like it here.
3. Ecco Vibration II Mary Jane Flats.
I think shoes are the hardest part of packing for a trip. They’re heavy and clunky, so you don’t want to pack too many pairs, but if you don’t bring the right ones, you might be stuck attending the ballet in your hiking boots, or trying to wade through volcanic soil in your Tevas. Even a day of walking around the city can become tortorous (just ask my right foot and its Blister of Doom, which developed when I left my good walking shoes at home during a visit to New York). Choosing the right shoes is especially hard when it’s warm (because boots do cover a multitude of sins). Finding shoes that are dressy enough not to look foolish on a night out, yet that you can walk on for 8+ hours of cobblestone streets without sweating out of is quite a feat (haaaa… see what I did there?).
So after much searching, I’m delighted that I’ve found these. They’re light, they pack almost down to nothing, and they take the superfeet insoles that are my must-haves for all day walking excursions. Plus, the top is made almost entirely of a fine mesh, which means my feet can breathe. The mary jane style does bring down their formal potential, but it also means I’m not trying to keep them on my feet when I’m scrambling around a ruined monastery. Buy them on Amazon here.
4. 25 Liter Ultralight Dry Sack from Outdoor Research. This was definitely an impulse buy (it was on sale at Sierra Trading Post! How could I resist?). The theory is, it’ll line my pack for my next European jaunt (coming in September!). I’ve never used a dry sack before, but I have struggled to keep my things dry when I’m traveling light – when everything is in one bag, rain is just as much a problem as that wet towel, and hauling around grocery bags just doesn’t cut it. So I’m gonna give it a try! You can buy a similar version on Amazon here.
5. Red Ledge Prospect Jacket. I bought this to pair with my primaloft jacket. I don’t particularly like hauling umbrellas around – they’re heavy, and only mildly effective at keeping water off you (which is surprising, given that it’s, you know, their only job). I’ve had water-resistant shells in the past, but when you’re waiting for a bus or walking to your hostel in the rain, water-resistant just doesn’t cut it. I’ve been looking for a decently priced, truly waterproof shell for a long time – and hopefully this will fit the bill! You can buy one here.
Find more of my favorite gear and essential packing list on my pinterest boards.
So tell me – what’s your favorite gear-related splurge? What’s the one thing you won’t travel without?
Want to read more about my must-have travel gear?