It has been nearly a year since I initially took off on an open-ended journey in Southeast Asia with nothing more than a carry-on-sized backpack. While I may travel light, that doesn’t mean I don’t have plenty of awesome gadgets, useful protective products, and essential items that I simply can’t live without.
Here are the tried and true items I was (and still am) incredibly glad to have along with me on my travels:
My MacBook Air 13-inch ended up being a great investment. The computer runs smoothly, I don’t have to worry about viruses abroad, and is incredibly light. It easily slips into my carry-on backpack and holds battery power for quite a long time. It makes me happier than a computer should make a person.
I have been asked quite a few times what camera I use to take my photos. The truth is I actually travel with four different cameras. Yes, even with my small amount of luggage, I still manage to flash-pack quite a bit. I mainly use my trusty Nikon DSLR 3100 to get the amazing landscape and temple photos I am so often asked about. It has since been replaced by the D3300:
If I simply don’t want to carry around a big, heavy camera, I’m most likely snapping photos with my unlocked iPhone 4 or Canon PowerShot:
Though I truly, honestly feel that a backpack is the sort of thing that needs to be tried on and purchased in person, as there are so many straps involved and height and weight matter quite a bit.
I highly recommend trying on several packs with weight in them and wearing them around the store for 10-15 minutes. After doing this with a few packs, you’ll know which is right for you. I recommend REI as a great place to find the right pack.
Perhaps even more important than the pack itself is how the items inside are organized. I can’t stress enough how helpful packing cubes are for this part. My double-sided packing cube is perfect for keeping my clothing items rolled up tight and separated by clean and dirty:Eagle Creek Travel Gear Pack-It Cube
The other essential organizational item is my Toiletry Bag. While pretty generic, it keeps my shampoo, extra deodorant and razors, and first-aid kit well organized:
I really like having a Pacsafe messenger bag, especially in towns like Phnom Penh where motorbike snatchers and slashers are a constant threat. I remember a friend warning me about the possibility of my shoulder strap getting cut, to which I replied, “Well, they can try, but they’re going to fail,” given the wire running through the strap. The non-flashy look of it also made me less of a target. Perhaps even more useful, the pack is equipped with hidden pockets that block RFID readers from getting your passport and credit card information:
Protecting My Gear
There is a fairly surprising lack of lockers and safe storage spaces for bags in Southeast Asia. I tend to stay in dorms, and even when I am in a private room, I feel a lot better when my bag is locked up. I almost never see other travelers with these products, but they are a huge contributor to my peace of mind, and take up very little space:
I slip on the rain jacket, wrap my bag in the PacSafe bag protector, then use an additional lock to lock it to a bed or any other object in the room that is fixed to the floor or wall and would be difficult to remove:
I also changed out the Nikon strap of my DSLR camera in favor of a Pacsafe camera strap that is generic-looking and very difficult to cut:
My Kindle ended up being one of the best things I brought with me. It stays charged for at least a week if not more, even with daily use, and cuts down massively on space as it’s light and can carry so many books in one. Plus, I like to highlight certain passages in books I read so that I can go back and re-read things that really inspired me, and the Kindle makes that very easy to do electronically:
I use DeVita solar moisturizer every single day as SPF and facial moisturizer. Even in the humid Southeast Asian climate, it doesn’t make me break out and keeps me from getting leather-face:
Lastly, (girls only) let’s be real, a Diva Cup simplifies my life during one very annoying week out of every month. It’s more environmentally friendly, much easier to deal with than hunting for tampons constantly (which can be near-impossible to find in certain countries), and is way more reliable on long-haul bus rides as it can be worn for up to 12 hours at a time:
Booking Flights and Hostels
There are times when I wing it and just show up to a town and look around for the right hostel, and there are times, such as during the lantern festival in Chiang Mai, that booking ahead is essential. I prefer booking through Hostelworld for Hostels and Budget Accommodation when I do book ahead. It makes it very easy to find the highest-rated hostels for the cheapest price in most major and even not-so-major cities.
For flights, I like Expedia the best. I find them cheapest. I say that with no agenda or sponsorship from them. I mean it.
Travel insurance-wise, I use World Nomads. It’s not expensive and since they have an adventurer option, the activities like SCUBA diving and trekking that I love so much are covered. I also like that if I have a major issue, they can fly me to a country with good medical care where I can get it sorted out.
Each and every one of the things listed on this page are items and services that I use myself and recommend to my friends and family. For the entire past year, I’ve been traveling around the world and testing each of these items regularly. This list will surely grow over time, but for now, these select few products make the cut.
*Every time you make a purchase through one of these links, you help keep me traveling, blogging, and providing great free content. Each purchase you make, no matter how small, contributes in a big way to keeping me on the road. Thanks for your support!