I spend enough time on the road each year to give the stuff I travel with some serious consideration, but travel’s tough enough on us that anyone that spends much time living even a little nomadically can benefit from the best gear. Here’s my favourite travel stuff these days. It fits the way I live and work. Got something you won’t travel without? Leave a comment and let us know!
1. Blundstone Boots. Still my favourites. These days I favour the Rigger style, but no matter which you choose, they’re comfortable, easy to pull off and on at security, on planes, and at the doorways of temples and mosques, and with a quick wipe and some hand lotion from the hotel they look great even after 2 weeks in the bush. $200
2. Filson Feather Cloth shirts. I’ve been wearing Filson Feather Cloth long and short sleeve shirts for my travels for years. By now they’re like a uniform to me. I’ve mostly given up on the fancy nylon shirts made by people like the North Face. These ones are comfortable, super-durable, and look good. I’ve worn them happily on all seven continents and I love them. $75.00
3. Sony Rx100 (Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100) I’ve had this little camera for less time than most of this other gear but it’s quickly become a favourite. Killer optics, large, beautiful RAW files, with excellent dynamic range, from a larger sensor (20 MP, 1″ CMOS sensor) than most, all in a really compact little pocket camera. It’s a little pricier than most cameras of the same size, but you pay more for the optics and the larger sensor, the two best things you can spend your money on if image quality matters to you. I find the controls, for such a small camera, relatively easy to get at – and the programmable ring on the lens is great. I mostly use it in Aperture mode and use the front ring for E/V compensation. I was looking at one of the smaller Canon’s but it’s hard to beat Zeiss optics and a larger sensor. This one’s not often not in my pocket. As an added bonues, there’s at least one serious water housing available for the Rx100. The one I’m looking at is a Nauticam, and it runs for about $950. The Sony Rx100 retails for about $650.00
4. Gura Gear Bataflae Backpacks. My camera gear all goes into these bags, the beautiful successor to Gura Gear’s excellent Kiboko. I use both the 26L and 32L, and they hold a mountain of gear that’s easy to access. The workmanship is excellent, the harnesses are really comfortable, and they look better to my eye than any other bag out there. And I’ve not met a plane yet that has seats that the Bataflae won’t slide under, even if the overhead bins are non-existent. $399 – $449.00
5. Black Diamond Ion Headlamp. I love these little headlamps. They’re bright, small, and cheap. I bring a couple with me on each trip, mostly because I tend to lose things. But out in the bush or on road trips with my Jeep, my Ion rarely comes off. I just wear it around my neck. Or around my wrist when I’m sleeping. My first headlamp was a $100 Petzl that weighed a tonne. I’m still surprised it didn’t give me some kind of neck injury. LEDs make these Ions at least as bright, way cheaper, and much more comfortable. Great for reading on the plane, or seeing the back of the camera after the light’s fallen. $17.50
6. 5.11 Rush 12 Tactical Pack. I love this bag for day-to-day travel. It goes into my duffel and comes out when I land. Laptop compartment, fleece-lined sunglasses pocket, lots of pockets for notebooks, ipods, batteries, etc., and large enough to carry a sweater, DSLR, spare lens, and extras. It’s killer durable and has the most comfortable harness of any daypack I’ve ever worn. It’s a little military-looking, but I’ve given up looking cool. If you want a really light daypack, this isn’t it, but you won’t get the same durability and features in one of those high-tech lightweight nylon bags. If light-weight is important to you, then this might be heavier than you want, but if you want something durable for more extreme field work, check this one out. $109.00
7. 11″ MacBook Air. After traveling for a couple years with a beloved 12″ Powerbook I was crushed when Apple abandoned it. The 13″ was fine, but still larger than I wanted. And then I got an 11″ MacBook Air and traveling with a computer stopped being an added burden. Mine’s a current 2GHz with 8 GB RAM and a 500GB flash drive. It handles Photoshop and Lightroom fine, and does a brave job with my massive D800 files. The display is small but I do very little critical work when I travel, saving it for home. I carry two very small back-up drives, also flash memory, and my power cables and that’s it. Right now they’ll run you $999 to about $2200 depending on configuration.
8. APC Universal Plug Adaptor. I love these. They’re easy to use after the first couple tries, and best of all they are light and flat. I can’t stand the big round ones, they’re so heavy they fall out of half the wall sockets I try to use. I only carry one because I also carry a small 6-outlet powerstrip.
9. Bose IE2 Headphones. I love Bose headphones, and I’ve got a pair of the fancy noise-cancelling ones, which I love, but they’re way too big for me to travel with. A couple years ago I tried a series of in-ear headphones, some of which I hated, some of which broke. Then I found the Bose IE2 which I bought to listen to music in the hospital while I tried to sleep. They’re perfect for me. Small, light, great fit, excellent sound, and the MIE2i works with my iPhone so I can do podcast interviews or Skype calls while I am on the road. $150.00
10. Icebreaker underwear and socks. Comfortable. Durable. Warm in the cool and cool in the warm, and the merino wool has a way of keeping odour at bay, so you can wear them a few days if you have to, without offending anyone other than yourself. Three pairs of both and I’m set. Come to think of it, the Icebreaker merino t-shirts, sweaters, and hats are also in my bags for most trips. It’s pricey stuff, and you might make an argument for just finding a cheaper brand that makes merino stuff, but I’m loyal to Icebreaker. They treated me well after my fall in Italy when the paramedics cut all my clothes off. Good folks, those Kiwis. Pack a small bottle of biodegradable Campsuds and you’re set.