With the Spring travel season right around the corner, it’s not too early to start gathering up some travel essentials. Whether your adventures take you on the road, over railways or sea, or through the skies, we hope this list of travel gear makes your trips a little less stressful and a lot more organized.
Pack Your Bags, Let’s Go
Ah, bags — the starting point of preparation for any adventure. One’s packing list can be only as extensive as their bag allows, so it’s important to pick the right one. We prefer to bring as few bags as possible on our trips, which is where the GORUCK GR2 excels.
As we said in our recent review of the GR2,
[Traveling light is] a much more involved way of traveling, and requires some conscious effort to be done right, but the tradeoffs are easily worth it. Indeed, if we accept the simple penalty of doing laundry about once a week — which is not at all unreasonable — there’s no practical difference between packing a bag for a week, a month, or a full season.
With its 40-liter capacity, the GR2 can easily accommodate one week’s worth of clothing and gear — plenty enough for most peoples’ needs.
It’s quite comfortable to carry over extended periods of time, it’s made of extremely durable materials (which is thoroughly field-tested ahead of release) and its discreet, understated appearance won’t draw too much attention. On top of that, even if you manage to fill its myriad compartments, pockets, sleeves, and external MOLLE webbing, the GR2 can still fit nicely in the overhead storage space in most planes and long-distance trains.
If you prefer over-the-shoulder bags over backpacks, or tend to take only 3-4 day trips, the Tom Bihn Aeronaut 30 will be up your alley.
Considered the little brother of the original Aeronaut 45, this convertible carry-on bag can comfortably be worn over the shoulder duffel-style, or as a backpack if you like. More importantly, the Aeronaut 30 can carry a surprising amount of stuff for its size — which is, as the name implies, 30 liters — and the interior can be customized to suit your needs.
The main body of the bag is divided into three compartments, the center one being the largest. Each of the interior panels dividing the end compartments from the center one can be unzipped and pushed aside if you need more space. And just like the GR2, the Aeronaut 30 is super tough.
Make fun if you want, but to us, keeping a bag’s contents nicely organized while traveling is nearly as pleasing as the trips themselves. The peace of mind that comes from knowing exactly where everything in our bag is — along with the Zen-like feeling we get from the packing and organizing process itself — always leads to a better outlook on the trip.
Clothes and Toiletries
Eagle Creek’s Pack-It Cubes are perfect for organization nerds like us. They help break down the contents of a bag into their respective categories and compress them into a smaller space, making the packing process way easier and keeping everything from getting mixed up. They’re water- and odor-resistant, totally washable, and their see-through mesh tops eliminate any guesswork about what’s inside.
If you opt for the Aeronaut 30 bag mentioned above, check out Tom Bihn’s own packing cubes, of which you can select one of several versions made especially to fit that bag.
For toiletries specifically, you can’t beat a good Dopp kit. Everlane’s Reverse Denim Dopp Kit is both classy and understated, with a water-resistant exterior made from denim that has been turned inside-out and fused with khaki twill.
The main compartment has a small inner pocket but is mainly open space for your toiletries. There’s also an exterior zip compartment for slimmer items. We love the little brown leather details throughout.
Gadgets and Accessories
Chances are, you’re going to have multiple devices in your bag. Which means you’ve probably got charger cables for each one, not to mention all the other small items you might want to bring along — earbuds, one or two USB thumb drives, chap stick, a couple pens, Field Notes…you get the idea.
We love having the Cocoon Grid-It Organizer in these situations. It’s a board of elastic belts that can securely hold all those smaller items in place, in pretty much any configuration you want. The zipper pocket on the back is great for Field Notes notebooks. If the 12″ x 8″ model pictured above isn’t quite right for your needs, they have plenty of other sizes available.
Once you’ve arrived at your destination, you’ll need to keep all your stuff charged. Rather than having cables strewn about the room based on where outlets are, just use the Anker 5-port USB charger.
This little hub gets everything right:
- It lets you charge up to five gadgets at once—iPads, iPhones, Kindles, cameras, you name it—and intelligently adjusts the output of each port based on whatever’s connected (or disconnected, for that matter). Awesome for families with a lot of stuff to charge.
- It draws very little power while idle, and it has built-in protection against overvoltage, overcurrent, overheating and short circuits. You don’t have to stress about leaving it plugged in 24/7 or having all your devices connected overnight. It’s totally worry-free.
- Only ever gets a little warm while charging, never hot.
- Comes with a 5-foot detachable power cable, so you should be able to position the unit anywhere on your desk for easy access.
- Small enough to toss into a bag, and it’s dual-voltage to boot so it’s perfect for international travel, assuming you’ve got the appropriate adapter(s).
On the topic of charging, the Anker Astro Portable USB Battery Charger is a sleek and awesome portable charger for your iOS devices, and it’s the top-rated USB charging device on Amazon.
It has enough juice (10000 mAH) to charge your iPhone 4-5 times, an iPad mini about twice, and even an iPad Air almost once. Sports dual USB outputs that allow it to charge multiple phones at a time, as well as a 4-LED power meter. Comes in black or white.
For your reference, here’s a chart of battery capacities of some common gadgets to give you an idea of how much power they need (and thus how many charges you’ll get out of the charger).
|iPhone 6 Plus
|iPad mini Retina
|iPad Air 2
|Samsung Galaxy S5
It’s not uncommon for people to bring trash bags or something similar to keep dirty laundry separate from clean clothes, but there are better options — namely, the Tom Bihn Travel Laundry Stuff Sack and the Outlier Doublebag.
The two are essentially the same in concept: a double-ended bag with a movable partition in the middle to keep clean and dirty clothes separate. Store your clean clothes on one side, then move them to the other end as they get dirty. The total size of the bag won’t change, but the ratio of clean-to-dirty will. When the dirty side fills up, wash everything and start over.
And now we come to the items that, while they may or may not be necessary for all people or all trips, we certainly like having them around.
Saddleback Leather’s Passport Wallet was built with international travelers in mind. It has two credit card slots, each of which can hold up to five cards. The RFID-shielded inner sleeve can hold up to four passports (useful for family trips) and prevents their built-in chips from being scanned from a distance. The inner pocket is useful for carrying various kinds of cash, and the outer folder pocket is where you can store boarding passes.
Now just a heads-up, this is a fairly large wallet (4 1/4″ x 5 1/2″). You might want to keep it in your bag rather than your pocket — so long as it’s easily accessible to you once you’re at the airport.
I (Chris) am the type of guy that likes to carry a water bottle wherever I go. I’m a lot less likely to go out and buy a sweet drink if I’ve got water on hand, and refilling the same bottle over and over helps me use fewer disposable containers. And when it comes to traveling, staying hydrated is key for me.
That’s why the Vapur Element collapsible water bottle is perfect. It squishes flat when not in-use, and can be folded and/or rolled for easy packing in a bag or suitcase. The wide mouth makes it easy to add ice, and since the bottle itself is essentially a plastic pouch, the whole thing can be put in the freezer and used as a makeshift ice pack later.
It’s made from BPA-free polyethylene and nylon, which is dishwasher-safe and leaves no weird taste in your water. The flip-top cap allows for one-handed use, and has a built-in carabiner for clipping the bottle to your bag or belt loop. It comes in two sizes — 0.7-liter and 1-liter — with various colors to choose from.
Just because you’re away from home doesn’t mean you have to settle for mediocre coffee from airports and hotels. If you’ve got room in your bag, consider bringing along an Aeropress and a hand grinder like the Porlex JP-30. You’ll have to supply your own hot water but it’ll be worth it. (And of course, don’t forget the coffee beans.)
The Porlex JP-30 — or its mini counterpart — can stow inside the main body of the Aeropress for easy storage. If you also want to put the Aeropress plunger’s open interior to good use, you can store beans and filters in that space and keep it all sealed up with the Aeropress Travel Cap + Brewing Grip ($10) from Able Brewing Co.
Anybody who’s ever read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy will tell you: a towel is one of the most important and useful things a traveler can carry. And if you’re going to have one with you at all times, the Packtowl Nano Light Towel is an excellent choice.
This thing can absorb just about any liquid you throw at it (up to twice the towel’s weight) and it will wring out almost completely dry as if by magic. It can be used over and over for several days before needing a wash, and when not in-use, it can be easily stored in the included mesh bag (which has a nifty snap-on strap for attaching to other equipment, such as a larger bag or tent).
It’s not meant to replace bathroom towels, but it’s perfect for camping and other sorts of travel, and even for cleaning eyeglasses. I recommend picking up a few of the medium size — they’re about $10 each on Amazon.