We do a lot of different kinds of travel, but some gear and gadgets go on every trip, whether it’s for a week or a weekend. In no particular order, here’s a list of our must-pack items.
iBird Pro app – We have the iBird Pro app on our phones and it’s probably the most expensive app we’ve purchased. It cost us $14.99 and was so worth it. We have the big Sibley’s book which is the gold standard for birding and which we love. However, it’s about as heavy as a gold brick, too, and it’s not that fun to carry it around. The iBird Pro app is a great second string bird guide, and you do not need to be online to use this app. If you are a birder who has not seen iBird, you should really check it out. There is also a simpler version available for $9.99 and a fancier version (which we need to check out!) for $19.99.
Vapur Unbottles — these .5L and 1L bottles are the best for travel. We like them so much we even use them at home, but for traveling they can’t be beat. They take up almost zero room in a bag or suitcase since they can be folded flat and even rolled, and they are incredibly light. Yet they are also super sturdy. We have had ours for over two years and none of the three we use regularly have broken or even leaked. Jeff’s Vapur filter unbottle is now his go-to for backpacking.
Gear Ties were an impulse purchase at Eddie Bauer one Christmas, and were one of our better impulse purchases ever. All the cords we need for phones and the iPad and Erin’s various cameras can create a rat’s nest in a hurry. Gear Ties help keep all the cords detangled. Runner up: Quirky Carabandits.
Carabiners — We’ve never climbed a mountain and can say with some certainty we’re not going to, but we do thank the creator of the carabiner anyway, because those things are SO handy. Need to hang a baseball hat (or two) off your bag? Carabiner. Need a towel hanger? Carabiner. Need to make an impromptu clothesline? 2 carabiners and some dental floss, and done. And you can find them for just a few bucks! Note: if you are really planing to use carabiners for climbing, the cheap ones are NOT what you’re looking for.
Shower in a can — one of Jeff’s friends asked him must last year if he was a latent thirteen year old when he saw his little travel can of Axe, but a small body spray or perfume can come in handy on the road when there’s no shower in sight for a few hours. You can usually find them in the travel size section of your local drugstore. Those traveling with you will thank you, even if they make fun of you.
Sea to Summit backpack rain cover — My Canon D20 Powershot is a waterproof camera. My Canon 5D camera, not so much. To protect that investment, which I haul around in a Lowepro backpack (also highly recommended if you have a lot of camera gear to carry), I use a Sea to Summit waterproof backpack cover. The reasons I love it are many. First and foremost, because it is truly waterproof. I have carried that pack in serious rainstorms, and although my straps have gotten wet since they’re not protected, my main pack has always stayed dry. I also love that it’s very lightweight. It only weighs a few ounces. It also has its own little pouch it folds up into. It’s about the size of a hacky sack, and I just throw it in one of my backpack’s pockets. The cover I have is bright orange — the only color they had in stock at the time. I actually love the color, but it’s not really the best color for birding, so if I were to get one again, hopefully I could find something more subtle.
Canon D20 Powershot underwater camera which I mentioned above is my go-to point and shoot camera. It’s a great outdoor camera above or below water and has a decent flash for indoor photography, although it’s not excellent in that category. I love that if we’re at the pool or hiking in a river I can carry this camera and not worry about it. It’s really sturdy and has lived through a few bounces on the ground. Whoops. It’s easy enough to give to a stranger and they can take a photo with it. It has some fun modes on it, like miniature effect, fisheye, and fireworks. It’s a workhorse point and shoot, and I am rarely without it.
Mesh bags — we have collected mesh bags in a variety of sizes and styles over the years, and we are always fighting over who gets which ones when it comes time to pack. They’re so handy for keeping backpacks and suitcases organized. They’re also nice because you can see what’s inside them. A lot of the packing cubes are made of solid material, and unless you’re really good at remembering what’s where (we’re not), you end up opening three bags before you find the one you want.
Natural Life Boho Bandeaus — I wrote about these recently. I won’t be traveling without them again. Whether I want to keep my hair out of my eyes, I want to keep sweat from pouring down my face, I need an earband or a scarf because I’m chilly, or I want to dress up my dark travel clothes with a little pop of color, I can do it all with a bandeau.
Old prescription pill bottle filled with quarters — you just never know when you’re going to need some quarters for camp showers, toll roads, parking meters, etc. Keeping quarters in an old prescription bottle is perfect. They fit nicely, you have plenty, and don’t have to dig in the bottom of your purse or the seat cushions to try and find them!
Headlamps — we have actually been known to take these on other trips as well, but for camping these are a must. The LED lights we have are super bright, and it’s so much easier to be able to walk hands free and have the light directed exactly where you’re looking. They do use AAA batteries which we don’t ever seem to have on hand, so be sure to check your battery level before you leave on a trip. Jeff also has a little love affair with a lighter charging flashlight (Sahalie) my sister gave him. He actually told me he loved it so much he wanted to marry it (see the note above about the Axe body spray…).
Hydroflasks — these amazing thermal metal bottles are the best ever at keeping hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold. Serious magic is happening in Hydroflask’s stainless steel, insulated walls. I made a cup of hot cocoa (Dagoba brand chai spice flavor – you should try it!) on our camping trip at 10AM. I came back from a hike after 3PM and it was still hot! It’s the same with cold beverages. Your ice will last ALL day. Plus they come in fabulous colors and they have that cute little guy on the side. Not to mention they’re an Oregon company!
Those are our go to items. Do you have other go to travel gear or gadgets we should know about? Leave us a note in the comments, and enjoy your week or your weekend!