Travel Advice #2: What To Take

Let’s review some travel gear to help decide between duffel or backpack, clothes, footwear, and technology with travel apps to take on your adventure. To help you succeed, I created three travel advice pages that are divided into:

Luggage: Backpacks, Duffels, and Daypacks

  • Backpack vs Duffel

If you are hiking the Appalachian Trail, you should definitely have a lightweight backpack that is designed to be worn all day for long distances. However, a duffel is more appropriate for international travel because it is lockable and designed for durability.

  • Technical Backpacks

For hiking long-distance trails, I recommend Osprey brand backpacks, as they are extremely well designed to carry all your camping gear efficiently and come with a lifetime warranty. I took an ultralight 48-liter Exos for hiking the Appalachian Trail when I only needed to carry three days of food and a maximum of 30 pounds on my back. Then, I used a more robust 65-liter Atmos for hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, where I needed to carry ten days of food in a bear canister. When fully loaded it weighed over 42 pounds, which made 14,000-foot peaks quite grueling, but this pack allowed me to carry the weight efficiently.

  • Duffel Bags

For adventure travel, I recommend North Face brand duffels because they are crafted from heavy-duty material, allow easy access to all your gear, and it can be locked during transit. I took a 70-liter Duffel across South America, where I planned to go on many 3-day camping trips, so I packed a 30-liter ultralight backpack in the bottom of the duffel under my camping gear. This set-up allowed me to take a bus to a National Park gateway city, pack my essential gear in the Black Diamond Speed 30L ruck for the adventure, and then leave everything else in my duffel at the hostel. Alternatively, I used a smaller 50-liter NF Duffel for traveling across SE Asia with no camping gear, but I brought a 14″ laptop and a yoga mat.  

  • Lock and Cable

I would advise taking a high-quality three-digit combination lock to secure your duffel bag, but make sure the lock’s hook will pass through the zipper’s loops. At a hardware store, I made a 6-foot (2m) length of thin 3/32-inch (2.4mm) metal cable with a crimped loop at both ends, which I use with the lock to secure my duffle to a bed frame in a hostel, or a coconut tree on a beach.  

  • Daypacks

Most backpacks have a detachable top ‘brain’ that can be used as a small bag for going from trailhead to town for groceries. However, for globetrotting, you will want a small daypack for walking around town or going on a day hike in the mountains. I prefer a simple 18-liter REI Daypack, crafted from lightweight material with no extra frills; just a cinch-top bag with one internal zipper compartment, and a 2-liter water reservoir sleeve.

  • 2L Reservoir Bag

I’m a huge advocate of staying hydrated and found the easiest way to drink water while hiking is to store water in a reservoir bag, which is connected by a tube to a mouthpiece that secures to the backpack’s sternum strap. I use a 2-liter Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir that has a hands-free bite valve and a magnetic connector. For more options, review this website that compares different hydration systems

Clothing: Shirts, Pants, Jackets, and Sandals

  • Synthetic vs Cotton

For adventure travel in humid climates where you will be sweating, I recommend synthetic materials that are lighter, faster drying, and don’t hold odor. Natural cotton fabrics are warmer and more comfortable, but they are heavy and take longer to dry, so leave your blue jeans at home. My exception for colder climates is a wool hat and wool socks as you lose heat fastest from your head and feet.

  • Fewer Clothes

Deciding which clothes to take is taxing, but I recommend you lay out what you want to take and then reduce it by half. Trust me, no one is going to care if you wear the same shirt for three days straight. I limit my wardrobe to: 3 socks, 3 boxers, 3 shirts, 2 shorts, 2 pants, fleece, raincoat, sunhat, wool hat, hiking shoes, and sandals.     

  • Socks & Boxers

Under Armour brand running socks and boxer briefs are my base layer choice, as the synthetic blend wicks sweat and dries fast. Not cheap, but you get what you pay for with long-lasting durability, excellent design, and all-day comfort. 

  • T-shirts & Sunshirts

For globetrotting, I’m a huge fan of technical T-shirts that are moisture-wicking, quick-drying, and odor-resistant. Here is a detailed hiking shirt comparison. I also take a long-sleeve, UV-proof, button-up shirt to protect you from the sun and look presentable when crossing borders. Here is a selection of brands from REI.

  • Shorts & Pants

I endorse Patagonia, Outdoor Research, and Mountain Hardware brands for their excellent design and durability. I take hiking shorts, swimming shorts, and cargo pants, as well as a pair of loose-fitting Prana Yoga Pants for my morning routine. 

  • Raincoat & Fleece

Marmot Minimalist Raincoat is a perfect balance of protection and breathability, as I’m not fond of getting soaked. The Marmot Reactor Fleece is quite warm for high altitudes or overnight bus rides, and is more durable than a down jacket.

  • Sun Hat & Wool Hat

The OR Helios Sun Hat prevents UV-burn while on the beach or touring archeological sites. I also take a knitted wool hat to keep me warm on overnight bus rides and waiting for the sunrise on top of a mountain. 

  • Hiking Shoes

I’m a fan of Salewa shoes, as I wore the robust Mountain Trainer model for hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, but then took the lighter Wildfire Pro model for backpacking SE Asia, where I was only doing day hikes. 

  • Sandals

I love Xero Z-Trek Sandals as they are well designed and lightweight—almost like going barefoot. It takes time for your feet to get used to the thinner sole, as you will feel every pebble on the road, but they will make your feet and ankles stronger. 


Technology: Smartphones, Applications, and Extras

  • Go Mid-tech

Like flashy gold jewelry, your high-tech gadgets can make you a target for theft while traveling abroad. I recommend taking two (2) older iPhone 5s; the smaller size is less of a target for pickpockets, and if stolen or broken, you have a backup ready to go. 

  • Limit Usage

If you are overly reliant on technology, it can disconnect you from the adventure. Instead of staring at a digital map on your phone, try using your intuition to find your way, a compass on your watchband, or politely ask the locals for directions. 

  • Smartphones

Traveling with a smartphone is great for navigating foreign cities, translating languages, taking photos, calculating currency exchanges, researching destinations, and connecting by social media, but do not miss out on the actual travel experience because you are glued to your screen.

  • WiFi vs 4G

Most hostels will have WiFi access, which is fine if you are just replying to emails or posting on Facebook, yet it’s often very slow and can be problematic if you need to download anything. If you want reliable 4G data without roaming charges, you will need to get a foreign Sim card, yet some US phones will need to be ‘unlocked’ before you can use a foreign Sim card.

  • Navigation Apps

I highly recommend as an amazing offline navigation tool, which often shows hiking trails to the top of a mountain, but you first need to download the map for each country. Google Maps often has more detailed information about a city center and can give detailed driving directions, but it needs to be online to work properly.

  • Translation Apps

Google Translate works great for many languages, but you first need to download the specific language translation file to work offline. However, it doesn’t work so well for the Thai language, so I have using the Talking Thai App almost daily while living in Thailand. Beyond just translating, there are also tons of free apps to help you learn a new language.

  • Currency Apps

XE Currency Converter is a free app that holds ten currencies with their accurate exchange rates, which allows you to make quick calculations when exchanging one currency for another at a border crossing, yet you will usually pay a 10% fee when exchanging currencies. 

  • Research Apps

There is no shortage of travel research websites, but the two apps that I use the most often are TripAdvisor and TravelFish because they have accurate information and honest reviews.

  • Booking Apps

The two apps that I use are Agoda and Hostelworld to select a hostel in my price range and location near my arrival transportation. I have found that the room prices are usually a tad cheaper on Agoda, but you have to pay the full amount up front. However, Hostelworld seems to have more hostel locations, and you only have to pay a 15% deposit to book the room. 

  • Social Media

Facebook is king for staying connected to folks back home and with new friends you meet along the way, as well as making data phone calls with their Messenger app. Line is a super-popular app in SE Asia for text messages, and I also use Skype for making data phone calls to international businesses.

  • Extra Apps

Skyscanner app is great for researching airline flights, as you can compare different airlines over a variety of dates. Uber and Grab are both good apps for ordering a taxi, but you pay a surcharge for this service. SkyViewFree is personally one of my favorite apps for seeing all the planets and knowing where the sun or moon will rise above the horizon. Dropbox is another fav app for storing data online, from JPEG images to PDF docs and MP3 music.

  • Flash Drive

Many hostels have a public access computer where you can transfer images from your phone to the USB flash drive for safe storage; clearing memory space for more pics.

  • Power Bank

Take a power bank to keep your electronic gadgets charged for a few days away from electricity. I used a Jackery Bolt 6000 mAh Charger, which has a built-in lightning cable tip for my iPhone 5, and a micro-USB tip for my UV Pen—so no extra cables to fumble with.   

  • Electrical Adapter

Many foreign countries have a different prong-shape electrical wall outlet. Take a universal adapter that fits all outlets and has a USB port, such as the LOOP World Adapter, which can be used in over 150 countries.

  • Electrical Cables

Take 6-inch high-quality USB cables with different tips to connect/charge all your gadgets; from phone to power bank and UV pen. Even quality cables will wear out over time, so it’s best to have backups.  

  • Smartphone Case

If your phone is not waterproof, you should invest in a quality waterproof case such as the Lifeproof brand cases, as sooner or later you will get soaked in an unexpected downpour.

  • Waterproof Bag

I take a heavy-duty waterproof bag for my spare phone, flash drives, power bank, electric adapter, electrical cables, and anything else that can get damaged by water or corroded by humidity. I have used and highly recommend the Sea2Summit brand roll-top dry sacks.

  • Water Treatment

Take some type of water treatment system to protect your stomach from harmful bacteria while globetrotting, which also reduces plastic bottle waste. There are many options for different conditions, clearly reviewed in this water treatment comparison. I have used an MSR pump filter, but found it needed regular maintenance and cleaning. I also like the minimalist Sawyer straw filter, but found it tastes like plastic and does not work in the cold. Instead, I recommend using a rechargeable (micro-USB) SteriPEN brand ultraviolet light pen to effortlessly clean water without chemicals within a wide-mouth one-liter Nalgene Bottle

  • Headlamp

Take a headlamp for hiking in the dark or when the power goes out. I used a rechargeable minimalist Petzel Bindi with a red-light option, so you are not blinding your friends while eating dinner or waking everyone in the dorm room when you pack your duffel at 5am. 

  • Laptop

Optional: unless you’re a Digital Nomad and need to work while traveling, I do not recommend that you take a laptop on your adventure. It is easily damaged and a target for theft. However, if you need a laptop, take a waterproof case. I used an Aqua Quest Laptop Case for my 14″ notebook and had no concerns, as it is 100% waterproof with a double ziplock seal, welded seams, and a removable padded sleeve that had enough room for my power cord, mouse, and 1TB external hard drive within the case. 

More Travel Magic

world globe

Lighting The Path

I developed this site to inspire you to go explore this big blue marble and discover the transformative magic of personal empowerment. Guiding your wanderlust, there are regional maps of the world that illustrate some Magical Places among the multitude of tourist traps. 

To help you succeed, I created Travel Advice pages divided into:
1) Before You Go: Basics, Documents, and Medical;
2) What To Take: Luggage, Clothing, and Technology;
3) On The Road: Immersion, Philosophy, and Books.

Lighting the path, the Travel Magic eBook series shares my personal experiences and takes you away to exciting locations; joining me to go cycling across New Zealand and backpacking throughout Vietnam.

I sell these adventure stories as digital eBooks exclusively on Amazon.  Click on any book cover image to visit my Amazon Author Page.