Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Two Month Check-up, Part One: Gear

As most good ideas do, the idea of a check-up post came from my dad. He sent me an email with several questions about how our plans, expectations, gear, etc. are holding up so far. These are questions we keep getting, but since the answers are dynamic, I didn't want to add them to the FAQ page and have to eat my words later on. Since most of these questions warrant answers that are posts in and of themselves, I'm going to split it up by question or theme and do a few separate posts. So here it is-- The FAQs Two Month Check-Up, Part One: Gear.

Warning: There will be no pictures of pretty landscapes in this post. I know, I'm as disappointed as you are.

How has your gear held up? Are there things you wish you had brought or things you regret bringing?

At this point, we are both extremely happy with what we brought and, equally as important, what we didn't bring. We have some of the smallest and emptiest bags of the other backpackers we see, which makes us pretty proud of ourselves. We also have some of the dorkiest, most technical clothes and the least cool, decent things to wear in cities, which makes us completely uncomfortable until we realize that, unlike those backpackers in jeans, we can actually carry our bags without hating life. Suck it, jeans-wearers.

While overall, we are pretty obsessed with ourselves for packing so well, there are a couple changes we would make if we had to do it all over again. There are also a few things we have that make us happy every time we look at them because they are just that useful. I'll touch on all of those things below.

Things we should have brought with us-
-A knife-free wine opener. It's a crime how terrible the hostel openers are and how difficult it is to buy a decent one. We need a good opener that we can bring on planes and just can't seem to find what we are looking for.
-Vincent: One less long-sleeve sport shirt and one more technical button down shirt. Vincent has exactly one outfit that he can wear to a restaurant or out to a bar. It's not as if we go out that much, but it gets a little embarrassing when we meet the same people out for drinks two nights in a row.
-Elissa: One decent (i.e. not technical) cardigan or sweater. I have a fleece and two long sleeve shirts, but nothing I can throw over a dress or a tank top if I want to dress up. We both underestimated that we might actually want to look like normal people this year.
-Anything else we didn't bring, we've simply bought along the way, which is much more fun anyway. Among those are comfy pants for V and accessories for E.

Things we brought that we don't use:
Really, not a lot.
I had one too many tank-tops, which worked out perfectly because I've already lost the one I liked least. Vincent hasn't really used his long underwear shirt, but I borrowed it when I lost my fleece. If I keep losing tops at this rate, I'll be completely out by June!
Vincent brought the perfect amount of clothes, but too many security accessories, like two different wire locks and two different money belts, when he really only uses one of each.

Things we brought that make us want to hug ourselves with pride for being so damn clever:
- Our X-Mini mini-speaker for our iPods. It's ultra small and light, but with it, we can make a hostel dinner that much more romantic, bring our tunes to the beach, or drown out the voices of people who annoy us. Genius.
- Our Petzl head lamps (thanks Dad and Theresa!). From hiking up to Machu Picchu at 4:00am to camping during a trek to looking for my earplugs at the bottom of my bag on an overnight bus, these guys are a life-saver and are perfectly travel-sized.
- Our Kindle (again, thanks Dad and Theresa). I really hesitated to get a Kindle due to my loyalty to actual books. While the Kindle will never replace my loaded bookshelves, it is an incredible investment for traveling. Not only are all of our guidebooks stored on the tiny, light-weight device, but we also have the choice of thousands of books for entertainment, both in English and French, for the long bus rides and not-long-enough down time during our travels. We still have actual books that we are carrying, but the Kindle is an amazing fall-back when the hostel book exchanges only have German novels and the Twilight saga.
- Our backpacks. We both have Deuter ACT Lite backpacks that we protect with Sea to Summit pack covers (another awesome investment). The bags have been everything we wanted them to be: light, spacious, comfortable and, so far, durable. We are in love with our little temporary homes.
- Our Exped inflatable pillows. These things are life-savers in hostels with flat pillows, on overnight buses and during camping and trekking trips. They fold up really small and are lightweight, but are also super comfortable. We are obsessed.

Vincent's favorite things (Vincent claims that guys don't do things like gush about their travel gear, so here's what I could pry out of him):
- V uses a Pacsafe money belt to carry large amounts of cash. He doesn't use it when he needs a couple bucks for a bottle of water, but it comes in handy when we have a lot of cash on us and don't want it easily pickpocketed. It looks just like a normal belt, but has an interior zip that holds money.
- He also couldn't travel without his iPhone. We use it to get online in wifi zones, to hold important documents, to call hostels from the bus, to play music and listen to audio books, as an electronic Spanish dictionary, to play Uno on bus trips, etc., etc., etc. It is definitely a luxury, but it makes life so much easier.

Elissa's favorite things (I definitely have no problem gushing):
- My leggings/ long underwear pants. Warm, light-weight and practical, yes, but with a long tanktop, sandals and the right jewelry, they also make a decent outfit for a city. They are also the perfect "comfy pants" for wearing around the hostel room. They were a last minute addition to my gear and I'm so glad I brought them.
- My sandals. Ok, I have to be honest. I'm really not proud of this, but here it goes: I am travelling with a pair of Crocs. Now before you close out of this window and disown me, they aren't the hideous clogs, they are actual sandals and I love them. Here they are: 
I mean, they aren't going to end up in the pages of Vogue or anything, but their shape and rubber fabrication allow me to wear them everywhere from the shared hostel showers (ew) to a tango bar in Buenos Aires. And, as all clog-wearing Croc owners can attest, they are "sooo comfortable."
- My Lush solid shampoo and conditioner bar. I've already talked about this in the FAQs page but it's great enough that it merits another mention.
- Lastly, my over-sized, square-shaped, cotton scarf (merci Christian et Michelle!) that I use as a scarf, a turban, a beach wrap, a picnic blanket, a cover in air-conditioned buses, a towel and a pillow. It is incredibly resistant, polyvalent and practical, and I would recommend something like it to anyone who wants to travel light.

So there you have it, our gear check-up after two months of traveling in a variety of situations and climates. These opinions are subject to change, so I'll do another check-up if my backpack disintegrates tomorrow or if one more person makes fun of my Crocs.


  1. Hey you forgot one important thing : the notebook!!! to blog, to skype, to facebook....(I am not sure those verb exist in English yet but as "to google" is used....).
    Is the safety belt the one from Vincent's birthday?

  2. No landscape photos? Yawn. Notify me once this becomes the "Topless 360 degrees in 360 days" blog. Apparently it could happen.

    Just kidding. How could anyone need more than the black print on this mint green page? Elissa, you are an artist with words and a model of urbane taste. I'm glad you and V are happy with your selections. Its a great service to your fellow travelers that you take the time to share all of this information.