We're nearly one month into our yearlong trip around the world, and already some of my gear is proving more useful than other things in my pack.
Here's what I'm using most and loving right now.
It's an enormous pain not to be able to drink the tap water. Although we heard from some Americans in Medellin that the water was potable, we still ended up buying tons of water bottles and generally feeling bad about the expense and waste of it all. That is until we broke out our Steripen. This little baby uses UV rays (and other sciencey things) to kill bacteria in a liter of water in just 90 second. No more buying bottles of water!
This thing packs down to the size of your fist but can be inflated to be a small pillow. It's awesome for long bus rides, like the night bus we took from Cali to Ipiales, Colombia. I've even used it in hostels when I haven't felt great about the pillows offered.
These have doubled as running shoes and are awesome. Really sturdy and very comfortable. I hiked through riverbeds in them, and they'll be my primary hiking boots on our four-day Inca trail trek to Machu Picchu.
I really wish I would kiss the person who first invented these. I've never been one to use them before, but I brought a pair on this trip just in case. Thank God I did. Turns out, buses in South America are fond of playing awful Adam Sandler movies (dubbed in Spanish, mind you) on FULL VOLUME for hours on end while you attempt to sleep or just hold yourself in the fetal position. I might have flung myself from the bus had I had to listen to Paul Blart Mall Cop without these.
We've used this small speaker in every apartment we've stayed in to play music while we cook or project the sound of movies played from our laptops. Even better, we used it as a sound machine in a loud hostel one night. We were in a private room just off the common area, and there was a group up late talking. Our ear plugs just weren't doin' it, so we downloaded a mp3 track of a box fan and set it on repeat on my itunes. Then we hooked up this bluetooth speaker, and it played all night. Sweet relief.
Nate brought me this kikoy back from Morocco. It's one of the most versatile things in my bag. On buses and planes, it's a blanket. In hostels and at the beach, it's my towel. On chillier days, it's a scarf or wrap. It dries quickly and folds down, taking up barely any space!
7. Packing cubes
These lightweight bags are easy to shove into your pack and have come in super handy. When my bathing suit was still wet, I packed it in one to keep my other clothes from getting damp. I've also used them for dirty laundry or to separate my warm and cold weather gear so I don't have to unzip every packing cube to get to the clothes a need in each climate.