Here you'll find anything small and electronic that's not a laptop, tablet or phone. These items all serve different purposes but most receive use on a daily basis. Keeping them charged and accessible is a challenge.
This is one of the most surprising essentials of our trip. Jess initially asked for this so we could watch movies but I use it almost every day for a variety of things. I use it for music in the shower, podcasts while cooking and, most importantly, for white noise when we’re sleeping in louder environments. The battery stays charged for weeks when not in use and lasts a surprising amount of time at full volume. I was initially skeptical about how useful Bluetooth connection was but it’s incredibly useful. The spaces we live in on the road are small and being able to move the speaker around the room is really convenient and useful.
We bought fairly entry level laptops in terms of storage with just 256GB on the Macbook Pro and only 128GB on the Air. We assumed we would need extra space regardless to handle photos and video so we bought an external. My primary concern with the external was reliability and durability. I could have certainly purchased a WD Passport for less but wanted a little bit more piece of mind. We take good care of our important or expensive electronics, but I like knowing that the drive is designed to take some hits.
The Transcend has done well so far but its by no means seemless. 10% of the time it has trouble being detected after its plugged in. I can hear it spinning and the file access light blinks but it can take up to five minutes before it shows on the desktop. It also pauses periodically while accessing files, particularly folders with images.
The transfer speed is fine for us but we don’t deal with high definition video. I’m also mildly concerned with the cable with is definitely not a standard plug. I’m as concerned about stripping or damaging the plug as I am about hurting the drive. We did purchase a recovery plan from Seagate but I also try to backup with a cloud service when we have good internet (READ: nowhere in South America).
I’m always a bit up in the air about the GoPro. On one hand, there are a few things that I would never be able to record without it. On the other hand, those moments are far between and, in the meantime, I have an entire half packing cube full of mounts, batteries, cases etc.
The other issue with GoPro has to do with the kind of footage it produces, both because of the nature of the adventure activities it's best at recording and because of the general clumsiness of its controls, the GoPro produces a lot of extra footage that you then have to sort through to find the few specific moments you want to edit or use.
It also requires foresight and minding when you plan to use it. Since we use it infrequently, we have to remember to charge the batteries, check the memory card, figure out what mount to use etc. Essentially I want my cell phone to be durable, mountable and waterproof. But it’s not. So I should probably get over it.
One thing the GoPro does that sets it apart is time lapses. It’s easy to set it to capture a sunset or cloud movement and the GoPro editing studio makes assembling the footage easy.
This was one of our 5 Surprising Essentials for our first six months on the road. This is not so much for it’s usefulness – obviously being able to clean your own water is really important – but because of how easy and quick the Steripen is to use. I’ve used filtration systems, chemical systems and I’ve also just boiled a ton of water in a lot of weird places. Nothing is as easy, quick and user friendly as the Steripen. It takes a minute to clean a liter of water which means instead of cleaning several liters at once because its such a pain in the ass to do, I’ve found myself waking up in the middle of the night, wanting some more water, and cleaning it half asleep before going back to bed.
Two notes: the Steripen is not the best combination with a small mouthed water bottle like the Vapours we use. To work it needs to swirl around and pass UV light through all the water. The narrow opening on the Vapour means it can only go in so far and then may not be reaching water at the bottom. We still use it on occasion in our water bottles, but prefer to use it in a glass, pitcher, pot or other wider vessel.
Also, we have noticed that if its not used for an extended period of time (over a week) it can be slow to turn on in the same way fluorescent lights in old fixtures are slow. The best solution is to keep it plugged in to a power source and give a few minutes to warm up.
These were a first year anniversary gift for Jess. They are amazing. They are not just for planes. They are for anytime you want to limit the amount of stimulus you are experiencing. They work in noisy dorms, next to crying children or even just when your partner is listening to music in the next room. Equally important is the quality of the sound which makes music and movies much more enjoyable. These are not good workout headphones, They are too heavy and too expensive to take running or risk sweating on, but when travel reduces your available private space a dingy hostel room or an over heated bus seat, noise cancellation can extend that personal space just a little bit.
We really like having a mouse for long days working on the blog. I think it makes tasks like photo editing much more comfortable. In terms of reliability, weight and cost, you can’t beat Logitech’s entry level wired mouse. There’s no messing around with batteries or getting irritated by intermittent connection problems.
I wanted to find some slightly nicer headphones for the trip that I also wouldn’t be upset to see lost or trashed. The Brainwavz (despite their terrible name) have fit the bill. They have great sound quality for the price, more durable port and joint materials and a mic and volume buttons. The ear buds are metal, not plastic which means they are heavier than ear buds that come with your standard smart phone. This extra weight prevents these from being a good option for high intensity activities like working out.
This is one of those items that is so light that it gets a pass when I think about how little I use it. With Spotify premium, I can offline playlists and this has minimized my need to use my shuffle for workouts or bus trips. Still, I have a lot of good music in iTunes on my laptop and its nice to load up an album sometimes when I go for a run.
I love Petzyl stuff. I’ve used their helmets and lights since I was a teenager. This headlamp has been going strong for several years at this point. These days most of us have flashlights on our smart phones but having a light on your head is really a whole whole lot better. Setting up a tent on soft sand in a South African game park in pitch black is a hell of a lot easier with two hands.
Headlamps are another one of those things you don’t need until you do. Given their overall weight and fooprint in the bag, that’s not so big a deal. Traditionally, I’ve always bought Petzyl headlamps but I really like this one. It’s light seems more focused at shorter distances and its body is slightly smaller.
We keep a few of these around. One for quickly transferring images or other files when we’ve got no internet and don’t want to wait to plug and unplug the external etc. We also have an encrypted USB backup in the event we get mugged or lose our bags. It holds passport photos, credit cards, bank info, basically everything you need to steal our identity. Needless to say, I'm constantly concerned its gone missing.
This is a pretty small Gorilla Pod tripod but the magnetic feet make it more versatile. If you aren't familiar with GorillaPods check out the video here. I could get a smartphone mount but this really gets used solely for the GoPro. I've clipped it under my chest strap for a body cam and wrapped it around a support strut for a time lapse. I like having it when I need it but lament the majority of the time that it just sits in my bag.
PRO TIP: Don't store an item with magnetic feet near your external hard drive. The results are pretty much what you would expect.
If you are considering buying a GoPro you need to realize that you aren’t buying the whole car, just an engine. What makes the camera so versatile is the extent to which it can be customized to different activities. That’s great, but also expensive.
Here you've got lens cap, lens cover and a frame that lets me connect an external battery for time lapses. The lens cover is great for hand held without a case or stick.