Dave's Photo & Travelblogue

Photo shoots. World travel advice. Tips on Munich & environs.

5 Most Critical Items in my Backpack

Alright, you could argue that underwear or a sleeping bag should be on this top 5 list for a round-the-world trip. But we’re not talking about the basics here (clothes, laptop, camera, toothbrush). We’re talking about packing the items that could easily be overlooked – those things that half the backpackers I meet are going to see and immediately wish they’d brought. So, what are they?

Dave's 5 Critical Items

1. Sleep aids

I’m not talking about pills; with 10 long-haul flights I’m definitely going to be tired enough. But I might want to sleep at odd times of day, or when some dude (or woman?) in the hostel bunkroom is doing his best impression of a Husqvarna. So the eye covers and earplugs are critical. Air France eye covers have long-lasting elastic. Silicone earplugs are comfy.

2. Lighting

Sure, a mini Maglite might be nice, but then I have to hold it. Why not get an efficient LED light that straps on my melon? Then I always have light wherever my head is pointed, which often coincides with where my eyes are pointed. The Petzl Zipka has a retracting string and multiple brightness settings.

3. Insect Repellant

I’ve heard that some of the places I’m going might have more insects than Munich (which has close to none). Think: Peruvian rainforest, the Hawaiian islands, and the jungles of Malaysia and Thailand. I’ll take 50% DEET lotion, please. Probably hard to find in Peru, but I can replenish it in Hawaii if I run low. Maybe I’ll be wishing for a mosquito net too, but let’s see.

4. Merino Wool Sweater

From my brief time testing out Smartwool & Icebreaker so far, this non-itchy, fast-drying, warm-when-wet material rocks. I think this sweater is going to be my favorite garment out of the 20 pieces of clothing I bring. Yeah, 20 sounds high, but that’s counting individual socks – hah!

5. 18-200mm Lens

Not everyone brings a D-SLR on their travels, but anyone interested in real sunset photos, action shots, and wide angles does. For my D90, I just substituted the Nikon 18-200mm VR for two other lenses (18-55 and 70-300), saving myself over a pound of weight. Plus I won’t have to switch lenses and get sand in my optics. And there’s only one place worse than your optics get sand… uhm, yeah.

What would you bring?

I want to make sure I’m not missing out on any critical items. What would the 5 (or 4, or 2) most important items in your pack be? If you’re out traveling now, tell me what you are most thankful you brought.

This list might change after the trip. Maybe my mini-umbrella doubles as a boat that keeps my camera above-water during the next Machu Picchu flood, or the 50’ clothesline saves my last Powerbar from being eaten by a bear in the wilderness. Perhaps I meet the Merino whose wool comprises my Icebreaker shirt, and I bring him home as a pet. So, I reserve the right to update this list in August when I’m back… stay tuned!

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Posted in Around the World 12 years, 3 months ago at 11:38 am.


20 Replies

  1. I regret to not carry any insect repellent with my in NZ. Husband and I jumped to the Lake Taupo until about sunset, then we sat on the sand beach to watch the sunset, that was just gorgeous. Unfortunately we happened to sit on sand flies invested beach with only swim wear. In short, I was covered by bites, that the majority of intense itch didn’t do until 2-3 weeks! Even now, close to 2 months, I still have a few of itch spots (only mild fortunately).
    .-= Dina VagabondQuest´s last blog ..Alpacas, angora goats, and showbags at the Sydney Royal Easter Show =-.

  2. Hi Dina, wow, I’ll make sure I am restocked before arriving to NZ! The sand flies sound unpleasant.

    I’ll have to check out your further posts besides the Waitomo caves one I first found… need some more north-island ideas and what to do in Sydney :-)

  3. Don’t think you’ll have too much trouble with sandflies in NZ by the time you get here….

    In answer to your question, ‘What would you bring?’. Well, lipstick of course. Mustn’t forget the lipstick :)

  4. Hahaha… somehow I think the lipstick isn’t one I’m going to add to my list. Although, chapstick might be a good idea! :-)

    Glad to know the flies will all be… err, hibernating?… for the winter by the time I’m there!

  5. Dave, glad I ran into your site (from everything-everywhere)… never even considered insect repellent. Sleep aids is understandable thought. I’ll be in Thailand and Cambodia from May to July. I hope the all the protest in Thailand settles down as well.
    .-= Captain Kimo´s last blog ..Valley of Fire HDR Photography =-.

  6. Captain Kimo, I agree that I hope Thailand settles down! I might still try to see it anyway as long as it doesn’t escalate, since it sounds like it’s not very dangerous unless one goes to the center of a red shirts protest.

    I’ll be in Thailand from about July 4 until 27, planning to go some portion of that to Malaysia. Perhaps we’ll meet up over there! Based on your HDR blog post, I’ve got to check out your blog as I’m a big photo guy 😉

  7. I would like to do Malaysia… lol what am I saying I would love to do the entire Southeast Coast and then some if it were possible but that’s yet to be seen. I might be in Cambodia in July not sure yet. Right now the only thing I know is I have plane tickets there.

  8. I’ve heard great things about Cameron Highlands, and Mount Kinabalu (in E. Malaysia) looks like a fantastic hike. It’s 4,000m and only 40km from the coast! Should make for excellent photography from the peak.

  9. Do vitamins count as essentials? I always carry a few things to ward off illness, both preventative as well as the stuff we all get now and then. :)
    .-= Andy Hayes | Sharing Travel Experiences´s last blog ..What to do when you want to see on vacation is closed? =-.

  10. I would add sun screen to that as well, but then again would burn a lot faster than you Dave.

  11. Andy, good idea — I have vitamins and cold remedies on my “extended” list ;-). Perhaps at the end of the trip, Malarone tablets will be at the top of my new “favorite 5?”

    Paul, sunblock is also pretty critical. A big bottle of SPF 50 is definitely coming along! Almost everywhere I’m going is tropical or in midsummer.

  12. Hi Dave! I’m loving the magazine feel of your site. There’s a base layer that I use for almost every situation, too. It’s light, warm, and wicks sweat nicely. I love it. Thanks for commenting on my site. Looks like you have a lot of great content on here. Can’t wait to dig through it!
    .-= Jeff´s last blog ..100 Things =-.

  13. Hi Jeff, glad you like the site look/feel! I’m stocked up on merino shirts and socks… don’t think I’ll ever be cold with all the layers of wool I’ll have in my pack :-)

    Enjoyed your posts with infoz about Peru. You are lucky to have someone to travel with along the whole way! I’ll try to meet some people to hang out with as I go.

  14. I also carry around the 18-200 VR lens….can’t beat it for rough conditions on the road!


  15. Greg, I was lucky with buying that lens, too… it came with a B+W filter! And I found a Kenko CPL (a must-have filter) cheap on Ebay via a shop in Hong Kong. It seems to be real. :-)

  16. sally1233 Aug 31st 2011

    Plan to visit a friend in Mexico next 2 months, does anyone know how to apply visa? I’m google around and came across [link], does anyone try this website before? Is it reliable?

  17. I doubt that a website in Asia is a good place to get a visa for Mexico. Sounds like a scam. Ask your own country’s consulate, or Mexico’s, how to apply for a Mexican visa.

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