I’ve been traveling and living out of hotels going on five months now. I love to pack light and mobility is key. Currently I’m living out of only a carry-on suitcase and a daypack, which means only packing essential gear that is super versatile.
But finding and knowing the right gear to pack isn’t always easy. It’s often a game of trial and error until you find what works for you. Here are my top picks for the versatile and ambitious traveler.
Disclaimer: Some of the links below include affiliate links and I may earn a commission if you purchase products through those links. Most of the links are to Backcountry.com which is my favorite gear resource. They provide incredible customer service and a 100% satisfaction guarantee. I have used all of the products mentioned below and recommend them because they are useful and products that I trust.
TOP TRAVEL GEAR PICKS 2014
Comfortable and ideal for travel—plus you won’t even stink after an afternoon hike or a day of exploring the city. Once I stumbled upon merino clothing maker Icebreaker, I never turned back. The Icebreaker Tech Lite T-Shirt is incredibly functional and resists odor naturally, packs light, and is machine washable. Plus it’s merino wool which helps keep you cool in the heat, and warm in the cold.
Paper light and super warm. This is what I look for in a packable jacket that can be layered with an outer shell layer. The Patagonia Ultralight Down Sweatshirt is perfect for cool nights or packing it along incase the temperature drops. Plus it can easily be worn under a rain jacket to provide the perfect combination of to keep you warm and dry.
Another favorite. The Marmot Zeus Down Vest is the perfect match for staying warm and traveling light. Its 800-fill goose down insulation keeps your core warm and is yet again incredibly packable. The vest also has a DWR coating to repel water in case you get stuck out during a shower. This is my go to piece of clothing for a chilly summer or fall night.
I love this jacket. I’ve used it to break the wind while trail running at home in Bend, Oregon to using it as my rain jacket while trekking the Santa Cruz Trail in the Peruvian Andes. The Marmot Essence Jacket is impressive not only because of its weight, but also because it will keep you dry in a downpour. It’s the perfect jacket to pack for protection whether you’re exploring a new city or hitting the trails. If you’re looking for a few more features the Marmot Super Mica Jacket is another great option.
As far as functionality the Arcteryx Spiro Cap scores a 5 out of 5. When you need sun protection it’s important to get it right. The Arcteryx Spiro Cap can be worn as a normal cap, but when the sun beats down, the cap unfolds to provide extra protection for your neck and ears. The soft bill also makes it foldable and uber packable, so don’t worry about losing any space in your bag.
It’s hard to beat the fast drying, anti-microbial, temperature regulating properties of merino wool. This is true when it comes to underwear too. The Icebreaker Merino Boxer Briefs are great fitting, comfortable, and not to mention packable underwear for any avid traveler.
I’ve tested a lot of socks. Many have had holes. But these have not. They wick, they are warm, and they hold up. That’s what I look for in a sock. So far I have put these through the ringer—from slow boat journeys in Laos to long days walking the streets of Istanbul. Icebreaker’s Hike Lite Crew Hiking Socks stand up to the test again and again.
No one wants to wear a money belt, but when the time comes there is a better one for the job. When your trip involves carrying a lot of currency look no further than the Eagle Creek Travel Gear All Terrain Money Belt. It’s a casual belt that serves two functions–one, a belt, two, a great way to hide money. Heck, no one is going to want to steal your plain black belt. Right? I haven’t tested the limits, but the belt can hold at least 30+ bills.
For running, hiking, or walking streets for hours these are hands down my favorite pair of shoes. Comfortable from the second you put them on and extremely durable. They are built for serious runners, so expect the best. They are lightweight, have anti-debris mesh upper to keep out dirt and rocks and can be laced in a second thanks to Salomon’s Quicklace system. An added plus? The shoe has only a 4mm drop which is a good thing for anyone who is looking for something close to barefoot running but wants the protection of a trail shoe.
P.S. They are the best shoes to easily slip off when you have to take them off to get through airport security.
When you want to protect your DSLR, but don’t want to carry a backpack the DAKINE DSLR 4L Camera Case is the perfect match. It cradles your DSLR and keeps it protected with padding. Plus it keeps out any unwanted dust, water, etc. The case is low profile and compact, making it perfect to pack inside a larger bag during your travels.
Looking for a comfortable, durable, waterproof day backpack? Look no further. The Patagonia Black Hole Daypack is a bomb-proof bag that is ready for any type of travel. Its 1200D nylon, DWR-treated fabric is the perfect match for keeping your goods safe and dry—whether you’re caught in a downpour in Bangkok or a hitting the beaches of Costa Brava. For me, it is the perfect bag for lugging around a laptop and not worrying about some rain.
The North Face Base Camp Duffel Bag is a perfect choice for anyone that wants a bag that can withstand anything. Built from the same material as white water raft this bag can take a beating, plus its as close to water proof as you can get. For me it’s the perfect choice when you don’t know where you bag is going to travel—on the plane? under the bus? on top of the bus? in a tuk tuk? The backpack straps make it a perfect choice if you need a super durable back thank you can haul anywhere.
The Tumi Alpha 2 International Carry-On is among the most sought after luggage. Durable, classy, and renown. It is a great bag. Being the perfect size you can carry it on the plane and fit all of your necessary gear.