Sandy reviews some of the more unusual items in our luggage that we chose to bring on our around-the-world journey.
We recently published a story about our packing strategy and how we needed to plan and pack for four different travel scenarios during our 14-month journey. We also included a copy of our detailed packing list for our trip.
Many things on our list make perfect sense, considering where we are going and what we are doing. For example, we have many items in our luggage to support our trekking and hiking. There are, however, a few items in our bags that may surprise you. So what follows are the details about the eight most surprising items in our luggage.
1. Baby Wipes
We carry a variety of items to keep clean, including antibacterial soap and hand sanitizer. However, one of our favorite items is baby wipes. While trekking, we use baby wipes to keep our hands clean, especially when we need our filtered water for other purposes, such as cooking or drinking. They have a variety of other purposes for us. We have used them to clean up messes if we spill something. They were great for some of the less-than-optimal bathroom situations in Asia.
Another advantage of baby wipes over antibacterial soap or hand sanitizer is that it is easy to find them in stores. This is not the case with antibacterial soap and hand sanitizer. We bought baby wipe packs all over Asia and our favorite were the Shrek-themed ones we found in Kyrgyzstan.
2. Small Shovel
We have quite a few camping items in our luggage, including a stove, fuel bottle, water filter, pot and cups and bowls. However, we also carry a small shovel. We began getting questions about the shovel on the very first day of our trip.
The day we left on our Trekking the Planet journey, our luggage was scanned in San Diego, California as we boarded our Princess Cruise ship for our 29-day trip to Sydney, Australia. We noticed that one of our duffel bags was being examined carefully on the monitor as it passed through the x-ray machine. The security person looked at us and said the bag needed to be scanned again. During this second scan she called a colleague over to take a look at the monitor as well. Finally she turned to us and said, “Do you know you have a shovel in your luggage?” I immediately replied, “We are trekking the planet!”. Then we took the opportunity to explain to her that we were indeed aware of the shovel and that we needed it when a bathroom was not available in remote trekking locations. After an awkward silence, she and her colleague waved us through.
3. Silk Sheets
Since we are Trekking the Planet and hiking and camping around the world, we are carrying a sleeping bag. But why silk sheets? It is a small, but necessary, item that is helpful in a number of situations. Silk sheets are useful in those cases when the hotel bed sheets do not look very clean. In Laos, for example, we stayed in some hotels, that were booked as part of our river trekking journey, where we used our sheets on top of the bed. These were the best hotels in town, so it was not the tour company’s fault; we just were not happy with the looks of the sheets.
Silk sheets can also be a godsend in situations where it is hot and there is no fan or air conditioning. In many hotels in Asia the sheets are heavy cotton and smoldering in a hot room. Silk regulates temperature so it performs nicely in this type of situation. When we are camping in cold weather, we insert the silk sheets inside our sleeping bag and they add about 10 degrees F to the warmth of the bag as an additional layer. This helped us keep warmer in cold temperatures during our Nepal, Kyrgyzstan and Lapland treks with a minimum of extra weight.
4. Drain Stopper
While on the road we have the need to do laundry. Hotel charges to do laundry can be expensive and laundromats are few and far between so the best option many times is to do laundry ourselves. Our wardrobe consists of primarily polyester quick drying clothes, so anything can be washed, hung up and dried by the next day.
Hotel staff members are not pleased when you do laundry in their rooms so we need to be covert about our process and take care not to make a mess. Most hotels do not have stoppers for their sinks (partially to discourage laundry), so by having a drain stopper we can keep our clothes clean.
5. Wireless Router
You might imagine that we have quite a bit of electronic items (and we do!) to support our need to capture pictures and video and communicate during our journey. But why would we need a router on the road? It actually performs two different functions. The first is that it allows us to set up our own wireless network to synchronize our two cameras’ pictures and video between our computers. This way, we both have the same photos and video clips from which to work. It also provides us with a backup, just in case we have a failure or accidently delete something. The alternative would be to use flash (USB) drives. However, this is far more complicated and error prone.
The second use for the router is for those times when we only have hotel Internet access via a wired Internet connection. By using the router and then creating a personal network, we can “share” the Internet access between our two computers (and both our smart phones). The router is small and portable so it does not take much space.
6. Duct Tape
We actually carry a “repair bag” containing zip ties, super glue, wire, rope, scissors, patches, sewing kit and safety pins. Also in that bag is some duct tape. This heavy-duty tape has a variety of uses. We have already used it to repair tears in our plastic liner bags that go inside our backpacks to protect our gear from the rain. We hope we will not need it for anything else but it could be helpful if we had to repair our luggage or backpacks.
Then there is the old fashioned candle. We are visiting remote places around the world so may be in situations where lighting is not readily available. We do, of course, have portable lights (actually headlamps) for use during trekking, as well as a couple of very small flashlights. But, when all else fails, nothing beats a candle that can be lit when there is no light and batteries fail. We have a small box of matches, a lighter and even a flint that Darren bought in Sydney, Australia, in order to ignite the candle.
8. Extension Cord
This was a late addition to our packing list. We have the need to plug in and charge our electronics in hotel rooms and many times the outlet can be on one end of the room from a working area on the other end. We thought that an extension cord could be a good addition to our packing list. However, we needed to find a compact one or it was not going to fit in the minimal space we had left in our luggage.
Darren did quite a bit of Internet research and found one item that fit our specifications. The company had actually gone out of business but he found the extension cord in stock on an electronics store’s website. It is six feet long and retractable so it does not take much room when not in use. I do not know how we could have done without it as it has worked great in combination with our plug adapter and mini surge protector. Now we can plug in from all the way across a room if need be.
Which of these items surprised you the most? We would love to hear about the unusual items that you bring on your travels. To share your thoughts, leave a comment in the box below.