We spend a quarter to a third of our time traveling and we have become very skilled at picking what makes sense to carry and deciding what should be left behind. Size and weight matter a lot and multi-purpose items are golden. We’ve carefully selected these products for utility and value and those marked with an asterisk have become part of our regular travel gear. Clicking on any of the product images will link directly to an Amazon page where you will find more descriptive information, additional reviews and where you can place an order. Please note that we may receive a commission on some items through the Amazon Affiliate program should you make a purchase. We do not recommend anything that we haven’t personally evaluated.
GREAT GEAR AND TRAVEL TIPS
Todays Featured Gear
Backpacks come in all shapes and sizes and our travel gear includes three or four backpacks. My wife has a light weight pack with two main compartments and a smaller zipper pocket that will easily fit under her feet on an airplane. It has enough room for changes of cloths for a couple of days along with holding documents and those all important TSA friendly toiletries. We also travel with a light weight nylon backpack that takes up very little room when folded into its pouch. This comes in handy when we are out for a day and end up doing some unexpected shopping or when we need to lighten an overweight suitcase before flying.
Large Capacity Tactical Backpack*
My first choice in a backpack covers a number of needs. For me it’s a must when we take longer trips for a number of reasons. First it holds 40 L (that’s 1/3 more than you average backpack) and it holds more than the larger carry-on suitcase. While normally it won’t fit under the seat, I’ve never had a situation where it won’t fit in an overhead bin on a crowded flight. It’s soft sided so it can conform to those irregular spaces.
Second it includes two large main compartments and two smaller compartments that provide for easy access to needed items. It’s classified as a “Military Tactical” backpack but from a travelers point of view that just means they meet stringent design requirements and toughness standards. In addition to holding a lot, they incorporate the Molle attachment system which provides incredible flexibility. The Molle system is a well thought out and universal system for attaching additional pouches and accessories to a backpack in a secure way. Molle systems are readily reconfigured to numerous requirements that include additional small and large pouches, water bottle holders, sleeping gear straps and shoulder strap attachments.
I’ve regularly packed this backpack to a weight of 45 pounds and the shoulder straps have enough padding to make the load comfortable. Interestingly, American flights don’t post a weight limit for carry-ons and I’m thinking you could load the pack with rocks and nobody would care, assuming you could lift the backpack. However while in South America, when checking in for a flight the notice indicated a maximum of 15 kilos per carry-on, thankfully nobody payed any attention to my packs weight.
If you have a packing routine, it’s easy to position specific items like chargers, TSA toiletries, first-aid kit, laptop or tablet, and travel documents in pouches for quick and easy access. My biggest issue is remembering where they are.
Additionally I can pack everything I need for a few days on the road in this backpack and by storing my travel electronic accessories in those pouches along with pouches to hold toiletries and medication, I’m ready to “bail out” in minutes.
This backpack’s specifications include:
- Side-zip closure
- Overall size 13″ 20″ 11″ / 33, 50.5, 28 CM
- A large capacity of 40L
- 600×600 Density fabric, durable and water-resistant
- Molle webbing throughout for attaching additional pouches
- Double-stitched, Heavy duty zippers and utility-style cord pulls
- Side and front load compression straps
- Ventilated mesh padded back area
- shoulder strap,breathable and comfortable.
- Y-strap on the top of military backpack to hold sleeping bag or mat
This, and most Military Tactical backpacks are available in sand and black while some manufactures also include camouflage. What these lack in style they more than make up it utility.
Molle Attachment Pouches
Molle attachment pouches come in a variety of sizes to hold extra clothes, sleeping bags and first aid kits. Most come with velcro attachable patches (American Flag patch usually included). Here are a few that I find come in handy :
Small Pouch For Shoulder Strap Mounting*
This pouch is designed to attach to the shoulder strap to be carried on the front. 7.5″ x 4.5″ x 1″. Made of water-resistant nylon Cordura. Includes Clakit Clip and Pouch attachments and provides two zipper pockets and a flap pocket to safely carry multiple items including smartphone, wallet, tools, passport, credit cards, money and more. Quick and easy access to valuables and keeps them secure from theft. Fits most smartphone models including cases. Clakit Clip can be reused with any accessory that has a belt loop, belt clip or molle backing.
Small to medium size Molle pouches are perfect for a first aid kit or small electronic accessories. Large Molle pouchs when you just need more storage and don’t want to carry a second pack. These designs are adaptable to a number of needs
Large Pouch With Quick D Ring Attachment
Large Molle 6″H x 14″L x 4″W and it can be attached with D rings or quick release clips. Designed for vertical or horizontal use adding extra space it’s suitable for attaching to pack sides or shoulder straps with quick release buckles.
Large Molle Pouch For Access to Small Items*
Large Molle 10″ x 7.5″ x 2.17″ – Clamshell Design, closed by double two way zippers with pulls, allows opening up completely to the bottom. It has paracord inside which can be adjusted to either allow for a chest mounted “desk” platform or to fully open. Moisture Resistant 1,000-D Military grade Cordura fabric coated to be water repellent).
Small Molle Pouches (Set of 2)*
Small Molle Pouch – Sold as 2 pouches with US Flag patches. 6.2″ x 4.2″ x 2.3″. Made of 600D nylon, water resistant with vinyl inside to protect. The 2-way zippers make it easy to open and close from both sides. Provides one main compartment and one interior pocket perfect for storing pen, keychain, digital cameras, first aid supplies and gadgets.
Compact Packable Backpack*
A Simple travel spare backpack. Opened measures 16.5” x 7.1” x 11.8” and 2.5 L capacity. Folded in pouch it measures 8” x 8” x 1.5”. Waterproof fabric protects against moisture. Pack this foldable backpack when you need it for extra room while you travel. Great as a carry-on when your baggage is over weight. Large main compartment secures larger items. Mesh front jacket pocket, 2 water bottle side pockets, extra external medium pocket and an inner zip pocket make it a great organizer.
Not a Backpack Kind of Traveler? Here’s some economical luggage with serious performance features that put it in a class by itself.
TRAVELER’S CHOICE LUGGAGE
Tasmania 100% Pure Polycarbonate Expandable Spinner Suitcase For Well Under $100
100% Pure Polycarbonate allows the shell to absorb impact by “flexing” when under stress. • Interior lid with “U” zip mesh cover and tie-tapes to secure belongings. • Convenient add-a-bag strap gives you the option to carry an additional bag. Expansion gusset offers 25% more packing capacity. • Aluminum telescopic handle system with self-lock mechanism. Dual spinner wheels provide smooth and quiet 360 degree maneuverability. • Overall Dimensions: 25.5”H x 17.5”W x 10.5”D Expands to 12”D.
Birmingham Ballistic Nylon Expandable Rollaboard Luggage, Black, Checked-Medium 25-Inch, Also Well Under $100
- Made of 1680 denier water-repellent fabric
- EVA foam construction provide exceptional durability while lightweight
- Ergonomic aluminum push-button handle system
- Full interior lining with zippered mesh pocket and Tie-down straps to secure your belongings
- In-line skate wheels with crash-guard wheel housings for lasting durability
ELECTRONICS & GADGETS
Multi-Purpose Portable Power
While USB charging ports are becoming more common in hotels, airports and even on planes you would be advised to avoid those in public chargers. The power may not be at the correct voltage for your device and hackers have been known to take advantage of those wired accesses to your phone or tablet. The good news is that portable chargers are getting better with lower prices. The things to look for are capacity, shape, size and reliability. Our recommendation is at least 10000mAh capacity. That’s enough to charge an average phone 3 or 4 times. One recommendation is, don’t just throw it in a drawer until the trip, they perform better if they get used regularly.
This PD Quick Charge with four ports isn’t just a power bank but also performs as a simultaneous charger while plugged in. 10000mAh Portable Charger 18W PD+Quick Charge 3.0 Ultra-Compact Battery Pack with 2 USB Ports, USB-C Input/Output, with Safe High-Speed Charging for iPhone, iPad and most Android devices.
Extension Multi-outlet Power Strip
We’ve had a number of travel USB travel chargers but this one is our favorite. This extension power strip is compact with a cord self storage feature. The short extension cord is really handy as it allows it to be plugged into hard to reach outlets and tight spaces where charging voltage converters just won’t fit.
This strip with an international plug adaptor for the countries we’re visiting and a short multi-cable or two is all we need for most trips.
Do The Army Roll
The Holy Grail of packing is a way of getting maximum density in your gear while avoiding the bother of wrinkled clothes. To that end the military has a system. It’s called an Army roll (it’s also called a military roll but let’s give the U.S. Army the credit) and it really does work. Based first on the understanding that folds produce creases and loose packing of clothes adds wrinkles, the system was developed over years of practice.
The Army Roll may seem counter intuitive but it can be applied to many clothing items. In general its approach is to first fold clothes so that any creases are where they would be considered normal. Pant legs stretched tight along front and back creases and shirts folded so that the creases are straight down both sides of shirt front. After that the garments are rolled up tight and held in place. Often this uses cuffs and shirt tails folded up a few inches to tuck the roll into. Army rolls can work on lacks, shirts, jackets and even sport coats. For detailed information there are literally dozens of online videos – use the search term “army roll”.
A number of years ago we were on a cruise and our table mates were a retired couple who claimed that they traveled with only two carry-on suitcases and a couple of small shoulder bags and they used the Army roll system of packing. Over two weeks we remarked about their outfits and on formal night he even showed up in a tuxedo. On disembarking we can confirm that they walked out of the terminal wheeling those two carry-on bags behind them.
Here’s our way of keeping clothes tight when packing. Make use of packing cubes. One of the major causes of rumbled and wrinkled cloths is packing them too loose. Packing cubes work really well at keeping packed clothes from shifting around and picking up wrinkles. A great addition when using the army roll.
The ultimate accessories for organizing your suitcase are packing cubes. Keeping clothes tight is an important part of reducing wrinkles and these inner packing cubes help with that. Another advantage is they allow you to segregate clothes into useful groups. No more rummaging through a suitcase, messing up clothes, looking for an item. We also use them to separate a group of clothes for a one night hotel stay while on a trip. No unpacking half a suitcase. When shopping for cubes you need to pay a lot of attention to the sets individual sizes for the best configuration to fit your suitcases.
Backpack Security While Traveling
Cut Proofing – While there has been a fair amount of interest in cut proofing your backpack shoulder straps and there are even backpacks that promote the feature, the risk is way over stated. If someone thinks the can cut your backpack strap you’re carrying it wrong in the wrong place. Using a razor knife to try and cut a properly worn backpack means you’ve bigger problems than the loss of a backpack. A recent survey of crime data suggests that these are actually very rare events. Most backpack thefts are actually grab and run crimes similar to purse snatching. That being said there are steps everyone should take to prevent losing their things while traveling.
Staying Aware – First keep a hand on your bag or pack when in public spaces and never leave them unattended. It’s shocking how many people report the loss of a bag or purse because they left it for “just a minute”. When walking, especially in crowded spaces, wear your backpack with straps over both shoulders. If you have a waist strap keep it attached around your waist as well. Walking around with your backpack casually slung over one shoulder is just making you a target for a snatcher. Over the past few years while traveling in Europe it is becoming common to see people wear their packs on their fronts when walking in crowds. That seems to be a good defensive move making it easier to keep a firm grasp on the backpack.
It is always wise to avoid bringing attention to yourself. Don’t go through the pack in public. Letting people know that you’re carrying expensive laptops and cameras in your backpack or carry case, is just not good advertising. Know your surroundings – if you feel uncomfortable with the area you’re in there’s probably a good reason for the discomfort and you should move on as quickly as possible.
While the world, at times, can be a dangerous place don’t get paranoid. Statistically crime data suggests that the biggest threats out there for the traveler are pick-pockets and purse snatchers and you should stay on guard for this threat all the time when in crowds in public places.
Digital Trackers – If you are seriously concerned about the prospect of having your backpack, suitcase or purse snatched there are additional aids you can consider. The are a number of international tracking devices that operate very similar to the “find my phone” cellphone feature. One is called Tracki and costs less than $20, but it does require a monthly fee to keep the SIM active globally. Their customer support can also help with local authorities in trying to recover your property.
DIY Wrinkle Release Travel Trick
While there are a number of commercial wrinkle release products available the active ingredients are pretty similar and the bottles are usually too big to pack for a trip. In addition the largest ingredient is mostly water, so why carry a bottle of water with you when you travel?
When you do unpack and discover some wrinkles in your clothes, don’t panic, there are a couple of solutions (pun unavoidable) available.
Our Easy Travel Wrinkle System
Our system involves carrying a 2 or 3 oz spray bottle containing just a very small amount of ingredients. Once we are settling in and hanging up clothes we fill that spray bottle up with water and shake vigorously and mist those clothes wrinkles. Here’s the secret formula.
To a 2 or 3 Ounce Bottle add the following ingredients
- 1 Teaspoon rubbing alcohol
- 1/4 Teaspoon uncolored fabric softener
When needed, fill the bottle with water and shake well and mist those wrinkles away.
The Easier and Free Alternative
The truth is that a gentle mist of just water will relax most cloth enough to drop out those wrinkle. So if you don’t want to bother mixing up a batch of wrinkle remover, just carry that empty bottle and just fill with water. Less hassle and it works almost as well.
The Importance of Selecting the Right Travel Clothes
This is a great age for travelers with our incredible selection of clothes engineered for performance and comfort. We have a travel collection of clothes made with these wonder fabrics. T’s and polos that keep us cool and wash out easy, along with long sleeve undershirts for colder weather. Nylon jackets and light weight weight slacks travel well with little care required.
Light Weight, Quick Dry Travel Clothes
One of the best ways of reducing your travel weight is to carry less and lighter weight clothes. Todays new wonder fabrics and blends make the job of packing for a trip easier than ever. Warmer, cooler, moister wicking, fast drying clothes for traveling are available from a number of sources. Perfect for layering, they rinse out in a sink and are dry and ready to wear again in an hour or two. Featured here are two of our favorite brands, 32° and Uniqlo AIRism.
32° is a great performer in warm and cold
This is our first choice in travel wear shirts. They resist wrinkling, wick out moisture on hot days and rinse and dry in an hour or so. I have a collection of polo shirts and T’s and my wife has a spectrum of colorful T-tops. For cold weather we carry their long sleeve undershirts as extra protection.
Uniqlo features a huge collection of fashion clothes at reasonable prices
Japanese company that has opened stores all around the world, Uniqlo features a whole range of fashions using the new miracle fabrics. Their AIRism is promoted as a smart, breathable base layer that releases heat and moisture and adapts to any weather condition.
Even their heavier weight polo shirts will rinse out and dry quickly.
Please Note: While we are fans of Uniqlo and travel with their clothes we don’t receive any commission or fees from the company.