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Friday, 24 February 2012

Backpacker gear and gadgets

There is an art to the skill of packing for a trip. If there wasn’t then excess baggage fairs wouldn’t exist. It’s difficult to toe the line between bringing everything that you need and travelling as lightly as possible. I’m going to share with you a few gadgets that will enable you to travel in comfort and style, without spending your whole time struggling to lug your bag around.

1. The bag itself- the bag that you chose is a key piece of equipment which could make or break any trip. For any extended trip, a backpack is the only way to go. Wheeled cases may seem easy, but they are really only practical if you aren’t intending to walk up any stairs, or over any uneven surfaces. The wheels themselves also increase your bag’s overall weight. When buying a backpack you need to think a lot about what size and style you would like. Take your own strength into consideration. The BF has an 85 litre and he can barely lift it when it is full. However, if you’re planning on bringing a lot of bulky items a smaller 55 or 60 litre bag will not be big enough. Never buy a bag you haven't tried on first. Comfort is top priority! Avoid cheap supermarket brands or choosing based on colours or patterns. Additionally, many bags are gendered and will be ergonomically designed to fit either a female or male body shape, so take this into consideration. Below are a few reasonably priced, good quality examples.

2. An MP3 player- sometimes travelling is really, really boring. It can also be loud. I find that an MP3 player is a must have travel tool. It’s never a good idea, however, to carry anything too expensive. Touch screen devices are easily damageable and first choice for thieves. When I’m travelling I carry an iPod shuffle (fantastic for the gym), or a second hand iPod classic.

These are durable, have decent battery life and I wouldn’t be too devastated if someone stole them. It’s easy to forget, but Apple is not the only company making mp3 players.Some of the offerings from other companies include similar specs for a far lower price.

 3.A reusable water bottle and/or a camelbak- bottled water is more expensive than petrol, so a good money saving tip is to rely on tap water wherever possible. Obviously there are some countries in the world where this is inadvisable, however it is almost always cheaper to buy large bottles of water and use them to fill your drinking device of choice. Camelbaks and other bladders are great for hiking, biking, jogging, skiing and any other time when drinking with your hands free may be required. Most good backpacks are compatible with these hydration systems.

4.What’s the point in seeing everything the world has to offer if you aren’t capturing it? Trust me, if you set off on your trip without a camera you will be very disappointed. I am far from a camera expert, so I am not going to give advice here on what kind of camera to buy. Just pick something that you are able to operate and isn’t too big and heavy to lug around. I have a Panasonic Lumix FP1 which does everything that I could ask for.

5.Sleeping bag- even if you don’t plan on camping at any point, a sleeping bag is always a good idea. Some hostels don’t supply bedding and you might find yourself on a cold overnight train or boat. Synthetic sleeping bags tend to be cheaper than those containing duck down, but the natural alternative will be lighter and more compact.

6.Travel towel- normal towels are extremely bulky and difficult to fit into bags. I would recommend investing in a lightweight travel towel. This is the one that I have and it is one of the best purchases I have ever made!

7.Plug adaptors- don’t forget that your electrical items will need a plug adaptor before they can be used abroad. If you plan on travelling for any length of time I would suggest getting a worldwide to worldwide adaptor, as you will pick up devices from countries along the way. Trust me, it is annoying having multiple adaptors, or buying an adaptor for just one appliance. Often worldwide-worldwide devices are quite bulky and I have known some to fall out of walls repeatedly. This Micropix adaptor has received very good reviews and is a reasonable price. Additionally it can be used to charge compatible devices via USB cable

8. Kindle or e-book reader- if, like me, one of your favourite parts of travelling is getting time to read a good book then the kindle will change your life as much as it has changed mine. When I was backpacking around Europe I had space for only one book in my bag at a time and, whilst many hostels have book swaps, I still found that I was spending a lot of money on books only to abandon them when finished. Kindles are tiny, light and have space for hundreds of books. The battery life is incredible and unlike laptops and most other entertainment devices the screen is specially designed to eliminate glare. I have however found them to be a little delicate (I received mine for Christmas and have already broken one screen and been sent a replacement!) the devices have Wi-Fi so new books can be downloaded anywhere with a network, and any books written before 1923 are completely free due to copyright expiration!

9. Small speakers- ok, so this isn’t exactly a must-have, cant-live-without item, but it is always nice to have a small, compact speaker for social occasions. I’ve used mine whilst building jumps in back-country areas of ski resorts, for relaxing in front of the fire whilst camping in forests and on secluded beaches with a couple of beers to start the party early! The X-Mini is by far the best of its kind that I have found. The BF and I have even been using it as a stereo system in Turk and it has done an amazing job of being heard over the sound of the road. It also has a good battery life and decent sound quality. These are amazing value for money and I would recommend them to anyone!

10. Netbook- Again, not top priority, but a computer is a great travel research tool and netbooks are made for people on the go. Smaller and lighter than a conventional laptop, netbooks generally have very good battery life and every feature a person on the road would need. Ok, so the screens are too small for group movie nights, but by being both inexpensive, simple and small, they are the perfect travel companion. Check out the whole of Amazon's range right here.

So there you have it, my suggestions for the best backpacker gadgets and gear. Hope that you find it useful!

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