Choosing Travel Gear: My 3 Essential Features

If you subscribe to the philosophy that travel is more about the journey than the destination, then you would probably agree that gear is the supporting factor of any good trek – be it around the world or just to the corner store. It’s the one thing that will be your constant companion no matter where you are: at midnight waiting for the last bus, hiking through a monsoon, or strolling the streets of Milan.

As you can see, I love gear. So when it comes time to add a new item to the ol’ gear list, I spend a lot of time trying to find items that fit just right into the “must haves” I have developed over the years. Below I have shared the top three qualities I look for in good travel gear.

1. It’s gotta be light!

For me, the most important aspect of a bag is that it remains relatively lightweight once fully packed. There is no use in cramming every item I could possibly imagine needing for every single situation.

I mean, it’s not like I’m going to the moon. People are thriving all over the world, and guess what? There bars of deodorant in Asia, they have shampoo in Africa, and yes, there are umbrellas in Europe.

Ask yourself: when I am out on the road, will I be more hindered by the fact that I have two bags I can barely carry or the fact that I don’t have . And remember, just because you can carry it easily around your apartment back home doesn’t mean you can slug it around the hot humid jungle for miles at a time, or up five flights of stairs to your hostel room!

2. The 007 Factor, or Blending In

So this has more to do with personal style than some of the other “musts”, but I think it is still important in some rather abstract ways. Having gear that blends in well will actually probably allow you to get closer to the “wild life”, if you know what I mean.

Right now, I am living in a really touristic town. The economy here is pretty much completely based on vacationers, so we have a fair share of oversized backpack toting kids. While I genuinely get along with many of these people, I don’t think I’d ever bring them to my favorite local restaurant, bar, or surf spot. (Don’t blame me! I bet you have a sense of ‘cool’ or not too!)

So, the best way to “be cool” in a wide range of cultures is to be simple, neutral, and versatile. Don’t walk around Paris looking like your trying to climb a mountain, don’t go to base camp primped and crimped in your best Parisian outfit!

3. Versatile and Multi-Talented 

Speaking of versatile… that’s another “gear must” for me. I am definitely a self-proclaimed gear junkie, and the high is all the better if I can use it for many different purposes.

This really helps fulfill some of the other criteria on this list. A good gadget that can pull double duty will, by nature, help you be more organized, simplified, and lightweight.

A good example would be my ultra-light tarp. String it up for a shelter, or maybe a hammock seat, or use as a raincoat, or make a cushy seat, or a beach mat, or collect rainwater, or… okay, you get it!

Well, there you have it – the Golden Three! Keep these in mind next time you are looking for any piece of travel gear and you will have a good starting point. Of course, there is a lot more to consider in the details, but for the most part these apply to all categories of gear.