The Adventure Traveler's Arsenal
Everything you need to pack for an adventure travel trip, and where to buy it
You can travel the world with nothing more than a carry-on sized bag and a small daypack. Honest. I do it all the time, whether for a six-night jaunt or a six-month research trip.
My wardrobe consists of two pairs of pants (at least one convertible into shorts), three pairs of underwear, four pairs of socks, three T-Shirts, two long-sleeve shirts, a dark sweater or sports jacket, and good walking shoes.
Sundries include a small bag of toiletries, tiny camping towel, guidebooks, notebook and pen, camera, plug adaptors , pocket knife, military-strength DEET insect repellent, first-aid kit, sunglasses, tiny umbrella, tiny flashlight, biodegradable laundry solution, water bottle with a built-in bacteria-killing filter, silk sleep sack, pocket sewing kit, novel, and crucial documents (passport, plane tickets, driver’s license, credit cards, and money all go in a moneybelt). I also carry a laptop, since I have this odd job of writing about my travels.
That's it. And it all fits into a carry-on-sized pack—with room left for souvenirs.
The right clothing in particular can make your trips run easier and faster—especially if you do a bit of laundry in the sink each night (travel clothes are made to wash and drip dry quickly).
Specialty Travel Clothes
I actually got excited when I walked into a sporting goods store and saw that Ex-Officio had come out with a product labeled: "17 countries. 6 months. 1 pair of underwear."
I bought three of 'em.
Travel clothes are made to (a) keep your naughty bits from showing, (b) keep you warm, and (c) serve as support systems for your pockets. Most hard-core travelers are obsessed with pockets. When I don my full-bore traveling regalia I'm surrounded by 23 pockets—not including my trusty daypack.
Travel clothes are made of anti-wrinkle, quick-drying, stain-proof (sort of), intensely durable, sun-proof miracle fabrics ingeniously stitched together so as to provide the maximum number of pockets while still vaguely resembling normal clothing (though, with pockets fully loaded, it's tough to resemble anything so much as the Michelin Man with mumps).
Then there's that grudging fashion concession to ultimate garment practicality: convertible pants. No, I don't mean that the top comes down; that would be embarrassing and, in most places, illegal. I mean the sort of trousers where the legs zipper off just below the knee to become shorts. A bit goofy, yes, but darned practical for moving from a hot daytime hike to a mosquito-ridden night.
And all those pockets? They mean you needn't gird yourself with a phalanx of fanny packs and day packs and still keep all your frequently needed items close at hand and your valuables close to your body—in hidden pockets and moneybelts—and hence very well protected. (See; you just thought that whole pocket thing was just a fetish of mine.)
Time to Shop
Hard-core travelers spend as much time fine-tuning their gear as they do planning trips. Here’s where they shop.
Magellan's (www.magellans.com) is the king of travel gadgets, some exceedingly useful, others ridiculous exercises in technology (seriously, who needs a portable oxygen mask?). Their prices could be lower, but they do carry some difficult-to-find, obscure but useful travel gadgets—and I don't mean the collapsible Lexan wine glasses (though, yes, I do own for more luxe camping and kayaking trips). I order a lot of my electrical-adapters-for-countries-you-can't-even-spell-properly from Magellan's.
For 65 years, REI (www.rei.com) has been one of the best all-around outdoors outfitters. Though it carries all the main name brands (Patagonia, Columbia, North Face), its own line of gear and clothes is just as well-made but costs a good 10% to 20% less. It's also a co-op, so if you become a lifetime member ($15), you get 8% cash back on your store purchases (10% back if you use the no-fee, free credit card, which also generates 1% back on non-REI purchases).
Sierra Trading Post (www.sierratradingpost.com) is devoted to selling major label outdoor gear and travel clothes at 35% to 70% off. It is also the only company I've run across that invokes Jesus Christ right in the mission statement.
Maine camping clothier and catalogue legend L.L. Bean (www.llbean.com) was selling flannel shirts long before Seattle produced its first garage band or J. Crew and Banana Republic co-opted the outdoorsy look and made it Yuppie. Bean's travel specialty gear is head and shoulders above anyone else for durability, quality, and utility—if not always style. Best of all, Bean guarantees all items for life. To a lifelong traveler, that's music to the ears (and a relief to the wallet).
Travel Smith (www.travelsmith.com) is probably the best catalogue for general travelers (not so much the outdoorsy stuff, though), with high-quality clothing and luggage carefully selected or adapted to be perfect for traveling—durable, versatile, wrinkle-resistant, lots of hidden pockets, and sometimes even stylish. Specials and the "Overstocks" section of the Web site offer 35 to 70 percent off.