Travel Gear

“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.” -Susan Heller

Packing for a life-list adventure can be a challenge. Unless you are the compulsive list maker that I am! Before I got my iPhone, I created an Excel worksheet that would guide me through all I need to pack. I’d complete a short yes/no form and I’d get a detailed packing list. Now I rely on my iPhone for my packing lists. Which packing list?? I’ve tried a few and my favorite is PackTM, now iPack. Check out my Apps for Travel page for more suggestions!

An African Safari – 2014

What to take for the trip of a lifetime? A trip where you’ll be fording the Okavango Delta one day and in one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities the next? And a trip where you’re allowed a total of 44 lbs including camera equipment and personal items??

iPad mini 64 GB – I updated to this tablet primarily so I could use it for backing up pictures at the end of the day. At .73 lbs it’s a lightweight solution for carrying my full sized iPad and portable backup device for photos.

Cameras – Dave is carrying his T3i Canon with a Tamron 18-270 lens. He’ll also bring a couple of prime lenses. I’ve purchased the Panasonic Lumix FZ200 for its low light capabilities and long range. We’ll bring along the Canon S90 for general use and where water MIGHT be a factor… Victoria Falls!

Binoculars – we’re bringing both the Leupold Yosemite and the Vortex Talon. Both good midrange binoculars.

eReader – taking the Kindle Paperwhite loaded with books from the library’s Overdrive collection.


Egypt and Jordan – 2012

For our trip to Jordan and Egypt I researched travel gear and settled on a few necessities.I needed lightweight, quick dry items and preferred dual-purpose items. I also needed to make sure these items were affordable!

A few of my favorite things:

Luggage and Bags:

TraveLite Wheeled Carry-On by GoLite –  At 5 lbs, 2 oz, this carry-on is a lifesaver. The frame, unfilled is  about 5  inches deep, but expands to over 7  inches when filled. The bag zips open to lie flat. The outside of the bag has two lengthwise compartments. Nice to have a space on the outside to stash bottled water, shoes or the like, but the length of these pockets makes it tough to keep things at hand.  Padded backpack straps tuck into an back exterior pocket when not needed but are a great option when wheeling a carry-on is impossible. And the ultra soft carry handles – the best I’ve seen actually. I can fit a whole weekend’s packing into the case and easily hoist it into overhead bins.

A+ for GoLite!

TourSafe Sling and Backpack by Pacsafe – I was looking for a tote/handbag that would provide a measure of security while traveling through airports or city streets. I looked at Travelon and Daymakers but the Pacsafe brand met my needs and had great reviews. I love this bag! It has a slim profile even when filled. I was able to fit my iPad, camera, wallet and Nook inside without much problem. There are two zippered pockets onseam on the backside of the pack which are virtually invisible. Perfect for my phone, hotel keys, etc. The main section of the pack, lockable with clips for the zipper pulls, is lined with a contrasting color which makes finding things easier. The bags straps are slashproof and also feature a special clip lock to discourage thieves.  Because we were limited on the number of ‘bags’ we could take to Egypt, I ended up leaving this bag at home but am using this for everyday.     1 lb, 2 oz.

B  for great security features but I’d recommend against carrying a handbag on extensive trips. Try a Scottevest instead.

Packable Daypack by EMS – I couldn’t resist this bag when I came across it at EMS. Small enough to drop into my suitcase yet it expands to a full backpack with side pockets for bottled water and a zippered top compartment. I put all my flight paraphenalia in this – gadgets, neck pillows, sweater, slippers, etc. The bag fit under my seat and occasionally served as a footstool during the long flights.

A for Packable Daypack as it’s great to have a spare bag for pool gear, souvenirs, etc.

RFID Travel Wallet, by Magellans  You’re probably beginning to understand that I have a thing for bags and for organization, but despite that I don’t really like carrying a bag! This little purse worked wonderfully for me and has become my go-to wallet. There are two zippered compartments on the outside both big enough for my phone, but since I have only one iPhone, I use the other for cosmetics. The inside has many organizational slots large enough for passports and full length bills (hate those wallets where you have to mash the dollars in!) and, of course, the RFID protection. The bag can be worn across your body, as a waist pack or as a wristlet. I chose the black wallet and it worked as an evening clutch as well.

A for the Travel Wallet, not glamorous but well organized and light.


iPhone and/or iPad – I took both, but could have left the phone at home. I didn’t have International calling and so only used the phone for one or two photos, and some nature identification. I did use Photosynth for a couple of great panoramic pictures, but these are more fun than functional. The iPad however was the ultimate in travel accessories for me and most of my traveling companions. I have the basic model, with just wireless connectivity, but was able to find a hotspot most days to upload blog entries and check email. We purchased the Camera Connection Kit and were able to enjoy the pictures we took each evening on the iPad’s beautiful screen. As an added bonus, I was also able to snag friends’ pictures immediately. So much easier than harrassing people into sending pictures months after the vacation is over.

A is for Apple and both products earn an A. No need to carry both, take a cheap international phone and the iPad!

Binoculars –  I am a wildlife enthusiast and have several binoculars I use. I love my Vortex Talon HD binoculars for their great magnification and brightness. but the weight of these binoculars was a bit too much for this trip. Additionally the focus wheel on the Talon takes about 1.5 turns to go from close focus to distant, which is great for getting that precise view of a stationary object, but too much for following animals or birds on the move. I decided to go with my Yosemite 8×30 by Leupold. These small binoculars have amazing brightness and field of view. They fit into the pocket of my travel vest easily. I wore them attached to my Audubon binocular harness and the weight (1 lb, 2 oz) was negligible. The $100 price tag for these binoculars gave me peace of mind when trekking through deserts or sketchy neighborhoods.

B+ for the Leupold, great buy, performs exactly as expected.  B-  for the Vortex, nice optics but prefer a quicker focus wheel.

Nook  e-book reader – When limited on luggage weight you have to make some tough decisions. As I have an iPad, I took my Nook out of my carry-on  and put it back in several times. I finally came to my senses, removing some clothing so I could take both devices. The iPad, my overall favorite traveling gadget, just doesn’t make the cut for a reader such as myself. The Nook worked on the plane, in the sun and anywhere I chose to read without causing any eyestrain. And I only had to charge the device twice in 17 days. Beware of the screen protector sold at Barnes and Noble – mine began peeling and left a residue on my touch pad.

A   (though the new smaller Nook Simple Touch would have been even better!!)

Camera – We brought two cameras, the Canon EOS Rebel t3i and the Canon Powershot s90. I carried the s90 most of the time and was pleased with the pictures I got. The desert sun was a challenge as the camera doesn’t have a viewfinder and I was often shooting blind. In a life-list trip like this, I didn’t enjoy not being able to compose my pictures, or having to frequently check that the camera was in fact functioning.  The Rebel t3i produced exceptional pictures but was just too heavy and bulky for me to carry (especially with my binoculars already attached!) so my husband used this camera. The Rebel t3i’s AE lock produced some great shots that other cameras missed. Canon makes great cameras but I’m still searching for the perfect blend of size and function.

C  for the Powershot s90, B+  for the Rebel t3i.


I found an ExOfficio Ultra-Lite vest at Sierra Trading Post. Super light with pockets on the outside and treated with Insect Repellant, this vest would be perfect for a trip to a hot climate or worn under a jacket. Not fashionable, but functional. Decided to leave this at home this trip as it was winter in the Middle East.

B for the ultra-lite vest but A for Sierra Trading Post, always a great value!

Scottevest offers seriously pocketed outerwear with some style. I purchased the Essential Jacket for Women. This jacket has 18 pockets and converts into a vest. Perfect! I was pleased with the look of the jacket. All but 3 of the pockets are cleverly located on the inside of the jacket. When all were loaded I may have looked a bit bloated but didn’t attract pickpockets, etc. The jacket was comfortable and warm. Perfect for Springtime in the Middle East. I liked this jacket so much I added the Women’s Trench to my Christmas Wish List and was fortunate enough to receive it. . The largest pockets in the trench are designed to hold an iPad, ereader or small tablet but these pockets fall to the hem of the coat making them less functional. Despite this, the raincoat went on my packing list. I wore it on the plane and was happy to have a longer coat option for days and evenings in the city. Scottevest has a “daily sale” offering a 20% discount on a specific item. Keep an eye on this page if you’re looking to buy one of these jackets.

A for the Essential Jacket, B for the Trench. Both will challenge your brain to remember which pocket holds what!

Travel Comfort:

Travel pillow by Brookstone – made with their Nap material, this pillow is soft and comforting.

B  bulky but worth it for a long trip.

TravelRest pillow by TravelRest – this inflatable ergonomic pillow attaches to your seat back and goes across your body, supposedly giving you more support and comfort. Both my husband and myself tried this on multiple trips and found it a. was difficult to get into a comfortable position
b. had to be readjusted if you chose to lean in another direction and, most importantly
c. annoyed the person sitting behind you with the straps slipping across their tray table

D  sorry TravelRest!

Seat Pad – the G Seat Orthopedic Comfort Cushion by G Seat purports to keep your legs from aching during long flights. I tried in in the car and found it like Papa Bear’s chair – too hard!!

Seat Pad – The Luxe Inflatable Seat Pad by Magellan’s was “just right”. Folded up into my carry-on bag and inflated with just a few puffs. This cushion worked. The sciatica I’ve experienced on other flights and dreaded on this long one didn’t happen. Beware of how the air expands and contracts with changes in cabin pressure.



Exofficio shirts

Marmot pants

Mountain Hardwear pants

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