The Gear

When you travel for a year there are a small number of objects that become essential to your happiness. When Sarah thought she lost her head lamp in Kigali her distress was not because she lost a ‘thing’ but something that was vital in certain situations and not easily replaced. She held similar fears when we accidentally left behind her travel pillow in Capadoccia, an object that rescued us from many sleepless nights. In the end the pillows for the rest of the trip weren’t too bad, but not having that pillow in Africa would have been a nightmare.

So here’s list of what we found useful – equipment, time to take a bow:

Camera – IXUS800 and SX220

You can’t really blame our old camera for conking out. We just wish it had picked a more convenient time than the middle of our first safari. We had taken tens of thousands of photos with it and lugged it through some extreme conditions so it wasn’t a huge surprise that it became unable to zoom and focus at the same time. The IXUS served us well and we stuck with Canon to get the SX220 which has an incredible optical zoom for a compact camera and some cool effects. It’s a bit ropey with variable lighting conditions but we got some great shots with it.

Netbook – ASUS Eeepc

I’m a big fan of the little netbook style of computer and this little guy was a trooper. It came almost literally everywhere with me as I wasn’t comfortable leaving it most of the hotels and hostels that we stayed in. Tucked into my backpack it caused me no small amount of back ache after a day of sight-seeing but it never let us down despite the extreme heat in some places. It was only when we got back to Sydney that the OS decided to throw a fatal and unrecoverable error, much like the car in the Blues Brothers falling apart when they get to their destination. Having an SD card slot made it easy to grab photos off the camera and we spent many evenings editing photos or watching a video of Mad Men or Game of Thrones. It also enabled me to write the blog on the go.

Netbook charger

I have to give a special shoutout to the netbook charger which accepted an extraordinary variety of weird currents and converted them into nice, safe power for the netbook to consume. In the end the tip of the charger got bent and we needed a replacement by the time we got back to Australia, another sign that our time was up. I got a really nice travel plug set from somewhere as well that accepted US and Australian plugs and had adaptors for every country we visited.  It made life much simpler and didn’t take up too much space.

Sleeping sheets

Before we left I had purchased some incredibly cheap silk sleeping sheets from Vietnam. They were incredibly cheap because they were satin which we didn’t pick up on until Sarah used one of them in Cuba and drastically over-heated. We bought a proper silk one for Sarah in Jerusalem and I got a cotton version. They are great for using when the beds don’t seem too clean or you want a bit of extra warmth when your feet stick over the end of the bed. I didn’t find that they kept bed bugs out as when denied access to my body they just seemed to crawl up to my face instead.

Travel pillow

These pillows by Nemo are genius. They are light and fold up into a very tight package. There is a layer of foam but you can also blow air into them. After a bit of experimentation during which it felt like sleeping on an old waterbed, our heads bouncing from side to side, these pillows were the height of comfort and saved us from many sleepless nights.

Ear plugs

A sadly necessary travel item, the humble ear plug got quite a workout in many places on our trip. You would think quietness would be a more common feature in hotels but it’s more of a rarity than the norm. I have two varieties of ear plug: the putty style plugs which I find worked best for sleeping in (foam ones often pop out of my ears) and the fancy customised plugs made by an audiologist which fit my ears perfectly and are perfect for cutting the ambient noise down, such as in a West African bush taxi playing music at ear bleeding levels.


The ultimate travel accessory, the kindle was worth its weight in gold. We stored travel guides on it and enough books to keep us entertained all year. We downloaded books from many unlikely countries and the whispernet connection could be used to check emails. Long battery life is a bonus. I used the kindle app on my phone which is like walking around with a guidebook in your pocket.

Android smartphone – Galaxy S

The phone had a variety of uses. We used Google Maps for navigation, the kindle app to use as a travel guide, Hapi podcast app for long journeys, I played Angry Birds while waiting, we used the XE app for currency conversion and astrid tasks for creating to-do lists or just recordings items for the blog.

eKit Global SIM

This is a great concept – one SIM that connects to phone companies around the world allowing you to make calls and texts from around the world. They can be topped up online. The execution is not so great. Calls sound like you’re phoning from Mars and texts can take a while to be delivered. To its credit the SIM connected in almost every country, in fact I can’t think of anywhere that it totally failed, but we still ended up buying a local SIM in most places which isn’t very difficult and the clarity is way better.


These in-ear style headphones are great for blocking outside noise and gave good sound quality. Losing one of the buds in Dubai airport on the way to Africa was a pain. I had to improvise padding with a spare foam ear plug until we could get a replacement.

Headlamp – Petzl Tikka Plus 2

We each had one of these and they were brilliant. I bought USB rechargable batteries for them so we could just plug them into the computer to recharge. Africa is quite a dark place so they were espcially useful here. They have a red light mode for night use when you don’t want to wake your travel companion, two levels of brightness and a flashing mode which we didn’t use a lot.

Travel towel

We had two of these towels each and they do come in handy. So many hotels around the world only seem to supply one towel, or none at all, so having an ultra absorbant and quick drying towel is essential.

Day pack

Origianally Sarah’s, I stole this off her before we left and it came everywhere with us. It’s still going strong so we know it’s tough and comfortable.

Large pack

Unlike Sarah’s pack which had wheels (great for her until we hit stairs when I would lug it up and down for her), this old pack has lasted since 1999 and is still holding together. Big enough for my needs I would hoist it on my back when we moved accommodation.

Packing cells

A simple idea, these packing cells were useful for keeping all our clothes in one easily accessible place rather than stuffed randomly in our bags. I don’t think they helped much keeping my clothes wrinkle free but unlike my last big backpacking trip when I came back with clothes stuffed at the bottom of the bag that I hadn’t used all trip, these cells kept everything in sight.

Cable bag

I stole this bag as well from Sarah’s parents when they visited us in Jordan. My original bag was tearing but this one lasted the journey and is vital for keeping all the cables in one place.

Water bottle filters

None of these survived the trip intact but they worked ok. We bought two at the start which had a charcoal filter in them that you suck the water through. This filter gets clogged pretty fast and it becomes difficult and frustrating to get any liquid, but it was better than nothing in a lot of places and saved a heap of plastic bottles.

Food bag

Sarah picked up this recycled plastic bag with a zipper in Ghana. You wouldn’t think that it would last very long but it did the hard yards in my day pack and is still going strong. We kept snacks in here for emergencies.

Money sporran

This money belt was almost permanently attached to me. I don’t know how its odour remained so inoffensive. It was comfortable and secure.

Passport holder

A kind gift from my sister and family this woolen passport holder definitely stopped my passport falling apart before its time.

1 comment to The Gear

  • David Bacon

    Forgot to mention the ANZ travel card that we used. It’s a great concept – you transfer money to this card via the internet and it’s then available to withdraw from ATMs and use as a credit card without losing money in a currency exchange. It worked in at least one brand ATM of every country we went to. The support is woeful though so I would choose a brand other than ANZ for future trips.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>