OUR TRAVEL GEAR
Preferred travel rucksacks
Craig and I (Gemma) have been travelling around Southeast Asia, the Americas, and Europe since 2013. Our weapon of choice for travel backpack was the Vango Freedom 80-litre which comes with a handy detachable 20-litre daypack. Would I buy it again? No.
What would I choose instead? The Apple of backpacks, Osprey. The reason? You just can’t beat the quality of the an Osprey backpack. I compare the ‘king of bags’ to other popular models on then market here. Alternatively if you prefer a bag with wheels, read this review.
Love, love, love the CabinZero backpacks. We both have the 44L in different colours. Craig spent over a week in Austin with his (I need more space than this).
They are extremely aesthetically pleasing and the most modern weekend back on the market.
The CabinZero is light, the right size for cabin carry on and promises a ten-year guarantee. They are also British (panic over, they ship internationally!)
Although not what it is intended for, we’ve hiked, skied and city walked with it. CabinZero Classic and Vintage (not so keen on the brown trim) comes in three sizes – 44l, 34l, 28l and eight colours.
Waterproof bag cover
This sacred item features in our packing lists and gift guides! It is lightweight, attaches to your bag and saves your electronics from being ruined and your day pack from going soggy. My heart stopped in Vietnam after a downpour in Sapa. My camera had stopped working. Cue the need for this osprey waterproof bag. Easy to use, you just pull it around the bag, clip it in the middle underneath the straps and drawstring the top.
Fashion day pack
I really adore the style, size and handles of my Kanken. My favourite thing about the bag is that it has straps to use a backpack and handles at the top for lifting like a handbag. There’s a nifty section which sits flat against your back and fits a large laptop. There are two pockets at either side, one fits a 500ml slim water bottle like the Chilly’s Bottle and the other is great for my vlogging camera stick.
I do have three more travel luggage tips for you and they are all inexpensive. Firstly, buy a tote canvas bag. Many European countries now adopt the 5p plastic bag policy, it’s also better for the environment and we all owe the world a high five for the flights, 14-hour bus trips and taxi rides.
The second tip is to pack a light drawstring bag (you often gets these free at festivals and conferences). These bags are great for carrying wet swimwear or packed lunches as you can attach the strings to the clips on your day bag.
Finally, the mighty bumbag or fanny pack as you North Americans like to call it, causing us Brits mass hysteria (look it up). I like to think of myself as a stylish traveller, many would say the bumbag lets me down but it’s really useful for festivals, skiing and hikes. Big enough for your phone, small purse and lip salve. I can fit my new camera in mine!
During our career break where we travelled around the Americas and Europe for 17 months, we avoided any nasty security situations with a travel safe bag called Pacsafe backpack and bag protector.
It does exactly what it says on the tin – it’s a net that keeps your belongings safe. For it work effectively, place your passport, money, electronics into a zipped day bag, put the bag into the net and pull it closed. Next wrap the cable around a non-moving object (bed frame, pipe, or similar) and clip shut. Finally secure a padlock through the clip, throwing a towel or unassuming jacket over the bag.
This is especially important for travellers who stay in multi-dorm hostels. Sure, if someone wants to steal your possessions they could cut the wire but opportunists don’t tend to be so well equipped when they live out of a rucksack.
Initially, I purchased the Pacsafe Travelsafe 12L (a large black bag with the net embedded inside) but returned it as it was heavy.
The CabinZero bag has a tracking tag built in so you can trace it if stolen or forgotten about.
This year I wanted to up my visuals game and after much research splurged on the Sony A600 but soon changed to the Canon M50. The Canon feels sturdier (I break everything) than the Sony and there is one big difference, the Canon has a swivel screen which is magic for filming.
I always carry an extra charged battery for my camera, additional SD cards (I don’t override cards, storing them in case I lose versions on the computer/hard drive).
I have invested in camera bags in the past but they tend to be bulky so now go for a make-up bag to store it in (professionals will be rolling their eyes).
If you buy anything before you travel long-term buy this external hard drive – WD My Passport Ultra . I am the clumsiest person you don’t know and it’s still knocking about after three years. This is where I store all of my images, videos and files and I have a lot. There’s still 200 GB of space on it. Before you go, load it up with films for watching and then swapping with others when you hit the hostels, you will want some downtime on the road (I used a second hard drive for this as I didn’t want potentially dodgy files killing my images).
I also recommend uploading your images. I use iDrive as I can set it up overnight then download them from my dashboard on the website. Customer service is top notch too. I can’t even imagine how I’d feel if I lost these memories, don’t risk it.
I edit my images with Adobe Lightroom and have recently purchased the Adobe package which includes Photoshop, Premiere Pro (video) and whole host of software programmes I will never know how to use. Worth it for these three though.
Ok, the fun part! We have a new addition to the electronic family, the GoPro Hero 6 for adventure trips. We used to travel with a Toshiba action camera because it was cheaper but the difference in physical quality and visual quality is night and day. The Hero 6 is easy to use, has three frames (linear, wide and very wide), can take images, film and comes with an app (Quik). Personally I prefer to edit with iMovie or Premiere Pro but the app is acceptable for quick videos which you can see here when we jumped off a bridge, together, during a tandem bungee jump in Scotland!
For this bungee we used the GoPro wrist strap. We also have the 3-Way Tripod which is great for city shots and talking to the camera. Again, the quality of the GoPro gear is far superior than what we had previous. The connections are secure and the material is sturdy without being too heavy.
Last year I moved away from the Apple phone to the OnePlus 5 which is an Android phone. It was around £600 outright and my monthly contract which offers inclusive 3G abroad is £10 per month so although there was a big payment upfront, it works out cheaper than the Galaxy 6 or iPhone.
I didn’t find the move from Apple a challenge, sometimes you have to find alternative apps which is a nuisance but the device’s camera quality and options makes up for it. The size of memory (128GB) is also ridiculous, great for me who screenshots everything. Another bonus for travellers is that there are two sim card slots so you can keep your normal sim and also add an additional one.
When travelling, I work on a MacBook Air because it’s lightweight. I use the WD hard drive to backup files since the storage is limited.
Here are the generic must-have travel accessories we pack. Skross universal plug with two USB sockets so you can charge your phone and other devices or be nice and share with others.
Padlocks like these TSA approve ones. Thin clips are ideal because they fit around any locker door.
Anker mobile phone banks. Charge them up and pop them in your day bag. Remember the cables for your phones/devices so when the battery is low you can stay connected.
Don't forget your bank card reader.
Eye masks for obvious reasons and flags for not. Flags or large ponchos/throws make great fort building material in hostel dorms so you can feel like you have private space in a room full of 14.
Hydration tablets were a tip-off by a British doctor we met in Cuba. That rum tastes good but does not feel good the next day. Hydration tablets are dropped into a pint of water, they fizz up and once consumed, lift that hazy head.
Mosquito repellent like Off is something we used to carry but after year of wearing it and still getting bitten by the pests we opted for Avon So Soft. Why? Because DEET is aggressive and burns plastic (so if using, keep it away from your sunglasses!) We lugged around the Lifesystems mosquito net for a year and never used it once. Most of your accommodation will have nets if needed in South and Central America.
First aid kits are essential, get the next level up like this kit which includes needles just in case you need blood taken in a foreign country. You cannot assume they have the same standards as home.
Avoid items that spill/explode like nail varnish, opt for solid shampoos, conditioners and soaps. They also take up less room. I love Lush’s ranges. You can read my full packing list for ladies here.
Do not travel without insurance and make sure you check that the policy covers high altitude hikes if going to Machu Picchu and winter sports if skiing or boarding.
We use True Traveller because it ticked those boxes, the customer service was great and it was not as expensive as its competitors. I claimed in Vancouver when I was diagnosed with ear crystals (dizziness) and attended the physiotherapy twice. True Traveller covered the GP visit as well as the physio (minus the excess).
Craig has been known to hike in skinny jeans – he really is the epitome of no gear but some idea. Thankfully he has taken advice and purchased some walking trousers.
Preference is always trousers that zip off (aka convertible) into shorts, he’s a hairy, sweaty man.
Always one to look his best, he rocks the Bluffworks chino for city breaks. Craig spent most of our ‘big’ trip wearing a hoody as a coat or carrying around a fashion parka but has now committed to a Mountain Equipment waterproof coat.
Travel shoes are not part of Craig’s vocabulary. He will pack a pair of Chelsea boots along with his beloved leather Scarpa hiking boots (he says they feel like slippers), plimsole trainers, and flip-flops. Read our travel footwear guide.
Obviously, sunglasses are travel must for Craig, got to complete that look.
Hiking on Scotland’s NC500.
I, on the other hand, am all gear and no idea. During big trips, I never travel without my Marmot Precip waterproof coat. It’s thin and folds away into its own pocket. For colder trips, I also carry a North Face down jacket which I’ve had for over a decade before it was a fashion label.
Since Iceland, I’ve been wearing a Mountain Equipment Rupal jacket (I got it first). It’s one of the top five travel items I’ve invested in. Nothing is getting through this bad boy.
I hike in either hiking trousers or gym pants with these waterproofs over the top.
A new addition to my packing list is the poncho. I’m a cold person (externally) so like a poncho as it can be used a cover as well as coat. Makes for a great picnic blanket too.
I tape up my ankles using Leukotape which was a winning tip from a Canadian hiker in Nicaragua.
I like Havianas flip-flops because they last and great for communal showers, post-hike evenings and sunny beach days. Black trainers are recommended as they go with everything and still look smart.
We are partial to a bit of tartan!
Drinks at the cool Ouseburn area of Newcastle.