Our Top Four Travel Gear Items for 2019

After almost seven months of intense travel through Asia in 2019, we’ve figured out what travel gear we absolutely can’t live without. There are four items we find ourselves continually reaching for, day in and day out. We feel that these are so crucial to our daily routines that we can’t imagine traveling without them–at least on a trip like ours. We wanted to share them with you!

There are a few reasons these four things have risen to the top of our gear list. First, each of them has withstood the test of time after seven months of constant travel. They’ve survived daily use, exposure to the elements, dirt and dust, and a fair share of banging around. Because we’re packing light and living out of carry-ons, we ruthlessly purge anything that breaks or doesn’t work for us. All of these items have survived that test.

Second, every item here has proven to be incredibly useful and portable as we’ve moved across six countries. They are all lightweight, making them ideal if you’re constantly moving around.

Third, these items are all multi-functional. You can use them in a variety of travel environments, from big cities to remote mountainsides in the middle of nowhere. Because we regularly find ourselves in changing surroundings, we need gear that can adapt to pretty much anything we throw at it. All of this stuff fits that bill.

Check out our list below, and let us know in the comments if there’s anything else you’d add to your essential travel gear list!

Note: we purchased all of these items ourselves and were not paid to promote any of them. These views are solely ours and we are writing about these items because we truly believe that they are great. If you use the links below, we do receive a small commission from Amazon, at no extra cost to you.

1. Grayl Ultralight water filtration system

We knew before setting out on our trip that we would try to travel as sustainably as possible, and for us the first thing that meant was cutting out plastic water bottles. In many countries, including all of Southeast Asia, potable water is not readily available out of the tap. We’d both relied on buying multiple water bottles a day on past international trips.

But for a longer sabbatical, we knew that system wouldn’t work. Plastic in our waterways is destroying the earth’s ocean ecosystems. We’d already heard that several places on our list have been ruined by plastic and pollution, like Ha Long Bay. If we relied on buying several water bottles a day to keep us hydrated, that would add up to a huge amount of plastic, and contribute to an immense problem.

Enter the Grayl Ultralight filtration system. We researched a LOT of water filter systems, and Grayl outshone them all. There are a number of different options, but we found that of the systems we saw only the Grayl takes out heavy metals, bacteria, and viruses from tap and stream water. Plus, it’s a self-contained water bottle (unlike, say, a straw) that allows us to easily transport filtered water on the go.

We use the Grayl multiple times a day, and have made drinkable, clean water out of some of the most remote, unpleasant tap water out there. Bathroom sinks? Check. Communal taps in tiny villages? Check. And not once have we gotten sick from it.

2. Anker PowerCore Fusion portable charger and plug

Portable electronics chargers can help immensely in a variety of travel situations, from long-haul flights to tiny cramped minibuses, to camping trips. We both had small tube-sized portable chargers before our trip, but we knew we wanted to get heavy-duty and more powerful ones for longer travel. We also needed something reliable that we knew would last a while.

In our research, we saw the Anker brand consistently appear at the top of gear lists. In 2018 it had been Amazon’s bestselling portable charger for three straight years. Wirecutter calls Anker’s 10000 PD the “power bank with the fastest possible charge.” These accolades are great, but they’re not the main reason why we love this charger.

The magic behind Anker’s PowerCore Fusion 5000 is that it’s both a portable charger AND an AC plug. This means both that you never have to worry about charging your charger–you plug your Anker directly into the wall, attach your phone via a changing cable, and it’ll charge your phone first and then its internal battery pack. This means you have two pieces of gear in one. For minimalist travelers like us, that’s a big deal.

3. Osprey Farpoint 40L travel backpack in small/medium

Daniela is petite, and coming in at a narrow 5’2″ needed a pack that would fit her smaller frame. Unlike many travel backpacks, the Osprey Farpoint 40L comes in two sizes (small/medium and medium/large), ensuring a better fit for all body types. Since you’re carrying your pack around everywhere, a good fit is absolutely essential to a travel pack.

However, flexible sizes aren’t the only reason Daniela loves this bag. It’s been named Best Overall Travel Backpack for 2020 by US News & World Report for a reason. This bag is built for travel, with a front-loading main compartment, a laptop sleeve, interior compartments, and a bright green inner lining to make your stuff easy to find.

These bags are also pretty indestructible–after seven months of heavy travel (and two years of light travel before that) the seams are all intact, none of the stitching is fraying, it has no rips, and the zippers all work excellently. It’s not a cheap bag, but Osprey has a lifetime warranty, and the high quality of these bags means they’ll last for many years to come.

4. Altama OTB Maritime Assault travel shoe

When traveling light, shoes can be a big challenge. They take up a lot of room, so we looked for a while to find Jeremy a shoe that could do it all: nice enough to wear to a decently fancy dinner, but also practical enough to take on a long hiking trek. The Altama OTB fits that bill to a tee–no surprise, as it’s made by a company that’s been supplying the US military with boots for fifty years.

The Altama OTB looks like a regular Converse-style shoe, but that disguises its ruggedness and versatility. Instead of canvas, it’s made out of durable Cordura, with a removable insole that’s comfortable even after a full day of hiking. It’s withstood multiple-day hikes throughout Southeast Asia without any sort of tear. Its treads are thick, keeping it stable even on slippery rocks. And it has mesh drainage to the side, which means it drains well and quickly even when worn in streams or underwater. (It’s also compatible with most military-grade dive fins—although that’s not exactly a feature we’ve been using on this trip!)

Because it looks so normal, it wears well in cities and matches most casual clothes. Especially after a cleaning it blends in with a well-dressed city crowd—and doesn’t scream “I’m a tourist!” like some of the other hiking shoes we looked at. That versatility makes the Altama one of Jeremy’s favorite pieces of gear on this trip.

Jeremy’s bigger hiking boots broke down shortly before we left on sabbatical, but given his experience with this shoe he’s not even going to replace them when we get back home. This shoe does it all.

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