Updated: August 2018
I don’t really enjoy travelling all that much.
Don’t get me wrong, I like being in different places just fine. It’s the process of getting from A to B that has become less exciting over time.
I’ve really appreciated a few recommendations, like noise-cancelling headphones, that have made the whole process far easier to bear.
I thought I’d write this up in the hope that a few of you also get a few ideas. Also, some of these links are to affiliate partners like Amazon, so I’ll get a commission if you make a purchase… that was an excellent rationale too :).
Anyway, without further ado, my favourite travel thingies!
Main bag: Osprey Shuttle 130l
I like big bags and I cannot lie.
The Shuttle model is huge, 130l, although to me it just seems normal-sized now. I’m very good at filling it up. Usually, if I pack reasonably carefully, I can get all of my dive and snorkel gear, including free-diving fins, in here, with plenty of extra room for clothes, photographic equipment, and whatever else I need to take with me. It wheels around nicely, and it’s relatively lightweight.
Osprey bags are well-designed, and they have a lifetime guarantee. That’s for realsies, too. I accidentally killed an Osprey daypack by dropping it into the ocean a few years ago. It was still okay for about 18 months but, eventually, the zips corroded. I took it into a local distributor (not where I bought the bag, and I didn’t have a receipt), they had a look, declared it DOA, and I walked out with a brand new replacement bag.
Nice when a company really stands behind their products.
I usually bring a generic large duffle bag along with me too, stuffed into my Shuttle, so I can use that as a dive gear bag or general overflow storage as necessary.
Camera bag: Think Tank Airport Accelerator
This bag fits almost all of my camera equipment, including my drone, along with my laptop and other fragile items.
Importantly, it doesn’t look too conspicuous, so I’m never asked to weigh it. That would be awkward for both of us.
Walk-around camera bag: MindShift Gear PhotoCross 13 Sling Bag
SO comfortable. The Airport Accelerator, above, is great for travel, but I find it uncomfortable for extended hiking. The PhotoCross 13 is large enough for my Sony A7rIII and the Sony 100-400 mm lens, plus a laptop, my 1 lt water bottle fits in the side, with more room for small stuff. My tripod clips easily to the outside if I need it, too. Love this bag.
Stuff bag: Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Daypack
This folds away to nothing, but it’s great as a light bag for wandering around, stuffing under the seat in a plane, whatever. I use it all the time.
Laptop: MacBook Pro 13′ (2015)
My travel (and office) computer is a 2015 MacBook Pro with a 13′ screen. I’ve got the 512 gb hard drive, 8 gb RAM configuration.
It’s a couple of years old now, but still going strong. Apple put out an updated version in 2016, but I’m not in any hurry to upgrade.
When I’m in New Zealand, I have the laptop plugged into a Dell UltraSharp UP2716D 27 inch colour-calibrated monitor (good for photographers – full Adobe RGB colour spectrum!), and use an Apple trackpad and Apple keyboard.
USB Wifi Extender: Edimax AC1200
Extremely useful, occasionally, and it’s teeny. If I plug this into a USB slot on my computer and fire up my Speedify VPN software, I can connect to two wifi networks at once and combine their data.
Sometimes there are two average wifi networks available; sometimes I use mobile data to bolster a weaker wifi network.
Though it’s tiny, this wifi extender is also alleged to be more powerful than the internal wifi thingy in my Macbook Pro. Good for online productivity, or streaming Game of Thrones. I’m in no position to judge.
External hard drive: Seagate Backup Plus 5TB
I’ve got a couple of these. I could cull the many terrible photos in my Lightroom catalogue but, meh, I just keep buying bigger hard drives.
Phone: Google Pixel 2 XL (128 GB) with Project Fi:
Battery life is great, camera is fantastic, and it’s immediately updated whenever a new Android operating system is released. Google Assistant is genuinely quite useful as well. Excellent phone all round.
Google’s Project Fi sim may be new to many of you, but it’s great. It’s only available to US subscribers, and it only works with a small number of Google-approved phones (see current compatibility here), but it has been a total game-changer for me.
Project Fi can connect to local phone networks in almost every country (here’s the list), without me having to do anything, and gives me a permanent global (US) phone number. I got 4G in the Arctic. THE ARCTIC. Most importantly, it’s the same price for data anywhere in the world: $10 per gb. If you use 1oo mb, you pay $1. If you use 1.2 gb, it’s $12. If you use lots of data, your bill is capped at $60 per month. No worries.
Of course, it’s usually cheaper to switch to a local sim card if I’m in the country for a while, and that’s easy – this phone uses an e-sim, so it’s just a matter of popping a new card in – but an immediate connection on arrival just makes life so much easier. It’s a major faff to get a local sim card in some countries too, and sometimes I run out of data, but the shop is over there… First World Problems are not a problem with Project Fi.
One of my most useful travel essentials. You can read more about the service here. Highly recommended.
As an aside, obviously I’m not from the US, but I was still able to get a Project Fi sim. I just used a US postal address (NZ Post’s YouShop service) and initially registered using a US credit card, then immediately switched the billing to my NZ card.
Reading device: iPad Mini 4
I got this partly because iOS devices seem to work better with my DJI Phantom 4 Pro drone, but mainly because I wanted a good device for reading. I love reading, but I’m too distractable when I’m on the phone. To avoid interruptions, I don’t have email on this, Facebook, anything like that. It’s wonderful.
I picked mine up refurbished on the Apple website for a good price, worth checking there for a good deal.
External battery: Anker 16000mAh Portable Charger
Great for charging all my shiny things when I’m out and about.
Noise-cancelling headphones: Bose QC-20’s:
My former PhD student, Dr Clare, had been telling me for years that her noise-cancelling headphones were amongst her most treasured possessions. Possibly because we often sit next to one another on long flights. After reading lots of reviews, I got this (expensive) set at the end of 2015.
Have they been worth it? Absolutely. I use them every day. They’re fantastic for travel, but I also use them for phone calls, listening to music and podcasts, shutting out distractions if I’m working in a cafe (Spotify ‘Deep Focus’ playlist FTW)… they’re one of my favourite things. My philosophy is, if I’m going to spend a lot of time using an item of gear, I get the best that I can reasonably afford.
Note that there are different models for Apple and Android devices.
Water bottle: Camelback Eddy 1l:
Magic. Doesn’t spill. Love it.
Filtration bottle: GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier Bottle
I’m trying to reduce my use of single-use plastic, and it’s also annoying to have to buy water all the time when I travel. These filter out all the cooties so dodgy water is fine to drink. Pretty cool. You can buy extra filters too, each one is supposed to be good for about 150 l.
Lounge membership: Priority Pass
Priority Pass provides access to A LOT of airport lounges. That allows me to sit somewhere quiet and get work done, chat with my travel buddies in comfort, or grab a shower and a meal during a stopover. Reasonably priced too (I bought it during a deal, membership + 10 lounge visits). Makes waiting around for the next flight almost pleasant.
Travel insurance: World Nomads
After a fair bit of research, I’ve found that World Nomads is the best travel insurance option for me. They cover normal travel stuff, health things, diving and other activities, and at least partially cover my gear. I’ve written up a full review of World Nomads’ scuba diving insurance coverage.
Now you just have to pick a destination!
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