I can’t believe that at the end of this month, I will be celebrating my blog’s anniversary! I have a few surprises coming up, so keep your eyes peeled!
But before that, I’d like to do a feature on some of my favorite things. I’ve been asked over and over again which items I cannot do without when I travel, and these — word limit allowing — have constantly been my strongest recommendations.
You don’t go a year of flitting from here to there without establishing loyal ties with the things that have proven trustiest to you. After all this packing, sorting, and stuffing bags of different forms, functions and sizes, I’ve more or less narrowed down the most essential of my travel gear. I’ll be good with just these with me — aside, of course, from cash, my iPhone, and wit.
1. Deuter ACT Lite 35+10L SL trekking pack
A trekking pack designed specially for women, this has been the best friend I’ve had on the road since we met last year. Other than the faithful companion that holds everything I need, it has also served as the warm body that I embrace, at night, in the tiny bunk beds of some uncomfortable hostel dorm rooms; a pillow when I’ve needed to spend the night on airport benches; and other such things that a solo female backpacker does not anticipate she needs. It fits like a glove, and leaves a lot of room to breathe on sweaty transit days, thanks to its padded foam straps. Like the woman that it was made for, it is soft but sturdy. The SL (Slim Line) frame is ergonomically designed with the shape of a woman’s body in mind — shorter to fit your back, with padded straps wide enough to go around your hips.
And isn’t it just so pretty, too? The colors are electric, unpologetic and gorgeous, like the life you want to live. But I’ll be honest. What really sold it to me was that flower — not only is it an indicator of the SL collection, it is also a hair tie!
2. Microfiber beach towel
I got the “beach” size, because the “bath” size is too small. Well, it is to me, because I’m hardly a small girl.Compact, lightweight and super absorbent, I like that this microfiber towel fits so politely into its little pouch and into whichever quiet space in my backpack that I need to slip it into, despite its unfolded size. And the snap-on loop has been such a huge help when I’m desperate to hang it someplace impossible!
Available at http://www.towelite.com.ph.
3. Rip Curl Mirage reversible bikinis
I have the tendency to misbehave when I’m out there, and resortwear swimsuits can be flimsy. Rip Curl’s Mirage bikinis are for the active girl who need the bottoms to stay on when she hangs ten, or just likes to frolick around on the sand. The suit pieces form themselves around your shape and curves, while holding everything in place. The tops provide amazing support for the tatas, like a true breast friend.
The best parts are: a) they have no wires, hard edges, and foam cups that can warp. Meaning, they are completely foldable, and wrinkle-free, so you won’t ruin them; and b) they are reversible! This is 4 suits in one pair!
4. Headware’s Kokoon multi-functional cylindrical wrap
Some cultures will call this a malong. Most malongs will come in slightly stiffer fabrics, I like that the Kokoon has a bit of stretch in it, which makes it easier for me to twist, turn and tie it around as I please/need. You can tell that I like my things multi-function and reversible, which this is. From its most basic functions as a scarf, shawl, bed lining and blanket, towel, picnic/sunbathing mat, it can just as easily transform into a skirt, a dress, or if you’re really inventive, even pants! At its most utilitarian, it’s a foldable changing room.
Available at TheHeadware.com.
5. Emergency kit essentials
Aside from a medical kit (standard requirement for any trip), a sheet of anti-vertigo pills (for motion sickness), and a tube of Benadryl antihisthamine ointment (which proved to be a good call to have in my armory during the sting-spree in the waters of Malapascua) I keep a few very helpful things within reach: insect repellant, hand sanitizer, and healing ointment.
Messy Bessy is a great local (Filipino) brand of natural personal care (and household) products, which promise effectivity, safety, and sustainability. Their products are biodegradable, and locally sourced/made by a social enterprise that trains, educates, and develops young adults who have formerly been abused, trafficked, or incarcerated.
Apart from the other products that I am already a fan of, I keep bottles of their insect repellant and hand sanitizer in my little clean-up kit. The former is a straightforward mosquito shield, while the latter — The Little Warrior — is good for hands and surfaces.
Lucas Papaw ointment promises to have cleansing and healing powers. I don’t know how true that is, but it has for sure helped alleviate my frequently sun/wind-burned lips time and time again. I’ve used it on minor burns, chafed areas, itchy spots, and dry hands/elbows/knees/ankles/feet too, and it has successfully remedied these discomforts every single time.
6. Fuse Chicken Titan iPhone cable
They call themselves the toughest [iPhone] cable on earth, which is probably true, because this baby is twice-wrapped in industrial-grade steel. I’ve broken a few charge cables in my life, and I’m not about to go and use cheap, immitation cables just to get by. But, their relatively short shelf-life is getting quite expensive. Although this retails for $35 (PhP 1,900), it’s only a bit more expensive than Mac’s cables, and I don’t mind spending a tad more on something that has Apple’s blessing, and is backed by a lifetime warranty.On the downside, it isn’t as compact and as malleable as Apple’s cables are, but it is flexible. But its relative rigidity also has its perks: if you manipulate it right, it doubles as a phone stand!
Available in the Philippines at Digital Walker, or online at FuseChicken.com.
7. Sunnies Sunglasses
Sunglasses are a given. Sunnies Sunglasses are a choice — to stay stylish and smart on your travels, whether you’re going rough, or resort lounging. They come at very affordable prices, but you couldn’t tell with how slick and sassy their designs are. I personally love the strong retro game; I’ve been looking for the perfect cat-eye frames and hadn’t found them until Sunnies came along.
Sunnies sunglasses available online, or at your nearest mall. They are also now available on Air Asia Philippines flights!
8. Deuter Wash Bag I, and toiletries
What I love about Deuter’s Wash Bag I is that it is super lightweight, but roomy enough to fit everything I need in my toiletry kit. Shampoo, conditioner, body soap, facial soap, toner, microdermabrasion cream, feminine wash, body lotion, toothbrush, toothpaste, tampons, sanitary napkins, menstrual cup, nail file, cotton balls — all in there.
I’ve become really particular, too, about the toiletries that I bring. G-Stuff — a Filipino social enterprise — has all these amazing products that are locally sourced and made by underprivileged communities, who are empowered by the company. All products are environment-friendly, and biodegradable, which is important to me. I’ll get to that in a bit.
Their Moringa shampoo and conditioner is killer. For someone who is unruly as me, and has hair as unruly as mine, this pairing has given me the best gift ever of taming my hair without holding it down. By that, I mean it gives me definition where I need it without sacrificing volume.
Being outdoors so much, whether I’m biking, or swimming, or just enjoying the sun, I need sunscreen that isn’t just effective, but is responsible as well. I spend a lot of time around marine sanctuaries, where the wildlife is rich. Even where wildlife is sparse — especially where it is sparse! — it is important to use products whose chemicals won’t be harmful to the sea. So, I appreciate that G-Stuff’s Naked Zinc Face and Body Sunscreen is biodegradable, and non-toxic.
That extends into even my toothcare. I bring around homemade toothpaste that I make in my kitchen, out of baking soda and coconut oil. Even my toothbrush is a homegrown brand — TVP Dental B’s Voyager is a compact travel toothbrush that folds into itself, so it saves on space and covers itself at the same time.
9. Deuter Security Wallet
This has been super handy in handling three very important crucial, quick-reach travel items: money, my iPhone5, my transportation tickets/boarding passes, and in some cases my passport — things that I don’t want to have to have trouble finding at any given point during the entirety of my trip. My backpack is cumbersome; I sometimes forget to wear pockets; and if I need to just carry these really important things with me, I’m ready to go. It’s a soft, lightweight chest pocket that is small enough to secure within your person, securing
It is very important to me to limit any damage and waste that I may generate, and that extends to when I travel. I realize that it was so easy to generate waste just by eating because of the single-use packaging and the implements that come with eating on-the-go, and I eat at least three times a day. So, I decided to bring my own reusable stuff around.
The Hydroflask tumbler is an insulated, double-barrel thermos that keeps your cold drinks cold, and your hot drinks hot all day. This has been tried and tested time and time again, and has continued to impress me, especially on days when I am under the scorching sun from morning ’til night and I need some cooling. It has given me comfort on dizzying long rides when my motion sickness curse rears its ugly head. And for some reason, as strict as they are at airports with water bottles, I’ve never been asked to empty this out.
In matching pink is my trusty double-headed spork, from Light My Fire. I refuuuuuse to use disposable plastic utensils. It’s either my hands, or this, or a really fun combination of both. And if you look closely, one of the forks’ tines is serrated, so technically functions as a knife, too! Fabulous, fabulous!
One more thing on my big NO list are plastic straws. What are they for, really? And they make up such a huge percentage of garbage because they’re so easily But I won’t be a hypocrite and say that there are times when a girl needs a straw. Like when a really thick fruit shake comes along and it threatens to plop down on your face with every swig attempt. Other than that you should be good without straws. Luckily, I found a responsible alternative to when the situation does call for the use of a straw. First, remember to say “No straw, please!” This is imperative because once they’ve let that baby out of its packaging, game’s over. You just wasted another straw. And keep one of these reusable bamboo straws at hand. I have one in every one of my bags.
11. Wrinkle-free clothing
I generally like to keep things easy and breezy, wear-wise. I like to pack basic, low-maintenance pieces that will have me ready for anything and everything that comes my way. I have yoga pants, stretch shorts, and white tees for more active activities. For everything else, I carry mid-length jersey dresses in solid colors. These basic pieces are easy to pack because they’re lightweight, wrinkle-free, flexible, and comfortable as hell. They’re neither long nor short, so I can easily slip into one and a pair of slippers for daytime at the beach, and they’d still look good with dressier accessories for a nice evening out.
Pieces from Old Navy, Jockey (theirs has a built-in bra!), and Rip Curl.
12. Pacsafe Pouchsafe PX15 Anti-Theft packable day pack
I’m not even going to deny that this is my most favorite thing of all. I cannot express how much I love this bag! It is so great to be able to whip out another backpack, at my convenience, anytime I need it. The pack itself is already made with rip-stop fabric, so any tears or slash attempts should be contained. And its straps are foam, so it’s no sweat when you’re sweaty. Inside is an exo-mesh-protected anti-theft pouch that can hold your dearest valuables, and which the pack eventually folds into for storage. I love it, I love it, I love it so much!
13. Action cam and waterproof bag
I’m not going to lie — I like to scrimp when I can. When I first came across a XiaoMi Yi action camera, I was sure I needed one in my life. After a little bit of research, I discovered that its photo and video quality was at par with the GoPro Hero3, which was more than good enough for me! So it’s been with me everywhere I go since then.
Despite the waterproof casing that houses my camera, I’ve found the Sea To Summit dry bags to be convenient and effective dumping ground for all the accessories that come with it.
So there you have it — a few of my favorite things. I would love nothing more than to share these with you, and maybe I will! Like I said earlier, I have some surprises ready for you guys, so watch out! 😀