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Cat’s Criticals: Suggested Items for a More Efficient Trip

Cat's Criticals

As a follow up to my post Hiking Boots and Heels: A Woman’s Strategy to Packing for an Expedition, I’ve created a list of items that I find particularly useful while on the road. Make sure to check our packing lists (Nepal or Chile) for the items you will need on your trek (this blog is not inclusive of all items you need, but suggestions for items on the packing list). The numbers may seem sparse, but you will quickly learn that you don’t need a change of clothes for each day. While geared towards women, there are plenty of tips in here for the gents as well!

1. Small day pack or satchel.

A small backpack is necessary on the trail. In cities, I prefer to carry a cross body satchel so that I can keep that bag on the front of my body more comfortably, and so I don’t look like the obvious tourists wearing their day packs on their fronts.

2. Money belt and dummy wallet.

I don’t care how dorky they may be, but I always care a money belt under my clothing (and out of sight!!) so that I can split my money and important documents between my belongings. I carry a dummy wallet with old IDs, library cards, fake credit cards etc… with some cash in my day pack. This way I can use the cash in the dummy wallet for purchases in public without showing off the money wallet which has more cash in it.  If ever in a situation where necessary, I can hand over the dummy wallet instead of my motherload of cash and real IDs in my money or belongings.

3. Basic Clothing: Technical, quick drying fabrics.

  • 2 pairs of shoes: Yes, only 2. Hiking boots and a pair for the lodges. I like Chacos as they are sturdy, comfy, and dry quickly.
  • Convertible hiking pants: not super stylish for the streets of Manhattan, but super handy on the trail! Shorts, pants, easy washing, quick drying. One pair. Dirty hiking pants are authentic!
  • Technical socks: Personally I love Smartwool, but there are many options out there (Thorlo, Darn Tough, REI, etc…). 2 pairs only. One to wear, one to wash.
  • Wicking underwear/bras: Personally I love Patagonia, but there are tons of options available (ExOfficio, REI, Prana, Ibex etc…). 2 pairs only. One to wear, one to wash. I spent5 weeks backpacking through Asia with 2 pairs of underwear. And they were clean!
  • Baselayer: Synthetic long underwear (top and bottom). Can be bought at any outdoor retailer. I like Smartwool, but again there are plenty of options like Prana, REI, ExOfficio, Patagonia, Horny Toad etc…
  • Fleece: Quality counts. These bad boys have kept me quite toasty in all types of weather conditions.
  • Waterproof jacket: Again, quality counts. Staying dry is important!

4. Toiletries.

The less, the better I have found over the years. Most of the basics you need will be available in country. I take:

  • Dr. Bronner’s soap. I use it as shampoo, soap, dish soap, laundry detergent etc… Talk about saving space! http://www.drbronner.com/
  • Travel size! If you really want to bring separate items, put them in small, reusable travel sized bottles. You don’t need an entire bottle of shampoo!
  • Toothbrush, travel toothpaste.
  • Face wash (small!) and quick dry washcloth. If my face is clean, I don’t mind the rest of me stinking a bit :)
  • Small hairbrush.
  • Chapstick and small bottle of lotion. Dry skin makes me cranky.
  • Tampons! They are not readily available in other destinations. In big cities they may be available, but doubtful on the trail.
  • Toilet paper! I buy it in country, but I do carry it with me. Many restrooms do not stock it.
  • Mascara. I skip the makeup on long trips and just carry mascara for the days I want to feel a bit girly again.

5. Journal & pen.

I always carry one with me to jot down notes, memories, phone numbers, etc… as they happen.

6. Reminder of home.

I always wear a small necklace my mom has given me. It doesn’t have monetary value, but it reminds me of home on tough days. A picture of family/friends can also be nice. Many locals (especially children) have been excited to see pictures of my family/friends.

7. Camera, charger, extra battery, universal converter.

The one piece of technology I bring. Though nothing will capture the memories perfectly, a picture does capture a thousand words. Make sure you have a universal converter to protect your camera. Don’t bring a heavy DSLR, tripod etc… unless you are a serious photographer. There are some great point-and-shoots out there that take great photos and weigh a lot less!

8. Reading material.

Digital readers are a great option. I still like to carry one book. It’s easy enough to trade or sell it to other travelers/shops on the way to get something new. I always write a note in the book for the next person to find.

What I don’t bring:

  • Laptop – Skip the weight. There are always internet cafes in large cities, and how often do you get to be in the places your traveling to?! Don’t be stuck at your computer!
  • Jewelry – I don’t want to lose it or attract attention.
  • Ipod – Some people can’t live without one, but I carry as little technology with me as possible (and again I don’t want to attract attention). Get to know the people around you, journal, read, learn the language instead!

These are some tips, but do plenty of experimenting on your own to find out what works for you. Just remember, don’t bring anything unnecessary like a change of clothes for each day.