We’ll be honest, we are suckers for good travel gear. A good backpack can feel like it makes or breaks a trip. Having everything you need to have a killer experience in a new city can just magnify the fun that you’ll have.
We have spent a few years cultivating our list of the best travel gear we own, but you should know this was not without trial and error. Of course we’ve bought backpack we hate. We’ve bought headphones that stop working on the 3rd use. We’ve gone through 3 different travel pillows until finally finding one that works.
As a matter of fact, it seems that we suck at picking out the right thing on the first try… Well, our loss is your gain, don’t make our mistake and buy crappy things that don’t work! Here is our list of must-have travel gear for our trips, enjoy!
North Coyote Cooler Backpack
We just bought this bag, and it is a serious game changer for any of you hikers. There are 3 main reasons to love this backpack.
First off, the top, and largest, pocket. Basically a huge drawstring pocket for you to store anything you’ll need on your hike. We usually pack our drone, camera, GoPro, rain gear, snacks, and anything else we might need on the hike.
Second, the bottom pocket, which is a… drum roll… cooler! It is literally a cooler big enough for an entire meal, that is attached to your backpack! We packed lunches in here for our hikes through Spain, and found it to be SO convenient. The fruit, carrots, water, and sandwiches, were still cool even in the 100 degree Spanish heat!
Side note: if you don’t want to use it as a cooler, you don’t have to! Then it is just a regular old pocket. I tell ya what, it is great to be able to pack food in there if you need it though.
Now, you probably think reason number 3 is going to be all the other pockets. While those are nice to have for passports, phones, and other trinkets, reason number 3 is how comfortable this bad boy is. Anyone who has ever hiked with an uncomfortable backpack on knows that it is about as fun as being a coyote chasing a road runner, not very fun. This backpack is a delight to throw over your shoulders, and has multiple support straps across the front in case you load the bag up with rocks or sand or whatever you weirdos might bring along. Regardless, you won’t be uncomfortable, guaranteed.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones
These are Zach’s lifesavers. He cannot focus without them, whether in an airport or a coffee shop, putting on these bad boys gets him locked in. Which to be honest can be annoying, because he is literally deaf to any outside noises with them on, but whatever works!
The real reason to get these headphones is for the airplane/train/bus. When you’re traveling, being able to choose your own music/podcast AND hear it is a godsend. The captain doesn’t interrupt you with announcements. You don’t hear the baby crying 4 seats away. When Julie farts herself awake, you can only smell it, instead of hearing it AND smelling it. We will never travel without these again.
Raise your hand if you have ever wished you had a neck pillow and didn’t have one. There is not much worse. So tired that you can’t keep your eyes open, but you can’t get comfortable because you’re not one of those psychopaths that can sleep sitting upright in a chair with no pillow (if you are one of those people, I didn’t mean to call names, I apologize).
Now, raise your other hand if you’ve ever had the horror of having a neck pillow, but that pillow being less comfortable than a bed of nails (and not the Bon Jovi kind). That is almost worse than no pillow at all, because you think you will be comfortable enough to get some shut-eye, but in fact the pillow keeps sliding out from under you. Or maybe it is so firm that when you do wake up you can’t move your neck more then 4 inches because it is kinked like a hose.
This pillow solves both of those issues. First off, it is like sleeping on a cloud. Memory foam in all the right places, so you can lean back, left, right, or forwards. Second, it is so easy to bring anywhere. It stuffs into a small carrying bag that will fit inside any backpack or luggage, and when you take it out the memory foam springs back to normal shape.
Bonus: you get an eye mask and ear plugs that you can keep in the carrying bag in case you ever need them.
A phone armband is kind of a no-brainer to bring traveling, because it is so easy to pack, but which one to pick isn’t. First off, why to bring one. Are you going to be going on runs through the city on your trip? Maybe, but probably not. We love to hike, and we love to swim. Usually we will wear our swimsuits while hiking, just in case we stumble across a river or watering hole that has a cannonball written all over it. What’s the bad part about wearing swimsuits hiking? No pockets. Insert phone armband.
Now, why this armband. Because it is basically a wallet attached to your arm. We’ve never liked the clear ones that you can supposedly use your touch screen through. They basically never work, and we just jab at the screen in frustration until we get sick of it and pull the phone out.
Instead of a crappy window on the front, this one has a pocket, which we use for our credit cards and IDs while walking through the city and/or hiking up a mountain. It has a hole for your headphones, conveniently placed so the cords don’t get tangled with your arm. And it is extremely comfortable, we barely feel it.
Being honest, this one is Zach’s, he is the reader. Julie is the doer. Zach bought altogether too many books to fit on our shelf, and they ended up stacked and strewn around the apartment. Not ideal, especially if you’re bringing books on a trip where space is extremely limited.
Enter the Amazon Kindle. Not only does this store all of the books you can handle, but it is about the size of a small tablet, and is so easy to pack. What’s more, many books are cheaper to buy on Kindle than they are to buy the physical copy, and you get the download immediately upon purchasing! The Kindle is really the best of all worlds when it comes to reading while traveling.
Side note: Zach was worried about his eyes getting tired after reading off a screen for hours on end, but the Kindle feels just like reading off the page. 3 hour long flights powering through Sharp Objects and he was ready for more!
Our favorite books to read on your Kindle (or however you want to read them!)
Osprey 65 Backpack
Tough to tell from the picture, but this backpack is ENORMOUS! Unlike the hiking backpack above, this one is not for everyday use. We packed everything we needed for our 3 week vacation in Southeast Asia in this backpack.
And to one-up that, we fit it in the overhead bin on the flight! 3 weeks on a new continent without checking a bag, folks. No anxiety about losing our bags and no waiting at the baggage claim. Could not do that without this bag.
Side note: it probably won’t fit in the overhead bin on any puddle-jumpers, but we’ve made it work for any cross-country or inter-continental flights!
Another huge check in the ‘pro’ column is that this bag is made by Osprey, which means it is extremely high quality and durable. We aren’t very nice to our bags, which usually leads to premature seam-ripping, destroyed buckles, and wrecked zippers.
We couldn’t ruin this bag if we tried. Julie has been jumping up and down on it as Zach pulls the zipper closed, jamming half her closet into the bag, and it holds up just fine.
Finally, the bag is part-backpack part-luggage. You can pack away the straps (literally, there is a pocket for them) for when you just need luggage. And then when you can’t check-in to your hotel for 3 hours and you want to walk around the city, you can pull out the straps and carry it around for a few hours no problem! BIG plus in our book.
Vera Bradley Toiletry Bag
Ladies (or gents, we won’t judge…) this is by far the best toiletry bag we’ve ever found. It fits both of our toiletries! Admittedly Zach’s is only deodorant and a toothbrush usually, but still…
First off, 4 pockets. More than enough space for shampoo, conditioner, face wash, makeup, toothpaste, body wash, razor, toothbrush, contacts, contact solution, brush, deodorant, lotion, sunscreen, chapstick, floss, medicine, feminine products, the list goes on. Is this a Harry Potter bag?? It honestly might be.
Second, once you’ve packed all 4 magical pockets, it rolls up into an easy carrying case! Perfect for fitting into any luggage or backpack. And… drum roll… when you get to your destination, you can roll it back out and it hangs easily on any hook or bar! Literally, the perfect toiletry bag if you’re asking us.
Camera Accessory Kit
If you’ve already got a camera, but you’re only picture-taking method is point-and-shoot, we would recommend taking a flier on this camera kit. It is very affordable, and will allow you to experiment with new ways of taking pictures.
A stand will set you up for some interesting long-exposure shots, and you can set-up a timer if you want to jump in the picture yourself! No more asking strangers to take pics for you, especially when half of them end up with their finger over the lens or crop out everything but your face.
Also, the cleaning equipment will come in handy after a beach day or a mountain hike. And the flexible stand can be helpful to wrap around a fence post or a tree branch for even more cool angles you wouldn’t have been able to get before! Finally, we love the carrying case, it fits our camera, lenses, and every accessory we own (except the tripod of course).
Having a camping hammock can REALLY open up your options when your hiking your favorite mountain or National Park. In a pinch, it is really a mobile tent, only more comfortable! All you have to do is find 2 trees and you can sleep beneath the stars! Or just a quick cat-nap if outdoor overnights aren’t your thing.
You HAVE to get one with the mosquito net option. You do NOT want to try and sleep while swatting away bugs, waking up with 12 new bites. We invested in this one with the mosquito net attachment. Super easy to set-up, and you don’t have to use the net if you don’t want it!
Of Course… Cameras!
When we’re not taking pictures with our phones (we rock the iPhone 8plus), we use a variety of different cameras depending on the situation. Whether by land, by sea, or by air, we have a camera for every photo opportunity! And each one comes with us to every destination.
DJI Spark Drone
Best part about the Spark is how small it is. The drone and remote control fit easily into a small carrying case that will fit in any backpack with room to spare. And you are going to need that room for snacks, rain gear, and another camera or two!
The Spark is also very affordable compared to other drones on the market, and the quality of the camera is just as good, if not better. It is extremely easy to fly, very maneuverable, and on ‘sport mode’ can really pick up speed to get a variety of creative photos and footage!
GoPro Waterproof Camera
We use the GoPro for any water shots, for any extreme sports or climbing, and as our primary camera on any rainy days. The camera takes a very high quality photo, and is extremely small, lightweight, and durable. The only thing this baby can’t do is fly.
Another huge benefit of the GoPro, especially when paired with the Spark, is how ridiculously easy it is to pack and bring along anywhere. It will literally fit in a fanny pack! For the past year, until recently, we took all of our pictures with either GoPro, phone, or drone, and in my opinion you can get 99% of the pictures you want with these 3.
We just recently invested in a camera and lens kit, and to be honest we are still working out the kinks. In our opinion, the best way to go if you’re buying one on Amazon is to get a kit. These will usually come with a variety of lens option, including high quality zoom and wide-angle, a carrying case, cleaning materials, and a tripod.
We recommend shopping around to find what camera will work best for what you’re looking to do, but if you want a standard kit that will do everything, this is a great affordable option.
Want more recommendations? Check out our Facebook group focused on sharing travel recommendations!
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