Sunday, March 8, 2009

Notes from the Otter Trail: Top Backpacker Travel Gear

Packing a suitcase can take me hours! It's exhausting.
--Marc Jacobs in InStyle, March 2009

You said it, honey. Until I can figure out how to afford my own personal butler, it seems that I will have to endure the packing nightmare anytime I want to go anywhere. As usual, I overpacked for my last journey but was pleased to find that at least the gear I crammed into my backpack was oh-so-useful. Below you'll find my favorite road-tested products from a five-day hike in South Africa called the Otter Trail.

1. Shorts-to-pants convertibles: Being from LA I wouldn't be caught dead in these normally, but their benefits on the trail proved that fashion doesn't always come first. (Okay it does, but convenience is a close second.) And the two pairs I got from Eastern Mountain Sports were actually kind of cute--one khaki pair that unzipped to become shorts (with convenient zips up the ankle so you didn't need to remove your boots); and a black pair that rolled up and buttoned. Not only did they save space over packing two pairs each of shorts and long pants, they were also quick-drying and durable.
Eastern Mountain Sports, $49

2. SteriPen handheld UV water purifier: Smaller than a traditional filtration system, it also avoids the nasty taste of purifying drops or tablets. On top of that, it's a lot of fun to use! Just fill your 1/2- or 1-liter water bottle with water, click the pen, and immerse and stir until you see a happy face on the LCD screen. The bluish UV glow destroys viruses, bacteria and protozoa and makes you feel like a Star Wars stormtrooper. Sound effects extra.
Adventure 16, $99.95

3. Nomad waterproof notebook: At $10 for a 3-x-5" memo pad, this was either going to be my biggest sucker purchase of the trip, or a nifty convenience. It turned out to be the latter. One thing you can count on during a five-day hike is that some of your belongings will get wet, be it from rain or river crossings. The water-repellant pages of the notebook dried in no time, allowing for trouble-free blogging notes that were still legible once we returned to civilization.
Eastern Mountain Sports, $9.95

4. Headlamp: The first time I saw someone other than a coal miner sporting a headlamp across their forehead, I laughed until I cried. I'm not laughing now. The headlamp kept my hands free while eating, washing dishes, and digging through my backpack after dark. Every hiker on our trip sported one of these. I recommend one that comes with a red-light mode because the moths don't seem to attack it as much.
Eastern Mountain Sports, $34.95

5. Balance Energy Bar in Chocolate Mint Cookie: On the hardest day of hiking, I hit a wall and pulled out this little piece of heaven...pure bliss in a bar. I've long been a fan of the Snickers-like Caramel Nut Blast, but the chocolate mint variety was better still. If you live for Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies, you'll love this bar--Scout's honor., $20 for a box of 15

Two products that didn't make the top 5 but worked well and were highlighted in this month's Backpacker magazine:

Therm-a-Rest's Microfleece Trekker Pillow: At the end of a long hiking day, small comforts count big. Yes, you could just ball up a jacket and rest your noggin on it, but why do that when you could be sweetly dreaming the night away on this feel-good fabric? Just stuff some clothing inside the pillowcase, fold the end over and relax.
Adventure 16, $10.95

Medaglia D'oro Instant Espresso: This blows Nescafe out of the water. We poured a two-ounce jar into double Ziploc bags and used a spoonful every morning to start the day right. One night we made a whole pot before dinner and spiked it with Amarula, a South African liqueur similar to Bailey's Irish Cream. Waiter, I'll have another!, $18.92 for pack of 6 two-oz. jars

1 comment:

  1. hahah Laurie you are so funny! i enjoyed reading your blog :]
    ~Mr. Bubbles rightful owner