Make your trip a blast: our favorite travel hacks
When you are on holiday, or a more extensive overland adventure, there is always that special moment of reflection where you think to yourself: why didn’t I bring this with me? As full-time rubber tramps we know this feeling all too well. But as we are on the road for a while now, we have the opportunity to improve our travel setup, knowing exactly what adds value and what not. Below you can see an overview of things we really appreciate having with us on the road.
Who still travels without a power bank? Probably hardly anyone. But a good power bank really makes the difference. As we are camping a lot, we often run out of power without the possibility to charge our devices. A power bank with a big capacity (e.g. 30000 mAh), multiple in- and output sockets (ours has three input and four output sockets), and a quick charge possibility, is then the way to go. When we hit a spot with power, we activate our power station and connect four devices to it, all charging simultaneously. Alibaba offers good and affordable options.
So your Powerbank is almost empty, and charging it with a regular phone charger takes ages – even longer when your full electronic setup is wired to it. The solution is easy: invest in a quick charger. For around 20 euros you have a quick charger that charges your devices fast. Your investment pays back quickly now you don’t have to buy another round of coffee, waiting for everything to be fully charged. Alibaba offers good and affordable options.
External hard drive (SSD)
GoPro, drone, camera, laptop, mobile phones, and you name it. They all collect oversized media that needs to be stored somewhere – and of course your laptop is already full with other stuff. Bringing a small external hard drive (e.g. a 1TB SSD) is great, packs very small and is easy to carry. Alibaba offers good and affordable options.
Rugged laptop (and phone) case
Forget your smooth and fancy leather laptop (or phone) case. Instead, go for a heavy-duty drop- and waterproof case which makes you very happy when that supposedly final drop on the floor causes nothing more than an indifferent shrug. When traveling by car or motorbike, or even by plane, your laptop can endure some heavy beating. Better take good care of it by buying a solid case, protecting it from most disturbances. Alibaba offers good and affordable options.
When we have the luxury of a fast internet connection we like to watch a movie together, listen to music or see the latest video edits we made on our laptop. An audio splitter makes it possible to use two sets of airphones. It’s just a little neat and cheap thing which makes listening so much better.
GoPro Remote + fog stopper
When you got your GoPro setup ready to shoot, it could be a challenge to simply press the record button – for example, when the GoPro is mounted to a helmet, as we have, or when you practice a sport. A GoPro Remote makes it really easy to record and stop, or change some settings. Bonus tip: when you experience rapid temperature or elevation changes, fog can build up in the GoPro protective housing – like we, unfortunately, noticed too late. This is easily solved by folding a thick paper towel and stuffing that into the protective housing.
When you plan to travel to remote areas with a bad to zero phone connection, bringing a satellite phone is key for keeping you safe. The satellite phone works all over the world and only needs a clear vision of the sky and an active subscription (of 15 euro per month). We have a Garmin inReach mini, and are lucky enough to have only used it for some periodical testing exercises. It comes expensive though. We bought it second hand for 250 euro. But when you are in an emergency, that money is quickly forgotten.
Camping and travel gear
Packing cubes (bags)
Is it just me, or does it feel great when you can grab your things without searching for them? Traveling with packing cubes (or bags) keeps your stuff nice, tidy and organized, severely limiting extensive searching quests for that one thing you always seem to lose. It saved us from hours of discussions about who has (lost) that one thing. We bought ours at the Decathlon, which is sold for 8 euro per three bags. Bonus tip 1: bring some spares, they will always come in handy. Bonus tip 2: write with a marker on the packing cubes what goes in (e.g. Thomas trousers), so your partner has no chance to colonize it.
Steelcore (security) strap
This part might be more useful for motorbike travelers, but also people who like to securely strap their luggage during traveling could like this product as well. We use it to lock our soft luggage bags to our motorbike. Quoting the website: “steelcore straps have a braided galvanized steel cable at the center covered in a cut-resistant, heavyweight webbing and have an aircraft-grade aluminum buckle assembly that is powder-coated for corrosion resistance.” Sounds pretty impressive right. So far no one has tried to open or cut it. Fingers crossed we keep it like this.
Shampoo and soap bar
As we can only bring one toiletry bag for the two of us, we (or more correctly written, Thomas) had to come up with something smaller than carrying bottles of shampoo and conditioner. The outcome is a shampoo bar. Besides the reduced volume of the toiletry bag, your bag is also saved from a potential lavender explosion. At the Lush we bought a shampoo bar (10 euro) and two round storage tins, one for shampoo and one for soap.
When we bought our first proper sleeping bag, we were amazed what a huge difference it made compared to our old, cheap and multi-generation used sleeping bag. We bought the Nemo Disco 15 and are in love with it. Yes, it is expensive (around 250 euro) but worth the money if you use it a lot, as we do. Most of our camping gear is from Nemo and we only experienced trouble with the zip of our tent after a year of intense use. They asked for a picture, and within a week they shipped for free their latest design. What a customer service!
Bringing a chair normally requires significant space. Not with the Helinox chairs. They are super small, strong and sit pretty comfortably. We bought them second hand for 50 euro per piece. Bonus tip: be careful with the leg caps, they can get stuck and left behind in the grass.
Pocket and multipurpose knives
We always carry three knives. A big multipurpose knife: the Leatherman Wave, bought second hand for 50 euro. And two all-time classics: an Opinel. We have a size 10 and 8, which cost around 10 euro per piece.
MSR stove and cooking pot
Cooking outdoors is one of the biggest pleasures when you have the proper gear. We bought the MSR Whisperlite second hand for 50 euro, including two fuel bottles, which has never let us down. To cook, eat and drink we use the MSR Alpinist 2 Cook Set, which contains an aluminum pot, two Double-Wall Insulated Mugs and DeepDish plates. Great stuff!
Right, shoes. We know this is a very personal thing, depending on your taste and style. We like to wear sneakers on which we can hike, work in the garden, do an occasional WOD, pack small and still look decent when strolling on the boulé. Most sneakers that look good are not really suitable for those things and are often very slippery – especially on those high mountain ridges. The outcome is trail running shoes – e.g. the Nike Pegasus Trail GORE-TEX. It took me some years to realize, but these shoes can do it all. Good traction, often waterproof coating and if you search well, they also look cool.
Down jacket (foldable)
When you are a hiker, travel during and in colder periods or climates, or just have little space to carry big jackets, a foldable down jacket is great, packs very small, is lightweight and holds your body temperature well - e.g. our jackets can be folded into the left pocket. We bought a 30 euro Decathlon version which for us does the trick. If you layer it with thermal clothing, or a merino wool shirt, or a fleece sweater (or all together, as we do) you will be warm even in the coldest conditions.
Merino wool clothing
To be honest, we had some doubt adding this to the list, but just for one reason: washing. We both started with two shirts and two underpants, but have ditched the latter somewhere in Romania after we laundered it too hot, turning them into the size for your baby doll. But why do we still add it here? Because the fabric is just magic. It keeps you warm in the cold, cool in the heat, it feels great on your skin and it hardly smells after wearing. We both really like to wear it, and I think it is a great investment, as long as you pay attention how to wash it.
A young but famous brand known by most motor riders, making this part pretty self-explanatory. We have fully outfitted our bikes with some of their products: the Reckless 80L V2 (with two MOLLE 4L Storage Pouches), the Nomad tank bag and the Fatty Tool Roll. Really great stuff, super durable, user friendly and cool looks. And yes, this comes with a price.
This is one I actually bought too late. I should have bought it some years ago when I was a regular visitor of underground clubs. But everyone who is exposed to loud noises should own this. How would it feel when you lost your hearing because you didn’t protect your ears properly? After I bought a pair of Alpine custom made earplugs, I cannot ride my bike without plugging them in. Yes, they are expensive, and a custom made pair costs around 120 euro. But I think it's worth every penny. You better spend some money than lose your hearing, right? Side note: wearing them the first few days is a pain in the ear, but after a week they slide right in.
Riding with cold hands is inevitable when you are more than a nice weather rider. Besides the annoying feeling of having cold hands, it is also dangerous due to slower muscle reaction. Installing heated grips really improves the temperature of your hands, making a ride through heavy rain or snow a piece of cake – at least, for your hands. We bought the Oxford Heated Grips, which costs around 60 euro, and are relatively easy to install.
What do you charge when riding your bike? A phone, navigation, heated grips, communication set, and maybe your camera? Connecting all these devices straight to your battery is ugly, dangerous and could drain your battery. This is where the Fuzeblocks comes in. Fuzeblocks is “a designed a fuse block that is easy to install and fits into a small space. The on-board relay offers the choice for any device to be switched on or off automatically with the vehicle or to be powered constantly.” Long story short, it is a nice product for everyone who uses multiple electrical devices while riding. You do need a certain level of skill to install it. I think the Haynes manual, see the next topic, would say it’s 3 out of 5 pliers.
I think that all employees who are contributing to the Haynes manual should receive a statue. The level of detail, word choice and illustrations are simply amazing. The Haynes manual is a classic DIY manual for everyone who works on vehicles. We carry one book which describes my Honda XRV750 and Tessa her Transalp XL650. Without this book we wouldn’t be able to travel as we do. If you buy a bike, you should buy a Haynes manual.