GiftFilter: must-have objects for a year-long trip
September 18, 2008 3:09 AM   Subscribe

What are the must-have objects for a year-long trip in the World's south-east (India, Asia, Australia).

So, my brother is about to embark for his year-long trip (previous questions) on a shoestring (15€/day, roughly $20), and I'd like to buy him something truly useful to take with him, something that he hasn't thought about yet.

He already has a good list of usual items (french, in english): Swiss-army knife, mosquito net, dynamo headlamp, ziplock bags, and then some.

Requisites: small and lightweight (has to take it around the world), cheap (can replace it easily if lost), very useful/needed/helpful...

Please give me your ideas, hivemind!
posted by XiBe to Travel & Transportation (26 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
posted by the cuban at 3:14 AM on September 18, 2008

Soap? The multi-purpose concentrated liquid kind.
posted by Xany at 3:27 AM on September 18, 2008

Best answer: Universal bath/sink plug.

Don't know the proper word for this item in english, but in airports and travel shops etc you can buy this kind of tiny rubber thing that will fit and plug all sink/tub holes. It is small, weighs nothing, but is incredibly useful, particular in low-budget scenarios.

This makes it possible to wash oneselves, one's clothes and one's dishes everywhere.
posted by gmm at 3:38 AM on September 18, 2008

Response by poster: @the cuban: these are implicit - the online list is designed to not avert our mother's eyes ;)

@xan : can't really give him a one-year supply of this :)

@gmm: neat idea, I'll see if that can be found.

Please keep'em coming! :)
posted by XiBe at 3:53 AM on September 18, 2008

Best answer: The obvious omission, unless included in the "trousse de toilette" is a lightweight microfibre camping towel. Also, a space blanket if one isn't in his first aid kit. If he is not taking even a small games player, then a crossword book lasts a long time for filling in odd empty hours and/or a pack of cards.

It would be useful to make a promise to lend money without telling your parents if he asks you for it. This allows for sorting out emergencies without getting them worried.
posted by Idcoytco at 3:58 AM on September 18, 2008

Best answer: This question might help, depending where he's going.

Worth remembering too that in most of the world, as a Westerner, it's both cheaper and better for the locals to buy things there. Clothing, toiletries and books all fall into this category. Can't count the number of times I've seen young backpackers in airports and bus stations tottering under the weight of 100 litre backpacks stuffed to breaking point, usually with stuff they don't really need, or could buy easily where they're going.
posted by Happy Dave at 4:14 AM on September 18, 2008

Best answer: Seconding the universal drain plug. A good supply of earplugs (they are hard to find in Asia). A headlamp, for reading in bed (LED if possible). A sturdy notebook. Good shoes (also hard to find). Anti-diarrheals. One of those travel towels -- they are not great, but mine lasted about ten months with no trouble. They do tend to stink, though.

Everything else you can and should buy locally.
posted by Succa at 5:39 AM on September 18, 2008

Best answer: I found a length of elastic cord to be amazingly useful as a clothesline and general strap. I know his list includes a clothesline, but I can't tell if it's elastic or not. It should be.

Patagonia "Mens Active Classic Boxers" are absurdly durable and dry out quickly on the above-mentioned clothesline (this is handy in humid areas). I am a huge, huge, fan of these.

T-shirts made of the same material as the boxers, or any other thin fast-wicking material. Regular cotton = hot and slow-drying.

Indestructible waterproof watch, with a thin elastic-plus-velcro strap, rather than the alarm clock he's listed.

Nearly all toiletries should be purchased locally. Don't bother with them.
posted by aramaic at 6:11 AM on September 18, 2008

Best answer: A sleep sheet. (The link shows how to make one, but you can also buy them.)

A portable water filter is also handy. There are some really decent ones on the market no bigger than a water bottle. In a lot of South and Southeast Asia, he's not going to want to drink the local water without some kind of filter.
posted by Hypocrite_Lecteur at 6:53 AM on September 18, 2008

Best answer: Lighter and matches, painkillers, knitting kit, universal electric plug...
posted by Baud at 6:57 AM on September 18, 2008

Best answer: Seconded elastic cord. I carried parachute cord. It's cheap and durable and made me lots of friends whilst traveling.

But I'll say this - all the day to day things he could possibly need, he can find in these places. Think of small items that he can bring from home that symbolize home. Small gifts he can give to people. Think photos, postcards from home, balloons, magnets, decks of cards. For my upcoming travels in Africa I've been cutting up art books so I can bring along a portable art gallery of things that I like, and I can give them to people.

These are the most useful things, IMO.
posted by iamck at 7:21 AM on September 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Here's two guys who picked up sticks and traveled around the world for a year, and the gear they bought. Some of it quite pricey, but it's a good place to start for brainstorming.

Hope this helps!

- Bill
posted by willmize at 7:55 AM on September 18, 2008

Best answer: toilet paper. a bathroom in delhi's airport met the Wrath of Nitsuj -- thank god I brought my own TP.
posted by nitsuj at 8:11 AM on September 18, 2008

Portable, high-quality water filter.

My wife and I spent a year in India and there was nothing that got more use nor saved more time and hassle (hiking through bazaars exhausted after long trips, for example, hunting for a stall still open selling bottled water).

We went with this one from Katadyn. I seem to recall it ran us about $100. Worth every penny at twice the price.

And I'd recommend not buying him new clothes and suggesting very stridently he ditch half of the clothes he thinks he needs to bring. Cheap, comfortable, breathable, quick-drying clothes (linen and very light cotton, especially) are cheap and ubiquitous throughout India and Southeast Asia.
posted by gompa at 8:33 AM on September 18, 2008

As someone who travels pretty extensively and has lived overseas for a fairly large chunk of his life I'd advise you to think about what kind of a person your brother is and what kinds of luxurys he can / can't do without.

Everyone travels differently. My GF carts all kinds of stuff around when we travel while I tend to keep it to the bare essentials (couple pairs of boxers, a change of clothes, a collection of medicines / antibiotics, extra socks, a kakoi/towel, some serious boots, a bathing suit, lots of painkillers, contact info, and one hell of an adventurous spirit!) I'd also caution you (and him) not to buy a bunch of expensive travel equipment / clothing (unless he REALLY is going to climb that mountain that they feature in the advertisement) because: a - it'll make him look like a novice, and b - stealing that dumb tourist's expensive adventure watch will feed me for three weeks.

If I were you, I'd pick him up a lonely planet guide to one of the countries he'll be spending a fair amount of time in. Also, if he plans on coming though Taiwan send me a private message and I'll more than happily show him around!
posted by Dr.James.Orin.Incandenza at 9:56 AM on September 18, 2008

I'm on a bit of a trip right now myself (although not quite so shoe string, and the main purpose is studying...) and my two favourite things that I bought for it are:

Tiny (tiny) first aid kit. I bought this little bag, about 3" by 5", and stuffed it with bandages of all sizes, a little bottle of antiseptic liquid, advil, cold meds (because I tend to get colds in the worst times), and gauze and tape. You can usually find this kind of kit at a mountain ec. store (I got mine from MEC in canada), and they already come with a few things in them. You can usually stuff some more necessities in afterwards.

Also, if you can, find the Orikaso folding dishes, they're a dream! They fold completely flat, are really easy to fold back into shape, and can double as cutting boards. (oh, and they're pretty inexpensive).
posted by Planet F at 10:23 AM on September 18, 2008

Living in Seoul right now, though no idea what a true traveler's needs are... I've found that deodorant can be rare at times... A very small bottle of cologne might be nice to freshen up, as well - I keep one in my manbag... A little language / wordless book is something I wished I had bought before leaving the US (a book of pictures, essentially - point to the picture to communicate what you need / want).
posted by chrisinseoul at 10:43 AM on September 18, 2008

But I'll say this - all the day to day things he could possibly need, he can find in these places. Think of small items that he can bring from home that symbolize home. Small gifts he can give to people. Think photos, postcards from home, balloons, magnets, decks of cards. For my upcoming travels in Africa I've been cutting up art books so I can bring along a portable art gallery of things that I like, and I can give them to people.

Seconded. There's nothing like being stuck on a 18-hour train ride in Myanmar and being able to take out a few pictures of your family or your house to show other passengers. On the other hand, if you've already asked three gear-related questions on the green, my guess is that he's packing way too much gear and the question he should be asking is what stuff should he leave at home.
posted by alidarbac at 11:24 AM on September 18, 2008

I agree with the general sentiment in this thread that for the most part, people tend to bring too much stuff on trips like this, and that that’s a mistake your brother will really want to avoid. Remember, he's traveling to Asia, not the moon. Almost everything will be available (and cheaper) if he looks hard enough.

That being said, I'm a big fan of this travel clothesline from Flexoline, which can be super useful if he's doing laundry by hand. If you get an S-hook to go with it, you can hang it just about anywhere, and it won't fall down like the ones with suction cups will and the best part is you don't need to use clothespins with it.

Also, it can be used as a Tourniquet in a pinch. (hopefully your Brother won't need to use it for that!)
posted by dyslexictraveler at 1:56 PM on September 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Some photography ideas: a Flickr Pro account, a gorillapod, a spare camera battery, or probably the most useful of the lot -- a small DVD case:

Your brother will run into a million-and-one places which can backup his memory cards to dvd, and they all have one thing in common: they'll just give you the bare cd, or (at best) in a paper envelope where it can still scratch if thrown into a backpack, or even break.

(And on a related note: use 4GB memory cards, nothing larger, so they can all fit onto one DVD. Much less chance of the computer shop messing up and not backing up some of the photos.)

Some medical ideas: buy his health insurance, pay for his essential vaccinations or those "maybe"s he wouldn't have got otherwise, buy him three or four packets of oral rehydration salts and three or four tear-open antiseptic wipes (not three or four packets of ten -- three or four individual packets), and don't let him run wild in a pharmacy before he goes -- I see waaay too many people carrying big piles of medical stuff.

More: One of those tiny (inch-and-a-bit-long) tubes of Superglue has a million-and-one uses; good portable anti-virus software on a USB stick that he can use to scan those dodgy internet cafe PCs before typing in his banking password, maybe throw portable firefox on there too, and portable skype; a skypeout account and headset; a padlock; a spare pair of laces for his hiking boots.
posted by rjt at 2:02 PM on September 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: as Idcoytco mentioned, the small microfiber towels are awesome. They are extremely small and light and could soak up a bathtub full of water (ok... a little exaggerated...)

I also found in addition to a small sewing kit, bring safty pins. Safty pins can fix, attach, hold up, etc. nearly anything.

Bring a few blank dvds...7 gigs wont be enough space for pictures. stop at internet cafe's and burn your pictures to dvd. Either send them to your home or keep them.

You can buy clothes cheaply in SEA, it often can make more sense to buy new ones then haul ones in your pack. PACK LIGHT.

Hand sanitizer. Try to not let the natives see you use it, but it will make you feel better in some situations, either before you eat or if you get a cut.

On a side note...australia is expensive, good luck keeping to such a tight budget.

I always pack a small padlock with a couple of extra keys. make sure to use a small and light one but one that is good quality. You want to most protection for the smallest and lightest weight.

Be prepared for border crossings...some are safer then others. And also some ways of crossing are safer then others.

When in SEA be prepared to bargain...and i found women had better luck with women (find someone at the hostel/guest house!) and men had better luck with men.
posted by Black_Umbrella at 2:35 PM on September 18, 2008

I work in the travel industry and in April spent a couple of weeks in Chile and Ecuador, and just came back from a couple weeks of Burning Man and Brazil (back to back, no less). Going to Paris and Madagascar in a few months. Life is so much simpler since I have discovered the ExOfficio clothing line. They have high quality travel shirts that survive every kind of possible abuse you can throw at them - they are lightweight, sturdy, and dry quickly. I met a guy who spent several months rafting down the length of the the Nile and wore 2 of the AirStrip shirts religiously. I can travel for 3 weeks with only 3 pairs of their quick-drying undies, always washing one out nightly and having 2 clean and dry ones ready. They dry very quickly.

And your brother does know the secret of how to help dry clothes quickly, right? Lay wet item (already wringed out and not sopping wet) in between a dry towel folded in half. Roll tightly. Grab both ends of the towel and vigorously twist. Towel should have absorbed quite a bit of the moisture. Flip towel over and repeat process again. Hang item to dry near window or heater - NOT in a damp bathroom!
posted by HeyAllie at 5:22 PM on September 18, 2008

I find one key to coping with travel conditions in the developing world is having a nice toiletry item, like a luxurious, scented shampoo. It makes me feel slightly better as I am standing in a shower with a malfunctioning water zapper (or a cold bucket shower!).

Also, my silk sleep sack makes any rock-hard guesthouse bed seem more inviting.

Seconding a good stash of first aid supplies and medicines, including Malarone and a heavy-duty antibiotic.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:23 PM on September 18, 2008

Definitely the flexoline clothesline. Also, I loved my silk sleep sack and got it cheap on ebay.
How about a small, nice journal to keep a travel journal?
posted by hazel at 8:53 PM on September 18, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks a lot everyone for all your great suggestions!

There were so many of them, that I couldn't just pick one, and moreover I didn't want him to miss on anything (he's leaving next tuesday), so I prefered to spoil the surprise and make him a list of everything, thinking he might want to shop for some this week-end.

Turns out, he tells me that the list I gave reassures him in thinking he is well-prepared, as he already had thought of many of these items.

The only think he doesn't yet have is an advice from this page, given here by willmize: "The Pacsafe 55 Exomesh weighs only a pound and folds up small enough to fit in one of the mesh side pockets of the pack." He will think about that.

Again, thanks a lot everyone, most precious advices here!
posted by XiBe at 6:05 AM on September 19, 2008

Response by poster: Just to be complete, and for future-reference if that question was any use to anyone, I ended up offering him a custom USB-key, containing many portable apps (from PortableApps and OSX Portable Apps, such as Firefox, GIMP, ClamWin, Pidgin...), so that he would use secure apps.

Along with that, I put our family's 2006 selection of pictures, and old pictures from family vacations 20-30 years ago.

He liked it.
posted by XiBe at 7:54 AM on September 22, 2008

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