Travel Gearology Update

Jannell Howell kicked off her first around-the-world journey in January and has already explored Thailand and a bit of Cambodia. She is now in India with plans to see Jordan, Europe, and Morocco before coming back to the U.S. In 2010, Jannell started Traveljunkie’s World Tour to blog about her trip preparations and in the process became a self-confessed travel gearologist.  This post is in follow-up to a few gear & service items she highlighted prior to beginning her trip.

In January, I explained how my passion for gearology came about and shared a few items I was sure would make my around-the-world trip better.  I’ve had a few months to test them out on the road and want to provide some results.  Additionally, I’ve discovered several items that I have not used and am trying to decide if I they should stay in my suitcase.

Still loving my PacSafe Venture Safe backpack and its anti-theft powerhouse features.  I haven’t noticed any thwarted pickpocket attempts, but I do feel much better knowing I can lock down the zippers and that the bag is durable – no frayed seams, no broken components and no worn zippers.  The Venture Safe 25L backpack is my new ‘wubby’ as I always have it with me.  

As I’ve been staying in hotels/hostels with wi-fi, I haven’t used the Alfa long-range wi-fi antenna much.  Given that I used it recently at a bus station in Thailand to gain access to a remote wi-fi signal, I can honestly say that the antenna works as described.  I was even successful in using it to increase the wi-fi signal strength at a hostel I was staying in; unfortunately, I learned that a stronger signal does not increase the internet connection speed (drat!).  If I continue to stay in hotels, hostels, or apartments with decent wi-fi, I doubt I will need to use the antenna on a regular basis.

Now that I am traveling, my focus is no longer on accruing frequent flyer miles; luckily, the Travel Hacking Cartel offers videos and other tutorials to help me USE miles to my advantage. I will continue to look at the mileage accrual deals conveniently emailed to me for good opportunities, as my next goal is use frequent flyer miles to stay in a five-star resort.  Perhaps I should change my membership to start learning ways to obtain upgrades? 

The Mobal global sim card won’t really be used until an emergency, but I have tested it twice so far. There were no problems calling the US from Thailand and I had no difficulty receiving a call while in Cambodia. I can confirm (and as advised), that the GSM sim card does not work in Japan.  To coordinate with other travelers in Thailand, I purchased a local sim card for $12 US, but I didn’t use it to call home.  I have been relying on a combination of email, Skype, and Google Voice to keep in touch back home.  I will continue to test the Mobal sim card as I make my way through Nepal, India, Europe, and Morocco.

After lengthy research, I purchased and brought a few items that I have yet to use:

— Headlamp (guess I am not staying in remote places)

— 65L waterproof bag (this was a “what if” purchase)

— Sink plug (I tend to wash clothes in the shower with me – rinse and hang up right away). Plus, having laundry done in Southeast Asia has been extremely inexpensive.

— I have yet to use my sleep sheet. Either I am a gross person or I just haven’t stayed anywhere icky yet?

In the next month or so, I’ll decide if I should purge a few items from my suitcase. I have a nagging suspicion that as soon as I send home something – THAT is when I’m going to need it!  As I am meeting and talking to other travelers on the road, I am adding to my list of travel gear and services to research.  I’ve come to understand that there is a wide range of travel styles and traveler types. For the moment I’m in the ‘flashpacker’ (backpacker with a bigger budget) category. Gear is not static – one size doesn’t necessarily fit all.

What items have you found most useful when you travel? What have you discovered you can do without?


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