While backpacking around the world, there will be times when you need to entertain yourself and others. These help make it so!
Netbook – I traveled 6 months through central and south america without a laptop and regretted not bringing one. I bought for Southeast Asia and it made a huge difference. Sure I didn’t read as many books, but the long bus rides were more entertaining, internet more readily accessible, you can easily share movies and music with friends, etc. I did a ton of research before deciding which one to buy and ultimately bought the Acer One 722 in March 2012. It has good battery life, 4GB of RAM that allows me to run multiple programs, and a 500GB hard drive so I can store lots of music, movies, and pictures. It’s also has a 1.33GHZ processor. Pretty fast at the time for a netbook. It probably wont be fast enough if you plan to edit a lot of movies or do other processor intensive activities, but for the average traveler it works well.
Camera – I absolutely love my Sony Cybershot DSC-HX9V. It’s takes pictures quickly, has an easy panoramic mode, full HD movie mode, macro mode for close up pictures, and even allows you to adjust aperture, shutter speed, and iso in manual mode. The pictures I’ve been able to take with this point and shoot have been great! Obviously I’d rather shoot with a DSLR, but those are too expensive and too much effort to carry around. For a backpacker, it’s a great option. Since I bought mine they have now come out with a 10V, 20V, and 30V as well. I don’t know much about those but they are probably even better!
GoPro – Looking back, I REALLY wish I had traveled with a GoPro® the whole time. These little video cameras are incredible. They come with a waterproof casing and different mounts so that the camera can be attached to just about anything. If you plan to dive, hike, or get into any kind of extreme activities, having one of these will capture some incredible memories for you!
E-reader – If you enjoy reading, an E-reader like Amazon’s Kindle or Kobo’s line of products are a great investment. With battery life of over 30 hours, a screen that mimics an actual book, and millions of downloadable titles, you can have any book you want any time you want as long as you have a WIFI connection. Not to mention the weight savings! After comparing them all, my favorite was the Kobo Glo. It feels good in your hand, has good contrast on the screen, a back-light for when it’s dark, a book selection as good as Amazon, good software including a built in dictionary and translator, a touchscreen, and it’s cheap! It’s the number one reader in many countries of the world.
Headphones – On the road you are going to want to listen to music and watch movies while not disturbing those around you. Pick up some decent earbuds so they block the outside noise and don’t take up much space in your bag. For the money, SkullCandy makes decent buds, but check out the reviews as new ones come out all the time. If you plan to Skype with your smart phone, look for earbuds with a mic.
Smartphone (unlocked) – Having a smart phone is great for internet access, music/movies, and apps that can save you time and money. Sure your laptop has most of that, but the phone is easier to carry around and laptops don’t have the useful apps!
Smartphone Apps – Unfortunately my Iphone died in Peru, and I miss it everyday of travel. Along with music and movies, the apps made life easier and more interactive on the road. Here are some of the apps I used most.
1. Skype – Skype Communications S.a.r.l: Even if you have a local SIM card, it’s too expensive to call home. Skype allows you to call anywhere in the world for free, as long you have internet access and the person you’re calling also has a Skype account.
2. Google Maps: Before heading to your next location, get on wi-fi to load up that towns map. Zoom in on the area where you’ll be staying while on wi-fi and the details should be stored in your memory. The map can be very useful when you are walking around in an unknown city. Sometimes it’s easy to get lost, especially when the road signs are non-existent! Maps are also great for showing taxi drivers who don’t understand you.
3. Word Lens – Quest Visual: I love this app! Just point your phone camera at anything with printed words, and it will instantly translate them for you!
4. Kobo Books: Kobo’s E-readers are great, and their smart phone app is pretty good as well. With it you can download and read books on your smart phone. With many hours of bus and plane rides ahead of you, being able to read the book you want when you want is fantastic! You wont always be able to find a book you want on the road, but you can always download it.
5. XE Currency: Every new country is going to have a different currency, and the rates change daily. You’ll often need to exchange from one to another, so knowing the conversion is essential. Usually you can convert at a bank, but sometime you will need to use guys on the street. These money changers are infamous for scamming people. Sure some are honest, but many are not. Be careful with the math, scrutinize the bills to make sure they are real, and always double-check the bills. A common scam is to exchange smaller denominations in place of larger ones when they look similar.
6. ICOON global picture dictionary: For those times when words can’t describe what you want, a picture is ideal! Photos are listed by category so things are easy to find. You’ll find everything from bedding, to food, to parts of the human body!
Surge protector – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve need to charge something, but there were no outlets open. In many hostels, outlets are at a premium and its first come first serve. If you have a surge protector strip, you’ll be able to charge what you need, protect yourself against developing country power spikes, and maybe even make a new friend by lending out your extra ports. I carry the Belkin’s mini surge protector. It’s small, cheap, and built well.
Speakers – I still haven’t bought travel speakers yet, but there have been many occasions where I wish I had! Camping on the beach, chill on the patio at a hostel, lounging around a pool, stuck on the side of the road for hours, etc. I’ve seen many travelers with the X-Mini speakers and they sound good, they’re tiny, and under $20. If you love music, and sharing it with others, grab a set before you head on the road.
Electric shavers – For guys that shave their face, and women there legs, having an electric razor is great for the road. You don’t need water or lotion, and you don’t need to replace your blade constantly. I change to blades on my shaver once a year and could easily go longer than that. Being able to shave anytime and anywhere is a nice convenience,
Solar charger – If you plan to use your Smartphone or Kindle or other electronics during the long travel days, or during multi-day hiking trips, they are likely to run out of power. Having a backup battery can be a good idea. Personally I tend to read paperbacks while traveling so I don’t usually wish for extra battery, but I’m a bit old school. For others, ReVIVE makes a solar-powered external battery that has gotten very good reviews on Amazon.