Gearing Up for a Trip on a Budget

Though we are still several months out from our departure, Weber and I are now slowly gearing up for our vagabond journey around the world. We decided it’s best to purchase necessities intermittently and mindfully rather than waiting until just before we leave and dropping loads of unnecessary cash for our gear. For this post I’d like to share a few tips on how to efficiently accumulate your travel necessities.

I first made a general list of items and an approximate quantity I anticipated needing. This list will surely change, but I based it on my European backpacking trip so it should be fairly accurate. I started by simply listing generics… for instance, two pairs of pants, two long sleeves, jacket, etc. Once I felt I had the proper minimal items of clothing and gear listed out, I racked my brain for items I already owned that could suffice on the trip. Since we plan to sell almost everything we own, including a vast portion of my wardrobe, I wanted to locate clothing that could be utilized before that happens. Make notes on your list of items you own that will be useful.

Though I can already cover much of what I need, there is some gear and travel specific clothing I will need to purchase. I found it really helpful to utilize the many wonderful travel blogs hiding around the interweb. From these you can review packing lists by those who are already experienced on extended trips – I will include some links at the end of this post. Many of these bloggers feature reviews on various gear, photography and technology essentials, and which items are necessary and which to leave behind; so they are great for narrowing down your list to the most important items. I used websites like REI to compare different backpacks and other gear. Since you can see most of the popular brands in one place, accompanied by reviews, you can get a good sense of which ones are right for you. Luckily there is a flagship store in Denver, so I am able to physically go to the store, see the items in person, and decide if they are a good fit. If you are near a store like this, definitely utilize the in-person testing as a resource even if you plan to later order them at a discount online.

Here are some aspects to consider when choosing gear:

  • Backpacks with front loading access are hugely helpful. I endured my backpacking trip through Europe with a pack that only loaded from the top, and often this made locating specific items very difficult.
  • A couple quick drying and extra comfortable sets of travel clothing will make those long days on trains and planes much more pleasant.
  • Quick dying underwear is very important as you will likely find yourself washing them in sinks in a hurry and you will want them dry as soon as possible.
  • Clothing that is versatile.
  • A packing cube specifically for dirty laundry so you don’t have to mix it back in with your clean clothing.
  • Hiking boots or trail running shoes that can double as shoes to wear out. I chose a pair of boots that can also be worn with leggings and look presentable on colder nights out.
  • Consider a camping hammock, they are super light and packable, and they could come in very handy for makeshift sleeping arrangements – especially if you are planning to do camping and other outdoor exploration.
  • Buffs can be found at most outdoor sports stores, and they are very handy multipurpose item to have. They can be used as face protection from cold or dust, quick-dry headbands in the heat, and even a make shift beanie.
  • Shampoo and conditioner bars are perfect for traveling. They are no mess and take up much less space.
  • (For ladies only) The Diva Cup or other menstrual cup. This is probably the most essential for a far-traveling-lass. Once you transition you will wonder why you ever used anything else.

After extensive research, I have my list to a point I’m satisfied with. I made notes and added links for the gear and clothing I will likely buy. My goal is to have as many versatile items as possible so I can reduce the risk of over-packing and lugging around unnecessary weight. Remember you can always purchase clothing and other basic necessities wherever you are traveling. Blogs I’ve scoured about Southeast Asia, in specific, comment on how many beautiful and unique pieces of clothing you can buy at very reasonable prices. Because of this they advise packing light or packing items you aren’t attached to, since you will surely want keepsakes from the places you visit. I focused on clothing that could function in many ways; for instance, linen pants that can be used for transit travel, day exploring, and can also be dressed up for situations that may require it. Long skirts are excellent for traveling, beach bumming, and a night out. Get creative with what you bring, and try and stick to items that will have multiple uses.

Once I had a solid list of items I own and ones I needed, I put my budget plan into motion. Since I have a general idea of what I need to purchase, I can slowly purchase them for less by utilizing sales and deals. REI features loads of specials; so keeping an eye on the items you’ve earmarked can pay off. Check back on your desired gear every couple days, you may find a drastic cut in price or a great sale the company is holding. Calculate which items are best to bulk together based on a specific deal outdoor gear companies are running. The other week I bought a great jacket that was nearly 50% off and a pair of last season’s high quality walking sandals for under $30; REI was running a deal that if you spent over $100 you would get a $20 gift card back. I spent just over $100 on items I knew I needed, saved almost $100 since they were sale items, and received a gift card back which I used to purchase a travel towel free of cost. Preparing your list early and diligently monitoring your items for price cuts reduces the pressure of gearing up on everything last minute when it is likely full priced.

Another excellent site for gear deals is Steep and Cheap. This website offers huge discounts on outdoor gear and apparel, much of which is great for traveling. Steep and Cheap features categories of sale items that run anywhere from a day to a few. There are a limited number of items and they change out regularly, so keeping close watch of what they have available is important. Usually their discounts are anywhere from 20% to 80% – so the possibility for great savings is real. It is less likely you will find the exact model of gear you are looking for on here, but for more general items you need, but don’t have a specific preference on, it’s great. I scour through all their offers every couple days and I have already found many excellent deals for necessary items. They also offer an option to hold shipping on your order, that way you can wait a couple days and continue to search for items they feature and add them to your previous purchases to be shipped together — avoid unnecessary shipping costs whenever possible!

These tips are helpful for a budget conscious traveler, and one who cannot afford the top of the line gear but still desires high quality products. If you are on an especially tight budget, consider searching Craigslist for used items you may need. Travel backpacks and technological items are often sold when people use them as much as they expected. Post an ad on Craigslist as well, someone may stumble upon it and realize they have some useful gear they’re willing to sell. Ask friends who have traveled if they would be willing to sell old gear or allow you to borrow it. If you live in an area where outdoor sports are popular, there are usually second hand stores that feature gently used essentials. There are many ways to gather all that you need without breaking the bank.

Remember that you do not have to spend a large chunk of your travel savings to gear up for your trip, that money can sustain you another day on delicious foreign street food! Creativity and determination are the most important factors in efficiently preparing for a trip of a lifetime.

Stay with me for more existential musings and tales of adventure!

Kate Townsend

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