The 9 Items a Food Lover Always Needs to Pack

Anna Brones

Do you travel to eat?

There’s nothing better than exploring a new culture through the lens of food, be it crepes on a street corner or ordering an unknown item at the market. But any self-respecting food-lover should travel well prepared, and there are a few key items you should always have in your luggage. Here’s the essential packing list for anyone that’s ready to eat their way through wherever they’re traveling.

1. Reusable bag

Come well prepared for market shopping. You have to have something to put all that local produce in.

2. Ground coffee + coffee filter

Rule number one of traveling: never, ever, ever be without coffee. There’s nothing worse than being stuck in a hotel or hostel with mediocre coffee options, so bring your own. MSR makes a cool reusable filter that fits right into your mug, so all you have to get your hands on is some hot water.3. Tea bags

Another good item to add to your “just in case of an emergency” collection are tea bags. This way you’ll always be able to brew a mug after a long day out on the town.

4. Reusable containers

When you’re headed out for a long day of exploring, it’s smart to take some provisions with you, and a good reusable container will keep all your food in one spot. I find they are particularly helpful for carrying fruit, protecting it from bouncing around in your backpack. The MC2 from Innate is perfect, as the silicone lid doubles as a bowl.

5. Corkscrew/bottle opener

Particularly if you’re in a country known for wine, you’ll want a corkscrew opener on hand, and the same goes for bottle openers in beer loving countries. This way you can buy a few libations at a market or grocery store and do your own local tasting. Just remember to put it in your checked luggage, or if you’re traveling light with carry-on only, snag one upon arrival.

6. Knife

Whether you’re slicing off fresh cheese from a French market, cutting into artisan salami in Italy or slicing a mango in Thailand, a knife will serve you well. A classic is the good ole Opinel. Just be sure it’s packed in your checked luggage.

7. Tea towel

Tea towels can do wonders for impromptu picnics, giving you a small tablecloth that you can spread out wherever you’re sitting, keeping your food items off the ground.

8. Notebook

Note down where you ate, what you ate and everything in between. A small journal is perfect for tracking all of your culinary experiences and keeps you from saying “what was the name of that cute hole-in-the-wall?” a few years later. Coffee, beer, wine or whiskey lover? Consider the 33 Books series which has specific journals for each drink.

9. Spork

If you’re eating on the go, a reusable spork is indispensable. It keeps you from having to waste a bunch of flimsy plastic forks (that never feel good in your mouth anyway) and you’re always ready to eat, be it airport food or street food. I prefer a metal one, like the titanium one from SnowPeak, because you don’t have to worry about it breaking in your bag.

Three Unsung Travel Gear Items

I registered for the Summer Outdoor Retailer Show, a gear extravaganza that takes place twice a year in Salt Lake City. Unfortunately, “day job” stuff got turned on its head such that I can’t attend, though fellow Gadling Gear Guy Kraig Becker will be representing and will have his eyes open for new, cool stuff. Because I’m listed to attend, I’ve got an inbox full of press releases and invitations to check out the newest, latest, coolest … and a surprising number of those releases are for gear that’s really hard to say anything about. It’s critical stuff, don’t get me wrong, you need these things. But how much can you say about these items?

  1. Socks: Merino socks, toe socks, performance socks, recycled fiber socks, socks, socks, socks. I know, when you were a kid and you got socks as a gift, you thought, “Really? SOCKS?” but as a grown up, I appreciate nice socks. But what can you say about socks that the laundry basket and your sock drawer and time do not tell you? The bad ones are at the bottom of the drawer, the good ones are in the wash. I struggle when presented with a pitch for socks because, really, socks? And also, yes. They matter. Good socks are a travel essential; they should be seasonally appropriate and wear well. You can’t have too many SmartWool socks, I’ve become a fan of Darn Tough Vermont socks (hey, American made, if you care about that) and Dahlgren’s winter alpaca socks are super cuddly. So, yeah, socks.
  2. Water Bottles: One that doesn’t spill when I knock it over, thank you. One that doesn’t weigh a ton. One that seals up properly and doesn’t leak when it’s in the bottom of my backpack or knocked sideways on the luggage rack over my seat on the bus. But any water bottle is better than none, and I don’t know about you, but I pick these things up as swag almost everywhere. So maybe there are those with standout qualities, but like your camera, the best water bottle is the one you have with you.
  3. Flashlights: Portable lighting switched to LEDs a while back. That was a huge improvement in brightness, but once you’ve got a new LED light, you’ve got a new LED light and you’re done. Sure, they come with bells and whistles – flashing modes for emergency, multiple brightness settings, waterproofing, maybe a beam that you can focus – but before you go all crazy, think about what you need your light for. I keep a Petzl headlamp in my bag; it works well for reading in the tent or finding my way back to my cabin at the luxury off-the-grid resort (funny how these two things share that low light quality). And I have a little hand held flashlight from Icon – it’s super bright and great for picking out the eyes on hyenas in your safari bush camp, but I have a hard time imagining you ending up with a flashlight that you really hate. Remarkable shifts between brands? Uh, I’ll let you know when I see that. But essential? Absolutely.

Other stuff – tents and related camping gear, (we’re big car campers at our house), great luggage, clothes that travel well, shoes? That stuff keeps evolving. Fashion and new materials and interesting leaps in design, style, and tech toys? That stuff I find I have things to say about. But these three basic additions to your travel kit? I’m not seeing great leaps in the technology, but you need this stuff, regardless. My advice? Get some. Don’t cheap out. Nothing here is glam, but it’s stuff I pack for every single trip.

[Image: Pattern-aholic by Capture Queen via Flickr (Creative Commons)]

Packing Notes For Summer Travels

Did anyone else totally screw up their packing for TBEX, the recent travel blogger’s conference in Denver? I did, egregiously. Having deferred to the Rocky Mountain location at Keystone Resort, I completely overlooked the fact that it was in the 90s in Denver. I packed as though I were summering in Seattle – a raincoat, jeans, long underwear, and layers, you know. As a result, I ended up wearing the same skirt and rotating through my T-shirts for the entire trip. Oops.

I departed for a week in the south of France just two weeks later, determined not to make the same mistakes. My destination: Bordeaux for the wine festival – Le Fete de Vin. There were to be some fancy evening dinners, a fair amount of walking, two events on boats. The weather was forecast to be hot with some chance of thunderstorms. I might need to clean up – the cliche of French style is a cliche for a reason – but I would also need to cover some ground on my feet. Plus, there were the hours in transit, long-haul flights, lurking around airports.

I totally nailed it, with room to spare, and I still had long underwear and a raincoat.

On the plane

  • Phoebe dress by ScotteVest: While it’s not a particularly flattering cut on me (it’s too blocky, if that makes sense) it’s a nice piece for transit. I liked using the big pockets for my lip balm, passport, podcast-filled phone and wallet. I’d like a more fitted shape, but when you’re spending ten hours folded into an airplane seat, who cares?
  • Striped long underwear by Columbia: I have last season’s version and I wear them as leggings often – they’re totally cute. I get cold on the plane, and they’re a great layering piece.
  • Zip front hooded sweater from Triple Aught: One of my favorite sweaters. It’s warm, has a stylish cut, and has zippered pockets.
  • Cushe Wildrun shoes: Easy to get in and out of at TSA checkpoints, plus, they are great for walking.
  • Dahlgren alpaca socks: Big wooly ones. They’re for skiing and hiking, but also for napping on airplanes.
  • Pashmina scarf: Really? I need to tell you this? Right, I didn’t think so.

Everything else

  • Keen strappy sandals: They dress up beautifully, work for shorter walks and they absolutely make the transition to evening wear. Bonus, they don’t take much space in the bag.
  • Chaco Paradox shoes: I intentionally packed a second pair of walking shoes; my feet like it when I give them something else to live in. Also, they’re cute and a little unusual in style. They felt very appropriate when I was striding about vine-covered properties.
  • Five nice shirts: No particular brand – four of them white. Linen, muslin, silk, cotton. Lightweight – all of them.
  • Two pairs of shorts: Longish shorts. Yes, you can wear teeny tiny shorts while swanning about the south of France. Go right ahead. Mine are just above the knee. I’m a modest dresser, especially when traveling.
  • Two black dresses: One silk for evening wear, one Dharma dress from Aventura. The Dharma dress is a perfect travel piece, fine for summer dress weather in the day, but absolutely makes the transition to evening. I never wore the silk dress, but I was glad I had the option and it takes up almost zero space in my bag.
  • Footless lightweight stockings: Didn’t wear those either; it was way too hot, but I packed them in case I found I needed to go all out with the dress up.
  • ExOfficio rollup pants: Mine are a pale blue/gray, with a white shirt; they look like business. They’re very light, so great for heat or for when you need a little coverage from the wind or sun.
  • ScotteVest Lucy Cardigan: Also new from ScotteVest, this lightweight wrap works perfectly for evenings out and covering up a sleeveless dress. It feels soft, looks cute, and is very nice for summer evenings.
  • Rain shell from Westcomb: (You can take the girl out of Seattle but … ) I didn’t need it, but I always pack a raincoat – always. I can’t help it.
  • The other stuff: Socks and underwear (I wish I’d packed better socks), a swimsuit, an absurd amount of cables and electronica, product and meds.
  • Packing cubes: I’m not brand loyal when it comes to a system, but I actually am a convert to packing this way. My clothing stays cleaner, it’s easier to find things in my bag, and I end up packing more efficiently.

I could have easily traveled for a month or longer with this kit; for a week, it was perfect. The events turned out to be more casual than I’d expected but I wasn’t sorry I’d packed for more formal as the choices I made added little weight or bulk to my bag. I had exactly the right clothes for everything I did and had the weather gone south, I’d have had the pieces I needed to make the transition. And I had room in my carry-on sized bag to spare.

It’s rare I win so completely at the packing game. I’m hoping I’ve turned a corner and I’ll get it this right for all my future trips.

Image: Nancy Packs Her Suitcase via Flickr (Creative Commons). Awesome photo and SO not me.

Gadling Gear Review: Cushe Wildrun Shoes For Women

shoes, cushe, wildrun, walking, travel shoesAching dogs are my biggest complaint after a long day out exploring. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have the right pair of shoes when you’re traveling. I will not (I don’t care what anyone says) sacrifice comfort for fashion when it comes to footwear — though really, with my personal, uh, style, that is not an issue.

Good shoes for travel matter a LOT and you should pick yours carefully and err on the side of comfort if you must choose. I’ve been wandering about in a pair of Wildrun shoes by Cushe and my dogs, they’re liking it. They’ve also passed the airport test and are cute enough that I wore them with nice trousers for an office appearance without getting the stink eye. (Caveat: It helps that I’m from Seattle. Everyone expects us to always look like we just got back from the summit of Mount Rainier.)

What do I mean by “the airport test?” I mean they’re easy to get in and out of at the security checkpoint. They’re lace-ups, but they’re a hybrid of a lace-up and a slip-on, meaning you don’t have to untie them to get in and out of them. There’s a quick release gripper on the ties so if you need to cinch them down you can. But the shoes are also stretchy so you can slip them on and off quite easily.

I spent a 24-hour trip to LA in these shoes and they stayed comfortable for the entire trip — which included a shocking amount of walking for LA. It’s because they’ve got a memory foam insole. It’s really spongy and soft. My feet felt great after roaming the sidewalks of Westwood (and I’ve been walking downtown Seattle in them, too).

The uppers are a combination of Neoprene (Cushe says it’s EVA) and leather. I can’t speak for their breathability; I’ve not been in hot places with them on my feet, but they’re great in foul weather. They’d make a good beachcombing shoe if you’re not worried about getting a little damp around the edges, and you can use them in a pinch as a hiker or a runner — the sturdy Vibram sole means they’re grippy and supportive.

And hey, bonus: I like them. They’re kinda cute. They come in a nice weathered brown; I got the black. They fall under what I call “good enough” for casual, cleaned-up wear, meaning I’d wear them with a skirt or a nice pair of pants and could probably get away with it — they don’t look like running shoes or sneakers.

Sorry, guys. I looked; Cushe has some other styles but I don’t see a direct analogy to this in the men’s line. Ladies, get a pair directly from Cushe, they’re $105. These plus a dressier pair of something strappy, and you are set for almost anything.

Versalette convertible travel garment will revolutionize your packing list

The Versalette convertible travel garmentWhen you’re living out of a suitcase, the less items of clothing you have to pack, the better. That’s the thinking behind The Versalette, a convertible garment from {r}evolution apparel that easily goes from a shirt to a skirt to a dress to… well, basically anything you can imagine. For a female traveler with a packing list of basic white tees and khaki cargo pants, it’s a dream travel piece. Plus, it’s ethically and sustainably developed.

The Versalette launched as a project on Kickstarter in mid-November, and within 14 days it was fully funded. As of Monday morning, $38,120 had been pledged from 470 backers, and the project still has another two weeks to go.

{r}evolution founders Kristin Glenn and Shannon Whitehead are travelers themselves, and they met while living and working in Australia. After several months of friendship, they separated and embarked on their own adventures, traversing five continents independently. But they kept in touch, and in mid-2010 they reunited in the United States to pursue an idea: a minimalist clothing line for female travelers.

Kristin and Shannon traveled to Central America with the goal of working sustainably and ethically to bring their line to life. There, they came face to face with the challenges of incorporating sustainability into a fashion item’s supply chain. But one year, many lessons, and lots of determination later, they’re closer to launching the line, and their story has resonated with travelers and style-setters across the web.

Their goal has also evolved to encompass something much larger than what they initially set out to accomplish: to create nothing short of a revolution toward minimalism and sustainability in the fashion industry.

The Versalette is currently in production and will be made in the USA using 100 percent recycled fabric. Kristin and Shannon have identified 15 different ways to style the item, including as a dress, shirt, skirt, scarf, purse, hood, and more. Really, what more does a female traveler need?


[images via {r}evolution apparel]