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.

Gadling Travelers On Their Favorite Gear

Brookstone Neck PillowGadling contributors are, by occupation, a well traveled lot and they’re hard on their kit. They want stuff that works – stuff that lasts, stuff that’s genuinely useful, stuff they’re never sorry they packed. While you’re hunting little extras to gift your favorite traveler, consider this list of favorites from some of the most traveled people on the Internet.

McLean Robbins: As a traveler who can’t manage to ever get comfortable on an airplane or with hotel pillows, I can’t leave home without this Brookstone accessory. I purchased it on a whim before a long-haul European flight where I thought I’d be stuck in a middle coach seat, and have used it on even short domestic flights ever since. The pillow is great in its U-shaped form, but I place it under those flimsy hotel pillows for extra support too. Best of all? It compacts nicely into my carry-on bag as well.

Jessica Marati
: Melatonin. This natural sleep aid is the best way to get rest on redeye flights and combat jet lag. I don’t travel without it.

Chris Owen: I usually pack specifically for each trip but one thing that always makes it is my bag full of cords, plugs, power converters and backup battery power. It’s called a Flex Pack and made by Victorinox.

Dave Seminara: I travel with a Princeton Tec headlamp so I can read in hotel rooms (or tents) after my sons go to bed! [Note: There's always a headlamp in my pack too. And if you get one that's got a red light mode, you can dig around in your bag or find your way to your bunk in the hostel without waking and/or blinding your roomies.Kyle Ellison: The two things I never travel without are duct tape and nylon cord, both available at your local hardware store. With the tape you can fix a rip in your backpack, seal a cut on your foot, create a waterproof barrier on anything, make labels, bookmarks, a lid for your food ... anything really. With the cord you can make a clothesline, tie a tent down, fix a backpack, make a tourniquet, a belt, shoelaces ... again, it's a life saver.

Mix these in with a Leatherman multi-tool (opening cans, getting out splinters, cutting your tape and cord, opening wine bottles, sawing through wood, unscrewing air ducts in hotels, which are vibrating, fixing your glasses, hammering in tent stakes, etc.) Unfortunately, your multi-tool can only travel with you via land travel or checked baggage.

Laurel Miller: This small, rip-stop compact folding duffel bag. It has zippered side pockets so you can stuff it into itself, and it compacts to the size of a sandwich. I keep it in the bottom of my backpack and use it to bring home the inevitable souvenirs or press materials that accumulate on my travels. It also makes a great overnight bag, especially if I'm on a big trip that has some side trips where I can leave my backpack behind.

Meg Nesterov: I love the TotSeat portable high chair. It fits in a purse/bag, weighs almost nothing, and is handy anytime I want to put my baby in a regular chair and have her stay there. It is way superior to the other "travel" high chairs that are as big as phone books (if that reference even makes sense anymore), though it is essentially like tying your child to a chair!

Alex Robertson Textor: It's super un-techy but I don't like to travel without my Moleskine Classic Large Ruled Notebook. Notes feel more substantial in a paper notebook.

What do you want to add to your travel kit this year? What are you giving your favorite traveler?

[Images courtesy of Brookstone and Leatherman]

Travel Smarter 2012: The best gear for your 2012 travels

Bad gear is dead weight, you might as well toss it right into that bin with the stuff that the TSA says you can’t take on the plane. A bag that has cheap zippers, clothing that doesn’t dry quickly when you’ve washed it in the hotel room sink, refillable bottles that don’t stay shut and ooze shampoo all over the shirt you packed especially for that client meeting… Packing smart is just, well, it’s smart. After a year of gear, I’ve got some ideas about what works well for me, but also, I polled friends and readers for the smartest in new gear. And some of it? Wow, smart stuff.

Bits and Pieces

TSA sized squeeze bottles: Essential and clever, good qualities in a travel companion. You can get the last of your favorite shampoo out because they’re squeezable. And refillable.

Solid shampoo: Lush Cosmetics makes a whole line of shampoos that you’ll be able to take on the plane without grief. There’s a solid conditioner too. Admittedly not new, but smart, indeed.

Gadgets

Kindle Fire
:
Readers love these things, and now that Amazon has updated the Kindle to include wifi, it’s a whole lot more than just a portable library. Browse the web, send email, watch movies, it’s a complete entertainment system that weighs about the same as a single paperback book.Morhpie Juice Pack Air: It’s a case and an extended battery. That means you don’t have to dig around in your bag to find the extra battery when your trying to Instragram your dinner and the phone dies.

Ear buds: Last year I got a pair of Senneheisser ear buds, iPhone compatible, and they almost made me give up my bulky noise cancelling headphones. They sound great and because they’ve got three sizes of pads for the buds, I was able to get a fit that isolates a surprising amount of noise. I’m sorely tempted by the Sennheisser IE 60, but the 250.00 price tag keeps me from pulling the trigger.

Panasonic Lumix :20x optical zoom in a pocket camera, HD video, a sophisticated range of settings, and great image quality, even in low light. A fantastic travel camera, I can’t recommend this thing enough. Panasonic keeps improving it, every year, and it’s been worth the upgrades. Stellar.

Shoes and Clothes

Wool, wool, wool: SmartWool and Icebreaker both make incredibly versatile lines of clothing — skirts in a very light knit that wash well and look great, sweaters that are stylish enough to wear out but perform extremely well in the outdoors… it’s expensive stuff, but I have pieces in my wardrobe that are over ten years old and still look great.

Barefoot style shoes: I’m a skeptic, but well traveled outdoors fitness types say they swear by Skeletoes from Fila. “Hiked in the mud, went to the beach, then went to dinner…” Okay, a casual dinner, to be sure.

Born Stowaway Flats
: Enough padding for serious sightseeing, and dressy enough for making it through the fancy dinner you hadn’t quite packed for. These flats pack down to tiny, so you can absolutely find room in your bag.

Luggage

Gregory Alpaca Rolling Duffel: No contest, this is my favorite new bag, the best thing I’ve seen in luggage in recent history. A duffel that’s a roller bag that you can actually carry as a backpack, and yes, it comes in carry on size.

Tom Bihn’s Brain Bag: All of Tom Bihn’s bags share an obsessive attention to detail, from the tie ons to the hardware to the compartments perfectly designed to hold just that one thing. The Brain Bag is for your laptop — and all that other electronica your dragging around. Configure it the way it works best for you.

Mission Workshop Vandal Backpack
: Sometimes, you just want a cool, stylish pack for day outings. The Vandal pack is weatherproof, expandable, and yeah, it fits your 15 inch MacBook. Plus, it comes in green. Sharp.

Osprey Transporter 60
: Not everything has to be a backpack. Osprey’s Transporter line comes with a harness so you can carry it as a backpack if you absolutely have to, but it’s also a top notch duffel. Weekends, road trips, short hops… a great all purpose duffel.

[flickr image via brewbooks]

Video of the Day: Japanese folding trick

Travel experts love to share tips on the best ways to pack. Heck, we’ve done tons of posts on packing tips. However, thanks to the sorcery in this video from Japan, we’ve discovered the best way to fold our clothes. Of course, first we have to understand what the hell is happening in the video. We’ve watched this thing a dozen times and still have no idea how these shirts are getting folded so perfectly. We’d love to have our clothing pack down so tightly and neatly, but we’re having a hard time following once that twist and flip move happens. Guess we’re just going to have to shove our gear in our packs, as usual, and spend our days attempting to fold the fitted sheets for our mattresses. Are there any Japanese videos for that?

Protect your melon; pack the right hat.

This is kind of gross, and I’m a little bit sorry for that, but I still have scaly bits on the tops of my ears. This because I burned the daylights out of them by wearing the wrong hat while on a recent adventure. I made it worse by neglecting to apply sunscreen to my poor ears — I’ll skip the part about what happened when I started to peel.

I pack a baseball style cap for my travels. I’d picked up a Sun Tripper cap from Sunday Afternoons while at the Outdoor Retailer show. It’s really cute, it’s that military shape, it’s got a split bill so it packs down nice and flat, and it’s got a stretchy drawstring on the back so it stays on your head in the wind. This matters; I watched the wind take a travel-mate’s cap and hurl it into the desert, there was no retrieving it. My cap stayed securely on my head the whole time. I also found that the funny little pocket in the top of the hat was actually useful. I tucked my ID and a little bit of cash in there, it was nice to have a secret stash and I didn’t worry about my head being pick-pocketed.

But as I’ve mentioned, I needed coverage for my ears. This was a tactical error on my part — I should have gone with a safari hat instead of just a cap. Sure, the extra coverage looks a little silly, but my ears hurt like hell and did I mention, they were kind of gross about a week later. Sunburn isn’t a joke, even when it’s limited to the tops of your ears, and I could hear my doctor’s voice in my head giving me the melanoma lecture. What I’m saying, is go with the extra coverage. Sunday Afternoons has some other options that I’d have done better to choose for this trip. I won’t soon forget that painful sunburn and I don’t expect to make that same mistake again. Get the coverage, people. The Sun Tripper cap is 24.00, the safari range starts there and goes up to 48.00. There’s a convertible cap too — just snap on the ear and neck coverage — that goes for 28.00. That would have kept the sunburn at bay.

In addition to sun coverage, I was delighted to find that I still had my SmartWool beanie in my photo bag. I’d used it to wrap up some camera gear I wasn’t using, but I ended up wearing it on cold mornings and evenings in camp. This stretchy little reversible beanie takes up negotiable space in my kit (really, I’d no idea it was in there!) and I was delighted to find that it had hitched along with me on my camping trip. SmartWool brands this little cap as a “training beanie” — whatever with that. I’m calling it a travel beanie and leaving it right where it is, stowed in my photo backpack, holding my lens polarizer. I’ll be happy the next time I find the wind is biting my ears or the night is a little cold. 25.00 from SmartWool.