After 21 months backpacking around the world, through the Sahara, overlanding the silk road and climbing mountains, what gear survived?
These are the items that were with us when we walked across the border into Tiujana, Mexico and were still with us when our plane from Asia touched down in North America. All of these items were with us every step of the way….and survived. If you read any product review we write, make it this one!
Asus EEE PC – Our netbook computer (codename: Evelyn) has survived against all odds and I’m typing on it even now. It has survived sand and sun and even the occasional drop out of the back of a certain Land Rover onto the concrete below. The battery still gives us about 6 hours of use per charge and we have no problems with a single key and the screen is still perfect, albeit dusty. The version of windows that came pre-loaded eventually developed insomnia and the ensuing overheating forced us to switch to Linux and that has worked ever since. Now that we’re home, the power-cord is showing some wear, which I fixed, but we were able to order a replacement for $6. The computer shows its age but I have no reservations in recommending an Asus EEE PC to anyone. We picked ours up at Amazon.
Pentax DSLR K200D – Our big and heavy Pentax DSLR (codename Peter) is still shooting. We traded in our Canon before the trip because the Pentax is not only cheaper, but has a water-resistant and rugged body…which no doubt helped it to survive given that we only had it in a tiny Zing camera case. The full range zoom lens we purchased to go along with it isn’t ‘rugged’ rated and still works just fine. This camera still gives us better color saturation than any other DSLR we’ve come across and the only way it shows its age is that the sound it makes when you take a picture is different than it was at the start. This is a phenomenal camera (read our initial review) and I will not depart from Pentax DSLR cameras. Although our model is no longer being produced the value offered by Pentax over the more common Canon and Nikon brands is simply too good to pass up.
Pentax Optio W60 – This Pentax (codename Optio) point and shoot has never been quite as good as its big brother. When we purchased it, only one other water-proof camera was on the market. There are a few others out there now so I’m not entirely sure how the newer Optio models compare. This is a great camera for water sports, and that is the reason we purchased it, but if you’re looking for an every day point and shoot camera I’d recommend staying away from this water-proof variety. For our money though, this camera still works just as good as it did on day one and I bet that of the water-proof camera’s, the Pentax models are still top notch.
Eneloop Batteries – These are rechargeable batteries that hold their charge, unlike most rechargeables out there. When you buy them they are already charged which means they will work just find for your emergency kit as well as your travel kit. If you haven’t switched to these yet, you are about 2 years behind the curve. Batteries are expensive, just order some today, and you’ll never need any more batteries ever again. The full set of batteries we started this trip with is still with us and powering the same electronic devices two years later!
ExOfficio Give’N Go Undies – Although I enjoy the fact that I can again wear cotton underwear (aren’t you glad you asked) I have several pairs of these that have actually survived the entire trip. I cannot say the same for any other article of clothing. We’ve taken our clothes through some serious torture on our bodies and against the washboard and the fact that my underwear is the only thing that lasted two years is pretty remarkable. A few pairs bit the bullet and had to be cycled out, but seriously…this is quality material. If you do any level of exercise you would do well to pick up some of these.
Swiss Army Knife – There is only one option. Used mostly for opening canned food and beer and wine bottles it also does a pretty nice job at spreading peanut butter and emergency maintenance on eyeglasses and whatever else might need help.
Chacos – There is only one sandal I will ever wear. My pair of Chacos were new at the start of the trip and lasted until the final month…but not through that month. In the end the straps were finally torn by grit and dirt that had worked their way between the straps and the sandals. I had given myself a few extra weeks with a creative application of super glue but I can think of no other footwear that could have survived volcanoes, mountains, beaches, showers, swamps, jungles and deserts better than those Chacos. I already have a new pair.
So, wondering what those code names are all about? We named our electronics so that we wouldn’t stand in the middle of a busy market asking if the other person grabbed the computer or camera. Remarkably, thieves understand those words no matter what language they speak…better to be looking for lost “children.” Interested in more travel tips? Click here.