Choosing the Right Backpack

When people think about choosing the backpack they need for their travel they often have a preconceived notion based on what they’ve seen other people use.  Obviously, it’s always best to choose the right pack for you, but even more important is to choose the right pack for what you’re going to be doing.  Most large backpacks are really made for camping and hiking, true backpacking, when it comes to travel you needs will likely be different.  Let’s first take a look at what the traditional backpacker needs to look at for taking a hike, and how that changes for the traveler.

Knowing how you'll use your pack is important
Knowing how you’ll use your pack is important

For the backcountry backpacker Size and Fit are the most important factors.  These are important for the traveler as well, but differ in a few specific ways:

·         Size.  When a hiker is going into the backcountry, he or she needs to ‘pack in’ all their own food as well as a cook-stove, tent and sleeping bag, and then all the other gear like clothing.  A traveler doesn’t need quite so much large equipment.  A backpacker might be looking at a 60L-80L outdoor rucksack, depending on the type of trip, while the traveler should be looking at 40L-60L.  (For our 21 months we had under 50L by the end)

·         Fit.  Have you ever met a traveler, who sleep in a hostel and takes a bus from city to city, who wears his pack for 8 hours a day while hiking over mountains?  No…me neither.  After making sure your pack fits all the gear you need to survive, making sure your back doesn’t fall apart at the end of the day is the next most important job of the backcountry backpackers pack.

Size and fit are important considerations
Size and fit are important considerations

For the traveler, the backpack game is different.  The traveler carries his or her pack far less time and over far fewer mountains.  The traveler should be concerned with comfort, yes, but that applies more to security and convenience than it does to size and fit.

·         Pockets.  Lots of different compartments helps to keep your life organized.  Remember, at home your milk is stored in your kitchen and your shoes are in your closet, keeping some semblance of organization is a plus.  Also, are you carrying a laptop or a tablet, you’ll probably want a sleeve against your back to keep this safe.

·         Security.  For me, this comes in having a smaller, nondescript pack.  For others this means having locks all over the thing.  After 21 months on the road, and never having anything taken from my pack, I’ll keep it small and unappealing.

·         Comfort.  Those big packs come with lots of big cushions.  Sometimes it is better to save on bulk, make sure you bag can fit in the overhead bin space on an airplane, and go lighter and forgo the extra cushioning.

·         Waterproofing.  This doesn’t hurt and can only help.  Even if the pack is only water resistant it can mean a big difference in comfort if you’re caught in the rain.

adventure travelThis post was made possible by Berghaus who sell waterproof jackets and outdoor clothing.

Gear For Travel – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

It is really remarkable how quickly technology has completely changed the face of travel.  Our RTW trip lasted nearly two years, 2009-2010.  As we embarked, we invested in some of the best technology to get the job done that was possible.  We thought of ourselves as flashpackers extraordinaire.  That included a brand new netbook, an unlocked cell phone, and a fancy DSLR camera.  Now, just a few short years later, when I look back on all of that still functioning gear, it just looks so old and antiquated.  That’s the nature of technology.

This old piece of hardware was our PC for two full years.
This old piece of hardware was our PC for two full years.


The Phone – Our mobile phone was nothing but an unlocked GSM flip phone.  We were excited when a SIM card we purchased allowed us to make calls home from the Sahara Desert in Sudan for Mother’s day.  Now with VOIP calling, a smart phone can make calls around the world for free…and from anywhere.  The best part is that there are finally some cutting edge phones (e.g. Galaxy S4 Active) that are water and drop resistant making it even easier to stay connected and travel adventurously.

The Tablet – These did not exist while we were our trip and are a tremendous game changer, at least if you are blogging or sharing pictures while you travel.  We shared one netbook as we traveled, weighing and taking up far more room than two tablets would have taken in our packs.  Any of these today – iPad, Android or even a Windows tablet – are both lighter and more powerful than our “state of the art” netbook was. Plus there is wifi virtually everywhere now making a tablet a really useful tool for travelers to check in.

The Camera – This area has changed a lot less, mostly these cameras now come with more features and more megapixels than before.  However, by and large, they still do the same job.  The big add-ons here are the ease by which photos can be geotagged and quickly uploaded.  Camera processing has also improved allowing for better low-light photography and much better videos.  That would have saved us quite a bit of time geotagging our photos.

This article is NOT about what gear to go out and buy, there are plenty of review sites on the Internet,   It is merely a comparison of what has changed in less than 3 years time.  In the next three years will Google Glass remove the need for a tour guide?  Streaming video and video conferencing might ultimately replace the written word when it comes to blog posts.  We might even be able to sterilize our meals on our plates with a UV light and completely make food poisoning a thing of the past!  Sounds good to me.

Interview with OT Surf – New Bikini’s

Christy and Scott of Ordinary Traveler just launched a new women’s bikini line designed to actually STAY ON for any woman who is tired of always fixing her bikini. We’ve pre-ordered a suit and can’t wait to get it for the summer! The line, called OT Surf, is manufactured in the USA and is being crowd funded right now through  Since we think highly of it we thought we’d share it with you as well.

Tell us what prompted you to go ahead and design a bikini that stays put? Was there one specific incident? I know I for one have flashed too many people as the result of an ill-fitting swimsuit purchased in Costa Rica.

It definitely wasn’t just one incident. I think most women get frustrated with their bikini from time to time. I’ve had incidents in pools or just laying on the beach, but mostly it came down to every time I ducked under a wave with my board, I would have to pull up my bottoms. That slows you down a lot, especially when the waves are big. There were also times when I was just playing in the waves and would come up for air only to realize I had to readjust my top and bottom before anybody noticed.

Bikinis that stay in place

How did you research fabrics and seamstresses? Do you have a background in clothing design or are you a project runway groupie?

Nope, I never got into Project Runway. Although, now I wish I had. I have always been creative and designing bikinis seems to come naturally to me. It could just be because I’m a perfectionist or that I feel so passionate about making this product.

Google is your friend. Well, sometimes. We did a lot of research online, but you would be surprised at how little information we could find. Even finding information regarding places that sell the materials we need. Almost everything pointed us to buying overseas, which we feel strongly against.

After a lot of trial and error, we finally found a company that is extremely knowledgeable and they have been a wealth of information. This information doesn’t come cheap though. :) We wasted quite a bit of money before we realized that you get what you pay for!

Did you test the product? Any funny stories you care to share?

Yes, we definitely tested it. Well, I tested it because I couldn’t get Scott to put one on. 😉 As luck would have it, most of the testing had to be done in winter. Now, you might be thinking that winter in San Diego is mild, but the water temperature is usually in the fifties. I was the only person out there without a wetsuit.

One day I had to test just the bikini top, so I had this bright idea that I would be slightly warmer if I went out with my wetsuit up to my stomach. It helped give me the courage to walk out into the water, but once I did my first duck dive, my suit filled up with so much water that it was weighing me down and I had to keep letting the water out the bottom. It must have been pretty hilarious to watch.

Today so much in our society is DIY, but even in today’s world DIY doesn’t mean easy. What were the challenges you didn’t expect when you set out to design and manufacture this line?

I can’t even begin to tell you how challenging it has been to perfect this product. From sourcing quality and eco-friendly materials to finding contractors that actually know what they are doing and then learning how to market all of it, I feel like the challenges never end. It’s been a learning experience to say the least.

Bikinis that stay in place

Tell us about your philosophy behind the product. I understand that the line is environmentally friendly and manufactured locally.

One of our main goals is to reduce our impact on the environment as much as possible. By sourcing materials in the USA and using local vendors, we are able to reduce our carbon footprint by limiting the energy consumed for shipping.

Another reason we chose to manufacture in the United States is because there are stricter standards for pollution controls and labor practices. Local production also allows us to closely monitor the consistency and quality of our products, which is great for us and for our customers considering we inspect every bikini to make sure there are no mistakes or defects.

We are working towards incorporating more recycled and eco-friendly materials into our bikinis. Sourcing recycled nylon/spandex has been quite a challenge, but we may have found someone in the United States who might be able to make the material for us out of recycled materials.

Right now we are focusing on what we CAN do and that is using eco-friendly hangtags and biodegradable mailers. Luckily, we have also found a great supplier for 100% recycled t-shirts.

How did you stumble upon What are the advantages behind crowd funding? Tell us how it works.

I think Kickstarter is a great way to give people the opportunity to become a fundamental part of a new idea or start-up company. We love involving our community in decisions such as color choices for our bikini line and possibly even new designs. I like that we are also able to offer limited edition pieces that will only be made available to the people who pre-order on Kickstarter. It gives people more of a voice, rather than just buying a product.

Your funding video is amazing – I know you’re both photographers, tell us about shooting the video.

Thanks! Well, first of all, I had no idea how hard it would be to find willing friends to model a bikini. As we look back, we realize we should have just hired a model because we went through quite a few cancellations.

Scott shot some of the footage of me while we were in Baja in February and the rest of it was done on three different days in San Diego. The times when it was just Scott and I were comical because we set up a camera and tripod that was shooting video and one that was shooting photos, while I was modeling and Scott was holding the reflector. These are the times we really wish we had hired either an assistant or a model.

Pre-sales through Kickstarter run through April 2nd, I highly recommend you order one now – your tush will thank you this summer!

Christy and Scott run the popular travel blog, Ordinary Traveler and they just launched a new innovative sports bikini line called OT Surf. They are trying to raise $15,000 by April 2, 2012 by pre-selling bikinis and t-shirts. If they reach their goal of $15,000, then they will go into production and start shipping bikinis! Click here to pre-order now. And remember, what makes Kickstarter so cool is that it runs on the all-or-nothing funding approach, so if you pre-order a bikini now and they don’t reach their $15,000 goal, you will be refunded 100% of your money! (Check them out of Facebook too!)

Greatest travel gifts of 2011

Well the season is upon us.  Last minute shopping has ALWAYS been a forte of mine – nothing like a limited time frame in which to make decisions.  Most blogs are going to tell you to get practical and useful gifts for the traveler in your life this season (and we normally would too), but here are a few ideas that might take the yawn out of the inflatable pillow and eye mask giftset.

1) Mifi device. We’re all connected these days, no matter how much we want to log off. These little gadgets make your cell phone a wifi hotspot allowing travelers to have internet access when and where they choose.  A god send if you’re trying to skype in the middle of a desert or in a place where internet costs $10 an hour.  A cheaper alternative is to tether your phone, but not all phones do this. (Prices vary depending on your wireless provider)

2) Mobile Foodie. Can you put a price on delicious food?  While I’m ALWAYS a proponent of street food, I have come across meals that from time to time need a little something.  Indeed, we carried around red pepper flakes for part of our RTW trip just to spice things up a bit.  Unfortunately the bags were messy and I constantly found small red pepper flakes in my clothes.  Enter Mobile Foodie.  All the spices you need to make Indian, Thai or Mexican food, tucked into a neatly stacked container that won’t break in your bag. ($22 from Flight 001)

3. Storage Sandal. Check out this ‘Stash’ Sandal by Reef.  A slide out draw protects your cash and hotel key while you’re on the beach.  Then again it does nothing to protect against the kids that come by to steal shoes just to sell them back to you.  Oh well, still its very James Bond.

4. Mini-Tool with USB. Leave it to the Swiss to improve an already awesome traveler’s gadget.  Victorinox has created a Swiss army knife with a USB drive.  It looks like it can hold up to 16GB, way more than you’d need to upload at an internet cafe. (Available at starting at $48)

5. E-Reader. With downloadable magazines, books and newspapers, an e-reader is today’s answer to the tired paperback swap shelf at your hotel.  Do yourself and your travel bud a favor, give them intellectually stimulating activity for the plane/train/bus. (Available through Amazon, B& or your local electronics retailer)

The Winter of Discontent

When the weather turns cold I tend to want to hibernate. There’s nothing like a cold wind to keep me inside. Fortunately we don’t have to deal with that anymore now that we’re living in South Florida. Unfortunately, the winter gear catalogs are coming to the mailbox each day and I find myself fighting my desire to order a new thin weight fleece or running gloves.  There’s a lot of great winter gear out there these days, so no need to throw on four sweatshirts.  Find winter gear that fits well to avoid chaffing and don’t skimp on good wicking materials- sweat against your body along with those layers is a recipe for a skin disaster.
The cold weather shouldn’t keep you inside. Layer up and follow a few of my favorite tips for outdoor adventure in the cold (even if your cold is in the 60s instead of the 20s!)
    • Protect your head – We lose a lot of body heat through our head- by some accounts up to 40%.  Wear a wicking hat to keep the sweat off your scalp and don’t be shy about using a scarf to protect you from the wind.


    • Protect your skin– If it’s really that cold and blustery, cover everything!  Wind chapped lips can keep you from enjoying your mountain bike just the same as wind chapped hands.  Vaseline is your friend in the winter!
    • Adjust your medications– Cold weather makes it more difficult for your body to exchange gases- ie its harder to breathe!  Covering your mouth to warm the air a bit before it enters your lungs can help, but don’t forget to warm up and cool down- it’s not just your muscles, but also your lungs that need the warm up!  I use my inhaler much more in the cold weather.
    • Don’t overdress– Sure layers are important, but remember that if you’re active your body will heat up.   Wear a windproof layer on the outside to cut down on the  Dress appropriately, it’s hard to run with an extra fleece.
    • Don’t forget your feet– Summer weight socks may not protect your toes from the cold.  Think about doubling your socks or get heavier weight socks for winter activities.


      • Shower immediately– Ok this may be too personal, but don’t hang around the house in your sweaty layers.  Wet, moist skin is a breading ground for bacteria.  Add winter’s multiple layers and you could be looking at a serious skin infection.


How do you adjust your adventure activity for winter?