Travel Gear You Don’t Need

Photo Credit: Paleontour

Is it just me, or do people out there seem strangely obsessed with getting the “right” travel gear?

If you browse travel-related sites online, you can find threads, articles, and reviews in ABUNDANCE about shoes, jackets, backpacks, and gadgets.

I don’t get it.

I’m certainly in favor of preparing for a trip ahead of time. I don’t believe in wasting money on useless products.  I want things that won’t fall apart. And I do want to feel “put together.”

But I don’t understand why people need so much gear. And why they need to constantly update it. And why they desperately seek advice about it.

I’ve travelled extensively in a range of conditions since 1994 (desert in Africa, rain forest in Central America, cold European winters,  snowy Alaska, steamy jungle in Asia) with the same exact few pieces. So in my own opinion, most of the travel gear touted out there is extraneous. (unless you’re climbing Everest or something, in which case, I’m not talking to you).

In my own “gear” category on this blog, I hail my Vasque boots owned since 1991 and a Mountain Hardwear cold weather jacket. (I also mention a fun suitcase but could live without). When it comes to backpacks, I usually borrow a random one from a friend, or use a $8 fake North Face bag bought in Thailand.

I don’t even bother with whether an item is designed for a particular terrain or climate. I’ve just always used what I have, and I’ve never thought, “Darn, I really need … ”

I do recognize that for some people, contemplating gadgets or cars or makeup or photography equipment or whatever is interesting. I don’t question that.

But often I wonder if some people fall into the trap of thinking GEAR will make them “better” travelers. Or worse, they want to look the part more than anything.

How do you feel about gear?


22 thoughts on “Travel Gear You Don’t Need

  1. I agree with you that there is a lot of ‘advice’ out there. Long term travel isn’t for me so the thought of travel gear doesn’t enter my mind. For me, it’s a question of what to wear so I can fit in, and convincing myself I don’t need to pack 7 pairs of shoes 😉

    • maryrichardson

      Yes, the dilemma of packing too many shoes! I know that too well… I also like to travel with the aim of blending into the community and not drawing attention to myself. Most of my travel gear is stuff I use in regular life.

    • maryrichardson

      Dear Andi,
      I love it! Like you, I challenge myself to see how minimalist I can go. It’s sort of fun… and it makes the packing so much easier.

    • Guess you’re not planning on heading anywhere cold, Andi 😉 I find it easy to pack for warmer climes but I struggle more with colder places… how to pack light but not freeze my butt off. I don’t understand hi-tech travel outfits, but there are few things I don’t leave home without when I go abroad like my money belt and a travel alarm clock that also doubles as a flashlight. Oh, and on my recent trip to India, I became part of the blow up neck pillow club because I finally found one that didn’t take up too much space in my carry on. I take big trips with a backpack and did shop around to find one that fit right and was made especially for females. So I guess to a certain extent, I like travel gear, but you will never find me in some silly zip off convertible pants!

  2. I feel about travel gear the same way I feel about shopping for a new wardrobe every year. Ridiculous. There’s lots of non-travelers that are conviced that they need tons of gear because that’s what sellers tell them and they don’t know any better. It’s easy to get caught up in the more, more, more syndrome, especially if it makes you feel more prepared. I think it’s all nonsense though.

    • maryrichardson

      Dear Fly Girl,
      I think you’re right that marketing plays a HUGE role in it, especially this time of year with gift guides for travelers, etc. And there is that element of just not knowing any better. In my case, I was forced into testing my current things in a range of conditions out of necessity because I just didn’t have the money to buy more. But I’m glad now that I didn’t fall for the bad advice.

  3. Tim and I travel similarly to you: we have our trusty gear (if you could even call it “gear”!) that has served us well over many years in all types of weather. And I can’t imagine replacing my favorite tank top with some new shirt that’s meant to wick sweat away, or replacing my favorite skirt with the newest pants that turn into a backpack, or retiring our favorite bags for a new pack that glows in the dark so you can read without a flashlight…or whatever other odd gadget REI and the like dream up.

    I know the latest gear can be really fun for a lot of people (and obviously necessary for folks who go camping and/or climbing Everest, etc). But I really enjoy the simplicity of how we travel: for us, it’s freeing. 🙂

    • maryrichardson

      Dear Jessica,
      I love those examples of wacky gear! I’ve been tempted by my share of it, but I’ve resisted through the years. It’s great to pull out old stuff actually and feel like you’re getting a new experience together.

  4. gear shmear! i’m with you….find something that is comfy and doesn’t cost a million dollars. i have had the same pair of tennis shoes since 2003, purchased at a thrift store and have traveled multiple continents in all types of weather conditions. if something happened to them…well, i just don’t know if i could travel again 😉

    • maryrichardson

      I love it! That’s how I feel about my boots! I’d be devastated if they were to suddenly fall apart or get stolen. After all these years, they’re my favorite travel companion!

  5. I blogged about this! Some of them I’m guilty about, others not. I love my Zuca suitcase:
    Well, I agree on the fact that people seem obsessed with finding the right gear. I think I once was too. In the middle of a trip, I would think to myself, “I should have brought that along.”
    It seems like people wish they could pack their houses and take them along on the trip, don’t you think?

    • maryrichardson

      Dear Ashley,
      I really like my zuca too. It’s lightweight and I love the wheels, but the handle is a little awkward in my opinion. Oh, and it was so trashed and I bruised up after the first time I used it.

      In any case, yes, I think people suffer from panic when they are packing and want to include everything. Even me getting ready for my next trip… I have a nighttime layover in a cold place, but I’m going to a warm place. It’s making it complicated to reduce the number of shoes!

  6. I love Andi’s comment but not sure how I would look in a sundress. This is the same thing one hears in the photography realm. If only I had “fill in the blank” I could get this awesome shot. Great camera gear does not make a great photographer. That comes from vision. I think it is the same with travel. Having all that specialized gear does not make you a traveler. It’s the journey and the experience that does and you don’t need all that gear to make that happen. Seriously, all you really need is a MacGyver knife.

    • maryrichardson

      I’m sure it’s the same with photography stuff. I’m completely amateur but looking through a magazine, it seems like that stuff makes all the difference. Like Fly girl said, maybe it has to do with little experience and believing the marketing!

      In Africa, I did wonders with just a small swiss army knife!

  7. Haha! I am reading this on the heels of a wopping amazon purchase for a boat load of gear… I think as I become more experienced I will travel with less, but the first time I want to make sure I have the important things.

    I think it also relates to how resourceful you are … (cc: Matt) If you travel with a MacGyver, you don’t even need his knife.

    • maryrichardson

      hey Ryan,
      We’re all guilty! For me, it’s not travel gear but other things (I’ve written about my obsession with 15 pound rocks)

      It will be interesting to hear afterwards what you thought was worthwhile and what wasn’t! I bet you can’t wait for the journey to begin!

  8. To be honest, I really don’t need much for travel gear. I have a good backpack, good shoes and other good gear that works just fine. From time to time, I’ll investigate into getting something, but usually I pass on it.

    • maryrichardson

      Dear Karen,
      Yes, if I’m not doing anything too rugged, I try to go with one pair too. I have some gold slip ons with a rubber sole, which are perfect for walking around all day and light hiking and they can be dressed up for night. It’s liberating to only pack one pair of shoes!

  9. I feel both ways. Fundamentally, I’m a travel light person, but above all travel, so I’m not going to get too obsessed with the right gear. Having said that, exactly because I travel so light, before I leave I think long and hard about pieces that will work under every condition.

    My recent trip to Hong Kong and Northern China (and was originally supposed to include India) was supposed to span -10C to + 30C. So I was thinking a lot about what kind of outerwear could pull of this range. And in this case a small purchase (a Northface artificial down lining) was that perfect missing piece. I used it as a lining to another, lighter coat, and then could cover it all. (Decided, for example, not to buy the Northface coat the goes with the lining, exactly because I thought I didn’t need it).

    The other dimension along which I always imagine there must be the perfect gear out there is footwear. My dream is of something solid enough to hike in, but just tidy enough to wear somewhere nice. I have a pair of Cole Haan shoes that have more or less fit this bill.

    It’s a bit like cooking and kitchen equipment. The latter can be fun to think about, if one has a lot of the former!



  10. brooklyntalks

    Agreed. For a trip to an ecolodge in the cloud forest of Ecuador years ago, my husband & I bought new fancy hiking boots. When we got there, we were each issued a pair of plain rubber boots that would sell for a few dollars. Our hosts explained that they were most suited to trekking the area because they’re waterproof, protect from scorpions and other nasties, and allow you to feel the terrain with your feet through the rubber soles and move about more nimbly. The expensive boots just took up valuable space in our packs.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s