While the experience of traveling to “off the beaten path” destinations can be extremely rewarding, far too many travelers fail to adequately prepare themselves for the difficult realities sometimes present in many developing countries.
In addition to the gear you would normally pack for a trip abroad, consider investing in the following few useful items to take along with you on your next journey around the developing world.
1. Travel-size Water Filter
Water is something that I stopped taking for granted when I first moved to a small town in southern India. My apartment had a snazzy wall-mounted UV filter in the kitchen, but I often ran into some difficult situations when traveling outside of town — particularly in rural villages.
2. Professional-grade Headlamp
In a lot of developing countries that I’ve traveled through, electricity is either very unreliable or it’s rationed out over the course of the day. A high-grade headlamp will prove to be an essential piece of gear; whether you have to crank up the brightness to substitute for headlights on an old vehicle or simply navigate a dark stairwell at midnight. Extra cash spent on a bright headlamp is gear-money well spent.
One travel-friendly model that’s proven super useful for me lately is the Petzl NAO.
3. Broad-spectrum Antibiotic
Full disclosure, I am definitely not a doctor and I do not suggest that travelers treat any and every little stomach ailment with an antibiotic. Now that said, I often refer to Cipro as a magical pill that’s saved my ass (quite literally) on more than a few occasions.
If you can’t get your doc back home to write you a prescription, a lot of pharmacies abroad will allow you to buy this type of medicine over-the-counter. Just keep in mind, it’s always best to discuss this type of thing with a professional before you go dosing up on super pills in a foreign country.
4. Electrolyte Replenishment
Electrolytes are vital to our body’s health and proper function. If you ever find yourself with a nasty stomach bug while traveling and begin to lose a lot of fluid, a pack of re-hydration salts and some clean water will help your body correct the inevitable electrolyte imbalance.
While not a piece of “gear” in the traditional sense, it’s not a stretch to say that something as seemingly simple as re-hydration salts could absolutely save your life.
5. Empty Chapstick Tube
A neat little gear-hack that savvy travelers have been using for years; the old chapstick money holder can save you a lot of trouble if you manage to find yourself on the wrong side of a mugging. Unless the robber has some seriously dry lips, they probably aren’t going to go for that little plastic tube in your pocket.
To construct this fancy piece of travel gear, simply empty a chapstick container of its gooey contents and replace said goo with rolled up cash. Most currency notes from around the world will fit into one of these tubes with the proper origami skills applied.
I always suggest carrying one tube stuffed with money and another with a rolled up photocopy of your passport.
6. Phone and Solar Charging Gear
Having lived abroad for quite a while, I’ve been fortunate enough that I haven’t needed to use a phone to truly save my ass just yet – but…
In the last four years, cell-phone coverage has expanded a huge amount in ever corner of the globe. As a result of this increased coverage, a smartphone (with GPS) and a backup battery source, regardless of where you happen to find yourself, have become essential travel companions.
Check out GoalZero for some quality solar charging equipment.
If sun power isn’t your thing, maybe you should check out SolePower. It’s a new product that creates battery juice from the force of a downward footstep. It’s a super unique idea, but I’m not sure just how good the final product will be.
7. Reputable Medical Insurance
I realize that this is supposed to be a collection of “gear” in the physical sense, but I couldn’t in good conscience leave travel insurance off the list.
There are tons of companies out there that offer medical coverage and emergency evacuation services for both long-term and short-term travelers, but make sure you do a bit of investigating before you throw down your hard-earned cash. Some companies are definitely better than others.