Guest Post By Taylor Welden
Outdoor/Travel Gear Product Designer
Traveler, Writer, Eater, Gear Nerd, & Self-Proclaimed Weirdo.
Full disclosure: I had the pleasure to meet Dan and Dima, two of the three legends behind Unbound Merino, right here in my city of Austin, Texas. We drank a few dozen Lone Star Beer tallboys on the East Side, we ate an enormous amount of Black’s BBQ (in Lockhart proper), we threw back shots of bourbon whiskey (on tap!) at The White Horse, we slammed brisket uni bites at Kemuri Tatsuya, strengthened US and Canada relations over a friendly game of billiards, and probably danced on tables while wearing cowboy hats… that last part cannot be verified, since we can’t remember the rest of our night.
While spending quality Texan time together, these two fine gents asked me to share some of my favorite travel products, related to my personal experience as an outdoor/travel gear product designer, Senior Editor at Carryology, and fellow frequent traveler. In a tequila-fueled warm merino-wooly-haze of new friendship, of course I agreed. So here are my top 5 travel necessities, in no particular order, that have made my life so much easier while on the road or up in the skies of the unknown.
Unbound Merino Black T-shirt.
This is an easy one. And I’d include this no matter who I’m writing this list for, no kidding. I sing praises of Unbound Merino to strangers on the street. Now, I only wear black t-shirts in my daily life and have been for nearly a decade now. So unless I’m adding mid and outer layers for inclimate weather, you’ll always see me in a black t-shirt. Unbound’s version is the shirt I’ve always wanted… thanks to the alien high/low-tech new/old-school technology of Australian merino wool. They keep me warm when it’s cold, cool when it’s hot (currently 105F in Texas as I write this), they wick away moisture from sweat which is bound to occur, and they don’t stink. They have completely changed how I travel since I carry so much less with me now. Read that again. On a recent 14 day trip across 8 countries in Europe, I brought two Unbound Merino t-shirts. Two. And it was perfect.
POUCHES. We call this “Inception Packing” over at Carryology, because your putting organized pouches inside of a bag, inside of your carry system or quiver. Now, I’ve switched up styles of pouches many times over my life, and I’m actually the designer behind the Magpul DAKA collection, but my new favorite has got to be the NiteIze RunOff pouches. Like the DAKAs, they are ultrasonically welded, but they use their brand new patented waterproof innovative zipper called TRU Zip. I use about 5 of these pouches when I travel; first aid kit, everyday kit, electronics/chargers, dopp kit, and a large packing cube version for my clothes. With this system, I can toss the pouches into any bag (I switch bags often, as you can imagine) and suddenly I have a 100% waterproof system.
Travel Pants. I was super reluctant to dip my toes into the world of travel pants… although I’m a legit fan of the hero that is Rick Steves, the words “travel pants” made me instantly imagine that zip-off cargo khaki pant/short crime against humanity he would often rock. Not for me. But “travel pants” switched from an evil phrase to two words that are magic, thanks to a few brands pushing the envelope of what they can and should be. For me; Western Rise and Outlier are my two favorite makers. Made from nylon, they have stretch, they’re cool in the heat and warm in the cool, with DWR stain and water resistance, and more. I can wear these everyday (and for days on end) and they just look like nice pants. If you’re slow to give up your denim, I feel that. I wear Triple Aught Design’s Intercept jeans 4 or 5 days out of the week and they have all the same properties as the pants above… but they’re jeans.
An old Chuck E. Cheese’s gift card from 1993 with $0.27 left on it… and then wrapped in about 10-15 feet of 2” wide Gorilla Tape. This has saved me endless times on my travels. I’ve had some very nice boots of mine start “talking” (which means the front part of the sole came off from the boot upper, and it flaps up and down like a mouth blabbering) while I was walking around Paris around 3AM one night. The subway was closed and even if I could afford a taxi, despite being a poor college student, there were no taxis to be seen. I had a 2+ mile walk ahead of me and these were my only boots. Clearly no cobblers open at that hour. As this card wrapped in Gorilla Tape takes up nearly no room in your kit whatsoever, I had it with me in my walk-around bag and was able to fix the boot until I could get it properly fixed up the next morning. I’ve also repaired a shoulder strap on a backpack that the airline INSISTED on checking even though it was the correct size (never check your bags folks, #TeamOneBagTravelSquadForLife) and was able to carry it to my destination with a little help from my trick little GorillaCard™… and fortunately my destination just so happened to be a softgoods factory in The Philippines where they repaired it for me on the spot.
A sil-nylon drawstring bag. There are endless versions out there, but my favorite is the Granite Gear “Air Bag. Bonus for a bright color, because everything I have is black, so it *pops* when I’m looking for it. I’ve found so many uses for this thing while traveling and I’m sure you can find even more uses, just get creative. A really poorly performing parachute? Sure. But I mostly use mine for a dirty laundry bag. The sil-nylon is mostly waterproof and more importantly, stink proof. Because of the materials and construction, it’s insanely lightweight and shrinks down to the size of vapor. And vapor is very small and very light. But it’ll eat up 5+ liters of dirty clothes until I can make it to a sink or washing machine. My secondary use, as a minimalist, I like to pack light… but this gives me some additional liters of space in case I spot some souvenirs, like some knock-off Star Wars Matryoshka dolls at the Izmailovsky Market.
BONUS: Here’s a fun and clever one I learned from some snake charmer at McMurdo Station. Go find an old chapstick tube, twist out the stick of waxy goodness and bin it. Now, grab the equivalent of $100 USD in a single bill of your currency, fold it up, drop it in the empty tube, pop the cap on, and toss it in your toiletry bag. Back up emergency $100 that will not be discovered upon an initial search. Note: In my humble opinion, $100 USD is a good amount to get you out of a bind in almost any country. It can be used for a taxi that you desperately need, to bribe your way onto a train that you can’t miss, or simply as backup cash in cash in case you only have your card (but remember to replace it immediately at an ATM if you do this).