That’s what this list is for.
Now that we have to prepare for crossing the continent of Africa, I’ve been going over all our gear and making new adjustments. And I’ve taken note of ten essential items that have helped us along our journey so far, or things that I wish someone had told me about sooner.
#1 - An Extension Cord
At first, this might not seem very important, but there have been countless times then we've gotten to some hotel room in the middle of nowhere, and we really needed to charge our phones but also wanted to check out the map for tomorrow’s drive, or look at the weather forecast, or go through some recent pictures on our computer, but the battery’s about to die. And of course, the only outlet in the room is way off in the corner where you’d have to sit on the floor to be near it.
#2 - A Fake Wallet
We didn’t learn this piece of advice until it was too late and we’d already paid some hefty bribes in Mexico. Because having a fake “throw-away” wallet with expired credit cards, useless ID’s, and a small amount of local cash isn’t only good if you get robbed, but it’s especially good when dealing with corrupt police or military checkpoints.
#3 - VPN
Another great benefit of having a VPN on your devices is that you can set your location to be your home region so that everything that pops up online will be in your language and the news and headlines will be relevant to your home country, not the country you’re in. You can always turn it off and see what’s going on locally, or for something really cool, you can say you’re in Japan and suddenly get YouTube ads all in Japanese.
But the best thing of all… if you’re subscribed to a streaming service (like Netflix), then put yourself back at home and you’ll be offered all the same shows as if you never left. No more being locked out of Netflix or limited to Spanish-speaking shows because you’re in Mexico!
#4 - Mosquito Net
And in Latin America (and also in the southern United States), there are Kissing Bugs, Triatominae, which can carry the Chagas disease (causes heart failure) and are known to live in the walls and rafters of buildings. They bite your face at night while you're sleeping, especially your lips (hence kissing bug). I have seen and killed several of them in Latin America, and for all of these reasons and all the creepy crawlies that are out there, I will never travel without my mosquito net in the tropics again.
#5 - Reflective Tarp
But it can also be used to retain your body heat in your tent on cold nights if you lay it reflective-side up underneath your pads (it can bring the temperature up 10°-15°F). You can do the same with laying one above your tent reflective-side down, but it also works with cooling. If you want to keep things cool underneath it on a hot sunny day, simply lay it reflective-side up. It’s amazing how well it works, and the possibilities of how to use it are pretty much endless.
#6 - Solid Shampoo
I didn’t learn about this until very recently, but just like a bar of soap, they now sell bars of shampoo (I bought mine from Lush, but if you don't have a Lush store near you, other brands on Amazon sell them.). They’re light-weight, small, will never explode, and will last you for many more washes than a bottle. And yes, they really do lather and act like regular shampoo.
This small invention is very useful, especially if you're traveling with two people. What it does is split the headphones jack on your phone or computer so that two people can plug into the same device. That means you can watch your show or movie with your spouse or partner or friend (or even that girl you just met at the hostel) and you can both listen to it without disturbing everyone else around. Because not everyone wants to hear you Netflix and chill.
#9 - Foldable Chairs
Also, when we’ve had to wait for hours for road closures to open, we just get out our chairs and open up a book and read in the shade of a tree while everyone else stands around. These chairs are great, except that our G4Free chairs have had minor breaks, but nothing a little superglue and duct tape couldn't fix. We bought ours two years ago and have put them through hell, so a little damage makes sense, but if you don't like this brand, then there are also tons of other folding chair companies out there like it. So shop around to find which you like best.
#10 - Down Quilt
So what makes it a quilt and not a sleeping bag? With a sleeping bag, when your body lays on it, your weight is compressing the insulation on bottom, making that part useless. So what the quilt does is it cuts out that bottom part, reducing its size and weight.
Our down quilt can snap onto straps to stay in place on our sleeping pads, or we can unsnap it and throw our legs out if we get too hot. I’ve also used it in hotels when they haven’t provided enough blankets. Basically, it’s amazing.
#11 - Shockproof Computer Case
#12 - Magnetic Phone Charger
Some Bonus Items
I'm sure we'll be expanding on this list as we travel through Africa, so stay tuned and we'll keep you posted on all our adventures.