In this season of festive consumerism, I thought I might pause the travelogue and celebrate the objects I brought with me on my walking adventures. (Also, might as well just do a light one for Christmas Eve, eh?) I had originally conceived this as a breakdown of every item I packed, but that turned out to be supremely boring, so instead, let’s just talk about my Top 5 Awesomest Adventuring Things (plus honourable mentions). These are either the items I couldn’t have lived without, or else those that provided such a boost in comfort over alternative options that I would never go back. These are the things that I will bring along on all future adventures, and will probably pull out occasionally just to gaze at in the meantime and reminisce (um…maybe not #4).
(Right, and if you are one of my brothers [vel sim.], pls skip #4.)
This thing doesn’t even leave my side when I’m not adventuring. You would be surprised how often I find a use for it. It helped me pee in an abandoned WWII bunker, it helped me find the local pub in a couple of unlit villages, it helped me peer into mysterious crevices in the cliffs of the Calanques, it helped me read inscriptions with raking light, and it helped me find the toilet in unfamiliar AirBnBs with unpredictably-placed light switches. Most recently, it helped me dig through my dusty old pile of crap in a dark corner of my parents’ basement. I found a handmixer.
4. Diva Cup
I know it’s TMI and all, but man, I will shout this one from the rooftops. Anyone who’s gotten drunk enough with me in the past couple years has probably already heard about this at considerable length, so you can skip on down. But listen! You don’t need any other supplies! (Except soap. Just trust me on this, bring your own unscented soap so you don’t have to make do with whatever’s available. Now let us never speak of this again.) You only have to deal with it every 12 hours! No TSS! No leaks! No waste! Single greatest invention of all time, full stop, I will throw down with anyone who disagrees.
A sentimental favourite. One of the hardest things about leaving Toronto was having to leave behind my beloved capoeira group, composed of some of my favourite people on Earth and dearest friends. Their goodbye present to me included a small, dark blue Moleskine notebook, unlined. That sturdy little notebook, which generally found itself in use multiple times a day (and gave me something to do during lonely restaurant meals), holds all of my most treasured memories of my travels. I only got through maybe a quarter of it, too (writer’s cramp would curb my loquaciousness), so it will remain by my side for a good many more adventures.
I had a favourite scarf once. It was enormous and soft and green, and it went with me everywhere I went. It is somewhere in the Dorset countryside now. Maybe the cows have it, I don’t know. Having (somehow) survived the entire rest of my Dorset trip with no scarf, I tracked a new one down immediately upon my return to Prague (it’s a beautiful, dusty blue this time, and doesn’t deserve all the abuse I put it through).
A scarf is my real-life equivalent to the Hitchhiker’s Guide towel. Among its many uses: head & neck warmth; sun protection; picnic blanket; extra nighttime blanket; emergency towel; anti-chafe wrap when straps are digging into skin; airplane pillow/blanket. Also a fashion accessory, I guess.
You might recognise these by now. Keens. Mike gave them to me for my 31st birthday and they’re the most comfortable things on Earth. Wearing them is like wrapping my feet in a warm cloud that is not so great on slippery rocks but otherwise fantastic. I’m wintering on the frozen Canadian prairies just now, and have even retired my normal winter boots in favour of the Keens. In all the hundreds of kilometres I’ve walked in them, I’ve gotten a single blister, and that was because of a sock.
Also sometimes called a wet sack, bafflingly. Unless that’s only in my immediate circle? Mine holds 25 litres, which is far too many litres. I bought it in case of torrential rain, but found that it’s a great way to compress all my clothes in my backpack because it’s airtight.
Use this to store croissants and other squishable snacks for later.
Not the fancy ski pole kind; just find them on mountainsides. They will save your knees on descents, and also maybe your life when things get hairy on cliff-sides. Anthropomorphise your sticks so that you feel extra-bad leaving them behind.
I didn’t even have reception in Europe, but I would have 100% died several times over without my phone’s GPS.
There. I’m off to drink wine and sing carols with the people I love most now. I wish you all the most sublimely joyous & cosy holiday season.