Our planet is a beautiful and challenging place, attracting millions of people to discover it. And while most of them focus mainly on the popular tourist destinations, some travelers are looking beyond the horizon of the crowds. They are literally staring at the “ends of the Earth”, at the most difficult and challenging places that not everybody can reach. Or they are looking at easy to visit places, but they want to “taste” them much deeper. But this requires specific and serious preparation, and an important part of it is to arrange a special packing list. And if you are such kind of a traveler, this is a guide for you- how to prepare your gear for adventures.
The nature of the Earth
While the cities, buildings, and other human-made places to visit are artificial and arranged for people so that they don’t need any special things to bring when visiting them, the natural places are different. They are created by God, not by humans (even artificial lakes like dams are created following the terrain and waters of the nature, again by God). And the nature isn’t made to adapt to humans, on contrary, humans have to adapt to the natural conditions. Moreover, we are not looking just to adapt, but to enjoy in full the natural places that we want to explore.
There is a great variety of natural places types that we would like to visit, taste, and enjoy. Tropical rainforests, high snowy mountains, vast polar glaciers, endless grasslands, gorgeous boreal taiga, stunning beaches, and coral atolls, waterfalls, caves, canyons, sand deserts, volcanoes…our Earth is so diverse and beautiful! And all these types of places are different in different seasons. All of this is worth to taste and enjoy.
But to do it, usually, you need to be prepared well. You need some basic knowledge, some basic skills (skills for climbing, swimming, surfing, diving, hiking, etc.), and some accessories that you have to bring. In this guide, we will focus on these accessories. I call them „special packing list”.
Ways of traveling
There are various ways of traveling, not only in cities, resorts or popular and well-arranged attractions, but in a wilder natural off the beaten places. You can travel by plane, by train, by bus, by car, by van (and RV), even by motorbike. In the oceans and seas, you can travel by ferries and by cruise ships. And you can always join an organized group tour. In these cases, you don’t need anything special to bring. Even in the harsh natural conditions, normally you would not go too far from your vehicle or a building (your hotel, hostel, a restaurant, or something else).
But if you explore the Earth (in a short trip, or a long expedition) by alternative ways of traveling, like hiking, biking, kayaking, or climbing, you need this “special packing list”.
Special packing list
When we talk about “things to bring somewhere”, we mean the whole luggage that every tourist or traveler prepares and brings during his or her trip. But many things in this luggage are normal daily things that you actually need in your daily life- daily clothes, shoes, underwear, toiletry, etc. These things depend on your personal preference and style, and you would bring them everywhere (more or less), no matter where do you travel.
But the “special packing list” consists of other, additional things that are necessary for a natural place to visit, for its specific natural conditions, and your preferred way to enjoy it. For example- if you want to visit the crystal clear waters around Siargao Island in the Philippines, you can go just with your normal daily things, just adding your swimsuit. But if you want to enjoy it in full, you would need snorkeling gear- at least a mask and a snorkel. You can go even deeper, but then you would need scuba diving gear. Without these things, you would miss a lot of the place’s beauty.
And this is only to enjoy the local environment better. However, many other places for traveling in nature require additional things not just to enjoy, but for your security and comfort. There are also many things that if you don’t prepare, you simply can’t go to your destination, or at least, you can’t survive.
So, these additional accessories are your “Special packing list”. Now, let’s enter our virtual traveler gear “shop” and prepare our “Special packing list” for our journey.
Normally, when we go on a journey, a part of the clothes we wear are the same that we wear at home, like a T-shirt, underwear, or a sweater. But there are some special clothes that you would need for an adventure in a natural environment. These include clothes like a waterproof jacket, waterproof pants, thick socks, quick-dry T-shirt, etc.
And usually, the clothes should be wear in layers- the so-called layering. Thus, you can be more flexible to follow various atmospheric conditions. Let’s follow the layers from inside out and see the most common clothes used for traveling in the nature.
Quick-dry T-shirt (Layer 1)
If you go hiking in summer, such a T-shirt is a very comfortable and simple solution. When you hike, you feel hotter than if you stay without much movement. And if the rain comes and makes you wet (if you don’t wear a raincoat), again such a T-shirt will dry quickly.
In winter, you can wear such a T-shirt just like underwear, as it will be the most inner layer of your clothing. But in general, these T-shirts are more proper for warm weather. They are made by synthetic material that dries quickly, but only if you don’t wear anything else on them. And if there is another layer for colder weather, they can’t dry quickly and can remain wet for a longer time.
Wool T-shirt (Layer 1)
This is another T-shirt of the first layer, but it is more proper for colder weather- for temperatures that require more layers. This, this T-shirt is a better underwear, made specially for this purpose. It can’t dry as quickly as the quick-dry T-shirts, but it absorbs moisture much better, due to its material- wool.
If you imagine some rough wool that makes your skin to feel uncomfortable, the wool of these T-shirts is different. It is specially treated, so the T-shirt is soft, and keeps you warm and dry, even if you sweat. And if it is not very cold, when the night comes and you sleep in a low-temperature sleeping bag, you can feel enough hot to put off all outer layers of clothes and remain only with your T-shirt.
Polars (Layer 2)
This is usually the next layer of clothing. And the best polars are those made of wool. Probably you think about those thick and uncomfortable wool clothes that make your skin feel itching, but the good polars are not made in this way. Their wool is much finer, so you can feel ok.
Polars are good when you hike in moderately cool temperatures. It would be too hot for a jacket, but at the same time- too cool for just a T-shirt. Let’s see some examples.
Thin jacket (Layer 3)
A good waterproof thin jacket can be very good clothes for the cool evenings in the mountain or the desert. Or, it can be very proper for protecting your skin from the strong sun radiation. It doesn’t give too much warmth, at the same time it doesn’t make you feel hot. So, it is just an alternative to the sweater.
Warm jacket (Layer 3)
This is the next layer of clothes, and it is for cold and extremely cold weather. This is the main purpose of the warm jacket- to protect you from cold. It is thick, and there are various levels of protection. Most of the jackets use synthetic material, and good jackets also have good waterproof features.
Jackets are made with a zipper, a hood, and pockets. Some of them can be a bit heavy, but protection in cold weather is more important. In some cases, it is possible you just wear a T-shirt and put on a winter jacket straight on it. But if the temperature is lower, you must wear a sweater, even two. Finally, a good way of layering, with a good winter jacket can protect you even in extremely low temperatures like those in Antarctica or East Siberia in winter.
Now, let’s look at the legs
Pants for warm weather
If you explore the nature in warm weather, you would need pants that don’t make you feel hot. But at the same time, in many cases, you would need something to protect your legs- from thorns, insects, even snakes. So, the best solution would be convertible pants- they can become shorts when you remove their low parts by a zipper. Thus, you can wear short pants wherever you want.
However, not all good pants are convertible. Some people prefer protection more than comfort in hot weather, and they can find some excellent pants for the nature. Another important feature is their waterproof. Some pants can protect you well from wetting, others- not very well, but at least they should be quick drying. There are not 100% waterproof pants, and sooner or later your legs will be wet. And the reason is they should be breathable. In other words, there is a compromise between waterproof and breathability.
Pants for cold weather
This is what you have to wear if you go to explore the cold places on Earth, or just in winter. These pants are much thicker, no convertible (of course), and with good waterproof and cold-proof features. Yes, if the temperature is not too low, in some cases you may feel a bit hot while you hike, but when you stop, these pants can protect you from freezing. Along with a good winter jacket (and proper layering), you can sleep in your sleeping bag wearing winter pants and this can keep you warm.
Now, let’s see some additional clothes you would need.
Summer hats are designed to protect you mainly from the sun. They are especially necessary when you walk in places like deserts, grasslands, or in the high mountain during the summer. If you want in a thick jungle, you may not need a hat, at least you don’t need protection from the sun, but a hat still can protect you from other things like insects or thorns.
Some of the summer hats are wide- they can protect your face and your neck from sunburn. Other summer hats are actually sun caps- they protect only your face. There are also summer hats with good waterproof features. They can’t replace a raincoat but still can keep your head temporarily dry.
Winter hats are designed to protect you from cold. The jacket’s hood is not enough, especially during the extremely cold temperatures and windy weather. The parts of your head that you must protect more than everything are your nape, and your ears. And the corresponding parts of the winter hats are thicker in these places.
Good winter hats are made of synthetic material or Merino wool. They are waterproof, at the same time breathable, and provide good insulation from cold. Besides the modern winter hats, there are some traditional hats like the Russian fur hats (Russians have a lot of winter experience, especially those who live in Siberia, including the local ethnic groups). These hats are larger, maybe not enough convenient to bear, but they are often better than modern hats.
With some exceptions, you don’t need gloves for summer or tropical climates. But for cold weather gloves are a must, especially if you ride a bicycle, or the weather is windy. There are some good gloves for protecting your hands from cold, but the better gloves are those which are thicker, with waterproof features. With them, it would be not a problem to touch snow and ice. Besides, they should be enough long to prevent snow from entering under your jacket sleeves.
A version of gloves is the mittens. They are not very convenient, but with them, your hands can be better protected from cold. Another type of gloves is mountain climbing gloves. They are thinner and they are designed to protect your hands from the rugged rock surface.
This is a very important part of your special packing list. You contact the ground by your feet and they must be well-equipped. And the ground can be different- it can be hot, cold, frozen, dry, muddy, snowy, sandy, or sometimes you simply have to walk in the water. So, let’s see the types of footwear you need for your adventures when you explore the Earth.
Summer hiking shoes
This is what you need for warm or hot weather in mountains, plains, or other places in summer, or the tropical zones. Summer hiking shoes are low, with a relatively soft outsole. The good shoes have better traction and don’t slip.
Other important features of the summer hiking shoes are their breathability and their waterproof. They have to be breathable, otherwise, your feet can sweat and you can feel too hot. At the same time, they have to be waterproof. If you go hiking in a wet climate area, you likely have to walk on mud and puddles. Of course, since they are low, if the water is too deep, your feet will get wet. Other reasons for wetting are rain or morning dew on the grass, especially when the grass is high. But good hiking shoes can protect your feet, at least temporarily.
Three-season trekking shoes
These shoes are higher and harder, and this is the main difference between them and hiking shoes. But there is a bit more- usually, these boots are a bit warmer. In autumn or spring weather is cool, so it is unlikely that you can feel hot. Also, these shoes are more proper for rugged terrain, especially if you bring a heavy backpack.
Winter hiking boots
These boots are a bit higher than the autumn-spring hiking boots. Another main difference is that they are a bit harder- with a harder outsole. Thus you can easier attach snowshoes, crampons, as well as gaiters to them. They are specially designed for walking on snow.
At the same time, they are warmer, with a better waterproof feature. Although a bit heavier, they are necessary for hiking in winter. But they are still not enough proper for climbing the snowy peaks- for this purpose you have to buy mountaineering boots.
The main difference between mountaineering and winter hiking boots is the hardness. Yes, you can still attach some crampons on winter hiking boots, but it is only for walking on a slippery surface. Mountaineering boots are harder and they allow attaching crampons for climbing. They are also heavier and less breathable.
Although they are not the best boots for hiking, obviously it would be inconvenient to bring two pairs of shoes. You still can go hiking with mountaineering boots, but if you are not going to combine your route with climbing, just wear your hiking boots.
Summer climbing shoes
These shoes are completely different, different even from the mountaineering boots. They are designed for rock climbing too, but their most important purpose is to provide better contact between your foot and the rock. They are not proper for hiking. And they are not designed for crampons.
So, if you go hiking in summer, and want to combine it with climbing, this time you have to wear your hiking shoes and bring your climbing shoes in your backpack. And when the time for climbing comes, you just change your shoes.
Sand desert boots
A part of the Earth is covered by sand. Walking on sand is different than walking on a solid surface, and you know that when you go to the beach. But while walking on a beach for a while is a pleasure, you can feel that it is more difficult. And if you have to walk on sand for hours, it can turn to suffering.
So, the sand desert boots are a kind of hiking boots specially designed for walking on sand. They are high, providing better protection of your ankle, and preventing sand from entering inside, as much as possible. Since the desert can be very hot, these boots are more breathable, although can’t be like sandals.
Hiking waterproof sandals
Sandals are favorite footwear for summer. You can wear them in the city, on a picnic, at the seacoast. But here I mean a specific kind of sandals- only the sandals that you can use for walking in water, or even hiking. The good thing is, you can wear them in the city too, you don’t need to bring them in your backpack.
There are various kinds of waterproof sandals. Or more precisely- they are not exactly waterproof but just quick drying. Some of them are soft, but there are harder sandals, with a harder sole. These are the sandals you would need. With them, you can go hiking, you can walk in a river water, or on the seafloor. In other words, you can walk on many different kinds of surfaces.
The sock may look not so important, although they matter when you wear shoes or boots, even in the city- at least for the comfort of your foot skin. But for exploring the nature, they can be more important. They can protect your feet warm, and not only that.
For example- there are special socks that you can wear if you walk in some wet and muddy areas in the equatorial rainforest, with leeches waiting for fresh blood (we had experience with that in Taman Negara, Malaysia). But if you wear anti-leech socks, as the third image of socks below, these animals can’t stick on your feet. And for warming- you would need good wool socks if you go hiking or climbing in winter. Finally, they can also provide more comfort.
Now, let’s take a look at another type of travel gear- for bringing your things.
Backpacks are very important for your trip. When people go on travel only to “man-made” places- cities, resorts, well-arranged tourist destinations, they usually don’t need a backpack, but a good suitcase and a small bag (or a small backpack) would be enough. But in the nature, a backpack is the only way to bring your luggage.
There are several important criteria when you choose your backpack, depending on your budget, the place you go, the duration of your trip, the luggage (and its weight) you bring, your habits, and of course- the price.
Backpack’s volume is one of the most important things to consider. If you go hiking for just one day, a 30-40L, even a smaller backpack would be enough. But if you go on a long expedition, you would need at least 70-80L, since you would also need to attach things like a tent, a sleeping bag, a sleeping pad, more food, more clothes, and more other things.
Other important features are the size (its length and width), its weight (the lighter, the better), its functionality (how many pockets, straps, locks, etc. it has and how are they organized). Then I have to mention the backpack’s hipbelt system, which can spread the weight better on your body, also its waterproof and ventilation features. For more information- click on the button below:
Now, let’s look for providing shelter in the nature.
This is what you need if you want to explore the nature for more than one day without a need for a hotel, hostel, chalet, lodge, or another already established place to sleep. Actually, it is not only for spending the night, but you may need it for other reasons during the day- bad weather or just to relax.
The main part of the camping gear is the shelter. And the most popular shelter is the tent. But there are more kinds of shelter- bivy, hammock, and tarp. But let’s start from the tent.
This is the best shelter in the nature, as it provides the best isolation from the surrounding environment. Also, it is the coziest place to spend the night. There are various kinds of tents you can choose from, and although there is not a “perfect tent”, you can still find a tent that you can use almost everywhere.
Again, there are several important criteria for a proper tent. Tents can be different in volume, from 1-person to 8 and more persons. Also, they are different in shape, which has its pros and cons. Some tents are designed for hot and humid natural zones while other tents- for extreme cold polar places. And of course, there is a lot of “in the middle”.
The most important features of the good tents are related to their stability in the nature. Waterproofing is very important- everybody would like to remain dry if there is a long rain outside. Windproof is another important feature- stronger wind can easily break the poles of the tent. Ventilation is important too- a tent can become wet inside by condensing if the ventilation is not good.
But maybe one of the things that most people look at is the weight of the tent. Everybody wants light or better- ultralight tent, and it is normal. And the brands that produce tents try to compromise between lightweight and some other features, which usually makes the price higher.
Let’s see some other kinds of shelters which are usually lighter than the normal tents, but much simpler than them, lacking some of the tent’s features.
Bivy and bivy bag cover
Bivy is like a small 1-person tent, but it is lower. Inside the bivy, you don’t have much room to move. In fact, it is a hybrid between a tent and a sleeping bag. So, it again can provide good insulation from the environment.
It looks like a coffin, and at the same time, it is flexible. When you wake up, you can sit “wearing” the bivy. The good bivy has a lot of tent features like waterproof and good ventilation. Due to its size, it is much stable in strong winds, and in cold weather can protect the warmth better.
A version of it is bivy bag cover. It is not a sleeping bag (although it looks like it), but just a cover, where you enter with your sleeping bag. Think about it like a bivy without stakes.
This is another kind of shelter with the main purpose to separate you from the ground, thus ensuring some safety. It is used usually in places like rainforests. You attach it between two trees and sleep safely. The normal fly consists of two parts- a hammock and a “roof”. You can just use the hammock to sleep in open-air, or you can add the “roof”, made of tent-used material. This roof will protect you from rain and other things that may fall from the trees. Besides, you can use a net, to protect you from mosquitoes and other creatures. This is what explorers like those crossing Amazonia use.
A version of a fly is the hanging tent. It is almost like a normal tent but designed to be hanged between two trees, over the ground. Today, there are various kinds of hanging tents. Some of them are bigger and not proper for hikers and mountaineers, but there are still some small 1 or 2-person tents that you can bring.
This is something like a “half-tent”, an opened-tent, or a tent with half walls. The tarp is the same “roof” that you put over the hammock, but without the hammock- you just install it on the ground. And you can enter under it from two directions.
Loue is another type of a “half-tent”, the difference with the tarp is that loue is usually in a semi-circle shape. Thus, it is opened from one side, and closed by a wall at the other side. Both tarp and loue are lighter than the normal tent, thus they are preferred shelters for some hikers.
Let’s see more about spending the night.
Shelters are good for spending the night, but they are not enough, especially in cold weather. You need a sleeping bag. It should be something like your sheet and quilt but designed as a bag is much more convenient.
There are various kinds of sleeping bags, with various shapes- rectangle, mummy, spoon, “elephant-foot”, and double (for two persons). Of them, mummy-shaped sleeping bags are the best, since they provide the best insulation and keep the warmth. They are filled with down, or by synthetic material, both with their pros and cons.
Sleeping bags come with their temperature rate. The lower the temperature ranking, the warmer the sleeping bag is. Some sleeping bags are designed to provide comfort even in extremely low temperatures, like in the Himalayas, or Antarctica. And again, you look for lightweight.
Today, there are some additional accessories for sleeping bags. One of these accessories is the liner- a thin bag that you can input inside for hygienic reasons. There is also a rain cover- another bag that you can enter inside, if you prefer to sleep without a shelter, in case of rain or dew.
But you need something more, for insulations from the ground.
The ground can steal the warmth from your tent and your sleeping bag very effectively, especially on a cold winter night. So, if you have to spend the night in cold weather, armed with a good tent, a good sleeping bag, and a good sleeping pad would be enough to provide you warmth and comfort. There are different kinds of sleeping pads, with different grades of insulation (R-value). The higher the R-value is, the better is its insulation.
Of course, it usually adds to its weight, but in cold weather, insulation is more important. Besides, a good sleeping pad provides comfort for your body, especially if you have to sleep on a hard and rugged surface. Finally, for your full comfort, you need one more thing- a pillow.
Pillows for outdoor adventures are not like the pillows in your home- it would be too inconvenient and complicated. Instead, they are inflatable. Thus, they can be easily fit in your luggage without taking additional space. They are not designed to provide warmth, because you just don’t need it- your tent, your sleeping pad, and your sleeping bag’s hood are enough for that. And the insulation from the air inside the pillow is enough too.
Let’s get to the specific accessories for various kinds of natural environment, and various ways of travel.
Accessories for hiking
Now, you have proper clothing, good shoes or boots, a backpack for your luggage, and a good tent (or another shelter) with a sleeping bag, a sleeping pad, and a pillow. In some cases, it would be enough, but in other cases, you would need more, depending on the place you go and the travel activities you want to do.
More hiking accessories- hiking poles
In a long hike, especially with more ascending and descending, you can easily feel tired. And if your backpack is heavy, it can be suffering, unless you are well-trained. And in this situation, hiking poles are something that can significantly help you to share your weight and strength.
Yes, if you hike in a forest, you can probably find some wood sticks that you can use like poles. But it would be difficult to find exactly the same sticks, and if you hike in a non-forest area like alpine tundra, desert, or grassland, you can’t find sticks at all. That’s why you can just get your own hiking poles and bring them wherever you go for hiking. They can be easily stowed when you don’t need them, and you can attach them to your backpack, then you can use them again.
This is not clothing (although it could be considered as such), but a special cover, made mostly of polyester, to protect you from rain. There are various types of raincoats- from the simplest and cheapest nylon covers (usually- disposable), to high quality raincoats that you can use long time.
Some of the raincoats are like a long mantle, and in hiking world they are called poncho. Others are just like clothing- like a jacket and pants. There are also raincoats for bikers, again poncho-shaped, but with longer front part to cover the bicycle rudder.
And how about hiking in winter, or on a snowy mountain?
Hiking in deep snow
When the ground is covered by snow, it is a different surface. Walking on such a surface can be difficult, or very difficult, depending on the thickness and quality of the snow. And if you walk on snow just by your winter hiking boots, it would be not just slow and difficult, it can be suffering, especially if the snow enters inside your boots.
So, there are some accessories to make your snow hiking better. Let’s take a look at them.
This is what you need to prevent snow from entering your winter hiking or mountaineering boots. Gaiters are additional leg garments covering your boot and the lower part of your pants. They should be well-attached, and to be enough long (usually almost reaching your knees). Today, they are made from synthetic materials like polyester, to prevent wetting.
Gaiters are designed not only for snow, but they can be useful if you walk on muddy, wet, or underbrush places. In such conditions, they prevent your legs not only from wetting, but also from insects, thorns, or even snake bites.
Now, you have good hiking or mountaineering boots with gaiters. But if you walk on deep snow, it can be suffering when you sink deeply in every step. And you sink just because your foot area is too small. If you want to remain on the snow surface, or at least sink less, you need a larger foot area. And this is the purpose of the snowshoes.
Snowshoes are a bit wider (but not too wide, otherwise you can’t walk), and much longer. They are attached under your winter hiking or mountaineering boots, and you can walk on the snow much better. If the snow is harder, you would not sink at all, and if it is softer, you would sink, but much less than if you don’t have snowshoes.
Besides, many snowshoes are supplied with crampons. Most probably, you would not walk only on deep snow, but sometimes- on ice or another slippery surface. And to prevent slipping, there are crampons below to provide better traction with the surface.
Mini crampons, semi-automatic crampons, microspikes
These are additional accessories for your hiking or mountaineering boots, against slipping. They work like the metal chains for the wheels of your car on a snow-covered road- increase the traction with the surface. They are easy to attach to your boots and easy to remove when you walk on solid and stable ground.
All of the additional accessories above are for hiking. But if you have to pass steeper rocky places like rock walls or just diverse rocky terrain “conquering” snowy peaks, you need mountaineering-climbing gear.
This type of accessories can be divided into two groups: accessories for contact with the surface, and accessories for security. I already mentioned those from the first group- mountaineering boots, summer climbing shoes, crampons, and gloves. Except for the summer climbing shoes, the rest of them can be used just for hiking, although they are not the best option. I just would add another one- ice axe.
This is a tool for climbing on an icy surface. You use it to attach yourself to the ice. It is quite slippery, but an ice axe, combined with mountaineering boots and crampons can allow you to climb on such extreme terrain. Yes, it can be a bit heavy, but if you go to “attack” such places, it would be impossible without an ice axe.
Mountaineering equipment for security
There is a whole bunch of things that you need, not only for security but also to help you climb on such extremely difficult terrain. There are different climbing styles, and a different number of people climbing together, supporting each other. According to this, you would not necessarily need all of the accessories, but you can choose some of them. Let’s see them in more details:
- Harness. This is something like a saddle, to make you a part of a climbing security system. It consists of several straps around your legs and waist, sometimes your torso too.
- Ropes. They provide the connection between you, the rock or ice surface, or your climbing partners. The ropes come in different lengths, but most importantly, they must be of good quality.
- Carabiners. They provide a connection between you and the ropes, as well as some additional devices.
- Slings. These are short connecting ropes with loops. They have a similar role to the carabiners but are more proper for some specific situations.
- Belay device. This is a system made to control the moving of the ropes. It is usually used between two climbers, where the first helps the other by controlling the rope and stop it if need.
- Alpine anchors. These are accessories that you attach to the rock. There are two types of anchors- nuts and cams (the difference is in their shape and the way they attach). You input them inside a crack in the rock and when they are enough stable, you can connect them to your rope.
- Alpine pitons. They were popular before, but in recent years are avoided. Pitons are used in rocks where you can’t find a proper crack. But making a hole in the rock remains a scar, and it contradicts with the principle of no traces leaving. Anyway, they are still used where no other options are available.
- Helmet. This is to protect your head. You can be hit by falling stones or just when you fall close to the rock. And you have to protect your head. So, don’t ignore it!
Have in mind that all of these accessories can’t help you too much, and can be even dangerous if you don’t have the necessary climbing skills! And these skills include the ability to use mountaineering accessories!
Now, let’s move to the water, and take a look at the things you need to “conquer” the water and underwater.
Snorkeling and diving gear
When you go to the sea coast, you usually take your normal things like swimsuits, slippers, towels, sunscreen, and some inflatable things like a mat, or just some toys. And it would be perfectly enough if you plan just to play on the beach or walk on the coastline. But if you want to enter underwater and explore the hidden world below the surface, you need something more. This is your snorkeling and diving gear.
The snorkeling gear consists of three accessories- a snorkel, a mask, and fins. There is an additional accessory that you can use, and it is something special that you can wear- a neoprene wetsuit. Let’s look at these, one by one.
We can’t breathe underwater. If we want to see what’s below the surface, our pleasure of beauty has to be interrupted regularly to breathe. But if you have a snorkel, you resolve this problem, you can watch the underwater world constantly, as long as you wish. You just have to get used to breathing through the snorkel.
Our eyes are not designed to look underwater. Yes, you can look, but It is uncomfortable, and in general, not good for your eyes. And the solution is the mask. It covers not only your eyes but also your nose. The good mask sticks well on your face and doesn’t allow leaking from outside.
The mask not only protects your eyes but also gives you a better view underwater. A version of the mask is underwater glasses. They are good too, but they don’t cover your nose. There is a strap attaching system that includes the snorkel and the mask, so the snorkel can remain attached to the mask.
Fins help you to swim better, faster, and more stable. They are not always necessary for snorkeling but have in mind that fish and whales are designed with their natural fins for a reason. And now you enter their world. There are short and long fins. For snorkeling, short fins are enough, although they are not so powerful. They are also more convenient for your luggage. But if you want to dive deeper underwater, long fins are recommendable.
Wetsuit, drysuit, and accessories
This is not mandatory too, but highly advisable if you go scuba diving. The most common material used for this underwater clothing is neoprene. It protects from two things. From cold: due to its good insulation features, it keeps you warm, so you can dive even in icy polar waters. From dangerous species: tropical waters are warm, but there are a lot of poisonous creatures, especially in the coral reef areas. For example, if you face a sea wasp, the most poisonous jellyfish on the Earth, the wetsuit can save your life.
The main difference between a wetsuit and a drysuit is that a wetsuit allows some water to enter inside. The water warms by your body and remains as a warm insulator. And drysuit is completely dry, it doesn’t allow any water inside. Besides, there are some accessories like a hood, gloves, shorties, and socks, to form a full set of underwater clothing.
Snorkeling is good, but it allows you to see the underwater world only from its edge. If you want to enjoy it in full, you have to dive deeper. This is scuba diving, and for this, you need more equipment, as well as specific skills.
This is not something that everybody can do at any time, just like playing on the beach, unless you are fully equipped, with well-developed skills. Normally, you join a liveaboard activity and go on a sailing journey to a chosen destination. They provide all the diving gear you need, as well as an instructor, you get the gear and follow the instructor. In such case, you don’t need to buy your own equipment, except a mask, fins, a wetsuit or a drysuit, with all other accessories (you don’t need a snorkel because it will be replaced by an air tank system).
But if you want to be independent, if you have a good experience, and if you have your own water transport, you can buy your own scuba diving equipment too. Besides the basic snorkeling gear, you need the following:
- Tank and accessories. This is what supplies you with air to breathe underwater. And with its additional accessories, it forms a full system that you must know in detail.
- Regulators. The regulator is an important part of this system. It controls the pressure you need, and it depends on the depth a lot. Again, you need to know when and where to change this pressure.
- Buoyancy compensator (BCD). This is a device for controlling your position in the water. It has a bladder with air, by which you can control how to ascend or descent.
- Dive computer. This is a small but very smart device that you attach to your hand, giving you all the necessary data you need.
- Torches, lights. The deeper you go, the darker it becomes. So, you may need a torch or other kind of light. Of course, it is waterproof and is adjusted according to the underwater conditions.
- Other accessories. Many other things can be useful, like weights, a compressor, bags, etc.
But even by scuba diving, you can’t go too deep. An average scuba diver can descend to 40-60 feet. Only professional scuba divers with more experience and training can dive deeper. With current equipment, some of them can reach 1500-2000 feet, but no more. The underwater world below this depth is inaccessible by human diving, you can reach it only inside special submarine devices that can bear extremely high pressure.
Floating, sailing, and proper equipment
Most of the explorers in the past have roamed around the Earth by ships on the ocean. Today, you can do it by traveling on a cruise. There are a lot of regular ferry services, but they connect only short distance points. Only cruises go around the world.
The other option is by yacht, or by sailing ship. But it is very expensive. If you have enough money, the necessary certificates, and proper experience, you can buy your own yacht and travel around the world. But if you don’t have all of this, you can still join a yacht crew (but it can be still expensive). There are some things that you have to bring for a yacht journey, but in general, yachts are well-equipped with everything you would need, so we will not go into details about it.
But there are some other forms of traveling on water, like kayaking or just floating with an inflatable boat.
This is a good way to travel on rivers and lakes. It is not proper for the sea, because canoes and kayaks are not designed for rough waters. Canoes and kayaks are quite similar, their main difference is in the position of the paddler. Kayakers sit and use a double-bladed paddle, while canoers kneel and use a single-blade paddle.
Of course, the first and basic part of the equipment is the canoe or the kayak itself. There are good canoes and kayaks that you can buy or rent. But the problem is that they are too big (and especially- long). The only way to bring your own canoe and kayak is to transport it by a larger vehicle.
However, there is a solution. Today, there are folding canoes and kayaks. They are much easier to bring since they are folded like a big bag. Yes, they can’t become smaller like a tent or a sleeping bag, but still can be adjusted as a part of an expedition. Anyway, for such kind of combined expeditions, usually, a better option is just to arrange a better logistic organization.
This is another option for traveling on water. Compared to the non-inflatable canoes and kayaks, it has its pros and cons. When folded, the inflatable boat is smaller and can be just attached to your backpack (however, it still has some significant weight that adds to the total weight of your luggage). But at the same time, when it is on water, it is more vulnerable- a sharper stone, a floating branch or something else can easily puncture it. Besides, boats are slower than kayaks and canoes.
Now, let’s back on land and see another exciting way of travel- by bike.
Bikes and biking equipment
Traveling by bike has its advantages. You are in the nature, and you can see, touch, and smell everything around you. At the same time, you move faster than on foot. You can travel not only on big roads but also on many small trails where cars can’t go. And you just need a good bike and accessories for it.
In general, there are four main types of bikes and many hybrid bikes. These types are city (urban) bike, road bike, mountain bike, and touring bike.
City (urban) bike
It is designed for cycling in a city, so you can use it to explore a city. And since you can find rental urban bikes in many cities in the world, you wouldn’t want to transport your own urban bike to a particular city to explore it.
Usually, it is with narrow tires, and its main purpose is speed. It is lightweight and designed to cycle as fast as possible. If you are well-trained, you can achieve almost a car-driving speed on a good road. But it is not proper for a long-distance expedition, because you need much more luggage for it. Instead, it is good for shorter domestic trips. Also, it is not proper for dirt roads or trails. For this, you need a mountain bike.
It is designed especially for rugged terrain. With a mountain bike, you can climb mountains. You can ascend and descent on steep, stony dirt roads and trails (but of course, you need some training, otherwise, you can easily fall on the ground, and it can be painful and dangerous!). It is good for exploring a mountain land, but again- not for a long-distance expedition. To go on an expedition, you need a touring bike.
Touring bikes are designed to carry luggage. They are not as fast as the road bikes, not as flexible as the mountain bikes, but you can load them with enough luggage to cross a continent. This is the bike that is worth to be transported to a starting point and from an ending point of your journey.
And if you travel by bike, you also need some additional biking accessories.
This includes two groups of accessories. The first group is functionality accessories, and the second group is repairing tools and spare parts.
These are things that add to your bike more abilities, some of them- highly advisable. Let’s look at them.
- Bike luggage carrier. If your bike doesn’t have it, you’d better buy it, especially if you plan a long-distance journey. It is one of the main places to put your luggage.
- Bike side bags (panniers). Again- highly recommendable for a bike expedition. You can balance them well on both sides of your back wheel.
- Bike saddlebag. It is an additional bag that you can install under your seat. It is the best place for some accessories that you would like easier access to.
- Bottle. You can put your water bottle in your bag, but many bikes come with a special place where you can hold it.
- Helmet. Falling from a bike can be a painful experience. You can break your arm. But most of all, you have to protect your head. Although it happens seldom, a helmet is recommended for your safety.
- Biking pants with pads. Pedaling the whole day can make your butt feeling uncomfortable. A good solution is wearing biking pants with pads. They make the area of the saddle larger, thus reducing the constant friction during the trip.
- Lights. A very important accessory, if you cycling in the dark. You need a backlight and a headlight. If you have a headlamp, it can replace your headlight. But backlight is more important, especially if you cycle on the road. Remember, you can see a coming car from afar, but it doesn’t mean that the driver can see you unless you have a backlight!
- Dog chaser, spray, or electroshock. Nothing draws a dog’s attention more than a cyclist. Dogs instinctively start barking and chasing cyclists, and some of them can be dangerous, especially if you cycle in some suburban areas or near some villages. Such tools can successfully stop them if you know how to use them.
Repairing tools and spare parts
Sometimes, damage can happen to your bike. The most common problem is tire puncture. So, it is highly recommendable that you bring all that is necessary to fix it and proceed with your trip. It includes tire stickers, glue, tools for opening the outer tire, as well as a spanner. And of course- a pump. There are small and convenient pumps that you can bring and put in a proper place on your bike. And as a spare part- always bring a spare inner tire with you.
Other damages can happen with your chain, your speed system, and your brakes. To fix them, you would need at least a screw. And some spare parts are worth bringing too.
These are the main alternative ways of traveling on Earth. Some people use some other not popular ways like skiing, even horse riding, but it is seldom. There are explorers using ski or a sleigh with sails to cross the glacier of Antarctica or Greenland (this is an interesting and effective way of traveling), but it is more like an exception than a normal way of traveling.
Finally, let’s see some additional accessories that you would need, no matter what alternative way of traveling you choose.
There are a lot of additional small things that you may need during your trip. It is almost impossible to mention all of them, but at least, let’s look at some of the most important.
At the night you need light. Yes, you can use your mobile, but it is highly inconvenient and battery-exhausting. So, the best solution is a headlamp. Not just a torch, because with a torch your hand would be busy to hold it.
Today, there are excellent headlamps with various levels of brightness. Some of them use batteries that you have to change, others are rechargeable. Most of them have various functions of lighting. Good headlamps are made comfortable for your head, and as many other accessories- the lighter, the better.
When you go traveling in the nature, you can’t always find restaurants or supermarkets. Yes, you can buy and prepare some food, but it would be mainly dry and limited in variety. Besides, you would need water. In many cases, you would need even more water than in the city. But not all the waters around you are drinkable. Finally, if the weather is cold (and not only), you would need some hot tea or coffee.
So, you need to bring something to cook food and boil water. Today, there are sets of cookware that are convenient and lightweight, and you can easily put such a set in your backpack. These sets usually consist of a small pan, a small pot, plates, spoons, and forks. Besides these, it includes a gas system. You only need to add a gas bottle, but you can’t bring it on an airplane, you just can buy it directly before your trip.
I will repeat it- for almost all of the travel activities in the nature you will need water. In some cases- a lot of water. You can bring some bottles and often take them out of your backpack’s pocket. But a better solution is a water bladder.
A water bladder is a water reservoir with a pipe. You fill it with water and put it in your backpack. Then, you take the pipe out, to be within a convenient reach at any time and just go. When you feel thirsty, just drink. There are water bladders with various amounts of volume, mostly from 1 to 3L. Larger bladders would carry more water, but would be heavier and would take more space.
Medical (first aid) kit
When you go to explore the nature, you normally go far from civilization. At the same time, the danger of accidents is higher. You can also get sick (not necessarily by something caught during your trip), and there are no doctors and no pharmacies in the wilderness. So, what you need is a first aid kit.
This kit consists of the most possibly needed things like antiseptic wipes, antibacterial ointment, bandages, medical tapes, Ibuprofen, and some other medicines. The content of the kit can vary depending on the place you are going to explore. If you go to the high mountain, you may need something for altitude sickness. But if you go to explore atolls and rocks in the sea, you may need something for a jellyfish sting. Or if you go to the equatorial rainforest, you would need something for snakebite treatment. In any case, these things are small, not heavy, but can save your life.
Sun can be very strong in the natural places you go to travel. Strong sun on the beach, strong sun on the snowy mountain, strong sun on the desert, or the grassland. Sometimes it can be so strong that it can harm your eyes, causing even blindness. And the solution is: sunglasses.
Yes, sunglasses are not just to make you look cool. In the nature, they are for protection. And usually, they are different than the fashion-style sunglasses in the city. The protective sunglasses are larger, sometimes almost like a mask. And they are designed to protect you not just from the visible light, but mainly from the UV light that you can’t see. If you wear normal glasses, there are protective sunglasses that can be put on your glasses like a second layer.
Now, let’s see some electronic devices. They are very useful and can allow you to travel farther and safer.
In the 21st century, we are not like the ancient explorers. When they traveled the world, they departed from a certain point and “disappeared” for others. Nobody knew where they are, no news from them. And they can determine their location only by a paper map, by the sun, and by a mechanical compass. But for us, it is much easier. We just look at a display, and we know everything. And we can share it with the world during the trip. Let’s see what we have now.
This is what we use to determine our location today. There are GPS devices, designed specifically for that, with a map, and with options to calculate a route, a distance, and to record your track.
However, you don’t necessarily need it. Today, you can download an app on your mobile and turn it into GPS too. It would be simpler and cheaper. But a GPS app on your mobile is not without cons. Such apps consume a lot of your battery power. And in general, it lacks some of the GPS device functions.
With a mobile phone you can easily communicate with others, but only when you are in a city, a larger village, or another human-made place near a mobile tower. In other words- near civilization. But if you want to go deeper into the nature and farther from the human world, like Antarctica, Amazonia, Greenland, a large desert, or just in the middle of the ocean, your mobile phone has no signal. The only solution is a satellite phone.
Satellite phones don’t look like modern smartphones with a lot of apps installed on them, but they rather look like old mobile phones, with a small display. They are not designed to play games on them, or just to surf around the internet. Their purpose is to connect to the human world from the remotest point on our planet.
These phones establish a connection through the satellites around the Earth. Talking by their SIM cards is much more expensive, but you are not going to spend hours of conversation. In other words, you need such a phone to tell others where you are currently, what is your situation, and in case you are in trouble. These phones are banned or restricted in some countries, but you can freely use them on the rest of the Earth.
Do you remember “walkie-talkies”? They were radio phones, but just with much less power and range than the “serious” radio phones used in the nature. These phones don’t need a satellite and don’t need a mobile tower. They just need…another radio phone. Then, they establish a connection on a certain channel.
Radio phones are great when you are at least two people who go hiking, climbing, or biking. It often happens that you separate and can’t see each other. Then, you use these phones to help each other if necessary, or just to communicate about the current situation. Usually, they come with earphones and a charger. And since you don’t need to use them all the time, they save the battery power much longer than a mobile phone.
But how can we recharge all these devices, including our own mobile phone, far from civilization?
Power bank with cables
This is the most common way to recharge your devices. First, you prepare your power bank and recharge it 100% at home. Then, you can use it to recharge your devices in the nature, until it drops to 0%. Power banks come with various capacities and usually use USB ports for cables. So, you have to prepare your cable too.
Also, they are mainly designed to recharge your mobile phone. But for a GPS, and a satellite phone, you can use it only if they come with such a cable, which can be different than a mobile phone cable. Anyway, it is a good way to recharge, but there is another option- a solar panel.
If you imagine a big solar panel like those installed in a solar power station, the solar panel for hiking is the same, but of course, much smaller. It is not designed to produce normal electricity like at home, but only to recharge your electronic device. The only thing it needs is sunlight.
So, you can attach it to your backpack and turn it with its sunlight receiving surface to the sun, and walk. And if the weather is sunny, it can recharge well, so you don’t need to depend on your power bank. Thus, the solar panel is proper for long expeditions, mainly in sunny places.
Finally, let’s see another group of electronic devices.
For your memory and more
What is an expedition, even a short hike, without something to remain and share? Everybody would enjoy looking at the photos and videos made during his or her adventures. Today, the most popular way to do it is on your mobile phone. It can be used for photos and videos. It is small and convenient. Just the quality is not always so good. If you want higher quality photos, you need a camera.
Cameras are the photographer’s weapons. They can do not only photos but also videos. You have many more options to catch the best image from the place you are and its views. Today, the most popular cameras are mirrorless, and DSLR. The mirrorless cameras are lighter, a bit simpler, and with less lens and accessories options, compared to the DSLR cameras.
The problem is that cameras are a bit heavy. Also, they are not waterproof. If the weather is not good, or if you have to cross rivers, or just to have any contact with water, you can’t use cameras. But actually, you can’t use your mobile phones too, unless you put them in a small waterproof bag. If you want something designed for all kinds of adventures, you need a GoPro.
GoPro is a mini camera that you can attach to your backpack, your head, or somewhere else. It is compact and waterproof. So, you can use it in rain, in snow, in rivers and waterfalls, while you travel by canoe or kayak, or even underwater, while you go diving (just don’t go too deep, most GoPro cameras get wet inside if you go deeper than 10 m).
These cameras are great for action videos, so they are called “action cameras”. They use wide lenses, so the image is in “fish-eye” mode, and this effect is stronger for the closer objects. There are ways to soften this effect, but in general, it is the GoPro’s special feature.
Finally, if you want to shot a landscape from above, you need a drone. It can fly like a helicopter, and you can control it with remote control, or just with your mobile with a necessary app. You can control its movement in the air, and the images that it takes- both photos and videos.
The problem with it is that it is bulky and heavy to bring in your backpack. So, it can be used only in a certain type of journey. Another problem is that it is not allowed everywhere. Some countries ban it from use, while other countries just restrict it in some areas.
Transportation and logistics
In general, this is your “special packing list”. As you can see, there are so many things to bring. If you go on a short trip, it is easy- you just bring only the necessary things for this particular route, and that’s enough. But what if you go on a long expedition? And especially, what if this expedition is combined, including hiking, biking, diving, sailing, and climbing, in various geographical zones and landscapes? It’s impossible to bring all of the gear mentioned above, especially if you go solo. But even if you go with a partner, or in a group, in most cases, it would be difficult to bring everything.
There are various ways to resolve this problem, but you need to involve transportation and logistics. And for more complex expeditions, you need other people for help. Let’s say you want to cross a continent. One part of your route you want to pass by bike, then- by hiking on rugged mountains, and then- to descend by canoe or kayak on a river to the sea coast. In this case, you have to travel by bike to a certain spot on your route. From there, you don’t need a bike, but you would need some mountaineering equipment, so you can send your bike by post to your home.
Then, you cross the mountains and reach the river. At a certain point, you would need a kayak to wait for you, let’s say- arranged by your friend. From this point, you don’t need the mountaineering equipment anymore, so your friend helps you to send them home too.
Traveling in a group expedition is easier since such expeditions usually involve porters and transportation. Yes, you need to pay for this, but if the group is larger, the price can be easily shared between the participants.
Just remember: don’t bring more, and don’t bring fewer things for your trip, or a particular part of your trip! Arrange transportation, arrange friends, but don’t bring things that you would not use! Just be smart in preparing your luggage and the whole logistics of your trip! The rest is experience, skills, and finally- joy and pleasure.
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