Setting down to talk with a nice lady at a bar, an Irish one – the bar, that is – in the town of Mendoza that’s nestled halfway up or down the Argentinian Andes, depending your perspective, I came to the realization that for more than 7 months of this wonderful year I will have been traveling; on the road and in the air. Packing and unpacking. Picking up some useless stuff and investing in some rather useful stuff. (If you seek adventure, read: Where Men Win Glory)
As such, I’ve not only gotten much better at packing my stuff, my ability to twist and morph my things to fit nicely in my bag or bags has become quite helpful, but I’ve grown increasingly discerning in what I bring and what I don’t bring.
Traveling through Italy and Scotland and South America, I’ve at least somewhat figured out what a fella needs to make the trip an awesome one. This list will hopefully help you prepare for your grand adventure, your leap into that excitement that your soul is so desperately calling for.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. – Mark Twain
A Man’s Guide to Adventure
When you’re packing for a trip, there are essentials, and there are luxuries. Sometimes the luxuries end up being essential, not only for your safety and survival, but for your mental health.
Some things on this list may seem obvious, some may come as a surprise. I won’t get them all in one foul swoop, in which case you can add your additions in the comments section, but what is to come are the things I simply refuse to travel without. They make life better and they make adventures of any form, possible.
Hopefully they’ll aid you in your thirst for adventure. Ideally they’ll help you “Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Less is Better
Though we’re going through a list of “stuff” to bring on a trip, less is always better, to some extent. You don’t want to get caught in the cold without the right great, nor in the heat with the same. There are things in this list that will make your trip a lot better. Then there are things that will help you in a pinch, and things that will allow you to be prepared for whatever comes your way.
In the end, take only what you think you need, not necessarily what you want.
P.S. (yes, before the list actually starts) I hate shopping. Can’t stand it. Online shopping also sucks because you never know the size nor the quality of what you’re buying. Huckberry, a site I’ll mention a few times in this article, provides guys with the right products and clothes and tools to kick ass. Check them out here. Sign up. It’s the only place I’ll actually “shop” now. Take a gander.
There are a few things on this list that I didn’t actually bring. I didn’t know where I would be going in Argentina, or South America for that matter, so I was somewhat unprepared. I figured I’d settle a couple things in Buenos Aires, as far as plans, and then buy them down there.
This is important because I left some of the things I needed to buy for my most recent trip to the first week I arrived because I knew they’d be a hell of a lot cheaper there then they would be in Vancouver.
And cash is one of them.
Regardless, bring as much cash as you see fit. Enough to last your entire trip, for that matter. You never know how your card will work or if your card will work, so picking up a bunch of cash before you leave is important and highly recommended.
The Kindle is a cool thing and something I’d definitely bring on travels if I wasn’t so fond of turning pages and using my books both as companions and journals.
I brought, Killing Jesus, Where Men Win Glory, and, The Greatest Salesman in the World. I bought a book by Paulo Cuelho whilst down here. Regardless of your plans, if you’re traveling on your own (and there’s no better way to travel) your books will be your best companions.
They’ll be with you on the planes and trains and in the automobiles. Bring good ones. Make room for them. They’re of the utmost importance. They’ll give you perspective, they’ll bring you into the present, and they’ll help you make the most of your travels. Trust me.
3. The Champion
When I was in Italy I bought a wonderful work bag to replace my torn and worn down one that I’d abused for years. It’s an awesome bag for work, but coming up to this trip I knew I needed something to accompany my big bag, the back-pack I’d also bought pre-trip, on my journey.
Thus, a bag named The Champion was the only fitting bag I could find. It’s perfect. It can act as a bag to carry your work stuff, along with any extras you pick up. It really is ideal, and it’s durable as hell.
Check it out here: The Champion
We did a brief interview with the guy who started the company a while ago. Also an article worth checking out: The Road to Being an Entrepreneur.
4. The Pocket Knife
Pocket knives are awesome. No matter how much you think they’re merely accessories, they aren’t, they’re about the most useful and essential thing on this list.
An added tip for self-defense: If you get into a dicey situation, don’t take the knife out and stab the fella, or you can, but be prepared to get locked up in whatever country you’re visiting. A much better use for a pocket knife when it comes to self-defense, is as follows…
When you make a fist, make it around the knife, with the knife in your palm. The weight of the knife ads a lot of weight to your punch, and weight means power. This will help you knock that sucker out, leaving him unconscious rather than yelling in pain that you stabbed him, or worse, that he pulled out a bigger knife or a gun when you pulled out yours.
Buy a pocket knife.
5. A single jacket for both mild and cold temperature.
I have a travel jacket. When I’m home I have a couple jackets that I wear depending on the season and so forth, but when traveling, there’s one I use. It’s a thin jacket with a removable layer for warmth. It’s perfect for both the cold, where I’ll add layers, and the warmth, where I’ll just wear a tee and that fine jacket.
It’s also durable as shite.
My research prior to this South America trip was lackluster and relegated almost entirely to looking up a place on Google images. I didn’t pack for the below freezing temperatures of Ushuaia, nor for Calafate, nor entirely for Brazil or the north of Argentina where I’m heading next that’s hovering around 40 degrees celsius (around 110 for you Yanks).
I did, however, pack layers, which has become invaluable. The jacket above has served me well, as has the 3 long-sleeves I brought, and the tee’s and a couple button-ups.
Adventure, in a sense, means we’re heading into a situation where we don’t entirely know the outcome. Packing for layers is one of the few ways to prepare for any outcome. Something I’ll re-iterate again throughout this article is to buy quality over quantity.
It would suck to have your jeans get holes in them or your shirts whither away. Pack one or two of every category, but pack quality.
Here are a few good options for quality layers:
7. Deer skin leather gloves.
I’ve never owned a pair of leather gloves, nor winter gloves for that matter. Every winter I’d find someone else’s gloves on my hands in the rare occasion that I actually wore gloves.
Then one day I was watching a John Wayne movie – which one, I can’t remember – but what I did remember was the fine pair of light-colored leather gloves he adorned as he sat upon his steed on the countryside of what looked like Arizona. On a whim I did some research and found an awesome company that made some high-quality yet inexpensive leather gloves.
I didn’t use them a whole lot after purchasing them as I purchased them in the summer, but when I got to the south of Argentina they became very useful.
For one, they’re durable as heck. Second, if you like horseback riding they’re perfect for that activity, keeping your hands sheltered even as the wind gusts and your ears and your nose turn a bright red. They also enable you to keep your dexterity, and they’re not going to cut or rip or tear like the cloth gloves that most other humans are wearing.
Check out the site that I got mine from, it’s simply called, Leather Gloves Online.
8. The day bag.
Rather than a work bag, on this trip I packed a little backpack large enough only for my laptop, a book, and a notebook. A little day backpack is ideal for the mini-excursions and adventures that you’re going to find yourself partaking in with relatively regular occurrence.
Get something small, with the frills. Mine has no supports nor sturdiness, it’s not needed. It actually came as an add-on to the bigger back-pack that acts as my suitcase.
9. The notebook.
What would an adventure be without the stories? What would a grand, epic trip be without documentation? What lessons can you learn without the insight that comes from writing down your thoughts and reviewing your struggles?
A notebook is vital. It’s where you make sense of what you just experienced and work through the struggles, both physical and mental, that will come from a trip where you’re constantly extending yourself, pushing yourself to become better.
10. Sun glasses.
It sounds like a no-brainer but packing sun glasses is incredibly important. For one, you never know what’s going to be available where you’re heading. So getting a good brand with high-quality lenses to protect your eyes when you’re on the road in the car you rented without insurance, trying to figure out what turn to take or if to take a turn at all.
I haven’t bought a pair of these, but a buddy of mine did. I’m still holding on to another pair I bought in Italy, but when those break or when I lose them, I’ll pick up a pair of these. They are, by far, the highest quality lenses at the lowest cost. The company has managed to find that balance, giving the client the best bang for your buck in the market of sun glasses.
11. A flask. Nay, a full flask.
You never know when you’re going to be stuck somewhere, unable to sleep, with only your book, your notebook, and your thoughts. It’s then when a couple ounces of whiskey will soothe your soul and add a nice cap to a wonderfully relaxing night.
I picked up the following flask before this trip. It’s durable. It’s relatively big. And it’s aided me on said peaceful nights, only contributing to their peacefulness. One thing to keep in mind: fill it before you travel. Pack it in the bag you’re checking. It will see you on the other side and you’ll be happy that you brought it.
Check out the flask here:
12. Day boots.
You could use your gym shoes, however, opted for a nice, light pair of durable boots. And I’m happy I did so. They’re more durable than the gym shoes and it means your gym shoes aren’t going to be full of mud or lose their shape. I picked up the Wolverine 1,000 mile boots I’ve always wanted. I didn’t save for them, I just happened upon a pair that was 75% off. They’re expensive, more expensive than I’d ever spend on any piece of clothing, however, after getting them for a fraction of the cost, and loving them, the thought of buying them at full price would at least enter my skull, for a moment.
They’re a tad expensive, but man, they last. You can feel the quality in the leather soul and the hardened heel. However, I also have a pair of Thorogood boots, another great alternative.
Here’s a solid day boot that you may fancy, just make sure they’re light and durable:
13. Hiking boots.
Waterproof and sturdy. Those are the criteria I have for my hiking boots, something I bought in Buenos Aires because of the price factor – saved about $100 buying them down there instead of in Vancouver. I went to a store in Vancouver before I left to get some advice on what to buy and the fella said he’d buy trail running shoes. I actually bought them, then took them back because they didn’t fit right, and I’m glad I did.
The pair I bought in Buenos Aires are much bigger, sturdier, and they’re water-proof, which was very important when trekking through muddied mountains still covered with snow.
A good pair of boots were possibly my best purchase outside of my pre-trip checklist. I didn’t have to worry about my feet or wetting my sox. I could just go out there and have at it. Mind you, I’ll use sneakers in the north because of the heat factor, but whilst in the south these boots were a great addition.
14. Gym shoes.
Part of adventuring is having a body that can withstand the rigors that adventuring entails. Being strong and athletic will help you go beyond what the normal human is capable of doing. Keeping up a training routine while traveling for 3 months has also helped me remain at least somewhat sane.
Pick up a pair of good running shoes before you embark on your trip. I won’t put options here for this because running shoes are such a personal thing, they need to fit your foot, and what fits your foot will likely not fit mine.
Again, invest in quality. Find a pair that will last 3 months, and that will last the hikes and runs you may force upon them if the weather gets hotter.
15. The all-purpose watch.
Don’t travel with your automatic, that timepiece you bought to celebrate a milestone. Pick up something cheaper, but not so cheap that it’ll break just when you actually need it.
Re: watches, I actually did a bit of research before I bought one for this latest trip to Argentina, with it’s mountains and trekking and ample horseback riding and adventuring, and Brazil, with its beaches. The first thing I looked for was durability, then function, then price.
It just so happened that the most durable watch also had the functions I wanted, and it was cheaper than the watch I actually went in to buy, by about 50%.
The watch is made by a Vancouver company, so loving my home-grown talent, I was happy to support, and now that I’m over two months into ownership, and it’s been beaten up more than any human should beat up a watch, I’m happy to say it’s an incredible watch.
Check it out here:
16. The Best Jeans a Man Can Buy.
I’ve had a troubled past with jeans. If you’re a fella who lifts heavy things, namely with your legs, you’ve probably experienced the same thing: crotch decay.
Every pair of jeans I’ve ever own has disintegrated in the crotch-region. As my thighs rub together the friction in the crotch area usually leads the jeans to whither away. That is, however, until I found Lumina Jeans.
They’re by far the best jeans I’ve ever had. They’ve made their way through Italy, with a ton of walking, horseback riding lessons, and hiking. They’ve been put through hell here in South America, with the trekking and horseback riding, and daily excursions, yet they haven’t wilted.
They’re awesome, awesome jeans. I won’t buy jeans any more. Just these. Words marked, promises made, they’re awesome.
Check them out here: Lumina Jeans
17. The hat.
I didn’t actually pack one because of where I was going. I figured they had better hats in Buenos Aires than they did in Vancouver, plus they’d be much cheaper.
Fortunately, I was correct in my assumption, and I picked up a wonderful, Indiana Jones-esque fedora when I got to town.
The choices for hats are 3:
- The fedora.
- The cowboy/western hat.
- The baseball cap.
Either are fine, depending on where you are, one will help you more. For myself, the hat I bought was perfect. It kept me head dry in the storms and rain and snowfall of Ushuaia and Calafate, and will keep me from burning up in Salta and Florianopolis.
Your hat will help you, and I encourage you to pick one up, but make sure you grab the right one, the hat that will help you through every climate. Sometimes the worst thing is to, even with sun glasses, have that sun blaring down on your scalp or the rain pelting your head, when freezing your ass off was very preventable.
Here are a few options:
18. Survival stuff.
For the sake of brevity, and noticing that we’re getting a wee long with this article now, we’ll lump this batch together. Of course, the survival stuff are what will allow you to push your boundaries. They’ll enable you to hike further and longer without having to worry about getting back to the safety of your hotel or apartment.
Within this group, here are a few essentials:
a. A tent.
b. A hatchet.
c. A big knife.
d. Depending on where you’re going, a gun.
e. A fishing rod.
Check out more stuff here: Survival Gear
This things will enable you to extend your stay, and they’ll keep you safe. If you’re out in the mountains of northern Canada, for example, a gun is a good idea. Here in Argentina, with their lack of dangerous wildlife, you can get by without one.
The Question to Ask When Packing
Is this essential?
Think about it. Will this item you’re questioning weigh you down or will it allow you to go beyond your comfort zone and into the realm of adventure?
Some stuff on this list may weigh you down, it’s entirely personal.
This stuff has helped me go way beyond those areas where I’m comfortable, extending myself, forcing growth and incurring grit, which is why we travel. We don’t travel simply to see another place, but to experience it. We don’t travel for a stamp on our passport, but an imprint on our soul.
Traveling shouldn’t make you arrogant, it should make you tough.
This doesn’t happen to everyone who travels, actually it’s rare, because most travel just to go, but you have to travel to extend, to force growth. Being in another place isn’t enough, you have to go beyond your comforts, beyond what you know you can do. Gear should only aid in this quest, it shouldn’t hold you back.
Dare Mighty Things.