25 chapters, 100,000 words, 120 illustrations
 Table of Contents
On $25 a Day or Less
Art of Travel - European and World Backpacking

Chapter 16

Possibly Essential Items

Following are proven useful items for some packs, not all.

Viscose towel
2 oz. (57 g.), $2-$10. Available under the Pack Towel brand in outdoor shops, or for half-the-money and twice-the-towel in discount stores as a product for drying cars, and also cheaply in some European grocery stores for drying dishes. Viscose is a form of rayon that absorbs ten times its weight in water, then wrings 98% dry with a few twists. I carry two or three pieces. Because they dry fast when strapped outside the pack, viscose towels don't begin to stink after a few days like a heavy, bulky, cotton bath towel.
Swiss army knife
2 oz. (57 g.) Go for a light one that still has a corkscrew, the one instrument most likely to make you a Superhero.
Folding scissors
0.5 oz. (14 g.) Very useful. Better than the ones on big Swiss Army knives.
Important for removing splinters, spines, etc. Worth the 0.25 oz. (7 g.) weight.
Author's Czech knife, folding scissors, and quality tweezers. Illustration: I find a small Swiss army knife (mine is a three-dollar but good Czech), folding scissors, and quality tweezers more useful than a bulky 28 function knife with awkward scissors and mechanically-challenged tweezers.
Duct tape
Repairs everything. Roll a few yards around a pencil. Usage note: Fold sticky side onto itself for additional contrivance. Also see Top Ten Duct Tape Applications.
0.5 oz. (14 g.), 100% cotton. For wiping eyeglasses, and as sunshield, water-activated cooling device, sling, fashion item, disguise, snot rag, etc.
Foam type, several pairs. Good for noisy hostels, hotels, discos, video buses, etc.
3 oz. (85 g.) Some developing world hotel rooms require your own. Also useful for hostel lockers and fastening your pack to an overhead rack.
A 1:250,000 scale map displays far more towns, villages, and roads than a 1:500,000. A 1:1,000,000 map shows Silva System 7 compass and 1:24,000 topographical map.only coarse detail, and is useless for venturing off the beaten path. With a finer scale map, among other things, you can see where the good hitching points are likely to be, and perhaps why where you are now, sucks.
Topographical maps (topos)
Show 1:24,000 to 1:50,000 scale, which allows skilled users to determine geographical features. All points on a line are the same elevation, more closely spaced lines indicate a steeper rise.
Topographical compass
1 oz. (28.35 g.), $10. A compass like my Silva System 7 which is used with a topographical map to triangulate position and direction. It takes knowledge, practice, and a topo map to use properly. (Most rational travel backpackers don't need either topo.)
The Mini Mag Light, 3 oz. (85 g.), $12, uses two AA batteries, produces an adequate, adjustable beam, and easily fits in a pocket. It is waterproof, made of machined aluminum, and stores an extra bulb inside. A reliable flashlight with a spare bulb is essential when night falls while still on the trail. Twist-on flashlights like this are superior to push-button types since push-buttons are always eventually engaged by inside-the-pack forces.
Flashlight headband
1 oz. (28.35 g.), $5. Velcro-closing headband that holds a 2AA flashlight. Directs light wherever you look. Convenient for reading and cooking. I leave one permanently wrapped around a Mini Mag.
Alarm watch
An inexpensive digital alarm watch doesn't attract unwanted attention. On those rare occasions when I must arise unnaturally, I fasten it around my neck with a bandanna.
Nylon cord
1/8 inch braided nylon cord.2 oz. (57 g.) Forty feet (12 m.) of 1/8 inch (3mm) braided nylon cord is all you are likely to need for clotheslines and such. It is strong, easy to work, and weighs only an ounce. Burn ends to prevent fraying. Excess is a trade item.
Magnifying glass
0.5 oz. (14 g.) Useful if interested in the natural world, or a strange creature poking from your foot.
Mini binoculars
9 oz. (250 g.) You cannot see wildlife well without them.
A long-burning candle saves batteries, and is more romantic when the lights go out, a common occurrence in developing countries. Think safety--fashion a reflector/anti-combustion stand from a can.
Emergency blanket
Aluminum emergency blanket3 oz. (85 g.), $3. A thin aluminized sheet measuring four by seven feet that reflects radiative body heat. Excellent for spending the night in a cold train station, supplementing a sleeping bag during a cold snap, or if your bus breaks down on the Silk Road. I've used and loaned them numerous times, and try to always have one in my pack.
Mini umbrella
5 oz. (140 g.) For passive resistance. Most backpackers, of course, bull their way through.
Paperback book
I suggest a travel theme or poetry. (You are likely to be experiencing too much for heavy reading.) When finished trade with another backpacker or a used book store.
For recording the stimuli overload. More at Chapter 21 Considerations.
Rubber bands
Five or ten for holding stuff together, apart, or closed.
Sewing Kit
Thread and a needle. Maybe a button.
Photo: Viscose towel and pack below Mount Taranaki, New Zealand. Pack and towel below Mt. Taranaki, NZ

Travelers' Tips

One of the the most valuable tools I have found in traveling is a simple deck of playing cards. I make cribbage boards from cardboard, napkins, and toothpicks. I've even won a few nights of accommodation, but then again I've also lost a few!  Connor, Seattle

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