Tuesday, December 16, 2014

19 Brilliant Gifts for the World Traveller in Your Life

"But where would I PUT it?" This phrase has frustrated the family and friends of many a lifestyle traveller. We love the thought, but non-portable objects will end up untouched in storage lockers and parent's attics. We DO like getting presents, so here is a list of 21 absolutely brilliant gift ideas that the world traveller in your life will love, use, and carry everywhere.

1.) The Anti-Kidnapping Band

For all you parents out there that are terrified of your travelling kid being kidnapped, this is the most practical thing we’ve ever seen. Even if the chances of getting kidnapped are pretty low in reality, this anti-kidnapping band gives a +10 stealth bonus to all rogues and makes anyone feel like James Bond. It has the non-metal, non-detectable means to escape from duct tape, zip ties, and handcuffs and fits unobtrusively on any watch band. Extensive instructions on the website. It’s bloody genius. We both want them.

$25 for the band only on gearward.com. Watch not included.

2.) A Tiny Convertible Laptop

We are writing this post from our Asus Transformer T100s. A super lightweight, detatchable, tablet-laptop hybrid is far and away the most useful upgrade to our wandering lifestyles we have ever made. For comparison, that’s Jerry’s old Dell Latitude to the left. There are many higher end ones on the market, so go as big your own budget and desires, but what makes this one awesome: 1. It’s a real laptop: full windows 8.1 and can run photoshop. 2. It has all the travel perks of a tablet: 10 hour battery life and weighs 1.2 pounds. 3. It’s $265. Guys. That’s CHEAPER THAN A PHONE.

$265 for the Asus Transformer T100 on amazon.com.

3.) A Kindle Fire and Amazon Unlimited

Laura is a big fan of real paper books, and there is definitely a hardcover of Borges’ complete essays bundling around the world with us… but even she has to admit, the kindle is a hell of a lot lighter. Our kindle fire was a present from Jerry’s brother two years ago, and it’s one of the most used items of our trip. It has a battery life of multiple days, a less eye-straining screen, and a book-like size that’s easy to hold. The $10 all-you-can-read deal is of Kindle Unlimited is pretty awesome for people spending a lot of time on trains and buses, and can be gifted long-distance, for the traveller already on the road.

$59-219 for the kindle, depending on the model, on amazon.com.
$10/month for kinde unlimited amazon.com.

4.) Bluetooth Speakers

This isn’t strictly necessary, but it really improves quality of life. Every hotel room becomes your own private party and every tub your own spa. For budget travellers using wwoof or workaway, it’s really motivating to have music while you scrub kitchens and rehab buildings. Jerry’s brother knocked it out of the park again last Christmas with a Big Jambox by jawbone, which is powerful enough to be heard across a field with a mechanical harvester going at the same time. It's 2.5lbs and 10 inches long, works wirelessly with any smartphone and also has a battery life measured in days. The Mini Jambox comes in candy colors and is good for smaller backpacks at 9 oz and 6 inches long, and for super tight budgets there's the Bright Ideas Now version is 2oz and only 60mm across. There are many on the market, but be aware that many cheap versions are of questionable quality. The Jambox series is fantastic, for all others read reviews first.

$11 for the Bright Ideas Now on amazon.com.
$99 for the Mini Jambox on jawbone.com.
$299 for the Big Jambox on jawbone.com.

5.) Camping Towels

It’s in the hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy: don’t forget your towel. Many budget hotels and some workaways don’t provide them, even though we consistently book private double rooms, not dorms, campgrounds, or “you can crash on the floor with a sleeping bag” type scenarios. There’s also inevitably going to be some spill-on-your-lap-when-trying-to-drink-coffee-on-a-bus situation. Even if the wanderer in your life isn’t a true backpacker or camper, a towel is useful, and a camping towel is made of microfiber, which is smaller, lighter, and dries quickly, thus avoiding mold when shoved back into the luggage. It feels more like a shamwow than a towel, but it gets to job done. We have conventional towels this trip, and definitely plan to upgrade before the next one.

$8-20, many sizes and colours available on amazon.com.

6.) Therapik Mosquito Bite Reliever

Venom is heat sensitive, and this brilliant little gadget destroys it, getting rid of the sting from most forms of bug bite. We haven’t been anywhere that is particularly mosquito prone this year, but this is a godsend for campers… and pretty much anyone who lives anywhere with mosquitos in the summer. Another brilliant thing we just heard of, and need to pick up when we return to the states. We need one for performing at Renn Faires.

Available at CVS, Walmart and similar.
$12 on amazon.com.

7.) Fog-Free Travel Mirror

Feather light and nigh-unbreakable, this is a brilliant idea, even if someone isn’t a camper. We’ve stayed a surprising amount of places that don’t have bathroom mirrors this year. We’ve made do with what regular cheap hand mirrors we could find, but the suction cup on the ShaveWell version would have been awful handy for things like shaving or plucking eyebrows. This also strikes us as something that would be exceedingly useful for all the bellydancers we know, who get ready in varying dressing rooms and backstage areas that are often crowded and have inadequate mirrors.

Available at Target, Walmart, and similar.
$10 on amazon.com.

8.) A wifi extender

Everyone’s stayed in that one hotel with the wifi that just doesn’t reach the room, or fades in an out. When you telecommute for a living while travelling the world, this actually can be a serious problem. We’ve taken to camping out wherever the router is, but for thirty bucks, next time we’ll spare our hunched backs and freezing fingers and just get the signal in the room. These are basically secondary routers—for the non tech savvy, that means they work with any computer/tablet/phone OS. There are many models to shops from, but if you get a headache looking at specs on electronics, this TP-Link version has great reviews, is affordable, and many people state they now get four bars instead of one.

$20 for the suggested TP-Link version on amazon.com.

9.) Resqme Car Escape Tool

Along the same lines as the anti-kidnapping band, this is another way to provide peace of mind while simultaneously feeling like an action hero. It cuts seatbelts and shatters windshields in a single punch, comes in rainbow colours, and is all of $10. Whether you've been watching too many episodes of “locked up abroad,” or just plan on visiting Milwaukee, WI (which is the human trafficking capitol of the US, to go with the beer and cheese curds) this is the perfect gift.

$10 for the Resqme Keychain Car Escape Tool on amazon.com

10.) Grenade Survival Kit

We prefer cities and don’t personally expect to have to imitate Bear Grylls anytime soon, but if someone you know is the stealth camping type, this is just about the most efficient package on the market. It’s got all the hardest tools to improvise in the wild: needle, wire, firestarter, knife, tinfoil, tinder, fishing lines, fishing hooks, weights, swivels, carabiner, and 9 ft of paracord rated for 500 lbs. Some reviewers keep it in their glove compartments in case of an inopportune breakdown.  For a few bucks and all of two ounces, why not be prepared? There are multiple versions, but the Friendly Swede's is by far the highest quality.

$15 for the Friendly Swede Grenade Survival Kit on amazon.com.

11.) 11-in-1 Survival Tool

“Survival” is a generous term in this instance… we see this as more as “really, really convenient.” It’s basically a leatherman, but the size and shape of a credit card.  It has a razor, saw blade, multiple wrenches, can and bottle openers, screwdrivers, and ruler. It won't replace an actual multi-tool for the hardcore survival enthusiast, but it's great for the less-enthusiastic girlfriend who was driving him crazy by refusing to wear utility pouches on her belt. Unlike a leatherman, it’s also $1.50. Wanting to open a beer in your hotel room is not exactly a survival emergency, but at this price and size, there is no reason everyone you know shouldn’t be getting one in their stocking.

$1.50 on amazon.com.

12.) Surgu self-setting rubber

Continuing with the really darn convenient theme, this stuff has “about 17 million uses” (according to a user review, not the producer.) It can repair broken luggage, reinforce charger cables, make holders to sort headphones and wires, create grips for tools, and pretty much anything else you can think of. It’s like three-dimensional duct tape. This is the same category as carrying our own needle and thread. It promises to be the stocking stuffer everyone gets the most use out of, travelling or otherwise.

$12 for a basic three-pack on amazon.com
$10-20 for every colour, quantity and variety on sugru.com

12.) Pocket sized sanitizing UV wand.

Anyone who knows Jerry knows what a ridiculous fan he is of sanitizing UV wands. A waste treatment plant outside Chicago started using UV sanitation instead of chlorine, and the resulting water pumped out of the plant was so clean, salmon began swimming upstream to spawn inside the plant. The area outside has become a haven for endangered wildlife that require extremely pure water to survive. In our bnb in Chicago, a full-size Zadro UV wand is how we can be sure there will never be bedbugs, lice, or other questionable things when we have so many strangers sleeping on the same beds. It also destroys pathogens, mold, mites, etc on things like secondhand couches, well-worn sneakers, and counters and cutting boards that have touched raw poultry. Travel-sized ones used to be obnoxiously expensive… until we heard just this year that CVS has them for $8. Um. Yes. First stop when we get back.

$9 on amazon.com, or now available at CVS. (!!!)

13. ) A clothesline and tiny British sock rack

We're not sure if that advice sounds out-doorsey or serial killer-esque, but you'd be surprised how a short bit of compact rope can come in handy. Not least of those reasons is that it can be used as a clothesline, the main means of drying in pretty much every country but the States. Another amazing discovery we've made are these little plastic racks with clothespins attached, used as a compact method for hanging small things like underwear and socks. They're near-impossible to find in the US, but abound at every 99p store in the UK. They're brilliant and we're totally coming back with some.

$16 in America on amazon.com (wtf America?)
99p in the UK on ebay.co.uk, or at any 99p store.

14.) Flat water bottles

This has been a total God-send to have with us no matter where we go. Even if, like us, you do most of your hiking up subway stairs, there is no kind of traveller that wouldn't benefit from a water bottle that flattens to the size and weight of a piece of paper when it's empty. There's a lot of fancy expensive ones that look like they were designed by NASA, but Jerry found ours at Dollar Tree and it hasn't started leaking from 6 months of daily use, so if you pay too much more than a buck, you might be chump. You can sanitize it by filling it with boiling water.

$4 for a BPA-free and dishwasher safe version on amazon.com, or try your neighborhood dollar store.

15.) Compact bags for groceries, laundry

You should all have a bunch of these anyway, because Bill Nye The Science Guy, Al Gore, and Roland Emmerich all tell us that the Earth is sick, and re-using your own bags for groceries makes it feel better. One travel-specific trick we’ve discovered to cut down on checked bags fees: cram our carry-ons as tight as humanly possible and wear all our coats at once, but once we get off the plane, disperse things into our extra bags to displace the weight. They also make great portable hampers to keep your smelly stuff separated from your slightly less smelly stuff.

The bigger version (pictured) comes with a tiny pocket on the corner so you wad them up and flip them inside out to make a little pod. Open, they easily fit two heavy wool winter coats, two sweaters, and our big jambox. The smaller option is the generic flat drawstring backpack that are often given away promotionally, screenprinted with sports logos.

$6 for the original workhorse bag at reuseit.com.
$7 for a flat drawstring bag at amazon.com, or widely available at dollar stores.

16.) LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

This is just the sort of thing everyone should have in case of zombie apocalypse, natural disaster, world-wide calamity, or when you're going on vacation in Mexico. The LifeStraw removes 99.99% of waterborn bacteria and protozoa parasites from 1000 litres of water without chemicals, filter changes, batteries, or moving parts. It’s the Time Magazine Invention of the Year 2005 and is used by NGOs for humanitarian relief in sub-saharan Africa, Haiti, Pakistan and South America. It only became available retail in North America after 2011, when the company was finally able to produce more than was directly needed for disaster relief. It weighs 2 oz and for everyone on you buy, one is donated to a child in a developing country. This company deserves ALL our money.

$20 for the original version at buylifestraw.com.

17.) Barbasol can safe

Remember how in Jurrassic Park, Newman hides the dinosaur embryos in the bottom of a can of Barbasol, but then it slips out of his pocket when he gets venom sprayed in his eyes and it rolls to the bottom of the hill, and back at the top of the hill Newman manages to get back into his Jeep and thinks he's safe for a second but the dilophosauras is somehow already just chilling on the passenger seat and then it cuts to the car rocking and Newman screaming but in the book it was waaay more graphic and kind of gave you nightmares when you were 11?

They actually make that Barbasol can now. Only instead of dinosaur embryos, you use it to hide stuff that's considerably less awesome, but still kind of important, like your passport and credit cards. Laura wants one in case she ever decides to screw over John Hammond.

$10 on amazon.com.

18.) SAS survival guide

We’re city people. We would be pretty useless in the wild. Learning survival techniques takes training and hard work, and you probably have to sleep outside sometimes. Luckily, there is a book written by the Chief Survival Instructor for the British Special Air Services on how to survive in a bunch of different scenarios. Pretty handy for desert islands, zombie apocalypses, and various Mad Max-esque dystopias.

$6 on amazon.com.

19.) A travel-sized spice rack

We brought a bunch of our spices with us, and it's turned out to be one of our best decisions. It's great for making cheap assortments of veggies into hearty meals and really endears us to anyone who might be hosting us. If, like us, your recipient already owns a weird international mix of spices, the empty containers are available in many sizes. If your recipient isn’t well stocked, the mobile foodie survival kit (pictured) is awfully photogenic when unwrapped as a gift, USDA organic, comes themed to different world cuisines, and supports Brooklyn Community Services.

Happy Christamahaunakwanzakah, y'all!


  1. Wow, some of these things are truly amazing. I'm seriously considering buying some, if not most of them, and I hate travel and/or sleeping anywhere that hasn't got several of those twinkly sky things.

    Great idea getting a nice little list together and thank you so much for the links, as I'm too lazy to look up where to buy stuff :)

    Hope you're still having a great time :) xx

    1. That's sort of how I felt when I saw most of these for the first time...useful no matter what. What house with a child wouldn't benefit from a UV disinfecting light? (They also make shoes un-stinky by killing the bacteria... there's a verison that is like, a rack with two prongs that you just put the shoes on and press the button instead of having to stand there holding the flip-phone thing into each shoe for 5 minutes.) And who CAN'T use 3-dimensional duct tape to fix cables chewed by cats and everything else under the sun? And the mosquito bite releiver thing... yeah, you don't need anything more than your own backyard to hate mosquito bites.

  2. Wow, guys! What a great list. I want to buy about half these things for myself right now!

  3. My brother's comment when I posted this to Facebook: "Uhm, hulLO? What about for the Worlds Traveler?"

    1. Haha, I'm glad! And I hope his travels are made more convenient by something he sees here.