Traversing the Sahara desert, getting lost (in a good way) in the Amazon rainforest, sailing Alaskan waterways… adventure travel satisfies our itch to explore this wonderful world. But there’s a lot of preparation that leads up to embarking on an epic journey. So we’re sharing insights and tips from three adventure travel experts to help combat some of the confusion when it comes to packing for and planning the journey of a lifetime.
Adventure travel comes in all shapes and sizes, from Costa Rica to the North Pole; some gear is more equipped to handle the journey than others. Our experts weighed in on their most popular adventure destinations and an essential piece of gear that pairs great with the voyage.
Melissa Becker from Travel Leaders easily determined Costa Rica as her most popular adventure option, but picking one piece of gear wasn’t as simple. “The most essential item is sunscreen, and bug spray… and good walking shoes. I can’t pick just one thing!”
Certified travel specialist, Kim Steiger, also from Travel Leaders, books lots of trips with a hiking and/or biking focus. “I am so excited to see more clients circling back to experiencing nature and the beauty of a country,” said Steiger. “In both cases a good backpack with a refillable water bottle is essential. Guides will carry the necessary gear.”
Traci Murdock, advisor for ADTRAV, an agency that specializes in adventure travel, notes that many adventurous travelers enjoy escaping to remote locations such as Antarctica or the Galapagos Islands but can sometimes miss the details. “It may seem simple, but people tend to forget to pack the little things so we like to remind them to bring items like water bottles, sunscreen and ponchos,” said Murdock.
Between checked baggage, carry-ons and backpacking gear, packing for adventure can be overwhelming. We asked the experts just how many bags travelers really need for adventure travel and it mostly came down to the length of the journey. However, everyone was in agreement that less is always more.
“You should be able to pack less than you would for a traditional Caribbean cruise,” said Becker. “Stick to one checked bag and one carry-on.” Steiger echoes that idea, stating that she’s seen clients travel with nothing more than a large backpack for a week’s worth of travel.
To help travelers keep it light, Murdock likes to remind clients that they might be required to carry whatever they pack. “Finding a lightweight, weather-resistant backpack is a great option if you’re going hiking,” said Murdock. “If you’re going on a trip where you have a single place to sleep every night, I would suggest no more than two carry-ons if needed and one checked bag. And be sure to roll your clothes!”
To avoid an adventure fail, our experts warn their clients not to forget these five essential items:
Sandals versus sneakers, are all adventure shoes created equal? Our experts responded with an overwhelming no!
“Regardless of what you are doing, you need footwear that is supportive and can take on multiple surface types,” said Murdock. “If you are going to be in areas with a lot of brush, high grasses, etc., stick to closed-toed options. If your adventure is keeping you in mostly paved and ‘clear’ areas you could consider sandals but make sure they are supportive and won’t slip off easily. An additional factor to consider is the climate.”
Not to mention the creepy crawlies. “I have found when hiking, especially in densely wooded areas, that I like sneakers or hiking shoes better as they keep the bugs at bay and protect the toes from unforeseen objects,” said Steiger.
Seeing how easy it is to over pack for such an expedition, we wanted to know what travelers commonly pack for adventure travel that experts know they’ll never use.
Unless you’re going on a safari, you probably don’t need to bring your binoculars. “They are big, heavy, bulky and cumbersome and travelers don’t usually think to use them,” said Becker.
Steiger is hopeful that her clients won’t need a flint and steel fire starter. “If you’re going on an unguided hiking or biking adventure, you could run into an issue that may allow for the use of these tools, but with the use of a guide the chances are very slim.”
And Murdock knows outdoor accessories can be travelers’ Achilles heel, “Have you been in an outdoor supply store lately? There are so many cool gadgets but most people don’t really need them all. I would say pack lightly on items like cookware, toiletries and outerwear. People always want a jacket for every possible weather situation but I suggest having a light jacket that will keep you warm and some sort of rain protection and you are good to go.”