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The Sourcebook: Preparations

After trial and error, essentials for the bag

Don't leave home without these take-alongs that temper the travails of travel.

January 23, 2005|Judi Dash

I was picnicking on an East Coast mountaintop awhile back when a passing hiker joked, "Avez-vous Grey Poupon?"

To my questioner's surprise, I pulled two packets of the stuff out of my knapsack. No big deal. Spicy mustard packets are among two dozen or so items I always take on my travels.

Whether for convenience, safety or simply self-indulgence, my favorite pack-alongs give me a prepared-for-anything feeling.

Foodstuff: High-protein or high-carb energy bars stave off hunger pangs on flights or provide an energy boost during strenuous hikes. Besides mustard, I take other items, including plastic utensils; moist towelettes; a water-heating coil plus instant coffee, tea bags, sweetener; and high-fiber dry cereal and powdered milk.

Hardware: A mid-size Swiss Army knife is a must-have. I take two flashlights: a mini-light and a headlamp for night-time reading or walking. Extra batteries, up to 16 for a long trip. And two small combination padlocks so that I never panic over a lost key.

Foul-weather gear: My hooded nylon windbreaker folds into its own zippered pocket. I take a small umbrella, but a wide-brimmed rain hat that ties under the chin is better when the wind kicks up. I also take a water-resistant point-and-shoot camera for when the weather is too wet to risk damaging more expensive gear.

Baggage: A bottle carrier with shoulder/hip strap keeps water at hand on hikes or city walks. I find hip-hugging fanny packs more comfortable and more secure than knapsacks. I also pack an empty duffel bag to bring home sturdier purchases (and bubble wrap for fragile ones) and a zippered thermal sack to keep food or film cool.

Medical supplies: My personal first-aid kit includes an elastic bandage for sprains, throat lozenges, decongestant spray and an antibiotic (prescribed by my doctor) for serious stomach problems caused by contaminated food or water.

Flight comfort: An inflatable neck rest reduces strain, and airline pillowcases seldom are changed after every leg of a flight. (I take my own pillowcase for hotels of questionable cleanliness too.) I also carry a cloth eye mask for flights or bright hotel rooms. A set from www.dream sack.com contains a silk blanket, pillowcase and eye shade.

Toilet paper: Pack a nice soft roll. You just never know when you'll need it.

-- Judi Dash

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