Top 10 (not so obvious) most-used gear items we brought for our five month COS (Close of Service) trip

We’ve been “on the road” for more than two months now! It’s hard to believe we finished our Peace Corps service way back in July.

There were many things we had to get done at the end of our service, and packing for our COS (close of service) trip was one of them. Packing has never been easy for me. I always pack too much!

While Josh prefers to travel as lightly as possible, I have a hard time letting go of some items. I started out with a big pack, and as we went along I realized there were many things I wasn’t using. I left those belongings in the backpacker lodge’s free boxes.

Here’s our list of the 10 best items we brought along for this five month trip, aside from the obvious items you pack right away like a good camera, backpack, sunglasses,  water bottle, clothes, scarf (bring a scarf! keeps you warm, makes me feel more dressed up), bug spray, and for us, camping items, etc. Many of the same items we packed for Peace Corps we also brought on our COS trip.

  1. Katadyn water filter – In Namibia we were very fortunate that we could drink water right from the tap (we did, however, use the filter Peace Corps gave us most of the time). For the rest of our travels the water hasn’t been safe to drink in most places, so we use this water filter to make the water clean. We have a steri-pen as well to purify water but left that with our Peace Corps daughter. Bottled water adds up in price. This has saved us a lot of money.
  2. Platypus water bladder (2.5L) – To go along with the water filter, it would be a pain to pump water multiple times a day if we only had our single water bottles. When camping we also may not be able to be near a water source for a day or two, so we fill these handy platypuses and we’re set. We found the water bladders came in handy on our many hikes during our trip, as we used them as our hydration system with attached hoses. If you’re only concerned with one bottle a day, there are products like the life straw that would work well.
  3. Waterproof stuff sack and stuff sacks – When you travel, you are often in wet places with your phone and other electronics. We’ve used this floatable waterproof stuff sack to keep our belongings safe, to soak our foot in when a sea urchin attacks and as a basin to wash clothes. Stuff sacks are a great way to keep your clothing and gear organized.
  4. Battery packThis awesome gadget was given to us by our friends Mike and Christine when they came to visit, and it’s proven extremely useful. When we are traveling places where there won’t be electricity, or if the power goes out, which happens often in Southern Africa, this is able to power up both of our iPhones and give us a few more days of use. On a whim we also brought one of these handy car chargers and have used that quite a few times on long rides to charge our phones.
  5. Plug for sink – This flat rubber stopper is great for washing clothes in the sink as well as for filtering water and it works with all size drains.stop2
  6. Chico bag – My in-laws bought me this for my birthday and it has been such a great item on the road. I use it as a stuff sack when it’s in my backpack and when we go places for the day I prefer to use it over a purse. It’s super lightweight and has two big pockets on the side for water bottles. It can easily hold a lot of items (blanket, jacket, book, food) for a day trip.

    Sportin’ my Chico bag in Deadvlei

  7. Electricity adaptor set – We’re traversing two continents and multiple countries, and each has their own plug for charging. This set is pretty small and has worked everywhere so far.
  8. Luggage locks – These little locks have given me piece of mind when we leave our stuff in a hostel locker as well as on the road. I feel like they are good deterrent for thieves. We even used them to lock the zippers of our tent a few times.
  9. Hiking boots – If you are an active traveler, good footwear is important! I wear my chacos every day and they were one of the best thing I brought to Africa, but we have also hiked a lot and my boots from home were best for this activity. Good footwear and selection can be hard to find in Africa. These were a gift from my mom before we left for Peace Corps service. Thanks, Mom!
  10. Toilet paper and antibacterial alcohol hand sanitizer – I have toilet paper stuffed in every pocket of my jackets, and I always have some in my purse. Most toilets here don’t provide tissue. You never know when you might want to wash your hands, and it’s not always easy to find running water and soap in the same place. It’s important to stay as clean as possible on the road so you don’t get sick and ruin travel days!

Best Luxury Items: How you travel is a personal decision, and many of the items we brought above might be considered very luxurious to some. But in addition to the above, I love and consider my travel yoga mat that I use many days to be a luxury item I’m glad I brought. Working out and doing yoga is important to me, and it’s nice to have a cushion to protect me from the sand or dirt. I also brought my Asus transformer laptop. It’s great for travel – small and light. It serves as my entertainment (Kindle) and I play all my workout videos on there. It also allows us to easily update the blog.

As a side note, I’d bring as much crisp, new U.S. dollars as you’re willing to travel with. I cannot believe how many places have taken U.S. dollars as payment and it has helped us quite a lot when we’ve run out of local currency (ATMs not working has unfortunately been common on our travels!!). Cash is king!

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