The Best Gear for Flashpackers

Megan Lee

The way you traveled in your younger years: Hanging out at McDonalds (without buying anything) in between transit and scouring free wifi from outside of Starbucks. When you weren’t sleeping in hostel dorms, you were taking overnight buses or trains to save money on lodging. You only ate local foods and only booked economy seats. 

The way you travel now: Booking a double room ensuite, you’re optimizing travel arrival and departure times to coincide with check in times. While you’re eating mostly local you’ll make a regular splurge on freshly pulled Americanos. Gone are the multi-hour bus rides in favor of local flights.

My travel-loving friend, you have evolved. This isn’t the hyper-budget travel of your late teens or early twenties. With a bit more disposable income in your pocket, you aren’t afraid to spend it—especially when comfort is on the line.

Traveling with smartphone on hand, and probably your laptop too, you’re blending work and travel. Having learned the hard way, you now invest in high-quality gear that will last; instead of praying to the travel gods that your Walmart straps won’t give out mid-trip. You’re not afraid to pack your own coffee gear when traveling in China, or Central America, or to any other region that doesn’t take your beans seriously. (We see you, and we get you. This portable AeroPress is a godsend!)

Like your backpack, your travel style has changed and you’re joining the new era of savvy travelers, flashpackers.

What is a Flashpacker, Anyway?

Tortuga all-star Jessie Beck describes the “flashpacker” like this:

“…A flashpacker is a backpacker with a slightly larger budget. Someone who still travels with a backpack, is budget-conscious, and travels independently, but at the same time is willing to spend a little more on comfort, or to make the best use of their time.

Flashpackers tend to be a bit older, may have kids, and in most cases were probably a backpacker at some point in their early travel career. Often, but not always, they’ve already traveled around a bit.

Sometimes, they’re also known as ‘champagne backpackers.’”

In short, you might be a flashpacker if you love the budget travel lifestyle, but your “budget” is less shoe-string and more open to negotiating for comfort. Welcome! It’s a fun place to be. All of the adventure, with none of the snores from strangers or 40+ hour train rides from Njombe to Dar es Salaam.

Flashpackers need gear to match this newfound attitude towards adventure, and it needs to be the right gear. What you travel with matters, and the more you travel,  the more it matters. 

 

Flashpacker Gear

Here’s the must-have list of the the best gear for flashpackers:

Electronics 

  • Headphones
  • Laptop
  • Power Cord/Adaptor
  • Portable Power
  • Tablet/Portable Reader

Best Flashpacker Gear: Luggage

The backbone of your travel experience is your luggage. Cut corners, if you must, on other items, but it is vital that flashpackers invest in a high-quality carry on backpack. A travel backpack is your home away from home and, if the joy really is in the journey, your carry experience matters. A lot. 

Choosing the Right Travel Backpack

The bag you carry is important. You already know that, you’ve hated your wheeled suitcase, or that camping backpack, on previous trips. Like your travel style, it’s time for your luggage to evolve.

If you’re new to flashpacking or only travel occasionally, then the Setout travel backpack was specially designed, just for you. And for us too. We think it’s the “just right” backpack for urban travel.

If you travel often, combining work and pleasure, or if you crave more features and pockets to organize everything, Outbreaker is going to make packing a pleasure. Available in two sizes, to accommodate different body types and packing styles.

If you’re a digital nomad, or a minimalist, who values light travel and versatility over just about everything else, Homebase will adapt to your ever changing life and travel style.

 

Daypack

Lugging around your travel backpack every single day is not fun, or practical. A durable and stylish daypack is a must have. The Outbreaker daypack is made of waterproof sailcloth to weather any adventure and it’s the perfect size for carrying your water bottle, reusable coffee mug, tablet or laptop, an extra layer, your camera, and whatever else your day requires. Go explore.

Wet/Dry Bag

What do you do with that dirty laundry, damp swimsuit, or muddy shoes mid-trip? The Outbreaker Wet/Dry Bag is the solution to all the gross stuff on the road. This might seem like one of those “little things” you’re tempted to live without, but (trust me), comfort is all about the little things. This is my favorite travel accessory. Never leave home without it.

Packing Cubes

Packing cubes might be something else you’ve grown into as your travel style has evolved. I was a skeptic too, but now I’m an enthusiast. A handy tool to keep things organized and find more space in your bag, packing cubes are some of the best gear for flashpackers. Use the big one for clothes, the smaller ones for electronics and cords, or your dry toiletries and comfort items.

Asking locals and fellow travelers for advice is something you do often, but you still like the security of having your smartphone handy to answer questions on the fly (or double check that advice!). Here’s what you need to make sure you’re still connected while flashpacking.

Headphones

Airplane freebies suck and, unfortunately, not everyone in the world wants to hear your episode of Brooklyn 9-9 or the latest Josh Ritter album.

Drown out the noise with the help of high-quality travel headphones. Go big and bulky with Bose Bose QuietComfort 35 Wireless headphones or sleek with Bose QuietComfort noise cancelling earbuds.  Airpods are not my first choice for travel, as they’re hard enough to keep tabs on at home.

Laptop

Planning to work while you travel? Re-think whether you really need your laptop. The iPad Pro paired with a bluetooth keyboard can be configured to meet almost all of your needs (short of industry specific tasks). And it’s more than enough for a non-work trip.

If you just want something easy, to connect you to the internet, your emails, and the Cool Dogs Group on Facebook,  you might prefer a lightweight, barebones laptop. Downsize to the Dell XPS 13 for travel. Leave your big boy at home.

Power Cord

The default power cord that came with your device does it’s job pretty well, but did you know there are products on the market that can do the same job, only better, and faster?

When there are elephants to be seen or mountains to summit, waiting around by the outlet is as major drag.

That’s why I recommend the Volts Braided Lighting Power Cord. This cord allows for two amp charging, meaning you’ll be fully-charged and having fun in no time flat. At more than six and a half feet in length, it also gives you that extra reach you need when the outlet in your hotel room is not right next to the bed. The braided outer layer will bend and flex without cracking like the plastic ones do. Annoying, right?

 

Portable Charger & Plug Adaptor

For those moments when you can’t find an outlet (or you left your adaptor in your Airbnb—d’oh!), arm yourself with a portable charger. And not the junky one you got for free at the last conference you attended. Invest in a durable, long-lasting external battery and power bank for traveling. The RAVPower’s 22000mAh Battery Pack is a good one.

Adaptors can usually be found inexpensively once you arrive.  If you’d rather not gamble, the Zendure Passport Global Travel Adapter will be your plug BFF.

Portable E-Reader

Books can be heavy and bulky, but they’re important travel companions nonetheless. Instead of squinting at your smartphone, pack an e-reader. 

If you’re traveling with an iPad as your laptop substitute then be sure you’ve got the Kindle app so that your books transfer seamlessly and you only need to carry one device.

If you aren’t traveling with a tablet, then Kindle’s Paperwhite is affordable, compact, and doesn’t use the light that hurts your eyes. The read experience is very similar to paper, only you can carry hundreds of books wherever you go! 

Flashpacking Gear: Clothing

While you don’t need to look your absolute best during your flashpacking experience, you don’t want to wear tattered t shirts and hole-y socks, either.  Savvy flashpackers often develop capsule wardrobes to make crafting their look on the road easy while streamlining the packing experience.

What kind of clothing travels well and packs light? Keep reading for the basics of a flashpacker wardrobe.

Women’s Clothing

If you’ve read our guide to Travel Fashion Without a Wardrobe Revamp, but still want a couple new items to toss into your pack, you’re in the right place.

Most flashpackers recommend a go-to scarf, so pack your favorite, or go new with the Lululemon Vinyasa Scarf. Class it up—but stay comfy—with the Athleta Criss Cross Sweater Dress (my favorite planewear). Get a nice pair of travel pants (I recently bought two pairs of Prana’s Halle pant) and never forget how adorable and “layer friendly” a striped top can be.

Here’s some help on building travel capsule wardrobe for women, if you want to try it out.

Men’s Clothing

Calling all dapper dudes! Here are the upgrades to your flashpacker wardrobe. Be sure to pack a wrinkle-free dress shirt (Yes, wrinkle free! Woot!).  

Bluffworks travel shirt (coming soon) is sure to be a favorite of the Tortuga guys, they’re big fans of the pants.

A reversible belt adds versatility, and it’s not as dorky as it sounds.

Pack a pair of dark denim jeans which can do double duty as casual or fancy—if the material stretches, you don’t have to feel guilty about ordering that giant steak. Make sure your undershirts are built to work, because travel days run hot as often as cold. And repeat after me: Black. Socks.

 

Workouts On the Road

Instead of focusing on specific items for this flashpacker gear guide, let me recommend my favorite brands for travel workout clothing.

Without fail, Patagonia and Nike create top notch workout gear. Look here for base layers, outer shells, running socks (I like Bombas), shorts, yoga pants, and more. Lululemon is also worth a look. And, if you’re not namebrand focused, consider REI Coop’s workout gear. 

Plan to pack two full-on workout outfits. Workout gear isn’t one of those things you generally wear twice. Sweat much? One to wear, one to wash and air dry. Boom.

Footwear

When you embark on your great flashpacking adventure, be prepared from your head to your… toes! You might be tempted to pack a pair of shoes for every possible experience, but all you really need is one pair of high quality, durable, comfortable shoes. Ideally, these would be built to survive any weather you might encounter, be useful in multiple circumstances, and look (at least a little) stylish.

For men in winter, I recommend the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Hiking Boots. For women in winter, try Sorel Slimpack II Lace Winter Boots. Planning to have more fun in the sun? Men should consider Merrell Chameleon 4, and the ladies might like Ahnu Montara II Waterproof Hiking Shoes. If you prefer adventure sandals, I fangirl hard for Chacos.

TL;DR

Flashpacking:  Backpacking, but with a healthy dose of luxury and some cool hardware you didn’t have when you started out. Don’t feel ashamed as you fly from Zagreb to Split instead of hitting the bus like you would have years ago. Own it. Enjoy every second.

Your travel style has evolved, so should the way you pack and the gear you travel with. Bookmark the best gear for flashpackers then grab your passport and go!

  • Choosing the right travel backpack is important
  • Streamline your electronics
  • Build a capsule wardrobe