Travel essentials

I was going to write a post about the unusual things people find useful when they’re travelling, but frankly, no one had anything interesting to say.

Thankfully, a well-travelled Frenchman introduced me to an ingenious device that I believe is the simplest, most useful piece of kit every wanderer should hoard.

Basically, it’s a portable kettle: a coil with a small piece of plastic to waterproof the wiring and prevent severe electric shock, attached to a wall plug. They come in jumbo banya-tank heating size and small cup-of-tea size.

I found mine in a Tajik bazaar and had to cellotape the plastic bit back together – there’s nothing quite like the fear of electrocution to wake you up in the morning.

Backpackers will be pricking up their ears but some of you will be thinking, “portable kettle? What would I use that for? I only stay in places with amenities italics, thank you very much.”

I defy anyone to tell me they haven’t arrived at a hotel late at night only to discover that one or more of the amenities isn’t working.

You do need a metal cup or bowl to boil your water in though, and don’t try it with the carbonated variety so common in Central Asia. Not because it’s dangerous, but because whatever you out in the water will taste foul.

The less interesting essentials (albeit, the ones that never make it onto any list) are plastic bags and shoelaces.

Plastic bags way nature’s way of keeping your dirty underwear and jandals from manky-ing up everything else in your backpack, or holding the half kilo of peanuts that took you an hour to painstakingly shell.

Shoelaces are good for everything: tying bicycles onto petrol tankers, turning travel packs into tramping packs, any number of Macgayver-style tricks. Mine are currently being a clothes line.


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