You’re in the desert. It’s hot. Who wants to make it worse by toting around an overly heavy, busting-at-the-seams daypack?
Here’s what I stashed in my bag during a Namibia safari (clockwise from top):
Sandals: While trekking, it was vital that we wore closed-toes shoes. There are scorpions and prickly things in the desert, after all. But for the drives between destinations, it’s nice to slip into a pair of sandals.
Water bottle: Our guides were kind enough to stock refillable water bottles and large jugs of water in our vehicles, but in a dehydrating environment like a desert, you can go through water fast. I brought this super-sized water bottle with me to ensure I had a plentiful supply at my fingertips.
Flashlight: The walk back to your tent after dinner can be long, dark and tiring. A flashlight is essential.
Spare battery and memory card for my camera: Having transferred photos from my memory card to an external drive and charged batteries each night, I never actually needed to use these backups. But it was a relief to know they were there. And, of course, I had my camera, too, which I was obviously using at the time to snap this image!
Notebook: Space was at a premium in my burgeoning daypack, and I couldn’t bring along a full-sized journal. A small spiral-bound notebook took its place. I recommend one with hard sides, so the pages don’t get crumbled when you stash it away; better yet, wrap a rubber band around it to keep it tight.
Small tchotkies: When meeting locals, small gifts leads to big smiles. I made sure to stash some WWF pins and other space-saving trinkets in my daypack, to hand out to Namibians I met along the way.
Sunglasses on a strap: The strap made it much easier to take them off in a jiffy and not lose them if, for example, I saw a scene I wanted to photography and didn’t have a lot of time to get the shot. Also, I’m notorious for losing or stepping on my sunglasses when I travel—I bring three pairs!—so the strap helped prevent that.
Toiletries: I found that the essentials I needed were sunblock, insect repellent, hand santizer, handiwipes, lip baum and antihistamines. Aside from the sunblock, which I used liberally, everything else micro-sized; I replenished whatever I used each evening.
Binoculars: I fully admit that the ones I use aren’t the best pair available on the market, but I like their small size. I’m willing to make that sacrifice; others people probably beg to differ.
Painting kit: We all have one very personal “luxury” item that we can’t do without on a trip. For me, it was a travel-size watercolor painting kit.
Baseball cap: A brimmed hat is essential. I had a safari-style, fully brimmed hat as well.
Bandana: I learned the hard way that you should be wearing a bandana (or should close your window) just before you pass a car on an unpaved road, else you end up with a mouth full of dust!