Travel Writer Gear Guide

Words by Aaron Gerry
Photos by Aaron Gerry

As a travel writer and climber I’m often on the go. The transient life can be disorienting, so I take a few key items along to stay grounded and on top of the assignment, wherever that may be.

What’s in the kit? A trusty bag, plenty of journals, a coffee mug that keeps the juice hot, and a camera lens. Simple and tidy.

Hark, a feather, a quill, a tale! A few weeks back I was on assignment in Northampton, MA, a wee college town in the western part of the state. The former home of Sylvia Plath is flush with galleries, more used bookstores than you can shake a crinkled bill at, two too many gemstone shops, and cafes. Lots. Care for coffee, art, and quaint post-industrial towns? Consider this a cordial invitation to the Happy Valley.

The day trip was a success and the reportage smooth thanks to me goods. If you’re planning your own writing or creative getaway, here are a few gear suggestions to help make your clips fit for a feature.

 

Filson Dryden Briefcase

In the spirit of fast and light, I don’t like to carry more than necessary. Still, I need a bag that can fit it all the goods with ease and comfort. And it doesn’t hurt to stir the eye too.

The Filson Dryden Briefcase is big enough for the essentials, with space for climbing shoes and a change of clothes. There are plenty of sleeves, pouches, and pen holders to keep everything sorted, and the large front pockets are perfect for over-ear headphones, a mic, and other quick-access items. The whiskey brown canvas and English bridle leather offers a surprisingly clean look that is more aesthetically appealing than a backpack or duffel.

 

Field Notes Pitch Black

You’d think journals would be an easy thing to get right. “It’s just a bunch of white paper bound in a booklet!,” you say. Nay.

Field Notes makes simple, unadorned journals with crisp white paper that’s just this side of thick. They fit in back pockets and have tough enough covers for everyday wear. These make great complements to larger hardbound journals since they are sized for quick note scratching in the field.

A friend and seasoned writer once offered some advice: “I’ve learned to document as much as possible from any trip, from notes, audio recordings of interviews and presentations, photos of everything from menus to interpretive signs and contact information for everyone I meet. It’s paid off many times when suddenly an opportunity arises long after I’ve taken a trip.”

Take a Field Notes journal when you hit the street and never miss a beat.

 

Deus Ex Machina Delta Beanie

Maybe it’s a swaddling thing, but this cap’s puts me at ease. The blend of wool and acrylic makes it soft as a blankie, and warm as toast. So far it’s holding up well in shoulder seasons and cuts out some of the wind that’s blowing from the north. The spruce green and wide ribs stand out from the typical knit caps in blue, black, and red. Consider this a creature comfort.

 

YETI Rambler 14oz Mug

This over-engineered rambling mug keeps the coffee juuuuust right.

I’d been looking for a standalone tumbler because the water bottle-cum-coffee-cup wasn’t cutting it. No matter how much you clean that jug the coffee taste lingers. I want my water watery, and my coffee coffeey, damn it!

The YETI Rambler is made of stainless steel, is double-walled, and vacuum-insulated to keep the drip hotter for longer. The ceramic cups at cafes always go cold too fast, while my water bottle unnecessarily maintains a piping hot temperature for 12 hours. Yeesh.

Bonus points for taking this camping as it can be used for morning oatmeal or evening chili.

 

Side-by-side: Without the Wide Lens (left) and with the Wide Lens (right)

Moment Photo Case + Wide Lens

Did I mention I like to pack light?

I already carry my phone everywhere, for better or worse (mostly worse), so having a way to upgrade my photo taking capabilities without lugging around a DSLR is music to my ears. The Moment Wide Lens adds scope to your shot, verging on fisheye, which gives dimension and depth to your shots. The lens is about an inch cubed, twists on and off, and comes in its own baggie for easy storage.

 

The rest

With all that space in the Dryden Briefcase you didn’t think that’s all I took. Did you? Nahhh.

Other items on the person include an ambrosiac flask, because I wouldn’t be doing my aesthetic duty as a writer otherwise. Maybe? Games. You need something for the downtimes and books don’t always cut it. Cribbage, anyone?

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