A Travel Gear Review

During our recent trip to Mexico, we used some new travel gear and some old travel gear. I’ve had a few people ask how we made our trip easier and what we thought of the things we brought with. So here’s a quick review of the stuff we utilized!

The Camera: Nikon Coolpix AW130

When we aren’t traveling in a vehicle, and we know we’ll be encountering some water activities, we travel with our Nikon Coolpix AW130.


It is waterproof and shockproof, which means we can take it on some pretty wonderful adventures. And it takes surprisingly awesome photos!


Both in water and out of water.


Not to mention the perk of being able to take videos.

A couple of years ago, our friends Ali and Jared gave us the attachable handle that screws into the bottom — not only does it float but it is a game changer for making steadier underwater videos.

One thing to keep in mind with this camera: you need to care for it properly. This is our second one for a reason. While it is amazing, it is possible to get water in the battery chamber if you aren’t careful. It must be rinsed in freshwater after each use and laid out to dry. And it comes with a little brush that should be used to wipe around the edges of the chamber to allow it to properly seal. I would highly recommend this camera if you are looking for a water-friendly addition!

The Backpack: Osprey Tempest 20

We’ve been using our backpack for years for everything from day hikes to weekend trips. And we love it.


The abuse this thing has endured is incredible. Though the fit of it is designed more for my body, Andy finds it to be really comfortable, as well, and he can hike all day with it on his back. It has a compartment to fit a water bladder, though we have yet to use it. But the numerous pockets, ties, and quick-dry material have all been perfect. We’ve probably had it for about 5 years, and it’s still holding strong aside from one broken clip.

The Snorkel Gear: Aqua Lung Trek Kit

We’ve had our snorkel gear since our first trip to Hawaii in 2013. We opted for a trek kit that included shorter fins for ease of travel. We’ve used our kit in several places: Oahu, Maui, California, and most recently in Mexico.


For our most recent trip, we opted to leave our fins at home. Though they are small and pack easily, we wanted to travel even lighter than normal. We paid less than $80 for the kit, and I’d say we’ve definitely gotten our money out of it. The only money we’ve put into it is an upgraded snorkel for me after I lost my original one in some rough waters in Hawaii.

The Waterproof Bag: Surfun Dry Bag

We’ve had our dry bag ever since we got our kayak, maybe before. I’m pretty sure it was a random Amazon purchase that ended up being pretty great.

While we normally use it when kayaking, we brought it with us to Mexico so that we could go out for a day of snorkeling, carry our stuff with us, and keep it dry. We actually wrapped everything up in the bag and snorkeled with the bag attached to me. Nothing got wet, including my phone!


If you are looking for something really lightweight that folds up small, I’d probably go with one by Sea To Summit. This one is a little bulkier than others on the market, but we’ve been happy enough with it to not replace it. When it eventually dies, we’ll probably go with one that’s lighter weight. But after having it for a few years, I have to say that it has been a pretty smart purchase on our part.

Now we get into the newer stuff…

The Compression Cubes: Well Traveled

I bought our first set of compression cubes off Amazon, made by a company called Well Traveled. They had mixed reviews online, but I wanted to try them for our last trip to California. We’ve used them three times total, so far, and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to not using packing cubes — they’re a game changer.


While these are nice and have held up so far, the material is rather fragile, and I am worried sometimes that I am going to bust a seam at the zipper when compressing. It hasn’t happened yet, but I can tell it will eventually. I bought them to try the idea out before investing in the ones I really want, which are made by Eagle Creek. Those are definitely on my Christmas list!

I’d say these ones are great for light travel if you’re not looking to spend a lot of money for a set of them. Perfect for seeing if you like the idea!

The Footwear: Ecco and Teva Sandals 

Since we weren’t bringing our fins with for snorkeling, Andy and I both wanted sandals that would stay securely on our feet so that we could swim with them on and feel comfortable.


I ordered my Tevas before we found his sandals, and while I do like them, I wish I had gone with some Eccos — the arch support is better for me, and they felt more secure on my feet when I tried the women’s version (although I think the Tevas look a bit more feminine and could probably pair with a skirt better). But I’m getting Eccos once my Tevas have kicked it.

I will say, they both did well during our hikes and while snorkeling in them.

The Travel Towel: REI Co-op Multi-Towel Lite

Mexico was the first trip where we opted to bring a travel towel, so this is the first purchase of one that we’ve made. Since we wanted to carry all our gear in the dry bag for our water days, we needed something small. So, we opted for this travel towel by REI.


It’s super lightweight, packs up small, and has a very soft, microfiber-feel to it. We bought a large, and it worked well to dry both of us off after getting out of the water. We’ll probably end up getting a second one for our backpacking trip.

The Clothing: Patagonia, Kuhl, and O’Neill

Since we were packing light for our trip and wanted something that would dry quickly and protect us from the sun, we picked up a few pieces of clothing to add to our wardrobe.

The first was a set of UPF shirts.


I bought a long-sleeve Patagonia Capliene Cool shirt, UPF 50. It is lightweight and dries very quickly. I actually washed it in the sink in our hotel, and it was dry in just a couple of hours, ready for me to wear again.

We didn’t want to have to slather on as much sunscreen, especially since we’d be in areas with reefs and swimming in cenotes (which often do not allow sunscreen). This was our method for protecting ourselves from the intense sunlight — and it worked. Very well!

Andy picked up a similar shirt made by O’Neill. Though it worked well in Mexico, and he appreciated having it, he noticed that it has a little bit of an odor to it. We’re not sure if that’s from the UPF protectant in it or what. Either way, I ended up getting him a similar shirt made by Columbia that does not have that strange smell.

I also opted to get a pair of quick-dry shorts. I decided to go with the Kuhl Horizn shorts, which had a ton of pockets and dried really quickly, even in the humid weather.

The Sunscreen: Thinksport

Because we’d be in sensitive waters, and because traditional sunscreens can damage reefs, we looked for a sunscreen that did not utilize the chemicals that cause problems. We went with Thinksport, which is free of avobenzone and oxybenzone.

It worked well — no sunburns! It goes on pretty thick and can be hard to rub into thicker arm or leg hair, as Andy found out. It acts more like a sun block, because instead of absorbing into the body, it sits on top of the skin.


That about wraps up the travel gear from our most recent trip! Please feel free to send any questions about the gear, why we decided to do things the way we did, or any others pertaining to travel

Cheers to the next adventure!




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