EDITOR'S NOTE: Grayson Parker took a trip to Ireland recently and he wrote something of a gear-centric travel log. Grayson's writing is great and his taste in gear is equally good. Enjoy and thanks Grayson.
Travel can be stressful on anyone, but read around on gear-related forums and you’ll see a particular dread for it. As a community, we value being prepared, and that impulse naturally kicks into overdrive traveling to an unknown land. When the TSA or foreign law forces us to abandon that approach, it can cause a fair amount of distress.
I’ve just returned from a short trip to Ireland. After adjusting for some flight delays, we had four and a half days to see as much of the country as we could. We did all of the typical tourist kitsch: explored castles and pubs in equal measure, panicked at driving on the left side of the road, and ate more meat products than doctors recommend. (Black pudding is delicious, by the way). But this isn’t a travel journal, so I won’t go on about what we did. I will say that Ireland is a lovely country with delicious food and excellent beer, and leave it at that. What I want to do here is detail my travel experiences as a gear geek abroad.
This article will go over what worked and what didn’t during the trip. Before anyone asks, no, I didn’t bring (or need) a knife during the trip. Like much of Europe, Ireland’s knife laws are tied to intent. If you have a knife out in public, you can be charged by the Garda unless you can demonstrate that you have a good reason. As such, I thought it prudent to leave my sharps behind. It didn’t seem worth it, and I’d have to check my bag to do so.
What I’m glad I brought
Fear not, I won’t go through every item I packed into my trusty Synapse 25. I’d have you snoring at the minutiae in seconds. Instead, I’ll just touch on some of the particulars. What kept me occupied (at the expense of my family’s sanity) over the trip was my Ti2 Design Techliner Shorty. I’ve tried to transition away from fidgeting with knives, and the Techliner has been the nicotine patch to my cigarette. I also spent a fair amount of the flight writing review notes, and the Techliner did well in that role.
Most of our nights were spent in B&Bs in the Irish countryside, and twice we walked back from dinner at the local pub after dark. Here, my Zebralight H52w was quite handy. As a travel light, I can’t recommend it enough. It takes a common battery, functions as a headlamp, and boasts excellent performance. In the event it's lost, the H52w is cheap enough that replacement isn’t a burden.
In my review of the Zebralight H52w, I noted that the user interface was a bit complex, but registered no real complaints. That assessment may need to change. While the plane was preparing to disembark, I was removing the accumulated crud from my pockets, and in the process handed the light to my girlfriend, who accidentally turned it on. In her efforts to turn it off, she activated the strobe feature. I turned it off quickly enough that I don’t think anyone noticed, but the last thing I need on an eight hour flight is the flight marshal wondering where the strobe light came from.
As an afterthought, I threw my Tru-Nord brass compass in my backpack, and I’m glad I did. It wasn’t used for navigation - the roads were difficult enough to manage with GPS - but it was nice to have on the flight. With it, I could roughly figure how far along the flight was by the direction of the plane.
What I wish I brought
One of the biggest challenges during the trip was keeping my smartphone charged, as mine was one of two that had service. GPS was a necessity, so my battery was often drained before noon. I’m not an exceptionally good planner, and I put off buying some essentials until the day before.. What I ended up in the last-minute rush was a shitty charging cable and an overpriced battery pack. The battery pack wasn’t awful, just more expensive than it should have been, but the cable needed to be held at just the right angle to actually charge my phone. Don’t buy Belkin.
It seems like a no-brainer, but I wish I brought my Leatherman Style PS. The combination of tools it offers is small, but well suited for travel. It can handle most odd grooming needs and get you into the clamshell standing between you and whatever you forgot to pack. As it stands, I discovered that the spring on the scissors snapped a few days before we left. I looked around town for a replacement, but to no avail.
Also, my approach to clothing was completely wrong. Since the trip was so short, I thought a few simple outfits would do the trick, and that I’d just take an hour one night to wash whatever needed washing. My plan backfired. The trip was SO short that I never had the time nor the inclination to do so. I ended up spending the last day (plus the trip back) feeling rather shabby. It didn’t help that our last night was spent here:
What I wish I left behind
Sad to say, I wish I left my HALO carabiner behind.
I brought it along because I wanted a multitool I could fidget with, but I ended up stressing out so much over what airport security would think that I tossed it in a relative’s checked bag. While abroad, I never once used it. There was plenty of beer involved, but always in a pub, so the bottle opener was unnecessary. The flathead could have been used in a pinch, but such an instance never arose. Looking back, I should have avoided the headache and left it behind.
I couldn’t pretend to have a feel for the gear culture (or lack thereof) in Ireland. I did jot down my observations, however, so take them as you will.
1. I saw one man using a SAK to prepare a picnic lunch in the town square at Cashel. No one seemed to mind.
2. There was not a pocket clip in sight, and I tend to notice such things.
3. I found three stores selling Swiss Army Knives, and one selling Leatherman. These stores sold either sporting goods or gifts for men (their branding, not mine).
4. Coors Light is on tap at Irish pubs. This isn’t gear related. I’m just disappointed that shitty beer made it across the pond.
5. Hamilton watches are sold in the Dublin airport. I was sorely tempted.
6. No snakes.