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Santa Barbara, Ca

I'm a full-time rambler and contract designer with as many skill sets in my quiver as there are plane tickets in my passbook. I've worked in ornamental iron, jigsaw puzzle design, bookmaking, glass engraving, and a variety of other mediums. I'm currently living out of a backpack as I trek my way around the world.

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Travel Gear Hack: Altoids Tin Survival Kit

Zak Erving

Altoids: invented so King George III wouldn't feel so crummy about losing the colonies. Also, lots of people had halitosis.

Altoids: invented so King George III wouldn't feel so crummy about losing the colonies. Also, lots of people had halitosis.

Doing stuff like traveling the world and staying in a hostel offers us a splendid vignette of the human experience. It’s sort of like freshman year at college, when everyone is meeting for the first time, eating meals together, pairing off and making out, and generally excited to be a part of something new.  

The downside? It’s a vignette of the human experience. Noise, impolite characters, and the occasional thievery are still possible—but then again, that’s the same with being anywhere in the world, right?

Regardless, airplanes, trains, and hostels are all great places to make new friends, catch up on lost sleep, and take stock (literally and metaphorically) of your situation. And sometimes, knowing a few tricks will smooth out any of the experience’s rough edges. And if you can fit those tricks into a small container, that’s even better.

Here’s a quick travel gear hack for those of us who are prone to wander. Best of all, everything fits in an Altoids tin:

As seen on TV!

As seen on TV!

Ear plugs (two pairs) & Sleeping Mask: If Murphy’s Law applies to you, you’ll encounter your fair share of constant-snorers and light-flippers when staying in a hostel. Combat this with a one-two punch of portable sensory incapacitators. Make friends by having an extra pair of ear plugs handy. (You’ll notice sleeping pills aren’t included. That’s because wine does its job well enough.)

Sewing Needles & Seam Grip: Shit happens. Gear breaks. But just because you busted a seam on an otherwise-perfect backpack, it’s inexcusable to consider throwing it out. Patch it up with a smart seam, and use the grip if the fabric is too thin or doesn’t have Ripstop® weave.

Padlock: When considering which padlock to get, keep in mind that some hostel lockers require larger hooks, rendering smaller combination/key locks useless. To combat this, bring a short length of thin steel cable (3” or less) with crimped, looped ends.

Credit Card Multi-tool: The typical card includes tools ranging from the not-so-handy (3.5-inch ruler? What in the world would you need to measure that’s smaller than 3.5 inches? Don’t answer that.) to the über-handy (bottle opener). But some variations also have wrenches, a spare pen, scissors, a flashlight, and a screwdriver (sans-vodka).

Critical Information: Passport number, driver’s license info, emergency contact, flight confirmation numbers…whatever you can think of. If one of your bags gets stolen, having this easily at hand will be indispensable those first few days spent recovering. I’ve provided one you can print out at home and use as you see fit.

Spare Credit Card: Keeping this in the Altoids tin—away from your “main stash”—is really smart. By keeping two cards completely separate from each other (ideally linked to separate accounts, too), you’re that much safer from being cleaned out in the event of a robbery.

What else can you fit into an Altoids tin? Do you have your own “survival necessities” for travel?