Fresh from the wilds of New Zealand, I want to report in on my three favorite pieces of travelling tech – and they are not what you might expect. There’s not a battery in sight, but all three are versatile, make a huge difference, and, in their modern forms, are the result of a lot of research.
First there’s walking poles. I cannot fathom why Australians seem to fail to understand what a difference walking poles make. In Europe and in the US, poles are everywhere, but Australians seem to view them as unworthy of a true male. Well I’m here to tell you that, used properly, they make an astounding difference to a serious walk. First they provide stability: Either going up or going down they give you additional points of contact with the ground and that makes you safer – there is a reason that mountain goats have four legs. If you are carrying a pack the additional stability becomes even more important. But even on the flat, the poles share the load between your legs and your upper body, and that means you can walk further more comfortably.
Let’s face it people have been using poles and sticks while walking since the dawn of time. There has to be something to it. The modern versions are lightweight, have hardened tips for grip, and have adjustable lengths for comfort.
It doesn’t matter whether you are nine years old (as is my younger son) or 90 years old, you are mad to do any serious walking without poles. The only difference is that if you are nine, the poles also make for great entertainment value at lunchtime – light sabers anyone? The one thing my kids agree would make walking poles completely awesome is a way of joining the two poles into one Gandalf-like staff for those wizardly moments.
Peizo electric sting zapper
The South Island of New Zealand and the Milford Track in particular are known for sand-flies. They are smaller than mosquitos and, if you are not local and used to them, your body tends to react violently to their sting. We used repellent to try to keep them at bay, but they found every available bit of skin that wasn’t covered with repellent – and so we got stung. The interesting thing was we tried using a little device that uses peizo electric sparks (just like a gas-fire lighter) to zap the bites and inhibit the build up of histamine under the skin. It is the histamine that creates swelling and makes you want to scratch. We were a little dubious that it would work, but it did. More, thanks to the fact we didn’t use it properly at first, we had clear examples of it working.
When we first tried it we only did a single click/zap – it maybe helped but not much. Upon doing some research we found we should be clicking 5-8 times per bite. Doing that we found it was amazingly effective. In addition it weighed virtually nothing and was no bigger than the end of my thumb – which made carrying it a complete no-brainer.
There are lots of different brands on the market now. The one we used was Mosquito Click.
I love a clever bit of technology that does many things. It’s for that reason that I’ve long been a fan of the Swiss Army knife. My buff is a bit like that and I simply wont travel without one. It doesn’t get much more simple than a stretchy tube of material, but what I love is that that one tube has so many uses. If it’s hot it’s a great way of keeping the sun off your neck or mopping up sweat. Soak it in a stream or under a tap and it provides evaporative cooling on your neck or head.
If it’s cold it makes a great insulator at the neck. Or if, as happened to me recently I found myself on a jet-boat freezing, it can be twisted into a beanie-like hat.
Spill something and you can use it to mop things up. Find some cool-looking stones and your buff can become a bag. xxx The list is as long as your imagination – which makes a simple, lightweight bit of equipment oh so useful,
Ultimately the biggest problem is that if you have one buff you can’t do all these things simultaneously.