Do I Need A Floating Camera Strap?

Derek Travel Gear 25 Comments


Photo credit: Joe Mabel

Have you been to an REI store lately? (For those who might not be familiar with REI, it is a large chain of outdoor recreation/sporting goods stores located throughout the US.)

Well, I went yesterday for the first time in about three years and I must say that I enjoyed myself thoroughly. The store was filled with an endless variety of very cool gadgets and travel accessories, all of which cause travelers, such as myself, to wander around wide-eyed while trying to fend off the temptation to put everything we see into our shopping basket.

Luckily, however, I am now skilled in the art of restraint, so by the time I walked out of the store some 45 minutes after I had arrived, I had spent a total of $0 dollars.

But that’s not to say that I didn’t spend the entire visit seriously contemplating the purchase of an Osprey Flapjack Laptop Pack, a portable shower, collapsible water bottle, self-inflating travel pillow, citronella wilderness soap, floating camera strap and a full towel that folds into the size of a credit card.

There were many moments during my visit when I simply wanted it all (yes, even the backpack waterproofing spray!) and at one point I even convinced myself that spending several hundred dollars was a most necessary investment.

But in the end, and I believe this has something to do with the fact that I’ve now traveled for so long without any of these things, I found myself asking the same question over and over again: Do I really need this?

I’ve always traveled with a small backpack and only a handful of belongings and have never needed anything more than that. So it was natural for me to question whether or not a travel hammock with mosquito net would really make my life any easier.

While I’m certain that some of REI’s products would be neat and fun to use, I just couldn’t bring myself to purchase anything in the end. I’d personally prefer to keep the $100, $200 or $500 that I could easily spend in an REI store and use it to extend my adventures for another month or two.

But that’s just me. And so now I must ask… What am I missing out on? I’m curious as to what REI (or similar) travel products you recommend and your thoughts on how they improve your travel experiences.

As a side note: I don’t want this post to be viewed as a negative review of REI. They are a wonderful organization that is run as a consumer-cooperative and it is always ranked as one of the best companies to work for in the US. If you are going to purchase any travel-related products, a visit to REI would be a must.

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Comments 25

  1. Dina

    I love going to REI! Where I lived in Canada, we don’t really have big traveling store like that. There’s a small-medium size one 1-2 hours away. We happened to go to US a lot half year before we left, so I visited REI bunch of times (in different cities).

    Now, I know how you feel about buying vs not buying. My shopping drive made my basket filled up easily, and Ryan helped me taking out most of the stuffs from the basket 🙂 Yeah, there are a lot of things there that look very attractive, but in the second thought, you can live without. Or, you rather live without.

    Instead of water bottle, we just reuse soft drink bottle that we occasionally buy. Banana case… for a single banana… I’m not sure how it will be useful enough for me to sacrifice precious space in my pack 🙂 Floating camera strap, I assume the camera needs to be waterproof anyway? Well, I guess I don’t remember the occasion I drop my camera to water (I always attach it to my wrist), except for my waterproof one, for fun 😀

    But I did by a lot of stuff from them (or other similar traveling store). Many of my light and quick dry clothes for example. Packing cubes and ultra light sacks, tiny quick dry towel that actually save so much space. 🙂
    .-= Dina´s last blog ..Top 3 Temples by Travelers Around the World =-.

    1. Earl

      Hey Dina – That’s an amusing image of Ryan removing the items that you just put into your basket! He’s probably saved you hundreds of dollars in the end.

      Such things as the compact, quick dry towel clearly have their uses and I can understand buying such an item, but if you were carrying around that banana holder, I’d be a bit disappointed!

    1. Earl

      I have no doubt that many baby store products would be similar in ‘usefulness’ to REI’s offerings. They look so worthwhile until you get home and realize that it was a waste of money or more hassle than you care to deal with!

      I can’t even imagine what bizarre gadgets and items you must have come across over the years. A baby wipes heater is certainly bizarre enough!

  2. Jennifer Barry

    Since you have to carry anything you buy on your trip, I’m sure that keeps your stuff to a minimum. 🙂 Other than that, another great way to keep the accumulation of stuff down is to move. We found a bunch of things we didn’t need when we were packing to move across town last year. Why pack it if you can give it away?
    .-= Jennifer Barry´s last blog ..How to Take College Classes for Free =-.

    1. Earl

      Moving certainly works. Even when I’m about to travel to a different country I always empty out my backpack completely and then donate whatever I no longer need. There is no sense it keeping anything that is just taking up space and nothing else!

  3. Jennifer Barry

    I love window shopping for all that fancy gear too. 🙂 Then I think about losing it, or finding a place in my house for it, and I generally skip buying anything. My husband and I have scaled down to a smaller apartment and we are slowly going through our stuff and making a pile of things we aren’t using. There are quite a few local charities who are grateful for them!
    .-= Jennifer Barry´s last blog ..Eat Locally, Wherever You Are =-.

    1. Earl

      That’s always a great idea Jennifer! Donating to charity is the best possible way to get rid of the excess ‘stuff’ that we collect over time and which we no longer need.

      And to me, one of the best things about how I travel, is that I don’t have to worry much about my belongings. Apart from my laptop, I wouldn’t be too bothered if anything else went missing, or if all of it went missing for that matter. If I added a bunch of nifty (and expensive) gadgets, I’d sure be worrying a lot more often as well. But like you said, it doesn’t hurt to do some window shopping every now and then!

  4. floreta

    I love REI’s look and branding! I saw that they even have travel adventure tours you can join but they’re very expensive 😀 It’s definitely the type of travel experience I would prefer though. But, as far as travel accessories/necessities go, I am a minimalist myself. I always think it’s ironic that, at least if you look at REI products, it seems you need to spend alot/be pretty well off economically in order to do bare minimum travel (aka backpacking). the backpacks are EXPENSIVE!! and with all the travel gear, special quick dry pants, insulated clothing, quality hiking shoes, etc. you’ll start to think this outdoor/minimalist/travel lifestyle is going to put a hole in your wallet!
    .-= floreta´s last blog ..Learning Compassion =-.

    1. Earl

      Hey Floreta – There is no doubt that REI’s products are a little pricey and I think their strength is in creating ‘needs’ instead of fulfilling actual ‘needs’. For example, a nifty-looking, unbreakable, self-cooling water bottle seemed worth the $35 investment until I realized that I normally just buy one plastic water bottle upon landing in a country and then re-fill it over and over again throughout my stay. And that system works perfectly, so why worry about losing a $35 bottle? The same goes for most of the items I found in the store.

      And I didn’t even know that REI offered travel adventure tours as well, although I’m not surprised that they are quite expensive!

  5. Andi

    Great decision on your part!!! I’m moving tomorrow and just spent the last 3 hours boxing up stuff and feeling disgusted that I have some many “things.” As soon as I get settled into my new place I’m either donating or selling a ton. Another travel store I adore is Flight001. Have you seen it?
    .-= Andi´s last blog ..India: Day 5 (Part 3) =-.

    1. Earl

      Hey Andi – Is Flight001 the shop that sells all of the things that airline passengers leave behind uncollected? I have a good friend from Alabama who has mentioned a store like that and I believe it was called Flight001. He said they had their main shop somewhere around where he grew up.

      And great decision on your part as well to donate and sell off some of your things! Just make sure you don’t accidentally give away your backpack.

  6. rose

    I have a bit of very useful outdoor/travel gear that I use for outdoor sports and camping, but when I travel the only things I bring along are a headlamp, a stuff sack and some merino wool shirts (they never stink no matter how long you go without washing them – honestly!). Most of my things are from MEC, which is the Canadian equivalent of REI or EMS. Actually, a large percentage of my clothes are from there! I tend to avoid the gadgets though, as I always find myself ditching them along the way, or losing the multi-function super-compact swiss army knife on day 2… However, I confess I dearly want a pair of Five Finger shoes – I may have to go to the US to get them though, because they are harder to find here in Canada.

    1. Earl

      Hey Rose – I actually was about to purchase a pair of Five Finger shoes last week but in the end, after spending an hour in the store, I decided against it. Perhaps it’s my feet, but I found them to be quite uncomfortable. With that said, everyone else seems to love them! I’ll be curious to see how you like them if you get a chance to buy them.

      And I can definitely see how non-stinkable clothes would come in handy for most travelers. It is quite difficult to even imagine such an item!

  7. Fabian | The Friendly Anarchist

    Great story, Earl! I also enjoy visiting these kinds of stores and looking around, but generally walk out without buying anything.
    I think you’re absolutely right that one really needs so little things when traveling. For me, it comes down to my glasses/contact lenses, my passport, and the clothes I wear. That’s the basics. Everything else is luxury.
    .-= Fabian | The Friendly Anarchist´s last blog ..Faces of Resistance: Drama =-.

    1. Earl

      Thanks Fabian. I travel similarly to you and often have trouble filling up my small backpack, but I’m never lacking for anything. The basics (plus camera and laptop) seem to be all I need these days. But it’s still fun to enter such stores and have a look at the new products, even more so knowing that I most likely won’t be tempted to pull out my credit card!

  8. Erin

    We don’t have REI in the UK but there are similar travel gear shops. There is a huge industry aimed at selling things to travellers that they don’t really need and it can be tempting, especially for first time travellers. We resisted most things but I do find pack-it cubes really useful for organising your stuff in your backpack. I would also love some socks that dry quicker! Maybe we’ll head to REI when we get to the US!
    .-= Erin´s last blog ..Exploring Argentina’s Gaucho Country =-.

    1. Earl

      Hey Erin – I have been hearing a lot of good things lately about packing cubes although I have yet to actually check them out myself. Perhaps on my next visit to REI I’ll take a look. Do you use the Eagle Creek ones?

      And you’re right about the temptation being stronger for first-time travelers who aren’t yet aware that such gadgets aren’t as useful or necessary as they may seem. Thank you for bringing that up as perhaps it will help any first-time travelers out there save some money!

  9. Nancie

    All of those gadgets are great to look at, but chances are probably nil to zero that you’d ever use them. I was buying stuff tonight for my upcoming trip to China and I agonized over spending 3.00 for a sleeping mask. I have worn out the elastic on 2 others, so it something that use every night. Just the same I had to think “Do I really need this?” 🙂
    .-= Nancie´s last blog ..Friday’s Talking Photo # 16 — Pura Besakih –Bali’s Mother Temple =-.

    1. Earl

      Hey Nancie! You’re most likely right and even if there is something that would prove to be useful, often times you can still survive quite easily without it.

      A $3.00 sleeping mask sounds like a good investment for someone who uses one every night, I’d just stay away from the $59.00 sleeping mask that doubles as a camera case and can also be used as an emergency water filter!

  10. Jackie Rose (@letssitoutside)

    REI and other similar stores are full of gadgets…Sure they would be cool to have but they are expensive and you don’t need them. I tend to try one thing at a time from those stores, and only purchase after researching an item. Over the years I’ve settled on carrying mostly functional items like rehydration salts (saved my life in Burkina Faso) and a lightweight waterproof jacket (six years-old and still going strong). I’ve never been able to convince myself to buy a floating camera strap.

    Friends and family love to get me gifts from REI. Unfortunately I tend to leave their well-meant gifts at home as I prefer to stay away from travel gadgets just as I prefer to stay away from tech gadgets. Last holiday season I walked away with a travel pack of toilet seat covers…
    .-= Jackie Rose (@letssitoutside)´s last blog ..I can’t hide. =-.

    1. Earl

      Hey Jackie – A travel pack of toilet seat covers?? That’s hilarious to me. Perhaps they came in useful at some point??

      And REI’s products are quite expensive, which in a way is a good thing as it keeps me from just buying everything I see and then realizing later that I don’t actually need any of it. But your waterproof jacket seems to have paid off!

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  12. Bessie

    REI rocks! I’ve totally been in there and done the same thing, drooling over all the amazing stuff they have. Kyle and I had the uber fun time of making our wedding registry there.

    My best advice for REI is to indulge in the good quality item IF you need it or will use it A LOT, like daily. I’ve got quite a few REI goods in my bag, the most being my Exofficio undies, smartwool socks, & backpack cage that looks like a fence to go around my pack to lock it. And ditto what you decided, pass on the 95% of the stuff.
    .-= Bessie´s last blog ..Who Says the In-Flight Entertainment Sucks? =-.

    1. Earl

      Hey Bessie – Actually, that PacSafe backpack cage is on my list of items to buy before leaving the US again. That product is definitely useful and well-worth the investment to me.

      And having your wedding registry at REI was a brilliant idea! I’ll keep that one in mind (if a wedding ever enters my plans!).

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