Matador Life Editor Tom Gates lies
amidst the innards of his backpack.

Matador Goods is starting a “What’s In Your Backpack?” series and I’ve been asked to take it for a road-test, since I’m about to do a lap around the world.

The innards of my bag are currently spilled out on the floor and I’m about to make decisions about what stays and what goes.

Here are some of the things I can’t live without:

Aquis Adventure Microfiber Towel

This will be my first journey with a fast-drying towel. I bought it because it is the most disgusting color imaginable – kind of if Prussian Blue tongue-kissed Orange Red.

Price: $24.80 | BUY

Lewis N. Clark Compression Packers

I took heat for picking on The Ziplock People recently but I must confess that I always carry one of these. They’re especially handy at the end of a trip, when there’s just no more room, no matter how much you squeeze. They’re also a lifesaver if you threw up on your clothes at Glastonbury Festival.


Price: $9.99 | BUY

Nintendo DS Games

Spend two weeks on ebay doing this: look for DS auctions ending soon and bid $1.01 for every game still unclaimed at a $.99 first bid. I snagged about 10 games for $30 this way, getting especially lucky with some that had no shipping charges.

BUY on ebay

US Army Survival Handbook

This was a birthday gift and I am dying to read it. I’m fascinated by the diagrams of how to signal an airplane with a compact mirror, or what to do if stuck in a sea with sharks (“Don’t urinate.”) Hopefully this teaches me all of the things that I missed while smoking weed during Boy Scouts.


Price: $12.95 | BUY

Kiehl’s Eye Alert

Women, gay men and touring musicians all know that this stuff actually works. Don’t be a hater.


Price: $20.50 | BUY

Polaroid PoGo Instant Mobile Printer

My friend Easyread turned me onto this awesome idea – he thought it would be a cool way to meet local folks on his upcoming trip to Myanmar. I can see kids grinning as they’re handed a print of themselves in seconds.

Read our review of the Polariod PoGo Instant Mobile Printer.


Price: $99.95 | BUY

Ben’s Tick & Insect Repellent

This bottle is only 1.5 oz and is easy to stash. It’s also 30% deet. I find that when I’m trapped in Bugland, all that is available seems to be brands that are “Skintastic!” and hardly work.


Price: $5.39 | BUY

MAX191218 – Portable Speakers

There’s just no need to get fancy with the iPod speakers. These are cheap ($23), sound surprisingly good and weigh a pound. I won’t be crying if they get lost or broken, which happens to most sets anyway.


Price: $22.72 | BUY

Rand McNally World Map Classic Edition

A sensational map for ten bucks. This is obviously not something that a normal person would carry around for a year, but my copy has been circled with all of the places that I might go before 2010. It’s my mascot.


Price: $9.95 | BUY

Zip Pulls

Many airports will let you put these on your bags, whereas they won’t let you put a lock on it. They may be just enough of a pain the ass for any corrupt baggage handler to leave your bag alone. They’re also great in a McGyver situation, when you’re just looking for something to hold something together.


Price: $5.81 | BUY

Moleskin Mini Notebooks

I am digging these. They’re much smaller and thinner than normal notebooks and very easy to pocket.


Price: $6.99 | BUY

iGo powerXtender

My pacemaker of choice. It’s small, runs on AA’s, and keeps my iPod juicy.


Price: $6.95 | BUY

Pacsafe Treksafe 100

I picked this up when I saw that it was so cheap on Amazon ($85). It’s got most of the Pacsafe safety standards and a surprising amount of room. I like that the top compartment opens from the rear, with both zippers easily clipped together for more security. Tons of pocket space, durable, and feels like it can survive just about anything.


Price: $84.95 | BUY