Have short-wave, will travel

What essentials should you not leave behind, once toothbrush and passport are packed? Leading globetrotters offer their suggestions
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The Independent Culture
Christina Dodwell

Explorer

I don't stir without my waterbottle - it gives me independence. It means I can set off into anything and it doesn't matter if I get lost for the night. It's just a standard army issue one which holds about a litre. I've carried one like it for 20 years, though not exactly the same one, because they get lost or broken or stolen. My other essential is a set of roll-up saddle bags I made out of the flysheet of a tent. They're green superlightweight nylon, and mean I can just jump on a horse and go. They aren't waterproof, so everything in them has to be packed in plastic bags, and they do get ripped, but I just sew them up again.

SIR RANULPH FIENNES

Explorer

Antisthan, an anti-mosquito cream. When you get bitten, it stops the itching, and it smells very pleasant. I used to take a two-inch gnome and a mouse with me. They were given to me by friends who wanted them to go places, and they went into the Arctic with me - but they got lost on the way and they're still out there somewhere.

ROBERT ELMS

Television Presenter

Wherever I'm going, even into the jungle in Borneo, I always take one well-cut suit made by my tailor. You never know when you might be called on to meet the local mayor or bump into Michelle Pfeiffer. I was in Bhutan, where you wouldn't think a suit would be handy, and I was invited to meet the King, who was curious about this film crew visiting his country. If all I'd had with me were jeans, which were fine on all other days, I'd have been embarrassed. A suit's not heavy, but you do have to travel with a hard-backed suitcase. The equivalent for a woman would be one smart dress, or something they feel correct in.

HILARY RUBINSTEIN

Editor, The Good Food Guide

Plenty of reading matter for unexpected disasters en route - late planes, or finding you don't like the company you are in. I take travel books, of course, if I'm going to a region I don't know, or a hefty paperback novel. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth lasted me two transatlantic journeys. One thing I have often wished I had in my suitcase is a lightbulb, because the lighting in hotels is often inadequate for reading. If someone could invent an unbreakable one, then I would probably pack it.

GARTH MORRISON

Chief Scout

I'm a sailor as well as a scouting man and no good sailor is ever without a knife, preferably Swiss Army type, which has all the attachments - including a corkscrew. The most important part is a good strong blade, essential for things like trimming kindling to make a fire. And a large, heavy-duty poly-bag - it has so many uses: carrying water if necessary, or acting as a bivvy bag. It will keep you warm and dry in a snowhole, or on a wet night if you use it as a sleeping bag. All Scouts carry one.

ELIZABETH WALKER

Executive Fashion and Beauty Editor, Marie Claire magazine

My Rowenta steamer. I always take my own, because the ones you buy at airports never work. However carefully you pack, you always get some creases. The steamer has a button which jets out steam, and makes the creases fall out, though clothes do have to be fairly well-ironed before packing for it to work. It's essential because that old tip of hanging clothes by the shower and turning it on to create steam really doesn't work. I also take my paints, because on holiday is the only time I get to use them. I do watercolours - mostly still lives.

ALAN MATTINGLY

Director, The Ramblers' Association

Feet are probably the most important part of a walker's body, so they should be treated with care. If I'm sloshing through the mud of Epping Forest in the middle of winter I wear Wellington boots; if I'm strolling on field paths in Kent in the middle of summer I wear training shoes. But at any other time or place - especially if I'm walking the hills - I wear walking boots.

SIMON CALDER

Travel editor, the Independent

These days you don't need much to go around the world - anything you forget or lose can easily be replaced en route. The only essential I always carry is a short-wave radio. At home, BBC Radio is a pleasant background warble; overseas it becomes a potential lifesaver. In Tegucigalpa, wanting to know whether it was safe to cross into Nicaragua, the British Embassy was unable to help, but the strident tones of the BBC, its eyes everywhere, advised caution. The radio earns its batteries in less stressful situations, too, carrying the football results from Blighty to Belo Horizonte. And there is no better way of tuning in to a culture than to listen to local radio.

TOM BAKER

National Express Coach Driver

I cover about 700 miles every 24 hours, and I always take a briefcase with a coach guide, which is a list of all the timetables, a ticket book, a torch and a small toolkit with all the things to get me out of trouble if I need them. Changing fan belts is the favourite - I always carry spares. I don't need much else, but I normally carry a couple of packets of Extra Strong Mints.

GARRY THOMAS

Assistant Editor, Climber Magazine

A flask of tea with honey in it. It doesn't matter what kind; I like it fairly weak, from an ordinary tea-bag or sometimes one of those fruity ones. It gives you lots of warmth and energy if you start to feel a bit burnt out - a good way to get glucose into you, it works in mysterious ways that other sugars don't. My flask is a stainless steel one; it's got quite a few dents in it from when I've had to go down and retrieve the flaming thing when it's bombed off down a chimney. It's a real psychological thing with me now - if I'm off for the weekend in the Scottish hills and find I haven't got my flask, it's a disaster.

Interviews by Hester Lacey

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