Friday, June 10, 2011

Traveler's Key Ring

I've been fiddling with my traveler's key ring and decided I may as well post the list.

It originated many years ago when I got tired of digging out a coin every time I wanted to use my tripod. That was before getting a tripod with a quick-release mount. I put a coin-like screwdriver onto a split-ring and hung it on my waistband with a belt clip. Items gradually accumulated until last weekend when I decided to see how everything fit into my 15 Essential Systems.

1. Navigation - luminous compass, mini highlighter. I used to have a Suunto Clipper on a fob I liberated from a cheap no-name compass that developed a honking huge bubble during the first part of my road trip in 2006. Before getting the Suunto, I tried using one of those several-function compass-whistle contraptions, but the compass was too small, the luminous points too dim, and the whistle too soft.

I bought a Brunton 9041 last year so I wouldn't have to move the Clipper from my car key ring to my traveler's key ring and back again. Currently, the 9041 is kept on a small carabiner so it's easy to remove from the split-ring to avoid letting other metal objects influence the compass.

As for the highlighter, I plan my routes using a yellow highlighter and use a darker color to mark where I actually go since I travel with a "that looks interesting" attitude and often stray from my intended path whether driving or walking. It helps me get back on track and is a reminder of what I did and where I went after the trip is over and I'm back home. The mini highlighter, bought at Staples, is a Sharpie Accent with a metal loop on the cap to attach it to a key ring.

2. Personal Attire.

3. Hydration.

4. Shelter - mini umbrella. Since this goes on another belt clip on the other side of my waistband when it looks like it might rain, it really doesn't count although it could. That's why I am.

5. Communication - Fox 40 Micro whistle, Trekker Space Pen. Every woman needs a loud, dependable whistle at hand and I don't like digging around in my purse for a pen whenever I want to make a note, either.

Fisher Space pens and the pressurized Space refills made for other pens are great because they write on any paper, even that slick thermal stuff, under any temperature, at any angle including the gravity-defying position of upside-down.

6. Fire - Spark-Lite, invented by the owner of Four Seasons Survival and also distributed by Adventure Medical Kits, or a Mini Swedish FireSteel by Light My Fire. This is an offshoot from my hiker's survival necklace. Realizing I got carried away with this preparedness endeavor and having too many items on my traveler's key ring, I put the sparker on a second small carabiner to live in my travel purse until needed. Since the Spark-Lite doesn't come with a lanyard, I duct-taped the melted and knotted ends of 1/8" orange utility cord onto the stem of the Spark-Lite.

I occasionally swap the two sparkers because I can't decide which I prefer to have where. The Spark-Lite is operated with one hand so is probably better for hiking where the potential for getting injured is greater. However, a Swedish FireSteel is much easier for me to use.

7. Illumination - Garrity key ring LED. Acknowledging this is never used until it's too dark for me to see without it, I relegated it to live in my travel purse on my second carabiner with my sparker until needed.

8. Nutrition - P-51 can opener, bottle cap lifter-can punch. For those who don't know, the P-51 is the big brother of the P-38 military can opener. The other is an Ekco Pocket Boy I happened to see in a local grocery store. It folds in half making it a nice size for key rings. To reduce weight and the number of items on my traveler's key ring, I added these to my second carabiner as well.

9. FAK, Health - Chapstick in a Leashable, Pro Tick remover. The Leashable is a clip-on neoprene holder that came with a tube of different lip balm. I borrow the Pro Tick remover from my hiking survival necklace for areas where I might encounter ticks I'd want to remove as soon as possible. Maybe I should buy another tick remover to ensure I don't forget it.

10. Repair & Tools - Craftsman 9-4160 screwdriver, Swiss Army Knife Classic model, ResQMe. The Craftsman 4-in-1 screwdriver I bought at Sears is what got me started on creating my traveler's key ring. Even though my current Slik tripod has a quick-release mount, I still use it to change over to my mini tripod, and change batteries and memory cards.

The SAK is now on the second carabiner in my travel purse and will have to be left behind or put in checked luggage when I fly.

The ResQMe only goes on my traveler's key ring when I rent a car. Otherwise, it remains on my house key ring for when I ride with other people since my own car has a LifeHammer mounted on the center console.

11. Documentation - USB drive. It fits into a clip-on holder and contains a copy of my current computer files since my laptop and backup external hard drive were both stolen in 2007. Eventually, I'll get around to putting report-loss-to phone numbers and critical information on it, password-protected, of course, if not encrypted.

12. Finances - emergency cash in a fob. I saw what looked like spy capsules online, designed to hold one or two folded and rolled bills in a key ring fob. CVS and Wal-Mart have good-sized pill fobs that will hold more which I think is better since I prefer to have easier-to-spend ten and twenty dollar bills than fifties and hundreds.

I may be wrong, but when it comes to traveling, I think of emergency cash in terms of a few meals and maybe cab fare back to my lodging where I can use the phone to get stolen credit/debit cards replaced or to a bank to cash a check. Never one to carry much over $25, I once spent six weeks with nothing more than a dime and a penny in my wallet. Hey, if I don't have it on me, I can't spend it, right?

13. Transportation.

14. Entertainment - pocket kite. Yup, a mini kite on a key ring means I'm ready to fly a kite any time there's enough breeze and the room for it.

15. Security & Self-defense - the same Fox 40 whistle in 5. Communication and the same USB drive in 11. Documentation. Having the USB drive on me is more secure or makes me feel like it is because losing all the work I did over the 10 months to that point of my trip was terrible.

There it is. Twelve categories out of fifteen on a key ring! Admittedly, it's better to wear it under a blouse that isn't tucked in to avoid looking like a building superintendent, but it's a great convenience to have often-used items at my fingertips and a comfort knowing I can add the items of the second carabiner back to it at any time.

To recap, the 17 items are:

On my traveler's key ring clipped to my waistband - highlighter, kite*, lip balm, pen, pill fob, ResQMe*, screwdriver, tick remover*, USB drive, whistle, luminous compass on a small utility carabiner.

On my second carabiner - Ekco Pocket Boy, LED flashlight, P-51, sparker, SAK.

On another belt clip - umbrella*.

* when conditions warrant it.

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