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A Few of My Favorite Things


Spring break for us starts this Friday and I could not be more ready to hit the road and get out of town. Packing for a trip in the Monkey Barrel varies little from trip to trip, but there are some things that we simply never leave home without. Here is a list of my favorite things; not just a must-have guide, but also a great gift guide for the adventurer on your list. Why buy something boring when you can give something unique that will be cherished for years to come?

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Hunter Boots

I absolutely love these boots. It rains a lot in Mississippi. In fact, we rank number 3 for rainiest states in the country (with several other southeastern states not far behind). It often feels like even when it isn’t raining, it’s thinking about raining. My poor husband, a native of the Sunshine State, really struggles with it.

Of course, when I bought these boots, I did not know that we ranked #3 when I bought my Hunter boots. I had been eyeing them for a while and kept thinking that I really couldn’t justify a pair of nice rain boots. But, the day they arrived, we had a massive thunderstorm. The kind with buckets of rain that never seemed to stop, and for some reason that now escapes my memory, I found myself outside, in the pouring rain, in my boots and rain jacket. They held up beautifully then and have become a staple of my wardrobe ever since. In fact, I never leave on an Airstream trip without placing them in my Monkey Barrel closet.

Patagonia Lightweight Travel Tote Pack

I bought this small pack to use as a daypack for us while we’re on the road. It works great for hauling stuff to the beach, but is also comfortable as a backpack when we are sight-seeing. I wanted something that could hold all our stuff, but not be too big or bulky. It also needed to be able to fold up small and fit in a larger pack (or suitcase) if needed. The Patagonia Lightweight Travel Tote Pack does all of these things, all while being stylish and durable.

If you are looking for something that is bigger than a regular tote or purse, but smaller than a weekender backpack, this would check all the boxes on your list for sure. Plus, it can be used as either a backpack or a shoulder tote, which is handy. As always, Patagonia gives everything they make their “Ironclad Guarantee,” so if you aren’t satisfied, they’ve got your back.

YETI Rambler with Lid

I have been very slow to jump on the YETI bandwagon. Every time I heard someone say, “this tumbler keeps my ice cold for days!”, I would immediately think, “how long are they drinking their drink? Why aren’t they washing it out? Why do I need something cold for days?” I understand the importance of that feature in an ice chest, but in a tumbler? Come on, people.

However, while I haven’t gotten excited about my tumbler in that way, I can say this: this is the best travel mug I have found so far. Kyle, my husband, has the larger 30oz tumbler, but I prefer this one. The smaller design fits better in my hand, and it nestles perfectly in the Expedition’s cup holder. While I’m sure it could keep my ice cold for a really long time, I’m more impressed by it’s other features. The quality of the construction is fantastic. The lid fits securely, and has a magnetic sliding lock that seals the lid shut when you’re not drinking (you have to manually do this, it’s not some kind of magic self locking lid). So, while you aren’t going to see me driving around with a YETI sticker stuck to the outside of my car any time soon, you will find this tumbler happily riding shotgun on the inside.

Nikon Coolpix Digital Waterproof Camera

I know our smart phones have all but replaced the use of a traditional camera in most cases, but a few years ago, when we were planning a cruise, I wanted something that I could use to take pictures with both in the water and on dry land. Not wanting anything too expensive, but definitely wanting great shots of the trip, I turned to the Nikon Coolpix digital waterproof camera.

Let me just tell you. This little camera is a workhorse! It definitely lives up to its Nikon name. We have had it for a few years now and it does not disappoint. Both land and water shots are clear, the camera is easy to use, you can do video, and is simple to maintain.

The camera does not come with an SD card, which was fine with me because that meant I could choose what I wanted.  It also does not come with the handy little yellow strap you see here.  However, I strongly suggest you buy the yellow strap. Not only does it make it easy to see in the water, but while the camera does not float, the strap does.  You can bundle all three on Amazon. I wrote my contact information on the strap, and we were good to go!

This little camera now goes everywhere we do and has proven its worth time and again. It’s great for fishing, snorkeling, the beach, the lake–anywhere you go where there’s water. I can’t wait to take it to Big Bend National Park for a rafting trip!

Great land shot with the Nixon Coolpix!

10-year Journal

This journal makes an incredible gift for pretty much anyone on your list. I’ve always loved journaling, but I must admit, sometimes sitting down and looking at an entire blank page thinking, “I can’t fill this entire page today! Not that much happened!” can be a bit of a turn off. That is where the 10-year journal swoops in and saves the day. Each page of this journal is dedicated to a date, and is broken down with a few lines for each year of that date over the span of ten years. So for instance, April 1 2019-2029 is all on one page, with each year getting 4 lines each. There are additional pages at the end of each month, plus additional pages at the beginning and end of the journal for things like birthdays, anniversaries, goals, and plans.

I bought myself a new one this year, but I love looking back through my old one. I have ticket stubs and sonogram photos tucked away within its pages.

This isn’t just a fantastic gift for your favorite traveller. New moms, recent retirees, graduates, almost anyone you can think of will love an appreciate this gift. It is definitely one of my favorite gifts to give.

Pairing this journal with the pen in the photo (another one of my favorite things) makes a great gift set.

Amazon Basics iPhone Charger

If you’re anything like me, you have your phone charging station set up in a particular spot in your home. While the charging station is conveniently located in my home, the outlet is difficult to get to. So, when packing for a trip, I hate crawling back behind furniture to unplug my iPhone cord. Instead, I have several of these Amazon Basics iPhone Chargers, and they have made my life easier. I keep one in the car, for those days when I’m in my car a lot and need to keep my phone charging (both on the road and around town). I keep at least one in the Monkey Barrel (I like to have an extra in case Kyle needs it), and I keep one in the suitcase I pack for visiting my in-laws. I know that may seem excessive, but Amazon Basics keeps things affordable, which keeps me fully charged, and operating at maximum efficiency.

A few years ago, I bought several of these and included them as Christmas gifts to our family members. They seem like such a little item, until you really need them. I’ve had quite a few of said family members let me know that having a second (and a longer) cord has been really helpful for them as well.


Do you have a Kindle? As an avid reader, I use both physical books and my Kindle Paperwhite, and I love them all. One of my favorite things about the Kindle is that I can load it up with samples of books that I am interested in reading. Then, while we’re on a trip, I read those samples offline. I decide which of these books I want to finish reading, then when we are in a location where I have wifi, I purchase and download the books. We’re not always near a bookstore, and having stuff shipped to you when you’re on the road isn’t possible, so this is how I make sure I never run out of something to read.

Further, my Kindle is handy when I’m reading to my kids. Most nights, we are snuggled in bed, with soft lights on, reading a physical book together. But there are plenty of times at home, in the Monkey Barrel, even in the car driving at night, where I can pull out my Kindle, which has a lit screen, and read aloud or to myself. I keep my Kindle in a nice leather case, which I’ve had for almost three years now, and has held up really well. The two make a great gift set.

I purchased a Kindle for my mom for Christmas a few years ago, and one feature I really enjoy is the ability to buy her books for the kindle and choose a download date. So, I can buy her a couple of titles, and set them to download on her birthday or on Christmas morning.

I know a lot of people who are “book snobs” and claim that they just can’t even try a Kindle because it’s not a “real” book with “real” pages. Well. Let me just say this: reading is reading. Treasure Island reads the same, whether it be on actual paper made from a tree or on a Kindle. The words are the same. They form the same story. If you’ve been on the fence about getting a Kindle for this reason, I just want you to know that the story you are reading is just as compelling on a Kindle as it is an actual book.

Cotopaxi Kusa Blanket

Have you ever heard of Cotopaxi? They are a relatively new outfitter company with great products. Their slogan, “Gear For Good,” is apt because not only do they provide quality gear, but they give back a portion of their profits to support community development and combat poverty. Great gear for me and aiding in the promotion of improving others quality of life? Yes, please!

One of the items I have purchased from Cotopaxi is their Kusa blanket. I call ours the “camp blanket.” I bought this blanket to keep in the Monkey Barrel for cool nights while star gazing, an impromptu picnic blanket, or to have in the car when one person is cold and others are hot. However, it did not live in the Monkey Barrel for very long before it moved into the house with us. We have a blanket basket in our living room, so we always have blankets for couch snuggling and fort building. The Kusa blanket is so lightweight yet warm that it is one of the most popular blankets we have in the house. If it’s not on the couch, I can usually find it in one of the kids’ beds or in the hammock in the backyard.

Snuggled up with the Kusa blanket on the soccer field!

The Kusa blanket comes in its own little stuff sack for easy storage and portability. This would make a great gift for anyone who likes to travel light but still enjoys being comfortable.

Garmin Forerunner 235

A few years ago, Kyle mentioned that he wanted a smart watch to track things like footsteps, sleep, and his workouts. I started doing some research and decided to get him the Garmin Forerunner 235. I had just started running at the time, so when I saw that Amazon was having a great Black Friday deal on these watches, we decided to buy two and call it a Merry Christmas. That was almost three years ago, and I love my watch more now than I did back then.

The Forerunner 235 has great features while still maintaining a user-friendly interface. I have trained for races with this watch, as well as created a host of running plans, tracked hikes, and of course kept up with texts and the time.

Since buying the Forerunner, I have researched and considered other smart watches, including the iWatch, but keep coming back to the Forerunner. It’s just a great “jack of all trades” smart watch. Linking it to your smart phone through the Garmin Connect app makes it just that much more of an asset. Further, this is a smart watch that won’t break the bank.

Vortex Diamondback Binoculars

About a year and a half ago, Kyle decided he wanted a good pair of binoculars for both hunting and our trips. Kyle is definitely a homebody and getting him excited about any trip is difficult at best. So, when he talked about wanting some binoculars to take in the Monkey Barrel, so he can bird and animal watch, I was all for it! He did all the research and settled on this pair: the Vortex Diamondback 10×42 binoculars.

Fast forward several trips later, and I am happy to report that Kyle’s research has paid off handsomely (although not as handsomely as Kyle himself!). These binoculars are lightweight and the clarity is amazing. Their compact design makes them easy for even the kids to use, which is also nice, although I am considering buying a second, less expensive, pair for the kids to use.

Grand Trunk Double Hammock

Several years ago, we had this babysitter who we just loved. We still love her to this day, she has become a certified member of the family at this point. Anyway, I wanted to get her a nice gift and asked her what she wanted. She said she wanted a hammock! How fun is that?!? So I researched and bought her the Grand Trunk Double Hammock. She loves it, and I loved hers so much, I bought one for our house.

Ours lives in our backyard (except when it’s raining), and all of us enjoy it. We have the double hammock, and it can hold 4 kids or one adult and 2 medium-sized kids comfortably.

Because they are so portable, and everything fits in it’s small stuff sack, we have a second hammock that we keep in the Monkey Barrel for trips. Lastly, a hammock makes a great gift for anyone in your life who seriously needs to relax.

What are some unique gifts you’ve given or received? What are your must-have travel items? I’m always on the lookout for new gift ideas and would love to hear from you in the comments section below!

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