How We Select Packing List Items To Recommend

lyric fergusson meditating in a cave in india
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We’ve been traveling the world for almost 20 years and we’ve field-tested nearly every travel product under the sun. From inflatable neck pillows, and fancy carry-on luggage to female urination devices, and travel toilet paper, to top-of-the-line Bose noise-canceling headphones, and the latest state-of-the-art travel car seats that weigh next to nothing. We’ve even field-tested the best way to change your baby’s diaper on the airport floor! (Snoofy Bee anyone?) Yes, folks, we’ve done the dirty work so you don’t have to.

With a combined 30+ countries, 6 continents, and 37 U.S. states under our belt we’ve made it our mission to help budding explorers travel safer, smarter, and more affordably (without losing any fashionable flare along the way).

Below find the grueling 5-step process we use to select and recommend products that hold the test of time.

fergusson family in cozumel
Us on vacation in Cozumel!

Our five-step process

Here are all the steps we take before recommending a product on our packing lists:

Step 1: We recommend what we use

Based on our extensive experience, we know what people need. We have been that person freezing in 32 degree weather at the top of a Hawaiian mountain because we didn’t research and realize you really need a winter jacket if you are scaling a volcano on Maui at sunrise. (Lesson learned!)

Based on our travel triumphs and faux-paus, we always start by compiling a list of the products we used at any given destination. If we aren’t an expert in that region, we work hard to find experienced writers who have spent weeks — if not months — in that area and really know the ropes.

Step 2: We think out of the box

After we compile our preliminary must-have packing list, we rack our brains to come up with innovative and new ideas. If there is an up-and-coming product we haven’t tried yet or a brand we have never used, we initiate Step 3 to make sure we are always recommending something that has real utility and quality.

Additionally, we do our best to recommend brands that are not only outstanding but have some sort of eco-friendly component wherever possible. We look for brands that use recycled materials or give back to communities in need. We ourselves give 1% of our sales to sustainability and education in India and Thailand.

Step 3: Buy the best products with our own money

testing 12 travel backpacks
We field-tested 13 travel backpacks (12 pictured) Zomake x 3, Venture Pal x 2, Osprey x 2, Eddie Bauer, Cotopaxi, Tuban, Sinatron, Catalyst, 4Monster x 2, and a Shrradoo backpack.

After researching extensively, we buy up to 13 items of any given product to compare. We buy competitors to brands we know and love just to make sure the item we have used in the past is really the top product out there.

We make these purchases 100% with our own money. We never accept sponsorships. Our readers should feel confident that we’re recommending the best (and most affordable) products out there. We have never and will never tell our readers to buy products that we are receiving payment to promote. (No way!)

Step 4: Field-test our favorites

Field-testing a travel backpack in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Our kids love getting involved with trying out products too! Here we are testing a Zomake travel backpack in the beautiful mountains of Santa Fe, New Mexico in the spring after the snow melt.

After thoroughly testing the product’s quality and functionality at home, we then get to the fun part of field-testing our favorites. Let’s just go with the backpack example: We have taken our favorites on hikes in Santa Fe, on boat trips to Molokini, on day adventures to Santa Barbara, and on flights to Europe. We have filled these backpacks with the most practical to the most bizarre items — just to make sure it’s pretty darn comfortable no matter what you put in them.

And by the way, Asher is around 6’3” and Lyric is around 5’3” so we often have a different experience with the same product and take this into account when selecting our winners.

Step 5: Recommend the best!

Once we are done rolling around in the mud, sand, and rain (and occasionally snow!) with the various products, we recommend the winners on our various packing lists. This system from start to finish can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months. Additionally, we regularly update our suggestions if there are new superior items that have come on the market since our initial selection. We also always check in with our awesome team of writers who have first-hand experience with a product that is very unique for a certain destination. If they are super keen on it, we will occasionally include those items in a list before we have had a chance to field-test it ourselves. Our team is amazing, super experienced, and we trust they know what will rock your traveling world.

What we don’t do

Here are all the things you will NOT find on

1. We will never publish content without first-hand experience

We never want to publish content without it being authentic. If Lyric or Asher don’t have first-hand knowledge of a certain destination, we utilize the experience of our travel expert authors who do have the experience. We have never have and never will publish content that isn’t authentic.

2. We will never accept sponsorship fees

Even though dozens of brands contact us every week to sponsor the inclusion of their product or service we have never accepted such an offer. Unlike our competitors, we don’t believe in sponsored product placement and prefer the freedom of being to say and choose what we want without any bias.

3. We will never allow advertisements in our content

If we were to put ads in our content we could make significantly more money but we’ve chosen not to go that route because we believe it ruins the user experience and eliminates trust. We hate seeing websites that are plastered in banner ads and pop-ups so we couldn’t be hypocritical and allow them on our website even if we’d be more profitable.

How we make money

Since we don’t place any kind of advertisements or accept any form of sponsorship, you might be wondering how we make money from this website. In short, we’re a reader-driven affiliate website. Some example affiliates include vendors like Amazon, Get Your Guide,,, etc., and this means that when you click on a link and decide to make a purchase we may earn a small commission typically around 3% to 5%. The cool thing we like about monetizing our website through being an affiliate is that we can pick and choose and change our recommendations on a dime without needing to answer to some kind of overlord, sponsor, or advertiser. You can learn more on our affiliate disclosure page.

As always, we welcome any feedback or concerns via our contact page.

Happy trails!

Asher & Lyric