Geoff Watts, vice president of coffee for Chicago’s renowned Intelligentsia Coffee, is not your typical, desk-bound exec. Intelligentsia roasts coffee from around the world, and that’s where Watts has spent most of the last decade: learning every last detail about the cherries that eventually become caffè macchiatos. That means his travel bag is more about survival and grit than DisplayPort adapters (though those are handy, too).
"When you travel a lot, you do learn the value of preparedness," Watts says. "You figure out what sorts of things are useful to have on hand, no matter where you are going."
2 Universal power outlet converters. One is rarely enough these days, with all the electronic devices we use. It's also nice to have an extra on hand, since oftentimes I run into other people who are in need and who are always grateful when I can loan them one! (Recommended: Conair TS253AD Adapter/Converter Combo with Surge Protection, by The Wirecutter.)
Mosquito repellant. I am often in places where those suckers are aggressive and carrying all sorts of bad things. For repellents, I don't have a particular brand really. I make sure to get something with at least 25% Deet or 20% Picaridin. 3M Ultrathon is a good one. Depends on the intensity of the mosquito population—in the jungle or at the coast I'll use something with a lot of Deet. In areas where there are fewer mosquitos I like to use oil of lemon eucalyptus (at least 20% concentration) because it is more gentle and not synthetic.
Sunscreen. Most coffees grow in the tropics, at altitude, where the sun is especially intense. My midwestern skin tone is not prepared to go it alone. (Recommended: Up & Up Sport Continuous SPF 30, here reviewed by Consumer Reports.)
A small supply of healthy snacks. Nuts, energy bars, dried fruits, etc., because airline food normally sucks and being a vegetarian it can be tricky to find enough nutrients in rural Africa and Latin America that don't come from cows, chickens, or goats.
A flashlight. Because power outages are frequent, and even if I don't need the flashlight, it makes a great gift for friends I meet along the way who live with regular power outages. (Recommended: JetBeam, by MythBusters’ Adam Savage.)
Often I bring a digital thermometer for measuring water temperature (for cuppings) and a portable scale for weighing out samples. (Recommended: RT600C Waterproof Digital Thermometer by Cooks Illustrated.)
One package of antibiotics. Just in case.