We pack for trips like we are 19th century pioneers. We pack everything we might need, plus a couple of oxen.

On this trip we were right to pack the warm clothes. It’s been twenty years since I’ve been in winter weather in Europe (I’m including England in Europe). It’s three seasons a day, and they are all cold.

But the best thing we packed, by far, is the 72 oz./2.1 liter Camelbak bladder reservoir that fits nicely inside my backpack. Typically, we use this on hikes and snowboarding trips. But realizing that we’d be in Europe, and that water might not always be available, the Camelbak has gone everywhere we have. And it’s been a godsend. People think we’re absolutely nuts having this weird straw thing sticking out of the pack, but given the amount of walking we’ve done over the past few days with the ability to stay hydrated at nearly every moment, there is no way we’ll ever travel again without it. Instead of lugging unwieldy bottles in the pack, taking them out, unscrewing the lid, drinking, putting the lid back and and restowing, we merely suck the straw and move on, reflecting the Dutch love of efficiency and clean design. The reservoir fits nicely in the pack and is sloshy, so other gear fits nicely around it.

There’s nothing like needing water at a crowded bar (where the staff are too busy to get the water before sometime next week) and being able to pull up the pack and suck it. Yes, it scares the straights, but they need a good scare.