This post is pretty self-explanatory and probably doesn’t need an intro, but I’m going to give you one anyways!
If you are in the beginning stages of becoming a world traveler you have likely experienced that dreaded feeling of, “oh god, I packed WAY too much stuff and now I have to carry it on my back for 2 months.” We’ve all been there, don’t sweat it. Well actually the sweat is inevitable if you are carrying that much extra weight on your back, but I think you get my point. After a few more trips you will be able to hone in on exactly what items you need to bring and you will also come up with your very own list of “must-haves.” But in the meantime, while you are icing your sore back, I’ve decided to share my list with you to give you a head start.
1. Collapsable Water Bottle
I am a huge fan of Nalgene water bottles in most every situation, except for traveling. Hard plastic water bottles are great at holding water… but they are also great at holding air. They take up just as much space with or without water in them and I can’t stand the idea of sparing precious backpack space for 32 oz of air. So I purchased a collapsable water bottle and haven’t looked back since! The brand I use is Platypus and it holds 32 oz of water. They come in all sorts of sizes and are practically 2 dimensional (flat) when empty. How cool is that?!
* A note on water bottles: Many countries don’t have potable tap water, but the solution is NOT to buy plastic water bottles at the store. If you buy two of those bottles a day and travel for two months, you’ve now added 120 plastic water bottles into landfills. Instead, look for water filling stations or boil water nightly at your accommodation and fill up your own bottle. Mother nature is a wonderful lady, let’s respect her!
2. Passport Wallet
I’m not talking about that nerdy passport necklace that your parents wear at the airport. You just need to find yourself a wallet big enough to hold your passport, spare 2×2 pictures and some currency. Mine is REI brand and it couldn’t be more perfect! It’s typically stuffed with my passport, a few backup passport pictures, my bank cards and random left over currency . It’s REALLY nice to have all of these things together in once space and well organized. Keep in mind that this bad boy holds some very important items so be sure to throw it into the safe at your accommodation. It’s also smart to keep copies of your passport elsewhere.
3. Turbie Twist
Okay this item is kinda weird, I admit that. But it is AMAZING. If your happen to have long thick locks like I do, you will agree. Aside from my pack towel, I never forget to bring my turbie twist. It’s made of a quick drying material and is ideal for keeping your dripping wet hair out of your way. You will look like a Teletubbie, but it’s worth it. It dries your hair quickly, dries itself even quicker and packs down very small. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve finished a shower, dried my body with my pack towel then twisted my hair into the pack towel only to realize that I am now butt naked and have 50 ft of hallway to sprint down to my room… Not good. So, now I wrap up my lady curves with the towel and toss my turbie twist on. Problem solved!
3. SD Reader
I really don’t like the idea of carrying multiple SD cards with me. They are tiny and I will absolutely lose them. Pictures are irreplaceable and the thought of putting them into a compromising situation sends shivers down my spine. So instead, I use a SD reader to transfer my pictures off the memory card and into the cloud. This little bugger will cost you a hefty price in the U.S., so consider waiting until you are traveling to pick one up. I got one for my iPad in Thailand for $4 and even though it is a “knock-off” it works great!
4. Portable Charging Hub
How horrible is that sinking feeling when you land in a far away place only to discover that the address of your hostel was saved into your phone and your phone is dead?! UGH. Well I’ve got a solution. Bring along a portable charging hub. This nifty doohickey can recharge all of your technology and, drum roll please, it is portable! No outlet needed. They range in price depending on how many hours of charging life you want. I bought mine for about $40 and it will fully charge my iPhone. You just need to remember to plug it in at night to recharge.
Avoiding that dreaded travelers cold is a very sensitive task. You are constantly crammed into tight overcrowded public transport with very little air circulation and shared hand rails. While you can’t avoid these circumstances, you can take a few preventative measures. One of my favorite ways to combat the sniffles is to shoot down a couple of Airborne tablets before getting on a plane, train or bus. You can buy chewable tablets or tablets that you drop in a bottle of water. They fill your body with heaps of Vitamin C and hopefully give you a line of defense against that nasty cold! So move aside you snot nosed snifflers, you’ve got nothing on me!!
This is not exactly a secret, but I put it in the list just in case! When you finally arrive to your destination you aren’t going to want to lug your giant backpack around with you everyday. Instead, you will leave your big pack at the accommodation and venture out into the streets with a daypack holding only the necessities. Some people wait until they arrive to buy a cheap daypack, but in my opinion, you shouldn’t skimp on this item. You’ve got your camera, cash, souvenirs, sunglasses and favorite collapsable water bottle- don’t just toss those things into any ol’ bag.
Consider buying a pack that closes completely and securely to avoid robbery. I also like the added security of having two shoulder straps that clip together with a chest strap to ward off anyone who might try to grab my bag and run. Aside from the security factors, look for comfort, good pockets, packability and durability. I use the REI 16 liter flash pack and wouldn’t use anything else!
A headlamp is tiny, but oh so valuable. I pull mine out at night and hang it over the side of my bunk in case of middle of the night bathroom excursions. You do NOT want to be that asshole who clunks their way down the ladder, rams into every metal clanky thing in the room and shuffles aimlessly through the path of backpacks. Throw on your headlamp, turn the light setting to low and your’ve got yourself a safe and quiet way to exit the room. Aside from potty needs, a headlamp will always come in handy while camping or chasing the sunrise. For under $20, you can find yourself a decent lamp at any outdoor store. Try to find one with multiple brightness settings and maybe even a red light setting so you don’t attract a mosquito colony.
8. Neck Pillow
There are a ton of uncomfortable things about backpacking around the world. And many travelers bask in the bad-assness of that truth. But not everything needs to be uncomfortable, especially not sleeping. Introducing the neck pillow. Yes it looks a little dweeby, but holy moly I love this thing. You fill it up with a few puffs of air before embarking on a flight or long bus journey and next thing you know it’s lights out! Sitting upright and falling asleep without a kink in your neck is next to impossible. But this fluffy pillow of love has got your back! You can wear it around the back or front of your neck, put it against the wall or on the shoulder of the person sleeping next you to. Whichever way you choose to wear it, I promise that your life will changed!
What are YOUR unique must have travel items?