I occasionally get asked what items I cannot travel without and though that list will vary based on the length and location of the trip, I thought I’d put together a list of items I have found very useful over the years, for backpacking trips but also sometimes come in handy for easy little trips. My criteria for backpacking trips is obviously ‘is it compact?’, ‘is it useful?’, and if a textile item, ‘does it dry quickly?’
This magical bottle is a MUST have for all travellers, I can fill it up anywhere and drink the water straight away because it both filters and purifies my water. It saves me from having to buy bottled water which in addition to being inconvenient is both economically and ecologically unfriendly. I did have to order it from the USA which cost a bit in shipping (to UAE) and to get cartridge replacements from abroad can be annoying but you just have to plan ahead. I’ve used it in Nepal, Costa Rica, Kenya, Rwanda, DRC,Uganda, Tanzania, Thailand.
*During my Nepal trek, I bought a crochet water bottle holder that wraps around me like a purse, it was an excellent purchase for the Grayl.
I am not a photographer by any means but since I travel so much I wanted a quality camera. This is an entry level DSLR and it is perfect for me. I mostly use the kit lens but at times the telephoto lens comes in handy (safari, boat trips, and Nyiragongo Volcano). I would like a wide angle lens since I take so many landscape photos but I haven’t had the money to spend on it lately.
Iphone and LifeProof Case:
I don’t normally travel with a laptop unless I am gone for more than a few weeks. Thus my iPhone is essential. Basically any phone with a quality camera is important for me. I usually mix my trips between urban and rural adventure so my phone camera is very important for city photography (unless at a specific tourist site (Palace in Bangkok for example). Obviously taking a DSLR around the city makes you a target. I also always have a LifeProof case on my iPhone because I am the biggest klutz and have been known to go through a smart phone every few months. The LifeProof case also somewhat disguises the type of phone you have making you less of a target as well.
There are a bunch of different brands out there, this is just the one I’ve had forever. I was super happy with the book selection until recently when they opened a UAE site and thus title availability appears to be restricted and I can’t use the thousands of points I’ve accumulated over the years. It’s an old model so it doesn’t light up, I solve this problem by using my iPhone flashlight. During a 3 week trip I’ve been known to go through at least 5 books; it would be very cumbersome to carry 5 books in my pack but I also love that if I don’t like a book or need a new one, I can buy one anywhere I have wifi. I still read paperbacks from time to time.
Jack WolfskinSide Bag:
I like this bag a lot and have used it for city biking, day treks, and general travelling around. It has a few compartments with zippers, I can clip my wallet on the inside and it has enough room to carry my essentials including, Grayl and Nikon. You can also unzip the bottom to expand it when you need to carry more. It’s certainly not the fashionable choice but it’s definitely pickpocket proof, durable, and practical. I often bring a tiny little embroidered purse I got in Thailand for nights out so I can be both fashionable and less encumbered.
Gregory BackPack50-55L (at least a week trip):
I’ve had this pack for about 8 years and while it looks like it’s been through a lot (it has), it’s still tough as nails. The only regret is that it doesn’t have a bottom zip. I have lived out of this bag for 1-2 months at a time with a basic wardrobe and small toiletries. But during those long trips I always have to take the dreaded smaller backpack (wearing it on my front) so that I can bring along my laptop. Solutions to this dilemna are welcome, do they make packs with safe-easy to access laptop compartments now?
Regardless of what brand of leggings you like or how you feel about the trend; I find the garment incredibly versatile and convenient for travel; think long plane rides, all manners of physical activities, and if they are plain enough, under a dress or skirt for a day/night out. The best part is they take up minimal luggage space, are easy to wash by hand, and dry quickly (unless in the mountains of Nepal-then nothing dries, EVER).
Whether you love or hate them, everyone knows Lululemon, I’m not getting paid to promote the brand but I will say that I have had a pair of their leggings for 8 years and only in the last year have they become inappropriate for public viewing.
I love all my Lululemon leggings but the most comfortable and convenient for travel are their WunderUnder (Fullux) leggings for the following reasons: they can be worn for an impromptu yoga class, to trek up a mountain, or under a casual dress for city walkabouts.
A rather new company, Girlfriend Collective, has been producing exercise clothes that are simple and super well made at a slightly cheaper price than Lululemon. All of their garments are made from recycled plastics in an ethical and sustainable factory in Vietnam. The material compresses your legs and butt in a very flattering way; although these days, with my ever growing baby bump, getting them on can be a workout in and of itself. If I had a choice, 99% of my leggings and exercise gear would come from this company.
Last I checked Girlfriend Collective had a limited shipping range, so I had my Mom order me a new pair to bring when she meets me in Prague this August. Thanks Maman!
I had another brand of quick dry towel before but it was thick and did not actually dry quickly in humid places. I found the Sea to Summit towel right before going to Costa Rica (a very humid place) and will never take the other one anywhere again-in fact it has been relegated to the gym towel pile. I have the medium size towel, which I would not use to cover myself to go to and from a shared bathroom (I use a sarong for that) but it’s the perfect size to sop up the moisture and dry within a few hours so you can pack it away for the next leg of your journey,
Quick Dry Underwear:I like to bring minimal clothing so I do end up doing laundry throughout my trips. Quick Dry underwear are marvellous because for instance; you forget that you’ve run out of underwear on your way to breakfast one morning, so you quickly wash a pair in the sink throw them out in the sun for an hour while at breakfast and voila! Fresh panties!
In terms of brands, UnderArmour used to make these amazing thin and breathable pair that adequately covered my butt cheeks and don’t ride up but sadly they switched to another material which I find simply offensive-they go straight up your bum which is no good for any kind of activity. Lululemon sells underwear that dry quickly and are quite comfortable. I intend to try Patagonia’s panties but the brand is not available in my current country of residence.
I often stay in hostel/backpackers accommodations but usually in a private room. Normally, even the private rooms don’t come with a safe but hostels do ordinarily have lockers, you just need to have your own lock-you’d be surprised how many times I’ve been the only one of my group with a lock!
This, most versatile article of clothing can be worn to the beach, can be your beach towel, can be your communal-shower cover up; your airplane, bus, or train blanket, and if you’re desperate, a towel. You can also use it as a cover up for temples or a head scarf for mosques. The sarong also dries quickly!
Clif or Luna Bars or other similar types of bars:
When I know I am going to be stuck on a bus for a day and probably won’t have reliable access to food or if I am trekking a lot, than I pack a few of these bars with me for those days. They were a lifesaver when I took a 14 hour bus ride from Lusaka, Zambia to Lilongwe, Malawi.
Reusable Travel bottles (shampoo, conditioner, etc)
I always use the reusable travel bottles for toiletries for the following reasons: Firsly, the products I like usually don’t come in travel size and I make a few of my own things. Secondly, because why buy an extra thing when you can just bring what you already have. Finally, because it is much more earth friendly to reuse the same small bottles rather than buy new travel size things every time. I used to buy the cheap ones from the dollar store or Daiso but after a few uses they would eventually break. I bought my current set at Muji which is an amazing Japanese concept store, they have loads of useful and useless stuff for travel. Their travel bottles appear to be more durable than the dollar store version and my lotion set comes with a tiny spatula!
These items are a personal selection and I have not been paid to advertise for these companies, I just truly believe these products are useful and worth the money. Brands vary and everyone has their favourites. If you’re a first time backpacker, I probably wouldn’t go out and purchase all this stuff at once but some things-like the Quick Dry Towel are incredibly handy and you really won’t regret the purchase.
What are some of your travel essentials? I am always on the lookout for products and tips that will improve the backpacking experience; I would love to hear from you, so leave a comment or send me a private message.