After being on the road almost non-stop since 2008, I’ve really honed my packing skills. I made the classic mistakes – over packing, packing the wrong type of gear and forgetting helpful items that I wasn’t aware I even needed. The key to packing well is to invest in quality gear, pack minimally, and don’t forget these six essentials!
1. Quality Rain Gear
The monsoon season in Asia taught me the difference between WATERPROOF and water RESISTENT. The latter soaks quickly and takes days to dry.
Invest in a quality raincoat with zippered underarm vents to allow air flow in hot conditions. It also serves as a top layer for insulation in cold weather and helps with wind.
Also, invest in rain covers for your bags. My Osprey day pack cover doubles as a camera cover in wet conditions when I still want to shoot. It’s always handy to have a disposable poncho that fits over you and your day pack, too. I use it to cover me and my backpack. Plus, it’s great for covering rolling suitcases as well if it decides to pour while you walk to the train station in London or Vietnam.
The headlamp is the single greatest invention after the burrito. Be sure to get headlamp with adjustable brightness/direction and a red light option, which doesn’t attract bugs. It frees up your hands to search through luggage, hike or put up a tent in the dark. When you are camping and have to pee at 3 a.m., it will save you. Phone batteries die. Phones also fall in toilets and don’t have red light options. Trust me, it will change your life.
3. Stainless Steel Water Bottle
Plastic bottles are bad for both the environment and your health. Purchase a good insulated stainless steel water bottle like Klean Kateen before your next trip. Avoid aluminum and anything that’s not BPA free. Stainless is easy to clean (hot water) and most importantly—keeps beverages colder longer. I use my water bottle every day even when I’m not traveling.
4. Water Filter
The easiest way to save money on a trip is to pack a water filter! I recommend Sawyer’s Mini Filter. It’s tiny, inexpensive and easy to use. I used it for seven months in Central and South America. Both the filter and stainless steel bottle mentioned above will save you a fortune in airports. Simply filter the bathroom sink water. (Yes, I was THAT girl in the bathroom at the Cancun airport filtering the sink water!)
5. Dr. Bonner’s Magic Liquid Soap
Dr. Bonner’s is chemical free, biodegradable and smells great. Use it as body wash, dish soap and laundry detergent. Trust me, no other soap will make you or your clothes smell so fresh!
6. Inflatable Neck Pillow
Ditch the fluffy oversized neck pillow for a more compact inflatable one. There’s nothing worse than getting off a flight with jet-lag AND a stiff neck. All the cheap ones I bought at Target kept deflating too quickly so I reluctantly invested in this Sea to Summit one, and it was worth every penny! It also doubles as a great camping pillow. Add clothing in the middle for extra padding. This saves me on every form of transport. The best part is that it takes up no space!