Hey there, and welcome to my blog!
So… I’ve got about 3 collective years of backpacking under my belt and there are certain items without which I just don’t travel. Whether they’re indispensable to me, or just plain fun to have abroad, here are my 21 favourite travel accessories.
1. Osprey Fairview 40L backpack
Since many of my travels involve camping or cold/wet climates, I sometimes travel with a large backpack and a small carry-on. However, depending on destination and accommodation, one could easily pull off a month-long trip with just a 40-L carry-on backpack. Enter the Osprey Fairview 40L.
I had always used hiking packs for my travels until www.packhacker.com sold me on this travel carry-on bag. I’m a huge fan of packing cubes (which compress your clothes but do not minimize weight), so the Fairview’s hefty hip belt allows for comfort despite the load. It opens up completely flat, clamshell-style, and there are a few small and large compartments, including a padded laptop sleeve.
The coolest feature about this backpack? The hideaway harness system. Shoulder and hip straps can easily be tucked into a flap; this prevents damage while transiting. Zip it all away into a clean, tight bundle and stash the bag in the overhead storage. There are even two compression straps in the front to tighten up the whole thing. All your flight essentials can then be kept under your seat in a smaller bag. Watch PackHacker’s thorough review, as well as Enwild's detailed review of the Osprey Fairview 40L.
2. Birkenstock sandals
I've grown very fond of the EVA Gizeh models, which are light and cushy without sacrificing arch support. If I could wear them everywhere, I would. Comfortable, durable and versatile.
I've spent all day walking in these sandals, and my feet aren't even close to getting sore or tired. They're great for taking showers in hostels or public pools and for giving my feet a breather after a good hike.
3. Travel scarf with hidden pocket
This is a recent finding from Etsy and I’m totally tripping; I love its quality and convenience. Scarves aren’t practical in hot and humid climates, so this might not get packed for every trip. It’s the kind of thing I wear on shopping or grocery trips at home, if it means not carrying my wallet in my hands.
The sewn-in, hidden zipper pocket can stash a passport and cards, a room key and lipgloss, even a cell phone. Pretty cool. Good luck getting this scarf off my neck, muggers.
4. Extra stowable backpack
I love these Eddie Bauer stowable backpacks (20L and 30L). They compress small and light, but they’re made tough and they’re sewn sturdy - features that are hard to find in packable bags.
Throughout my travels, this bag sometimes serves as my day bag or my grocery bag (unless I bring a chic handbag -- you can get tired of the backpack style).
5. Headband (Buff-style)
Lightweight and packable, this is a versatile winner. Use it as an eye mask during your flight or your nights in a hostel dorm room. Wrap your phone into it to protect it from rain, sand or scratches. Use it as a headband when you don’t feel like washing your hair. In an emergency, it becomes a (non-sterile) sling. Use it as a scarf or bandana on chilly, windy days. Soak it on a hot day for a refreshing cool-off around your neck or forehead. Use it as a scrunchie to hold your ponytail or bun. You can even twist it in the middle, then pull the top section down over the bottom to wear it as a tuque (beanie).
6. Collapsible water bottle
It’s not my everyday water carrier (your water can taste plasticky), but it’s a pretty cool gadget. I like HydraPak’s Stash 750ml bottle because it’s light and keeps its shape when you’re drinking from it (doesn't sag in your hand). Once you’ve drunk its contents, it twists small for storage in your purse or daybag. Hook a carabiner onto your belt loop to go hands-free on a hike or walk.
7. Eye mask and ear plugs
Nothing blocks out the world better, from your seat in the plane or from your dorm bed, than a good eye mask. Well, other than perhaps… ear plugs! They are life savers for me. I’m in constant bewilderment when travellers in hostel dorms get upset that they can’t properly sleep. Learn to sleep with an eye mask and ear plugs, to listen to your own breathing. It will eventually feel incredibly calming and isolating, and it will save your sleep routine. I even wear my eye mask and ear plugs on regular nights at home now.
8. Exfoliating body glove
This is especially great when you’re visiting somewhere humid or beachy, and you just feel so grimy. An exfoliating glove is light, takes up no room at all, can be washed with your delicates, dries quickly, and packs into a ball or flat against the inside of your toiletry bag. Scrub away all the grit on your grits!
9. Packable down jackets
Let’s get it out right away: I’ve got way too many puffy jackets. But they are fantastic. They keep you warm whether it’s -2 or -20 degrees without sacrificing packing space. I’m a die-hard Arcteryx fan (Canadian high-end company with a lifetime warranty. Yes, lifetime.), but there are tons of great models out there. I’m equally impressed with Norrona, a Norwegian company. On the less expensive scale, MEC or REI models do just as fine; no need to break the bank, although you won’t get the lifetime warranty.
10. Compostable wipes
They’re a lifesaver if you’re travelling to hot and humid areas, or if you’re backpacking/camping and showers can be scarce. They can be cleansing or simply refreshing on a long flight or train journey. I stay away from harsh anti-bacterial wipes, as I might use them on delicate skin.
11. Mini First Aid kit
The essentials: Ibuprofen (anti-inflammatory, Advil), acetaminophen (pain and fever relief, Tylenol), dimenhydrinate (for nausea, Gravol) and antihistamines (allergy relief, like Benadryl). Band-aids, blister pads, Steri-strips, antibacterial cream. Duct tape for everything else.
A headlamp is easier to direct onto your book than the light above your plane seat. It’s also practical for reading in your hostel bed or for nighttime trips to the bathroom down the hall. Make sure yours has a red light; for the dorm, plane or tent, its glare is softer (so it won’t keep you awake) and is much less disturbing to neighbours.
I like my Petzl Actik Core headlamp; its lithium battery charges with a USB cable, but you can also use disposable batteries if preferred. This model isn’t the least-expensive headlamp out there, but its lasting power is impressively long, it frequently comes camping with me and it’s my after-sunset running companion. A worthy investment.
13. Blow up travel pillow
The Sea To Summit Aeros UltraLight Travel Pillow packs small and light. Very helpful on trains, planes, buses and in hostel rooms. Doubles as my camping pillow back home. The double inflation/deflation valve is more practical and of higher quality than most inflatable pillows I’ve tried.
Music is my life. It always plays in the background at home, in my classroom and in my car. I’ll even listen to music while reading a book. I have recently graduated to wireless earbuds with Shokz Open Run headphones, which I love and got used to in no time. Before that, I really liked travelling with my Sony foldable headphones since they close flat.
I almost never leave the house without a book in my bag; a trip to the grocery store is the exception. And since I haven’t yet resigned myself to the idea of reading off a tablet, I still lug around good old-fashioned paper versions of my favourite books. Here are a few of them (you might want to consider audio versions, since some of these are real bricks):
A Short History of Nearly Everything (Bill Bryson)
A Man Called Ove (Fredrik Backman)
Le Petit Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)
Any Harry Potter books (J.K. Rowling)
Sapiens (Yuval Noah Harari)
16. Reusable, collapsible cookware
I’m a fan of SeaToSummit’s collapsible cookware. They pack down to almost nothing and they’re light enough to bring on backcountry hiking trips. I bring a few utensils and collapsible bowls for long-term travels around the world.
17. Trowel (Travel Towel)
A good travel towel can act as a blanket, beach towel/sarong, pillow, and can save you money in hostels (where they sometimes charge for towels). I like this model from MEC , which comes in four different sizes and colours. Its smooth, antibacterial fibres make it quick-drying and non-sticky, even for pesky grains of sand. A trowel with a handy loop that snaps closed is especially convenient.
18. Packing cubes
These are crucial to my packing process now; I really feel like I didn’t know what I was doing before I found packing cubes. I’ve had my Eagle Creek cubes for over a decade; they’re built sturdy and the material and zippers are high-quality. Keep in mind that packing cubes compress clothes and take up less room, but they get heavy rather quickly. They’re space savers and organizers, but not weight savers.
And yes, I roll all my clothing; it takes less space than folding. Clothes get wrinkled regardless of how they're packed, so unless you've got a business meeting, get friendly with your wrinkles (also fitting advice for the ones on your face).
If you don’t have packing cubes, plastic grocery bags will work (although significantly less ecological).
19. Silicone containers
I love silicone bottles and bags, but it’s essential to buy top-quality ones; the mess in your backpack isn't worth the few dollars you’d otherwise be saving. On long trips, you’ll have to eventually buy shampoo or conditioner. But if you’re checking a bag and travelling for 'only’ 2 or 3 weeks, they’re 100% worth the money. GoToob makes durable and reliable products, and Stasher is currently the king of the silicone bag world.
20. Portable charger (power bank)
One of these babies could be very handy if your phone, computer or camera battery runs out of juice and you’re nowhere near a power source. You can fly with one as long as it does not exceed 100Wh (watt hours). See this article for more details.
21. Individual power converters
Electrical sockets and voltages vary with every continent, and sometimes from country to country. A single, compact adapter allows you to charge your devices with one universal (but usually heavy) cube. While it can be convenient if you're planning on travelling to different continents in one trip, I prefer bringing a few small adapters fitted for specific destinations. Image below courtesy of Los Angeles Times.
Honourable mention: Hand-held fan
So simple. A small packable hand fan can make a huge difference in a stifling plane or on a hot day abroad.
And that's it folks! Enjoy your travels and let me know what accessories you like taking with you.
See ya out there.
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