10 Must Haves for that Travel Pack!

Now that I have 14 months of experience lugging a 18kg backpack around the world, I think I have a pretty good idea of what’s a must have and what’s extra weight.   For the most part, Paul did a fantastic job convincing me of leaving some things behind.  Like, who needs to bring nail polish on a RTW??   I am happy and proud to say I’m no longer that girl.  Now, if for whatever reason I need pretty nails during a trip I’ll just help myself to a spa :)

Here are my must haves:


packtowelThese lightweight & quick dry towels were super impressive and were multi-functional during our trip.   They were great for drying my long hair and can dry overnight in our hotel room.   They also served as beach towels and also as window drapes in our campervan.   I would definitely recommend getting a XL or XXL.    I’m sure an M will be sufficient for taking a shower but it’d be too small for other purposes.   Again it is super light weight and comes in a little mesh pouch to keep it for easy packing.

Packing Cubes packing cube

These packing cubes were great for helping me keep my backpack neat and it allowed me to get at my clothes without completing disassembling my packing.   One large packing cube was enough to fit ALL my clothes for 14 months (including jeans, hoodie, hiking pants, etc. etc.).  I also had a half cube for all miscellaneous items like ereader, SD cards, sleeping sack, head lamps.

My only complaint was weight.  When full, these cubes can get heavy.   So while packing cubes are a must for me,  I would maybe suggest one that’s more lightweight to begin with.

Compression Sack

compression sackThis is Paul’s contribution to the list and he loved it.  He was able to fit both his rain jacket and down jacket into the compression sack and reduced everything to the size of a very heavy (and cylindrical) cantaloupe.    Great for making space in an already overflowing backpack!


Tupperware tupperware

I know this might sound weird but our tupperware was one of our most important items!  Especially when it comes to saving money.  It allowed us to make lunch and bring out with us during the day.  Store leftovers.   And when not holding food, it holds our electronics and cables and sits comfortably in our backpacks.  No wasted space.  Plus we only needed one box between the two of us.   I would recommend a flat plastic box vs oval or round boxes for easier fit in the backpack.   We got ours at a grocery store in Turkey so it needn’t be fancy nor expensive!

Lunette Cup

Cynthia_Model21-300x278Guys don’t need to worry about this but I think it is a game changer for ladies, especially those who like to travel.   This little thing takes up next to zero space and I didn’t have to carry 14 months worth of tampons.  Scuba diving?  No problem.  A long 24 hour day travelling/transiting?  No problem!  I will spare the details on the blog but definitely worth looking into for the ladies.

American Dollars 

The exchange rate for CAD is pretty terrible at the moment USDbut having USD on our trip was incredibly useful.  Many tour operators around the world accepted USD which meant we didn’t have to hunt down ATMs and withdraw $100 CAD/day at a time over the course of 5 days.   It was also great as emergency cash, when the airports don’t accept foreign debit or credit cards (read our experience in China here).   USD also came in handy at airports for Visa on Arrival fees because most ATMs are located after customs or the ones available charge incredulous transaction fees.

Water Hydration System (camelback)

PlatypusIt’s water on the go and not just for the hikers.  Paul and I had these in our day packs even when we’re out and about in the city.   I loved the easy access to water instead of having to stop to pull out a water bottle.   Also great to use with water purification tablets.   Unfortunately my water pack broke half way through the trip and I never got it replaced.  It was good while it lasted.   Also takes up very little space when empty for those travel/airport days.  If you do plan on buying one, make sure you also buy a cap for the mouth piece.

Cable Lock

cable lock

This cable lock was a later addition but it brought us some serious peace of mind.  We used it whenever we left our luggage unattended ie: hostels, hotel left luggage, on trains, bus luggage compartments, airports.   it takes very little time to set up and we always found pipes, bedframes to loop it around with.  It’s not has hardcore as the Pacsafe allover bag protectors, but it does the job to prevent snatch and runs.

Merino Wool Garments

IB HoodieYou might not need to invest in an Ice Breaker wardrobe for short trips but it did wonders for us for 14 months.   Paul bought into the wool clothing first and I soon converted after my polyester gym clothes started to stink even after rigorous washing.   Our favourites were our hoodies from Ice Breaker, which we wore almost every day.   They are a tad expensive but it came in under a $1 per day of use.    Also for ladies, I HIGHLY recommend getting a pair of wool leggings.  They act leggingsas an extra layer in the cold, but can also act as regular leggings with a nice top, or wear for hiking.  Super versitile.   The only complaint is the fabric is very vulnerable and tears easily.   They also attract moths.    But I think they are so worth the price.   Paul and I did our Everst Bast Camp hike in these and they did not stink after 15 days of continuous wear without washing.  That is saying something…  Also worth considering are merino wool socks and underwear… if you want to go all out.


headlampThis item shouldn’t be a surprise but what did surprise me was how often we had to use our headlamps.   If you are travelling anywhere undeveloped or doing any hiking, most toilets don’t have lights.  We used our headlamps every day during our campervan tour in New Zealand. Also useful for finding your way back to your bed in a dorm room.

Paul did some research and bought us Zebralight headlamps.  I’m not quite sure the exact model but they worked great until Paul lost his while hiking in Peru!


Other honourable mentions but not necessarily a MUST HAVE:

-Silk Sleeping Bag Liner – For someone like me who is fussy about sleeping on questionable linens at hostels and overnight trains.

-Waterproof Camera – We loved having Paul’s GoPro Hero 3+.  Fun to use and we took it diving.

-Smart Phone – we used Google Maps and GPS extensively during our trip.   Preload the map when wifi is available and it’ll show your current and saved locations when you’re out and about.

– Hard Drive for backing up your precious photos.    It’s listed as “optional” because we backed everything onto Google Drive in addition to the portable HD for double protection.  Maybe it’s overkill but I like to be safe.


Happy Packing!

2 Responses

  1. Dave says:

    Awesome tips! Love this blog!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: