Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Travel Tip Tuesdays: Five Things I Always Pack

In response to last week’s blog post, a reader asked: 

On the contrariwise, are there any items that you always take, no matter what? 

In addition to using the fantastic word “contrariwise,” this person brings up a good point. I won’t mention stuff I refuse to do without (such as underwear, good walking shoes, and a toothbrush), but here are five things you might not think of but I consider essential:

Water bottle. I have discovered that there aren’t nearly enough drinking fountains in the world, especially in remote hiking areas and downtowns of big cities. To avoid paying through the nose for bottled water, bring your own (preferably a lightweight metal one). You never know when you’ll need it.

iPod Touch. An iPhone (or any smartphone) is even better, but my iPod Touch is very useful to me. Not only do I love listening to music, but it serves as a watch, alarm clock, photo album, reading tablet, and, when I have wi-fi, a tiny computer.  

Hat. I’m not talking about a stylish hat— I bring my green bucket hat, since it shades both my ears and my eyes, keeps off sun and rain, and is generic enough to go with anything. If you sunburn easily and/or are traveling somewhere rainy, this is essential.

A bandana can also be used to clean up the messes of
drooling bears, as Mary is attempting to do here in Seattle.
Sarong. I feel like a hypocrite putting this on the list since I don’t currently own one. Still, it merits placement because it’s one of the most massively useful things ever. Whether using it as a towel, a picnic blanket, or a stylish skirt, I have found a sarong to be a treasured travel companion.

Bandanas. These are about as essential to me as my toothbrush (almost). They work as a quick fix for a bad hair day, a bit of flair to a drab outfit, or a bandage for a gory wound. Napkin, kerchief, washcloth, ankle wrap, sleeping mask or sack, these suckers come in pretty handy.

What do you always pack?

Have a travel question? Leave a comment and I’ll answer!


  1. I've heard elsewhere about the magical properties of sarongs! I must try and find one.

  2. I like your list. One small alteration is the iPod Touch. I use an Android Smartphone called Virgin-Mobile LG Optimus V (I have never activated it as a phone - I use it like an iPod). It does all the iPod does, but it has four improvements: 1) GPS, micro-SD slot, removable battery, it can be purchased "new" for under $30, or used for $20.

    I bought 3 extra batteries for $10 with shipping. I did a test and with the GPS used 10 times daily, and then shut off in between use; an hour of audio books in the evening; 10 photos taken daily; and one hour of Internet every three days. I get two weeks of use on one battery.

    I am bringing one 1-ounce battery as a spare with me, and I have others at mail drops about two weeks apart. The two weeks of use per battery means I don't need to haul any addition power brick or solar charger along.

    But the addition of the GPS, and I have complete maps on it for the whole trail, along with Halfmile's app. My 16GB SD card is loaded on my laptop with audio books and music and then just plugged into the phone.

    This is a cheap and better (IMHO) option than an iPod . NOTHING wrong with the iPod, but the GPS is a "freebie" for the weight, and the replaceable battery is another substantial feature, particularly on the trail. YMMV.

    1. Thanks for the tip, Bendbound! On the PCT trip we're leaving my iPod Touch at home and taking my husband's Nokia Lumia, since he already owns it. But maybe you'll inspire some people to check it out. (I'm especially surprised that it's so cheap!) Super cool.