15 uncommon but extremely useful things for traveling
Travelling is not always comfortable. It’s actually quite the opposite. Especially when the journey involves different climates, terrains, and levels of urbanization; with dwelling options ranging from campgrounds to hammock huts to hostels/hotels.
Over the years, we have identified several things that are often not mentioned by other seasoned travellers, but that are very practical (at least to us) and add a little more comfort to our often arduous adventures. These things are carefully selected based on criteria such as lightweight, durability, reusability, cost, and if possible, versatility.
Many common things are not mentioned in this list because we think everyone should already have them in their packing checklist. For instance, a first-aid kit, a Swiss knife, a money belt, etc. However, if you’d like to cross-check your list with our rather complete Customizable Travel Checklist, please join our mailing list and you’ll instantly receive one in your mailbox.
Join our mailing list to get your
Free Printable Travel Packing Checklist
So here’s the list:
1. Plastic bags
No, we aren’t actually recommending you to bring plastic bags on your trip. Our approach to plastic in general is “Refuse it and Reuse it”. We feel the urge to put this on top of the list due to plastic’s devastating impact on our beloved planet. Sadly, many countries we travel to (including our home countries) still rely heavily on these shameful environment killers, but there are ways to help mitigate this problem. You can always refuse plastic bags and carry the stuff in your backpack or a tote bag. That said, there will be times when you’ll need one (e.g. to carry a wet soap bar) or somehow end up having one in your possession, don’t trash it; give it another life: use it again and again. It’s incredible how sturdy these bags are.
2. Cable ties
This stuff is very handy when we need to hook small things to our backpacks, e.g. water bottle, shoes, wet towel, snorkels, etc. We always have a few cable ties strapped to our carry-on backpack; you never know when you’ll need one! We also use carabiners but prefer the cable ties because they’re cheaper, lighter, adjustable and less bulky. We use cable ties collected from an abandoned storeroom (another example of reusing plastic) and carabiners from Decathlon.
How many times did you have to hang your towel on the doorknob of the hostel/hotel bathroom? For us, it’s 9 out of 10 times! Apparently, very few places can afford some hooks so it’s best to bring your own. We always carry a few S-hooks in our toiletry bag. We use the ones from Daiso (Japanese Dollar Shop) but you can get yours on Amazon if you don’t have a Daiso around.
4. String and clothes pegs (clothespins)
Even if you don’t do your laundry while you’re on the move, you’ll occasionally need to hang to dry your beach towel or wet raincoats. These pegs are also useful to close a bag of chips or coffee or cookies; just roll the top and clamp it.
5. Foldable tote bag
These reusable, super-tough yet super-light bags have followed us everywhere we go, not just for travelling but also for everyday use when we are not on the move. We use the beautifully-designed tote bags from LOQI.
6. Inflatable pillow
Pillows come in all sizes and shapes, and it’s impossible to get used to every single one of them! A personal inflatable pillow will not only provide consistency for a good sleep, but also for better hygiene. And they are surprisingly comfortable too. We got many sweet dreams with this inflatable pillow. Don’t forget to also bring a light pillow cover.
7. Compression bag
These reusable bags are not only useful for storage at home, but they are also very practical for travelling because they reduce the volume of bulky stuff like down jackets, scarves, towels, hammocks, etc. And the best of all, they’re dust-, insect-, and waterproof. When travelling, we compress the clothes that we don’t need right away (like woolly stuff while we’re in a hot place) and keep the stuff that we need in packing cubes (see below). These bags are also useful to separate dirty clothes from the clean ones. Make sure you get the one that doesn’t require a vacuum cleaner to suck out the air! We use these compression bags.
8. Collapsible container
To bring lunch for a long hike or to store leftovers, a container comes in handy. It also serves as a bowl and a plate (the lid) for camping, and we use it to store fragile medicines when we are on the move. Didn’t we say that everything has to serve more than one purpose? We use silicon containers from Tchibo (Germany). You can find similar containers on Amazon.
Not flip-flops. The difference between the two is that slippers don’t have the Y-shaped straps or toe thongs (yeah, that’s what it’s called). Slippers can be used with socks but not flip-flops unless you have those Japanese toe socks. And why do we use slippers with socks? That’s because we also use our slippers as house shoes in cold places. In addition, we use our slippers for the beach and the shower (you don’t want to get athlete’s foot or nail fungi from unhygienic showers). Everything should serve more than one purpose, if possible. We like the slippers from Decathlon (men’s and women’s) because the soles are thinner than the average slippers, which makes them much less bulky.
10. Waterproof dry bag
Coming into contact with water while travelling is unavoidable, be it water bodies or sporadic rains. On the other hand, the precious electronic devices that we use to record our beautiful journeys are absolutely “hydrophobic” (hate water). Waterproof bags are an inexpensive solution to separate those two things that should never ever meet. We use waterproof dry bags from Sea to Summit and from 360 Degrees (Australia).
11. Resealable or Ziploc bags
Get a couple of these in different sizes. This (almost) universal storage solution is cheap and practical. We use it to keep coffee, herbs, soap, toiletries, medicines, etc. Don’t throw them away after use; if they’re still in good shape, consider reusing them over and over again. They can be hand-washed if necessary; just be careful to let them dry completely.
12. Swim shirt or rash guard
One great way to save money on sunscreen and protect the ocean ecosystems from pollution is a long-sleeve UV protection swim shirt. We use Quiksilver’s All Time Long Sleeve UPF 50 Rashguards.
13. Packing cubes
These cubes work like the drawers of your wardrobe, where you can organize your stuff in any way you like. Instead of getting lost searching for something in the black hole of your backpack, these packing cubes allow you to easily find what you’re looking for. Of course, only if you remember which cube stores what. Once you have all the cubes, it’s just a Tetris game to fit them snuggly into your backpack. The cubes also protect your clothes from wrinkling much and from getting wet in the event of liquid spillages in your backpack. That said, get those cubes that are not made of mesh fabric. We use these packing cubes.
14. Neck gaiter or Buff
Bandana, neck gaiter, wind mask, sun scarf – all-in-one protection and comfort for your journeys. The benefits are irrefutable and every traveller should have one, or two! We use the buff from Buffwear.
15. Collapsible wash sink/basin
We don’t always find a clean sink/basin to wash our clothes or dishes and even if we do, most of the time it’s missing that sink plug. A collapsible sink solves the problem and can double as a bucket to carry water, which is quite handy for camping. We got ours from our favourite German shop: Tchibo. Unfortunately, you won’t find Tchibo easily outside the German-speaking world, but there are many options in Amazon; however, we can’t comment on the quality of these products.
Did we miss something? Would you add something? Or maybe you’d like to dispute the practicality or sustainability of the things we listed? Let us know in the comment box below. We’d like to learn from you too!
Disclosure: Native Globalites is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. That means, we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you, when you use the links provided here to make a purchase. Your support will motivate us to produce more quality and useful content. Thanks in advance! : )
Join our mailing list to get your