Between growing up on the roads around Australia and then graduating to overseas adventures, you could say I have done a lot of travelling. So far I have visited Nepal, Zimbabwe, China, Zambia, UAE and had numerous trips to New Zealand, and have found certain items to be extremely useful over and over again. I like to pack as lightly as possible and only ever take carry on because I generally prefer adventure travel over luxury (but if anyone wants to sponsor us to stay and review a luxury resort, I’m your girl!!). These are the 8 things that I never travel without now, and they are compact enough to stash in my carry on bag or on my body.
I hope you enjoy this article and get some great ideas for your next adventure 🙂
My number one, absolute must-have item is a simple cotton scarf. They have SO MANY USES! These are some of the ways I have used mine..
the original purpose- wrap around your neck to stay warm
to protect yourself from the sun
folded up to use as a pillow
a towel or facecloth
to filter particles from water
to cover your head & shoulders in conservative countries,
tie into a sling style bag
a baby sling!
as a window curtain
a dust mask during dust/sandstorm etc
a headwrap (for those of us hippie types!)
to pick up hot objects such as pots & pans
torniquet/splint wrap, bandage in case of accidents
A scarf can easily be carried on your body when going through security. You will most likely have to remove it for screening but that’s no biggie, and it won’t take up precious space in your carry on. The best type is a mid-weight natural material with a reasonably open weave. Cotton or bamboo are great as the fibre is soft, warm, cool, non-scratchy and it’s breathable. The ideal size is somewhere in the vicinity of a bath towel. Large enough to wrap around yourself but light enough to fold up into a small pillow. I have one which I absolutely LOVE. My friend was literally throwing it out and asked if I wanted it, and I have had so much use out of it! It has neutral-ish coloured stripes and goes with anything. I can’t recommend a scarf enough and not only can they be used for a zillion things, they are cute to!
This may sound like an odd thing to carry, but if you can find a corner of your bag to fit one they come in very handy when off the beaten track. Some uses include:
picnic table cover,
picnic blanket on the ground,
tarp/emergency rain shelter,
shower screen for portable shower
rain cover for packs & bags,
emergency water carrier/storage
to cover an unclean bed (believe me, sweating it out on a crunchy piece of plastic would have been heaven had I known this hack when I arrived in Nepal)
You could use a thin plastic shower curtain, a plastic tablecloth from the $2 shop or the clear plastic wrap that a new matress comes in. An ideal size would be at least 2.5 x 1.5m so that it can be used as a rain shelter if need be.
Duct tape? Really? Yes! It’s not just for the wanna-be MacGuyvers. Duct tape has loads of uses when travelling.
Twist it to make into a rope or clothesline
repair clothing, sleeping bags and packs
make a drinking cup
tape around pant-legs to keep ticks & leeches out
to make bandage/sling/splint if you have an accident
hold up a makeshift shelter with your plastic sheet
hanging up your scarf curtain
repairing sunglasses (Okay not pretty, but I’d rather look like a dork and be able to use my sunnies than die from the glare!)
Duct tape is also awesome when getting a fire started as it burns relatively slowly. Wrap an old plastic store card, a pencil or a cigarette lighter with a few meters of tape and keep in your bag. It takes up minimal space and is so handy!
Charcoal is absolutely brilliant for water or food poisoning. It is very effective at absorbing toxins in the body and flushing them out of your system quickly. I have personally used this myself when I had food poisoning last year. Although I was weak, nauseous and shakey, I was completely better within 24 hours and the symptoms were much milder than the first time I had food poisoning. I WISH I had known about this in Nepal also, as I came down with water poisoning and was so weak I could not walk for 4 days. Not cool when travelling on your own in a foreign country.
You can buy activated charcoal from the health food store and take some in a small plastic bag or container. If possible, buy in small quantities and keep in the original packaging, or rip off the label and attach it to a zip-lock bag or whatever you are storing it in. I have never had a problem, but customs may be curious as to what it s and why you’re caring it.
Charcoal is also a fantastic toothpaste. Just damp your toothbrush, dip it in the powder and scrub away. It tastes a little funky and is gritty, but your pearlers will be brighter than ever and your breath will be as fresh as the summer rain!
Other uses include hangover or alcohol poisoning remedy (again, detoxing the system) and it is also great for bug bites and stings. Simply make a paste with water and dab it onto the bite. Leave it to dry and it will draw out the nasties. Don’t try this for serious bites like spider, scorpion or snakes- get medical attention ASAP.
It may be old-school, but a sewing kit can come in really handy. I used one to repair the strap on my neck pouch which had torn out while in Zimbabwe. The neck pouch held our passports, credit card, cash and travel documents so it was important that I keep it secure and well hidden. It only took 10 minutes or so to fix and we were on our way again. I have also used it to repair my (very full) pack when the stitching came undone alongside the zipper at the top, creating a gaping hole and a flashing neon sign for pickpockets. I don’t carry anything of much value in my pack, but they don’t know that.
You can buy tiny sewing kits which take up almost zero space, and I have not had a problem getting through security with them even though they contain metal safety pins and needles. The teeny-tiny metal scissors, thimbles and needle threaders may be a problem, but they’re not essential so I don’t carry them. I just take a couple of needles and safety pins, and some thread. Try to get nylon thread as it’s much stronger than cotton.
A what? An old fashioned rubber door stop. This is a great security measure while you are sleeping and will even slow down hotel staff with a door key from coming to visit uninvited. Simply slip it under the closed door and anyone trying to force it open will have a hard time getting in.
You can now buy a door stop which is specifically designed for travelers that has a loud built in alarm! If an intruder tries to force the door open a switch is activated on the stopper, the alarm sounds and the intruder will flee. Check out this one here. Either type of door stop are very compact and I always find space in my carry on for one.
This is pretty self explanatory as anyone who has ever had a baby will tell you! The uses are endless.
A ‘bird bath’ when you can’t have a shower
cleaning up mess, spilled food/drink/vomit
emergncy toilet paper
emerency tissues (a bit cold and wet, but it beats using your sleeve!)
cleaning suspicious cutlery in restaurants
wiping dust off pretty much anything, especially good for electronics
wiping down and/or lining public toilet seats
clean glasses & sunnies
wipe down airplane seats, armrests, tables and windows
clean dinner tables easily.. you get the idea.
I use a brand here in Australia called ‘Water wipes’ that contain 99% water and 1% grapefruit seed extract, a natural anti-fungal to keep them from spoiling while on the shelf. Many baby wipes on the market (including the well known best-seller) are FULL of chemical compounds and petrochemical derivatives. How they can be marketed as safe for a tiny baby’s bottom is beyond me. I used dampened cotton washers for my two older children and water wipes for my baby, and none of them ever had nappy rash.
Anyhoo, back to our travel essentials.
RFID BLOCKING POUCH.
You may or may not have heard of RFID. It stands for Radio Frequency Identification. It consists of a microchip and tiny antenna and is used to identify and track items, and send information back to a central computer. An example of this is in designer clothing. You may have noticed small hard tags sewn into clothing which need to be cut off before wear. Inside these tags is a tiny data chip which can store around 2,000 bytes of data and an antenna. These are the things that beep like crazy if you walk too close to a security scanner while carrying your goods and they are used to deter shoplifters. You may have also noticed stickers (which have a metallic square pattern when peeled off) on swing-tags or other products such as vitamin bottles and cosmetics. This is the antenna, and at the centre of it is the (seriously) tiny microchip. These perform the same function and will beep like mad if they are not deactivated before you leave the shop. They are deactivated via an electro-magnetic device that is embedded into the counter top when you go to pay for your item.
This is the same technology which most credit cards now have, with the tap-and-go chip. This again is a tiny antenna and a chip containing YOUR data this time- that is your personal information and bank account details. It is designed to make purchasing fast and easy but it comes with a major drawback. Anyone with an RFID reader can stand within a few feet and collect your details, draw money from your account and steal your identification without you even knowing. The same is true for passports. New technology is now embedded int the pages of a passport and your information can be scanned and your identity stolen and used for shady activities.
The good news is that you can keep your documents safe by investing in an RFID blocking pouch, or separate RFID sleeves for passports and credit cards. The pouches block scanners from retrieving your details come in a variety of styles- neck pouch, bum-bag, purse and so on. I have the separate RFID sleeves for our passports and credit cards. They are good but I find it a little cumbersome taking them in and out at airports and shops, so I will be purchasing an RFID neck pouch like the one pictured to keep everything safe before our next overseas adventure.
These are the 8 items that I won’t travel without. A top-quality pack is also essential for your comfort and happiness if you are hiking, and you can read my detailed review here (Article coming soon!) if you are considering purchasing one in the future.
I hope this list of useful items comes in handy when planning your next adventure. If you have any you would like to add, I’d love you to share them below in the comments!
Until next time, happy travels 🙂