No matter where I go in the world, I tend to bring along some of the same items in my backpack. When it comes to packing, especially for long-term travel across continents, my packing philosophy is to bring things that…
- Are useful in multiple climates and types of environments
- Have more than one use (e.g. jojoba oil is for moisturizing my skin AND for removing makeup; this means I don’t need to pack an extra makeup remover)
- Are comfortable, especially when it comes to shoes since I only travel with a few pairs and wear them walking all around day in and day out
- Fit my style and make me feel good
So whether I’m packing for hiking at altitude in Peru, or sweating it out on a tropical Thai island, here are some of my most-used travel items I bring along:
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Gregory Deva 60 backpack
I love my Gregory backpack – it’s super comfortable and fits my small frame well and is incredibly durable! I’ve traveled to tons of places with it. My pack is 65 liters and I would not recommend getting anything bigger. In fact, the smaller you can go (I think 45 liters would be minimalist but not too much so), the better!
Sony a6100 mirrorless camera
I just got this Sony mirrorless camera for my birthday this year and am sooooo excited to go traveling with it. I got the bundle that came with the 55-210 mm lens in addition to the kit lens. I love how compact and lightweight the camera is – though I will say, I don’t think having a mirrorless camera is in any way a travel necessity! If you don’t want to make a hobby out of photography, your phone camera is probably well enough and much easier to use.
GoPro waterproof and action camera
I bought the GoPro Hero 4 Silver used while living in Koh Tao along with the watertight casing/selfie stick thing, three batteries, and the charger. I ordered the final piece of my kit, the microSD card, online. I LOVE having this camera in any and all water-related adventures. Snorkeling, diving, country-wide water fight in Thailand celebrating the New Year…It has been a gamechanger for me. If you don’t want to splurge on the newest model, you should be able to find older models online or used.
Getting a Kindle changed my life! I found I was often traveling in places where it was hard to get my hands on an English book, let alone a good one. Kindle has revolutionized the reading game for me. Not only do I now have access to any book in the world no matter where I am in the world, but I can also get books for free through my local library.
BookBook laptop case
Nothing I own gets more compliments and ‘where-did-you-get-that’ questions than my BookBook laptop case by Twelve South. It’s a hardback, leather laptop case that disguises my computer as an antique book and looks cool as hell. It is expensive however so makes for a great gift (that’s how I ended up with it). They have a less expensive version as well that is almost the same. Here’s my full review of the laptop case.
Wardrobe essential: Black skinny jeans
Black jeans are one of the most versatile clothing items you can have. I bring my Topshop black ‘Jamie’ jeans almost everywhere I go. I wear them all the time – from walking around a new city to going out at night. Topshop is the only brand I buy jeans from nowadays. They carry petite and short sizes which is pretty necessary for me and have high rise and ankle cuts that I love and find so flattering.
Ultralight packable jacket
Truly one of the best investments you can make if you travel often and like to pack light. I received the Patagonia Nano Puff jacket as a gift and I take it EVERYWHERE I travel. You can read my full Patagonia Nano Puff review here.
You can’t go wrong with a flannel button-down. These are great for layering in changing temperatures and are lightweight enough to stuff in a day bag or purse. I even wear my flannel a lot here in Thailand on days when it’s raining or during cooler nights.
I got mine at Costco but I don’t see it online anywhere. They sell some nice ones at REI.
Best cold weather travel boot: Doc Marten boots
I feel like travelers are forever trying to find the perfect travel boot: something that’s comfortable enough for walking all day, but also cute enough to go out in at night and wear around a cool European city without looking like a lame tourist.
For me, my Doc Martens fit the bill. They’re definitely no hiking shoe, but they can stand up to a day of walking just fine. And I think they’re pretty damn cool looking. If you’re worried about breaking them in, you can get the soft leather ones like I did (I think they’re called the Pascals). I bought mine used for a discount on Mercari (also check out Poshmark! Love em both).
Best warm weather travel sandal: Chaco sandals
Chaco sandals are great for mid-to-warm weather travel, especially if you’ll be walking a lot or exposed to any wet weather. I had them with me in Thailand and traded out my flip flops for them for day hikes and whenever it rained. If you’re struggling to figure out the differences between the different models of Chacos, you can check out my Chaco comparison review here.
For something so cheap, I can’t believe how much use I get out of my sarong. It cost me about $7 back in 2012 and I not only still have it but use it for everything. Any time I go somewhere where swimming is involved, the sarong comes with me. It serves double duty as a towel after showering when I backpack in warm climes.
I got mine in Bangkok and it’s super easy to find them on sale anywhere in Southeast Asia. Otherwise, I’m seeing some pretty ones on Amazon.
All-over moisturizer: Jojoba oil
My friend introduced me to 100% jojoba oil last year and I’m in LOVE. I use jojoba oil as a moisturizer all over my body and face and to remove makeup. Unlike coconut oil, it doesn’t leave you greasy; the molecules are small enough so your skin can absorb the oil and it doesn’t block your pores. (Yes friends I am extremely acne-prone and I even use this stuff on my face!)
Travel first aid kit
Listen, no matter what, it just sucks to be sick while abroad. I bring a small bag of medical essentials — and no, I’m not talking about band-aids. Check out what I pack in my travel first aid kit here.
Earplugs are a travel MUST for me. I take them everywhere I go. I often sleep with them if the room has street or party noise. I only use Mack’s silicone earplugs as they are SO much better than the foam kind. Highly recommend.
For fitness on the road: Resistance bands
Resistance bands revolutionized my digital nomad life. They’re lightweight and so small but make a huge difference – now I can do strength training even if I don’t have access to a gym.
‘Cause I’m old-school like that 😉 I really love to have a physical guidebook with me, especially when I’m traveling solo. Lonely Planet is my go-to for guidebooks. I just find the information is presented really clearly and I’m able to pick out what stuff really interests me.
Reusable water bottle
I try to use less plastic by carrying my reusable water bottle with me everywhere I go. I do this even in countries where I have to buy bottled water: I just buy water in bulk and fill up my bottle as needed. I bought myself a 20 oz insulated Klean Kanteen water bottle because I prefer stainless steel for its durability and resistance to chemical leaching (unlike hard plastic or aluminum bottles).
What things do you always bring along when you go traveling? I would love to compare notes.
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Packing Light for Southeast Asia
A Swiss Army knife!
Not necessarily a big one, just a little one. It has to be checked, of course, but it is so handy: scissors, tweezers, knife, corkscrew maybe. Absolutely get one with tweezers. I can’t count the # of times this has saved the day, or, at least the moment!
Also, make sure you get name brand; the cheaper ones tend to break easily.
Oooh interesting! That would actually probably solve a lot of problems for me – I’m always needing scissors and end up using my cuticle clippers a lot of the time. Then the blade dulls and now I need new cuticle clippers :/