It seems like every traveler has their own “essential travel gear” list. Here's ours based on our 8+ years of traveling in every sort of country, climate or luxury level.
We both use these in various sizes for holding our clothes, electronics and medicines – all your stuff is one place, meaning that you don’t have to go reaching around your pack looking for a pair of socks, a t-shirt or band-aids. And, when the bus leaves in 5 minutes, it’s much easier to pack up.
We’ve sung the praises of ear plugs before, but it’s always worth mentioning again as a good night’s sleep is golden for staying healthy — and happy. But not all earplugs are created equal. That's why we recommend these Howard Leight Earplugs.
Silk sleep sack
If you're going to be staying in budget accommodations or planning on trekking where you're camping or staying with a homestay families (where the sleeping bag/blanket may not have been cleaned in a while), silk sleep sacks are an essential item. The fine silk keeps the bugs from biting through, but is cool enough so you won't roast. But, when you are cold this is a great additional layer to get warm. More importantly, it's just nice to be enveloped in something clean that you trust before going to bed. We picked ours up at a market in Hanoi at the beginning of our trip, but you can also find silk sleep sacks on Amazon and at camping stores.
Not every place you stay may have a towel, so it's good to be prepared with your own. And, when you're off trekking a travel towel is essential. We use a medium sized towel as it's still small to pack away, but is big enough if we need to use after showering.
It naturally soothes, cleanses and dries out whatever is ailing you and is especially good for mosquito and other bites. A small amount goes a long way. You can find tea tree oil in pharmacies or in health food stores. Be sure to get the medicinal strength stuff.
This is another essential. Sure, it's possible to buy bottled water in most places of the world these days. But, do you really want to leave a trail behind you of plastic bottles? That's why carrying your own water bottle ensures that you always can have water with you (yes, hydration is good), but also reduces your use of plastic water bottles. We hook our Camelback water bottle on to the side of Audrey's Crumpler with a carabiner. If you're traveling in countries where the water from the tap is not fit to drink, consider getting a Camelback bottle that includes a water purifier or the Steripen (see below) to treat your water.
Steripen is a small device that you carry that purifies water through ultraviolet light. And their product line has gotten better over the years in terms of size and battery use. What we like about the Steripen Freedom is that you can charge it via USB. And, it's small. While a Steripen will kill the germs in the water, it won't change the taste. So, sometimes it's also good to carry packets of lemonade or Tang to help make the water taste better.
The sarong is the Swiss Army Knife in cloth form. It knows a versatility that goes beyond a lie on the beach. Use it as a blanket when your sleep sack isn’t quite warm enough. Use it as an extra layer of protection between you and that train or hostel sheet that has never been washed. Use it as a bath towel. Or a shock absorber in your bag. Or when all your clothes are at the laundromat, make a fashion statement and turn it into a lungi, skirt or dress. Very easy to find in beach locations.
This is another essential item, especially if you're planning on going trekking or camping, or staying in homestays with dark, outdoor outhouses. This simple Energizer Headlamp has served us well for years. The red light option is useful when you're in a room with other people and don't want to wake everyone up.
For more details on our gear, check out our favorite low tech travel gear.
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