40 travel accessories that will prepare you for anything

Photo: Beorn Ours

Not that you’d ever pack all 40 — but a quick review of this list of travel accessories should help you remember the essentials no matter what kind of trip you’re taking.

1. Your smartphone (or iTouch or similar) can be used in place of a bunch of individual travel accessories: maps, GPS, currency exchange converter, translation tool, mp3 player. Make sure you have a fresh backup in the cloud and you should be set. Though, putting too much reliance on a single device can backfire: On a recent press trip to New Brunswick, I ran over my iPhone in the rental car and smashed the screen so badly my data couldn’t be recovered.

2. Iodine tablets (two per quart of water) and a steel canteen like this one from Kleen Kanteen make for drinkable water in most backcountry.

3. An eco-friendly, biodegradable, phosphate-free multipurpose soap to wash your dishes, your clothes, and your body.

4. Mini-first aid kit with these essentials: band-aids, antibiotic cream, anti-nauseants, anti-diarrheals, antihistamines, analgesics, a single-use ice pack, a sterile bandage, and an EpiPen for those who are allergic to bee stings and pad thai.

5. A compact and energy-efficient headlamp that uses LED technology.

6. An immersion water heater can be inserted into a canteen and brings liquids to a boil within minutes. Here’s one for $20.

7. A multipurpose tool is a compact and lightweight way to bring your kit with you. You’ll have easy access to pliers, screwdrivers, a jackknife, a saw blade, and mini-scissors. Models vary. Check out these options from Gerber.

8. A portable solar power kit, like one of these units from GoalZero, so you can charge your electronics anywhere (if it’s sunny).

9. Protect your papers and electronics by storing them in waterproof pouches / drybags. In 2007, I went under the falls at Iguazu in Argentina. We were given drybags by the boat company but I forgot that my passport was in my pants pocket.

10. Bug spray, a mosquito net, and Afterbite. Add anti-malarials where required.

11. A pair of aquasocks — slip-on shoes with non-skid soles to protect your feet in the water. Also can double as shower shoes.

12. Small pump bottle of Febreze to freshen your clothes (in lieu of laundry, if you’re rolling lazy).

13. Socket configurations vary region-to-region, so bring a travel adapter. Choose an all-in-one unit, and make sure it includes a power transformer, or you could blow out your gadgets by using an incompatible voltage.

14. Camera, memory cards.

15. A travel sleep kit with eyeshades, earplugs, and a travel pillow. I also put a sleeve of Gravol in mine to help me sleep on airplanes.

16. Portable speakers — instant party, or a good way to kill down time.

17. Packing cubes help you fit more into a smaller space, and keep dirty clothes separate from clean ones.

18. Pack of biodegradable towelettes.

19. A no-pin twist laundry line allows you to hang your clothes to dry anywhere. I’ve also used this item to hang a sarong between bunks in a hostel dorm for extra privacy.

20. Pack inflatable hangers if you’re going to need unwrinkled clothes.

21. Quick-dry microfiber towel. Alternatively, use a sarong. They don’t dry as fast, but they are much more versatile.

22. Sunglasses, sunscreen, and Afterburn.

23. A travel door alarm adds security to shared or unlocked rooms.

24. A sleep sack — lightweight cotton or silk bag — to sleep in at hostels that don’t provide linens.

25. Carry an ultra-portable insulated blanket made of lightweight polyethylene and aluminum. If you’ve ever had to wait out the long wee hours between a hostel’s curfew and opening, you’ll appreciate this item.

26. Bring a toiletry kit that has a hook so you can hang it off the door knob or shower rod.

27. Keep thieves out of your stuff with a wire pack protector and TSA-approved luggage lock.

28. A survival whistle, if you’re going far off the grid.

29. Rum Runners are reusable, BPA-free soft plastic flasks. Manufactured in response to the exorbitant price of alcohol on cruise ships, they can’t be detected by X-ray machines. They’re also a lightweight and flexible way to pack along a bottle of wine.

30. Noise-cancelling headphones, to block out the sounds of other travelers.

31. A netbook or tablet makes it easy to get online and prepare documents, without the weight and expense of a laptop.

32. Reusable cutlery and a small bowl.

33. Rain gear, including a cover for your pack.

34. A portable electronics charger allows you to recharge multiple devices simultaneously while only using a single socket.

35. Dissolve oral rehydration salts in water and drink to treat severe dehydration.

36. A money belt to hide your cash, cards, and passport.

37. If you think you might be taking advantage of the Duty Free, pack an inflatable travel bag for wine or other breakables.

38. A tire patch kit fixes punctures in bicycle tires and other inflatables.

39. A portable digital luggage scale lets you weigh your bags before you get to the airport.

40. Duct tape is notoriously versatile, and while it won’t help you if you forget something like your solar power kit, it’s a go-to repair tool. The most unique use I ever put duct tape to was rebinding the spine of a book a travel companion and I were reading at the exact same time.

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  • Jenny Williams

    Nice list, Keph!

  • Alice Driver

    a headlamp, rum runners, duck tape….freaking good trip!

  • Jenny Williams

    p.s. How do you read a book at the same time as your traveling companion?

    • Keph Senett

      You break the spine at half, tear it apart, and use duct tape to bind the two halves into two separate books.

    • Jenny Williams

      OHHH. Clever!

    • Keph Senett

      Not a bad technique when traveling in countries where it’s hard to find books in your language. I was desperate. Actually, the book was The Kite Runner, which was SO GOOD, but such a bummer.

  • William Danger H

    The Tablet has been one of the greatest additions to travel since I don’t know. In my younger years backing Europe, I would often trade books with other travelers. While this was a great way (sometimes) to spark conversation and meet people, it could be a headache…especially the summer everyone was reading the same book. With an iPad, I can load hundreds of books, including digital copies of those large travel companions. Now I have plenty of reading material for plane/train rides and down time. This is not to mention that I can skip internet cafes and can usually find wifi in the hostel or hotel, I can load a few movies for longer rides, and games as well. The IPad also charges on 220v sockets, so you don’t need a power converter (just an adapter for some countries). The new ones even have cameras for video and pictures that can load right into your cloud.

    I also love that you included a smart phone. These things didn’t exist when I started traveling and have been a huge help. I’ve been able to buy SIM cards in many countries with unlimited data for next to nothing (much cheaper than in the U.S.). Having internet on the go can be great when you’re looking for places to eat, hostels, etc. You can book online, find special deals, make reservations, etc. I can’t tell you how many Google Maps saved me in Central America. Plus, you get a local number where you can be reached for emergencies…or can at least call for help.

  • Yuki Hayashi

    I pack some pens or pencil crayon sets to give to kids you meet along the way (never candy). Not like as a lurking weirdo, but if you’re eating at a family restaurant and some local kids or the owners kids are around, or if you’re on a tour and might be stopping at a school.

  • Katka Lapelosová

    Excellent list :)

    • Dana Alan Cope


  • Chitra Sivasankar Arunagiri

    Great List. I have just added to my Travel Notes on Evernote. Would be a lot helpful! Once again amazing list!

  • jens811

    Money, you need money.