Help Me Pack

I’m making what is hopefully our last run to REI this weekend (conveniently timed to coincide with their Labor Day Sale). I’ll probably also stop in at Target and maybe Hudson Trail Outfitters. We have most of the items on our packing list, but there a couple of things I still need to pick up. (Ex-Officio underwear at 30% off sounds like a deal to me!) Plus I just want to browse through the stores, looking for anything I might have forgotten but Lord knows I couldn’t survive the trip without. Before I head out on this final shopping expedition, however, I’d like your input. What items can you just not travel without? I don’t care if you’ve gone around the world, around the continent, or simply around the block, I want to know the one item that you never leave home without? Is it warm socks for the airplane? Photos of your family? A cable lock? Snacks? Your favorite underwear?

Leave a comment and let me know what your one (or ten) item(s) is (are). Maybe you’ll spur a thought in me or remind me of something I’m forgetting. My brain’s like a sieve these days, so I’d sure appreciate the help.

17 Replies to “Help Me Pack”

  1. A flashlight or headlamp (preferably both, plus extra batteries) when traveling to developing nations — you never know when there might be a power failure.

  2. If you have an attachment to a certain brand/variety of toiletry (i.e. tampons, toothpaste, sunscreen), I say buy a couple before leaving the States. Yes, many brands are available overseas, but I find that I can never find what I want when I need it most desperately.

    It’s funny you mention underwear. In my experience living in Asia, it is impossible to get bras larger than a B outside large cities such as Hong Kong and Singapore. And other than in the high end lingerie shops, most underwear sold in Central and South America is cheap and synthetic. Bring your own- and plenty of it! 🙂

    My Mom always brings Splenda when she travels; I always bring a good rain jacket, Raid, at least a couple English language novels (not available everywhere) and my dance shoes (again, not available in most places.)

  3. Nothing valuable – except possibly a camera. When you pile it all up, it should easily fit into a kid’s backpack with room to spare. Always have a half-roll of toilet paper with you. A waterproof baggie of some sort is always good to store your diary, and anything that might not want to see soaked … if you’ve got a backpack, it will inevitably get soaked. Something very small to give kids – flag pins are good, so are bracelets, $2 bills, etc. A small, El Cheapo alarm clock. My wife (girlfriend at the time) always had to have her own pillow case. Printed pictures of people & places back home you can show people you meet.

  4. The pillow case idea reminded me that I always like to bring my own pillow if I can spare the room (which I realize you probably can’t)… I just can’t sleep with a crappy pillow! I think the bra comment is funny just because I’d probably have better luck finding a bra that fits in Asia than I do here in the U.S.–they’re all too big! (I had that problem in Europe too, it might be nice to shop in a land of little people).

  5. The best thing I brought with us– can’t live without, and you might already have one, is this towel (link below). It’s resistant to bacteria, dries super quick and folds up to pocket size. It is the only towel I use. It’s super absorbent too, I have long hair and it can even handle drying that too. If I’m traveling I wash it occasionally in the sink, but really the thing is amazing and rarely needs washing.

  6. We are heading into our 3rd year of our open ended world tour, but pack lite in a slightly different way as we take our home with us usually….so we even bring a digital piano, 3 laptops & our child takes lessons via skype with a teacher on another continent! ( Her violin too lol).Extended travel as a family brings in new concerns like homeschool supplies etc.

    That said, we often go off using every mode of transportation for months at a time with only a small daypack each, so we have packing light down to a science. as even backpackers wonder how we do that.

    I have to agree with Christine about the fast dry towel ( although we picked a different one & they are great for hand laundry drying too), Maria with the headlamp, I usually have some TP, packet of stain remover in my pocket & handwash that needs no water.

    I love this item:
    Hard to explain, but they are great ….long and soft loofa-like…great for getting back in shower and dries instantly.

    We have the small rick steves back for toiletries & I like that both side pockets are mesh so we can put toothbrushes & this washcloth in it thus they are protected but continue to dry on move.

    Hub & I had one pair of smart wool socks & have worn them to death and they are still going strong. Love exofficio odor resistant T’s for hubby and buss off for kiddo in those areas.

    We scanned albums and lots of home movies & love watching them on family fun nights..also helps keep that part alive for kidlet.

    Hand held Nuvi GPS has been worth its weight in gold. Could not live without our macs (& headphones).We live digital lives ( have one pc).

    small notebook & pen with you at all times, cards to give to people you meet…saves time writing it down.

    raw almonds or walnuts for snacks ( healthiest nuts)…sometimes a meal if nothings open

    Almost all black clothing ( even for kiddo). We love our vests instead of jackets for cold weather…kidlet is about to grow out of her worn to death black vest.

    That is all I can think of off the top of my head. Carpe Diem!

  7. Tweezers – I’m splinter prone.
    Chapstick – I hate dry lips.
    Sweater – even if you are going somewhere warm there will always be a cold night.
    Pen – I always have to write something down.
    Ponytail holder – if you dont need it now, it can double as a bracelet.
    Clean, dry socks – wet feet are the worst.

    This list keeps getting longer – soon it will be the tv, couch and my pillow. glad it’s you packing and not me.

  8. Sleep Sack – this unexpectedly became one of the most utilized and indispensable items from my trip. I had a silk/cotton blend version which was perfect. It also had a pouch in the head area to slip a pillow into so you never actually had to touch the pillow itself with your head. Perfect for when you encounter a lodging situation that doesn’t quite meet your expectations…especially when you’ve just flown in at 2am and your alternatives are limited.

    Packing Cubes – thought these might be a bit frivolous (and you can certainly manage without them if necessary), but ended up being very convenient and a great way to pack easily, keep everything organized and find stuff fast.

    Small notepad/Pen – great to have when you’re running around so you can jot down notes for your blog, things you want to follow up on or look up, and record specific details about an experience so you don’t forget them later.

    Toilet Paper Roll – absolutely indispensable, a constant companion regardless of what country I was in (European countries may have adequate facilities, but don’t always stock them well).

    Tyvek Envelopes (small) or something similar – used these to keep important documents in like my passport, plane tickets, reservation print outs, etc to keep them dry and organized.

    Bandana or similar – comes in handy a lot more often than you might think and has a wide variety of uses on the road.

    Purell – may not be a necessity, but can provide piece of mind after a day or riding trains, visiting high traffic tourist sights, etc where you’re the millionth person touching the same thing everyone else just touched.

    Earplugs – more than a few nights where these were life savers.

    All-in-one plug adapter – I found one by kensington (at REI or Target) that worked excellently and reduced the number of pieces I had to carry and it worked in all countries on all continents.

    The good news is that if you forget something, you can find a place to get it in just about every major city before you head to more remote environs.

  9. Definitely leave half your stuff at home. Pack as light as you can: there’s less to worry about and less to carry.

    Do take a combo padlock and uber-light towel; only one pair of shoes + sandals; a change of clothes; two changes of socks and undies. Take whatever you need to stay clean, some earplugs, essential “recording” items like a camera and notebook and the rest can stay at home.


    We’ve got a packing list here which we add some more electronics to for everyday life. We’ve been living out of our packs for two and half years and counting.

  10. This comment might be a bit too late, but if you haven’t gone out and bought ex-officio women’s underwear then look into the Patagonia Capilene undies. They dry just as fast (or faster), hide lines and are much more comfortable (I have several pairs of both brands).

    My husband and I have been living out of our packs for close to 20 months and I second what some other comments have said about head lamps, silk sleep sacks, ear plugs (never underestimate how important these can be, especially in Asia), etc. My husband is a dental buff, so we also stock up on good dental floss (yes, there is lots of bad dental floss out there) when we can and fluoride gel. We love our Eagle Creek packing cubes as well – one for clothes, another for medicines, another for technical equipment, etc. it makes it very easy to find things and very easy to pack quickly.

    As you travel you’ll readjust, getting rid of clothes or buying them when you find the need. Good luck!

  11. I guess I’ll take some of these comments and use them to my own packing list! hehehe
    Underwear is really different everywhere you go. If you don’t want to change your style, is better bringing them from home. As well as bikinis are. I brought a lot of them from Brazil and now I can’t wait to go back there and buy another lot!! I tried the New Zealand style but it just doesn’t fit!

    Something I don’t leave home without is hair rubber bands! Traveling or not, they are indispensable.

  12. my headlamp. i love this one because of how small it gets, i can use it for several functions- wrap it on my wrist for book light, on my bike etc.

    a book. usually one i’m guaranteed to like- not worth the risk of the extra weight if i dont’ get into it.

    my ipod & earphones.


    mascara. it’s all i need if i’m in the mood to feel pretty.

    a cotton wrap or scarf. it works as a fashion statement or a blanket on a plane.

    sunglasses- i get headaches without em.

    if it’s a long trip- pictures of home & the people i’ll miss.

    my pillow. it rolls up in to nothing!

    i think those are my essentials.

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