There are lists galore in the travel blogosphere about things people always forget when they travel. Most of the time, they strike me as really obvious things – toothbrush, pyjamas, SD cards, battery charger etc (not that we have never forgotten something obvious).
But instead of ‘obvious things we manage to forget to pack’, this is a list of things you might not have thought of packing to begin with which I have found great when travelling.
1. Packing cubes (also called packing cells). Yes, I bang on about packing cubes all the time. I love them. Nothing gets lost in my backpack. No little bits and pieces falling to the bottom or having to pull everything out just to find that one shirt or scarf.
2. Dirty laundry bag. On our first backpacking trip we used a re-usable shopping bag which we picked up in Switzerland (I have a feeling we still have it in Australia somewhere), but I now take a stuff sack to use as a dirty laundry bag. All our dirty clothes go straight into it and if we are re-packing dirty clothes, they are normally split between this and a packing cube (the bag, when full, is normally too bulky to pack). It also makes carrying your clothes to and from the laundromat easy – especially handy when there is not one in your hostel.
3. Clean clothes bag. I know what you’re thinking. A what now? But you know how so many hostel and campsite bathrooms have not enough hooks inside the shower cubicle to hang your stuff? Sometimes no bench? A useless shower curtain which does nothing to stop water getting all over the floor? Sick of trying to hang my jeans, shirt, underwear and belt all on one hook, I now just use a little pull-string bag to hold all my clean clothes, which easily hangs off one hook. It was marketed as a laundry bag and came in a set with a plug and clothes line etc, but we already had a laundry bag (and it’s not big enough for the two of us anyway). You could use a small stuff sack for this, or any small draw-string bag.
4. Pegless clothes line. This is a clothes line made of several elastic ropes twisted together so you can hang up washing between the loops of elastic, rather than needing pegs. You can’t use them to hang anything heavy, but they’re good for underwear, socks, light towels (like the microfibre ones we use) and light shirts. Good for when you need to hand-wash some socks or a shirt but don’t need to do a whole laundry run yet.
5. Universal sink plug. Great for places where the plug is missing from the sink. Sometimes the plug has been intentionally removed to stop people washing things in the basin; sometimes it’s just been lost (like the flat we stayed in at Word Alive this year).
6. Collapsible water bottle. When empty they take up next to no room in your bag. They don’t last forever – eventually the seams give out, especially if you fold them – but our first ones lasted our entire backpacking trip despite us folding them all the time (won’t do that again though).
7. Heavy-duty plastic cutlery. Another one I mentioned on my previous list of things I’ve learnt. Plastic means you can take it as carry-on. Carrying a knife, fork and spoon with you is handy for making and eating meals from supermarkets on the go (yoghurt, fruit salad, picnics etc).
8. Microfibre towel (or some other kind of travel towel). These are So. Much. Smaller. than any other regular beach or bath towel. Some people think they feel a bit weird – and you don’t get that nice snug warm feeling – but they free up SO much space in your bag. The only time I really wished I had a proper towel was at a campsite in northern Scotland where the bathrooms were in what was basically a big drafty shed and there was a wind howling through the opening between the roof and the walls. You do also get micro-towelling towels which feel a bit more like a traditional towel.
9. A few bags of laundry powder (in single-use sizes). Most laundromats make you buy washing powder, or don’t provide it at all. Don’t worry about taking enough for your whole trip – a few bags will tide you over in the instances where you can’t buy it elsewhere. I’ve been really bad at remembering to bring powder and we nearly got caught out in a laundromat in Rotterdam when the washing powder vending machine had run out and the customer service counter had not opened yet (although it was past opening time). Fortunately the lady came to open up just as we were leaving, so we were able to leave our laundry for her to do.
10. Rain cover for your backpack. We actually haven’t been caught out in the rain with our big backpacks, but we have with our daypack, and they only keep the water out for so long. A rain cover helps keep things dry when it’s seriously raining.