I pride myself on being a good packer. I don’t want to boast, but I think I am pretty darn good at traveling light and packing right. I’m not sure if any of you actually care about what or how I pack, but here are my top-ten travel essentials (minus the obvious things like deodorant, etc.).
- Ziploc Bags. I am nothing without my ziploc bags. If you look in my backpack and even my massive duffel bag that I left in Thailand, you will find everything organized into ziploc bags. They ensure that your belongings stay dry, and keep everything organized and easy to find. I keep one bag reserved for dirty clothes so they stay contained, making sure that the rest of my bag doesn’t smell like a piece of used hockey padding.
- A dry bag. Those outdoorsy folks know what I’m talking about, but for those of you that don’t, a dry bag is what you would typically use rafting to make sure everything stays dry…it’s pretty self explanatory. They come in all different sizes, but since we’ve already decided that clothes go in ziploc bags, I’d say get a smallish one for your camera, iPod, and wallet. You never know when a little rain or a monsoon is going to catch up with you and it’s always nice to have a reliable dry bag with you.
- Quick-dry underwear. This follows the whole wet theme I’ve got going on here. If you get caught in the rain or pushed in a lake, you don’t want to be stuck with wet undies all day, so wear quick-dry ones. I only brought four pairs of underwear with me, three of which are quick-dry, because I can wash them at night and they’ll be dry the next morning. Not only does less underwear save space in your bag, but I like to think of it as a travel badge of honor.
- Baby wipes. These are always in my bag. You never know what yucky thing you’ll touch or have spilled on you (today it was yak curd for me). Plus, if you don’t have time to take a shower or don’t want to take a freezing cold shower, then a baby wipe bath is your best bet.
- Hand sanitizer. This doesn’t even need an explanation.
- Duct tape. What can’t you do with duct tape?! If your shoe is giving you blisters, put some duct tape on your foot and boom! you’re better. Tear your pants? Duct tape them back together! Backpack break? Duct tape it! Screaming baby in the seat behind you? Duct tape it! Just kidding, but you all know the thought has crossed your mind.
- Swiss army knife. I was given one of these for my 16th birthday and I think I’ve used it at least once a day since then. You never know when you’ll need to cut, peel, file, or tweeze something. Just remember not to take it through airport security with you.
- Headlamp. They may look dorky, but that coal-miner look will leave you feeling like the belle of the ball when you rescue someone who is trying to unlock their hotel door in the dark or when the power goes out at dinner. This is definitely an essential if you are traveling to Nepal. India controls the power in Kathmandu, making electricity reliably unreliable. Don’t bother coming to Nepal if you aren’t bringing a headlamp or at least a flashlight.
- Burt’s Bees Wax Lip Balm. I’m addicted. You can leave this out of your bag, but it is more than essential for me. I brought five sticks to Thailand with me just in case I lost one or two or three of them.
- A ziploc bag containing:
- Pepto: Take one before or after suspicious meals.
- Immodium: If the Pepto doesn’t work, then this is your next step. One day you’ll thank your lucky stars for having this with you. I had three emergency bathroom runs at the end of one of the days on my last trek, popped two of these bad boys and was set for more trekking.
- Ciprofloxacin: This is the serious stuff when it comes to stomach problems abroad. If Pepto and Immodium don’t work, then you might have a bacterial infection and you probably need this.
- Alieve: Will cure joint pain, headaches, hangovers, etc. The panacea.
- Bandaids: I always seem to be in need of one and you’ll be someone-in-needs’ new best friend when you give them one.
My last travel tip is this: They will have some variation of everything you need where you are going. So pack half as much as you were originally planning. Happy Travels!