I love packing lists. I like reading about the packing list of travel bloggers and talking to other travelers about their packing list. It’s like shop talk, what works for them and what hasn’t.
We’ve already written an article about our packing list. Over time, we’ve acquired and discarded some items from our pack. This article is a supplement. Kind of like the daypack to our main backpacks, the side trip to the main attraction, the Puerto Lopes to the Galapagos Islands…
These items are meant to cover the gaps, the lesser known travel items that you might not know you needed. They’re like the unsung heroes that are obscured under the shadow of the more obvious travel accessories, yet they’re there to make traveling easier.
So here it is, the list of travel items you might not know you needed. Note that the second half of this article has a list of travel items we don’t have, but other travelers rave about.
A Tupperware, or a lightweight, airtight/leak-proof container. We use it to store leftover food in the hostel fridge, carry food in our backpack, or store fragile items when we are on the move. Choose a plastic one so it is light and less likely to break (a glass container would be heavy and susceptible to breakage).
It does not take much space either. Even if nothing needs to be stored in it while you are on the move, stuff it with a shirt or whatever to maximize your backpack space. We got ours free in Leon, Nicaragua, during La Griteria, an event that takes place in December, with dancing gigantonias and festive giving.
We also got another one that a fellow traveler left behind in Leon when he went back to Canada. Thanks, Dieter, we think of you every time we use it!
A simple idea that solves a not-so-simple problem: drink on the go, and avoid being splashed in the face when you drink from your Nalgene bottle. There are a few designs from different vendors, but this is the Nalgene sipper that we are using. It works great. We can drink while we are on a moving bus and no more backsplash.
If you have a three-prong plug (Type B), you can easily change it to a two-prong (Type A) plug and be able to use it in North America, most of Central America and the top of South America. So if you are traveling only in those areas, then this is all you need plug-wise. We bought ours in Panama.
In many of the rooms where we stay, there is only one outlet, and this is where the multi-outlet comes in handy. This makes an awesome combination when coupled with the two-prong adapter above. Ours has three 3-prong outlets with a 3-prong plug. Other travelers we’ve met carry a mini-power strip which has some level of surge-protection, and one had a USB outlet.
Could this be the universal plug?
There are about 15 types of electrical plugs in use all over the world. Universal adapters allow you to plug in your gadget in a foreign country that uses a different type of plug. I was ruminating on this as I sat in a cold hotel room somewhere in Bolivia when I happened to look up at the ceiling light bulb, and then its proverbial (and imaginary) equivalent floated above my head. I had me an idea!
Could I use a light-socket-to-plug adapter as my universal power adapter? So far, all the countries we’ve visited use the same light bulb socket. But then again, some light fixtures are too high up in the ceiling, while some have fluorescent lights, and there are probably countries that do not use the Edison Screw fitting, so it’s not too universal, but it could be a lightweight backup option.
Speaking of light bulbs, a high-wattage light bulb can produce enough heat to take the edge off a cold room, like the cold room in Bolivia.
Good for hiking or even just walking around in sunny areas, to avoid sunburn. Also save on sunblock which is expensive, more so in Latin America.
We already mention clothesline in our main article about packing, but a second clothesline can act as an extension. Most of the time our secondary clothesline is tethered to our main clothesline and allows us to hang the line over a wider expanse. Many times, the main clothesline is not long enough to reach the other anchor point. Ours started as a paracord survival bracelet which we unraveled within the first month of our travel, being that we wash our own clothes rather than pay for laundry service.
It’s as simple as a couple of sewing needles and some thread. It is usually easier, cheaper and quicker to repair the clothes that we have, rather than buying new ones. Also good for repairing more than just clothes, and also for expanding the capacity of our day pack – with some clever use of a pair of underwear.
I’m allergic to regular sunscreen, so I had to bring a titanium-based sunblock from home.
Bug repellents that contain DEET are hard to find in Latin America, and when you do find them they usually have low DEET content. We used it a lot in jungle treks and when we were volunteering in a jungle retreat center in Uvita, Costa Rica.
To block out the noise if you are trying to sleep in a noisy area or neighborhood.
Aside from its main purpose of keeping you dry, it also serves well as a privacy curtain in dorm rooms. We bought ours in Cusco, Peru.
Padlocks with a Common Key
We padlock our backpack zippers for security and we each carry a key that can unlock either of our backpacks. It makes things easier and we automatically have a backup key.
Travel Towel/Mini Towel
Packs to the size of a tiny wallet, mini-towels are good for when your lodging does not provide towels. They dry quickly and do not take up too much space.
Spare Charging Cord for Phone/Camera, etc
It is easy to find many USB cords, but if you have one that is not very common, bringing a spare is a good idea.
SAVE FOR LATER
Below is a list of travel items that we don’t own but many travelers consider essential. We list them here for your consideration. You may find them useful in your travels. For us, these items are nice-to-have but not essential. These are items that we might add to a list or save for later, instead of adding them to the Amazon cart.
Finding a peeler in a hostel kitchen has been uncommon for us. I’ve wished for one on a few occasions but not enough, and a knife usually works just fine. If you cook with a lot of vegetables, then perhaps this would be high on your list.
Kitchen Knife or Swiss-Army Knife
When she was eight, Bonnie got a hunting knife for her birthday (from her dad). It was big and heavy and had a compartment in its handle that had a compass and a fishing hook and line. One edge of the blade was serrated. It was Rambo’s knife. We wanted to take it with us on our first ever wilderness backpacking trip but eventually decided to leave it out of our already overweight backpacks. It would have been just dead-weight. We don’t suggest a Rambo knife for travel!!
Fast forward to the present, we still don’t carry a knife. There’s always a knife in any kitchen we use (so far). Other travelers have said that the knives in hostel kitchens are always dull. Here’s a trick: use the bottom of a ceramic mug (or bowl or plate) to sharpen the knife. It will do the job.
Collapsible Coffee Cup
We’ve met a couple of travelers who carry one. When they buy take-out coffee they ask to put the coffee in their collapsible cup instead of a styrofoam or paper cup (Note: you can’t use this for sharpening knives).
The Fix-All tool for all things that need mending. You can even build things out of it from scratch. Most backpackers probably carry it. NASA uses it and it saved the Apollo 13. We don’t carry it, but sometimes wish we had some. We do carry some first-aid tape. Bonnie has used it along with a leather tag she cut off my pants to repair the power adaptor of her laptop.
A lot of travelers swear by it, zippered cubes that allow you to compartmentalize your backpack. Within this list, this item is probably the most likely to be added to our arsenal. Bonnie does our packing and unpacking, I’m too disorganized to do it. Once in a while she’ll think out loud and say that she wishes we had packing cubes. Perhaps we’ll pick some up if we find a good deal. For now, she has a packing methodology that works well and fast.
PACK UP AND GO
And that’s a wrap. We all travel differently, and only you can decide whether something will make it in your pack or not. Remember too that over time your needs may change, and one item that you never gave a second thought could become the thing that you can’t live without.
Don’t get too hung up on what you need may or may not need. Do your best to pull together your travel arsenal, but more importantly, pack up and go. You can always pick up things along the way, or find creative solutions for issues that pop up, like fashioning a carrying case for reading glasses out of a used silicone caulking cartridge.
So what do you think of these items? Do you use most or all of them in your travels? Any items here that you don’t think would be useful? Any items that you think should be included in this list? Let us know by adding a comment below. We’re always glad to hear from you.
Here is hoping you take your next opportunity to travel!!
Trinity has been traveling full-time since 2016 with his wife Bonnie. When he is not editing blog posts, he spends his time learning languages and researching travel destinations. Pork Adobo never fails to put a smile on his face (and gunk between his teeth).
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