Packing Tips: Small items that mean a lot on the road

We all know the biggies to pack: camera, undies, sunscreen. But it’s the small, multi-purpose items that separate the pros from the amateurs.

Choquequirao to Mp, View of Trekking

1.  Plastic zip-lock bags

Not just for getting your liquids through security, these babies come in handy when you least expect it.  Caught in a sudden downpour, the ziplock will keep your camera and bills dry.  Bring four or five — of course, these should be re-used ones from home or ones you plan on re-using more.

2.  Large thin scarf

Maybe this one is just for the ladies, but this simple piece of cloth has proven extremely useful for me. It’s served as a fashion accessory, pillow case, eye mask, and belt. Open-minded, fashionable men can also make use of this great invention. If you opt for it’s larger cousin, the sarong, you have an instant beach towel or dress for the daring.

3.  Shampoo

Most people bring this, but maybe you’re not aware of its full capacity. You can use this as laundry detergent for hand washables, body wash, or hand soap.

4.  Small coin purse

You don’t want to be fumbling through a big purse or silly looking money belt when paying for a quick cup of coffee. A small coin purse is easy to carry, discreet and handy.

5.  Re-Usable Water Bottle

While you won’t be filling up from the sink in many countries, several hotels, lodges and hostels have filtered water available for filling up your bottles. The metal ones are better for you (no leaking plastic), plus they look slick.

6.  Copy of your passport, emergency number for your credit card, and emergency numbers to reach family/friends back home.

It’s surprising how often we forget to jot down these digits and carry around a passport copy. If your critical stuff gets lost or stolen, it’s great to have these back ups.

7.  Dental Floss

Gum health is important, plus there are a plethora of alternative uses for this dainty string. Laundry line, emergency shoe lace, hair tie … the list goes on.

8.  Drawstring bag (preferably with two straps)

If you’re not doing any serious backpacking, a small drawstring bag you can carry on your back will be useful. Plus, it takes up as much room as a tee-shirt in your duffel bag. I don’t love these for wandering around in a city (can’t drape an arm over it for extra security), but it’s nice for a walk in the country or bringing necessary items to a beach.

9.  City Shoes

I’m not talking heels or designer loafers, but having an option other than your hiking boots or flip flops is really valuable. I have a pair of black cloth flats that look polished enough for a nice dinner, dance club, and walking through an art museum. This isn’t necessary if you’re going spending all your time in the rainforest, but if you spend any time in the city, you’ll be glad you don’t look like you’re out on a safari.