10 Top Essential Travel Items

10 Top Essential Travel Items for Light Packers

Julia Packing & Travel Gear 2 Comments

When I first started backpacking around the world, I struggled to select what essential travel items I would need and how to decide what to pack. Now, after traveling to over 90 countries, it’s safe to say, I have narrowed it down to just the best travel necessities.

Packing has become easier, and I never need to carry more than a carry-on sized backpack. Who has time to wait for checked luggage?? So here are the best travel accessories that have helped me travel seamlessly around the world, months or years at a time.

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Essential Travel Gear that’s Worth the Weight


Packing light while having key travel items readily available is an art form. The process of deciding what makes the cut and what gets left at home takes practice, but fortunately, there are a lot of travel bloggers that know the ins and outs that make your trip a success.

Here are the top 10 travel products to make your trip as smooth as possible, without breaking your back (or the bank)!

1. The Right Travel Backpack

Finding the perfect travel backpack is critical. For me, this meant one that I could carry-on planes, carry around a city all day if needed, and was not top loading for easy access. Your wishlist for the perfect carry-on bag may be different, but the answers to my prayers was the 46L Osprey Porter Backpack.

The Osprey Porter Backpack has quite literally traveled around the world with me for over a year at a time, and it has always fit everything I need. It features padded shoulder straps and a heavy duty zipper which is easy to lock. My Osprey has successfully made it through 8+ years of hard travel and shows no signs of stopping – like me.

Check the current price of the 46L Osprey Porter Backpack.

Learn How to Pack in a Carry-On – No Matter the Trip Length!

2. Compact Packing Cubes

Packing for a trip will never be the same once you start usingpacking cubes. These small zipped pouches help you organize your luggage so you can easily move things in and out of your luggage, without having it explode or need to be repacked. You simply pull out the cube you need, unzip it, remove the item, and put the cube back in your travel backpack. All other cubes will stay neatly packed and organized.

When I first purchased packing cubes, I was skeptical, but now, they are my favorite travel accessory. There are lots of options for how to pack these awesome travel necessities. Fill them by outfit, with all shirts in one/pants in another, clean clothes in one/dirty clothes in another, etc. They will change how you pack your bags!

I personally find rolling my clothes in them makes them even more dense. This helps me to travel “lightly” with just my densely packed 46L backpack. Give it a try!

There are all kinds of sizes and brands available from all different sellers. You can find large ones for your jeans or jackets, or you can use small ones for your cords and electronics. After trying many brands, my eBags brand has held up the best!

Check the current price of the eBags Packing Cubes.

3. External Battery Pack

Now-a-days everything needs to be charged. From a phone to a camera to a goPro to an iPad or computer, you’ll spend half your trip trying to keep your travel electronics charged!

This problem only escalates if you’re using your phone for directions, pictures, or music. Not to mention activities like camping, hiking, or overnight transportation where having power could literally be a lifesaver! This makes an external battery pack one of the best travel items on the market.

My personal favorite is the Anker brand as their chargers hold power for multiple full phone charges, and they last a really long time. I’ve had mine for years and have been very happy! Best of all, this travel product is extremely small and lightweight making it perfect for traveling light!

Check the current price of the Anker battery pack.

4. Hanging Toiletry Holder

This might seem like an odd essential travel gear item, but hear me out. Whether you are staying in a hostel, an Airbnb, hotel, or even couchsurfing, chances are good that bathroom counter space will be at a premium. Hanging toiletry holders feature a tiny hanger like hook that allow you to loop it over a shower curtain rod, on a hook, over a bathroom stall door, on a door handle, etc.

With a hanging toiletry holder, you can say goodbye to fighting for counter space, setting things on a questionably clean floor, and having to unpack and repack your toiletries at each destination. Just hang up your toiletry bag, use what you need, and then roll it back up into your backpack.

There are hundreds of different options available, but I recommend the Bago Hanging Toiletry Bag. It’s size is perfect for what I need, but your needs may vary, depending on how much space you need for your toiletries. I admit it, I bought 3 in different sizes before picking the perfect one. Finding the perfect travel products can take time!

Check the current price of the Bago Hanging Toiletry Bag

5. Durable Daypack

Traveling light still requires packing the right travel equipment. A small daypack should be on that essential travel packing list. It fits flat in the bottom or side of your backpack taking up very little space and weighing almost nothing. Best of all? It provides added flexibility to your travels.

Whether you’re headed on a long hike, taking a day trip to another town, or traveling to a different elevation and need more layers, having a daypack is the perfect option. It also can be used if you’re going and staying overnight somewhere and don’t want to take your whole travel backpack. Whatever the case is, a daypack will make your life easier.

As an Osprey fan, I have the Osprey Daylite Daypack and love it.From camping in the Sahara desert to a month of hiking through the mountains of Banff, Canada, it has seen hundreds of adventures and holds everything I need. And, it has held up well against all of the abuse it gets, proving itself as an essential travel accessory.

Check the current price of the Osprey Daylite Daypack.

6. Packable Jacket or Coat

When traveling, weather can be unpredictable and change at destinations. You may see dips and spikes in temperature, and you need to be prepared. The best way to do that is to keep a jacket or coat tucked in your backpack to layer on when needed.

One of the main problems of carrying a jacket is that winter clothes take up so much space. However, for the light packers out there, there are some awesome small packable, but warm, jackets that are the perfect travel item.

I have the Columbia Mighty Lite Jacket, and it has done wonders. It has gone with me on the Inca Trail, through the fjords of Norway in March, exploring glaciers in New Zealand, and hiking the 5 day W Trek in Torres del Paine National Park in Southern Chile. Just throw on a couple of layers underneath, and you are good to go!

Check the current price of the Columbia Mighty Lite Jacket.

7. Bright Headlamp

An essential travel item that has likely never crossed your mind is a headlamp. I felt kind of ridiculous when I first bought a headlamp, but I have ended up using it A LOT. From dark hostel rooms to camping, sunrise hikes, late night beach walks, and exploring caves, having a headlamp will come in handy!

In fact, my headlamp has come in handy so many times that I always pack it. No matter where I go. It’s become a go-to on my travel gear list. After dealing with a headlamp that was a bit too dim, I “upgraded” to the Black Diamond Spot headlamp, and it’s incredible. It offers a lot of settings such as low light, high beams, soft red lighting, strobe settings, etc. You’ll be ready for any dark situation!

Check the current price of the Black Diamond Spot headlamp.

8. Quick Dry Towel

When traveling, you never know when you might need a towel. Sometimes hostels charge extra for a towel, sometimes you find yourself unexpectedly headed to the beach and need a towel, or maybe you’re camping and want to wash your face. Whatever the case, having a quick dry, packable towel will come in handy.

One of the best parts of this compact travel accessory is that you won’t have to lug around a full fluffy shower towel which takes up half of your bag. Trust me, there are better things to do with that precious space in your travel luggage.

I am a Sea to Summit Drylite Towel user as it comes in multiple sizes making it easy to carry with me, and it dries quickly. Take a look at all the options you have and select the size that fits your needs best, or own multiple sizes and pack according to your trip!

Check the current price of the Sea to Summit Drylite Towels.

9. Locker & Luggage Locks

Throughout your travels, your bag will be left unattended in your room, with the front desk, under the bus, and more. Give yourself peace of mind by adding a lock to your travel essentials list.

For many trips, you may want to even pack an extra lock. I have found that carrying two locks gives me extra options. I can use one for my bag and one for a locker. This may be overkill, but for the small size and little bit of extra weight, it can come in handy, particularly if you’re staying in hostels that only offer tiny lockers for valuables. I can then lock up both if I need to.

There are a lot of locks on the market. I recommend going with a combination lock of some kind versus a key so you don’t risk locking yourself out. Just set it to a number you can remember, and you’re good to go!

Check the current price of combination locks.

Read more: 35 Critical Safety Tips for Solo Travelers

10. Protective Passport Cover

Rounding out the 10 top essential travel items is a passport cover! If you’re traveling internationally, you obviously need to pack your passport, but where do you keep it? Keep it in a slim passport cover!

Passport covers not only protect your passport from getting bent and abused in your purse or backpack, but it also protects it from weather. Additionally passport covers offer extra pockets to carry other travel necessities or valuable items. From your vaccine cards to an extra credit card, emergency cash, or spare passport photos for visas, it will all be safe and corralled in one place.

There are lots of options for passport covers. Find one you like (or don’t). This practical travel item will keep all of your important items safe and together. And since there is nothing more important to keep track of when traveling…. I like having my passport secure.

Check the current price of passport covers.

Bonus Travel Necessity: Camera

How could I make a travel gear list without including a way to capture your memories? Admittedly, I started my travels using an old iPhone for travel photos. Looking back now, this is something I regret. The quality of the photos is quite limited, and sometimes even embarrassing.

I recently, invested in a compact mirrorless camera, and I have to say I’m glad I did! It has made trips like my African safari and touring the Galapagos way more exciting to be able to zoom in on all of the animals.

Prior to purchasing the Panasonic Lumix GX85, I did endless research and talked to many friends who were photographers. It’s a mirrorless camera, which makes it lighter and more compact for travel than DSLR cameras, all while being pretty powerful.

While I am by no means a “professional” photographer, I do appreciate nice photos, and you may too. Consider adding a camera to your essential travel gear packing list!

Check the current price of thePanasonic Lumix GX85.

Don’t forget to get World Nomad Travel Insurance for your trip!


What Travel Gear Do You Find Indispensable?


These are just the top 10 essential travel items for your consideration, but packing for travel is by no means a one size fits all.

What are your must have travel accessories that you deem a necessity? Add them in the comments! I’d love to know what special travel items you’ve found that I might be missing out on!

And, if you’re looking for more help with your packing essentials, check out these helpful posts:

Need more help?
Check out my list of Travel Resources to get started on planning your next adventure!


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      Author

      Such a good point! I admit, I’ve refilled plenty of “single use” plastic water bottles throughout my travels to avoid carrying a reusable one in places the tap water isn’t “potable”… but I think it’s time to invest in a Life Straw of some kind to go with my reusable water bottle.

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