We’ve been on the road for almost a year now which I think officially makes us ‘long-term travellers’. Because we travel with only carry on backpacks we have to be very selective about choosing useful travel accessories and ditching anything that’s not helpful. Everywhere online you’ll find articles about ‘must-have travel accessories’ or ‘travel products you can’t live without’ but these are mostly cool travel gadgets that end up in the bottom of your backpack unused.
So here’s a list of travel items we use regularly and have made the cut to stay in our precious 40L of space. Many of these are great travel products for travelling long-term but might not be worth investing in for a two-week trip. Some are also dependent on the countries you’re visiting. But we travel long-term, on a budget to a variety of countries and climates so our travel product recommendations reflect that!
1. A Kindle
As a huge fan of the humble book I was really reluctant to switch to a Kindle and still haven’t fully converted. But my god is it a brilliant travel accessory! No lugging around heavy guide books (or even paying for them-free samples all the way!) No being limited by the dog-eared remains on hostel book swap shelves and no struggling to find a comfortable position to hold a book open. Just pure reading freedom, even on a night bus with no lights! If you’re a book-lover then a Kindle is a must on the road. I recommend the Paperwhite.
2. Decent Electronics
This one didn’t work out well for us but we started out with the best of intentions. Investing a little bit more in products that are likely to last and not need constant servicing on the road can save a lot of stress. Another top tip – make sure you have an international warranty. Our camera has been a great investment although we’re thinking about upgrading after a couple of years of good use we still think it’s the perfect travel camera (read our full article here).
3. Water Steriliser
Want to help rid the world of plastic bottles and save a few bucks along the way? Drink tap water in any country in the world by sterilising it before drinking. We use a steripen which is basically a U.V stick that kills bacteria in a few seconds. There are also other options such as a Lifestraw or Water 2 Go Bottle. Check out some prices here.
4. Reusable Drink Bottle
This is an item we use daily even when we’re not traveling. But wandering around foreign cities is no fun without hydration. We always take a bottle of water with us when we leave the house and, depending on the country, fill it up at drinking fountains, taps or cafes using the Steripen if necessary. Aluminium bottles are the most durable and environmentally friendly, check out some funky designs here.
5. Solid Toiletries
Carrying soap, facewash, shampoo and conditioner in solid form can save a lot of space and means you can keep some of your favourite products with you for longer. We love our Ethique solid products as they are also cruelty, palm oil and plastic packaging free. We also make sure to stock up on organic soap when we’re in bigger cities. One block of solid shampoo lasts us about 9 months and weighs 100 grams. Compare that to how much liquid shampoo you’d use in that time! Have a look at some great smelling, organic solid products from Ethique here - NZ/AUS or rest of the world.
If you’re interested in some more eco-friendly packing ideas read our article here.
6. Laundry Soap
'But I’ll just stay at places with a washing machine or pay to get laundry done'. Yip we thought the same but the amount of times we’ve just wanted to wash one item or we’ve run out of clean underwear and don’t have time to do a full load. You can carry some washing powder but we found that, like all other toiletries, solid form lasts longer and takes up less space. We found solid laundry bars easy to find overseas but made sure to look for environmentally friendly ones while we were camping. We love the Ethique Flash Laundry Bar.
7. External Hard Drive or Extra Cloud Storage
Chances are if you’re travelling for a long period of time you’ll accumulate a lot of photos. Large memory cards are a good idea but you’ll also want a back-up just in case. We would be devastated if we ever lost our photos, we can replace passports and electronics but photos are precious. We carry an external hard drive and also upload our pics to a cloud once we have decent internet. We have a terabyte on each which we think will be enough, India is pretty photogenic though! Click here to check hard drive prices.
8. Good Shoes
Clothing can be replaced anywhere in the world and won’t likely effect your wellbeing. But good footwear is really important for posture and joints. I feel like I aged about 50 years with that sentence but it’s true. If you’re going to be out exploring foreign places all day you’ll want some decent shoes. Unfortunately it’s difficult to get well-made shoes in some parts of the world or they become really expensive as they’re imported. All of our shoes are going strong after over a year of solid use. Have a read of our favourite shoes for backpacking.
9. A Hanging Shower Bag
This is one of the most useful travel items we own. It’s the same as a normal toiletries bag but it has a fold out flap with a hook so it can be hung up in any bathroom. Works wonders in a hostel bathroom without a flat, dry surface and it also keeps all your things at eye level for ease and convenience. Hanging our shower bag is always the first thing I do in a new room to give it that little touch of home. Have a look at this practical one.
10. Sleeping Bag Liner
We didn’t really find these necessary in Europe but in Asia we are constantly using them. It’s surprisingly common to stay somewhere that doesn’t offer a blanket or top sheet in hot countries, doesn’t change the sheets or has questionable hygiene. We used them regularly while couchsurfing in Iran, trekking in Nepal and on sleeper buses around India. I recommend a silk one as they’re durable and fold up really small. I have this one.
11. Good Backpacks
When you travel long term your backpack becomes your home, wardrobe, pillow, conversation starter and, if you don’t have a good one, your biggest annoyance. We swear by our Osprey’s and are strong advocates of carry-on sized luggage for the ultimate travel convenience. You can read more details about our backpacks and why we love them here.
12. Reusable Shopping Bags
These bags fold away really tiny and we make sure we always have one on hand. Whether it’s for actual shopping, taking stuff to the beach, carrying snacks on a bus or using as a mini picnic blanket (genius) reusable bags are super useful and also reduce plastic bags in the world. How can you say no? Get some great patterns here.
I’m assuming you’re a grown adult and understand the importance of sunscreen, especially if you have pasty skin like us. But make sure you pack enough to last a while. The sunscreen in some foreign countries can be of poor quality (because locals don’t use or need it) or incredibly expensive. We carry some SPF 30 moisturiser for daily use and two small bottles of sunscreen for beach time. Stock up on some eco-friendly stuff here.
14. Unlocked Phone
There are plans that exist that cover multiple countries but they’re often very expensive. We’ve bought a cheap sim card in almost every country where we’ve spent more than a week. It never costs more than a couple of euros and is infinitely useful for maps, ordering Ubers, translating and passing hours on long bus trips. It’s also handy to have a local number sometimes. We just buy one and use it as a hotspot for the other phone. So moral of the story? Make sure your phone is unlocked before you leave.
15. Washing Line
It took us a while to actually purchase one of these but we finally found some rope for 30c at an Indian market and are the proud new owners of a bright yellow washing line. It can be wound around something in your bag so takes up no extra space and is great for drying handwashed clothes or even just hanging towels or airing clothing overnight (if you’re unfamiliar with the air washing method, travel with less stuff!) It’s also useful to hang a scarf on for privacy in dorm bunks. Our rope works fine if there are things to tie it too but you can buy purpose made ones with hooks or suckers on the end to make it easier to hang. Have a look here.
16. Eye mask and Ear plugs
I pride myself on being able to sleep in most situations. But I’m becoming more sensitive in my old age and everyone needs a little bit of assistance to sleep on an Indian night bus. They also work well in hostel dorms when there’s people coming and going at different hours. Get a sleep set and always have it handy on public transport. We love our sleep mask from Happy Luxe made from sustainable beech tree fabric, it’s super soft, comfortable to wear and makes it easy to sleep.
17. Menstrual Cup
For women this will save you all kinds of hassles while travelling. No carrying tampons or desperately searching for them in foreign countries. It lasts all day without being changed (for most people) and is easy to clean and store. It takes a bit of getting used to but after a couple of times you’ll never look back. There are different brands and two sizes but they all seem pretty similar. I have no problems with this one.
18. A Scarf
It sounds so simple but many people don’t bring one because they assume it won’t be cold enough. But a good scarf is so much more than just a neck warmer. I use my travel wrap as a headscarf, blanket, sarong, poncho, pillow case and picnic blanket depending on the needs of the occasion. My one is from Happy Luxe who make beautifully soft wraps from fabric made from sustainably harvested beech trees. Check out their full range here.
19. USB Chargers
Everything except our laptop charges with a micro USB plug which makes it SO munch easier to carry chargers. That’s two phones, tablet, camera, Steripen, powerbank and Kindle all with the same cord. We have a couple of spares in case we need to charge more than one at a time. We’ve been able to use our European plug everywhere so far but when we can’t we’ll just buy a USB converter like this one rather than carrying an adapter around all the time.
20. Packing Cubes
This is my first trip using packing cubes and I’m a complete convert. I’ve even got Max on the bandwagon although I question his organisation strategy. Packing cubes make it really easy to keep items together, compress clothing and it means you don’t need to unpack everything every time. I have one for tops, a larger one for pants, dresses and skirts and one for items I don’t use regularly e.g warm layers and my raincoat which never gets opened! I recommend a set with different sized cubes like these here.
For more space saving ideas read: Travel Accessories for Packing Light
Packing for long-term travel is never easy and you'll constantly be swapping things in and out of your bag to find the perfect combination of items. But these items have been useful in almost every country we've travelled through and have make our travel easier and more convenient and compact.