I went solo backpacking for the first time last year and I felt a little overwhelmed by all the travel gadgets being advertised online and in stores. I couldn’t possibly need all of them… right? Now, I’m not the kind of person that just buys everything that looks cool and might be useful. I wanted to pack light and be mindful of what I bought. So out of the gadgets I did end up taking, these are the MVP’s and the ones I could have done without:
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1. Packing Cubes
These things have made packing and unpacking every few days so much more bearable. I’ve had them for a while, but I only truly learned to appreciate them while I was lugging my stuff around for a few months. Packing cubes allow you to keep your pack organized and so you can actually find that one thing you were looking for without spending half an hour trying to fit everything back in. They come at different prices and different sizes. Mine are super cheap from IKEA and do the job just fine, although it might be worth investing in waterproof ones like these.
2. Eye mask, neck pillow, and ear plugs
Travel can be exhausting, especially when you’re trying to sleep in noisy hostels, night buses and long flights. With my eye maks, ear plugs and neck pillow I can literally sleep anywhere, I even had a pleasant nap at Manilla airport.
I don’t know why every country needs to have a different outlet. It seems like a pretty avoidable design flaw, but here we are. A good universal adapter will help you charge all your appliances even if the outlet looks like something out of an abstract art piece.
4. Microfiber towel
Now, I will be the first to admit that drying off with a microfiber towel is a less than satisfying experience. But there is just no beating the weight and size, so get a nice one that doesn’t feel like plastic wrap.
5. Power bank
You do not want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere or at that stunning viewpoint with a dead phone/camera. A power bank can tide you over between charging.
6. Silk sleeping bag liner
I’ll admit that I didn’t actually use this until a month into my trip and it was very close to getting stuck on the list below. Until I ended up in a hostel without sheets or blankets and I was very glad I packed it anyway. Silk sleeping bag liners are lightweight and soft and especially great for grimy hostels or night transportation in warm countries.
Things I didn’t need:
1. Money belt
Some people swear by them, I think they’re overkill. I never actually used my money belt for it’s intended purpose, instead, it held my passport and money inside my backpack. For which I could have used any old wallet/folder/envelope. As long as you keep an eye on your stuff, especially in crowds and public transport, a bag will do just fine.
I took it because it seemed cool and “survivally”, but I ended up using my phone as a flashlight instead. I am still considering a headlamp though for hands-free situations like reading in bed.