Nick Wharton & Dariece Swift By
Posted 07 Dec, 2015 | 57 Comments
Posted in: Packing

Depending on where your travels will take you, and which activities you are planning to do, your packing list and must-have items will vary.

When trekking and camping through Mongolia and Central Asia, our necessities were a tent, sleeping bags and portable stove. However, while gallivanting and beach-bumming around SE Asia and India all we needed were flip-flops and hippie pants!

Now that we’re backpackers and expats, our must-have items have changed, yet again.

No matter your travel style, all travellers will love (and want) these 13 items: 

Clothing by prAna

I had been looking for a new hiking pant, that would be stretchy, soft and (most importantly) not stick to my legs in the humidity of Grenada, and the Halle Pant is perfect for that! Even if you’re not trekking or hiking, this pant is a good choice for travel days.

I just wore the pants for our long journey from Canada to Barbados, and was really comfortable.

clothing for travellers
Enjoying the view in my Halle Pants.

prAna has a wide range of chillin’ out, loose pants that you could wear while exploring cities, riding on buses, doing yoga, or just hanging out on the beach in the evenings. They also have many lightweight shirts, and clothing for adventurers.

They’ve been around for 22 years now and have to be the most ethical clothing company I’ve ever found. They focus on giving back to the earth, rather than taking, and are very conscious regarding the usage of water, energy and chemicals during manufacturing.

prana clothes for travellers
Nick wearing one of his polo shirts by prAna on our date night 🙂

Their apparel is made from organic cotton and recycled materials, while avoiding the use of harmful toxins and chemicals. Many of their clothes are also Fair-Trade Certified! We’re definitely happy to be showing off these clothes.

Packing Cubes

If you’re not using packing cubes, you’re wasting a lot of space in your luggage! During our first trip to SE Asia and the Subcontinent, we didn’t know about these mesh / nylon zip-up cubes, and now, we don’t travel without them.

They’re great for condensing and categorizing your items, and keeping things organized in your bag. Roll up your clothes, put them into the cube and zip it closed. Don’t be afraid to stuff these packing squares to the limit! We have them so tight that we’re literally kneeling down on them in order to close the zippers.

travel packing list
These travel packing cubes are a travel essential!

There are many brands out there, but we use the packing cubes by Eagle Creek (in three different sizes). We’ve had them since 2011 and they’re still going strong!

Backpack by Numinous Packs

When we were moving around constantly and were going on multi-day hiking trips, it was imperative that we had a lightweight, small backpack. These days, our journeys from point “a” to point “b” are much shorter, and we now carry a lot of important gear with us.

Numinous Packs are a bit heavier, but they have a lot more features than our previous packs.

Since we now carry more expensive gadgets than before, we think that these backpacks will be perfect in protecting our stuff. They’re puncture proof, slash proof and have built-in locks.

We also use these packs as a safe while we’re out for the day. No longer do we have to worry about our drone, computers and money being stolen, we just zip everything into these packs, and lock them to something secure.

We’re actually in the middle of our third Numinous giveaway on our site (enter here!).

Footwear by Lems

As with prAna, Lems Shoes is another one of those companies that we can’t believe took us so long to learn about. Lems is a small, American owned, family run business. They pride themselves on selling shoes that actually fit the natural shape of the foot.

We went with the Primal 2 shoe, which is exactly what we need for our lifestyle. Unfortunately, the size I ordered didn’t fit me, and we left Canada before I was able to get the right size…but, Nick’s shoes fit like a glove and he LOVES them!

essential shoes for travellers
Nick walking the dogs here in Barbados, in his new Lems shoes!

These shoes are super lightweight (6.9oz), flexible, stylish, versatile and form-fitting. We obviously need lightweight items in our pack for when we’re travelling around, yet we need something comfortable and stylish for exploring cities, walking the dogs that we pet-sit, or meeting with potential partners. These shoes are perfect for all of those things.

Of course we’ll still want to wear our flip-flops on the beach, and our hiking shoes for trekking, but we also need a proper shoe for day-to-day stuff.

So, we now have stylish, comfortable, shoes that can literally roll in a ball! This makes packing so much easier.

travel shoes for travelling
Nick’s dirty shoes – getting some good use out of them 🙂

D-Link Wi-Fi Extender

Nick wrote a whole article about essential time-saving upgrades for digital nomads, and although wi-fi range extenders are great for those who are working on their computers, I think it’s also an incredible piece of gear for people who are just travelling as well.

The wi-fi in hostels, hotels and cafes never seems to work all that well. Think of how much time you waste trying to upload photos to Facebook, FaceTime/Skyping with family or simply sending an email. That’s usually because you don’t have a strong enough wi-fi signal.

location independent blogger in mexico
Is your wi-fi working?!

We’ve spent so much time just sitting around asking each other “Is your wi-fi connected?” “Do you have a signal yet?”

Now that we have purchased the D-Link Wireless N 300 Mbps Compact Wi-Fi Range Extender, which plugs into the wall, and the TP-LINK TL-WN823N 300Mbps Wireless Mini USB Adapter, which plugs into the USB port on the side of my computer, we have no problems getting internet. Happy days!

must have gadgets for travellers
This range extender is worth every penny.

Diva Cup

This one is just for the ladies! When travelling around the world, having your period can be more difficult than it is at home. If you can believe it, tampons are hard to come by in many countries, often there are no garbage cans in the bathrooms, and in many places, you can’t flush anything down the toilet!

This is where the Diva Cup comes in. This silicone cup can be worn for 8+ hours (great for long travel days), and it won’t take up a ton of space in your pack, like bulky tampons do. It’s easy to use and easy to clean. But the best part? You can’t even feel it!

I use it monthly and highly recommend it.

Ok men, moving on 🙂

Diva Cup Diva Cup 1 Pre Childbirth
Every woman should own a Diva Cup, especially travellers.

The Cube – Portable Movie Projector

Ok, maybe not an essential, but definitely an awesome addition to the backpack!

Regardless of whether we’re backpacking around or living somewhere, we like to watch movies and TV shows. It’s not like we’re spending hours in our rooms wasting time on shows, but I think everyone likes some down time, or to have a movie night once in a while.

We recently discovered The Rif6 Cube, which is a small, 2 inch x 2 inch projector! All you do is hook it up to your laptop, smart phone or tablet, choose whichever movie or show you want to watch and it’ll project out onto a wall or screen.

The colours are great and the clarity is excellent. We have our portable speakers hooked up, which makes the sound good as well. This is also a cool gadget to share with friends in a hostel, just set it up and gather around for a movie! We love it, and so will you.

the cube for travellers
Look how small the Cube is!

Universal Charge Cord

There’s nothing more annoying than having lots of charge cords getting tangled up in your pack, or searching around for the one you need. Not to mention that outlets can be hard to come by in many hostel / guesthouse rooms.

We’re recently purchased a universal charge cord which plugs into the wall or your computer via USB and can charge 4 devices at once – lightning, micro-usb, mini-usb and the cable for the original iPods (it may charge other things, but I’m not sure what!).

Being able to simultaneously charge your devices is ideal for travellers.

retractable charge cord

This universal retractable charging cord is awesome.

Travel Towel

We’ve travelled with a travel towel since our very first trip in 2008. If you choose to sleep in hostels, guesthouses or huts, oftentimes towels won’t be provided, or they charge a security deposit to rent them.

Travel towels are thin, lightweight, super absorbing and microbial (meaning they won’t smell!). They have more uses than simply drying off after a shower – you can bring them to the beach, to waterfalls, use them as a blanket for a picnic, sit on them on a dirty seat, create shade at the beach, etc. etc.

We have the MSR Pack Towel, which has been going strong since 2011!

Exercise Gear

When we were travelling around before, we didn’t really work-out all that much! Our exercise came naturally from exploring the new countries we were in, from lugging around our heavy packs (while refusing to pay $1 for a taxi!) and from playing beach volleyball.

Our hostel rooms were always too small to do any sort of exercises (or so we told ourselves), but these days, since we’re house/pet sitting, we actually have a lot of room for getting our heart rates going.

Carrying a thin, lightweight yoga mat is great for stretching, practicing yoga, doing sit-ups, and meditating. I have a mat by Nike, which is very thin and lightweight – exactly what we need. With my old backpack (32L), it strapped nicely to the outside of the bag, but with my Numinous (55L), it actually fits right inside.

gear for travellers
Me and my yoga buddy!

Mobile Phone

This is such a simple, yet much-needed item for travellers. It’s so important to have a way to contact people when we’re on the road. Whether we’re out at the beach and our vehicle won’t start, or if we’re hiking in the middle of nowhere, we always carry our phone for safety.

Having a phone is a must not only for safety reasons, but to call ahead to hotels to book a room, or to call your hotel to find out the local price of a taxi so that you don’t get ripped off.

shared taxi uzbekistan to turkmenistan
You’ll want to know the price of shared taxis…for sure!

Up until our recent trip back home to Canada, I think we we’re the only people who didn’t own a smart phone! We now have a Samsung Galaxy Note 3, which we love.

But, before that, we just had a very basic Nokia phone. Unless you want to use data, which is good for using maps if you’re lost, Periscoping / Snap-Chatting your life, or looking up nearby places on the internet, then you could get by with just a simple phone.

Always make sure that the phone you have is unlocked, that way you can purchase cheap SIM cards and pay-as-you-go plans from the countries you’re travelling to.

phone when travelling
This is what we had until we switched to a smart phone.

Travel Adapter

Unfortunately, all of the voltages and plug-ins around the world aren’t the same. Oftentimes this means that you can’t use the charge cords that you brought from home, as they won’t fit into the wall sockets.

A universal travel adapter is a staple in our bags. We picked up ours at a random shop, in a city that I don’t remember! These much-needed things are available everywhere.

If you want to plan ahead, you can always buy one at home, or purchase one online.

Reuseable Bottles

Unless you’re drinking glacier water, or are travelling in a 1st world country, most likely you won’t be able to drink the tap water in the country you’re visiting. Purchasing bottled water is a must, but what happens to all of the empty bottles afterwards? Just think of the amount of garbage you are producing while travelling abroad, especially for an extended period of time.

water filtration for travellers
ahhh, fresh glacier water from the mountains of Kyrgyzstan.

When we’re living somewhere for a month or so, we always purchase one of those 18L bottles of water and just fill up our glasses / bottles as needed. If we’re just travelling, we try to always purchase a reusable bottle and fill it up wherever drinking water is available.

In Mexico, almost every business and hostel had a jug of drinking water for customers and guests. In other parts of the world, something like a Steri-Pen to clean and sterilize the water, or using water purification tablets is a good idea.

No matter where you are, try to find a way to avoid drinking water from disposable bottles.

These are our must-have’s at the moment. What items do you recommend? Tell us below 🙂

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13 Essential Items That Everyone Should Travel With (1)

Check out some of our other articles here:

9 Awesome Gadgets That We’re Super Stoked About

Essential Time Saving Upgrades Every Digital Nomad Should Consider

25 Awesome Travel Hacks That You Will Always Use

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Nick Wharton & Dariece Swift

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Nick Wharton and Dariece Swift are the owners and founders of Goats On The Road. Together they have been travelling and working abroad since 2008 and have more than 20 years of combined experience in online business, finance, travel and entrepreneurship. Their expert advice has been featured on the Lonely Planet, CNN Money, Business Insider,  WiseBread and Forbes and they also spoke at the World Tourism Forum in Istanbul about the business of travel blogging.

Learn more about Nick Wharton and Dariece Swift on their respective author archives on this site and on the Goats On The Road About Us Page.

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57 thoughts on “13 Essential Items That Everyone Should Travel With

  1. Great post as usual! I think I need the range extender… I’ve been have the worst free WiFi luck. Seems the guesthouses that offer them free, don’t have signals that make it into the rooms and sitting in the commons is to dodge mosquitoes.

    1. Exactly! I find working in the common areas very distracting and need to have a private, quiet room to concentrate. Definitely give the range extender a try 🙂

  2. I sure wish I had that range extender back when I was a kid trying to bum internet off my neighbors!

    I mean, I never did that, I would never 😉

  3. You’ve got some really great things on this list. I can’t live without most of these when traveling. My perennial favorite, the packing cubes, go everywhere with us now. Can’t imagine life without them. I’m also going to check into the PrAna.

  4. Great list!! I cannot believe how small that “cube” is. I just bought a projector, cheaper , but wish I saw this one. Looks well worth the extra cost! Only one I don’t agree with is the travel towel. For a family of 5 like mine its too much space in my opinion although when my son travels on his own he definitely thinks its worth having.

    1. That’s cool that you got a projector, especially for family travel 🙂 We love the travel towel, use it very often!

      Thanks for the comment.

  5. K, had totally never heard of the Diva cup before, so duly noted!! It does sound like it could come in really handy, especially if it’s good for 8 hours of use!! ANd love the idea of a wifi extender … I really need one of those. Sick of having to work to deadlines while we’re traveling and getting to the hotel to realize the WiFi sucks!!

    Fab list, I’ll be leaving it conveniently open on my husbands computer as a list of “hints” for Christmas 😀

    1. haha, love that, how very sneaky of you 😉

      Seriously, for me the Diva Cup was just for travel initially, but now I use it all the time. Highly recommended. As for the range extender, yes, a must-have! There’s that one, and there are smaller ones that plug in to your USB on your computer, we have both.


  6. great recommendations! And awesome that you recommend the diva cup. it would have been a godsend back in my days of backpacking around Asia! I literally crammed half of my backpack with toiletries to last me the duration of my trip!

    Love the hiking pants too!

    1. Thank Karilyn!

      The hiking pants are awesome, and I use them as a travel / every day pant as well. The Diva Cup is a no-brainer! Wish I had it on my first year long trip, as just like you, I had my pack crammed with tampons! lol

      Thanks for the comment.

    1. Prana is awesome, really like their clothes 🙂

      The projector is one of those things that we just stumbled upon and loved! Thanks 🙂

    1. I know, right?! How cool is that. They’re really comfy too – or so Nick says…wish I had mine!!

      Thanks for the comment.

  7. Could not agree more on most of these items (maybe not specific brands though). I love my columbia hiking pants (zip off into capris) and am not sure if I’ll ever steer away from my Osprey backpacks! Many people squeam at the Diva Cup, but it is SOOO essential for travel!!! I made the mistake far too long to either pack a whole dang package of stuff (valuable real estate in a carry on bag!) or would forget (horrible when in places like Asia!!!)

    1. Agreed! A good pair of hiking pants is essential, as is a good backpack 🙂 The Diva Cup is a must – it takes a bit of getting used to, but is totally worth it. So many parts of the world just don’t have tampons! Thanks for the comment.

  8. I NEED packing cubes. My suitcase is always one big chaotic thingy after a few weeks of travelling.
    Another thing I highly recommend for every traveller is a portable charger! It’s so convenient and doesn’t take up much space.

    1. Hi Kathrin,

      What is the portable charger? We have something called The Travel Card, which will charge our iPod, or iPad while on the go. Is it like that?

  9. I have prAna pants that zip off to shorts and I bring them on ever outdoor trip that I’m going on. They are my favorite. Great list.

  10. So many new ideas for Christmas! I love those shoes, so practical and safe saving. I need to really invest in packing cubes, we use plastic bags just now! A very cheap recommendation that appears to be the most popular on our gift list is a music splitter! Thanks for sharing this, off to investigate the WiFi extender…

    1. Thanks for commenting Gemma. We have a music splitter too, love that 🙂 Plastic bags are ok, but you can really, really condense down your clothes in packing cubes! Happy holidays 🙂

  11. This list is great for gift ideas and for ideas for gifts for myself, too! Tampons are so difficult to find while travel, I should really look into the Diva Cup. The WiFi extender is definitely on my list of travel gear to look into buying, it would save me so much wifi pain, while on the road. Thanks for the ideas!

  12. I love the idea of the wifi extender, I never even gave it any thought but you are so right. In Kathmandu we had to go to reception all the time to get things done. I will definitely put this on my wishlist for future travels!

  13. I love all your suggestions and could not agree more. The cube, i bought one a while back, is such a neat little piece of equipment to watch movies on, you just need a white wall! even if you upgrade to a smartphone, the good old phones for local SIm cards work wonders and save you tons in countries where internet is not pervasive, there is no roaming and you are back to the world of good old SMS and phone calls

    1. Thanks Mar 🙂 The Cube is pretty cool, isn’t it? We’ve always had a basic phone, but lately, we’re finding that we want / need data while on the road, so we upgraded.


  14. These are all so great! I recently bought a travel towel and it came in handy while traveling through SE Asia. And I love the portable movie projector. I had no idea those existed! I think I might buy it just for my apartment 😉

  15. I do have a question about the Numinous Backpacks. Are they carry-on backpacks as well? I’m contemplating on going with PacSafe and now you have gotten my attention with Numinous Backpacks, but I wasn’t able to find any information that would suggest the 55L Backpack has the carry-on dimensions! What are your thoughts?

    1. Hi Eric,

      The 55L is not carry-on size, but they do have a 25L pack, which would be. They have a range of packs, check them out here:


  16. I’m fanatical about packing cubes too!!!!! I’ve been using them for at least a decade and wouldn’t travel without them. I love the idea of the projector cube, might just get that for my husband’s xmas gift!

  17. I don’t know which is cooler, the shoes or the cube. OR any of the other great items, many new to me. Thanks for the inspiration (and gift list adds!)

  18. i came here because of my interest in LEM’s footwear and wanted to know more about them. i wear VFF’s and Altra’s (but want something that looks less like a foot and aquasock while in the office. and wanted to hear a bit more from Nick’s perspective about them.

    Look into a sawyer water filer for when totally in the back country. i found that it takes up minimal space easy to maintain and filters up to 10000 gallons. (i may be off with the zero’s but you get the point). i found them at Walmart for around $20USD that is cheap travel insurance. Same with Life Straws, when you just don’t think you can trust the water.

    Patagonia also is another one of the very Eco-conscious companies that are transparent with their supply chain. a bit pricey but the stuff lasts! (i have had a coat by them that is over 20 years old, their outer wear anyway is bulletproof.) at least from my experience.


    1. Thanks J.P. Nick loves his Lems, he says they are incredibly comfortable, and they are a casual shoe, yet can be dressed up if needed. Thanks for the tips about the water filter and the clothing company 🙂 Cheers and happy travels!

  19. Great list! The retractable usb charger looks prefect, I could definitely do with one of those, not least to free up a usb port. We’ve been looking at getting a wifi extender recently to use in our truck camper, seemingly there’s one we can fit to the roof -all very technical!
    I’ve been using the British version of Diva Cup: ‘Moon Cup’ since 07 (before I was a backpacker/traveller) and I can’t LIVE without it, let alone travel without it! Such a life changing product, not to mention the environmental awesomeness of it too!

    1. Thanks for the comment Rachel! The moon / diva cups are incredible products – must-have’s for travelling or not 🙂


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