Top Five Things on our Packing List

Essential Items Packing List - Featured

The frequently on-the-move lifestyle of the backpacker dictates bringing only the bare minimum as to avoid schlepping copious amounts around the world. As such, that perfect pair of shoes that go with everything you packed and shampoo that doubles as body wash, dish soap and laundry detergent, should make the list. In no particular order, here are our top 5 multi-faceted items that always make our packing list.

Essential Items Packing List - Featured

Ready and Packed for the United Arab Emirates


A light scarf of any print or color can serve several purposes on a backpacking adventure. It can not only dress up any outfit , but it can also be used as a hijab (head covering) when visiting a mosque or a sarong when visiting a temple. It can serve as a barrier between you and a dirty long-haul bus seat and when traveling through places like India or China you can simply cover yourself with your scarf if you’re getting sick of being stared at. If your scarf is big enough, you can even use it as a light blanket or lay it down for a picnic.

Essential Items Packing List - Scarf

Ligeia admiring the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey

Tupperware Container

Many restaurants around the world are not familiar with the “doggy bag” concept and so on more than one occasion we have simply put leftovers into our Tupperware container, saving money on breakfast or lunch the next day. In places that do offer a take away option, using our container cuts down on the abundant use of Styrofoam and other throw away packaging. And if you are able to make your own food (like before leaving for your trip or after staying at a guest house with kitchen facilities) your Tupperware container will allow you to store your food for a long travel day.

And when empty, a Tupperware container does not take up much room at all as it can be filled with small pieces of clothing, a toiletry bag or even all the other items in this post.

Essential Items Packing List - Tupperware

Enjoying a traditional cold spicy noodle dish in Xining, China

Pillow Case

One of the more unusual travel items, a pillow case can be very useful. It’s flat and thin, making it easy to stuff in even the smallest pocket of your bag, but by placing your jacket inside it you suddenly have a comfy pillow for that long-haul flight. Sleeping in an airport or on a train becomes instantly more comfortable by stuffing your pillow case with whatever clothing you have.

You can also make your hostel or hotel more familiar by putting your pillow case over their pillows. A pillow case can also easily be turned into a sack and so we have used it many times as a laundry bag.

Essential Items Packing List - Pillow Case

On an overnight bus from Manila to Benaue, Philippines


A pen is a small item but is the most essential thing you pack, save your toothbrush perhaps. A pen is what sets you apart from those winey passengers who pester the flight attendant for a pen as soon as the immigration forms have been passed out. A pen is helpful in easily marking a map when getting advice on restaurants or places to go. A pen is also the perfect communicator in times of a language barrier. Once, when we were running late and tying to find our ferry to Lesbos, for example, we drew a picture of a boat and suddenly the fingers started pointing us in the right direction. We’ve drawn pictures of cows and pigs and fish with lines through them signifying that we don’t eat them. Even if there is no paper around, their is always your hand or arm to write on. I’ve even used a pen to put my hair up in the heat of Southeast Asia. As bloggers we also use a pen to write up posts long hand when on the road to type them up later – yeah we’re kinda old school that way.

Essential Items Packing List - Pen

On the ferry to Lesbos, Greece


A calculator can help you catch the money ex-changers that try to short-change you (and there are many), double-check foreign prices in a more familiar currency, as well as ensure that the deal you’re getting really is a deal. Much like a pen, a calculator can also help you barter at a foreign market through a language barrier. Simply type in the amount you are willing to pay, show the merchant and allow a response until you both have come to an agreement.

Essential Items Packing List - Calculator

Busy Chichicastengo Market near Panajachel, Guatemala

What items always make your packing list?

13 thoughts on “Top Five Things on our Packing List

  1. Abi

    I’ve seen plastic water bottles that fold down. Now, a plastic tupperware box that would fold down – that would take this handy tip to a whole new level!

  2. Mo Orr

    Wow was I wrong! My 5 top travel tips are: vegan food, vegan snacks, vegan chocolate, vegan biscuits, and socks! Love this blog xoxo

  3. Loren

    This is so helpful, love the pillow case idea. i always take a rope so i have somewhere to dry my clothes, but i have also hung wet clothes on all sorts of pieces of furniture.

  4. Juno

    At the end of my 14-month on the road, I accumulated so.many.pens in my bag. I lost so many, I stashed them whenever I could. Pillowcase is an interesting idea!

  5. wyldfamilytravel

    i would say number one thing should be a power board with at least 4 power outlets considering these days we all have phones, tablets and camera’s that need charging and most accommodation only has one power point in the room

  6. Alex

    I always have, like, ten pens with me, much to the amusement of my travel companions. But they ALWAYS come in handy! Glad to see them featured on a packing list 🙂

  7. Wendy@TheNomadicVegan

    Great list, ladies! I carry all of these except the pillowcase (if I plan to do any camping then I’ll bring an inflatable pillow), and of course these days I just use the calculator on my iPod. I would add to this list a water bottle, and also a water filter if you’re travelling in places where the tap water is not safe to drink. You can save a lot of money and wasted plastic this way!

    1. Bounding Over Our Steps

      Hi Wendy,
      We always carry a water bottle with us too. It’s empty until we are on the other side of airport security and then we always try to keep it full. For the filters, is there one in particular that you reccommend? We haven’t tried that yet.

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