Anytime you’re sweating your way through a long-haul flight, sleeping in a questionable hostel bed, lamenting the loss of precious travel photos, or approaching 6 days since your last shower, small luxuries that we all totally take for granted at home become painfully obvious on the road. Travel is meant to challenge us, but that doesn’t mean it should be a constant struggle!
Whether you’re living out of a backpack for 3 months or just going camping for the weekend, here are 10 incredible products and clever gadgets that will make your bag lighter, your transit easier, and your body wayyy happier. Bon voyage!
Lush Shampoo & Conditioner Bars
Especially great for multi-month trips where space in your bag is at a premium or long distance hikes where every gram counts, these amazing solid shampoo bars from Lush will honestly change your life (or at least your hair). Added bonus, cutting down on all the plastic bottles of shampoo and conditioner is as great for the environment as it is for your carry-on liquid restrictions!
Designed just like a bar of soap, rub the bar straight onto your hair to whip up a good lather; incredibly, they are just as effective as any liquid shampoo at getting your hair squeaky clean, and they smell amazing, too. More recently, I bought one of their conditioner bars to try, and although it’s not quite as mind-blowing as its sudsy counterpart, it’s quickly become an indispensable part of my travel toiletries. Hot tip, the best way to transport your new shampoo bar is in a plastic Hubba Bubba Bubble Roll container from the supermarket (I can’t take credit for this one; I actually got the recommendation from another blogger, but it really is perfect)!
Where to buy: In-store or online from Lush
Kathmandu Deluxe Microfibre Towel
Whether you’re going on a seaside holiday or just staying in a few hostels during your next overseas trip, a great towel is absolutely essential. But who can be bothered lugging around an enormous beach towel in their bag? Basically every shop now stocks some version of these lightweight, super absorbent towels, but I rate Kathmandu’s Deluxe XL towel as the absolute queen of all travel towels.
The best thing about this towel is that it’s actually a normal size, so no more drying off with something that looks like a microfibre lens cloth. Even though it’s not really compact enough to take on a long distance trek, this towel is still light and small enough for backpacking SE Asia while also being fluffy and luxurious enough to bring to Iceland’s chilly Blue Lagoon. Hot tip, these towels go on “buy one, get one” specials throughout the year, particularly around Christmas and Easter, so time your purchase accordingly!
Where to buy: In-store or online from Kathmandu
Excellent alternatives: If you’re going on a long trek or just really need to save on space, these ultralight towels from Kathmandu are a great alternative.
Peak Design Capture Clip v3
After making the switch to a larger mirrorless camera, I spent hours online researching ways to comfortably and conveniently carry my Olympus OMD EM5 MII while on the trail; I wanted to be able to quickly capture stunning mountain scenery without digging around in my pack each time, but I also hated the feeling of the camera bouncing against me on a standard neck strap. I finally discovered the Capture Clip from Peak Design, which screws (non-invasively) onto the shoulder strap of any backpack to allow for quick access without compromising comfort.
Hikers stop me on the trail all the time to ask about this brilliant gadget, because anyone who’s tried to carry a camera any other way knows just how frustrating it can be. For the eager street photographer, this is also a great way to keep your camera handy as you explore a new city, safely locked to your shoulder strap!
Osprey Airporter Backpack Cover
Waiting for my backpack to come off the carrousel at the end of a long flight, I’ve seen bags missing straps and even backpacks torn wide open from the wild ride that our checked luggage endures. The best way to avoid damage to your own backpack is to stick it into a large backpack cover, which conveniently protects the hip belt, straps, and even the material of your expensive pack from all sorts of damage during transit (I have little flags sewn onto the side of my backpack, so I’m extra cautious about anything snagging the patches and tearing open the bag).
The best thing about the Osprey Airporter is that it fits around a 50L backpack with room, so I can stuff bulky travel purchases and last minute items into this extra space when I invariably run out of room in the backpack itself. AND I love that I can use it as a spontaneous duffel bag when I go on long treks and need to store some of my non-hiking gear with a hotel!
Whatever tech gear you’re travelling with, a powerbank is essential for any trip. Never miss another photo due to low battery, get stranded because of a flat phone, or suffer through jet lag without a great book— perfect for long bus rides, flights, and even hikes, I never go anywhere without some extra charge.
I recently partnered with SnapWireless to test out their new 10,000mAh PowerPack, which features wireless charging for compatible phones, in-built lightning, microUSB, and USB-C cables, and an LED screen that displays the remaining charge. Not only is the PowerPack incredibly light and compact, but the convenience of having every cable I could possibly need right inside the device was enough to totally convert me to a SnapWireless fanatic.
Injinji Toe Socks
As someone who enjoys very active trips, whether that be 180km treks or just 10hr days spent walking around a city, the comfort of my feet is pretty critical. Sadly for me, I am also super susceptible to blisters, which means I’m often limping back to the hotel or campsite at the end of an otherwise amazing day. I couldn’t even count all the hours I spent googling blister remedies (or the really strange stuff I’ve tried), but discovering Injinji Toe Socks was like the light at the end of the bloody, pus-filled tunnel.
Injinji’s hiking liner socks (pictured) have reduced my blisters more than I ever thought possible, and their low-cut running socks offer the same comfort when I’m just wearing Nikes or Converse around town. To anyone who suffers from agonising blisters or even ingrown toenails, these socks will quite literally change your life.
Where to buy: In-store or online from Anaconda and Paddy Palin, or online from Amazon
Excellent alternatives: I have Injinji toe socks in hiking liners, running socks, and hidden low cut socks, so I can be blister-free no matter what shoe I’m wearing!
Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow
For all the long flights and bus rides where you end up sleeping on your tray table, all the hostels that give you a 1cm-thick clump of stuffing and call it a pillow, and all the overnight camping trips where you just can’t get comfortable, a good travel pillow is paramount. Sleep better everywhere with a Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow.
I own this pillow in two sizes, and I have to say that it is one of the greatest purchases I’ve ever made. Amazingly comfortable yet incredibly compact and lightweight, it’s perfect for overnight hiking, for transit (a literal lifesaver on night buses in South America and Asia), and for achieving optimal head height in crappy hotels (I’m a double-pillow kinda gal).
Where to buy: In-store or online from Paddy Palin
Excellent alternatives: If you’re extremely tight on weight, the Aeros UltraLight Pillow (pictured in the tiny bag above) is the perfect compromise.
There are few worse things than going to take a sip of water on a hot day and finding that the contents of your bottle have reached near-boiling temps. Enter the Corksicle Canteen, an awesome insulated bottle that will keep your water ice cold all day and even keep your tea piping hot for hours and hours. Best yet, the 25oz version is perfectly sized to fit a bottle of wine, which is reason alone to invest immediately.
As an insulated bottle, this isn’t a particular lightweight option for hiking, and it’s also not terribly ergonomic if you want to carry your water in your hand throughout the day, but for road trips through Morocco, walking tours in Ireland, or even flights across the Pacific, this is the ultimate luxury. Plus, it’s super pretty..
Cost: $65 for 25oz (730ml)
Where to buy: Online from The Iconic and in-store or online from Mr and Mrs Jones
Excellent alternatives: It might not be quite as backpack friendly, but I also love my Yeti insulated tumbler.
SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive for iPhone and iPad
As a travel blogger with a burgeoning interest in photography, my photos are hands down the most important memento of any trip— and also the one thing I can never replace if my camera is stolen or my memory card is corrupted. Knowing this, I am always incredibly diligent about backing up photos onto my iPad (using Apple’s handy SD card connector), but there’s only so many RAW photos I can cram into that backup before I run out of room. I was searching everywhere for a solution, particularly something that would enable me to create a backup of my photos without lugging around my MacBook Pro.
My most recent purchase and current obsession, SanDisk’s iXpand Flash Drive connects directly to my iPad and backs up every single photo through an easy-to-use free app. I got the 256GB model, just to be safe! Although it does still mean that I have to transfer photos onto my iPad before loading them onto the drive, it’s the best and most space-conscious way to create a double backup of my precious travel memories, giving me the confidence to cull photos from my iPad and make room for new downloads.
Kathmandu Packing Cells
Whether you’re living out of a backpack for months on end or embarking on a multi-day hike, it only takes about 2 seconds for the contents of your bag to become an unrecognisable tangle of shirts and socks, making it nigh impossible to find anything, ever. Lightweight packing cubes are the ultimate solution, and I’d honestly never pack a bag without them now.
There are heaps of brands that make packing cells, but I am partial to Kathmandu’s range of lightweight cubes that come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Keep your bag organised and save on space by packing smarter; more importantly, though, never have your undergarments scattered throughout the airport during a security screening.
Cost: $16-40 depending on size
Where to buy: In-store or online from Kathmandu
Excellent alternatives: The best packing cell for tech gear is the Sea to Summit Padded Soft Cell, which perfectly protects my mirrorless camera, spare batteries, powerbank and charging cords in a carry-on bag or hiking backpack.