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List 3 packing items that you cannot live without!

After traveling to Europe yearly for over the last 8-9 years I have found certain items just fulfill their function perfectly, so here's my list:
1) ExOfficio underwear - I have found that these are the perfect travel clothing item that does exactly what their intended for, last for years, and are comfortable, easy to sink wash and dries in 4 hours.

2) The small Rick Steves red toiletry bag - This bag has been with me to 8 different countries and is the perfect size for a man, I like the built in hanger for small bathrooms, it just works for me.

3) Travel Multi-outlet - I bought this off amazon and it is a small four plug outlet. I only have to have one adapter for the main plug and it gives me four regular american outlets for my iPhone and iPad. Since my wife and I both carry iPhones and mini iPads it is nice to be able to recharge all four at the same time from one outlet, also I use it to recharge my camera each evening after a day of sightseeing. (All our electronics are 110/220, dual voltage.)

I would be interested in hearing which 3 items you consider essential.

Posted by
14243 posts

I'll go with:

  1. Ex Officio Underwear....totally agree with you!

  2. Eagle Creek SilNylon compression packing cubes. They are very light, keep me organized and squash down the contents so they don't shift and take up less room.

  3. Clear plastic envelopes with zip closure. One letter size for my daypack or tote (with full itinerary, hotel and activity reservations etc), one just larger than a regular envelope size for my purse for my current travel itinerary and my basic airline flights to/from, a pen, a pencil, sticky notes and paper clips. Available at Staples and I am sure other office supply stores. On my first RS trip the guide had all her paperwork in these and I thought it was brilliant.

Your multi-outlet plug sounds like a good idea. I had a couple of times this past trip where I could have used it as I needed to keep my iPhone, iPad and FitBit charged.

Posted by
796 posts

Interesting topic! I just returned from a month in Europe. My faves are:

  1. Jockey microfiber undies. My brother in law swears by ex-Officio underwear. Both will dry overnight. I do apply a bit of hair dryer to the gusset in the undies if I only have 1 nite to dry them.

  2. Apple international plug in kit. I travel with my Iphone and Ipad. The plug in changes the end for different countries, I only bring what I need.

  3. Variety of sizes of ziplocks for leftovers, packing and more.

I used 2 laundry lingerie washing bags, bought from the dollar store, for packing cube. They worked very well. I preferred them as they were much lighter and more flexible than the real packing cubes. I may still travel with one real cube and dedicate it to the extra layers, like my black Tilleysilk overshirt and a thin sweater and my large scarves.

Posted by
1097 posts

RS hanging toiletry bag. DH and I both got them for the Europe trip a couple years ago and we have both continued using them on every trip since then. I travel for work and so mine gets a lot of use. I actually just today purchased an eBags one that is a little bit larger than the RS one, since I have been taking a separate little bag with my makeup items in it. I think the larger eBags one will hold everything, but I am afraid it'll be TOO big for my light Europe packing. I'll know I will use it for US business travel, though.

Lands End starfish pants. Wore them on the plane and I don't even know how many more times in 16 days. Not for hot climates, but for over half the trip they were fantastic.

On behalf of DH, I'll say the Columbia Tamiami shirts. Cool, lightweight, dry super fast. He wears them all summer here in Hotlanta.

And a bonus, which is kind of a no-brainer these days: my phone. Used it as my primary camera (DH took fancy camera but I had a phone full of pictures I could whip out anytime to share), my computer, alarm clock. It didn't actually work as a phone until we were almost ready to come home because of a setting that was wrong (ooops, Verizon) but didn't need it for that.

Posted by
3580 posts

1) RS money belt.

2) Columbia travel shirt.

3) some reading material---usually a travel guide and a few novels on my IPad.

Posted by
15662 posts

1) Passport (for Identification)

2)Credit/Debit Card (For money)

3) Smartphone (for entertainment, information, communication)

With the three above, I can eat, sleep and buy whatever I need.

Posted by
327 posts
  1. USA extension cord. Use one European adapter at the wall end and have 3 plug-in openings for USA electronics. Plus when the one hotel outlet is in an inconvenient location, the cord length is really helpful. I always travel with the cord in USA too.

  2. REI expandable packing cubes.

  3. Phone for books, documents, notes, games and other apps.

Posted by
8630 posts

I can't think of many things that couldn't be replaced along the way if necessary. But three things I am always glad to have with me, are: a phrasebook/dictionary; a cheap wristwatch with alarm; an e-book loaded with unread books for downtime.

Posted by
3992 posts

I designate one drawer of my 6 drawer dresser as my travel drawer. Three things that are always ready for me to pull out and take on my next trip are:

My money belt with passport, copy of passport, 2 spare little photos and euros
My foldable duffle bag for unexpected or planned purchases
My mesh bags for packing small clothing items like underwear and socks

I used to keep my small, nylon shopping bag in the travel drawer but now I always keep it in my purse because of California's recent shopping bag laws/charges

Posted by
470 posts

Great thread Donald! Agree almost completely with your list.
1. Fast-dry underwear. ExOfficio (on sale at Travelsmith) for husband. MUCH cheaper and same type Hanes microfiber underwear for wife. Both dry within 20 minutes on heated towel bar or radiator. 2 hours to air dry.
2. REI travel toiletry kits.
Husband uses the smaller "Grande", wife uses the bigger version, Both hang. Both have excellent compartments that are waterproofed against those inevitable leaks.
3. Multi-outlet. Absolutely. Always buy dual voltage. Recharge electronics at night and use for hair gadgets in the morning.
IF we have several nights in one place and are checking our luggage we add the Luxury Essential Items: Bose travel speaker for music, foldable cloth cooler to chill wine/cheese for in-room picnics (once we have completed the quest to find ice)

Posted by
2531 posts
  1. Money and equivalents.
  2. Toothbrush.
  3. Icebreaker very soft lightweight wool underwear (happily graduated from ExOfficio underwear).
Posted by
32264 posts

There are several items I consider "essential", but these are at the top of the list....

  1. Passport
  2. Bank / Credit cards & cash
  3. iPhone & charger

With those three items, I could probably function for awhile even if all of my luggage was "misplaced". It would be easy enough to buy things like a toothbrush and razor at the local shops to keep me going for a few days at least.

Posted by
67 posts

Aside from necessary documents (passport, money cards, travel docs) I must have:
1) Quick-dry underwear (usually Ex Officio or Icebreaker)
2) A hanging toiletry kit. I've been using this one that was gifted to me. Not only does it have a removable 3-1-1 bag, it also has enough room for my chargers and all of the miscellaneous little things I carry. Everything in one place.
3) My Kindle loaded with books, movies, music.

Posted by
994 posts

1 Large sized zip lock bags. They are great for packing, as laundry bags, and for washing clothes. 2. My REI backpack. I don't know its model, but it is a great size and comfortable to wear. I use it as my suitcase, and I have tried to pack other bags, but always switch back to my backpack before my trip. 3. My smart phone. It's my watch, alarm clock, camera, flashlight, map, book, and used for staying in touch.

Posted by
4174 posts

Pretty basic list, but I have to have 4 items:

  1. Passport.
  2. Prescription meds.
  3. Credit/Debit cards.
  4. Smartphone (with all trip info loaded on it) and charger.

Whatever happens, with those 4 items I can deal with it.

Posted by
11613 posts

Well, I have to take meds and documents with me, but I think your question is about things that are so helpful that I would never leave them off the list. Mine are:

  1. Adapter plugs (I take one for each item, attached to the charging cord, plus one extra)
  2. 2.5 gallon Ziploc bags that I use for doing sink laundry - great for soaking without taking up the whole sink.
  3. iPad mini (holds travel books, Pages for journaling, alarm clock, camera, calculator, weather app, city maps, hotel, train, plane and sightseeing tickets, vouchers, etc., as backup to hard copies that I discard once they are used).
Posted by
980 posts

Things I couldn't live without while traveling:

  1. Passport
  2. Credit/Debit Cards
  3. Smartphone

But I think the spirit was three "favorite" travel items which for me are:

  1. Bluffworks travel pants. I use for business and personal travel. One pair is all I need for a week as I can wash in the sink and they dry overnight and still look great.
  2. Running shoes and clothes. Exercise is my cure for jet lag plus its a great way to see parts of a city you normally would not see.
  3. My 100¥ travel umbrella that I borrowed from a colleague in Singapore and never gave back. Super small (fits in jeans pocket) and I haven;t been able to find it's equivalent in the US.


Posted by
3259 posts

After some thought, my essential items (after obvious PP and CC):
1. ipod - covers all entertainment and electronic needs; ie, books, music, movies, communication with wifi, documents (but I'll have paper backup as well, alarm clock, etc.)
2. bandana - so many uses, I won't bother to expand on this
3. backup eyeglasses, particularly sun and reading...and I've needed them and used them.
Sometimes I think this forum should be called a packing forum as we all seem to be addicted to that!


Posted by
358 posts
  1. Ziploc bags in assorted sizes
  2. Tablet (iPad or Surface) loaded with travel ebooks & reading material
  3. Small Moleskine notebook in which I have copied all sorts of travel notes, ideas, maps, etc, and in which I will jot down our activities and expenses. Always serves as my main souvenir from every trip.
Posted by
358 posts

Since so many people here are raving about Ex Officio underwear I ordered some for my husband. If he likes them I'll get him a few pair for travel.

Posted by
2768 posts
  1. Ziplock bags in various sizes - snack size to 2 gallon. Good for packing snacks in my purse, storing said snacks at the hotel, keeping my passport dry, keeping documents corralled, storing wet swimsuits, using as makeshift packing cubes to organize and squish clothes...

  2. Camera. Preferably my DSLR, but at least a decent point-and-shoot. Photography is how I document my trips as well as how I make myself really see a place instead of passively rushing through it to get to the next thing.

  3. Iphone with an offline map-app and language app. I have saved so much time using GPS maps, following my progress on the screen. Language apps let me look up phrases for menus, listings, conversations, everything. The phone can also access my kindle library of guidebooks, my own documents (itinerary etc), and useful things like passport copies, saved maps and museum guides, and all sorts of other info.

Other notable items:
-Kindle (better for reading the guidebooks I mentioned under iphone)
-portable charger (charge it at night, throw it in your bag - it's smaller than a phone - and you won't run out of power)
-RuMe three compartment baggie (I have one for medicines and other practical things like bandaids and one for non-wet toiletries like toothbrushes, combs, cotton balls, hair clips, makeup)

Posted by
73 posts

1) My small point and shoot camera (Panasonic makes great ones, some with EVF).
2) My sketchbook/journal, either 3 x 5 or 5 x 8.5. I'd feel incomplete if I could not make notes and sketches along the way.
3) Baggies in assorted sizes, from sandwich size to jumbo 2.5 gal., lighter in weight than packing cubes, disposable and replaceable.

Posted by
139 posts
  1. RS microfiber towel in 20x40" size. Great as a "hair dryer" or for doing sink laundry (for rolling wet clothes to remove moisture).

  2. iPhone and nifty Bose earbuds. I listen to books on CD on the plane.

  3. Tom Bihn Side Effect. Per a suggestion in the TB forum, I use double carabiners to clip the Bag to the seatback pocket. Inside is everything I need for a long flight, including meds, phone, gum, tissues, pens, earbuds, cheater glasses, a few Sudoku puzzles, etc. It even holds a Nexus tablet if I take that. No more rooting under the seat for my personal item, or losing stuff in a yucky seatback pocket. I'm sure another type of small bag with 2 rings could work the same way, but the Dyneema Side Effect is perfect for what I need. After the flight, I stash the carabiners, reattach a long strap, and wear it as a small crossbody bag. Or, it's small enough to store in a carryon.

Posted by
6370 posts
  1. Compass. I normally have a pretty good sense of direction, but turn me loose in Rome, and I'm lost. I may know that the hotel is east of the Pantheon, but damned if I can figure out which way is east. Especially after dark. So a compass is essential, and goes well with
  2. Good maps. Not just the ones in the RS guidebooks (sorry, Rick.) You need a map that shows the tiny lanes and by-ways, as well as the major streets. For those of us that just like to head out and wander around, a good map is key.
  3. I have put together a "night kit" that fits easily into a small Ziploc bag. It has ear plugs, an eyeshade, a bottle of melatonin (for the first few nights only,) and a tiny flashlight, for finding my way to the bathroom in unfamiliar hotel rooms. And perhaps a couple of tissues and an aspirin or two. It's the first thing I pack.