As someone who travels a lot, I can say with zero authority, but 100% certainty, that these are literally the most useful travel items ever made, since the beginning of time.
Please note that I have not been compensated in any way by any company listed below. These are my honest and uncompromised opinions... in no particular order:
1. Patagonia Black Hole Duffel Bag 45L - When it comes to travel bags there are two kinds of people: those who like lots of pockets and compartments, and those who don't. I'm a don't. I find that the more places and spaces I have for every little thing, the more time I spend searching for them...like a perfect inverse ratio. It seems it is actually possible to "out-organize" oneself. Enter the Black Hole Duffel Bag. Save for three small, well-designed, and laid out pockets (one paper thin one on the outside, and two mesh pockets under the lid), it's all open space. The bag weighs nothing, but holds everything -- I can pack enough inside the 45L version (it sizes up from there) for three weeks. It's comfortable to carry, it's water resistant, and it's durable as hell. I've had mine for years (during which time I've abused it mercilessly) and it's no worse for the wear. And most importantly, the 45L size I carry fits in the overhead compartment (and its sturdy grab loop makes it easy to pull down), or under the seat, of even the smallest planes.
When trips call for a roller bag, I depend on my Tumi internationally approved, soft-sided roller. It weights maybe two pounds, and no gate agent or flight attendant has ever questioned me about its size as a carry-on, even when packed ridiculously full. Sadly, I believe it's no longer sold. Sorry.
2. Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Cubes - I use Eagle Creek's packing cubes to keep like items grouped together for trips when I'm constantly moving around and/or accommodations are sparse. These too weigh nothing and are water resistant, and unlike other packing cubes, they are paper-thin so they literally take up zero extra space. And... I love the colors, so it makes me happy to look at them.
3. Sea to Summit Traveling Ultra-Sil Day Pack - When stuffed inside its tiny built-in pouch, this travel backpack is so small, it's barely as long as its written name. Like everything I love, it weighs nothing (2.4 ounces) so it's no big deal to bring along, and yet it holds 20 liters of stuff. It too is water resistant, comfortable to carry, and way tougher than it looks. I've had mine for at least a decade and it still looks new.
4. Uniqlo Ultra Light Down - Everyone knows the key to keeping warm is lots of layers; but the key to packing light is packing light. Thanks to Uniqlo's Ultra Light Down coats and vests, which are super light and fold/roll into compact pouches the size of a can of soda (only squishy), these axioms no longer need be at odds. I live in them when I travel, and when I'm home. Since they take up virtually no extra space and are so light and easy to carry, I never think twice about throwing an extra vest, compact jacket, asymmetrical down and/or down jacket into my bag just to be safe. And on those occasions when I'm wearing all of them at the same time, their slim silhouettes keep me from looking like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters.
5. Ziploc Bags - At the risk of being overdramatic, be it gallon, quart, sandwich, or snack-size, Ziploc or Hefty, I cannot imagine life, let alone traveling, without these things. Where to start...? Dirty underwear and socks, wet bathing suits, rocks and shells I collect, objects I buy that need protecting, my liquids, of course, Q-tips and cotton rounds, charging cables and batteries, vitamins, keeping sand and rain out and off of things... you get the picture. And I use Glad's Small Garbage Bags (4 gallon) for my shoes, since unlike traditional shoe bags these (say it with me...) weigh nothing and take up no extra room.
6. NOOK GlowLight - I love books more than anything, but not when I'm traveling. I remember the days when I used to travel with eight or more books -- five or six to read, and two or three extra just in case. I can't speak for other e-readers, but I love the NOOK. The digital ink text is crisp and easy on the eyes (it's the same as reading a book), as is the glare-free, scratch-resistant screen. It's either water resistant, or I've been pretty lucky. The Glowlight is variable so it works well regardless of circumstances, it holds a billion books (I have no idea how many -- but I have tons), which download wirelessly with zero effort and are easily managed online or via the device, and a fully charged battery literally lasts over a month, even when left on all the time. My only complaint is it sometimes acts wonky (as do all my electronics, unfortunately), but that's a small price to pay.
7. Pen and Small Hardcover Notebook - Choose your brands, but bring both. Sure laptops and smartphones are great, but nothing beats pen and paper for jotting down quick notes on the go, writing down the name of someplace to ask for directions there, noting where you just took a photo, or the name of dish you enjoyed, or writing your contact information down for someone else (write it and rip it out), etc. And I cannot begin to tell you how many strangers ask to borrow my pen to fill out their customs and immigration forms upon arrival anywhere, as it seems no one travels with pens anymore but me.
8. The ORIGINAL Ventev Universal Charger 2 USB Ports 2100 mAh - Nowadays there are thousands of USB multiport hub wall chargers made by dozens of companies. I've tried and own at least six different kinds made by as many brands, but when I travel, I always end up defaulting to this one because it's so light (I have another brand with four ports that weighs six times as much). It also has a round "nightlight" on the front. I'm not sure if that's what it's meant for, but that's how I use it. Though it's no longer made -- having been replaced by a newer model -- it can still be found online with some searching. And for road trips I swear by the Bestek 300W Power Inverter, which has 2 AC and 2 USB ports all in an ultra-compact and lightweight design. During my recent 18-day road trip in Chad, I used this daily to simultaneously charge my camera and laptop batteries, as well as my phone, which it was able to do ridiculously quickly.
9. LeSportsac 3-Zip Cosmetic - I have used these forever as my travel wallet. They are THE BEST. The main pocket is the perfect size for my passport, receipts, and the bulk of my money (so when I unzip the other pockets to pay, anyone watching only sees a small amount of cash), and the other two pockets I use for coins, credit cards, and/or to keep different currencies separated. When I'm out and about, I also toss in my lip balm, pen, hair tie, room key, and so forth. My only wish is that they would FINALLY make these in solid colors as they have yet (in decades) to introduce a pattern I like, even a little.
10. Lifeproof FRĒ for iPhone 6/6s Case - This makes your iPhone waterproof, dirt-proof, sand-proof, dust-proof, snow-proof, mud-proof, and drop-proof, while ensuring every port, control, and feature works exactly as it does without the case on. And, of course, it's super compact and light, adding no bothersome weight or size to my phone.
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