Here you can find the various items that make up the junk drawer of our packs. Many of these are essentials but they don't neatly fit into a single category.
We both use Vapour collapsible water bottles. These compact when empty, have an attached plastic carabiner clip and an secure but easy to use lid. The only issue with these is that their shape makes cleaning them out difficult. The best way to avoid mold issues that would require you to aggressively clean your water bottle is to use it everyday. If there is constantly fresh water going in and out, you don’t have to worry much about other things growing in the interior.
We each have a silk weight sleep sack that has been a lifesaver in few situations. It made sleep easier in the freezing overnight train to the Bolivian Salt Flats and saved Jess from the worst of bed bug bites in Colombia. If sheets seem unclean or sketchy or we need a little extra warmth, being able to pull a personal sized sleeping bag out of your bag is a big deal.
You will need earplugs. A lot of people don’t like things in their ears or are anxious about not being aware when sleeping, but I can promise you: eventually total exhaustion from lack of sleep will overcome these objections. And earplugs aren’t just for sleeping. They are for any situation in which you want to limit your stimulus from the outside world. When you are traveling on a budget, you are going to lose some control over your environment. Earplugs give some of it back. You can also do some things to make earplugs more comfortable like trimming them so they stick out of your ears less. I keep a stockpile of these for sleeping and always have at least one pair in my daypack.
I’ve used ear plugs since I was a Peace Corps volunteer in East Africa. I wish I had known about sleep masks then. I mean, I knew about them in that I thought they looked stupid and really only belonged on women asleep in black and white movies from the 1950s. Little did I know that you’re sleep armor isn’t complete without a mask. With our masks, some earplugs and our Bluetooth speaker running a fan sound we could sleep through a tactical nuclear strike.
This model of mask is silk and designed to rest on your eyes held in place by an elastic strap. There are also cupped ones that are stiffer that rely on using the bones around your eye socket to keep the shade off your actual eyelids. Of course if you sleep or your side or stomach, as I often do, then the pillow is mostly going to push the mask into your eye anyway.
If you haven’t used one before, be aware it may take you a few nights to get used to it. Once you are used to it, combining it with your ear plugs creates a Pavlovian sleep response you will treasure for years to come.
If told me that an inflateable camping pillow was going to be one of the most important things in my pack, I wouldn’t have believed you. As it turns out, the world is full of crappy pillows and there are many times you want something soft to put your head on.
I keep this in my sleep pack along with my headlamp, glasses, contact case, ear plugs and sleep mask.
A laundry line is essential to packing light; without it frequent quick washing of clothes is difficult. These braided lines are designed to eliminate the need for clothespins:you pinch the clothes between the strands of the braided line to hold them for hanging. Be careful of lines made with nylon or other types of synthetic fibers as their smoothness will make hanging clothes difficult. You want a line made of latex or some other rubberized material that has natural grip. Keeping a carabiner or two in your bag wil help you attach this line to the multi-various makeups of your hotel rooms.
I’ve carried a couple of carabiners on every trip I’ve taken and always found a use for them. The largest one here is used to clip my daypack to my big bag when we’re waiting in line for tickets or boarding. The middle one has been used for keys and the small one for everything from water bottles to zipper pulls.
Our currently ongoing game of Rummy 500 is approaching scores in the low 5 figures. This is a pretty useful thing to have when Jess and I are tired of talking to one another but still have an entire dinner to get through. Spending 24/7 with your partner requires some coping mechanisms.
You need to be able to lock your bags: this isn’t just stuff, its your whole life during the time you are on the road. We use cabled Master luggage locks. They are weighty and look secure, something just as important as their actual durability. I’d buy something even more secure if we didn’t fly so much and need airport security compliant locks. Any day we travel we lock our bags.
We bought these for our road trip through southern Africa but have found them useful in a number of other situations. If we are catching a meal on the run or making a picnic, its nice to throw these in. They don’t take up much space and they are super light. They are also the only kind of knife that never gets taken away from you in airport security.
Scissors are very convenient for clipping threads, trimming bangs, opening containers etc. Having full size nail clippers means feeling mildly civilized even when we are only taking cold showers and boiling all our drinking water in an Ecuadorian pensione with limited electricity.
Wedding Guest Book Post Cards
At our wedding we asked guests to write us advice or hellos on these travel post cards for us to read on our trip when we got homesick. Periodically if we are stressed out or tired, we pull these out and read one. It's a good feeling.