6 Travel Items You Didn’t Know You Needed

Packing everything you might need for a lengthy backpacking trip can be daunting, as space is limited, and the last thing you want is to be carrying around extra weight that serves no purpose. In my previous post, I focused on how to narrow down your wardrobe. In this post, I’m going to talk about 6 travel items you didn’t know you needed that are worth your valuable and available real estate.

Travel Towel

Okay, if you’ve ever looked up a “what to pack” list, odds are you’ve already seen this one – the much debated travel towel. Yes, a lot of places will provide towels, so do you actually need it? My vote is yes. I’ve used these for so much more than the obvious…

In Iceland, to wipe down a very dirty white rental car (to make sure there was no damage underneath the black sand).

In Koh Tao, Thailand, I used it in combination with a hair tie as a makeshift bandage when I cut my foot on coral while snorkeling.

I’ve also used it as an airport floor “blanket”.

It’s a necessity if you’re going to any beach-heavy destinations, and if you anticipate doing a lot of laundry in the sink, a travel towel will help soak up some of the extra moisture so the clothes will dry faster.

turquoise microfiber travel towel
There’s a lot of options available but here’s the one I currently have from Wise Owl Outfitters

Grayl GeoPress Water Bottle

If your destination has non-potable water, or you go hiking a lot, definitely consider a Grayl GeoPress Water Filter and Purifier bottle. When I went to Thailand in 2018, I went through so many plastic water bottles because I wasn’t aware a product like this was available.

You can fill it from any freshwater source and within seconds, it filters out viruses, protozoa, bacteria, particulates, chemicals and heavy metals. The replaceable cartridges are good for up to 3 years or 65 gallons/250L (approximately 350 24oz bottles).

The retail price is currently $99.95, but keep an eye out for sales at REI. I was able to get mine for $75. The cost is well worth the longevity of the filters and the benefit to the environment.

Sea to Summit Lite Line Clothesline

I’m very excited about this item – it’s so practical and convenient – and best of all, super small and lightweight. It only weighs 1.3oz and can fit on a keychain!

As mentioned earlier, I expect to be doing a lot of laundry in the sink, and this packable clothesline with built in beads that function as clothespins is perfect to set up literally anywhere. I know I will get so much use out of this and it’s reasonably priced at $13.95.

Dry Detergent

Speaking of laundry, liquids get heavy fast, and if you’re packing in a carry-on, you can only have 3.4 oz. When it comes to travel items you didn’t know you needed, this is one of the more obscure ones. Sure, you could buy detergent when you get to your destination, but why carry around that extra weight if you don’t have to?

The answer to that problem is these dry detergent strips! They are lightweight and non-scented – you just have to make sure they stay dry. You probably won’t need all 48 strips, so I just cut a few in half since I’ll never be doing a full load, and packed them in a plastic sandwich bag.

Dry Bags

I bought these originally for kayaking, but I’ve never gone on a trip without one. They are great for separating dirty or wet laundry, or shoes, from the clean items in your suitcase or backpack. I’ve also used them to keep sand and saltwater off important items at the beach or to keep electronics dry from rain.

They are lightweight, and when not in use, can roll up very small. They also seem to resist odors, which is always a plus when you don’t have to time wash your sweaty hiking gear before heading to the next country or city.

dry bags in the color blue, neon green and neon orange
I’ve been using this trio from geckobrands for years. They are on the low end of the price range I’ve seen ($14.99 for all 3) and they’ve worked wonderfully for me.


I only recommend taking a phrasebook if you can find a pocket sized one in the language you need – you won’t realistically carry around a full sized book with you wherever you go. While there are plenty of options for getting translations on your phone, you might not always have sufficient service or WiFi.

I also find that you’re more likely to study a book when you’re bored during a layover or on a long train/bus ride, so you might retain more than you would by just looking up translations as needed. This Mexican Spanish Phrasebook and Dictionary from Lonely Planet is only 3.8 x 5.5 in and easily fits into a small purse.

This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means…and it’s sure to be an ever-evolving list I’ll need to come back and update later…

So let me know below if you have any helpful “travel items you didn’t know you needed” that have made travel easier for you!

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