I travel a lot. Like a lot lot. I’ve prepared an achievement list to define “a lot”:
- ✔ Visit more than 10 countries (I’m currently at 15)
- ✔ Spend at least 1/3 time abroad (in a years perspective)
- ✔ Fly without ticket back (round trip is for rookies)
- ✔ Buy plane tickets in the morning, fly in the afternoon
- ✔ Get weeks planned trip extended to a month
- ✔️Compelled to stay overnight because of a missed flight
- ✔️Get stranded at the airport for more than 12 hours
Because of that, I need to have my travel-survival bag always ready and with me. As unfortunate recent events taught more people to be more prepared for unforeseen travel, let me share some lesser known items that are good to always have in your bag.
What I'm trying to say, is items I about to recommend are carefully picked, tested and proven to be useful in a different life sutuations.
Note that we are not talking about an apocalypse bug-out bag (I might tell you about mine another time), but a regular travel/city/hiking bag that is intended to make life easier and more comfortable. Everything I mention here is very light and fits in a medium-size organizer.
So in addition to powerbank, usb charger, protein bars, napkins, cash, and hand sanitizer I recommend you to get:
- To hold all stuff I mention here, any travel organizer will do. I've bought one from BUBM a long time ago still happy with it. Recommend S-size, single or double layer depending on your needs.
- Victorinox Swiss Card. It is like a Swiss Army Knife, but more portable (fits in a wallet). Using that for 20+ years, replaced only once. It is so good. Portable scissors, knife, pin, and tweezers (all airport-security friendly) are indispensable in personal hygiene and fixing stuff. Pen once saved me a lot of trouble at customs.
- For more advanched repairs I recommend foldable Swisstech pliers+screwdriver. Also airport security friendly.
- When you travel a lot, stuff tends to break. And when you are far away from home even minor problems could get you into big trouble. A broken zipper on the jacket can make you cold and sick, broken shoes limit your movement, broken glasses can make you miss flight info or train number. A torn backpack can make you lose things. So get a super glue, clear scotch tape, and most importantly wire zip ties. Maybe some velcro cable ties - not as good as zip ties, but reusable. For example, by combination of these, you can create a makeshift phone holder when rental car didn't have any. All of these are lightweight but might save you one time. Also, super glue is safe to use on wounds. Just saying.
- Also I've got a really small sewing kit for torn clothes/backpack cause. Hopefully will never need to use it on wounds.
- Last, always handy for quick repairs are paperclips and safety pins.
- One of the lesser known things I am hoarding for the apocalypse, (also useful in daily life) are good earplugs. You can’t overestimate the importance of good sleep, and in a lot of places, sleep is only possible with help of earplugs. Honeywell Laser Lites saved me even in loudest hostels. Also from infants on planes. Don't worry you still be able hear the alarm clock!
- Another universally useful thing is alcohol pads. Can disinfect, degrease (before gluing), make electronic connectors work again, and clean surfaces or small cuts. Very portable fits in a wallet. Cheap and available in any pharmacy. Do I need to say more?
- Fortunately I've not been in an apocalyptic situation, but having water cleaning pills really saved me from thirst a couple of times. It does not take up any space, but make tap or spring water drinkable. The taste will be bad, but at least you will not get sick.
- Also compressed towel pills come in handy a couple of times. The ones that expand to cloth napkin when getting wet.
- Lifehack. Sometimes clothes and shoes can get the smell from sweat but you have no access to laundry. Instead of using deodorant, get a textile odor remover and fill a portable dispenser. Works like magic.
- Lifehack number two. In some places like airports, tea/coffee might be very expensive, but hot water is cheap or even free. So I have a couple of teabags and coffee packets just in case. Also, camomile tea can help with tooth or stomach/gum pain. Tiny packets of salt/pepper can improve food taste. (This lifehack is even approved John 'Lofty' Wiseman)
- Worst problem that could happen is tooth pain. Recently I've found (and tested) gel for tooth pain, which was a lifesaver. Ask for Orajel (or local analog) in your pharmacy. Flush with Listerine first.
- In case you can't brush your teeth, there is special chewing gum. Regular chewing gum will do as well. And a small bottle of Listerine. Listerine is also good for disinfecting wounds.
- Speaking about meds I will probably say nothing new. Get your prescriptions, different grades of painkillers, stuff for the stomach, allergy stuff (also good for running nose) some basic anti-inflammatory stuff, and meds for cold and cough. Cough drops can also help in case of thirst, ibuprofen in case you want to bathroom badly. Also, don’t forget to pack a lot of patches and patches for blisters. To save space, cut out only number of pills to last till next pharmacy. It is important to label the expiry date on each pill using sharpie, and replace it from time to time.
- Vitamins could help from getting tired and getting sick. Don't know if true or a placebo.
- Ziplock bags and regular plastic bags. You never know when you need to carry extra stuff.
- Also for dirty/clean clothes drawstring nylon bags are more tidy and practical. Also good for the environment as they are reusable!
- Speaking about cables to charge and sync a variety of devices it is smart to get a set of adapters for every port. BUDI is a conveniently packed set of USB-A/micro/lightning adapters and Type-C cable. In addition to a smart and compact design, it has a built-in card reader and slots for 6 microSD cards allowing you to hold 1.5TB of useful data, and 2 Sim cards in case you need to replace your current one while abroad. Don't forget that cables may be forgotten or broken, so keep some spares.
- If you charging your devices from USB sockets available in hotels, airports, e.t.c, you need to invest in USB data blocker. Because "in exchange" for free power, baddies can download sensitive data from your phone, over very convinient USB connection. Or install some shady stuff you don't want.
- When traveling, long wait times are unavoidable and the internet is (shockingly) not always available. So don't forget USB drives or microSD cards with books, movies, podcasts, or youtube shows that will make pass the time. You can put some useful information there as well.
- Also I have USB drive with a bootable Debian and some soft installed. So If I have access to a shared computer I can boot from my drive, instead of using trojan-ridden shared environment.
- People can underestimate how problematic dust or sand could be. A dusty port can prevent the device from charging, dusty device can overheat. Had this problem, so now I always take a small dust brush with me.
- You never become pro, without a backup smartphone. The smartphone is too important and too breakable to leave it to a chance. Because losing it could be a catastrophe. So, instead of reselling/regifting old one consider keeping it as backup.
- Speaking about losing a smartphone - when looking into maps or taking photos there's a chance that the phone will fall or be stolen from your hand. The lanyard helps to secure it. If your favorite phone case doesn't have a hole for lanyard, buy a universal one and use it only when needed.
- If you wear glasses, keep a lanyard for them as well. Don't need to be attached all the time, but in situations where losing glasses is critical (like hiking in mountains or walking in crowded space) - better safe then sorry.
- If you wear glasses, and I have not stressed you enough how important they are, keep a tiny srewdriver to tighten screws to avoid it falling off.
- Flashlight - WUBEN G2 has all must have features of my go-to choice Nicron N7 :
- 90 angle and clip, so it is easily attachable to collar, pocket, backpack strap - when walking
- Magnet to fix it on any metal surface - when working
- Super bright, high quality LED with reflector
- Multiple brightness modes to save power
- In addition WUBEN in much more portable (smaller than typical USB Drive) and has USB-C charging.
As somebody who experienced long power blackouts I can tell you, there can not be too many flashlights!
- Rescue professional once told me: "The best survival tool normal person needs to carry is a whistle. Of course you can fantasize about going full bushcraft survival in case of emergency, but it real life your main priority is to be found by people with special training. No mater if you are lost in the woods or sea, got in vencile crash, building or cave collapsed... Even in case of criminal attack." As whistles are super portable, why not to carry it all the time?
- Drop a silica bag (the "do not eat packet" you found in new shoes and clothes) to keep moisture smell and mold away. If sensitive electonics get wet, you can dry it by sealing it with couple of silica in a sealed packet.
Bonus tips for extra comfort
These things are not necessity, but will make your life earsier.
- If you work from laptop a lot, this portability kit will save you from royal pain in the neck!
- You never know if place you are staying will have these one time slippers (usually not). So you can buy it yourself extra cheap to be sure.
- Hand sanitizer can never replace the feeling of cleanliness of hands washed with soap. And there are lot of places with running water but no soap. So bring portable soap flakes.
Hope it was useful. Safe travels!