Friday, September 13, 2013

Travel kit


A lot of people travel for tourism, business, family matters... But a good preparation is useful. What should you bring along and what should you NOT bring along? that's the topic of this article.

Note, however, that this article is focused on people who travel by plane. If you travel by car, the weight and volume factors will not be as critical and therefore you'll have more freedom to bring extra stuff.

What you should bring

Some of the items listed here are absolutely necessary while others are only useful. For example, 2 pants are necessary while 3 are a luxury. I will cover only the necessary items.

Also, depending on the purpose of your trip, you will bring specific items. If you go skiing in the Alps, you might want to bring your own ski boots. If you go for business to Singapore, you'll bring a laptop. Such items will not be covered here.


2 pants, including at least 1 pair of jeans. Having 2 pants allows you to have something to wear when your first pair is at the laundry or drying after a heavy rain.

7 shirts + one you'll wear on travel day. This allows you a full week of clothing and you can organize the laundry 1 time per week. Depending on your destination, you should make a choice of long-sleeve, short-sleeve, or T-shirt. My personal recommendation: T-shirts should only be reserved for sports. If you're going to a warm country like Thailand, which has a rather conservative culture, wearing a short-sleeve shirt will be your best choice to accommodate the local population and getting more respect, which can be useful if you try to negotiate purchase prices.

socks and underwear: choose a quantity that will match the frequency of laundry of shirts (once a week)

Coat: unless you have a specific requirement about temperature (cold environments) or the need to look classy, what you really care about is only wind and rain. The best choice is therefore one of those nylon coats that can be easily folded into a small pack.

Shoes: you need 2 pairs. 1 pair for carrying out your main activity: classy shoes if you're on a business trip, hiking shoes if hiking, etc. The 2nd pair will serve mainly for relaxing and will generally be breathable and of light weight.

Hat or cap: bring one of these! Whether it's for protecting your eyes while driving or protecting your head from hyperthermia, a cap is useful. You should favor a light color so that your cap doesn't absorb heat from the sun.

That's it for clothes! But I only mentioned the bare necessary for the sake of preparing a minimalist luggage. Most people will want to bring extra stuff, but then it's just a matter of comfort vs. weight.

All the rest

Choice of luggage: if you can make everything fit in a single backpack, then go for it! For business-oriented people leaving on a project for several months, your total gear will weigh between 25 and 35 kg, forcing you to have a big luggage + a backpack. For the luggage, you should get a model with 4 wheels as on the picture below. It is easier to push and keeps cleaner since it doesn't touch the floor.

knife and tools: having a knife is very useful. If you can have a Swiss-army knife or a Leatherman (multi-tool), that's the best choice. From my years of travelling, the tools I've really found useful on my Leatherman were knife, scissors (for cutting my nails), nail file, screwdriver (both flat and cross-shaped), precision screwdriver (for that tiny screw on my glasses), can & bottle opener. Sometimes I missed the tweezers and toothpick which are absent from my Leatherman Surge. Sometimes I also missed the corkscrew for enjoying wine. So if you buy a Swiss knife or multi-tool, these are the functions you'll be looking for. I couldn't find a perfect model so you should check if you prefer a minimal or a heavier more complete model. Also remember: when you take the plane, you cannot have your knife with you. It must travel in your luggage.
From left to right: Juice Xe6, Juice S2, Micra

Medicine: there are 3 things you want to have: imodium will help you when you have diarrhea. The question is not "if" you will ever suffer from diarrhea but "when". So you need to have at least 3-4 of those pills. Paracetamol will help if you have headaches. The quantity is up to you. If you're only travelling to big cities, you don't need a lot, since you'll be able to find a pharmacy easily. And finally, of course: plasters for when you cut yourself.

This is your best friend

Waterproof pouch for your passport. You don't want your passport to be damaged and the solution is cheap and simple: a ziploc pouch, generally used for putting food in your freezer. Bring 3-4 of them! You may use them for other purposes like storing the coins of your country and avoiding to mix 2 currencies in your wallet. It can also prevent your shampoo and other liquid products from spilling inside your washing kit: soap doesn't taste good on a toothbrush.

Photocopy of your passport: when you're visiting a city, its shops, museums, etc. there's always a risk of losing your things or being robbed by a pickpocket. And losing your papers would be a big problem. For everyday use, you can simply carry around a photocopy of your passport while your passport remains safe in your luggage at your hotel.

Pen and paper: the best choice is a black ballpoint pen, with no cap because caps can be lost. This is useful for many purposes from filling administrative documents in the plane (requested by some countries) to asking directions. A small size notebook that fits in your purse will also have its uses from taking notes, phone numbers, etc.

Image licence: CC BY-SA 3.0 Paul Munhoven

phone: depending on your destination, you'll need to choose between a dumbphone that needs recharging only once a week but has limited functionality, or a smartphone which will have plenty of functionality but which needs recharging every day and makes you a target of choice for pickpockets.

Smartphone apps: if you opted for a smartphone, here's some valuable apps: Navit (GPS) or Google Maps (I recommend to save in advance the map of areas you're interested in, for offline use), flashlight (uses the camera's flashlight as a torch light), Bathroomfinder, Google Translate (you need to pre-load the languages you want), Skype, Gmail or equivalent email app, Line (immediate messenger).

Sewing kit: this is not a mandatory item. But you find affordable sewing kits which are very light like the one below. So I think it's a good item to bring, considering the small weight and volume.

Half-roll of toilet paper: you simply never know when it's gonna come in handy. It's light and cheap, and it fits in the side pocket of a backpack.

A card, within your wallet, mentioning several useful information for cases of emergency: name and contact number of your next of kin, contact details (of your hotel, maybe) if your wallet is lost and found so you can get it back, blood type, known allergies, health insurance details, etc.

A comfort item: when you're far away from home, especially on a business trip of several months, you'll miss home. If there's any item that can make you feel better, then take it! Especially during your first long trips abroad, you'll miss the specialty foods from your home country between the 4th and 8th week. Guaranteed! So prepare a pack in advance of the foods from your place that have the strongest distinctive flavors and have someone mailing this pack to you around the 6th week of your trip. It will bring tears of joy to your eyes.

What you should not bring

Umbrella: umbrellas break all the time and they're only useful for medium-sized rain with no wind. Your coat will protect you better, so there's no need to carry around the weight of an umbrella if you have your nylon coat.

Books: they're heavy and you would have to carry them back and forth. That's a waste! If you absolutely want to read, then get an electronic book! It's still a bit expensive but the technology is mature and it can contain many books within a limited volume and with limited weight.

keys that you don't need. After you travel back home, you'll be able to find all your keys within your house. So just take the main door's key and don't take the keys of your garage, letter box, etc. They're just dead weight.

soap and mouthwash: there will be soap in your hotel and mouthwash is just too heavy. Keep in mind that extra weight beyond your airline's allowance is charged from 10€ to 40€ per kg and constitutes extra efforts for you when pushing your luggage.


This has been a much bigger article than I envisioned, but I think it's a useful one. I have probably forgotten some important stuffs. If you see anything missing, tell me in the comments section and I'll update the article!

I didn't cover the washing kit because this is really up to you.

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