Packing a bag for upcoming travels can be a bit stressful, no matter how experienced you are. You know weather is going to change, you aren’t sure how often you’ll get to do laundry, and you want to pack light and multifunctional. Into the “go” stack you put something, only to find yourself tossing it out a few minutes later. To help make our lives a bit easier at HI Travel Tales, there are a few travel essentials that go along, pretty much no matter what – no matter how big or small the suitcase, how cold or hot the destination, how much new stuff we have, or whether we are headed out to urban ports o’ call, rougher environs, or a little of both. Take note that for an item to be on our “must-have” list, it won’t be the newest kid on the block. By default, these are items we started testing then they just moved into our travel bags. Permanently.

Buffs – You never want to be without your multifunctional, seamless tubes of microfiber. They can serve as hats, scarfs, tube tops, sweatbands, wound aid, forehead swabs and, well, you name it. Plus they come in a multitude of colors and patterns to express your personal style. We are collectors, admittedly. Since no trek, run, bike, backpack, or outing is a go without one.

Michael and Therese wearing Buffs in the Dolomites


Sea to Summit Traveling Light bags – We adore the Traveling Light series, but our No. 1 always-goes-with-us-no-matter-what is one of the bags or packs that stuff teeny tiny into a sack that is about the size of an extra large egg and only weighs about 2 ounces, give or take. Choose from a small daypack, shopping bag, duffle bag or sling bag. These small travel essentials can work as an emergency around-town/around-wherever bag, shopping bag, or oops-I-bought-too-much carry-on. At 2 ounces, why not?


Eagle Creek Specter Pack-It cubes – When you’re in and out of a pack or suitcase a lot when on to go, organization is a travel essential. Leave it to these light-as-a-feather cubes to make mom proud. You can choose from a full size, half size or quarter size as well as a long skinny one (which fits great between ribs of a suitcase for smarter packing too). There are even “compression” ones with extra width around the side – meaning you can leave them full (and, ok, pretty huge) or put less in and then zip it down to compress them. No bag should be packed without one. And who can argue when sans compression they weight only about a half-ounce to an ounce (with zippered compression, about double.)


ExOfficio Give-N-Go Underwear – Let’s get intimate for a moment with the travel essentials recommendations. What’s next to your skin? These give-n-go undies are a traveler’s dream come true. You literally could take one and do a quick squeeze wash in the sink and be ready to go the next morning – even if your “night” is a short one. The brand’s undie tagline: “17 countries. 6 weeks. One pair of award-winning underwear. (Ok, maybe two),” and that’s not so far off. Both men’s and women’s styles, tops and bottoms, are available, from simple and rather conservative to sexier and ready to go with trendy outerwear too. ExOfficio give n go underwear is a travel essential.


Granite Gear Air Zipditty small ditty bags – So you have a large duffle or shoulder bag but stuff goes swimming around it. Or you have a small camera bag but need an add-on for a few items. Or you need to put some order in your electronic cables, makeup, sunscreen, or any number of items. Small ditty bags to the rescue. We even jerry-rigged a waist pack for short hikes and treks by attaching the loops on each end with ‘biners to a belt. Multifunctional can’t get any better, especially at a half-ounce or so. And the siliconized, water-resistant material will make sure rain outside doesn’t get in, or sunscreen inside doesn’t goo up the works.


Hydrapak SoftFlask — If you are a fan of traveling light, packing that extra hydration belt or pack may make you hesitate (unless of course you’re planning a lot of long adventures). We have found the Hydrapak SoftFlasks to be nearly a divine intervention. The SoftFlasks are made of a soft, flexible BPA/PVC-free material that compresses as you empty them, allowing them to be stuffed into a pocket or tiny waist belt of most any size when empty. The smaller ones carry 5 to 8 ounces (larger, bottle-type flasks are 12-15 ounces). Yup, always in the go-bag! See our Hydrapak product review by clicking here.


Loksak waterproof bags – Forget Ziplocs, these bags are tougher grade, yet also re-sealable, flexible and lightweight — and also waterproof to boot. There are a million sizes (ok, perhaps we exaggerate) – enough sizes to fit any SmartPhone, GPS, tablet, computer, gizmo or gadget you want to. We love small ones that hold a few necessities for trail adventures you don’t want to get soaked in a rainstorm, not to mention today’s sensitive electronics that need protection not only from water, but also humidity or dust. There are so many sizes you may be a bit baffled, but the website tells you what each is good for.


Nite Ize Gear Ties — Sometimes the simplest item is a must-have among travel essentials. That’s how we feel about the Nite Ize Gear Ties. Think of them as permanent, colorful versions of single-use twist-ties. That simple. They come in a huge range of sizes, from a tiny 3 inches long up to about 32 inches. And you’ll find a million uses, from tidying up electronic cables to fixing errant straps, tent flaps or curtains, to jerry-rigging camera holders for taking great shots. Only limited by your creativity. Read our review by clicking here.


Nite Izes gear ties travel essentials.

Of course, there are lots of other things that go into the stacks when packing, but clothes, shoes and most jackets are usually pretty dependent on taste. Meanwhile, newer generations of gear are in testing. Time will tell which ones end up staying in the mix, so stay tuned. Gotta go get packed! See you out there!