11 things that never leave my daypack


by Steve Arnold

One thing about travel is that you are far from home, and all your belongings. It can be a bit intimidating knowing that if you forget to take something with you it is probably 12,000km away before you realise you need it. I have a number of things I always keep in my travel daypack to make sure I am not caught short.


  1. Noise Cancelling Headphones
    Out of boredom and on a whim I bought some noise cancelling headphones in LAX a few years back and have never looked back. The difference they make in reducing the racket while flying are quite incredible, and really help if you need to shut out a noisy airport or crowded bus for a while. They can be bulky, but the collapsable ones are pretty compact and it helps protect them too. Make sure you get all the jack adapters too. I find a double 3.5mm headphone socket is really useful,  allowing you to share a device with someone else.
  2. A Light Scarf
    Don’t laugh at the scarf! Aside from looking like a jaunty young man of the world, I find having a light scarf in your daypack incredibly useful.  I regularly use mine to keep warm, to keep the sun off my neck, as a pillow when resting, and for wrapping anything that might be breakable in your pack. So many uses. Seriously, you should get one.
  3. Universal Plug Adapter
    There is nothing more frustrating than not having the right plug adapter. I picked up one of these little beauties and it is such a lifesaver. When traveling around countries such as within South America you don’t want to have to worry about having all the right adapters. Get one of these anything to anything modern day miracles – job done.
  4. Double Plug
    So simple, so brilliant… double your charging ability. Now you can charge your laptop and your phone at the same time! Or become the hero of the airport transit lounge. Need power? Use some of mine!
  5. Sunblock
    I was trekking in Patagonia in winter and I got sunburnt. I get sunburnt by the moon, I am not joking. I always carry sunblock. Travelling can be thirsty work for your skin too, so if you can find a good moisturising sunblock you can kill 2 birds with one stone. Alternatively, depending on where you are going, a sunblock with insect repellant isn’t a bad option. Be sun smart people.
  6. A Good Pen
    No brainer right? Wrong. The amount of people I have to lend my pen to so that they can fill out entry cards on flights is quite incredible. Not that I mind… but it’s probably the first thing I throw in my bag. Also good for writing down directions. And the odd bored doodle on a flight. And don’t try and go all fancy with a pencil – you won’t be able to fill out your departure card with that. Pack a good old blue pen. In fact, why not put in 2!
  7. Transparent Cable Bag
    My sister bought me a bunch of transparent carry bags before I went on a trip once. I was completely underwhelmed. Now I feel incredibly embarrassed because it is so good not to have to rifle through everything to find what you want. You can see what’s there before you open the bag. They are so useful, especially when it comes to the 600 cables I seem to have to carry around for my phone, laptop, tablet, small earbud headphones, extra batteries, USB drives, spare XD card for camera etc etc. Also ideal for toilet bags and for snack bags. I really cherish my transparent cable bag.
  8. Drink Bottle
    I like to have a BPA Free, eco-friendly drink bottle in my pack at all times. Sure you can buy water in bottles from stores, but let’s think of the planet people. Plus water from a fountain is free, and it is just nicer having your own drink bottle. Some people like ones that double as a thermos for taking a cup of tea out on trips but that requires a level of planning and organisation I simply don’t possess.
  9. Sunglasses
    Another obvious one. But seriously. It can ruin your whole day not having sunglasses. Even if it is hosing down I take mine just in case it clears. Sun on puddles – glaring misery. Front seat on an open top bus? No bugs in my eyes – no, no, not for me, I brought my sunnies!
  10. Decent Point and Shoot Camera
    The best camera is the one you take with you… or is it the one you use… something like that anyway. I have a really good little Fuji X10 which I love and never leaves my bag except to take the odd snap. I usually carry around my massive canon thing at great effort and little return , but this little camera takes remarkably good snaps and is always there for me. There are so many good little point and shoot cameras now days its getting hard to justify the big SLR. It can also act as substitute pair of binoculars at a push.
  11. First Aid Kit
    Blisters. Scratches. Bumps. The perils of traveling. Not serious wounds but common ones and a bit of a pain (boom boom!) if you aren’t prepared. I have a custom first aid kit I have built up with a small selection various bandages, antiseptic, painkillers, ant-acids (yes I am getting old). The photo I have here shows a pair of scissors which isn’t such a good carry-on option for flying, but useful otherwise.
This is a list of things that don’t leave my daypack. Of course there are other items such as binoculars, jackets, beanies, gloves, books, various devices, tickets, maps etc that I  take with me as well depending on where I am going. The one that is probably missing is a cap, which I usually always carry as well. But this is my essential list which I have honed over many trips and many moments of “oh man I wish I had a (insert thing I didn’t have)”. Hopefully it is of some help. Enjoy your travels!

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