I’ve been refining my gear continuously during my six years of nomadic life. These are the top five items currently in my pack that I am grateful for every day.

ChicoBag

This HUGE bag is perfect for shopping, laundry, and overnight trips.
It folds down super-small and has a carabiner so you can attach it to your pack, keychain, etc.

Even if you’re not traveling, you need this! It’s the best way I know to always have a grocery bag with you when you visit the store. It weighs nothing, washes beautifully, dries fast, and tucks away easily into even the smallest handbag (or clips on the outside of your pack with the attached carabiner).

I’m shocked by how much I can fit in this thing — one bag carries a whole load of laundry or groceries easily. And durable? I’ve been banging mine around for years, it’s still shiny! This is a steal at under $15.

Available on Amazon

Power Bank Flashlight

Both a powerbank AND a flashlight in one tiny portable package

Tiny, multipurpose gadgets make my nomad heart sing, and this little dude is one of my favorites. It fits in my handbag or pocket, keeps my phone from dying throughout the day, and gets me safely home at night in areas with no streetlights.

Of course, my phone has a flashlight. But this fits more easily in my hand (or in my mouth, when I’m trying to put my key in a lock while I’m carrying bags!), and I can find my way home and talk on the phone at the same time if necessary.

It holds enough charge to fully reload my phone once, plus enough to light my way home. It comes with a sweet little cable for an iPhone, but will work with any model of phone; just plug your own cable into the USB port and press the button! For just over $20, this is a bargain.

Available on Amazon(the model I own is discontinued, but this one is similar and has great reviews.)

Ultralight Java Drip Coffeemaker

Clips onto most mugs and makes delicious drip coffee
Folds flat, takes no space, weightless

My first couple of years on the road, I struggled to have a decent cup of coffee most mornings. Then I found this little gizmo in the backpacking aisle. It’s made of smooth lightweight fabric, folds flat, and clips onto almost any mug. Add a couple of spoonfuls of coffee, pour hot water through, and have delicious American-style drip coffee anywhere in the world.

I carry a bag of coffee with me when I travel, and I use a light rubber band to secure this to the outside of the bag. It adds virtually no weight or bulk to my pack, but makes me happy every day! Best $10 I ever spent.

Available on Amazon

Stuffable Backpack

This pack has solved so many of my problems!
Not super compact, but I can work with it.

Occasionally I need a pack that is smaller than my Gregory Deva 60 liter, but bigger and lighter weight than the PacSafe Metrosafe use as a carryon and laptop bag.

I wanted a stuffable, lightweight pack that was big enough for weekend jaunts and small enough to take with me to the grocery store. (I love my ChicoBag, but when I need to buy heavy things, I want a backpack!).

I’ve been so satisfied with the 33 liter model from Outlander. It’s rare to find a stuffable pack this big, and with features like a chest strap and water bottle pouch. The tiny pocket on the front is just right for wallet, keys, and phone, and it has another large front section in addition to the main compartment. It’s just a little bit bulkier than I’d like, but that’s the tradeoff for that big 33 liter capacity. It came with a carabiner, so I can clip it to the outside of another bag.

I’ve been giving it hard use for about six months — almost any day I’m not carrying my laptop, I have this with me to carry my jacket and water bottle, and to bring home purchases. One of the side loops that helps secure a water bottle has broken off, and the logo is peeling, but other than that it’s holding up beautifully for the price of under $20.

Available at Amazon

Scrubba Wash Bag

Massage your clothes clean without a wet mess

Being able to do laundry often is essential when you’re packing light, but it’s often harder than you’d imagine. Bathroom sinks are too small, the kitchen sink is in constant use, and sometimes the only warm water available is in the shower.

That’s why I’m so happy with this Scrubba Wash Bag. I put in my laundry and warm water (from the shower, if necessary) and my clothes can soak while I’m using the kitchen sink to do dishes or cook. After a brief soak, I massage the bag to rub the clothes against the soft nodules inside, then I rinse twice, wring, and hang to dry.

The capacity of the bag is very small; it will wash only about one day’s clothing at a time. But it is a labor saver over the sink method, and it definitely gets the clothes cleaner. As a bonus, the sturdy bag doubles as a dry sack or can be used as your laundry bag. The price tag (around $50) is a little steep, but I was really glad I treated myself to this.

Available at Amazon


Author

Lauren Haas is a nomadic freelance writer. She has been traveling the world, living out of a backpack, since May of 2013. Lauren has written regularly for CBS Local, WebPsychology, Hipmunk, and Hotelplanner, and has also been published in The Culture-ist, Matador, and other online and print publications.

2 Comments

  1. Hi Lauren:
    Interesting article. Noticed a typo that you might want to fix. one “bad” carries a whole load of laundry or groceries easily.

    Happy traveling

    Kathy

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