Backpack photo credit totomai from Flickr

Packing can be a joyful process before get on the plane, and also can be stressful. All of a sudden all stuff in your place looks very handy and very important for every reason you can think of. But, we need to think straight and see what really is and what isn’t. We all know the major items to pack: Passport, Visa (if you need), Backpackers Insurance, Money and Guidebooks.

Every traveler has different details in the packing procedure, here I introduce you five small but powerful items that you might want to take on your next backpacking trip.




My friend’s mum once described it as ‘a New England old man’s cotton handkerchief’, while I was feeling mine in my pocket. Hip or not, I found handkerchief is very handy for travel. My flowery handkerchief-why all the handkerchief is so not pretty?- is usually hanging on the shoulder strap of my backpack. I wipe my face while hiking, strap it around my neck when I’m biking and blow my nose when I’m sick. One more reason why handkerchief is a powerful item is because it’s environment friendly. All the things above are doable by tissue, but it doesn’t create a trash.


Hiking with my flowery handkerchief



Kitchen knife, bottle opener and scissors all at once! Pocketknife is often considered as a cliché travel item. ‘How many times do you think do you need a pocketknife while traveling?’ is frequently asked question, but it’s totally up to an individual’s travel style. For me, it was always useful. Especially if you are an independent traveler who is planning to camp at some point, you would want to pack it.

One thing to remember; a pocketknife is not allowed in airplane. If you have ‘carry-on-only’ travel strategy, this item is not for you.


Having a cup of hot tea while canoeing on Lake Francis, NH


Travel mug

As a person who enjoys hot beverage, I’m glad the travel mug was located in my backpack. Mine was the one combined with French press. It gave me a chance to be location independent with my morning coffee and tea. Drinking hot tea on the canoe in the middle of the lake was a memorable moment. Also take out coffee with your own travel mug gets more discount from a coffee shop.


elastic band ball 1
Elastic Band photo credit pudontour from Flickr

Elastic band

In every pocket of my backpack, I always have a bunch of elastic bands: thin and thick. It is useful when you fix something, save your food, make sure the container doesn’t spill, when bottom of the hiking pants are bothering you, temporary lock for the backpack zippers, organize small things in the backpack and tie my hair back. If you didn’t pack any, produce band is working very well (usually it comes with asparagus).


Sarong and scarf at old market in Siem Reap, Cambodia


Sarong has been the best travel buddy in any season; it is fashionable and efficient at the same time. It is a sundress and a towel at the beach, a scarf for a cold day, and a blanket for overnight stay in the airport. Sarong is travel friendly as well; much smaller volume than a towel, and it dries quickly. Especially for female travelers in Asia, sarong is a great item to show your respect in religious places. You can easily purchase it at a local market in any country in Asia.


30 thoughts on “Small but Powerful 5 Items in a Corner of Your Backpack”

    1. I traveled with hand sanitizer in Malaysia few years back, from my doctor’s suggestion but I hardly ever used it. But I understand the needs time to time. I have a little bottle I bought in Cambodia, and I will bring it next time!

  1. You are absolutely right, all those things can be very useful when you travel! And I agree with Valentina the hand sanitizer is also something is a must in your backpack!

    1. Thanks Charlotte! I always worry about little things than big things in my backpack. For example, shampoo, clothes even shoes can be bought anywhere in the world, but sometimes those little elastic bands are extremely hard to find!

  2. Great recommendations. I love the sarong. It comes with me wherever I go. Even Dave uses the sarong a lot. I haven’t brought the elastic band before (only the ones for my hair) I’ll make sure to add it to my next travels. great idea!

  3. I always have a bandanna on me. It’s so useful for hair, general mess, emergency bandage and also for letting me keep taking photos in light rain – just cover the camera with it, leaving only what you need open to the elements.

  4. These are great things to pack. I didn’t realize you could get a discount for bringing your own coffee mug. I’ll have to remember to pack one on my next trip.

    1. Yes, I experienced it quite a lot. Maybe not many places in SE Asia, because well, coffee is already like $.50, but especially US and even Korea.

    1. Rubber band rocks. I’m looking some for my next trip. Pocketknife saved me on the US trip. It was a beer bottle opener, kitchen knife and trusty accessory in my hiking trip! 🙂

  5. I totally agree except I would substitute an elastic band for duct tape. Not so great for tying your hair back…but great for everything else! Fix a torn sleeping bag, seal a bag of pretzels, patch a shoe, repair a failing camera filter… duct tape to the rescue!

  6. I quite agree that a handkerchief is really useful especially when you’re traveling. But I always had a problem keeping them. So I just bring a roll of tissue now so that I could throw it after use.I throw my waste responsibly though. 😉

  7. Flight rules just changed to allow tiny pocket knives onto planes. They always turn out to be more useful than I would expect. Except the screwdrivers, usually.

  8. I love having my handkerchief for Malaysia in my pocket when I’m going hiking or walking the hot streets in Vietnam. I also need my travel mug for coffee everyday.

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