27 Essentials Items For Travelers In 2024

27 Essentials Items For Travelers In 2024

Featured On

Kien Instagram
Ultimate Bucket List


Where and Wander uses affiliate links on this page. When you purchase or book something using my links, I might earn a small commission and it costs you nothing.

I spend 6-10 months out of the year on the road, so while I have the option of buying things when I need them, I generally carry everything I need with me on my travels. Add in that I like to travel light and you can understand why I have to be particular about what I buy.

My philosophy is simple and consists of two rules in this order:

  1. Buy great things once and use it as long as possible.
  2. Look for value. I don’t always buy the most expensive items, only what I need or really want.

The Best Camera Bag

The Wandrd Prvke 21L is my current go to bag and my all time favorite camera and travel backpack. I was hesitant at first with the $200 price, but it’s turned out to be one of my best photography investments. If you want to know what I carry in it, check out what’s currently in my travel photography bag.

Kien Lam with Wandrd Prvke 21 Camera Bag

My other bag is the Lowepro Protactic 450 AW. This is my carry-all bag. It definitely holds more than the Prvke 21L and will travel with me for dedicated film shoots. For what it holds, it’s pretty compact, but when I traveled with it, I found myself preferring to leave it at the hotel and just tossing my camera and a lens into a lighter day carry.

That’s when my  Ona Bowery waxed canvas bag comes out. It’s a rugged camera bag that allows to grab my camera fast.  It’s perfect when I go out with just one camera and two lenses, but it can actually carry a camera and 3 lenses.

The Best Travel Suitcase

Away Bigger Carry-On

After backpacking for many years, I felt it was time to travel with a suitcase and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made. I still keep my travel backpack though for certain trips, but I decided to give the this suitcase a try and absolutely love it as an investment.

It is a hard shell suitcase that is very light with four 360 degree wheels that makes it a pleasure to push around. Generally speaking, it has very good balance and a nice center of gravity. The whole thing is backed by a lifetime warranty, so I feel good knowing that they will fix or replace it if something breaks.

The built in TSA lock is useful as well as the built in laundry bag that’s sized perfectly so that it lays flat in the middle of the suitcase. It separates my dirty clothes and detaches when I need to do laundry.

This suitcase goes for $295, but you can get $20 off if you’re a new customer.

I take this suitcase whenever my trips are confined to a certain region and/or the weather is not going to be drastically different from place to place. These trips generally last between a couple of weeks to 2-3 months at most.

The Best Bag For Backpacking

For winter trips that require heavier clothes or when traveling to cold and hot weather locations on one continuous trip, I will still go to my Kelty Redwing 50. I’ve had this thing forever and it’s still holding up. The best part is the price Kelty makes great bags that much less expensive compared to other major brands.

I’m a big fan of all the compartments. Two sizable, long side compartments, a generous back compartment, the main compartment and a top zippered compartment. There’s also a  smaller mesh pocket for a water bottle or hiking poles.

The zipper goes from the bottom of one side to the other, unlike most other top access bags. This is very convenient for not having to pull everything out to get something near the middle of bottom of the bag.

The Best Hiking Gear For Travelers

This is very personal, so I’m not going to pretend to be your fashion stylist, but I’ve included a few items that I absolutely love.

The Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer is my favorite travel jacket. It’s an ultra lightweight 800 fill down jacket that is super warm and packs into its own pocket. At just 7 oz, I take this everywhere, even tropical destinations because airplanes are always cold and you never know when you want something a little warmer than a tank top.

It’s so lightweight and small that it doesn’t take up much space.

For my rain shell, I went with the Mammut Kento HS Hooded Jacket because it was one of the few jackets I tried on that I didn’t drown in. The form factor is great and it’s stormproof.

Last, but not least, is my all time favorite underwear, the Ex-Officio Give-N-Go Boxer Briefs. For the last 15 years, this is the only brand of underwear I’ve used. They last for so long and are incredibly comfortable. Trust me on this one.

At roughly $20 a pair, they are not cheap, but they last so long that it makes financial sense. I don’t know how much you’re supposed to be spending on underwear, but I consider this a very wise micro-investment.

Travel Essentials

Midori Journal: In 10 years, I’ve owned exactly two of these. One in the larger size and one in the passport size. The former has been with me for the full 10 years and the Japanese leather has aged so beautiful with its own shine and patina. The refills are a bit more expensive, but I now have a nice collection of journals from all my travels in a neat stack.

Field Notes: There’s nothing special about these, except that they are nice and I’ve always liked using them. They fit well as a secondary notebook in my passport sized Midori journal and I use these to write down miscellaneous notes while I use the journal refills to write about my travels.

Kodak Instax Mini Link: The coolest piece of gadget I take with me. This little device allows me to print business card size ‘polaroid’ photos while I’m on the road. In places like Cuba and Mongolia, I’ve been able to take photos of people and give them a little memento to keep instead of just showing them their photo on a tiny screen.

Onewego Travel Pillow: This inflatable pillow is lightest, most compact and comfortable I’ve used. The fabric on the top side is cool and comfortable to the skin for long flights and I can deflate it to get just the right support.

TIP: Start the flight with it slightly deflated since the lower air pressure will expand the air molecules inside the pillow when you are flying. 

Rainleaf Travel Towel: This towel is not the smallest one I’ve used, but I’ve given up on the smoother microfiber options and gone for this fluffier microfiber ones that feel like a real towel. They are way more absorbent and comfortable to use. By now, you’ve probably noticed that comfort is important to me, because there’s a time and place to compromise and shower time is not of those times.

Gaiam Yoga Towel Mat: I take this to do yoga and stretches on the road, but it also doubles as a super absorbent and comfortable towel. This is perfect for the beach.

Matador Travel Blanket: I take this ultra compact travel blanket with me because it’s useful in so many situations that I don’t think about ahead of time. Bus rides, plane rides, picnics, beach day, wind cover, drone pad, and even as a lay down for my camera gear when a bottle of water accidentally leaks in my bag.

Vapur Collapsible Water Bottle: This goes with me everywhere and can fit in my pocket when it’s empty. It’s perfect for the airport where I can take it through security empty and fill up on the other side to stay hydrated on the plane. I use the 1L version.

Kikkerland Metal Straw: Because turtles. Right? The Kikkerland straw collapses down to half the size of a pen, so it’s easy to carry around.

Master TSA Cable Lock: If you stay in a hostel, you need a lock. Most hostels will offer lockers, but you need to provide your own lock. Since you don’t know what kind of lockers are offered, flexible cable locks are the way to go.

Also grab one of these Braid Cables to go with it. When I go on longer train rides where I’m susceptible to falling asleep, I just throw this around my bag or suitcase and lock it to something. It just prevents someone from quickly running off with your bag. They are very light and easy to take everywhere in your bag.

Sea To Summit Big River 13L Dry Bag: I dive a lot and enjoy beaches, so this is a smaller bag that rolls up neatly and keeps everything dry when I’m on a dive boat or at the beach. Leaking is not an option, so not all bags are made equal. The lighter weight ones work – to a certain point. They are also susceptible to being punctured when tossed around. This one is a little heavier duty, but not overkill heavy duty. It’s also a great on location bag if I don’t want to carry my camera bag around.

Exercise Bands: Honestly, staying in shape is one of the hardest things to do when I’m on the road. If there’s a gym, I’ll always do something, but I’ve now pre-programmed a bunch of bodyweight exercise routines that’s easy for me to do anywhere. To supplement that, I bring along these super ultra light resistance bands that allow me to expand my workout repertoire considerably.

I’ve bought 4 additional sets for friends and family because these have not started to roll or break from repeated use and they are only $6. Even if you don’t use them, you won’t even notice them in your bag.

Fat Gripz: I combine the exercise band with these thick barbell/dumbbell grips and I have a very compact system for doing my strength training on the road. It’s also great when I pop into local gyms because I don’t can put this around the bars and get a much harder workout.

Natrol Melatonin 5mg: I carry melatonin for all the different time zones I’m hopping between. I rarely get jet lagged anymore partly because my body has no idea when it’s time to sleep and because I have a pretty consistent time frame for when to sleep depending on where and when I land. 5 MG seems to be a good dosage for me and unlike sleeping pills, these don’t knock me out. If I’m active, it just won’t have any effect. If I’m in bed with a book, I’ll knock out in about 10-15 minutes. These ones are also chewable and taste great.

JBL FLIP 5: It’s waterproof, so I can basically take this small but powerful speaker anywhere. Sound quality is great, but the kicker is the waterproofing. It’s always nice to share music in a group setting.

Airpods Pro 2: I resisted for a while because it honestly looked ridiculous at first, but these are my absolute favorite purchase from 2019. I spend a lot of time listening to music and connecting with people on the phone while on the road, and I really started hating having to untangle my wires and asking everyone to wait 15-30 seconds while I cursed at the world (first world problems, I know). I personally haven’t felt the need to upgrade to the Pro ones yet, but it’s also because these things are prone to being lost or stolen. I’m a careful person, but I’m on my 2nd pair now.

Casio Watch: I’m not wearing a retro watch because it’s hip. I wear it because I rely so much on a watch to keep track of things when I’m traveling (and throughout the day). It does what a watch is supposed to do – tell me the time and date. And it does look hip. While I’ve been tempted by the Apple Watch from time to time, the idea of having to charge it everyday turns me off. At home, I’ll use a FitBit Versa if I’m tracking my calorie output and monitoring my sleep, but on the road, simple is always better. At $14-$18, I’m on my 3rd one because I’ve given away the other two. Bet you these things will get super popular after Wonder Woman 1984 comes out.

Krazy Glue: Yes, I carry around Krazy Glue. You never know when you need to just hold something together for a bit longer until you can go home and get it fixed or replaced. The idea to carry this on my travel ACTUALLY came after I slipped down the side of a snowy mountain slope and hit my head with an ice axe while trying to self arrest. We were 4 hours away from getting to a hospital, so my friend suggested krazy gluing my 1.5 inch gash together. It worked.

Updated on May 11, 2024


Leave a Comment

Leave A Comment Your email address will not be published

Featured On