Stop Packing Too Much! – Essential Solo Travel Gear and Checklist

Are you packing too much? Probably, yes.

If you haven’t yet read my bio, I have been traveling the world since June of 2016. I know a thing or two about essential solo travel gear and the must-haves to take along on a journey. Many years ago, when I packed for my first solo trip, I remember packing much less than I thought I needed, and it turns out that I still packed too much! I ended up throwing extremely expensive items in a public garbage can (more on that at the bottom of the article).

Was this a little bit crazy? Yes and no. Only those who have been traveling on the road for a long time truly understand the value of keeping your bag light.

What essentials will you bring?

Bringing every type of item and having access to everything at all times is definitely convenient. But on the flip side of the coin, you must constantly carry it with you wherever you go. And that is definitely inconvenient.

There needs to be a balance between what you want to bring and what you need to bring. This is the reason I have created a list of essential solo travel gear.

The items below are the most commonly used items by solo travelers during a long-term journey. 

The purpose of this essential list of items is to give you ideas about what you should bring on your trip. Which items you choose to bring largely depends on the location that you will be visiting and also the type of traveling that you will be doing. I don’t expect you to bring all of these items with you. You should browse through this list choose on essential items that you think you will need.

The Solo Travel Gear Checklist

Essential Travel Documents to Consider:

1) Passport – Not only should you bring your passport, but you should also check to make sure that you have at least 6 months remaining. Also, make sure you have enough pages. Some countries will not let you enter unless you have enough pages remaining in your passport. Every country has different requirements. Do your homework.

Don’t forget this essential gem! Without it, you won’t get very far!

2) Travel Visa – Make sure you have your Visa organized and ready to go before you arrive at the airport. Many airlines will not even allow you on the plane until you have had a Visa issued to you. Here is an easy way to get a Travel Visa.

3) Airline Tickets – I’m sure you have your airline ticket in your email. But what if your internet stops working? What if you drop and break your phone? It’s always good to have a printed copy in your bag.

4) Hotel Booking Confirmation – Just as mentioned before, a hard copy is always a good idea. You never know when you will have problems with technology. These problems always seem to happen at the worst time.

5) Driver’s License – Want to rent a car or a motorbike? You will definitely need your driver’s license. Also, if you plan on traveling long-term like me, be sure to get an international driver’s license. That is definitely something I wish I would have done before leaving home.

6) Bank Cards (Debit / Credit) – Don’t forget your debit and credit cards! These are rather important. Also, using ATMs abroad gets super expensive. Not only will you be charged a transaction fee from the ATM, but a currency conversion fee, and also a fee from your bank back home. Multiply that by once every week, for 52 weeks per year. It’s really expensive.

I recommend getting a card that has no fees when traveling abroad. This is the card that I use for everything while traveling the world.

Get an ATM card with less fees.

7) Home & Local Currency – Having US dollars is a good idea. They are accepted at almost every bank around the world and can be exchanged in case of an emergency. I recommend a $100 bill, and make sure it is crisp. Some banks do not accept bills that have even the slightest damage on them, so keep it in a safe place.

It is also a good idea to convert a few bills into the local currency before arriving. Sometimes when you cross the border, you will need money, and they will only accept local currency. And sometimes there are no ATMs in sight, so plan in advance!

8) Proof of Insurance – Traveling with insurance is a smart idea. Make sure you have a hard copy printed out in the event that you are not able to use your phone. Here’s why it’s important to have travel insurance.

9) Proof of Income / Bank Statement – Not all countries require this. Make sure you check the requirements of the country before arriving. Sometimes you cannot cross the border until you prove your monthly income.

10) Proof of Vaccination – Some countries require proof of vaccination for yellow fever or other viruses. Make sure you plan in advance before boarding the plane. It would be very expensive to arrive and be rejected at the border, only to be forced to buy another ticket to go back home.

11) Plastic Folder – Buy a simple plastic folder that all of these documents can fit inside. It will help prevent water damage and keep the papers from becoming wrinkled.

TIP: Scan everything and upload it to your cloud. You never know when something crazy might happen, such as water damage or theft, and you lose everything. Having a backup on your cloud is always a very smart idea. More on that below.

Essential Bags/Backpacks to Consider:

1) Backpack/Rucksack VS Suitcase – You will definitely need some type of main bag to carry your items. Some people prefer a large backpack (rucksack), and some people prefer a suitcase. Choosing a suitcase or a backpack for traveling largely depends on the location (such as a city or the countryside), and the mode of transportation you will use most often. Also, here’s a list of many pros and cons of backpacks and suitcases, incase you are interested.

If you think that you will be bringing a rucksack on your upcoming trip, be sure to read more about how to choose the best rucksack for your journey.

My first rucksack. Just weeks before I would start my journey around the world!

2) Packing Cubes – I wish I had learned about these things years ago! They are a great way to organize your bag and help prevent your clothes from getting wrinkled. Wrinkles are a huge problem when you travel as much as I do.

3) Carry-on – You’ll definitely want to bring a carry-on that contains all of your electronics. Do not put your electronics in your check-in luggage. More on this below. Be sure that the dimensions of your carry-on are smaller than the airline industry standard of 22″ x 14″ x 9″ (56cm x 45cm x 25cm) and 11-26 lbs. (5-12 KG), or it may not be allowed as a carry-on. Each airline may have different size regulations, so make sure you do your research.

My carry-on is amazing. It can even fold up into itself when nothing is inside it.

TIP: I definitely recommend having two bags instead of one. Personally, I keep all of my electronics in my carry-on, which is with me at all times. I refuse to put my electronics into my check-in luggage. Why? For two reasons:

a) I’ve seen the way airlines handle luggage. They often throw it around carelessly.

b) Theft. I had an airline go deep into my luggage, open up five separate bags, just to get to my SD card. They stole it. Crazy! I don’t trust anyone. Keep your electronics with you at all times.

Solo Travel Gear – Clothes and Shoes to Consider:

1) Undergarments – The amount of undergarments that you should bring depends on the type of traveling you will be doing. If you don’t think you will have access to washing your clothes very often, then I suggest packing a few extra pairs of each.

  • Socks – Roughly four pairs.
  • Underwear – Roughly four pairs.
  • Regular Bra – One.
  • Sports Bra – One.
Pack light, travel far!

2) Shirts – I have 5 T-shirts and two button-up shirts. I think it’s about the right amount. The weight of clothing adds up quickly. Be sure to take as few items as possible. Sure, when people see your photos, you will have the same few shirts on over and over again. But so what? People can judge you all they want, but you are the one traveling in the world…not them. Am I right?

3) Pants/Shorts – Personally, I carry two pairs of pants. That’s it. I also bring my swim shorts and use them as regular shorts when needed. This also helps to reduce the weight in my bag.

4) Belt – Just take one belt with you. There’s no need to carry another one. It is just extra weight. Belts are easy to buy and replace if yours breaks or if you need a change in style.

5) Shoes – I have read the articles of other travelers who bring a pair of walking shoes, a pair of hiking shoes, and city shoes. I can’t imagine this as it takes up way too much space! How about simply buying shoes that are all-terrain? Shoes that keep your feet warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and also dry when it is raining. Does that technology even exist!? Yep! I actually have a pair, and they are awesome.

Travel shoes that are comfortable, durable, stylish, AND waterproof? Yep!

6) Coat – Planning on visiting someplace cold? You will definitely need a coat! Generally, I go to places that are warm. But I still have a light jacket with me at all times. Sometimes nights get chilly, even though it’s summer. And sometimes I will go hiking in a mountain where it is very cool. A light jacket is always a good idea.

7) Hat – Hats are mainly good for two reasons: keeping your head warm or blocking the sun. You will need to choose the correct one based on your destination(s).

8) Bathing Suit – Even if you plan on visiting a cold place, I recommend bringing a bathing suit to all destinations. You never know when you’ll get the chance to go in a hot spring or a hot tub.

9) Jewelry – This depends on your style of traveling. Generally, I don’t bring jewelry. I’m not traveling to make a fashion statement. I don’t care if I look plain. Almost everything that I wear has been a gift from other people. And some of them are pieces of plastic or string. They only have sentimental value. Jewelry usually attracts unwanted attention from people with bad intentions. (Read more about the safety of solo traveling.)

My ‘jewelry’ is only for memories.

Essential Gadgets to Consider:

1) Phone – It’s almost impossible to travel without a cell phone in today’s world. From communication to translation to verification, don’t leave home without it!

Important Phone Travel App Types

  • Maps
  • Translation
  • Local Transportation
  • Accommodation
  • Banking
  • Weather
Using my phone to translate and have a conversation with some men while traveling in Turkey.

2) SIM Card – There are companies that offer eSIM cards. I find them to be a little bit expensive. Instead, I usually purchase a local SIM card moments after arriving in a new country. You can often find these in the airports or at land border crossings.

3) Headphones – Whether you want to listen to music, watch a movie, or make a phone call, these little things come in very handy!

4) VPN – Spoiler alert: internet hotspots are not as safe as you think. If you aren’t using a VPN, you are risking a lot. You should always encrypt your internet connection. Learn more about why you need a VPN for international travel.

Is your connection encrypted?

5) Laptop – Some people need it, some people don’t. As a YouTuber, I need a powerful laptop…and that takes up a bit of space in my bag. I recommend taking a small one, but only if necessary.

6) Power bank – If you are traveling in underdeveloped countries, electricity and charging areas are sometimes few and far between. Power banks come in very handy!

7) Camera – You may want to bring a camera, and you may not. Some people simply take their cell phone and use it as a camera, and I don’t blame them. Some of the newer cell phones these days take stunning photos! If you are satisfied with your cell phone’s quality, then don’t bother taking a camera. It’s just extra weight.

Are you going to bring a camera or only your phone?

8) Power adapter – It seems like every country I go to has a different power outlet. Having a universal power adapter is very important.

9) Travel Cloud – Eventually, your phone or camera will become full of videos and photos – and you’ll need to free up some space. Not only that, if you lose your camera, you will lose all your photos, videos, and documents! I have been using one company for all of my backup needs. If you don’t have a cloud, you should seriously take a look at this company.

TIP: Be sure to have Google Translate downloaded and ready to go on your phone. Make sure you download the offline pack of the language that you will use the most.

If you aren’t backing up your data, you may lose it all.

Essential Toiletries To Consider:

1) Razor/Shaver/Shaving Cream – For the shaving cream, I don’t recommend a compressed container. I recommend just a simple bar of cream. Compressed containers have a risk of exploding in your bag. Plus, they take up so much space.

2) Small Toiletry Bag – A relatively small bag that fits everything inside is highly advised. This will help keep all of the similar items in one place. Then you won’t have to search for each item in your big bag.

3) Q-tips

4) Toothbrush

5) Toothpaste

6) Tweezers

7) Deodorant

8) Nail clippers

9) Sanitary products

10) Small Comb / Brush

11) Condoms / Birth Control

TIP: Remember, whatever you bring, be sure to only bring a small quantity. You can almost always find more of everything in the country that you are traveling in…even in most underdeveloped countries.

This little ‘toiletry bag’ comes in rather handy!

Essential Accessories to Consider:

1) Mini First Aid Kit: It’s better to be safe than sorry. We never plan to get injured – it just happens unexpectedly. Most of the time, injuries are minor, and so it’s best to treat them immediately with simple topical ointments before the infection spreads. Over the many years of traveling, I have used my first aid kit to help the local people more often than not. When I started traveling in underdeveloped countries, I was shocked to see so many people with infected wounds. I almost always lent a helping hand.

  • Bandages
  • Antibacterial Ointment
  • Antifungal Cream

2) Antibiotics – Many third-world countries openly sell them at local pharmacies without a prescription. I usually buy a box or two and keep them in my bag in case I go to another country where you can’t buy them without a prescription. I have been in a situation where I needed to use antibiotics due to Black Widow spider bite, but the doctor was only going to visit on Tuesday. Crazy! I was out of my antibiotics, and luckily my neighbor at the hotel had some to spare!

3) A Lock – Some hostels, even hotels, require that you have your own lock with you. This ensures that no one, not even the hotel staff, can enter your room. Make sure you have one in your bag at all times.

Traveling abroad? Padlocks come in handy more often than you think!

3) Mosquito Net – This, of course, depends on the type of traveling you plan to do, and also your destination. But often, in Southeast Asia, mosquitoes are horrendous. Also, some windows do not have screens, which allows thousands of mosquitoes to enter your room during the night. Keeping a mosquito net with you is very important. It takes up very little space in your bag. Thank me later.

4) Hammock – Obviously, this isn’t required, but it certainly is convenient in certain situations. I actually have a hammock built with a mosquito net dome around it. I carry it in my bag at all times. It’s very lightweight and versatile.

5) Emergency Blanket vs Sleeping Bag – It depends on where you are going. Personally, I carried a light sleeping bag for many years. Having not used it very often, I decided to give it away and buy an emergency blanket instead. Yes, basically it is a thin piece of reflective plastic. It is a pain to fold it back up after use. But it’s not a problem because I don’t use it very often. I usually stay in hotels or hostels where bedding is already provided. I only use it for situations when I am in a predicament.

6) Sleeping Mask – Sometimes you will be traveling on a train or on a bus during the day, and you are very tired but you can’t sleep because it’s so bright outside. Sleeping masks have proven to be very helpful over the years.

7) Earplugs – Technically, these are not essential. But, yet they are absolutely essential! There are many places that I have visited where the traffic is so unbelievably loud that it was impossible to sleep without earplugs. Not to mention riding on buses and trains. You can’t sleep because it’s so loud, and people around you are talking. Definitely bring a pair with you!

Ear plugs and a sleeping mask have proved to be one of my most essential items while traveling!

8) Inflatable Pillow – There have been many situations where I was in an uncomfortable position on a bus or a train, and having an inflatable pillow made things so much better!

9) Wallet / Dummy Wallet – A wallet isn’t necessarily essential. Some people pay with their phone for everything. But for those who use cash, you need a place to put your money. In addition, it’s a good idea to use a dummy wallet. Keep the cash in a small pocket in your pants, and then keep a dummy wallet with a few dollars inside. If someone tries to rob you, they will only get the dummy wallet.

10) Water Bottle – To be honest, I don’t carry a reusable water bottle with me. I buy a bottle of water everywhere that I go. This allows me to interact with the locals, which is what I like. In addition, I am usually in places where there isn’t any free water available to fill up my bottle anyway. I would need to buy a bottle of water to put it inside my reusable bottle. Seems kind of pointless.

11) Water Filter for Emergencies – You never know when a natural disaster may occur. If it does, the food and water supply will be extremely limited. Having a tiny emergency water filter may make the difference between life and death. Get one and keep it in your bag. Remember to choose one that filters out bacteria, viruses, and other contaminants. The smaller the micron filter, the better.

12) Mini Umbrella – For years, I traveled without an umbrella. Recently, I bought one for $3. It is ugly, but it does the job. I got caught in the rain too many times and had to deal with being cold and wet. An umbrella is annoying to carry everywhere, but if it rains, you will be happy that you have it.

13) Spare Trash Bags (for rain) – Carrying two or three trash bags with you at all times takes up almost no space. If it rains, you will want to put your bags inside them. Sometimes an umbrella is not enough during a heavy downpour. It only takes a little moisture to damage your electronics. Keep the plastic bags in your carry-on for emergencies.

14) Snacks – Always have one or two snacks at the bottom of your bag in case you get hungry. Sometimes your bus breaks down, and you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere for 5 hours. Having a snack will tide you over until you make it back to civilization, is a wise idea. Sometimes my snack, usually a granola bar, stays in my bag for months at a time. But it’s there when I finally need it.

15) Pen / Paper / Journal – In the world of technology, I promise that you will still find yourself in a place where you simply need a pen and a piece of paper. I carry a small notebook just for that reason. Some people want to keep a travel journal. Cool! Just try to get a small one. If you plan on writing a lot, I recommend just taking notes on your phone instead.

16) Vitamins / Medication – I have never had a problem with motion sickness until I visited some of the Balkan countries. The roads through the mountains aren’t as smooth as what I’m used to, and also the driving habits of the drivers are a bit…insane. I recommend bringing motion-sickness tablets if you get car sick easily. Don’t forget to bring your favorite vitamins. I have found it rather difficult to find certain vitamins while traveling. Every country is different.

17) Small Towel – If you are traveling somewhere hot, it is advisable to bring a very small microfiber towel. It will help you stay cool when you wet it with water, and also it will dry very easily after you ring it out.

18) Books – If you like to read, great! However, I recommend bringing a tiny Kindle, or simply downloading the PDF version onto your phone. Bringing heavy books just takes up space.

Minimalist Packing Checklist for Solo Travelers

✅ Passport

✅ Travel Visa (if applicable)

✅ Cash/Bank Card

✅ Carry-On Bag

✅ Clothes (2 pair)

✅ Shoes (1 pair)

✅ Phone/Charger

Hardcore Minimalist:

I once met a man from Europe while I was traveling in the Philippines. He had already been traveling for one year and only had a fanny pack with him. Inside it, he had his cell phone, ATM card, passport, and an extra t-shirt. He would wash his other shirt every night and let it dry during the day. This is the epitome of being a minimalist solo traveler. Every other item we bring is simply a luxury.

Remember, the fewer material items we bring with us, the more we will be forced to interact with our surroundings for entertainment. In my opinion, this is the best way to have fun and make memories with the locals. Less = more. I consider myself to be a minimalist…but the fannypack thing is rather extreme for my taste. I need my laptop and cameras, as I am a content creator.

I’m a minimalist…but not hardcore.

Packing Tips for Solo Travelers

Bring Less

This is literally the most important tip I can give you. I remember, after about one year into my solo travel trip around the world, I got so frustrated by carrying so many heavy (and barely used) items for so long that I walked up to a public garbage can and started throwing items away. One of the items was worth more than $500 US dollars!

At that point, I didn’t care anymore. A light bag is more valuable than money! I highly recommend only taking items that you know you will use at least once a week.

Make an Itinerary

Technically, it’s not something that you pack, but it is definitely something you should do before leaving. Do I recommend that you plan everything? No. But having a generalized idea of where you want to go, within a general time frame, is quite helpful. I do recommend that you put pinpoints on Google Maps in advance.

Keep Your Electronics in Your Carry-On

I know I mentioned this already above, but I want to stress it again. Keep all electronics in your carry-on at all costs. Only put electronics in your checked-in luggage if it is absolutely essential (for example, if your carry-on is overweight at the airport).

Be sure to learn more tips for packing as a solo traveler.

My Packing List Might Be Slightly Different Than Yours

My traveling style might be different from yours, which may require you to take a few more items, a few less items, or completely different items that I have not mentioned above. For example, some people will be doing a lot of hiking and camping in the forests of a foreign country. If that is the case, you will probably want some type of flashlight, a tent, bug spray, and a few other things.

The list mentioned above has suited me quite well in my particular situation. The majority of my time is spent in various cities, towns, and villages. I do the occasional hike in the forest or on a small mountain every once in a while. But I don’t really need any camping gear as I never stay the night in the forest.

Final Thoughts About Packing Gear

If you have learned anything from this article today, it should be that you need to take less than you think you need. Don’t overpack. If you do, believe me, you will end up throwing items away or giving them to other people just to get rid of dead weight. The longer that you plan to travel, the lighter that you should pack your bag. Again, less = more. Trust me on this. Happy travels!

Bring less. Travel more.


Hey - I'm Brock. I grew up in the USA, and I have been a full-time Solo Traveler since June of 2016. I am also a Travel Vlogger on YouTube where my primary focus is to simply hang out with local people around the world. My full story is here: About Me

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