Travel Tips

15 Travel Gear Must Haves for Summer

Locations in this article:  Portland, OR Seattle, WA

Seasoned travelers know that the right travel gear can make a large trip much easier. Contributing writer Margaret Magnus has been traveling internationally since the 1970s. In that time, she has visited 24 countries and has had several adventures, including falling off a camel in the Sahara. While preparing for a hiking trip through the Czech Republic, Hungary, and the Balkans with her husband, they took a closer look at travel gear and narrowed down their favorites. 

One of the fun aspects of traveling is the gear. Even those of us who do not like to shop do like to shop for new gear that makes traveling easier and even more fun. An upcoming trip was a great excuse for my husband and me to head to our nearest travel store or to go online–or both–to see if there was something new we needed. At the store, we wandered around looking at the gear, trying on clothes, and finding items we didn’t know we needed. Here are our 15 travel gear must haves.

VestsThe Scottevest

You see it everywhere. Well, you see it everywhere if you’ve ever visited the Scottevest site online. The ads will pop-up on every “free” site you visit.

Regardless, after lugging a cross-body, lightweight purse traveling through Arkansas for a week, I decided to try the Scottevest. It’s not cheap, but it’s practical.

This past weekend, I unloaded the contents of my purse into my vest and went around town. It fits the bill. There are a number of other brands of vests, but my husband and I liked the Scottevest for styling, number and types of pockets, and the light weight.

RFID Blocking Protectors

A current pickpocket scam is to electronically scan your wallet from afar and steal the information embedded in the chips in your credit cards—and also in any US passport issued after 2006.

We didn’t want to add the additional weight of RFID wallets or cases, so we purchased lightweight sleeve protectors for the credit cards and passports to pop into one of the pockets of the vest.

It’s a little bit of nuisance getting them in and out of the protectors and holding the protectors while managing the transaction, but that is offset by peace of mind.


A daypack is wildly preferable to any other type of carry-on because I can strap it over my shoulders and still have my hands free.

I take one that I have been using for 15 years, but my husband bought a newer one with more protection for electronics. I helped a friend buy a daypack when she stopped off on her way to Australia for seven weeks. We went to three different stores before we found the right one.

bags 6Plastic Bags

Plastic bags are not necessarily new or very chic, but they are definitely cheap, simple, and reusable. Plus, it only requires a trip to your grocery store to buy them.

With six countries on the 28-day itinerary, the question is how to organize all the paperwork for the trip. We’re not yet quite a paperless society, particularly for those of us who still like the comfort and, yes, ease of paper.

The solution: One plastic baggie for each destination. In the bags are the e-tickets, our own detailed itinerary, tour vouchers, maps, and any other information we might need. When each stage of the trip is over, all this paper gets dumped. Then, the receipts get added for verification when we get home.

I also organize some of my clothes (socks, underwear) in plastic bags in my suitcase for easy use. Then we take a couple extra for picnic items, wet clothes, or just in case.


It’s an obvious choice for Indian monsoons and the Seattle/Portland area, but elsewhere you never know. Spring in Europe could result in a few showers, and we didn’t want to be unprepared or curtail our sightseeing.

Despite the six umbrellas in our closet at home, we were seduced by smaller, lightweight ones. Plus, they fit nicely into one of the Scottevest pockets.

Collapsible Hiking Poles

Obviously, the need for hiking poles will vary by destination and type of trip. But if you’re thinking of any type of day hike, take them along. They don’t have to be expensive, but they do make the walk easier, even if you’re in good shape.

foot restFoot Rest

For those of us who still travel coach and have short legs, a foot rest can make the long airline flight more bearable and a little more comfortable. I had been traveling with a fold-up foot rest, and it helped. But this year, I saw larger inflatable foot rest that weighed less. It’s now in my day pack ready to go.


I’ve resisted getting an e-reader. After all, the city library is a great, cheap source of books. But six countries in 28 days? That’s too many books to carry for that long and for so many transits.

Reading about the history, culture, and even a few novels related to the destination really adds to my understanding and immersion in the location. It’s always great source of joy and information.

I start at Longitude Books for their recommendations. Traditionally, I buy the books from Longitude to show appreciation for their curatorial efforts. This trip, I did buy a couple of city maps and a few books when electronic ones were not available.

Collapsible Water Bottles

Recently, we have been packing a Nalgene water bottle to use on our trips, but it takes up quite a bit of room in the suitcase or day pack. When we were wandering around the travel store looking for what we might possibly need, we spotted collapsible water bottles, and one each for each of us went into the shopping cart.

Why bother? A water bottle makes water portable for day hikes, for going out and about in the city, and for staying hydrated in dry climates. I try to resist buying disposable plastic bottles that end up in landfills or the ocean.

swiss armySwiss Army Knife

The Swiss Army Knife has been in my bag since I first went to Europe in the early 1970s. First, there are the scissors that are handy to use with those free sewing kits you often get (or used to get) in a hotel. Then we might need a knife and beer opener for a picnic. It turns out we haven’t used the knife recently, but we’re taking it along anyway. You never know when you might need it, and we have a few picnics planned. Now you can even find Swiss Army Knives with a USB drive.

Of course, this is for people who have some checked luggage, which we do because I don’t want to fight for overhead space or aggravate my tender shoulder. I figure if you can’t easily lift a bag over your head, don’t carry it on.

Laundry Soap Sheets

You can easily do laundry on the road with the help of some gadgets. But what about soap? I’ve tried Campsuds concentrate, which works. But I wanted to experiment with something different and ordered laundry soap sheets. The reviews online were positive if you don’t expect suds, which was OK for us, since we didn’t actually get suds with Campsuds either.


Of course, everyone already has adapters. But we didn’t until I wanted to take a curling iron on my travels. I got a small packet of assorted adapters, and I take them all.

Before going to India last year, I researched the type of adapter needed and found a write-up that said this adapter is “generally found in Great Britain and in her present and former colonies.” But I didn’t want to get there and not be able to use my dual-voltage curling iron, so I just tossed the whole package in my suitcase. I’m glad I did–the one that worked where we were staying was marked “France.”

Also, make sure all your electronics can handle the voltage in your destination countries, hence the dual-voltage curling iron. The Kindle and Samsung chargers can handle a range of volts.

boxTravel Tray

Now this goes under the category I didn’t know I needed it until I saw it. When I check into a hotel room, I immediately gather up all the information cards, books, and miscellaneous items from the hotel and stow them in a drawer so that we have a clean surface for our stuff.

But our stuff can spread out all over the room. The next logical step is to travel with something that can corral our room key cards, glasses, and phones. Meanwhile, I’ve started using the travel tray on my desk at home, which helps.

First Aid Kit

A first aid kit should be basic and lightweight, because when you need a bandaid, a low-level pain killer, or a sinus medication, you won’t be near a store, it will be after hours, or you’ll be on an airplane or train.

When we were in Morocco years ago, I fell off a camel. Fortunately, I had some Advil in my daypack which I took to help with pain until help arrived three hours later.

Sock Liners

You may not think of sock liners as gear, but I never travel without them. If I’m hiking, they help prevent blisters. If it gets cold, I put them on under my regular socks and my feet are much warmer. If we’re traveling where you have to take off your shoes to go into temples and shrines, I slip these on to avoid going barefoot.

Being prepared for a trip can make it more enjoyable, and the planning and shopping portion extends the life of the trip.

For more travel gear to make life easier while you travel, check out:

By Margaret Magnus for