5 Essential & 5 Useless Items to pack… or not!

June 1, 2011 in Inspiration, Travelogue

We belong to a Facebook Group called “Families On The Move.” This is our virtual friend set of people who live like we do, as full-time nomads, or close to it. If that’s you, or if you’d like it to be you, check out the group! There are some pretty fabulous families on there. This post is in response to a writing prompt for that group.


Most people pack far more than they need. I know we do. We pack pretty light for a family of six, one backpack and one day pack each, but even so, that’s 12 bags… and then there are the musical instruments. We could do with less.

What do we carry that we consider essential? I’m going to skip the obvious and go for the unusual.

1.  Suture Kit

Yep. Seriously. We needed one once and didn’t have it. Now we do. Along with it comes a set of new syringes & IV starts. We realized, at the wrong moment, that if clean needles were not available, we’d take the dirty ones over having a child die. Better yet, let’s carry clean ones.

2.  Grapefruit Seed Crush Extract

I use this stuff to disinfect fruits and veggies on the road and we take it internally when we (inevitably) get gut bugs from eating food on a chicken bus somewhere. It really is almost a miracle.

3.  Sprouting Seeds

I know you’re thinking, “WHAT?!” but I really do carry sprouting seeds and a sprouting cup from The Sprout People in my backpack. The “San Francisco Mix” is our favourite. They can be grown anywhere and when green veggies are in short supply they make a nutritious addition to a chopped salad. Call me crazy. I carry yogurt and cheese starter too.

4.  ipod Touch

We each have one of these. They are our internet connection, our telephone calls (skype) our library (ibooks, kindle & stanza apps) our “cheap” cameras, school enrichment (times table practice and other educational apps) and, of course, our radio. ipods win over other devices because of the multi-functionality.

5.  Tarp

It was my Uncle Dick who first suggested this, before we started our year long cycle trip. I thought he was crackers; add a TARP to our already over stuffed panniers? Actually, he was a genius. $70 USD for an ultra light weight tarp was the best money we’ve ever spent. We used it every single day and we still do. Buy one. I’ll thank him for ya.


On the flip side, what are 5 items that are basically useless that we could all leave at home?

1.  An egg keeper

I’m ashamed to admit taking one of these on our first big cycling trip. Now, we just buy the eggs and carry them, cartonless, in a plastic bag like the rest of the world does. If we have to transport them for more than a day, we hard boil them. It’s one of those items that seems like a good idea, but is, in fact, a total waste of money.

2.  Books

Pack ONE per person to read and then trade it in on a book swap shelf for a new one. That’s the best way. Books weigh a ton and are the bane of my existence. Better yet, switch to e-books. I’d love to say I faithfully adhere to this advice, but I’m the worst packer of an extra book that you’ve ever met, even though I know better!

3.  Underwear

For real. It’s just one more thing to hand wash in some hostel shower.

4.  Toiletries

Anywhere people are found, toiletries can be purchased. Sometimes you have to adjust your brand expectations, but there really is NO sense in carrying around heavy bottles of your favourite.

5.  DVD Players

On road trips, especially. Why do people turn their cars into living rooms? Isn’t the whole point of travel to break away and do something new and different, experience something real? The best way to do that is to unplug.

To read the other responses check out:

Around The World In Easy Ways

Livin’ On The Road

Family On Bikes

Wander Mom

Snaps & Blabs

Tripping Mom

Got Passport

See… we’re not the only gypsy family you know! 😉