Travel Essentials: 20 Trusty Necessities for Men & Women

Water bottle, laptop sleeve, adapter, headphones, speaker, battery bank, and travel journal on a wooden table
Our Top Travel Essentials for Men & Women in 2023

What are you packing for? A quick business trip? A leisurely world tour? A laid-back weekend at the beach? Choosing the right items to bring along can be tricky, regardless of the trip you’ve planned. To help, we’ve compiled this updated list of our favorite travel essentials for men and women in 2023, plus six tips for a perfect packing list.

Some items are obvious — travel-friendly clothing, personal care necessities, entertainment, electronics, and accessories — but what else should you bring? As you pack, you’ll need to decide which items will consistently add value to life on the road and which are luxuries better left behind.

Also, keep cost in mind. The items we recommend below all offer value as well as utility. And if you travel frequently, add durability as a must-have parameter; spending more up-front for higher quality can pay off in the long run.

Packing is a juggling act, so let’s take a look at all the must-have gear we’d never travel without.

Table of Contents

Travel Essentials for Men & Women

Essential Travel Gear & Accessories

Let’s define “essentials” as all of the necessary items that add value to your travels on a daily basis. These are the staples of your packing list that will enhance and simplify life on the road.

Personal Item Bag
Our Top Picks of 2023

Black minimalist travel backpack

Here’s our top essential: A personal item bag that holds the items you need to keep close at hand, every day and everywhere. We’re talking about travel documents, snacks, personal care items, electronics, and assorted accessories.

Browse our favorite personal item bags for a wide variety of lightweight, water-resistant, and stylish options. I often take a duffel bag for longer trips, but backpacks and messenger bags are more convenient for hands-free sprints down the concourse at departure time.

What You Want:

  • Airline-compliant to avoid extra boarding fees
  • Suitable for minimalist, one-bag travel
  • Lightweight and durable
  • Comfortable and versatile


Travel Organizers
Our Top Picks of 2023

Lime green set of three packing cubes

I like to keep my stuff organized inside my bag, so travel organizers are absolute lifesavers. I rely on them to help me find essential toiletries, packing cubes, ditty bags, cables, adapters, and all the other miscellany of life on the road. ‘Tidy’ is satisfying.

Trust me, travel organizers make packing and unpacking much less of a hassle. I especially love the transparent and zippered bags that keep everything visible, secure, and easily accessible. Travel is stressful enough; we don’t need the extra burden of chaotic clutter.

What You Want:

  • Durable, water-resistant material
  • Multiple compartments for easy organizing
  • Lightweight and space-saving


Minimalist Wallet/Purse
Slimfold Soft Shell Wallet
Travelambo Purse

Black slim minimalist travel wallet

A purse or wallet designed for travel is another sanity saver. Monitoring your spending is somehow easier with a minimalist front-pocket wallet that’s lightweight and compact — highly recommended.

Women may want to use a stylish but minimalist purse with organized storage for the basics. The styles here efficiently stash your ID, cash, and credit cards, and not much more. Minimalism is a good thing when traveling.

What You Want:

  • RFID protection to thwart hackers
  • Sleek and elegant designs
  • Less-is-more sizing to minimize clutter



Bluetooth Headphones
Apple AirPods Pro

White Apple AirPods bluetooth headphones

Wireless headphones are a top travel necessity for anyone listening to music, podcasts, or audiobooks that muffle their noisy surroundings. I use my AirPods daily when I travel. High-quality Bluetooth headphones like these are a no-brainer.

Apple AirPods are my favorites as they have excellent sound and long battery life. Plus, you can use their built-in microphone to talk on the phone when a call comes in. And, of course, they’re cordless, so the aggravation of tangled cords will be a non-issue.

What You Get:

  • High-quality sound and active noise cancellation
  • Force sensor enabling perfect control
  • Up to 30 hours total listening time


Lightweight Titanium Water Bottle
Our Top Picks of 2023

Blue titanium water bottle for travel and hikingYou need to stay hydrated, regardless of whether you’re summiting a mountain or wandering crowded city streets. I recommend sipping your beverage of choice from a titanium water bottle; they’re rugged, ultra-lightweight, and won’t add any off flavors to your drink.

Titanium water bottles come in all shapes and sizes and should fit easily and compactly in your bag. And by saying ‘no’ to single-use plastic containers, you’re doing your part to combat pollution, including microplastics in the water supply.

What You Want:

  • Single or double-wall (insulating) construction
  • Lightweight durability
  • Leak-proof lid


Laptop Case/Sleeve
tomtoc 360°

Dark grey laptop sleeve

Laptops have become essential for traveling, whether watching Netflix, working remotely, or keeping in touch with loved ones. Packing your laptop without proper protection is a big no-no, so grab a laptop case or sleeve for extra protection.

I like the Tomtoc 360° because its plush padded shell includes corner reinforcement and a decent amount of storage for accessories. I’ve dinged-up laptops in the past, so I’m a big advocate of protective cases and sleeves.

What You Get:

  • Screen and corner protection
  • A perfect fit for your laptop or tablet
  • 12-month no-questions warranty


Durable Phone Case

Green OtterBox brand phone case

Many people choose an OtterBox as their go-to phone case, and so do I. They’re the market’s most trusted brand, and their cases are definitely ‘engineered to endure.’ There’s a wide variety of stylish designs and colors, so grab one to protect your precious phone.

Imagine trying to travel the globe with a smashed phone. Not a pleasant prospect, is it? Too many phones are BSB designs — “Beautiful, Slippery, and Brittle” — so protect your phone and your investment with a rugged case like this one.

What You Get:

  • Multi-layer protection
  • Wide range of colors and styles
  • Soft-touch and grippy texture


Ultra-Compact & Lightweight Power Bank
Nitecore NB10000 Gen II

Ultralight carbon fiber power bank

Don’t let your gadgets run out of juice in the middle of a busy day. Use a power bank like this one to top up your device batteries. Despite its compact size, the Nitecore will keep your electronics alive until you can return to basecamp to charge up and wind down for the night.

This Nitecore is a medium-duty 10,000mAh power bank sized for phones, tablets, and cameras. It’s the one Noel (The Packable Life’s founder) carries on his ultralight backpacking adventures. However, if you also need to charge laptops and other power-hungry devices, consider splurging for a bigger unit.

What You Get:

  • Powerful and sleek, with a sexy carbon fiber enclosure
  • Lightweight and water-resistant (IPX5-rated)
  • Suitable for smartphones, tablets, flashlights, speakers, and more



Compact Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker
JBL Go 3

Black compact bluetooth speaker

Like to listen to music as you get ready in your hotel room or soak in a sunset on the beach? Then grab a portable Bluetooth speaker. This may not seem like ‘essential’ travel gear, but many of us (myself included) consider it a necessary comfort of home when out on the road.

The JBL Go 3’s sound quality makes it an easy recommendation, as does its portability, waterproofing, and value. I use it to listen to podcasts, create white noise for sleeping in noisy environments, and to motivate myself during bodyweight travel workouts.

What You Get:

  • Respectable sound, punchy bass
  • Lightweight, portable, and dustproof
  • A good value


Compact International Travel Adapter

International travel adapter/plug

If you’re a globetrotter like me, you already know that international travel adapters are must-haves. This is the lightest and most compact charger I’ve ever used, and it keeps my electronics powered and ready to go. Ironically, I use it to keep my Nitecore power bank topped up… a charger for a charger.

Frequent travelers stay in touch using their digital devices, and those need to recharge using the various voltages and outlet configurations worldwide. We rely on our adapters, and it’s good to know that Aukey has a reputation for reliable and innovative products.

What You Get:

  • An ultra-compact stack design
  • Two USB ports for simultaneous charging
  • Universal compatibility across many devices


Compact Phone Kickstand/Tripod
The Pocket Tripod

Cell phone tripod that folds up into a wallet

Your phone’s camera will take better low-light photos if you stabilize it with a tripod. And this tripod is the size of a credit card, making it a perfect travel companion. It’s also a kickstand to hold your phone steady while it plays videos as you nod off during the flight to your next destination.

Versatility is why I chose The Pocket Tripod as a travel essential. It’s a convenient and innovative piece of gear that I always have on hand, ready for the next great photo opp. A steady camera means less image blur and better self-portraits.

What You Get:

  • 90º range of motion per side
  • Lightweight at just 11 grams (0.4 ounces)


Ultralight Camera Clip
Peak Design

Aluminum camera clip for travel and hiking

When I travel with a full-size camera, I can keep it close at hand, thanks to the Peak Design clip. No more leaving my camera behind because I don’t want to bother with straps or cases. Always having your camera within reach means no more missed opportunities for the perfect photo.

I prefer The Peak Design Camera Clip to tangle-prone camera straps. It’s lightweight and easy to attach to a backpack, bag, or belt. Use it to keep your camera hands-free until the moment you need it.

What You Get:

  • Weather-, rust- and water-resistant
  • A quick-release button for instant access
  • Fits any standard camera plate/kit



High-Quality Travel Journal

Black soft-cover travel journal

Travelers keep journals to document and make sense of their lives. Paper journals have been around for centuries, and they’re a tradition that’s far more intimate than typing notes into a cell phone. Moleskine journals are legendary — Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, and David Bowie all captured their thoughts on those distinctive creamy ivory pages.

For me, journaling is calming and therapeutic, especially in nature. My thoughts and memories seem to expand when I write by hand (even in my lousy cursive). It’s a ritual I cherish, and traveling inspires me. Set your smartphone aside and give it a try. It’s delightful.

What You Get:

  • A wide range of designs and sizes
  • Durable covers with elastic closures
  • Thick, no-bleed ivory paper pages


The Write Everywhere Pen
Fisher Space Pen

Black ballpoint Fisher Space Pen

High-quality journal pages deserve high-quality pens, and that’s where Fisher Space pens come in. They were designed for astronauts floating in zero-gravity environments — that’s travel with a capital “T”! I’ll bet their journal entries are a bit different than yours and mine.

Fisher Space Pens have a no-nonsense heft, plus a special ink with a velvety glide. Their compact Bullet Pens slip easily into purses and pockets, and writing with one puts me in the mood to jot down my day’s adventures. What can I say? Life’s too short to use Bic pens.

What You Get:

  • Writes underwater and in zero gravity
  • Compact, rugged, and streamlined
  • Smooth-writing and long-lasting


Noise-Blocking Earplugs
Howard Leight by Honeywell

Yellow and pink earplugs

Moving from Point A to Point B often exposes you to plenty of noise — jet engines, city traffic, crowds, and much more. Battery-operated noise-canceling headphones have their place, but simpler, old-school noise-blocking methods like earplugs are also worth considering.

Traditional earplugs like these colorful inserts from Honeywell can block many of the noises you’ll encounter when traveling. I use mine regularly on airplanes when I’m tired of my headphones but still need relief from the cabin soundscape or the guy from Omaha snoring loudly in the seat next to me.

What You Get:

  • Comfortable, self-adjusting soft foam tips
  • Contoured T-shape for easy insertion
  • Soil-resistant coating prevents dirt build-up


Essential Travel Clothing

Versatile, multi-purpose clothing is an often overlooked category of travel gear. Bring garments that are lightweight, breathable, and can be easily layered. Must-haves include quick-dry shirts, water-resistant jackets, lightweight pants, hats or caps that protect you from the sun, and comfortable shoes.

Merino Wool T-Shirt
Wool&Prince (Men’s)
Wool& (Women’s)

Blue wool/polyester men's t-shirt

Clothes designed for travel enthusiasts should be lightweight, comfortable, and well-fitting. That’s why I suggest Merino Wool T-Shirts from Wool&Prince (for men) and Wool& (for women). W&P is a top supplier of Merino wool clothing and my favorite brand on the market today.

W&P shirts are super soft, anti-microbial, odor-resistant, and perfect for travel. Banish smelly clothes that cause discomfort over the course of a day. The best part for travelers is that these shirts can remain odor-free for several days — quite a benefit for people on the go.

What You Get:

  • True sizing and good fit
  • Minimal shrinkage
  • Durable and lasting



Lightweight & Versatile Travel Pants
Outlier Slim Dungarees (Men’s)
Vuori Ripstop (Women’s)

Black lightweight women's pants

I’m a bit of a travel pants nerd. When searching for the perfect pair, do your homework and choose a pair of pants that balances comfort, functionality, and style. You’ll spend long hours wearing these travel pants, so you’ll want to be comfortable and good-looking.

Slim Dungarees and Ripstop pants are two of our absolute favorites. I’ve sampled several pairs of pants and travel jeans, and Vuori is one of my favorite brands. They’re a bit pricey but are well worth the investment. They’re versatile, and I wear them for everything from hiking to everyday wear.

What You Get:

  • Soft, comfortable, and stylish
  • Great fit
  • Durable enough for year-round use



One Pair Do-It-All Travel Shoes
Our Top Picks of 2023

Black Allbirds brand shoes for men and women

For the carry-on, no-checked-luggage traveler, I recommend bringing only ONE pair of do-it-all shoes. That can be tricky, especially if your trip involves a mix of city streets and hiking trails. Versatility and comfort should always be your top priorities but never discount the value of a stylish pair of shoes or boots.

We’ve simplified your choice by listing our favorite footwear for both men and women. From sneakers to loafers and slip-ons to athletic shoes, you’ll likely find several shoes that’ll pique your interest for your upcoming trip. I only travel with one pair of shoes, so they must be versatile and comfortable.

What You Want:

  • Lightweight and durable
  • Comfortable materials
  • Highly functional


Comfortable, Odor-Resistant Socks
Darn Tough Crew
(Men’s | Women’s)

Black Darn Tough brand wool socks for men and women

Oh, and let’s not forget socks. Traveling and being on your feet all day wearing cheap, no-name socks can be uncomfortable and cause blisters. Invest in quality socks made with breathable and lightweight fabrics. And choose colors or patterns that will match well with your shoes.

Darn Tough socks are my favorite brand for travel and hiking. This American mill makes the best socks I’ve ever worn — breathable, odor-resistant, no-sag socks with excellent padding. Plus, they come with a lifetime guarantee; trade them in for a new pair when they wear out. How cool, right?

What You Get:

  • Lightweight and long-lasting
  • No itch or sagging
  • A lifetime guarantee



Six Tips for a Perfect Packing List

Efficient travel requires a savvy mix of preparation, planning, and organization if you’re going to thrive out there. No matter the length of your trip, you must learn to prepare and pack wisely. To help you, here are a few tips for putting together the perfect packing list:

If It Doesn’t Add Value, It’s Not Essential

Avoid packing items that don’t serve a purpose or add value to your travels. Leave it at home if it doesn’t make the trip more enjoyable, productive, or efficient.

Define your essentials based on your activities — backpacking, camping, hiking, or visiting a new city. Pack only the essentials: clothing, footwear, technical gear, and personal care essentials that add value to your travel.

Focus on Multi-Purpose Essentials

Have you ever regretted your packing choices while out on the road? To avoid that feeling, pack items that serve multiple purposes. This will save time, and you’ll have fewer items to track.

For instance, select shoes or pants ideal for multiple activities, such as hiking and sightseeing. Another great multi-purpose item is an all-in-one bag like a fanny pack or backpack that can also be worn crossbody.

Aim for Compact and Lightweight Gear

Selecting the right items can be daunting, so if you’re a ‘just-in-case’ packer, you’ll quickly end up with an overstuffed bag. Stay focused on proven methods — lightweight and compact packing is the way to go.

Look for items that’ll pack up tightly and fit snugly in your bag or suitcase. Choose clothing and other items that will last the entire trip and can fold up neatly. Opt for shoes or sandals with lightweight soles that offer grip and traction but won’t overload your bag.

Do Your Homework Before You Buy

Avoid making terrible travel decisions and read reviews thoroughly before making a purchase. This is especially true when making a rushed, last-minute purchase. Learn from customer experiences and insights into the product’s performance in different conditions and climates.

For example, if you’re shopping for technical apparel or a multi-purpose tool, tap into the wealth of knowledge that’s out there. Solid research could lead you to buy something that performs well and lasts for years.

Invest in Quality — Buy Once, Cry Once

Last but not least, invest in quality travel gear. The up-front costs of high-quality items are often offset by their greater utility and longer lifespan.

If you have to replace cheaper items every few trips, are they really saving you money? Probably not, especially if the higher-quality items have a solid warranty and offer reputable customer service.

Embrace Minimalism

If you’re a minimalist traveler, you know the truth of the saying “less is more.” Minimalism is all about embracing the principle and avoiding the temptation of packing too much stuff. Clutter will drag you down and hold you back.

Start by looking for versatile items of clothing and footwear that can be used interchangeably in different settings or scenarios. And when you return home, keep track of the items you used most and decide what can be left behind next time.

Final Thoughts: Travel Essentials for 2023

Laptop, headphones, journal, sunglasses, and other travel essentials on a dark wooden table
Grab the gear that’ll take travel to the next level

Are you ready to draft your own perfect packing list for 2023? Our list of travel essentials for men and women may not match yours, but we hope you found a few items that will add value to your next journey. The goal is to find gear and clothing that will add consistent value to your life on the road.

Please share any tips or gear recommendations you have in the Comments section below. We’re especially interested in hearing what’s worked for you (or not) regarding trip planning, organization, packing lists, and any advice you may have on travel-friendly clothing or general-use gear.

We’d also love to hear your thoughts on the minimalist lifestyle, specifically in terms of travel. What kind of travel do you do, and how much do you pack? Have your definitions of ‘must-haves’ and ‘luxuries’ changed over the years? After all, being a nimble traveler is both a physical and a philosophical journey. Let’s share and compare our paths.

Come back again soon. We hope to update our list of travel essentials twice a year, and we need your feedback.

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Last Updated on August 10, 2023

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Lauren De Almeida

Lauren De Almeida is a passionate travel writer who loves to share her thoughts and real-life experiences. She has traveled for the past ten years, exploring and getting to know different cultures along the way. She loves sharing stories rich in adventure and thoughtful insight.

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