I've taken solo trips to 22 different countries — here are the 9 things I never travel without

Nicole Jones standing in front of clear blue lake and mountains behind her
I've invested in several items, like a water filter and a satellite device, to keep me safe during my travels.Nicole Jordan
  • I've traveled to 40 countries in the past decade and have explored 22 of them on my own.

  • I fit everything I need in a 55-liter backpack, which I can usually bring on planes as a carry-on.

  • Because I often travel alone, I always have a personalized first-aid kit and a satellite device.

After traveling to 22 countries on my own, I've mastered my packing routine.

nicole jones (writer) standing in front of white building with sky in the background
I rarely bring a suitcase or a purse with me on international trips, opting for a backpack instead.Nicole Jordan

Over the past 10 years, I've had the opportunity to visit 40 countries, 22 of which I've explored as a solo traveler.

Living out of my backpack for several weeks and months at a time has allowed me to hone in on my packing skills and ensure I don't bring too much or forget any essentials.

Here are the items I never leave at home, regardless of my destination's climate.

I always carry my belongings in a large backpack instead of a suitcase.

nicole jones standing in front of lake with mountains in the background
Many airlines allow me to bring my backpack on flights as a carry-on.Nicole Jordan

I prefer to bring a 55-liter backpack as my main piece of luggage on pretty much every trip I take.

It makes my life so much easier when I'm traveling to multiple locations since walking to a bus stop, heading to an airport, or strolling through a city is far more manageable with a backpack than it is with a suitcase.

A 55-liter backpack is also great for air travel. It fits many airlines' requirements for carry-on bags, which can save me a lot of money.

However, policies vary by airline, and travelers might have to check backpacks or pay extra to bring them on planes if they're flying on a budget airline.

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On the hunt for the perfect backpack? Insider tests and recommends the best backpacks for a variety of purposes.

My most essential items stay in a collapsible daypack that fits inside my backpack.

nicole jones selfie, writer smiling with backpack on
I can usually hold onto the daypack regardless of whether I have to store or check my large bag.Nicole Jordan

I keep my valuables and essentials inside a collapsible daypack that I can fold to fit inside my full-size backpack. It's great to carry when I'm exploring cities and going on daytime hikes.

Whenever I fly, I remove the daypack from the backpack and put it underneath the seat in front of me.

It's also nice having this daypack with me on crowded trains or buses because I can keep my important items close to me while my backpack might be stored in another area.


The clothes that make it into my bag are always functional and versatile.

clothes laid out on white table, what nicole jones packs
I never bring more than three pairs of shoes in my bag.Nicole Jordan

For the most part, I prioritize function over fashion when I pack clothing for my trips. However, that doesn't mean I never make space for nice outfits.

I find it important to bring versatile clothes and shoes that serve numerous purposes and work with multiple outfits.

My bag always has a couple of T-shirts or tank tops, a sweater or a fleece, a puffy jacket, and a rain jacket. If I travel to a tropical climate, I leave out the puffy jacket.

These layers are essential if I'm traveling through various climates. Temperatures can also vary throughout the day, so I make sure to have plenty of garments that will keep me warm.

As for shoes, I limit myself to bringing a maximum of three pairs and prioritize comfort. I pack a pair of flip-flops or hiking sandals, tennis shoes or trail runners, and comfortable boots that can double as more dressy shoes.

Microfiber towels are compact and easy to pack.

rolls of microfiber towels rolled up — closeup shot of multicolor towels
The towels absorb liquid really quickly, and they fit easily inside my bag.Shutterstock

I can roll my compact microfiber towel into a cylinder the size of a water bottle.

I bring it on every trip, whether I'm vacationing at the beach, hiking to a lake, or picnicking in a city.

These towels are lightweight and dry in less time than normal bath towels. It's nice to have one when I camp or stay somewhere that doesn't provide complimentary towels.

Because of its convenient size, it's easy to throw it in my daypack ahead of an adventure.

My personalized first-aid kit helps me avoid last-minute trips to the pharmacy.

aerial view of frst aid kit laid our on table
My kit has medicine, scissors, and ointments inside.Nicole Jordan

A first-aid kit is a must-have travel item. Though I always hope I won't need to use it, it's convenient to have with me and comes in handy for simple things.

I carry ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and Benadryl in the kit. These over-the-counter medications are easy to get at many pharmacies, but it's much easier to already have them in my backpack. Plus, it saves me from having to run out and find them when I'm traveling.

Bandages, Neosporin, alcohol wipes, gauze, and medical tape are also great supplies to have at my disposal. My kit also has a small pair of medical scissors, fingernail clippers, tweezers, and duct tape — supplies I use on every single one of my trips.

My Garmin inReach Mini helps me stay in touch when I'm off the grid.

closeup view of  Garmin inReach Mini device and grass in the background
The Garmin inReach Mini tracks my exact coordinates.Nicole Jordan

My Garmin inReach Mini is a small satellite device that allows me to text and communicate without cell-phone service.

Thanks to this device, I can contact friends and family who are back home, sending them safety updates and tagging my exact coordinates.

The device also has a feature that sends alerts to emergency-response coordination centers, which is one of the quickest ways to receive help when I can't use my phone.

As a woman who often travels alone, this device has been a game changer on hikes, road trips, and international adventures.

Reusable water bottles and water filters are economical and environmentally friendly.

reusable water bottle with water filter inside
The water filter works around 50 times before I have to recharge it.Nicole Jordan

When I started traveling internationally, I was disturbed by the number of plastic water bottles I saw tourists use.

I've always done my best to carry a reusable water bottle, and when I was in a place where I couldn't drink the tap water, I'd buy gallons of fresh water to keep it filled.

About five years ago, I bought SteriPEN's UV water filter, and it's been a lifesaver.

The rechargeable device filters bacteria and viruses out of drinking water, making it a great addition to my travel bag. I use it to purify tap water and water from rivers that I want to drink during hikes.

It's a bit pricey, costing around $130, but in the long run, it's less expensive and more environmentally friendly than repeatedly buying bottled water.

After a lot of hesitation, I traded my paperback books for a Kindle.

nicole jones' kindle with black and white cover on it
My Kindle weighs significantly less than the paperback books I used to carry.Nicole Jordan

I like to hold books and flip through their pages, so it took me a while to give in and buy a Kindle.

The more trips I took with physical books in tow, the more I realized how heavy they are. And the faster I read my books, the more I had to buy.

After purchasing a Kindle, I wasn't disappointed. I can buy a new book whenever I want, and the device weighs significantly less than the multiple books I used to carry.

A battery pack that can charge multiple devices more than once is essential.

black anker power charger
This device can charge my phone, camera, and Kindle.Nicole Jordan

Whether I'm riding a bus for a long time, sitting around an airport without the proper power adapter, or spending a day outside taking pictures on my phone, it's nice to have a reliable power source.

I used to carry around a small battery pack that could charge my phone a couple of times. Now, I have a more powerful one that weighs about a pound.

It can refill my phone's battery around 10 times before dying, and the device also charges my Kindle, water filter, and camera battery.

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