sustainable packing essentials

10 packing essentials to save space, weight and waste

We all know travel puts a strain on our planet; the emissions from one flight alone can undo all those well intended environmental efforts you make during the year. However, there are a few things that you can do to reduce your waste – and the weight of your bag – while you’re on the road. Here are some of our suggestions:

Tarp bag
You’ve heard it a hundred times; reusable bags are the way forward. Although my bags looks a little worse for wear – it has been on every beach, bunk and hike since I started this trip – it is still serving me well. Compact, light and totally practical. Your average tote bag provides ample space to carry at least two pineapples. And if, like us, you occasionally need more than two pineapples, you can always carry one or two spare bags when going on a big shop. Here in Sri Lanka the local supermarket Food City provides long life bags at a small price.

Travel Soap
This handy little hair and body balm is perfect for travel, regardless of the length or style of your trip. Saving on space and on plastic (no more annoying, leaky little shampoo/conditioner/shower gels). This particular soap was handmade in England, certified vegan, is cruelty and paraben free! It works wonders on your hair and skin and can even be used as shaving soap.

Steel Straws
Cocktails, coconuts, Coca Cola bottles. Whatever you’re drinking its likely someone will want to put a straw in it. It is estimated that we use hundreds of millions of plastic straws every single day. They filter into landfills, waterways and oceans and have a detrimental effect on marine life. A lot of countries (including Sri Lanka) are not as well equiped when it comes to discarding waste, and we’ve seen neglected beaches all along the coast that are riddled with plastic straws. We were lucky enough to have a friend visit and give us both a steel straw each. These little things go with us everywhere. Usually we can go without a straw (at restaurants or bars), but – when you’re drinking out of a fresh coconut, or from a dusty looking bottle – its good to have a one at hand.

USB Chargeable Torch
Initially a purchase for my winter bike rides to and from work, this little treasure works just as well off the bike as a hand held torch. It clips onto anything, is great for walking in the dark and is actually bright enough to light a room during any of the not-too-infrequent power outages. It has a warning light for when its running low and plugs into any regular USB port. Save on batteries, save on money, save on space!

enamel mug

The Enamel Cup
Not an essential, but bloody useful if you’re a long term traveller. These are light, durable and cute as ever. Great for a cuppa in your room (or a Berocca if it’s one of those days) and super handy on beach for sunset beers. Bring a little bit of comfort to your adventure.

Drawstring/Zip Fabric Bags
These unassuming little things are multi-purpose delights. I have them in all shapes, colours and sizes; some large enough for the bulk of my clothing, others small enough to hold my modest collection of socks. They were given to me by my mum, who originally found them in the pound store (but has since been making her own), mostly to wash delicates in the laundry. These are not only great luggage dividers but also double as fruit and vegetable bags (a neat alternative to plastic bags). They’re super lightweight, breathable and secure.

Knife, Fork & Spoon
I had no idea these would be as useful as they are. From bottle-opening to bus rides to breakfasts-in-bed. These are super cheap and available from any camping store. A plastic-waste saver and all the while fitting snug together in a pouch no bigger than a pencil case!

Clothes Line
Super handy! If you bring your own clothesline you can rely less on using commercial washers and dryers. Also really useful for bathers, towels or wetsuits if you find yourself at the beach.

Smart Phone or Tablet
Possibly the most useful of all gadgets nowadays. A smart phone is everything from a map book to a camera to a personal computer. We have been using the app Maps.Me which allows you to download road maps while you have data, then retrieve the information, directions or personalised pinpoints all while you’re offline. Incredibly useful when you’re out walking or travelling to new places on public transport!

For all those diary-keepers, using your phone or tablet as your journal is a real game-changer. There are heaps of apps available but I use Day One (super easy to use and aesthetically sound). I admit I am a pen-and-pencil girl at heart, and this app took some getting used to, but once I got into the swing of it I couldn’t argue with how much space, weight and time I could save. The app allows you to add photos, locations, music and external links (such as Instagram or Facebook posts) to your daily entries. You are comforted by the availability of an automatic backup to the cloud and can even make your entires available to your loved ones. Once your home – if you’re still really craving something tangible – you can have your journal printed into a book.

Another life-hack and space saver is to download PDF versions of your travel books. We have The Lonely Planet guide as well as any other important documents backed up and saved to our dropbox, which can be accessed offline through the app on your phone or tablet.

The Reusable Bottle
If you only take one thing your adventure, make it a reusable bottle. Good hostels, hotels and guesthouses often supply filtered drinking water, and if there is no other option you can chose to buy 5L bottles and refill your own from that. Recycling is scarce in rural Sri Lanka and bottles often end up on the sides of roads, beaches and local fire pits. We each have a 1L Camelbak bottle; they are lightweight, low priced and near indestructible. There are plenty of options on the market so whatever you chose just make sure its BPA free and doesn’t leak.

A little bit of planning and preparation before you leave can drastically reduce the amount you consume, making your footprint that little bit lighter. These are just a few very affordable ideas, but there are plenty more out there suitable for all types of traveller. Let us know if you have any ideas of your own!