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Pack it: 11 versatile travel essentials

You can pack half as much (and say "sayonara" to airline baggage fees) if you choose the right travel gear.
Image: Fleece jacket
This X-ray illustration of a fleece jacket from ScotteVest shows what can be carried in its two dozen pockets -- enough to not bother with a carry-on bag.
/ Source: Independent Traveler

You've seen them in the airport security line with their sleek, tiny suitcases — those travelers who embark on multi-week vacations with just a 20-inch carry-on and a smug smile. How do they pack their lives into shoebox-size bags? Well, we've discovered their secret.

If there's one rule of thumb by which smart packers should abide, it's this: pack multi-purpose items. You can pack half as much (and say "sayonara" to airline baggage fees) if you've got the right travel gear. Read on to discover 11 must-pack travel essentials that do double duty on the road.

Packing organizer meets shelf
Packable shelves are one of the latest and greatest innovations in the world of travel organizers. The soft shelves fit squarely into a suitcase, separating dirty from clean or jeans from jammies. But here's the fantastic part: Once you arrive in your destination, there's no need to unpack. Just lift the shelves out of your suitcase and hang the whole heap in your closet. Packable shelves are an excellent product for travelers embarking on an itinerary that involves multiple hotel stays. You can buy the shelves at or at

Suitcase meets chair
The Sittin' Bag is a carry-on-size rolling suitcase that doubles as a convenient place to rest your rear. The bag features a fold-out chair that can withstand up to 300 pounds of weight. Surprisingly, even with the fold-out chair on its side, this suitcase weighs just seven pounds. One can easily imagine how handy this bag would be in hour-long airport security lines — especially for seniors or travelers with injuries. Buy the bag at

Jacket meets carry-on bag
You can find jackets with a plethora of pockets in pretty much any travel supplies store. But ScotteVest/SeV Travel Clothing, which touts itself as the maker of the "most innovative travel vest, ever!" has more pockets than your average travel jacket. Some of the ScotteVest jackets have as many as 26 pockets sewn into them, including clear-touch pockets that allow you to use your smartphone without taking it out, special sleeves for travel documents and enclosures just for your camera. Read more about ScotteVest on our blog, and find the product at

Money belt meets belt
This Pennington Leather Money Belt is actually a belt. Not only does it hold up your pants (an important undertaking), but it also has a zippered pocket in which you can hide your cash. Because this is, after all, a belt, the product doesn't offer as much room as a typical money belt (the flat zippered pouch that you can wear under your clothes). The belt fits just up to six bills. Still, we like the idea of taking the whole money belt thing literally. Buy it at

Wrap meets sunscreen
Magellan's Sun Protection Wrap, which features 40-plus ultraviolet protection factor (UPF), shields female travelers from harsh sunbeams while keeping them warm in cold airplanes, on windy cruise balconies and in dank medieval churches. This shawl with sleeves is very versatile, and it's a useful product for women visiting destinations or sacred sites where a head covering is appropriate. Just pull the fabric over your head to make an impromptu veil.

Neck pillow meets furry friend
The Travel Buddy is for kids, but I must admit I wouldn't mind carrying one myself — especially in economy class. It looks comfy. Kids can use this C-shaped stuffed animal to combat all kinds of in-air angst, from stiff necks to turbulence-induced terror. Find it online at

Hammock meets bug spray
In many destinations — like Alaska, where the mosquito is the unofficial state bird — the worst part of relaxing outside on a hammock is the bugs. Enter the Eno Doublenest Hammock with Insect Shield. It's a packable, lightweight hammock that has room enough for two people when it unfolds. The hammock has been treated with permethrin, a safe and odorless insect repellent that wards off mosquitoes, ticks, mites and more than 55 other kinds of pests. You can buy the bug-beating hammock at or Eastern Mountain Sports.

Shirt meets bug spray
If they can make a bug-repellent hammock, they can make a bug-repellent shirt. And they did. The Bugsaway Halo Shirt from ExOfficio, which is available for men and women, reduces bug bites and keeps pests at bay with built-in permethrin insect repellent. Additionally, the shirt offers 30-plus UPF sun protection, and it's made of quick-drying lightweight nylon. (I can't think of a better style statement to make in destinations where malaria is a risk.) Buy the shirt at or

Luggage scale meets flashlight
The Travelite Luggage Scale is a tiny little lifesaver for overpacking travelers. If your bag weighs more than 50 pounds, the scale shines a red light to warn you of forthcoming baggage fees. Additionally, the Travelite doubles as a flashlight. You can remove the strap with which bags are weighed and use it to illuminate dark parking lots, overhead bins and poorly lit sidewalks. At just 5.5 inches long and only 7 ounces, it's tiny enough to slip into your suitcase without taking up too much room. Buy the Travelite scale at

Sleep mask meets ear plugs
The Sleep Master Mask is made of dark padded fabric that wraps around your face and covers your ears; this patented design muffles sound while simultaneously shielding tired eyes from light. The Sleep Mask doesn't completely eliminate noise, but you can pair the mask with some ear plugs for a serious sound-stopping effect. Buy the mask online at or at

GPS case meets dash mount
We recommend the Bracketron UFM-300-BX Nav-Pack Weighted GPS Dash Mount/Carrying Case for travelers who bring their own GPS devices to use in rental cars. This product protects GPS devices plus allows for easy navigation by providing a simple way to display a GPS screen. The weighted dash mount lets travelers prop up their GPS devices on the car dash (without leaving telltale suction marks on the car windshield, which lure petty thieves). Buy the Bracketron case online at

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