15 Must Haves For a Travel Bag (And 7 Should Haves)

*Quick list at bottom*

*Disclosure: I get commission if you buy through these amazon links*

If you lead an active life it’s more important then ever to be prepared. I have compiled a list of both necessary, and nice things to have in an adventure bag. When I say adventure bag, i’m referring to a bag you can toss in your car, on your motorcycle, or just take with you when you travel, that has everything you would need to survive if the situation were to arise. As my dad says “it’s better to have it and not need it, then need it and not have it.” After being lost several times without one, please learn from my mistakes!


#1 A Medical Kit

This is the most important part of your bag, as it can be a stand alone kit you bring with you. A good kit will have a survival blanket, various bandages and tapes, fishing line, and simple instructions. I have attached an inexpensive, complete option.

I can not stress at least having this when you explore. You can even pair down some of the items like aspirin and other things you wouldn’t necessarily need in a emergency situation depending on the trip!

#2 The Pack Itself, Big And Small

I have a big pack that I take with my when I travel, but I also keep another smaller pack around, in case size becomes an issue. Like when rafting, biking, or motorcycling.

My large bag is slash proof, has plenty of pockets, and a lower back strap so I can use it as a ready to go hiking bag, with room for whatever else I want to bring. Attached is the pack I have enjoyed the most, I’ve already gotten 4 years of use out of. I like it’s inconspicuous look for travel to more dangerous countries and areas, which helps by not making yourself a target.

Here is the smaller bag I bring. I usually take out the clothes and some “should haves” when I bring this one. It’s cheap and not the biggest deal if it gets dirty or torn.

#3 A Great Multi-tool

A good multi-tool can last a lifetime and is an absolute must have in a travel or go bag. I also keep one in all of my vehicles because of how handy they have proven to be.

I’ll attach my favorite as well a more budget-friendly option, both are great options and you may not need one as often as I do, in that case the budget will perform just fine!

My Favorite:

Best Budget:

#4 A Life Straw Water Bottle

This is an absolute must have for emergencies, as it allows you to drink from the dirtiest puddles and streams you just aren’t sure about. They have a long shelf life and can filter up to 1,000 gallons of water, which is well over a years worth of water.

You can survive 14-21 days without food depending on exertion and fat stores, but only a few days without water. With that in mind this is a necessity. Not to mention getting sick from drinking bad water can be at the very least a vacation ruiner.

#5 A Good Lighter

It’s important to have at least two forms of fire starter in your bag in case one goes bad. I have always opted for the tried and true Zippo as one. It’s windproof, versatile, and repairable. Buy nice not twice!

The shiny metal can also be used as a signal by reflecting the sun.

#6 A Good Beanie

Beanies also go on the absolutely necessary list. The reason for the Beanie is that we lose a disproportionate amount of heat from our head, figures range from 30%-50% depending on the study, but with that in mind(good on me for that one), a beany can be a life saver. I recommend a small high quality beanie that doesn’t take up too much space like this one.

It’s important to have a beanie that is merino wool because it is fast drying, comfortable, long lasting, and most importantly warmer than other materials.

#7 Gloves

It’s hard to get anything done when your hands get too cold to work and the constant starting and stopping to warm them can take valuable time if you are ever in a situation where you have to build a fire. They also work when changing a tire or when protection is needed when using tools. being so versatile makes them a necessity. I always recommend cold weather gloves that are breathable but warm and also water resistant. Here are my favorite all arounders.

As an added bonus you can still use your phone with these.

#8 Extra Socks

This is easily the most overlooked item in a go-bag but are an absolute must. Foot health when traveling or in a survival situation is everything. If you don’t have an extra pair you may have to stop and build a fire to dry your socks if you fall into a stream or get too sweaty. Dry feet save lives!

I Love the Merino wool because it is tried and true. It is also fast drying, comfortable and warm. An added bonus of having a second pair is you can use them as hand warmers or pull off lint for a fire starter. One extra pair should be fine.

#9 A Poncho

This is a very versatile, inexpensive thing to have in your bag as it can cover you and your backpack as well as be used as a shelter in a pinch. I like the Frogg Toggs because it is cheap, durable and packs down very small.

A poncho can also act as a wind block keeping you warmer, longer as well as a signal.

#10 Copies Of Your ID Health Insurance Info And An Emergency Contact List.

Here’s another one of those no brainers that many people overlook. If you lose your wallet having all your credit card info can make your life much easier and having everything in one place makes is very simple. I make a one page scan of all of these front and back and put them in a ziplock bag. This takes up virtually no space and adds almost no weight.

#10.5 Emergency Cash

This is #10.5 as you can leave this in that ziplock bag with your emergency info. I always carry at least $100 in a few spots on me just in case. This made my life much easier when I was lost in the woods overnight in near freezing weather and rain. I had finally found a road, and the driver of the truck I stopped was reluctant to spend anytime helping me find my car. $100 dollars (worth it to me at the time) changed his mind fast, and saved me hours.

#11 GOOD Headlamp And Batteries

A good headlamp is awesome, and works for camping, working, and survival. This is one you don’t skimp on, because a good one will last a long time and never let you down. Light in a survival situation can provide a calming effect that can help you make better decisions, not to mention light to get things done. Here is an excellent option.

This light is great for three reasons. First, it has a long battery life being l.e.d.(which also reduces weight). Second, it is water and dust-proof, something you can count on. Third, it takes 3 AAA batteries which are small and easy to pack and find. You can toss the extra batteries in the ziplock with your emergency info.

#12 A Quality Knife

A good knife can be used for everything from protection to fire starting. I prefer a knife with para chord on it to add to its versatility and to save some space and weight. A quality knife will hold an edge and can be used as a hammer or blunt object for pounding in stakes.

I like this knife because it has both serrated and smooth edges as well as a line cutter for the para chord or some fishing line. This knife will take up room and have some weight to it. The reason it is not prudent to have a foldable blade is the safety can break under stress and then you have a sliced hand and a bad knife.

#13 Fire Starting Kit With Waterproof Matches

In Oregon where I spend most of my time it can be nearly impossible to start a fire without a little help. A fire can save your life or just make it worth living. A good kit includes some fat wood or a similar starter with a good burn time and some waterproof matches. You can buy the entire kit or put on together yourself. Remember to keep the fire starter dry.

Having a fire starting kit will allow you to start and dry wet wood so you can get a fire going even in the snow. For info on how to start a fire in wet conditions click here.

#14 Emergency Blanket

This may be included in your medical kit, but it’s worth upgrading this because not only can it reflect up to 90% of your body heat if wrapped around you, it can also be used to make a tent which will help keep you warm through the night or if used properly reflect the heat from a fire.

These are lightweight and take up a small footprint making them perfect to have in your vehicles and bags.

#15 A Spare shirt and Long Johns

This is something that I would only carry in your larger bag if you have room, but can be a big help. I like having the shirt so that if I ruin one of my shirts I always have another, this is nice in your daily driver, and can help if you are pulling up to a meeting with a stain or just don’t want to look like a hillbilly. Not necessary but very nice.

The long johns on the other hand can help you get through cold nights in a survival scenario or make it much more comfortable to camp. A good pair can be light weight, fast drying, and not take up too much room, but again can be left out of your smaller bag.

These are cheap and are very comfortable. They also have a moisture wicking fabric to keep you warm and dry. You can spend much more than this, but as a backup these are great.


#1 Wet Wipes

This is another that is often overlooked but can save your butt (litterally!).

I love the dude wipes “quick shower wipes” because if you are on a long trip they are big enough to get all the smell off of you with a quick wipe down. They can also double as toilet paper when camping or in the woods. They are biodegradable so you do not have to feel to bad if you leave them out in the woods.

#2 A Tire Repair Kit

I personally do a lot of mountain biking, motorcycling and driving, so in my larger bag I carry a can of fix a flat as well as a tire repair kit just in case. Both are super easy to use, although the fix a flat is much easier. You can bring those with you or just leave them in your vehicles.

Both include instructions, but be sure to follow them as they aren’t exactly intuitive.

#3 Packable Duct Tape

Do I really have to sell you on Duct Tape? I get the packable version because it easily fits in both bags.

#4 Cheap Sunglasses

ZZ TOP had it right, go and get yourself a pair of cheap sunglasses in case it’s windy out or your new pair just went to the bottom of a lake. I get the cheap 3m because they are safety glass rated and it doesn’t matter if they get scratched up or I lose them.

Not very stylish, but hey, they work.

#5 Utensils

These are really handy if you camp alot or have to eat quickly on the road, I like the design below because its easy to clean and compact.

#6 Food

Like I mentioned before you can live a long time with no food, but not comfortably. I keep a pouch of tuna, a dehydrated meal and electrolyte snacks in my big bag just in case. Here are the tastiest and best dehydrated meals and snacks I’ve found.

I like dehydrated because of its light weight and long shelf life. But there are other options if you don’t mind carrying a few extra ounces. These can also double as necessary food in case of emergency so it doesn’t hurt to get more.

These are excellent to keep youre energy levels up on a hike or if you find yourself getting cranky like I often do after a long day of adventure.

#7 A Good Luck Charm

I always carry a silver dollar with me when I adventure. There is a magic in having a charm that science will never be able to explain away. I personally use a silver dollar because I can always use it to buy something (although I wouldn’t). This will change from person to person, but the spirit of adventure will live in it and I can’t recommend it enough.


That Is everything I keep in my bags and I hope someday it helps you be more comfortable or more alive, if the situation should arise.

Did I miss anything? Let me know!

One thought on “15 Must Haves For a Travel Bag (And 7 Should Haves)

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: