Travel Tips

20 Items to Carry in Your Day-Pack

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The day pack is neither a carry-on nor a checked bag. Stowed away in your other luggage, taking up minimal space, this lightweight backpack is brought along for your day-trips and other short outings to tour cities and take in the natural surroundings.

Day Pack

My day is spent on a bus gazing through a dirty window, mindlessly watching the Indian landscapes and sun-baked villages whiz by. Some passengers hunch over their vomit bags as the bus driver ceaselessly blasts his horn while swerving around a stream of obstacles from the puttering motorbikes and tuk-tuks to the obliviously nonchalant cows that meander across the highway. I am relieved to reach my destination; I might have kissed the ground if it weren’t blanketed in dirt, rubbish, and human and animal waste.

It’s monsoon season, but the sun is out and Udaipur is basking in its afternoon glow. I deserve and desire a respite after the stress of overland travel in India, but I know from experience that this will probably be my best photo opportunity as long as I remain in this town. It could be days, or even weeks before I have another chance to photograph my new surroundings with a blue sky as its backdrop.

I quickly check-in to my hotel, jerk my day pack out of the suitcase and stuff it with all the necessities for an afternoon outing.

I travel with a laptop, a camera and other electronics and accessories which I keep in a North Face backpack (my carry-on). I also lug around with me a compact, but heavy High Sierra 3-in-1 bag (my checked luggage), which converts into a rolling suitcase, a duffle bag, and a backpack. Neither of these is suitable to bring with me on my day tours. For that, I use a HikPro day-pack. It’s extremely lightweight but durable. Admittedly, after about a year of nearly daily use, it is in fact starting to fray. Fortunately, it’s still usable and should last until I return to the States to recharge myself and replace my gear.

The day-pack folds into a small square that fits nicely into my suitcase like a Matryoshka doll.

I suppose it’s not the most stylish accessory and I probably look a little goofy wearing it on my back, but it gets the job done. Within five minutes of checking into my ridiculously cheap boutique hotel in Udaipur, I’ve transferred everything I need for the day into my HikPro, and I’m ready to speed-walk around the city snapping as many photos as possible before the sun dips below the horizon. The race is on.

I keep a checklist of everything I might need while exploring new places. Unfortunately, because I’m an idiot, I usually neglect to consult this list and inevitably leave at least one critical item behind. I hope others learn from my mistakes (since I sure don’t). Here is the list of items I (should) bring on my sightseeing day-tours:

Things to carry in your day-pack

  1. Camera

    Duh! Never leave home without it. I use a cheap(ish) point-and-shoot digital camera (Canon Powershot SX60). It takes better photos than my mobile phone and it has a powerful zoom, but I won’t cry too hard if it’s lost, stolen, or it breaks given the low price.

  2. Sunblock

    This is another no-brainer. (And, yet, I somehow always forget to bring it.)

  3. Umbrella

    This is not only to protect yourself from the sudden monsoonal rain storms, but to protect the contents of your day-pack.

  4. Poncho

    In the event your umbrella blows apart in the wind, have a poncho on hand as a backup.

  5. Insect repellent

    Many metropolitan areas in tropical regions are not immune from mosquito infestations. It’s best to be prepared.

  6. Hat

    This, for me, actually serves dual-purposes. The obvious one is to protect from the sun, and the second is to keep my hair from blowing around uncontrollably. The world is windy. And the wind is the bane of my existence. I have a Trumpador — carefully and strategically sculpted hair aimed to deceive others into believing I have much more hair than I actually do (though I’m probably not fooling anybody). I blowdry and spray it to keep it in place; but then, with one cruel gust of wind, my cover’s blown (quite literally) — at which point I reach into my bag, feel around for my hat and place it on my head to conceal the trainwreck that is my hair. I have a great deal of practice, so, like a talented gunslinger, I complete this process in the blink of an eye. I even have a spare cap in case the one on my head is blown into a river as I cross a bridge. Yes, I am a dork.

  7. H2O

    For me, a single water bottle that fits into the side-pocket of my bag usually lasts the entire day; but if you have an unquenchable thirst on long hikes in the sun, you might consider replacing the HikPro with a CamelBak backpack instead, which has a reservoir of water in the rear sleeve compartment and a long tube with a mouthpiece for effortless hydration.

  8. Battery pack and USB cables

    Bring this to recharge your phone(s). Ideally, you will also get in the habit of fully charging the battery pack on a daily basis. It frequently happens that I drain my mobile batteries and the relief of finding the battery pack in my bag immediately turns to despair when I realize it, too, is dead.

  9. Hand sanitizer

    It’s rare to find restrooms that provide hand soap. I frequently eat with my hands. Hence, I rely on hand sanitizer to protect me from germs. That said, I still get a cold every few months.

  10. Tissues

    Most restrooms I visit don’t come equipped with toilet tissue, and many cheap eateries and food stalls don’t provide napkins, so you should come prepared with your own. (I actually keep my tissues in a Ziploc bag since I sweat so profusely that the contents inside the day-pack become damp.)

  11. Chapstick

    It takes up no space whatsoever. Enough said.

  12. Reading glasses

    What’s up with restaurant menus using tiny fonts, or red text on a black background? Is this an eye-exam or am I here to eat? In my old age, I have come to rely on my spectacles, which I frequently leave behind by accident and suffer the consequences.

  13. Fleece or Hoodie

    Obviously, this is not necessary on a paradise island or in the desert in summer unless you plan to snow ski or ice skate in Dubai’s indoor winter sport parks, for instance. But, there are some unexpectedly cold air-conditioned malls (again, Dubai), movie theaters and restaurants, so if it doesn’t add that much weight and you don’t need to make space in your bag for other items, you might as well bring it. Plus, it cushions the bottom of the bag which might help protect your camera when you carelessly drop the day-pack on a chair or the floor too quickly.

  14. Mini-tripod

    I’ve rarely used this doohickey, but since it takes up virtually no space in the bag, and is potentially useful (if I’m out late and want to photograph the night skyline, for instance), I try to remember to throw it into the mix.

  15. Handheld Mist-fan

    By now you’ve probably noticed a theme: many items listed here are to combat the heat. Despite all my efforts to avoid hot weather I inevitably end up right back in it. I often wish I had a portable mist-fan to help me cope with the scorching heat, but I don’t. It’s one of those things you need to buy on Amazon before departing on overseas travel — I’ve never seen these fans in markets or malls outside the U.S.

    UPDATE: I bought the COMLIFE Handheld Misting Fan for my parents who reside in Orlando, Florida and frequent the theme parks…They tell me the fan has made the oppressive heat much more tolerable while they’re in queue for the rides.

  16. Head-torch

    Blackouts occur all the time in developing countries. I’ve walked back to my room at night during blackouts and, while my phone’s flashlight does work well, I would prefer to have a head lamp to free up my hands while lighting my way. This is also useful when trekking and camping.

  17. Gloves and scarf

    On the rare occasion that I actually get to enjoy cold weather, gloves, scarves and sometimes thermal masks are useful to protect from frostbite or just general discomfort. So, in winter, I keep these items in my day-pack to be prepared for sudden drops in outside temperature.

  18. Washcloth

    The sweat streams from my head into my eyes as I walk in the steamy streets of Indian cities. My eyes burn and tear up, and I can’t see where I’m walking. I hear the beeps of oncoming traffic, and I realize I need to wipe away the sweat with my washcloth before I get myself run over. A simple cloth has the power to save a life.

  19. Baby wipes

    These can be used as an instant shower as well as a refreshment towel.

  20. Pen and notepad

    In the event both your mobile phone and your battery pack are dead, have a small notepad and pen on hand to write down contact info, directions, etc.


Certainly, these items don’t apply to all people at all times and places. But, they are the items I find most useful on my travels for a day-long hike around town. Your list will be different from mine, but I hope I’ve given you some things worth considering.

Author

Michael Avalon
I've been traveling around the world more-or-less continuously since October 2016, starting when I was 43. When the midlife tour began, I was working at a web design company as a Web developer -- touring or transiting between cities by day and working into the wee hours of the night.
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