What to Leave in Your Bag and Never Unpack

Fred Perrotta

Ever heard of a bug out bag? Or a go bag?

As defined by Wikipedia:

A bug-out bag is a portable kit that contains the items one would require to survive for seventy-two hours when evacuating from a disaster.

But out bags are popular with disaster response personnel, survivalists, and those anticipating a zombie apocalypse.

What does a bug out bag have to do with travel? This list doesn’t resemble a packing list.

Fleeing from a natural disaster doesn’t sound like a fun trip. Eating MREs doesn’t qualify as a culinary experience.

You may not need a small bag packed in case of emergency. Do you have one packed in case of a last-minute trip? You don’t need to be disaster ready, but are you travel ready?

Today’s post will outline what to keep in your travel bug out bag. You don’t need to unpack or re-pack from scratch every time you leave town. Keep your travel-only gear in your bag so you’re almost ready to go at any moment.


You probably don’t have a capsule wardrobe packed away in your travel bag to be worn only on the road.

Do you have any clothes that you primarily wear on the road?

Good candidates are merino wool t-shirts, any clothing made of “performance” fabrics, a rain jacket, a down jacket, travel jeans, or a wool buff.

Every item that stays packed in your bag is one less thing you need to pack and one less thing you might forget.


Toiletries are easier than clothes. Buy extras and keep your travel toiletries packed, filled, and in your travel bag at all times. Don’t pack from the toiletries that you use every day at home.

Buy an extra toothbrush and comb to keep in your bag.

Use refillable GoToob bottles for liquids and top them up when you get home.

For any toiletries that can’t be squeezed from a GoToob, buy travel-sized extras from Target, a drug store, or 3Floz. When you get home, replace any empties in your toiletry kit with an extra from your reserves.

I have handfuls of travel-sized toothpaste, shampoo, and body wash in my bathroom at home.

Refill and replace when you get home. When you’re ready to travel, you won’t have to worry about checking your toiletries. You will know that they’re filled and ready to go.


I was recently in a cab about to leave for the airport when I realized I hadn’t packed my computer. Luckily, the laptop pocket of my bag was open so I noticed something was wrong. Yes, even the pros screw up.

Like clothes, you probably don’t have an extra computer stashed away in your bag. That’s okay. A computer is a big item that you’ll probably remember, even if it isn’t packed ahead of time.

You can pack up everything other than your computer or tablet.

Buy extra cables and keep them packed in your bag. I keep a spare phone charger, laptop charger, and set of earbuds in a small, zippered pouch. I usually carry that pouch in my day-to-day bag but move it to my travel pack when I leave home.

Keep your travel adapter and power strip in your bag at all times. The latter will let you charge multiple devices through one adapter when in foreign countries.

The Wirecutter recommends the Accell Home or Away power strip. The Belkin Mini Surge Protector is also popular.


What else can you keep packed?

I have a medium-sized packing cube in my bag, which I use for underwear, socks, and t-shirts.

A travel towel is also useful on most trips. Travel towels are compact yet absorbent. If you’re staying at a hostel or apartment, you should definitely bring a towel.

I carry an REI Multitowel Lite. PackTowl is another popular brand.

Other travelers like to carry carabiners or first aid kits. Everyone has his or her favorite one little thing.


A partially-packed bag will simplify packing and maximize your readiness to travel. Keep travel-only clothes, a full toiletry bag, extra charging cables, a pair of earbuds, a travel adapter, a power strip, and a travel towel in your bag so that you’re ready to go at a moment’s notice.


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