An Illustrated Eco-Friendly Packing List for Travellers
After having read these tips on sustainable packing, you may be thinking: “Okay. I’ll admit, I’m digging the idea of sustainable travel. But what items do I need to pack in order to emerge from my cocoon into a beautiful, green, planet-loving butterfly?”
This is something I myself have been wondering, trialling and testing for years – years I tell you, now. And I’m starting to feel semi-confident that I may actually have a pretty good list of environmentally-friendly travelling items put together now.
And hey – sharing is caring, so I’m going to share them now with you. So, here’s my tried, true and tested green travel packing list – with illustrations!
I’ll start by saying something very upsetting I’m sure to minimalist travellers everywhere – but if I’m going away for longer than a week, I don’t travel with carry-on only.
This is because I’m:
- A) Australian and have to travel from the arse-end of nowhere to get just about anywhere in the world, so I go for a long time.
- B) The owner of a hefty DSLR Canon 7D and even heftier 24-105mm lens (although it is a magical lens, I’ll tell you that much), which takes up a lot of room in my luggage.
That being said, I don’t turn up my nose at spending good money on luggage. My various bags and suitcases get put through hell (honestly, you should see the state of the giant suitcase I bought in 2010 for travelling around Europe and still regularly use). I want bags and suitcases that are going to stand the test of time – not have the handles break or wheels fall off at first use.
When I was planning a trip to Kyrgyzstan in 2016, I bought The North Face Women’s Borealis Backpack (in black, because black goes with everything, darling). I’ve found it to be a grand backpack for travelling and a most worthy investment.
I also have an ONA Camera Bag and ONA Backpack. These bags manage to be ridiculously stylish, with the added bonus of not looking like camera bags. The backpack also has a storage space for laptops, which I appreciate greatly and I suffer from separation anxiety when I don’t have my Macbook on my person.
As far as suitcases go, I only use my giant one now when moving from one country to the next. I travel with a medium-sized cabin bag (my favourite brands are Antler and American Tourister), but I also have a small carry on bag that I’ve owned for donkeys years, that I’d pair with a backpack when baggage allowance on flights was more reasonable. Those days seem to be long gone.
My main prerogative when flying as a sustainable traveller, is to pack items into my carry-on baggage, which will allow me to minimise my use of plastic whilst on the plane.
I always bring a water bottle too and do my best to fill it up after passing through security and before getting on the plane. Some airports are wonderful and have bubblers where you can fill your bottle up with filtered water. Others are evil and seem to expect you to buy their nasty bottled water. In this instance, I ask bar or restaurant staff to fill up my water bottle for me (if it’s drinkable out of the tap in that country). I’ve never had anyone say no.
As a last resort, I get the flight staff to replenish my bottle with water on the plane. I figure that at the very least, I’m saving a plastic cup and serviette in the process.
Filtered water bottles really are the way to go these days. Being a Europhile, I don’t travel to destinations that don’t have drinkable tap water very often, but I’m looking at purchasing a Grayl bottle for a trip to Thailand next year, as I’ve heard utterly amazing things about them.
I don’t like using wet wipes, after the emotional scarring incurred from seeing the “fatbergs” that these items form in a sewers. Instead, bring a small, quick-drying micro fibre towel that you can use to clean off your face on the plane – there are sets online which come with larger towels.
I also always pack a canvas tote, to use in case I need to do any food or book shopping in the destination I’m heading to.
Sustainable fashion is a movement that is only picking up in momentum, as the sneaky under-practices of chain store shops are revealed and celebrities like Lily Cole and Emma Watson shout the praises of eco-friendly threads from the rooftops.
As a human-being who happens to love clothes, I try to make my own fashion choices as eco-friendly as possible. As such, I’ve been searching for brands who have embraced sustainable practices, whether that be using fabrics that aren’t damaging to the environment, or make their products on home turf (hooray for supporting local industry!).
I also shop secondhand around the world and as a result, have ended up with a rather eclectic wardrobe. Sometimes I feel like a bit of an arse when someone will ask me where I got something I’m wearing and I say “Paris”, but that’s just the way it is.
It’s a bit hard to get specific on packing lists, as they of course depend on a) where you’re going b) when you’re going and c) what you’ll be doing. You wouldn’t pack the same things for a luxury few days in Budapest as you would for horse trekking in Kyrgyzstan.
However, these are the things that I always try to pack, no matter where or when I’m going:
- 1 sports bra
- 2 normal bras
- 4 to 7 pairs of undies – such as Thunderpants, which are made out of fair trade organic cotton in New Zealand.
- Baselayers if needed – made out of merino wool.
- Runners and/or boots – I love my Timberlands
- 3-5 pairs of socks (mix of ankle and normal)
- 1 pair jeans – mine are from Melbourne store Du Jour, sewed onsite from denim made locally.
- 1 t-shirt dress
- 3 organic cotton tees
- 2 pairs of fashion leggings in black – I’ve had two pairs of velvet leggings from Aussie label Black Milk for donkeys years. Alternatively, try to get ones made from organic cotton.
- Sports leggings– one of my favourite brands are Teeki, who make yoga leggings from recycled plastic bottles.
- A pretty yet practical dress
If you’re wanting to go green, your toiletries bag is a good place to start. Many of the items that we travel in are not only housed in plastic, but they contain chemicals that can cause harm to both the environment and in a lot of cases, your body too.
We all love our lotions and potions, but look for brands that are free from parabens, foaming agents like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, microbeads, or dubiously list “fragrance” as an ingredient.
Here’s what I pack into my toiletries bag (which in itself was a pass-me-down from a friend):
- Rosehip Oil
- Cream deodorant in biodegradable packing
- Body cream in a glass jar
- Face Cleanser
- Homemade rosewater toner
- Lip balm (home made or in biodegradable packaging)
- Bamboo Comb
- Razor with blades
- Non-toxic sunscreen with biodegradable packaging
- Bamboo toothbrush with travel case
- Shampoo Bar in its own tin
- Home-made toothpaste (Australians might be interested in trying this)
- Tubes for toiletries
And as a woman, sometimes I like to splash a little colour on when I’m going out for a feed or a boogie.
My lashes are dark so I don’t wear mascara, but for anyone who’s interested, read this post about a waste-free mascara. I’m currently hunting around for a decent eco-friendly eyeliner, so I’ll update when I find one. I also have a few Ere Perez eye-shadows from before I gave up plastic – I do really like them, just not a fan of the plastic containers!
Here’s an in-depth guide on what I pack toiletries-wise when travelling abroad.
Menstrual Items for the Ladies
Using a menstrual cup when travelling has saved me money and space in my luggage. I’ve had my Lunette Cup for two and a half years and it fits seamlessly into my toiletries bag.
I’m also a fan of Gladrags reusable cloth pads, which have come in handy when I’ve been doing activities that are a little more heavy-duty, like horse riding. They came in day pads, night pads and pantyliners, which are ideal for hiking or camping.
I’ve written extensively about dealing with your period in an eco-friendly manner whilst travelling – read the post here.
One thing that’s non-negotiable I think when embracing an eco-friendly lifestyle is medicine. I don’t use bandaids anymore, or tissues, but I travel with:
- Gastro-stop (learnt this lesson after getting food poisoning everywhere from Paris to Cuba)
- Melatonin tablets for sleeping
- Any other medicines specific to wherever you’re travelling
- Insect repellent
So there you have it – these are the items I pack when I go travelling. They help minimise the amount of waste/rubbish I produce, with the aim of being environmentally friendly as possible.
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Disclaimer: I was provided with a pair of Thunderpants to review, along with Gradrags pads and a Lunette Menstrual Cup. This post contains affiliate links, to items I use myself and recommend to all green travellers.