The 50 Best travel essentials

Whether you’re planning a city break or six months circumnavigating the globe, Jonathan Thompson has a trailblazer’s guide to this summer’s top gear

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The Independent Online

The experts:

Jon Hawkins is editor of the country’s largest independent travel magazine, ‘Escapism’,

Kirsty Hathaway is editor of online travel, fashion, beauty and lifestyle magazine, Beach Tomato,

Dan Rookwood is style director of ‘Men’s Health’ magazine and a contributor to the Mr & Mrs Smith travel guides,;

Poorna Bell is lifestyle and travel editor of the Huffington Post,


North Face Overhead, £170

The ultimate carry-on bag, this does exactly what it says on the (overhead) tin. A Tardis-like amount of storage and compression straps to hold your things in place.

Berghaus Mule II 100 wheeled duffel bag, £110

Can be used as a wheelie case, duffle bag or a rucksack. There are chains along the sides too, for attaching to the roof of a car or even the back of a real mule.

LondonBelle ‘The Flyer’ Suitcase, £264

“Internal drawers mean swift unpacking,” says Jon. “Plus, the reinforced frame can hold up to 300lbs so you can sit on it while waiting for your flight.”

Mountain Hardwear Lani 60 women’s pack, £195

“Streamlined and designed specifically for women,” says Poorna. “It’s big, but the suspension means even when full, it never feels too heavy.”

Lulu Guinness ‘Lips’, four-wheel cabin case, £195

A durable fourwheeled case that meets carry-on criteria. Moulded lips adorn the front, while inside there’s full padding, mesh pockets and dividers.

Ally Capellino ‘Freddie’ waxed-cotton holdall, £336

“This hits the size sweet spot: use it as a weekend bag or an oversized day bag,” says Dan. “It’ll fit in an overhead locker or the back of your sportscar.”

Osprey Ozone 36, £100

This super lightweight carryon wheeled case weighs less than your laptop. Ideal for hopping on/off planes with zero fuss. And pretending you’re stronger than you look.

Herschel Little American backpack, £90

“Inspired by classic mountaineer design,” says Dan. “They’re built to last and have nice touches such as the red striped lining and padded straps.”

Arc’teryx Altra 65 Expedition backpack, £300

From GridLock adjustable shoulder straps to a rotating Load Transfer Disc, this will do pretty much everything except pitch your tent.

Albam flight bag, £169

“Can be deployed as a messenger bag or a tote, thanks to a press-stud system,” says Dan. “It looks great both ways — and is surprisingly spacious too.”



Piz Buin Wet Skin, £8.99

The UK’s first sun protection that can be applied to wet or dry skin. “This can be applied straight to wet skin to ensure you’re never wondering why you burned,” says Kirsty.

Dove Men+Care Hydrate+ Moisturiser, £8.99

“Specifically formulated for men’s skin – which is a bit tougher than women’s – this is easily absorbed and will keep you hydrated,” says Dan.

Aromatherapy Associates Revitalizing Face Oil, £41

“To avoid dehydrated skin, this oil is great,” says Kirsty. “The rose oil brings out thatessential radiance.”

Malin + Goetz Essentials Kit, £18

Everything you need, at the size you need, for a price you’ll like. The Essentials Kit, in a transparent bag, will speed that healthy holiday glow.

Mrs White’s Unstung Hero Anti-Mosquito Eau de Cologne, £20

“I swear by this stuff,” says Jon. “It smells great, keeps mozzies away and is non-toxic.”



Ray-Ban New Wayfarers, £108

“Ray-Ban Wayfarers are a classic that will never date,” says Dan. “There are plenty of colours to choose from, but I prefer these black ones, which work for casual and smart.”

Colin Leslie Eco Unit. T tortoise sunglasses, £75

Firm celebrity favourites. “Seriously stylish sunglasses made using ethically sourced bamboo and recycled plastic. What’s not to like?” says Jon

AM Eyewear ‘Ava’, £190

“I use, wear and love these,” says Kirsty. “They kill three birds with one stone: stop you squinting, keep harmful rays at bay and look incredibly stylish while doing so.”

Oakley Garage Rock, £115

Armed with advanced ‘Plutonite’ lenses, these will chew up and spit out any and all UV and harmful blue-light rays before they get anywhere near your peepers.

Persol 714 foldable tortoise sunglasses, £285

“The great thing about these shades is that they fold up so they can be stashed in a pocket when the sun goes down,” says Dan.


Swimming costumes:

Franks Polka-dot swim shorts, £50

A colourful poolside upgrade, Franks are made from fast-drying fabric. Born from Australian beach culture, the brand is for the man unafraid to stand out from the crowd.

Quiksilver Women ‘Ikat Ballito’ bikini, £50

“Bridges the gap between fashionista and sporty surfer girl perfectly,” says Kirsty. “This patterned bikini is simple in cut and sports a great pattern.”

Orlebar Brown Bulldog swim shorts, from £135

“The great thing about Orlebar Brown’s shorts is that you can walk straight from pool to bar, and look your best in both places,” says Dan. “They dry quickly and are very well cut.”

Tallulah & Hope Multi Tie swimsuit, £115

“Clever straps mean two swimsuits in one,” says Poorna. “It can be tied as a halter neck, or across the bust for a completely different look – and to avoid tan lines.”

Original Penguin Volley Mazarine swim shorts, £50

“Great, affordable beach wear from an excellent brand,” says Dan. “This style of trunk – colourful and cut noticeably higher than the board short – is very much on trend.”



Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer down jacket, £300

At 170g, this is the lightest down jacket in the world. It comes in both men’s and women’s cuts and is perfect for shoving in a backpack.

TOMS Navy Canvas Classics (unisex), £34.99

“I always pack TOMS,” says Jon. “They’re light, comfortable, easy to pair with any outfit.” And a pair of new shoes is donated to charity for every pair purchased.

Zara tunic, £35.99

“Forget that kaftan,” says Kirsty. “Tunics are the most stylish way to cover up on the beach. Chic and simple in cut, it can roll up small and be chucked on easily over swimwear.”

Stuffa jacket, £90

A versatile bodywarmer with no less than 12 stuffable pockets. Capable of holding an incredible 5kg of clothing, with external zip pockets for your passport, wallet, phone and keys to boot.

Rohan trousers, £57

The original multifunction travel trouser – and still the best. Lightweight, functional and quick-drying, the Rohan Bags are an icon of useful design and will never let you down.

Marks & Spencer foldable panama hat, £35

“This ingenious little invention always returns to its original shape, and looks like it’s just emerged brand new from a hat box,” says Dan.

Banana Republic women’s linen sleeveless blazer, £75

“This sleeveless jacket is smart enough for a more dressy evening, but also works as a casual day look,” says Kirsty.

Arthur & Henry ‘Shakespeare’ linen shirt, £79

This boutique, family-run business has made it a mission to create beautiful, organic shirts with a twist.

Nike Flyknit Trainer unisex running shoe, £130

“These are the trainers to pack if you’re planning to go for a run (always a great way to see a new place) or hit the hotel gym to work off dinner,” says Dan.

Haglöfs Women’s Amfibie Q long shorts, £60

Perfect for hiking, these fast-drying, lightweight women’s shorts also have UPF40+ for added sun protection.

Rohan Men’s Envoy suit jacket, £235

A jacket that defies the laws of physics. Screw it up and toss it into your suitcase, it’ll still look absolutely perfect when you pull it on at the other end.

Banana Republic Seersucker blazer, £200

Channeling the Hamptons’ relaxed summer vibe, Banana Republic’s seersucker blazers are hard to beat for price, cut and quality.

Arc’teryx Squamish hoody, £120

Named after a legendary spot in Canada, cult traveller’s hoodie the Squamish packs up smaller than a tennis ball and weighs a ridiculous 145g.

Eric Bompard Cashmere, from £150

Lightweight yet warm, stylish yet versatile, a good cashmere sweater should always feature on your packing list, particularly for weekend breaks.

MH Way2Cool T-shirt, £49.99

A traveller’s dream, this is the UK’s first “sweat activated” T-shirt. Tiny blue circles next to your skin react as soon as they detect sweat, releasing an active cooling agent.



Alice Bow shoe inserts, £13.90

“Made from Italian leather, these are a secret weapon for stylish travellers,” says Poorna. “Good-looking but practical, they mean you can wear your favourite shoes comfortably while hitting the sights.”

Eagle Creek Pack It expandable cube, £18

Invaluable for organised, speedy packing. Great for rolled shirts, shorts and T-shirts, it expands to carry more clothes in less space. Resistance is futile.

The Nixon Baja watch, £125

A marriage of fashion and function from cult Californian brand Nixon, the Baja is loaded with a compass, an LED flashlight and a thermometer. A force to be reckoned with.

Muji navy passport Case, £9.95

“If you’re anything like me, you’ll need all the help you can get keeping tabs on your passport when you’re on the move,” says Jon. “This is a practical solution.”

Outwell collapsible washing-up bowl, £16

Do you tend to pack everything but the kitchen sink when you go on camping holidays? This ingenious device, made with flexible rubber sides, folds down flat.

Unit Portables: Unit 04 Blue iPad bag, £20

The Unit 04 is the smart choice for your iPad when travelling. Crafted from heavy duty canvas, it’s extremely protective.

Katapillo, £12.99

The Katapillo walks all over your standard inflatable aeroplane cushions. A “flexible multi-cushion”, you can mould it until you find your perfect position, then relax.

Kate Sheridan Biscuit Column print wash bag, £27.50

There are three separate zip-top compartments inside, a waterproof lining and a hanging hook on the outer edge of this chic wash bag.

Reisenthel foldable rucksack, £11.50

“A cute little rucksack that’s perfect for packing flat in your suitcase, so you have a day bag tucked away,” says Kirsty. “Comes in a range of colours.”

The North Face Base Camp Travel Canister, £25

“A great utility item at a decent price,” says Jon. “Use it to store anything from your wash kit to your important leads and chargers.”

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