Standby travels requires light packing, which can be difficult for travelers like us who tend to incorporate a variety of activities ranging from grueling hikes to fancy dinners into each trip. We need clothes, gear, and accessories that are functional, versatile, and lightweight enough to pack into a carry-on. This is a selection the essential gear we use, love, and recommend for carry-on only travel.

Items with a ♥ indicate items I love, ♣ indicate Rufio’s top picks, and ♦ are items we both use and recommend.


Briggs & Riley are one of a few luggage manufacturers offering a lifetime warranty, no matter what happens to your bag, or who is responsible. Their expandable carry-on is incredibly spacious, durable, and sophisticated.♣

Osprey is one of the other lifetime guarantee luggage makers, and I am obsessed with the convertible 22″/50L. The interior offers plenty of space, a day pack can be zipped on the front, and the bag itself can turn into a backpack for traversing really rugged terrain. I love this bag, and receive plenty of compliments from travelers in the know!♥

I have converted the Rebecca Minkoff Regan Satchel into a stylish, functional, and nondescript, camera bag by adding in a camera bag insert .♥
The Tumi Travel Kit is a sleek and durable case for all your toiletry needs.♥

These eBags Packing Cubes help you pack more into your carry on, and also help you stay organized.♥

You can’t visit the world’s best wine regions and leave empty-handed. Use the Wine Skin Bag to protect your bottles (and your clothes) on the journey home.♦

An Odyssey Dry Bag keeps your valuables dry at the beach, on the boat, and on rainy hikes.♣

Adventure Sports & Outdoor Gear

The CamelBak Fourteener is a perfect day hike pack, and doubles as a spacious personal item in flight. The 3L reservoir helps you stay hydrated on hikes, and during transit.♣

The Patagonia Black Hole 25L is light, waterproof, and spacious. I can pack in my camera gear, electronics, and toiletries for flight, leaving my carry-on free for clothes and souvenirs. It’s durability and impermeability make it the perfect pack for all your outdoor adventures.♥

An easy to pack Camping Hammock is essential for hiking trips and tropical destinations.♦

The CamelBak Hydration Vest is great for walking or running during your trip, and is so easy to pack.♠

Super-absorbent Pack Towels can be used in a variety of ways, and pack down to nearly nothing.♦

Hydration is key during travel, from flight to hike. Keep your water ice cold with the YETI Rambler.


Far too many years into our travels, we realized we couldn’t go any longer without a good camera. Since we were newbies, we didn’t want to spend a fortune. Rufio surprised me one Christmas with the Nikon D3300 DSLR, a great entry level camera at an affordable price.♦

We do a lot of nature viewing, which requires a good telephoto lens. Once again, we needed an affordable option, so we chose the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens. This lens captures beautiful photos.♥

While the Nikon is great for outdoor adventures, it is a little bulky to carry around on city adventures. Enter the Sony a6000 Mirrorless Digital Camera. Mirrorless cameras are a relatively new technology, which provide some of the same quality as DSLR at a fraction of the size. This camera fits easily into a purse, and can be whipped out quickly to capture cityscapes.♦

A wide angle lens isn’t just great for photographing mountain ranges, it can capture interesting city scenes, too. The Rokinon 12mm F2.0 Ultra Wide Angle is an affordable option for Sony E-mounts.♥

The GoPro HERO6 Black is an incredibly popular camera, particularly for adventure sport videos. We use ours primarily for diving, and it has captured some amazing shark, manta ray, and sea turtle videos over the years!♦

The 10-In-1 GoPro Monopod isn’t just great for selfies, it allows a wide range of perspectives for your GoPro footage.♦

Tripods are invaluable, especially for landscape and low-light photography. The Rangers 57” Ultra Lightweight Tripod is incredibly light, and is able to telescope down to a packable size.♥

Try the GoPro Anti-Fog Inserts to keep your video fog-free.♣


Dive Filters are essential for color correction on dives deeper than 25′.♦

Clothing, Shoes & Accessories

In Transit

Long haul flights can cause deep vein thrombosis, even in healthy travelers. Maintain good circulation with Sockwell Compression Socks.♦


Flying standby means sometimes we have to run from one terminal to another, hastily re-routing ourselves in the pursuit of empty seats. I rely on ballerina flats for stylish-but-practical flight day wear. Comfortable, cute, and for a good cause, I fly fashionably in TOMS Pointed Toe Flat.♥

 I never, ever travel without a cashmere pashmina in tow. It keeps me warm during flight, and can double as a pillow.♥

Warm Destinations


A good pair of sunglasses are key to protecting your eyes, and looking great in photos. We love the classic Ray-Ban Folding Wayfarer Polarized Sunglasses.♦

The Columbia Packable Hat is stylish and travels well. Add it to your arsenal to protect your face on sunny holidays.♥

A sarong is another easy-to-pack item that can serve many purposes. Use it as a bathing suit cover-up, tie it into a dress, skirt, or scarf, or use it as a beach blanket.♥

Cold Destinations

For ski trips, take along the double layer Burton Snowboard Jacket. The interior liner jacket is great to take on its own for trips to cold climates, to keep you warm without being too bulky.♥

For rainy locations, pack a Columbia rain jacket. These are high quality, breathable, and pack down really well.♥

In mild temperature climates, I live in the Columbia Softshell Jacket. It’s a great windbreaker, has a soft lining, and pack easily.♥

Hiking & Running

The Zamberlan Crossers are amazingly sturdy, waterproof, and surprisingly light.♥

The Mizuno Wave Inspire 11 provides great support, and is lightweight. ♥

The Under Armour Sports Bra provides great support and is very comfortable.♥

The Under Armour HeatGear Legging can be worn alone, or as a thermal layer.♥


The classic Speedo Swimsuit is perfect to wear under your wetsuit or dive shirt.♥

I love my Akona Wetsuit, 5/7mm. It’s durable and keeps me warm in chilly water.♥

Rufio and I unknowingly bought each other the same gift for our 1 year anniversary, the Cressi Giotto Computer. ♦

Tech Gear

An unlocked smartphone allows you to buy local SIM cards for cell and data service abroad. The camera on the Apple iPhone X is amazing for travel photos. Portrait mode doesn’t just capture faces beautifully, it’s a great tool for getting detail shots.♦

With the Anker 2-Port Ultra-Portable Charger you never have to worry about dead batteries when you’re out exploring all day. The charger is small enough to easily pack away, and provides ample power to fully charge several devices.♦

Crying babies and loud snorers can make an already long flight feel like an eternity. Block it all out, and maintain your sanity, with Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones. The ear bud version is easier to pack, and can tune out even the roar of a jet engine.♣

Beauty & Toiletries


Dry shampoo has made my life, especially while traveling, so much easier.Psssssst Instant Dry Shampoo is my staple.♥

We try to travel with wrinkle-resistant clothing, but sometimes wrinkles appear and irons are never guaranteed, so we always have travel-size Downy Wrinkle Releaser in our bag.♦

We also never travel without Febreze. It’s great for warding off odor when you pack dirty clothing (especially during adventure travel), and it can also come in handy for freshening up musty rooms or rental cars.♦

Another multi-use toiletry staple are baby wipes. I keep them in my day pack or purse, particularly in hot climates, to wipe away sweat throughout the day. They can also be used when toilet paper is not available (or has to be paid for, as is common in many countries). Get the Baby Wipes Clutch N Clean Carrying Case, which is sealable to maintain moisture and refillable.♥

Melatonin is a great tool for combating jet lag, especially when you’re traveling to a time zone 12+ hours different than your own. Take one dose the day before you depart at an appropriate bed time where you’re going. Continue taking at bed time for a day or two after you arrive.♥


Nomadic Matt’s How to Travel the World on $50 a Day is a great resource for learning how to travel on a budget.♥

For any of our trips that last more than four days, I always purchase a Lonely Planet country or city guide. I love that the authors of the guidebooks are always well acquainted with the destination, offer plenty of “off the beaten path” suggestions to go along with the popular spots, and are honest about the pros and cons of their recommendations. We’ve used their guides to help us plan trips to Bangkok, Venice, Rome , London , Iceland , South Africa , Cuba, and Portugal.♦

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