7 Tips, Tricks, and Tools for Smarter Packing


Gear and Gizmos  

Photo credit: Kolobsek

Having lived out of a bag for the last seven years, I’ve become quite adept at packing. (And unpacking, and packing again, ad nauseum). Here are some packing tools for savvy travellers around the world.

Packing Tools

Here are four tools to stay organized, keep packing volume manageable, and protect your travel gear:


The Hoboroll (aptly named for a Professional Hobo, I might add) made my recent 8-country, 3-week whirlwind of a trip through Europe an absolute breeze, and now I won’t travel without it. It helps you organize and compress a ridiculous amount of stuff to such a small size that, with this packing tool, I am making the transition to travelling full-time with carry-on luggage only.

I pack my Hoboroll with a myriad of squishable items, including the following:

  • Hoboroll 5-7 pairs of undies
  • 5-7 pairs of socks
  • Bras
  • Bathing suits
  • Thermal layers
  • Exercise clothing
  • Sleep wear
  • Scarves, hats, cool weather gear
  • …and more

Ziploc Bags

I keep a variety of Ziploc bags at the ready, in various sizes and for various uses, such as:

  • Protecting liquid toiletries from leaking
  • Holding trinkets like jewelry
  • Keeping important documents dry and safe
  • Holding souvenirs
  • Separating and protecting various electronics and cords
  • Hand-washing small items (just fill with water, soap, and clothes; soak, shake, and rinse!)

Mesh Bags

Simple mesh ditty bags are very lightweight and versatile. They’re cheap and used in the following ways:

  • Holding toiletries (inside their Ziploc bags)
  • Machine washing delicates like bras and bikinis
  • Keeping a packed lunch into your day bag for easy access
  • Dirty laundry (please wash before packing your lunch into it!)

Plastic Bags

Keep a few plastic bags at the ready for these uses:

  • Dirty/muddy shoes
  • Dirty laundry
  • Packing wet bathing suits or towels
  • Protecting items that are too large for Ziploc bags


Luggage Choice

Your luggage is a tool on the road; one that will either help or hinder your travels. I’m a big fan of wheeled backpacks for their versatility and ease of use. To make packing and transporting your luggage easier, look for these attributes:

Separate Compartments

Features like mesh dividers along the sides or separate compartments will help you organize your belongings and create a place for everything. The more consistently you pack, the easier it is to find what you need, when you need it.

Easy Access

I don’t like using traditional backpacks because they don’t allow easy access. With openings at the top and bottom (and maybe the sides if you’re lucky), you’re constantly peering into a dark cavernous cylinder trying to find what you need. More often than not you’ve got to pull everything out to find it.

Instead, choose a bag/pack/suitcase that opens up fully so you can see everything at a glance.

Solid Zippers

Zippers are usually the first things to suffer when the going gets tough on your luggage. If your zippers don’t work, your luggage doesn’t work. Look for these characteristics of a solid zipper:

  • Zipper pulls/tabs that are resistant to breaking off while you’re yanking on them
  • An easy way to repair the zipper pull/tab on the go if it does break
  • Sturdy material connecting the zipper to the luggage – especially around corners, where it’s likely to wear and cause problems

Do you use any of these packing tools for different reasons? Any packing tools that I missed? Let us know in the comments!


About the Author: Nora Dunn

Nora Dunn is The Professional Hobo; a Canadian who sold everything she owned (including a busy financial planning practice) in 2006 and has been travelling the world in a financially sustainable way ever since. She is an internationally published freelance writer on the topics of travel, personal finance, and lifestyle design.


  • We use the medium size ziplock freezer bags for all our toiletries. They are double layered so if anything does leak, the bag won’t. We always use a luggage strap as well and also luggage locks.

  • Double purpose – we use cotton bathing suit wraps as towels in hot places and as bathing suit wraps. They are lighter than towels and take a smaller space and dry much faster. Have even used as a going out dress with some jewellery added for the evening.

  • I use large Ziploc bags to put bathing suit, towel, and change of clothes in my carryon. I push all of the air out of it then zip it up to compress it down! Saves a ton of space since towels are so bulky.

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