Eco-Friendly Travel Gear Packing List

"Sustainable travel" is a buzzword right now, and we think it’s wonderful that people want to learn more about traveling responsibly. That said, sustainable travel isn’t just a trend that we should use in a hashtag and forget about. It really does require a mindset shift, a positive attitude and some sacrifice. It also means you might need to pack a little differently...

We’ve compiled some eco-friendly travel gear that help make it easier to travel sustainably no matter where in the world you may be.

From saving single-use plastic and paper waste, to being respectful of local cultures, this list of practical and inexpensive travel gear is just what you need to travel more responsibly. When you're prepared, it's much easier to make good choices and minimize your footprint.

Bonus: Many of these items can even be used when you’re at home to reduce your waste and aid you in a more sustainable lifestyle. Check out this eco-friendly list in our online storefront!

*Disclaimer: There are some affiliate links on this page. This means we get a small commission on some of these products at no extra cost to you. This allows us to keep sharing great travel tips, so feel free to click away!

How it helps: It saves plastic!

Buying bottled water is a habit we never really got into, but often when traveling, it isn’t safe to drink the tap water. A Steripen was one of the very first purchases we made before ever setting off on our travels, and in the four years since we bought it, we’ve gotten so much use out of it.

We hardly ever need to buy bottled water because we fill it up at the tap and sterilize it for drinking. From Thailand to trekking in the Himalayas to all over South America, our trusty Steripen has been with us all around the world!

We’ve been very happy with our Steripen, but there are other great water sterilizers out there. Find one that works best for you, and start saving plastic (and money!).

2. Menstrual cup

How it helps: Eliminates plastic (& other!) waste

Calling all ladies: You’ve probably heard about menstrual cups, and like me, you may have lots of questions...

I just didn’t know now I felt about the whole thing, but after weighing out how much waste I would save by elimitating my need for tampons, I finally bought a cup. I will admit, it took a few tries to really get used to it. But once I figured out how to insert it properly, I actually love it.

It can be left in for 12 hours, which makes it more convenient that tampons. Plus, it can be difficult to find tampons in certain regions of the world, like many parts of Asia. When you're traveling long term, that means you'll need to pack a LOT of tampons. With a menstrual cup, you only need to pack one thing. So much easier.

If you’re still on the fence, let me put it to you this way: Imagine all the waste you will eliminate from your life by cutting out the need for tampons, plastic applicators, wrappers and pads. Plus, menstrual cups can last for several years (the instructions on mine say up to 10!), so you'll save a ton of money.

Win for the environment. Win for your wallet.

Tip: If you just can’t get on board with the menstrual cup idea, try using tampons that don’t have applicators, like OB brand. This simple lifestyle change will save a ton of plastic (or cardboard) each month.

Free Sustainable Travel Tips e-Book

How it helps: Saves plastic!

Oh how plastic bags annoy me! But even with the best intentions, there are times when I unexpectedly stop at the grocery story and buy much more than I can carry in my hands.

Always be prepared by keeping a reusable bag with you. We love this sling bag from Tree Tribe because it stuffs up super small, and is sustainably made with upcycled hammock material. Plus, 10 trees are planted for each product you buy! This mini tote has too many benefits to count!

4. Water bottles

How it helps: Saves plastic!

This may be a no brainer in your day-to-day life at home, but having a water bottle on you when your traveling really helps cut down on unnecessary plastic use. Get an insulated bottle from Hydroflask to keep your water cool, or a lightweight Nalgene that's BPA free. Plain or funky; big or small. A reusable water bottle saves plastic, so it’s always in style!

5. Reusable straw & cleaner

How it helps: Saves plastic!

Did you know that straws are in the top 10 items of trash collected from the oceans? Any way you look at it, disposable straws are a one-time use item that really is not necessary. A reusable straw eliminates your need for the disposable kind, and a cleaning brush will help it last longer and stay fresh smoothie after smoothie.

There are tons of reusable straws out there to choose from – BPA-free plastic, glass, stainless steel, bamboo – it might be hard to choose a favorite!

Watch this video from BBC about what waste is doing to the earth’s water, and I’m sure you will be convinced to limit your plastic consumption.

Personal Experience with Straws:

Once you start thinking about it, you’ll realize how you might be using straws without even realizing it. For example, I don’t typically use straws when I have the choice (I heard a long time ago that they give you wrinkles around your mouth – eww!), but when we moved to Thailand, I soon noticed that they came in EVERYTHING.

Water was brought to the table with straws. Smoothies, coffees… I’ve even been served a beer with a straw. I decided that instead of just ignoring it, I would ask for “no straw” every time I order a drink.

I’m not perfect, and sometimes I forget, but I try my best. Despite my efforts though, sometimes even after requesting no straw, my drink would still come with those annoyingly colorful plastic straws. Sometimes with more than one.

So I bought a BPA-free reusable straw that I now carry with me when traveling. I can hold it up to signify that I already have a straw. For some reason, this works much better than simply saying “no straw”. Plus, sometimes it’s nice to use a straw when drinking an iced coffee or smoothie, but I always know that this one won’t end up in the ocean.

6. Microfiber towel

How it helps: Saves water!

Sometimes it’s really nice to hop out of the shower at a hotel and wrap up in a big fluffy towel. And when you’re staying a few days in one place, it makes sense. But sometimes a little sacrifice can go a long way.

When you are just spending one night, you can opt to use your own towel and inform housekeeping that you did not use the provided towels. Hopefully they can be given to another guest instead of using more water. We love microfiber towels because they dry super quickly and pack up small!

Eco-Friendly Tip: Did you know when you wash microfiber towels (or any other synthetic fabrics), small pieces of micro plastics can end up in our water streams? The good news is you can stop this by washing your microfiber towels (and all other synthetics) in this washing bag from Guppy Friend.

7. Collapsible cups

How it helps: Saves plastic!

These collapsible cups fold up nice and small and make a good alternative to disposable cups when enjoying a beer or wine.

Cheers to reducing our plastic usage!

8. Reusable Utensils

How it helps: Saves plastic!

A reusable set of utensils (or a handy spork!) will help you say no to plastic ware. If you don’t feel like purchasing this item, you can always just save plastic utensils then next time you get them and reuse them. There’s no reason they need to be thrown away after just one use.

And don't stop with utensils. Pack a reusable to-go container too so you no longer need the Styrofoam boxes or plastic to-go containers. 

9. Kindle 

How it helps: Saves paper!

I’m a fan of real, paper books. And don’t misinterpret this as me saying not to buy books. That’s absolutely not how I feel. I love the idea of keeping a collection of your favorite titles, or recirculating books when you’re finished with them so they get read time and time again.

But when it comes to traveling, you can’t deny the convenience of a Kindle. The weight of several books isn’t fun to travel with, trust me.

I’ve heard of a popular travel hack where people take a guidebook with them on their travels, and tear out pages and throw them away when they’re finished visiting a certain region. This little trick certainly does lighten up your load, but those pages just go to waste. Instead of tossing them out, get your guidebooks on a Kindle so the weight is never an issue.

Money-saving tip: We usually try to rent guidebooks from our home library. It works quite well and we can borrow them for free!

Bonus item: Like the blue pouch pictured with my Kindle? It's sustainably made from teak leaves and fits a Kindle perfectly. It also works great for organizing charging cords, or just holding your passport and other essential when flying. And the best part is that 10 trees are planted when you purchase this pouch or any other product from Tree Tribe. Get your own leaf "leather" pouch (or another eco-friendly product from Tree Tribe) and get 15% off with this discount code: TWOWANDERINGSOLES15 

10. (or your favorite map app!)

How it helps: Saves paper!

A map app will mean you no longer toss out the paper kind after each city you visit. (Unless you collect them, as a souvenir!) You'll also have access to some high tech features that paper maps just can't match.

Simply load a map of the area when you're in wifi and enable your GPS to track your location. Star any places of interest so you won't forget them. Oh, and don’t forget to mark your hotel’s location so you don't get lost! Even when you're out of cell service, you'll see your current location on the map - take that, paper maps!

Tip: Ask someone at your hotel or a visitor's center to see a tourist map of the city. Often times, there will be restaurants or other attractions noted on these maps. Star those on your digital map so you don't forget!

11. Solid shampoo bar

How it helps: Saves plastic!

If you’ve been following Two Wandering Soles for a while, you know I’m a huge fan of Lush solid shampoo bars, but there are plenty of other great ones on the market.

They have been a game-changer for the way I travel. Instead of stocking up with new travel sized plastic bottles every couple weeks, this solid bar of shampoo lasts me between 3 - 4 months and is easy to fly with since it’s not liquid. (Plus, no spills!)

Your first few times using a solid bar may seem a little strange, but trust me, you’ll get used to it. (It’s all I use now, whether at home or traveling!) Instead of rubbing the bar on your hair, work it into a lather in your hands, then work it through your hair. Much easier!

Another general (life) tip is to only wash your hair every 3 - 4 days. (Or even longer if you like!) It will take a little time to “train” your hair, but eventually it will be less greasy and won’t need to be washed as often. This saves water and shampoo, plus it’s much healthier for your hair.

Tip: My one problem with Lush shampoo bars is the tin they come in. I find it very hard to get it open in the shower because of wet hands. But I've found a solution! This plastic container is the perfect size for Lush solid shampoo and you can pop it open easily in the shower with just one hand! Even though it's plastic, it can be used over and over again.

Note: I am including the link to Amazon so you can see the product I’m talking about, but it is much cheaper to get the bar at a Lush store than it is to purchase it online (about half the price!). Find a Lush store near you - they are located in most big cities around the world, so you can usually find them along your travels too!

12. Other solid toiletries 

How it helps: Saves plastic!

On a similar note, try other solids: like soap instead of body wash and body butter sticks instead of lotion. You can even find solid face wash, solid perfumes, and solid bug repellant.

Solids are easier to travel with because they won’t leak and you won’t have to worry about liquids when flying. Plus, they tend to last longer!

13. Reusable coffee mug

How it helps: Saves paper!

Raise your hand if you’re a coffee drinker! (me, me, ME!) A travel coffee mug is a good way to be a little more environmentally friendly at home or on your travels. But traveling with an insulated coffee mug can be tricky since they are so bulky.

Well, we found a solution! Stojo coffee mugs are collapsible so they won't take up much space in your bag. Plus, they come with a straw, so you can use them for iced lattes as well as hot drinks. 

14. Reef Safe Sunscreen

How it helps: Protects the coral reefs!

Whether you're planning a scuba diving trip in Thailand or you will be island hopping in Panama, it's important to think about your impact on the coral reef. Did you know that traditional sunscreens contain chemicals that are harmful to the reefs? This guide to reef safe sunscreen is a good start to picking one that will not harm the beautiful corals and the fishies who call it home.

15. Takeaway containers

If you like to bring snacks with you wherever you go, consider bringing reusable bags instead of the disposable ziplock kind. Beeswax wrap is another great option!

And pack some more durable containers that can be used instead of the styrofoam takeaway containers most restaurants offer. This prevents food from being wasted and it creates less trash. Double win!

16. BONUS: Sarong

How it helps: Helps you travel respectfully!

While this isn't necessarily an eco-friendly product, this is a great item to bring along if you consider yourself a "responsible traveler". A lot of the travel gear we’re mentioning helps prevent waste, but that is just one part of traveling responsibly. Another aspect of ethical travel is being respectful of local customs and values.

Often times on our travels, we will encounter places, like temples or mosques, where it is disrespectful to show your shoulders or knees. Instead of avoiding these culturally significant places or offending locals, we always carry sarongs so we can cover up accordingly.

They are lightweight and can also be used at the beach, on picnics or to keep warm on an air-conditioned bus. We love this multi-use item!

We want to hear from you!

This list is by no means absolute. What products or travel gear help you see the world a little more responsibly?

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