Recommended Travel Gear: What’s in Sarah’s Bag? 20

Sarah Murdoch recommended travel gearRecommended Travel Gear lists abound on the internet, but are they for real? Some are clickbait, some are top ten lists written without much expertise or thought. I have been traveling professionally around the globe for a long time and I’d like to think that I have it down to a science. If you’re looking for the best recommended travel gear, either for a travel gift or for yourself, here you’re going to find what is actually in my bag. For reals. No joke.

This is a list for quick reference, as a companion to my blog and YouTube packing videos, with links to take you directly to the things I use. Most of these items have been written about at some point on this blog, but always ask if you’d like more information. A reminder: I only suggest things that I truly like and use, none of my suggestions are paid, but I do work for Rick Steves, just so you know.

Recommended Travel GearSarah’s Recommended Travel Gear List


These are my actual bags that I use. For other options, including a great rolling bag, see

Main Backpack- Cotopaxi Allpa

Day Bag- Tom Bihn Medium Cafe Bag

Extra Bag- Lewis n Clark Hideaway Duffle

Packing Cubes- Eagle Creek Specter

Shoe Cube- Lewis N Clark Packing Tube

Stuff Sacks- Lewis N Clark Ditty Bag


I’ve done some exhaustive research on jackets and found some great solutions. More on that hunt HERE.

Winter- Arcteryx Nuri (Best Coat EVER)

Spring/Fall- Eddie Bauer Microtherm Storm Down Jacket

Summer- Eddie Bauer Rainfoil Packable Jacket

Vest- 32 Degrees Packable Down Vest


Clothes are very subjective! Below are some of my classic favorite items, basics that will work for almost anyone.

Top-Eileen Fisher Stretch Silk Jersey (Anything Eileen Fisher is a winner)

Pants- Eileen Fisher Washable Stretch Crepe

Cardigan- Eddie Bauer 7 Days 7 Ways Cardigan

Sweater- Lark and Roe Cashmere Pullover in Black

Leggings- Felina Black Leggings

Skirt- Fold Over Knit Skirt

Scarf- Big Gray Silk Scarf

Tank Top- Banana Republic Essential Tank

Dress- Eddie Bauer Aster Crossover Dress


A truly subjective item for recommended travel gear, but these are solid picks. Costco often carries great socks and undies.

Moneybelt- Rick Steves Moneybelt

Socks- Kirkland Signature Merino Wool Socks

Compression Socks- Sockwell Graduated Compression socks

Undies- Felina Bikini 

Bras- Freya Balconette, Black and Nude

Bathing suit- Freya Bikini

Pajamas- Fisher’s Finery Silk Chemise


My shoe choices change frequently, but these are the most reliable which I’ve used for several years. For more, see my recommended travel gear shoe spreadsheet.

Walking Shoe- Asics Metrolyte

Flip Flop- Teva Mandalyn Mush Wedges

Spring/Fall Slip-On- Tom’s Black Wool Shoes

Summer Slip On- Sketchers Sweet Pea

Sandal- Birkenstock Mayari


Specific thoughts on each of these items HERE.

3-1-1 Toiletries Bag and Bottles- Lewis n Clark Flat Bottle Set (Great Value!)

Lipstick- Revlon Colorstay Overtime

Mascara- Neutrogena Waterproof

Moisturizer- Neutrogena Healthy Skin

Face Powder- Bare Essentials Bare Minerals

Toothbrush- Violife SlimSonic

Toothpaste- Marvis

Shampoo- Biolage Shampoo

Conditioner- Biolage Conditioner

Razor- Venus Travel Razor

Deodorant- Milk and Honey Natural Cream Deodorant (Yes, it really really works!)

Day Bag

Phone- iPhone 7

Back-up battery- Anker Powercore 10000 (Seriously don’t forget this)

6 ft extra durable Charging Cable- Amazon Basics

Plug Adaptor- DuaFire Travel Plug Adaptor with USB

Tablet- Ipad Air

Reader when traveling without iPad- Kindle Paperwhite

Headphones- Bose Soundsport Comfort Earbuds (These are the best and last forever.)

Waterbottle- Hydroflask

Pens- Sharpie Stainless Pen

First Aid Kit- Rick Steves Travel Aid Kit (A starter version of my Box of Awesome)

Guidebook- Rick Steves, obviously!

Bonus Items

You really don’t NEED any of these things, but you want them, I know. It’s ok. Pick only one or two.

Watercolor Set- Windsor and Newton Travel Set

Brushes- Folding brushes for watercolor

Sketchbook- Artist field journal

Flat Iron- BaByliss Pro Nano Iron (This is AWESOME for curling hair in minutes)

Down Pillow- Soft Down Standard Pillow

Zippered Pillow Case- Linenspa Pillow Protector (Doubles as laundry bag!)

Travel Blanket- Pembrook Fleece Blanket

Coil Water Heater- Lewis N Clark Immersion Heater

Titanium Mug- Ninja Prepper Mizu Double Wall Mug

Spork/Bottle Opener- Ninja Prepper Yari

Wine Bottle Opener, Travel Friendly- Jetsetter TSA Compliant Corkscrew

That covers most of what I pack. I will add to this from time to time, so check back. Details on all of these things (mostly) can be found in my packing articles, which you can find HEREComment if you have anything to add to this list.

Happy Packing!


Sarah Murdoch is a tour guide and guidebook writer for Rick Steves Europe. Her blog, Adventures with Sarah, focuses on packing tips, travel stories and advice for planning the best trip possible.

20 thoughts on “Recommended Travel Gear: What’s in Sarah’s Bag?

  • Sarah

    Unfortunately for me my down pillow is NOT optional, because I can’t sleep without it like a toddler can’t sleep without their blanket. So it’s gotta go with me everywhere.

  • Karen H.

    Sarah, love the list – thank you!

    I have been searching for a good water bottle to carry in my day bag. You recommended the Hydroflask, and it looks like a quality bottle, but is offered at 15 and 17 ounces. That seems a bit heavy to me, and I noticed in your spreadsheet in another post that you list your water bottle at 5 oz. Do you have a recommendation for a good water bottle at 5 oz.?

  • Berry

    Yes, I too wear the Eileen Fisher stretch-silk tee shirts and washable stretch-crepe pants when I travel. I just finished 3 weeks in Italy wearing 4 pairs of pants and wearing various tees, both long-sleeve and short-sleeve, without washing ( I hate to wash clothes while traveling). The tee shirts are warm when wearing something under them, like a Cuddlesdud, and cool when worn alone. I usually wear with a silk cami. Honestly, 10 of these tees take up little room in a 20″ suitcase. The pants are easy to take care of–I just wipe with a damp cloth when done wearing each day. Every few years Eileen Fisher offers short-sleeve stretch-silk tees which are the best for summer travel. All of these items are pricey, but they do go on sale at Nordstrom stores and website.

  • Kim B.

    Thanks for doing this list like this with the links. Fabulous!

    I admit I am addicted to Marvis Toothpaste. Luckily my husband is Italian and we live in France — so whenever either of us goes, we can stock up easily! I’m such a sucker for their packaging/design!

  • Santa Barbara

    Hey Sarah, someday can you unpack your Tom Bihn medium cafe bag and we can see what fits in it? That would be awesome:)

  • Sheryl

    Love your blog!
    Two questions for you:
    Do women wear hats to shade their faces in Italy in the summer?
    Do you do anything to prevent getting germs when you fly?

  • Mike

    do you have any recommendation for a day pack that is waterproof? We went on the RS Switzerland trip this summer and had a few days of rain. A pack that could keep things dry would be great!

  • Cathy B.

    Fabulous list! Thank you. I like that you literally just listed them. Makes it very easy to go through. And, I’m delighted to read in the comments that you also wear size 12 shoes 😁! Now I know when you recommend shoes I’ll be able to find my size!

  • Gerry Coleman

    I found these at the Columbia outlet last week for $22. I haven’t walked anywhere in them yet, but I did wear them around the house all afternoon on Thanksgiving. Cute and comfy (so far) and 3.5oz per shoe. They run big. I’m a 13 and bought the 12.

    • Sheryl

      Love your blog!
      Two questions for you:
      Do women wear hats to shade their faces in Italy in the summer?
      Do you do anything to prevent getting germs when you fly?

  • Christine

    Great article. Wonderful recommendations. I would’ve enjoyed the article a lot more though if you had included pictures of each item rather than having to click on the link and go to a separate page to see what they look like.

  • Kristi

    I love seeing your list each year! Tell me, do you make an attempt to keep your day bag light? I find I’m pretty good at packing a light main bag, but often my day bag, when packed for the flight over, is almost painful to carry.

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