Ten essential items every traveller should pack

Hand luggage only: how to pack for any trip

Beat the queues and the airline charges: travel writer Tim Richards shows you his carry-on bag packing secrets.

"Goofy goes on holiday," snickers my spouse unkindly as I head for the airport, trailing snorkel and fins, or cleated cycling shoes, or possibly spiked walking poles. Every trip is different, and packing for every trip requires a curatorial approach. The travel kit for my next adventure might include sandals specially constructed for walking on reefs, a solar-powered battery charger for the one after that. Regardless of where my ticket says I'm going, at the nucleus of every trip is a time-tested cluster of items that sit in a box labelled "must ride".

1. A small, squashable day pack that you can fling in your luggage, essential for toting water bottles, tablet device or guidebook and a raincoat or folding umbrella and all the other odds and sods you need on day trips. Also handy as a spillover bag for the homeward journey if you shop too enthusiastically.

2. Slippery cobblestones and open drains lie in wait for the unwary after dark, which makes a torch a necessity. I use an UltraFire Cree LED torch which casts a big pool of light and also zooms down to a pinpoint, available from Amazon USA for US$6.15. In the wilds, a head torch is better since they leave both hands free to hold a cooking pot or a book ... or fight off bears.

3. Clothes dry quicker if they're hung on a line rather than draped over a bathroom rail. I use a double-strand braided, elastic version with hooks at either end,  which holds clothes tight without pegging.

4. Quality earplugs are a must for those whose sleep is less than sound, and handy for blocking aircraft noise as well. My favourites are the soft, tapering, orange Howard Leight MAX1 Earplugs, available from Amazon.

5. Sarongs are the traveller's best friend. Use one as nightwear, a standby beach towel, modest covering for temple visits or wrap one around a jumper to make a pillow.

6. Whether it's Alicante or Zing Zang Bar, rain or shine, you need a hat. Crushable, wide-brimmed and tight is the way to go, and if it sheds water so much the better. Mine is a wax cotton Watership Cape Flattery hat, which is incredible durable although not loss-proof (one left on a French bicycle, one on the back seat of a Burmese taxi).

7. The Swiss Army knife is part of the standard kit for NASA astronauts, and no self-respecting traveller should be without one. From fingernails to dealing with wine corks to digging stones from yaks' hooves, this is a complete toolkit in a pocket-size pack (just don't leave it in your carry-on at the airport - it will likely be confiscated by sercurity).

8. Universal adapter plug. Some come with a USB charge port, which is a useful addition. Make sure the adapter plug has three holes for compatibility with all Australian 3-pin plugs - some do not.

9. Especially for the hotel-hopping traveller who is unlikely to unpack properly, zip-lock plastic bags are a gift from the travel gods, vital for separating clean from less-than, wet from dry. Also great for sealing potentially leaky items.

10. Superglue has a thousand uses. You can save a flapping shoe sole, mend a suitcase or just do what I usually do and glue your fingers together.

What are your essential travel items? Post a comment and share your tips below.