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Unexpected problems pop up while you’re traveling, no matter how prepared you are. You can’t plan for everything, and you certainly shouldn’t pack enough stuff to cover every imaginable what-if situation.

But there are certain items that don’t take up much space and can really help you out in a bind.

Here are some helpful little items to pack that solve problems on the road.

Duct tape

items to pack that solve problems

Possibly the most versatile and helpful item on the list, duct tape helps in more ways than you could imagine.

  • Use it as a bandage or to protect your feet from blisters.
  • Fix holes in anything from shoes to pants to backpacks.
  • Use it to create a rope or clothesline.
  • Mark your luggage with a duct tape tag.
  • Seal leaky bottles or food containers.
  • Use strips of duct tape as fly paper in a buggy hostel room.


sugru for fixing things when you travel

If you haven’t heard of Sugru, we suggest rectifying that issue immediately. Sugru is a moldable glue that turns into rubber once it’s cured.

We heard about this magical substance from a member of our community, and we now think adding a couple of packs to your packing list might be a necessity.

Use Sugru to:

  • Patch holes in jackets, bags, shoes, etc.
  • Soften rough spots in shoes, or keep heels from slipping out of shoes.
  • Patch up worn laptop cables or phone chargers.
  • Add some pizzazz to luggage zip pulls for easy identification at baggage claim.
  • Fix broken sunglasses, or create better-fitting sunglasses.
  • Repair suitcase handles and wheels.
true utility tu30 multitool
True Utility TU30 Multitool

Multi-tools are wonderful gadgets with different pieces all in one. They can definitely get you out of a jam or just make your travel life a little easier.

Most options come with pliers, a knife, a corkscrew, a bottle opener, scissors, a file, a screwdriver, and several other tools. These items can help you cut things, repair gear, or make a hole in something.

With the right multi-tool, you also never have to worry about traveling with a bottle of wine (the corked kind) and not being able to open it.

One thing to keep in mind is that there are enough pieces to a multi-tool that could be considered a weapon. We think they are great for road trips, but taking it in your carry-on luggage when flying will probably result in it getting confiscated at the security checkpoint.

Carabiner clip

items to pack that solve problems

These little clips take up almost no room in your luggage, but they can help you out in many ways.

  • Clip zippers together to deter would-be thieves or simply hold together a zipper that doesn’t want to stay closed.
  • Latch a water bottle or stuff bag onto your daypack or purse.
  • Use it to hang your shoes on the outside of your backpack.
  • A few carabiner clips can hold a sleeping bag, travel pillow, or yoga mat to your backpack, too.

Clear nail polish

clear nail polish

I hate adding extra liquids to my packing list, but clear nail polish could be worth a little space.

  • If you wear glasses, you know that sometimes those tiny screws can come loose. A little dab of clear nail polish can secure them in place.
  • You can also use clear nail polish to seal a fraying hem, though this is best used on sleeping bags, jackets, and other nylon items.
  • Use it as glue for tags or labels that need to be secured to your suitcase.
  • Relieve insect bites by dabbing on a bit of nail polish.

Sarong or Turkish Towel or Scarf

turkish towels from etsy

When it comes to this point, Her Packing List is a bit of a broken record. These sheets of fabric in any form are incredibly useful!

Turkish Towels are currently the rage, but the others may prove useful for any of the following:

  • Use as a travel towel or beach towel
  • Use as a picnic blanket in the park
  • Fashion a privacy screen in a hostel dorm
  • Wear as a swimsuit wrap
  • Wear as a scarf for warmth or fashion
  • Use in place of an airplane blanket
  • Tie together for an impromptu hobo-style bag

Rubber bands or hair ties

items to pack that solve problems

Rubber bands are great, but if you don’t have any around the house, a few extra hair ties will work just as well.

  • Cheap compression. Use rubber bands to bind clothing rolls so they take up less space. (Expect wrinkles, though!)
  • Keep items from falling apart with a rubber band.
  • Containers that open too easily can be kept shut with a rubber band or hair tie.
  • A string of rubber bands can be used as a travel clothesline.
  • Use them to cinch up your cords and cables so they don’t get tangled.
  • Keep bags of food closed up with a rubber band.

Safety pins

items to pack that solve problems

Throw a few safety pins into your makeup bag, and you’ll almost certainly find a use for them.

  • In a pinch, a couple of safety pins can close up a hole in your jacket or backpack.
  • Use them to hold together uncooperative hotel curtains.
  • Hold a purse zipper closed with a safety pin as a little added security in a crowd.
  • Use one to replace a zipper pull that’s fallen off.
  • If you get a splinter, sterilize a safety pin and use it to remove the tiny piece of wood.
  • You can even use a safety pin as an emergency fix for a broken flip-flop.

String: Twine, Shoelaces, Dental Floss, Etc.


Any type of string will do, from standard twine to some extra shoelaces.

  • String can be used to secure a sleeping bag or yoga mat to the outside of your backpack.
  • Or string up your dirty shoes so you don’t have to pack them inside with your clothes.
  • Tie string around bulky clothing so they take up less space in your bag.
  • Use longer string, or several shorter pieces tied together, as a clothesline for when you hand-wash clothing on the road. Even dental floss works since it’s so strong!
  • Sew up a hole temporarily with dental floss.

Ziplock or Plastic Bags

ziploc toiletries bag

While we definitely don’t recommend relying on ziplocks in place of packing cubes or carry-on liquids bags (they can puncture and tear making them less reusable), having a few stuffed away for emergencies is helpful.

  • Store food for use later.
  • Keep unexpected wet items separated in luggage.
  • Use to compress clothing.
  • Keep items dry in boats or at the beach.

Do you have any other suggestions for items to pack that solve problems?

mcgyver travel tips- little things that solve problems


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