Cantabit vacuus coram latrone viator.

Travel light and you can sing in the robber's face.

Juvenal, Roman poet
c. 50–130 CE

What To Pack

Electrical Products

Things that must be plugged in (see also "What About Batteries?", below) are in conspicuously short supply on my own personal packing list; they add bulk and weight rarely compensated for by usefulness. Try hard to eliminate them.

If, however, you just can't live without your electric shaver (a small bottle of shaving oil and a razor are much more appropriate), or your hair dryer (think about towel/air drying, or even a more travel-friendly hair style), don't forget that electrical power varies throughout the world.

Most countries use 220–240 volts AC (alternating current) at 50 Hertz (frequency, aka cycles per second), though several — including Canada, Japan, and the U.S.A. — use 110–120 volts at 60 Hertz. Moreover, there are more than a dozen styles of wall socket, each requiring a different type of plug.

Plug adapters and voltage converters are available for all of this, of course (check the "Destination" section of the TraveLinks page for some excellent information sites). Remember that, when using converters, you must also be concerned with power (wattage) ratings. And some devices — often those with motors — are sensitive to the AC frequency, which cannot (in any practical manner) be converted.

Ceptics Worldwide Plug Adapter SetMulti-plug adapters can be found featuring all sorts of ingenious constructions. It might be possible to argue for their use if you're travelling to many parts of the world on a single trip (they never cover all situations, though, so proceed cautiously), but for a modest number of destinations, simple single-solution adapters will be smaller, lighter, and considerably more reliable. These are inexpensive, and can be purchased individually (especially at your destination location) or in large sets (such as that illustrated at left).

Leviton Grounded Cube TapMany products (especially modern electronic devices such as computers, cameras, and cellphones) come with "universal" power supplies (typically 100–250V) or multi-voltage settings; you'll still need plug adapters, though. And remember: if you carry electrical devices that must be plugged in, you should be prepared for a shortage of available outlets (often in limited-supply/high-demand locations such as airports and hostels); consider bringing along a cube tap or the equivalent, to help both you and your fellow travellers.

If you choose to travel with a device having a 120/240V switch, get into the habit of switching it to 240V when you pack it: should you mistakenly plug it into a 240V socket when set to 120V, you will have an ex-device.

The various cables associated with electronic devices (some of which are considered in the Specialty Items section of the OneBag packing list) are often the weakest links in the chain; make sure you travel with undamaged, high-quality versions (Anker has achieved renown in recent years as a supplier of robust, inexpensive cables). Cables can also be sources of unnecessary bulk and weight, so only carry lengths sufficient to your needs: instead of a three-foot cable, a diminutive USB cableperhaps a seven-inch version, such as that seen here, might be sufficient.

Anker PowerCore 10000 portable chargerIf you've become wedded to a smartphone or other portable device, and your travels take you to places where electrical outlets are in short — or nonexistent — supply (including some long flights and the like), you need to think about carrying a spare battery, something more easily managed with some devices than others. One well-regarded solution is the Anker® line of portable, rechargeable power packs; their mid-range (10,000mAh) model pictured here is a particularly appealing blend of storage capacity with modest weight/size, capable of charging a USB-connected device at up to a 2.4-ampere level. It's a decently compact 3.62×2.36×0.87 inches (9.19×5.99×2.2cm), and weighs a not-too-intolerable 6.4 ounces (181g). Larger and smaller models are also available

Anker Dual USB Wall ChargerMany modern, low-power electrical items can be operated and/or recharged from USB ports, reducing the need to carry separate (heavy, bulky) converters. If you lug a laptop, you can usually plug them in there; many modern televisions come with USB ports as well, so check the one in your hotel room. Alternatively, carry a tiny USB wall charger: I particularly like Anker's excellent travel version, as pictured here, with its dual outputs (with IQ support and 2.4A in total), and a very convenient folding plug to eliminate snags when in your bag.

PowerCore Fusion Power Bank/ChargerFinally, here's a convenient combination of the two previous device types (rechargeable power pack and dual-port USB charger) in a single unit optimized for travel: Anker's aptly-named PowerCore Fusion 5000, which includes a folding plug for travel ease, charging cable (to charge from a USB source if necessary), and travel pouch. This lets you charge two USB devices plus the power pack itself, at the same time, all from a single electrical outlet. And when there's no outlet, the power pack will give you more than a couple of smartphone recharges all by itself. Pretty much ideal for a day out in the world.

Of course, you can best eliminate electrical hassles by eliminating the gadgets.

Even if a hair dryer does make a great sock dryer.

So … No Electrical items?

Franzus IH100 Immersion Heater

You take what you need
And you leave the rest

Robbie Robertson
(The Band)

Not necessarily; just be judicious. For example, a simple immersion heater is one appliance that many travellers (especially those on a limited budget, trying to avoid restaurant meals) consider invaluable. Place it in a cup of water, plug it in, and in almost no time you have boiling water. This not only kills all disease organisms, it also lets you make a hot cup of tea, coffee, cocoa, soup, noodles, etc. You can even cook an egg: bring the water to a boil, remove the heater, drop in the egg, and wait (ten minutes or so for hard-boiled, about half that for soft).

Small, lightweight immersion heaters — like the Franzus IH100 model pictured at left (sold under a variety of names) — are inexpensive and available in dual (120/240) voltages, though you may still need a plug adapter. Alternatively, you can buy such heaters locally in most developed countries.

You may read deprecating remarks about the reliability of such heaters, mostly from those who don't understand that they are designed to be plugged in only when the heating element is fully immersed in water. So make it a habit: immerse before plugging in, and unplug before removing. Always. Otherwise they can burn out in a flash (even the ones that claim to have built-in thermostatic shut-offs)!

What About Batteries?

Battery-operated devices are more acceptable for travel needs than those requiring mains connections, but they are not without issues of their own: you may well need to replace (or recharge) them throughout the course of your trip, and your travel planning should include considerations for same.

1.5V BatteriesBatteries come in many different sizes and voltages; the most popular (1.5V) batteries for consumer products are pictured here. AA-sized batteries, like soap, are pretty much ubiquitous; consequently, you can reliably depend on being able to replace these wherever you travel. If your devices use anything other than AAs, you need to give serious thought to carrying sufficient spares.

One option, if you expect to go through a lot of batteries (such as for photography) is the use of rechargeables. Eneloop Pro batteries (made by Panasonic) are widely considered the best rechargeable AAs, with regular Eneloops running a close second; the Pro version holds a greater charge, but can be recharged fewer times than the standard version (most people, however, won't hit the 500 limit any too soon, and more power is better than more recharges, in my experience).

Such a course will require, in addition to the specialized batteries themselves, some sort of recharging device. Panasonic makes a fine, inexpensive battery charger that plugs in directly (no power cord); if you want a more sophisticated model (which will recondition older batteries as well as recharge them), go for this Tenergy charger, but it's more than twice the price, and noticeably larger & heavier, so less suited for travel needs. Both of these chargers are "smart", in the sense that they tailor the charging rate to each individual battery, and stop charging when it has reached capacity (you should choose no other type of charger), and they will both work on worldwide electrical systems; again, though, you may still need a specific plug converter for your particular destination(s).

CR123A vs. AA BatteryFinally, give serious thought to lithium batteries, which offer significant benefits to the traveller. They are much lighter in weight than both their alkaline and rechargeable counterparts, retain their charge for many years, don't leak (like alkalines can sometimes do), and perform better in extreme temperatures (both cold and hot).

Recently, flashlight manufacturers have discovered the benefits that accrue from matching modern LED technology with the high energy-density 3-Volt CR123A lithium battery (pictured here in comparison with an AA), also sold under a variety of incorrect designations, such as CR123, 2/3A, 123, 17345, 16340, 6135-99-851-1379, and even just "camera battery". Consequently, the very best small LED lights now use this approach almost exclusively (and this is what I have come to prefer for that usage).

Lithium cells are often very overpriced when purchased in local shops, one or two at a time. When ordered in even modest bulk from large suppliers, though, both CR123A and AA versions can be very reasonable in cost (and unlike other batteries, have a shelf life exceeding 10 years).

Just remember that it can be difficult to find CR123As out there on the road, so if you decide to use them, plan accordingly.

And yes (in case you were wondering), there are rechargeable lithium batteries as well, though these require specialized chargers, such as the Tenergy model mentioned above.