Spotlight on Travel: Lights to Pack

flashlightBefore I lived in Australia for a year, I never imagined the many reasons I should pack a light source on my travels. I’d packed a book light or mini flashlight on previous trips, sure, but I used it so rarely that I wondered if it was truly a necessary item on my packing list.

After weeks of living in hostels and three months road tripping around Australia, I know that one of the following lights will always be on the list.

Reasons to pack a light…

  • If you need more reading light on the plane or overnight bus
  • If you want to read in the hostel bedroom after others have gone to sleep
  • When you return to the hostel bedroom once others are in bed and you need to pack or unpack
  • To help you pack up last-minute items in the hostel if you have an early plane, train, or bus to catch
  • If the electricity goes out – or when there is no light to begin with
  • To navigate your way around a campsite
  • If your exercise routine has you up early or out late and outdoors
  • For group tours at night

Types of lights

Book light

book lightThere are a variety of book lights on the market, and while these may be designed to assist with reading, this light can really be used anywhere.

I recommend looking for one with a compact design that folds for easy packing. I brought one with me to Australia to help me find my way from the hostel bed to the toilet at night! Instead of turning on the overhead light in the bathroom, I simply turned on the book light.

Most designs offer a flexible/adjustable arm, but I think this style may be more difficult to pack.

>> Buy book lights on Amazon

Mini flashlight

The mini flashlight may be the most popular style of light for travel – at home and abroad. They’re easy to carry anywhere as they fit in the palm of your hand, pocket, or purse and only weigh a few ounces. Manufacturers offer them in a variety of colors and slightly different styles (some include a lanyard/strap and others have a keychain ring).

>> Read about a time Brooke wishes she’d had her flashlight

Head torch/lamp

head lampI’ve never thought about purchasing a head lamp for at home use or travel, but I know several ladies who own one! As you expect, head torches are worn around the head – a band fits around the top of your head and a light is situated in the middle of your forehead.

I have seen women wear a head lamp on early morning or evening jogs and hikes. One female travel blogger loves using hers as the light source when the power goes out during her travels in Asia.

>> Buy head lamps on Amazon

Credit card sized flashlight

I remember seeing these in abundance a few years ago, but it seems they have fallen out of favor. At one end of a thin, credit card sized piece of plastic was a small but powerful LED light. You could easily slide one into your wallet with your driver’s license and credit/debit cards.

Online searches now yield a very creative spin on the credit card sized flashlight – a thin card with what appears to be an image of a light bulb on the card. When you want light, you simply pop the light bulb to a 90 degree angle from the card and you have instant light! To turn it off, simply return the paper-thin light bulb to the flat card.

iPhone iTorch

itorchThe iPhone iTorch app is available in a free version or in a couple of paid versions, which offer additional features. In my free version, a bright light shines from the iPhone 4’s camera flash. In other versions, the phone’s screen can display a flame or bonfire, and with a slight shake of the camera, you can change the color of the light.

I was so grateful to have the iTorch on the 2.5 month road trip I took around Australia with two friends. When camping in remote places, we had no light to rely on but the one inside our van, one mini palm-sized flashlight, and two iPhones with the iTorch app. One afternoon, we returned from a nature hike to find a flat tire as dusk quickly approached. With no cell phone reception, we made camp for the night. On a pitch black, windy night, the three of us ventured to the two lone toilets at the park with the aid of the iTorch.

What type of light source to you travel with and when has it come to your rescue?


  1. says

    I bought a head torch for when I was camping across the Nullarbor and it is SO handy–especially if you’re camping somewhere with outdoor or no toilets. Also came in handy in Asia when the power went out or walking home over non-lit walkways.

  2. Katrina says

    My trusty head torch goes with me on every trip. It started off as a necessity for treks climbing through the night to make the peak by sunrise and is now a must have. It is handy for when camping and also when using squat or questionable toilets so you can be hands free. I also use it when reading and my fellow travelers are sleeping, or to find something in my bag in the middle of the night (another layer of clothing usually). On the plus side, the strap lets the torch hang comfortably around your neck when not in use and stays out of the way so you don’t forget it. Thanks for the post Heather.!

  3. Marjorie says

    I love my headlamp – I own a few now and I won’t go anywhere without one. I use it when camping, in dark buses to read/journal, find the safe place to pee at night, evacuating a hotel in the middle of the night while trying to keep my dog from completely panicking, and this week, near my house – to change the tire on my car at night!


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