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Spotlight on Travel: Lights to Pack Beyond Your Phone

travel lights packing list

In our daily lives, we rely on our smartphones for practically everything. Communication, emails, surfing the web, and even for a light source when trying to put the key in the front door at night.

This built-in flashlight works amazingly well for most travel situations too – rummaging through a big backpack or suitcase in the early morning hours, walking down a dark path to a camp toilet, etc. – but there are many cases where you would benefit by packing an alternate light source.

Reasons to pack an extra light source beyond the phone:

  • If you need a hands-free reading light on the plane, overnight bus, or in the hostel dorm room 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 without needing to turn the main light on.
  • 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 in the first place.
  • To navigate your way around a campsite, especially when needing your hands to carry things.
  • If your exercise routine has you up early or out late and outdoors.
  • For group tours at night where a phone light is not enough or would drain the battery too much.

Types of Lights to Pack for Travel


travel headlamp
A headlamp is probably one of the most handy additional light sources you can pack for travel, and they take up less room than a standard flashlight. Because you wear them on your head, your hands are kept completely free for other activities: carrying things, turning pages of a book, packing, navigating through bush terrain, and so on.

Plus, the light source is always directed where your head is pointed, unlike your phone’s built-in light.

Headlamps are essential for trips into caves, to Everest Base Camp and the Inca Trail. For some trips it may be beneficial to look into headlamps that have built-in beacon lights, or a red light to attract fewer insects. Backup batteries may be required, or look for a model that offers USB recharging.

Tip: If you’re going camping, you can put your headlamp around a bottle of water to turn it into a lantern.

>> For a good starter headlamp, Caroline sticks by her Petzl Tikkina, coming in at just $20.

Mini Flashlight

mini flashlight

Mini flashlights can be worth their weight in gold when you travel. Some are as tiny as your little finger and can be clipped almost anywhere – my favorite place being on my purse or backpack zipper for quick access when I don’t want to pull out my phone.

It’s also useful to keep one in your hostel dorm locker (if there is one) so you can light up your belongings at night without needing to turn on the overhead light.

>> Shop for mini flashlights on Amazon.

Book Light

gifts for book lovers book light
Book Light by Gifts for Book Lovers – doubles as bookmark.

Given the fact that fewer and fewer people are bringing physical books on their travels, and instead relying on digital readers, book lights are probably becoming a bit obsolete. However, if you still stick to your paperback books and love to read, then a book light could be a useful additional light source.

Despite the name, it doesn’t have to be used just for lighting up your reading material. Clip it onto your backpack or belt. Use it to light your path to the toilet at night. Use it to light up a tent. The possibilities are endless.

I recommend looking for one with a compact design that folds for easy packing. Most designs offer a flexible/adjustable arm, but this style may be more difficult to pack.

>> Buy book lights on Amazon.

Solar Light/Lantern

luminAID packlite 12 review
luminAID PackLite 12 solar lantern

Solar lights recharge themselves in sunlight, so that makes worrying about additional batteries on your packing list a thing of the past. Solar lights will be most useful to people who have regular access to the sun. However, many types of solar lights and lanterns offer additional USB recharging should that not be possible.

We took a look at a very cool solar powered, waterproof, floating lantern from luminAid, and still think this is a great addition to packing lists. The newest version even offers the additional USB recharging.

>> Check out the luminAID PackLite 12 review.

Dynamo Light

dyno torch
Cora‘s Dyno Torch is her one little thing she can’t travel without.

Cora mentioned that a dynamo torch/light is her one little thing she can’t travel without. It never needs batteries, and instead is powered by turning a hand crank or pulling a rope repeatedly. Her model in particular was able to create its own light for at least an hour.

While a lot bulkier than other light options on this list, the fact that it is a sustainable, battery-free light source makes it something that can go on many packing lists.

>> Check out dynamo lights on Amazon.

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

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travel lights to pack
lights to pack for travel

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Written by Brooke

I run the show at Her Packing List and love packing ultralight. In fact, I once traveled for 3 entire weeks with just the contents of a well-packed 12L handbag. When I'm not obsessing over luggage weight, I'm planning adventures or just snuggling with my pet rabbit, Sherlock Bunz.

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Travel Resources

HPL Learnables

HPL Packing Method – Learn to pack your lightest bag ever in this revolutionary packing course by HPL founder, Brooke.

Book Your Trip

Viator – Enhance your trip experience by booking from thousands of tours across the globe.

Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions


  1. Christine 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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