The Travelling Beachcomber

The 2018 Beachcombing Conference in North Carolina is coming up, and as usual, I am busy fielding ‘what to bring’ questions from participants who will be flying in from across the globe. Since I move around a lot, both for work and for ‘work-play’ (aka: beachcomb expeditions), I’ve got packing down to a science. So I thought I’d share some tips with you.

full day haulThe Big 3 rules of ‘The Traveling Beachcomber” are:

  3. STAY IN SHAPE (so you are able to beachcomb on any type of shoreline in any type of weather, but I’ll cover this topic another time)

I carry a ‘beachcomb tote,’ with me wherever I go, whether on a day trip or on an extended excursion. Everything listed below for the Basic Beachcomber Pack fits into a small tote.

flip flops
Flip flops are good on a summery day on sandy beaches, but you still want to cover your arms and face, or wear sunblock.
De Rigueur Beachcomb attire
Be prepared for any weather; wind parka, rain coat, hat, walking stick, and backpack are basic beachcomber gear.
My fave cashmere hoodie sweater
In colder weather and on rockier shorelines, hats and wellies are helpful.
tide pool treasures
My trust cashmere hoodie sweater keeps me toasty even in the coldest weather.


  1. First Aid

A mini first aid kit enables me to handle cuts immediately, thus stemming the possibility of infection. My kit includes:

  • Band-Aids
  • Sterile wipes 
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Tylenol and Benadryl
  • Small capsules for bee stings
  • Foot Blister Pads
  • Eye drops
  • Topricin Pain Relief packet
  • Emergency medical guide
  • A few Q-tips
  • A few toothpicks
first aid kit.jpg
Basic beachcomber pack.  Everything fits into one tote.
  1. Sun Protection

No matter your ethnicity, this is a more dangerous sun than it was even 20 years ago. Anyone can get skin cancer. The sun can also seriously damage not just your skin but also your eyes:

  • Sunblock
  • Long-sleeved t-shirt or sun shirt
  • Long-visored or big-rimmed hat
  • Sunglasses on neck strap (always on hand; harder to lose)
  1. Weather Protection

Prepare for anything. Both weather and beaches can be temperamental. Temperatures can drop quickly or storms may arrive without notice. Shorelines may be covered in sharp shell, coral or pebble hash, or hazardous debris. Great finds may be immersed in a few inches of cold water. Pack accordingly, to include:

Lightweight wind parka or raincoat (I carry a lightweight Marmot sailor’s rain jacket that stuffs into its’ pocket)

  • Change of socks
  • Garden gloves (for raking through shell or pebble hash)
  • Dive booties, over-shoe galoshes, wave-water shoes or wellies
  • Antibacterial hand lotion
  • Pack of tissues
  • Chapstick or small tube of Aquafore
  • Hand sanitizing wipes
  1. Hydration
  • Re-usable water bottle (preferably non-plastic)
  1. Treasure Tote

I tend to stuff my beach treasures in my pants pockets. But it’s good to have an alternative tote, especially if you hit a bonanza beach.

  • Waterproof bag or pocket apron
  1. Personal Items & Tote

Some shorelines are pretty dicey as is security at some hotel rooms, so I usually carry important things with me, including:

  • License, credit card, phone/charger, and passport (if overseas)

I either tuck them into a zippered pants or jacket pocket, or I use a:

  • Fanny or backpack, small purse, or passport case

Optional Items

Depending on the season, weather, duration, location or type of shoreline, other items to include in your Basic Beachcomb Tote can be:

  • Travel towel or sarong
  • Snacks (fruit/dried fruit, nuts, granola bars)
  • Pocketknife
  • Jug of water, small bottles of bleach & dish soap
  • Garbage bags for beach trash
  • Camera
  • Walking stick
  • Bathing suit and swim goggles
  • Head light (for night combing)
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Kneeling pad
  • Bug Spray
  • Insulated meal case
  • Mini black light

With few exceptions, I only travel with carry-on luggage, even on extended overseas trips offering free check-in. Whether on plane, train, bus or boat, taking only carry-on luggage simplifies things. My energy can focus on adventures, not on managing my stuff. It also saves time and money. No waiting for luggage. No lost luggage. No pushcarts. No porters. No sore back from schlepping heavy bags from point A to point B. I arrive at my destination and can hit the ground running.

Besides, whatever I need that I don’t have, can usually be found in local pharmacies, markets and thrift shops (with the exception, perhaps, of prescription meds or tech paraphernalia).

TIPS for Packing Lightly

  • Pack lightweight, wrinkle-free, quick-drying, non-bulky items that can be worn, layered atop each other, as the weather calls for it
  • Pack items that can be stuffed into a their own pockets (i.e. EMS feather down jackets, Marmot raincoats, Rick Steve’s travel tote)

    packing progress 3
    Find all-weather gear that stuffs into its own pocket.
  • Wear dressier outfit en route to your destination (which, for me, usually involves comfortable slacks, scarf and a sweater set. (Eileen Fisher clothes work well.)
  • Use a lightweight personal tote that can be attached to your check-in bag to hold your briefcase, toiletries (tucked in a clear plastic bag), snacks, shawl or sweater, magazines/Nook
  • If you still have too much stuff, wear a travel vest over your travel outfit and stuff it as you will!

B1. What to Bring


  • First Aid kit
  • Sun and Weather Protection Gear
  • Hydration Vessel
  • Treasure Tote
  • Personal Tote

Then Add:

  1. Medications and Vitamins
  2. Electronics and accessories (Computer, IPad, Phone, Nook, chargers, earphones, battery pack)
  3. Treasure transport container(s) (Bubble-wrap wine carrier bags are good. Or ship USPS priority flat rate mail instead, if travelling in US)wine skins
  4. Snacks (In case there are delays, or to ensure you won’t starve if you arrive at your destination after midnight)
  • Tea bags and/or instant coffee packs 
  • Packets of nuts, granola bars, chocolate bars
  • Gum (to ease air pressure issues on planes)

    with gum
    “Ready pack” :  When traveling on route to my destination.

Optional Items:

  • a travel pillow
  • ear buds or noise canceling earphones
  • mini sleeping pillow
  • eye mask
  • sound machine (or use phone App)
  •  mini-speakers (to hook-up with your electronics)
  •  converters
  • headlamp (for night combing or night reading)
  •  travel utensils and straws; travel vest
packing progress 2
I always pack these items for extended U.S. trips.
  1. Basic Toiletry Pack
  • Travel-size deodorant, face cream, hand lotion, cleanser
  • Toothbrush/floss/toothpaste
  • Comb or travel brush
  • Packets of wipes

Optional items:

  • shampoo
  • hair dryer
  • shower cap
  • mending kit
  • travel soap
  • lipstick
  • eyebrow pencil
  • mirror
  • tweezers
  1. Basic Travel Wardrobe MANTRA:

“Lightweight, Quick Drying, Non-Iron, Wrinkle-free”

  • Walking shoes (I wear ultra lightweight, inexpensive ViiHahn slip-ons. They work well in all seasons, though sadly, aren’t waterproof.)beach shoes
  • Lightweight, long-sleeved shirt with hoody
  • Quick drying underwear, shirts, pants
  • Bag for dirty laundry or shoes
  • Sarong (can double as a sheet, blanket, beach wrap, shawl, sleepwear, after-shower wrap, skirt)


6a. WARMER Months (late Spring to early Fall):

  • Some lightweight shirts
  • An extra pair of shorts
  • Bathing suit
  • Slippers (flip-flops)
  • Dressy outfit
  • Scarf that can double as a shawl
  • Sleep clothes

6b. COLDER Months (mid-Fall through Mid-Spring):

A lightweight sweater, down travel parka, or fleece. (I always bring an old, soft, hooded cashmere sweater because it is perfect under a jacket or over a nightgown.)

  • Several long-sleeved shirts, including a turtleneck
  • Extra pair of long pants
  • Warm hat
  • Gloves
  • Scarf that can double as a shawl
  • Lots of socks
  • All-weather shoes
  • Dressy outfit
  • Sleep clothes

There you have it. I may have forgotten one or two things, but this offers a good start. Feel free to email your best travel tips to me via

packed to go
Everything I need for a couple of months of extended travel!

And ‘Bon Voyage!’ – where it is more ‘the Bon’ and easier ‘the voyage.’  Happy Combing!

Dr. B



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