With the overarching increase in airline fees—particularly on those carriers that now charge for baggage—and the general desire to travel lightly and efficiently, being economical with what you pack when you hit the road is important. I don’t know about you, but I often over agonize about a single pair of socks or whether or not I should pack a jacket.
Though I didn’t list it as one of my travel essentials, one thing I don’t spend time debating about is whether or not to pack a sarong. I got my first sarong when I visited Australia while I was in high school. At the time, I picked it up because it seemed like the cool thing to do. It was bright yellow, knee-length and covered in fish.
I still have that sarong, but I’ve also managed to pick up a few others since then during my travels around the world. When living in Kenya, I found sarongs to be incredibly useful on the days I chose to wear pants, and I bought a couple for next to nothing from the local market. It was a nice bridge between not having to wear a skirt and still being culturally appropriate. Next to the overabundance of t-shirts and hiking socks sitting in my drawers, my little, itty-bitty stack of sarongs is nice and neat … and unbelievably helpful. Over the years I’ve discovered that sarongs can be used for so much more than straddling the gap between pants and skirts in developing countries. Here are 24 other uses I’ve found for sarongs, and why I always pack them when I travel abroad now:
- Drape around the waist for a beach cover-up.
- Use it as a skirt (sans pants), which is particularly helpful in countries with primitive plumbing.
- Not only do airlines charge to check bags these days, but they seem to be dropping the cabin temperature too. Pack a sarong to use as a blanket.
- Dress up an outfit when it substitutes as a shawl.
- Or drape it fashionably around your neck as a scarf.
- Dry off in your accommodation when you use it as a bath towel.
- Shade yourself from the sun when used as a window cover or draped between the branches of a tree.
- Toss it on a picnic table as a tablecloth.
- Let it help protect breakables in your luggage.
- In harsh wind in the desert or Burning Man, use it as a dusk mask.
- Either fold it up or wrap it around some other clothing items to make a pillow.
- Perfect for a picnic blanket.
- Feeling a little exposed? Have a friend hold your sarong as a makeshift wall between you and the world when you need some privacy.
- When you’re riding on two wheels—or feeling bounced around on public transportation—fold it up and use it as a squishy butt cushion.
- With a little handy work, you can tie your sarong into a dress.
- Tie the corners together and you’ve got a makeshift bag for a quick trip to the beach or short jaunt down the street.
- Cover a questionable hostel mattress with a sheet.
- Got a little one in tow? Do as the mothers in many countries do and use it as a baby carrier.
- Lay on it as a beach towel.
- Tie it up as a bandanna or head scarf.
- Staying somewhere that lets the flies in? Secure the corners and let it work as a quick fix door or window.
- In an emergency, it can tied and used for compression or to help stop bleeding.
- Lengthen your shorts with one of these to gain entrance into holy places (great for both guys and girls).
- Separate dirty from clean with a laundry pouch that contains all the stink to one corner of your suitcase.
Share the sarong love and tell me how you use sarongs in the comment area below. And if you want to see some sarongs in their many uses, check out the colorful collection that Deb put together at The Planet D’s website.
If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:
- Travel Essentials: What’s Always in Your Bag?
- What to Pack for a Trip to the Caribbean
- Packing 101: 6 Tips for Smart Packing