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Backpack Essentials: 25 Uses for a Sarong When You’re Travelling


Photo credit: swimsparallel (flickr)


When it comes to packing for an extended trip, multi-functionality is the key. Wherever possible, you want to pack items that have more than one function so you can save space and weight. A Swiss Army knife is the item that probably pops into most people’s heads when they think of multi-functional items to pack. Having a knife, bottle opener, screwdriver and other tools contained in one handy little knife can indeed be useful. But sometimes the simplest items are the most useful.

The humble sarong is something that should be packed by anyone who’s packing for a trip – no matter how short or long and whether they are a man or a woman. A sarong is simply a large piece of fabric that is worn as the traditional clothing in many cultures. But there are also a whole range of uses that you may not have considered:

  1. Wear it as a skirt. Sarongs come in many beautiful colours and patterns and can be tied easily into a short or long skirt suitable for day or evening wear.
  2. Use it as a towel at the beach or in communal hostel bathrooms. You can use it both to wrap around yourself while walking to the shower and to dry yourself off.
  3. Carry it in your day bag to use to cover up legs or shoulders when you’re visiting temples. Places of worship in many countries require long clothing or sometimes a sarong specifically (i.e. Bali). To avoid being refused entry or having to rent one, make sure you always keep your own in your bag.
    Photo credit: Cristophe Porteneuve (flickr)

    Photo credit: Cristophe Porteneuve (flickr)

  4. Drape it over your head to avoid attention in countries where head coverings are common. This can stop you from sticking out like a sore thumb, hide blonde hair and stop you from being identified as a tourist with a quick glance.
  5. Tie it up into a dress for wearing at the beach or going out in the evening. There are loads of different ways to tie a sarong and it can make a very attractive strapless or halter dress.
    Photo credit: Daniel Pink (flickr)

    Photo credit: Daniel Pink (flickr)

  6. Wear it as a colourful scarf to dress up an outfit.
  7. Use it for sitting on at the beach or in a park – sarongs make great picnic blankets and beach towels.
  8. Wear it as a shawl over strappy tops and dresses for extra warmth in the evening or when it’s windy.
  9. If you’re travelling with little ones, use it as a baby carrier. You can use it to carry your baby on your front, your back or your hip. (there are lots of videos on youtube showing you how).

    Photo credit: behang (flickr)

  10. You can also make a makeshift nappy (diaper) if you run out when you’re travelling. There are various nappy folds, which can be secured with a nappy pin (your mother will probably be able to show you how!) or you can simply fold it into a pad and tuck it into your toddler’s underwear.
  11. Use it to black out windows without curtains or around a bed in a communal room if someone keeps switching the light on.
  12. Use it as a sheet on beds with questionable linens or as an extra layer of warmth if there’s no top sheet.
  13. Use it as a blanket on over-efficiently air-conditioned buses, planes and trains.
  14. Fold it up to use as a pillow when you’re travelling or staying in budget accommodation. You can also use it as a pillowcase by tying it around an existing pillow.
  15. Make a quick colourful bag for outings to the beach by tying the corners together.
  16. Use it in your backpack as a laundry bag to keep your dirty clothes and clean clothes separate.
  17. Use it for extra privacy when getting changed or showering in communal bathrooms that don’t have curtains.
  18. Use it as a bandage in an emergency.
  19. Rig up a makeshift sun shade when at the beach – find a tree or some sticks to tie it to and relax without getting sunburn.
    Photo credit: Sarah@eleven47 (flickr)

    Photo credit: Sarah@eleven47 (flickr)

  20. Use it for extra coverage when swimming if it’s not culturally appropriate to wear a bathing costume.
  21. Wear it as a hat or head scarf for sun protection. Fold it into a triangle shape to tie under your hair or knot the corners to make a shaped hat.
  22. Wear it as a bikini top – simply fold it lengthways and then wrap and tie it around your chest.
  23. Use it as a head scarf to tie your hair back or keep it out of your eyes – fold or roll it into a long strip and tie where appropriate.
  24. Wrap it around your laptop for protective padding and to hide it from opportunistic thieves.
  25. Make a seatbelt for use on dodgy buses – twist it into a rope and tie it around yourself and the seat back. You may get some funny looks but it’s better than nothing!

You can buy sarongs pretty much anywhere but you’ll probably want to pick up at least a couple on your travels. Not only will they be cheap but also a lovely memento of your trip.

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