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Pack These Inexpensive, High-Design Essentials in Your Carry-On

Pack These Inexpensive, High-Design Essentials in Your Carry-On

Mike Del Ponte

Image credit: Soma Water

In this monthly Travel Checklist column, we ask entrepreneurs to open up their carry-ons and share the items they can't leave home without.

When your company's end product can be used by literally every human being on the planet, you know you're in for a little travel. Or in Mike Del Ponte's case, a lot of travel -- to the tune of 100,000 miles a year.

Del Ponte's business is water -- more specifically, Soma Water. This company’s cleverly designed filtering pitcher features an elegant (but virtually shatterproof) glass carafe and uses filters made of coconut shells and a biodegradable plant-based casing.

The San Francisco-based entrepreneur started Soma in 2012, and with an increasingly jammed schedule of investor meetings, conferences, retail partnerships, and speaking engagements, he finds himself in the air frequently, for both business and pleasure. One day it may be New York or Chicago for work, the next Hong Kong or the Italian coast to decompress from the entrepreneurial grind. “New environments always inspire new thoughts,” Del Ponte says. “I enjoy exploring new cities and writing about creative ways to innovate, whether that’s for a marketing campaign, product development, or strategy for leading my team.”

But for a healthy-living devotee like Del Ponte, all that airport time leaves him scrounging for sustenance -- so he brings his own food and drink, along with some minimalist tools of the trade that help keep his business moving by land, sea, or sky.

Following a recent trip to Tulum, Mexico, we asked Del Ponte to pop open his trusty backpack for a look at the items that always make the journey with him.

1. Surface magazine. “I used to get frustrated during those 15-minute segments around takeoff and landing when you can’t use on your laptop. Now, I bring my favorite magazine. Surface captures trends in art, design, fashion, and architecture.

2. Moleskine journal. “Flying sparks insights I don’t find anywhere else. The resulting in-air journal entries often become company memos. This red Moleskine is filling up quickly, as I make it a point to journal every day.”

Related: What a Travel Boutique Owner Packs in His Carry On

3. To-Go Ware bamboo utensils. “I love to travel, but I hate the mountains of plastic waste it creates if you don’t come prepared. These bamboo utensils are great because they come with a case to keep them clean.”

4. Muji pen. “Muji is a brand that inspires me because it consistently makes everyday objects simple and elegant. At Soma, we have a similar design philosophy. I keep dozens of Muji pens in the office and grab a few before I travel.”

Related: Traveler Packs Trillions of 'Dollars' and Veggies in His Carry-On

5. Casio watch. “I got this watch at CAMP, a summer camp for creatives. It reminds me of the friends I made there, and I like the fact that a $9 Casio keeps time as well as a Patek Philippe. If I’m running through airports or leaving it in the hotel, I don’t have to worry about losing it -- if you need to replace it, it’s not a big deal. Simple design and utility are undeniably valuable.”

6. Zojirushi thermos. “This thermos is perfectly designed. It looks great, is easy to clean, and keeps water hot for hours. I refuse to drink from single-use plastic bottles and cups, so this thermos is my go-to water bottle when I travel.”

7. Anker Portable Smartphone Battery. “There’s nothing worse than a dead cellphone. This battery [costing around $50 retail] has saved me many times on the road. With it, you can recharge an iPhone two to three times.”

8. Panasonic RPHJE120K In-Ear Headphones. “These earbuds cost less than $10 and sound as good as any headphones I’ve owned that have cost $200 or more. They are compact and fit in my ears perfectly, so I always keep a pair on me when I’m traveling.”

9. Huckberry baseball cap. “Early morning flights require a solution for my crazy bedhead. This vintage flannel cap does the trick. I wear gray almost every day, so this hat matches just about any outfit I end up picking.”

10. Warby Parker sunglasses. “I love Warby Parker because in addition to being stylish, they give back. For every pair you buy, a pair is given to someone in need. I enjoy being able to share this part of Warby Parker’s story when I’m traveling and receive compliments on the glasses. Plus, they’re fashonable -- you can wear them with a suit, you can wear them with a T-shirt. When I’m traveling, I don’t want to bring multiple pairs of glasses.”

11. Kit’s Organic fruit and seed bar. “I choose this bar because it’s not only gluten-free, but also soy-free. I never eat food served on planes and typically avoid airport food, too. These bars satiate my hunger until I can find a good restaurant or Whole Foods.”