You’re leaving the country for a year. What do you pack?
It took me 6 months to finish answering this question. Not only did people say I was crazy when I told them I’d be trying to do it with a 32 liter bag, they said it wasn’t possible.
I ended up leaving the country with a 26 liter backpack.
Traveling as light as possible was the driving factor because of the freedom it allows (and partially just to see if I could do it).
When a 26 L backpack is all I have:
- There’s no need to check baggage
- I look less like a tourist
- I have higher mobility
- I have lower dependency on having to find a spot to store/lockup my bag
I believe in quality over quantity. Why should traveling be any different?
After acquiring stuff I didn’t really need all my life, it was a huge step to sell it all and leave with only a 26L backpack. But even after my cutbacks, there are still items I could probably get rid of.
When deciding on gear, I looked at weight, compressibility and functionality, mostly.
Here is the final list (with my comments):
A majority of the clothing listed below is made with merino wool (denoted with *).
Merino wool is quick drying–laundry days are efficient, odor resistant–laundry days come less often and it has great flow and insulation, allowing it to keep me cool when it’s hot outside and warm when it’s cold outside.
It’s an amazing material for the traveler trying to pack light.
Patagonia Super Shell Jacket
There are many rain shells out on the market but I picked this one mostly because I found it on sale at the time.
Mont-Bell Ex-Light Down Jacket
This jacket is amazingly warm, ultra-compact and light. It fits into an included stuff sack that is about the size of a Fosters beer can.
Icebreaker Apollo V-Neck*
Light every day wear shirt.
Icebreaker Tech Polo*
Light every day wear shirt, but with a collar, for those days when I’m feeling fancy.
Icebreaker LS Outback*
A thick, long-sleeved full button down shirt with collar, for those days when I’m feeling fancy AND it’s nippy out.
Icebreaker Men’s Distance Short*
I use these as pajamas, workout shorts and as a swimsuit (they have inter-net...) which is great on laundry day so I can wash all my undies.
Icebreaker Multisport Lite Mini Sock*
I brought two different pairs socks with me to test different brands.
Smartwool PhD Running Light Micro Sock*
I bought both a medium height sock and a low cut sock, for no reason in particular.
Icebreaker Beast 150 Anatomica Boxer* (x2)
The Icebreaker briefs have no pee-hole opening and are quite see thru, which is a bummer as I’m a big fan of prancing around in just my undies.
Exofficio Give-N-Go Boxer Briefs
The Exofficio boxer briefs come with the tag line: “17 countries. 6 weeks. One pair of award-winning underwear. (Ok, maybe two.)”
Prana Zion Pant
There’s nothing really special about these travel pants.
Arc’Teryx Spiro Cap
Even though I look terrible in hats due to my enormous “cabeza de marro” (the cooks in the restaurant I worked at called me this, I was told it means: head like a sledge hammer), I knew I needed one for my pale complexion.
Invisible Shoes Connect 4mm Barefoot Sandal
I knew I wanted the option to have both close-toed shoes and sandals, but I knew they needed to be compactable.
Montrail Streak Trail Shoe
Nothing special about these shoes,
I/O Bio Merino ¾ tight*
In case it gets extremely cold, these will be my extra leg protection.
Other Cold Weather Gear
- Foursquare mittens with glove liners
- Face mask
- Neck tube scarf.
Sony Vaio Z-Series
Sony NEX 5
I chose this camera because it's more powerful than a point and shoot and not as complicated as a professional camera, since I'm still quite the amateur.
Kodak Play Sport
I love to read so I'm loading up the kindle with some books I've been meaning to read and hitting the road with it instead of having to worry about lugging around books.
Fenix LD15 Flashlight
The flashlight is very small (a little larger than the single AA battery that powers it), but very bright. It also has a candle setting which I have used to read at night when others are sleeping.
Kikkerland uL03-A Universal Travel Adapter
An amazingly well designed travel adapter that is small, compact and can transform to convert to any outlet for any country.
Griffen USB Mini-Cable Kit
The package comes with an Apple charger, and micro and mini USB cables.
AC Bel VGP-AC19V32 Laptop AC Adapter
The adapter that came standard with my laptop was awkward and bulky.
Seagate 1.5TB HDD
The 128 GB in the Vaio isn’t enough room for all the photos/videos I plan on taking during the trip so this is a nice supplement.
Other Miscellaneous Electronics
- San Disk Cruzer 8 GB Flash Drive
- Apple iPhone 4 with headphones
- Sony NEX 5 Battery Charger
- USB to power outlet adapter.
20oz Klean Kanteen Insulated Water Bottle
I filled this up a quarter of the way with ice and the rest water, 24 hours later there were still ice cubes jingle-janglin’.
Rick Steves Travel Gear Clothesline
The clothesline is made out of braided surgical tubing so you can stretch it to accommodate all kinds of living situations.
Dream Essentials Sweet Dreams Contoured Sleep Mask with Earplugs
Blocks out a great amount of light and because it’s contoured you can blink your eyes without interference.
Sea To Summit 100% Premium Silk Travel Liner (Traveler Size)
This will only keep you about 10 degrees warmer, but I plan to use it for protection from shady hostels or couches rather than warmth.
Since I’m traveling alone it’s nice to have a versatile tri-pod like this.
RayBan 54mm Foldable Wayfarers
I have always loved wayfarers (even before the hipsters thought they were cool).
This thing is sweet. It attaches to my keychain so I have quick access to a mini-pen or PDA stylus...haha so handy.
Packtowl UltraLite XL (3.1 oz.)
This is a full size towel that compacts down to a little bigger than a notecard and it’s ultra-absorbent and quick drying.
Moleskine Classic Large Plain Notebook
This is for jotting down notes, plans, expenses, learning experiences, meals, ideas, directions etc.
This is where I keep my daily spending money as well as 20 US 1 dollar bills, which gives the illusion I’m carry a lot of money.
It is also packed with expired credit cards, old hotel room key cards and any other cards I could find that I wouldn’t mind losing.
The idea is that if I were to get mugged, I could hand them this throw this in the air and run away screaming while the thieves are preoccupied with the money flying everywhere. I also wouldn’t be too upset if it got pick-pocketed.
Deck Of Cards
Great way to meet people
The fates of the universe definitely have a sense of humor. 7 weeks before I left, they decided to introduce me to a wonderfully splendid individual.
Our first official day of being together was the day I left on this yearlong trip.
She wrote me a letter for every flight destination I have, as well as letters for when it rains, when I miss her, etc., so there are about 20 of those in my bag as well.
Tom Bihn 26 L Smart Alec Backpack
I chose this backpack because of the great organization and because it's made of durable and heavy duty material. The bag is also equipped with aquaguard zippers to keep the contents dry when it’s raining.
Tom Bihn Clear Organizer Pouch (Small)
This Pouch Holds:
Tom Bihn Padded Organizer Pouch (Small)
This Pouch Holds the 1.5 Tb external hard-drive.
Both of these small pouches hook into the side pocket of the backpack.
Tom Bihn Laptop Air13 Vertical Cache
Extra protection for the laptop.
Eagle Creek Pack-it 2-Sided Half Cube
Holds most of my cold weather gear: my mittens with glove liners, beanie, face mask, neck tube scarf, long underwear and icebreaker long sleeve button down shirt.
Eagle Creek Undercover Neck Wallet
I wear this strapped around my waist under my pants (can also be wore around the neck).
I have been traveling for over 3 weeks now and as I’ve told the people I’ve encountered, “I have everything I need, just not very much of it.”
The freedom to just pick up and leave is remarkable. Everyone I have met wishes they didn’t pack so much.
I saw a traveler walking to the train station with a 70+ L backpack, another backpack the size of mine strapped to their front and another bag in their hand. They looked miserable.
Pack less, and if you can’t live without something, buy it on the road.
The lack of restriction is very liberating and I wouldn’t recommend traveling any other way.
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It has been quite an adventure so far. I’m in Newcastle, Australia, on my way back down to Sydney after a 3 week journey that took me up to Cairns and back along the stunning landscape of the Australian east coast.
A special thanks to Becky for letting me stay at her place here in Newcastle to do some hardcore R&R, to Shannon for editing this post and to Tynan for the inspiration for a majority of this gear.
On October 2, I leave for New Zealand, where I will embark on a 14 day road trip across the north and south islands that hits around 50 different destinations (an aggressive plan that will probably change when reality smacks me in the face and says nope).