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):
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’. Hot liquid will still be hot 6 hours later and still warm 12 hours later. How does it work? SCIENCE, SON!
The clothesline is made out of braided surgical tubing so you can stretch it to accommodate all kinds of living situations. Because it’s braided, you can separate the braid and stick your clothes in to hang without clothes pins.
Blocks out a great amount of light and because it’s contoured you can blink your eyes without interference.
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. It’s extremely light and stuffs into a bag that fits in the palm of my hand
Since I’m traveling alone it’s nice to have a versatile tri-pod like this (it can be wrapped around poles, trees, pets, etc.) for photos.
The folding wayfarers eliminate the bulky and awkward-to-pack issues that I always have with sunglasses.
This thing is sweet. It attaches to my keychain so I have quick access to a mini-pen (or PDA stylus!). It easily converts to a full size pen when I’m getting my journal on, and the ink is pressurized, so I can write upside down, underwater, in space, it doesn’t matter WHERE inspiration strikes me, I get it DOWN on paper with my Inka pen, yo.
This is a full size towel that compacts down to a little bigger than a notecard and it’s ultra-absorbent and quick drying. I went on a live aboard scuba trip, we did 11 dives in 3 days, I showered and dried off after every dive and this thing was never wet and always got me completely dry.
This is for jotting down notes, plans, expenses, learning experiences, meals, ideas, etc. It’s so suave looking it almost makes up for my shoes.
This is where I keep my daily spending money as well as 20 US 1 dollar bills, which gives the illusion there is lots of money in it. 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.
Intel Core i7 (2.7GHz with turbo boost up to 3.4GHz)
13.1″ LED Full HD display (1920 x 1080)
128GB Solid state drive
.66 inches thick and weighs 2.5 pounds.
What’s up MacBook Air?
More powerful than a point and shoot, has interchangeable lenses and is small and compact and takes great photos.
A more rugged, 5 megapixel camera/video camera that is waterproof down to 3 meters. I bought it before the go-pro came out and after playing with one of those, I think I’d rather have a go-pro. However, the Kodak takes decent photos/videos and for less than $100 you really can’t beat it.
I bought the free 3G version so I could buy books without being reliant on finding a Wi-Fi connection, which is great for getting just about any book, anywhere. It’s a must have for any reader, especially if you’re traveling.
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.
An amazingly well designed travel adapter that is small, compact and can transform to convert to any outlet for any country.
The package comes with an Apple charger, and micro and mini USB cables. Perfect for connecting to a laptop or right to the wall to charge instead of having to lug around the bulky cables that came with the device.
Smaller and lighter than the adapter that came with my laptop
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 electronics include a San Disk Cruzer 8 GB Flash Drive, my Apple iPhone 4 with headphones, my Sony NEX 5 Battery Charger and a USB power outlet adapter.
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 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 the perfect material for the traveler trying to pack light.
It hasn’t rained yet so I haven’t had the chance to truly test this out but it’s light and compact (built with GORE-TEX® Paclite® shell technology and weighs 13.5 oz.).
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.
Light every day wear shirt
Light every day wear shirt, but with a collar, for those days when I’m feeling fancy.
A thick, long-sleeved full button down shirt with collar, for those days when I’m feeling fancy AND it’s nippy out.
I use these as pajamas, workout shorts and as a swimsuit (they have internet) which is great on laundry day so I can wash all my undies. Unfortunately, they don’t have pockets.
These two socks are the first legitimate nice socks I’ve ever owned. They are like bras for your feet—nothing gets bunched, everything is tight and supported where it needs to be and they are so soft and cushiony.
There’s nothing really special about these travel pants. I chose them because they look like normal pants that aren’t covered in cargo pockets or convertible to shorts. They are light and breathable and can be rolled up and buttoned when I’m wearing sandals. Yes, these are the only pants I brought. Jeans are too bulky and heavy and who really notices when you’re wearing the same pants all the time? That was my reasoning at least.
The Exofficio boxer briefs come with the tag line: “17 countries. 6 weeks. One pair of award-winning underwear. (Ok, maybe two.)” They aren’t made out of merino wool like their Icebreaker counterparts so I decided to try them both. They each work great in the sense of being odor resistant and quick to dry. However, I like Exofficio better because the legs are longer so they don’t bunch up and they have a pee hole (don’t know what the actual term for this is). The Icebreaker briefs have no opening and are quite see thru, which is a bummer as I’m a big fan of prancing around in just my undies. The Exofficio briefs also make a great swimsuit and I fit right in with the Europeans.
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. This cap can be folded into a tiny shape without hurting the brim, dries quickly and the back can be unrolled for ear and neck coverage.
I knew I wanted the option to have both close-toed shoes and sandals, but I knew they needed to be compactable. I settled on invisible shoes. They are pretty much the most minimalistic shoe you can get. They are just a 4mm piece of rubber with string to hold them on your foot, which makes it possible to roll them up and stuffed into my bag, taking up minimal room. They boast the closest thing to going barefoot that you can get, and when I wear them I can feel just about everything I walk on (which I love), but with some protection. They also have a heal strap so I can wear them like water shoes and not have to worry about them coming off like traditional thong sandals.
Montrail Streak Trail Shoe
Nothing special about these shoes, I wish I could have found something a little more stylish as well as functional. “Nice shoes” is the only comment I have received—the you-look-like-a-dork undertones were almost palpable.
In case it gets extremely cold, these will be my extra leg protection. I also packed Foursquare mittens with glove liners, a beanie, a facemask and a neck tube scarf.
I chose this backpack because of the great organization and heavy duty material that it’s made out of. It also looks like a daypack so it doesn’t scream tourist. The bag is equipped with aquaguard zippers to keep the contents dry when it’s raining.
Clear pouch – travel adapter, NEX Battery charger, Griffen USB cables, USB drive and usb to wall outlet converter
Padded pouch – 1.5 TB HDD
These clip into the Smart Alec’s side pocket
Tom Bihn medium clear organizer pouch
Holds any documents I’d like to keep (e.g. receipts, passport/driver’s license copies and letters). It clips into the water bottle side pocket
Extra protection for the laptop
DLC Neoprene Lens Pouch – Medium
Fits my whole camera with the lens attached and clips into the main backpack pocket
Holds my mittens with glove liners, beanie, face mask, neck tube scarf, long underwear and icebreaker long sleeve button down shirt
Strapped around my waist under my pants (can also be wore around the neck) and carries my passport, immunization documentation, the big-pappi cash, ID, credit cards, etc.
Holds the non-liquid toiletries listed below
Holds all the liquids listed below for easy passage through airport security
Mini 1st aid/sewing kit
Medicine – Nyquil, Imodium AD, Motrin, Claritin, Excedrin for migraines
Campsuds – Used for shampoo, body wash and detergent
SPF 50 sunscreen
Anthony logistics for men algae facial cleanser
Thera-tears eye drops
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.
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).