Attention: Lots of the gear here is discontinued or I have upgraded to something better. I keep it here because it's still useful information if you're looking to travel the world minimally.
However, I have updated my gear list for 2017, if you’d like to get the updated version for free (and see what I travel with now), please enter your name and email in the form below.
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 don't look touristy
- I have more mobility
- Less dependent on finding a place 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. 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.
Here is the final list (with my comments and ratings):
Kikkerland uL03-A Universal Travel Adapter
Every multi-country adapter I've seen is HUGE. This adapter can transform. Yeah, like a Transformer. It's amazingly well designed, small, flat, compact and can transform to convert to any outlet for any country. A must have for any international traveler.
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.
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.
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.)”
They aren’t made out of merino wool like the Icebreaker ones below, 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 (shouldn't have even bought the icebreaker ones) 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). These will be the only underwear I ever buy in the future.
The Exofficio briefs also make a great swimsuit and I fit right in with the Europeans.
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.
They are made out of merino wool but they get bunched up while walking because the legs are so short.
I bought 2 pairs, when really I should have bought 3 pairs of the Exofficio briefs.
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’.
Hot liquid will still be hot 6 hours later and still warm 12 hours later.
How does it work? SCIENCE, SON!
RayBan 54mm Foldable Wayfarers
I have always loved wayfarers (even before the hipsters thought they were cool).
The folding version are a perfect design to eliminate the bulky and awkward-to-pack issues I always have with sunglasses.
Eagle Creek Undercover Neck Wallet
I wear this strapped around my waist under my pants (can also be wore around the neck).
It carries my passport, immunization documentation, the big-pappi cash, ID, credit cards, etc.
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.
The earplugs are standard foam and the carrying case isn't anything special (mine fell apart after about a month).
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 and it's light and compact.
How else am I supposed to take epic selfies?!
Moleskine Classic Large Plain Notebook
This is for jotting down trip highlights, notes, plans, expenses, learning experiences, meals, ideas, directions etc.
It’s so suave looking it almost makes up for my unstylish shoes.
Griffen USB Mini-Cable Kit
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.
This thing is sweet. It attaches to my keychain so I have quick access to a mini-pen or PDA stylus (so handy these days).
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 or in space!
The problem is the pen runs out of ink very quickly so bring replacements.
Icebreaker Apollo V-Neck
Light every day wear shirt.
I like Icebreaker because everything is made from Merino Wool. It keeps you warm when it's cold, cool when it's hot, dries quickly and is extremely odor resistant.
Icebreaker Tech Polo
Light every day wear shirt, but with a collar, for those days when I’m feeling fancy.
Also made from Merino Wool.
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.
It's a great over shirt and extra layer when it's too cold for short sleeves but not cold enough for a full jacket.
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.
Unfortunately, they don’t have pockets.
Icebreaker Multisport Lite Mini Sock
I brought two different pairs socks with me to test different brands. Both made out of Merino Wool
They 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 cushion-y.
Smartwool PhD Running Light Micro Sock
I bought both a medium height sock and a low cut sock, for no reason in particular.
These developed a hole pretty quickly, which is why the rating is lower.
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.
it’s light and compact (and has a hood)--I can roll it up into the size of a Fosters beer can and it's built with GORE-TEX® Paclite® shell technology and weighs 13.5 oz.
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.
The sizes are a bit small though (the jacket is made to be worn in layers and close to your body) so keep that in mind if buying one.
Prana Zion Pant
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.
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.
This cap can be folded into a tiny shape without hurting the brim, dries quickly and the back can be unrolled for full ear and neck coverage. Total Dad hat.
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.
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 be rolled up and stuffed into my bag.
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.
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.
However, it has interchangeable lenses, it's small and compact, and takes great photos.
Kodak Play Sport
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 I plan on using it during the more rugged adventures.
Sony Vaio Z-Series
- Intel Core i7 (2.7GHz with turbo boost up to 3.4GHz)
- 8GB RAM- 13.1″ LED Full HD display (1920 x 1080)
- 128GB Solid state drive
- .66 inches thick and 2.5 pounds.
AC Bel VGP-AC19V32 Laptop AC Adapter
The adapter that came standard with my laptop was awkward and bulky.
This adapter is much smaller and lighter and a much better shape (flat) for packing in a backpack.
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.
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.
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.
Because it’s braided, you can separate the braid and stick your clothes in to hang without clothes pins.
It's well made but unnecessary unless you plan on camping a lot.
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.
It’s extremely light and stuffs into a bag that fits in the palm of my hand.
This is where I keep my daily spending money as well as 20 US 1 dollar bills, which gives the illusion I’m carrying a decent amount 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.
Note: You can now buy these from Decoy Wallet instead of making your own. You can read a guest post by Chris, the founder of the company, on how he used kickstarter to start his business and fund his travels here.
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.
- Montrail Streak Trail Shoe
- I/O Bio Merino ¾ tight
- Foursquare mittens with glove liners
- Face mask
- Neck Tube Scarf
- San Disk Cruzer 8 GB Flash Drive
- Apple iPhone 4 with headphones
- Sony NEX 5 Battery Charger
- USB to power outlet adapter.
Bags & Organization
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.
My favorite thing is that It also looks like a daypack and is a solid unassuming color so it doesn’t scream tourist/backpacker.
Tom Bihn Clear Organizer Pouch (Small)
This Pouch Holds:
- Travel Adapter
- NEX Battery Charger
- Griffen USB Cables
- USB Thumb Drive
- USB to wall outlet converter
Tom Bihn Padded Organizer Pouch (Mini)
This Pouch Holds the 1.5 Tb external hard-drive.
Both of these pouches hook into the side pocket of the backpack.
Tom Bihn Laptop Air13 Vertical Cache
Extra protection for the laptop.
I made sure to get the vertical cache because then it makes it very easy to access the laptop while it's in the backpack.
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.
Tom Bihn Kit
Holds all of my non-liquid toiletries:
- Gold Bond
- First Aid/Sewing Kit
- Nail Clippers
- Medicine - Nyquil, Imodium AD, Motrin, Claritin, Excedrin for migranes
Tom Bihn 3D Clear Organizer
Holds all of my liquid toiletries:
- Face wash
- 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.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy these:
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).
Good luck big D!
I look forward to reading about your progress. Good luck!
Any chance you can rss your blog so I can subscribe to it for updates?
I have an e-mail newsletter that you can sign up for that will e-mail you a copy of my post every time I post something.
In the meantime, I will work on the RSS for ya.
Tried your e mail notice and Feedburner said it is not enabled. Are you working on it?
The e-mail notice through Feedburner should be enabled and working now. Thanks for letting me know it wasn’t working 🙂
Awesome blog post! David and I will definitely be purchasing some of these items on any other long trips we plan. We definitely packed too much when we went to Europe, LOL! Hope you’re having a blast! xo
Hey Dave, great packing list! And website! I also ready your post on the Tom Bihn forums where I’m a member.
I had one question about your gear: what is the total weight?
Thanks and look forward to following your adventures,
Thanks for the support Guy 🙂
I just measured my bags weight yesterday on my flight from Hong Kong to South Africa and, with a full water bottle, their scales output 9.1 kg, which is just a hair over 20 pounds.
Nicely done. I’d love to see some photos (or a video?) illustrating how you fit all of that stuff into a 26L pack.
Great list Dave, thanks for sharing. I don’t travel much but with this list, I’m starting to make plans. I am curious if your pants ever get dirty enough that you can’t wear them the next day and if so, what do you do if it’s cold (since it seems your only alternative is shorts)?
Hmmm…well that hasn’t happened yet. I try to wash my pants in the evening when I’m in for the night, with the hope that they are dry in the morning. If for some reason this didn’t happen and i was in cold weather, I would do one of three things in order of likeliness. 1) Wait until the pants were dry. 2) Wear my long underwear bottoms with the shorts on top or 3) Put on my wool long underwear bottoms with the damp pants on top.
Thanks for putting this together! It’s is very inspiring for me to see it. I’ve got a few Amazon tabs open to look at some of this gear. I’m a minimalist and I’m looking to pack very light when I take the opportunity to travel, so I’ve bookmarked this page.
Cheers and happy travels,
Thanks for the tips Dave! I was curious about the socks. Why did you spring for the special socks for travel? Do they dry faster or something? I also noticed you have a lot of Icebreaker gear. I just started on Exxofficio and have been recommending that brand, but I heard good things about icebreaker. Thoughts?
Also, loved the idea on the fake wallet. I think i’m super paranoid now after I was robbed in Spain 😛 http://www.adventureseeker.org/travel-journals/how-to-survive-europe-when-all-your-stuff-gets-stolen/
Full disclosure…my feet sweat a lot, and that makes them stinky, so the main reason was odor control. They do dry quicker, and they are more comfortable (not the biggest issue).
I was unaware that Exxofficio made anything besides underwear, but I cannot recommend their underwear more (I like them better than the Icebreaker undies). However, the Icebreaker shirts are AMAZING.
Bummed to hear you got robbed in Spain (I hear that’s the most common place, since their stealing laws are very relaxed), but I’m glad you were able to survive 🙂
Thanks for the info! Definitely going to pick up some Icebreaker gear to see how it compares. Looks like the shirts actually look like a regular cotton t-shirt. The Exxofficio ones remind me of some sort of sports wear 😛
Hi m8, ur story inspiring me.. question, during ur trip, how u manage ur expenses, r u saving first, or u using cc to funding then u pay later, n how much ur expenses in 1day? (just range)
I manage my expenses by writing down what I spend everyday. Every couple of weeks I’ll go back through my journal and input all of my expenses into an excel spreadsheet by category (food, accommodation, transportation or entertainment). This allows me to track how over or under budget I am. I saved up all the money I would need before I left and I have been averaging about 50USD/day.
Dave, so sorry to read about the theft. Hope the rest of the trip goes well and that the thief gets caught and all the gear returned!
This is the best post on packing I’ve ever seen! I’m deffinitly throwing away my big 70ltr and getting a small bag for my next trip! The best part about this post is that I’ve met you and you are an awesome guy! Hope you continue to enjoy this amazing trip of yours!
Wow impressive list and very minimalist! Much lighter than our packing list haha!
Any feedback would be appreciated, I know we’re heavy on the tech!
I think it would be good to list the gear prices (I know it depends on where purchased so maybe list what you paid as a benchmark) individually and the total. Some may have to choose a more economical alternative even if not quite as functional. I recently downsized from a 45 liter Jansport bag that wore out (the zippers – after 5 years of part-time and 5 years of full-time use) to a $100 Lowe Alpine tt carry on 40 liter bag.
i don’t see anyone asking the most important question….did the Letters Lady Love survive the RTW trip?
Hahaha, the “most important question” eh?
I’m going to take a stab in the dark here and say you’re a romantic?
The letters did indeed survive the entire trip and I didn’t even peek at them until I was supposed to!
Unfortunately, even though the letters survived, the relationship did not. C’est la vie.
well shoot. guess my plan to avoid all men until i leave on my trip is solid, then.
i do have a question after reading through some of your other posts. did you ever regret booking the RTW ticket? obviously you got an incredible deal, but did you miss the flexibility of going somewhere you didn’t originally intend, or meeting people and tagging along with them to their next destination?
i’m leaning toward leaving my trip open-ended, but it’s tempting to save some money and indulge my type-A planner personality by doing it your way.
Your plan is probably a good one. I had the same plan, and ended up becoming official with the gal the day I left for the trip…so much for plans, huh?
As for your question…it’s a good one I wrestled with before leaving and even after the trip was done. I still don’t have a definitive answer, but I’d say a mix of the two is best. I didn’t even mean for this to happen but it’s how my trip played out, mostly because I was traveling for such a long period.
What I mean by this is I basically purchased what I like to call a “skeleton” for my trip. It was 15 flights that took me around the world to 6 of the 7 continents over the duration of the year. That was the only thing I planned.
Once I landed in the different locations it was usually for quite a bit of time. This allowed me the flexibility to go somewhere I didn’t originally plan and have fun with that open-ended type of travel.
For example, I was in Singapore for 3.5 weeks, so I bought a plane ticket out to Bali and had an amazing adventure there for 2 weeks before flying back to Singapore. It was something I thought of in Singapore while chatting with people, and since I had so much time I was able to figure out a way to make it happen.
There were countless places I had the thought: “I could stay here for so much longer.” But, I knew if I did I’d have less time at the next place where I’d no doubt have the same thought. Ideally you wouldn’t have to deal with this, but I only had so much money. Blah.
The cool thing was that even if I left a place too early for my liking, I went on to have an amazing experience somewhere else that I wouldn’t have had, had I stayed in the original location.
Some Other Pros Of Pre-purchasing Tickets
– The flights were purchased so I didn’t have to worry about budgeting for them anymore, worrying about having enough money, stressing out about waiting to get the best deal, or searching for major flights to book while I was on the road. This was very nice.
– It forced me to make the most of the time I had while I was there. Sure, I relaxed a lot of the time but when you travel open-endedly you tend to sink into the attitude of, I have plenty of time, I’ll do that [activity] tomorrow.
Some Other Cons Of Pre-Purchasing Tickets
-Because of the ticket I had, I flew into and out of the same city. This can be annoying because you basically have to travel in a huge circle instead of going with the flow.
-You have to save up a good chunk of money (or spend a lot of time beforehand travel hacking like I did) beforehand to purchase the tickets, as opposed to getting to a place, settling in, getting a job while you experience the culture and saving up money that way.
the skeleton thing makes perfect sense–thanks for taking the time to write all that out! i’m setting out on a 3-month road trip around the US before i go abroad, so i will have some solo time to decide what will work best for me. luckily, i don’t really think there’s a wrong way to travel as long as you pack light and get out there!
thanks again for the advice–looking forward to diving into your specific destination posts as i get closer to figuring out my must-sees. 🙂
3-months around the US?? Amazing. Traveling the US is next on my list, so I’ll have to pick your brain when you’re all done 🙂
If for some reason your road trip takes you through New Mexico, let me know and we can grab a drink or something!
Good luck with your planning and travels and let me know if you have more questions 🙂
welp, guess i’ve maxed out the allowable replies on this thread (sowwy). but yes, my road trip is taking me through NM–i’ll be there in November! definitely would love to meet you and talk travel; i’ll be leaving on the overseas portion about in early January so would be great timing for last-minute tips, and i can maybe give you some about roadtripping, depending on how successful i am. plus, that’s toward the end of my trip so i’ll probably be longing for human interaction. haha.
if you have the book: http://www.facebook.com/dana.sweet
if not, my email should be in these comments!
Did you have a more traditional sleeping bag for colder places?
Nope! I never really used a sleeping bag as I was mostly staying in hostels.
Great blog! You mentioned that you would change your footwear. Looking back, What footwear would you switch to?
I’m still trying to find a solid answer to that question. I go through shoes pretty quick, so currently I’ve been rocking the converse chuck taylors as they are quite versatile.
I am very inspired by this post. I have bean on a few solo trip and my camera bag alone was 30lbs. Last year i decided to switch systems from nikon to the fujifilm x-ti. With my lenses i’m nit sure ill be able to make the 20lbs but it will be close. I’ll be traveling to Honduras in the summer to photography for different ministries and can’t wait to take this minimalist approach on this trip. Thanks for the inspiration.
Thanks Dave (Awesome name by the way)!
Good luck with the minimalist approach and I hope it works wonders for you like it did for me 🙂
Hi! Trying to get your updated gear list 2015, thanks!
Hey Chris, I sent it to you via e-mail!
For shoes I wear a black pair of Keens. The brand is not so important, but they are durable and comfortable. I found them when I was looking for a hiking shoe that didn’t look like a hiking shoe. I’ve worn them to the top of mountains and out on the town cleaned up with a nice pair of slacks. I own other shoes, but I often ask myself why.
My bag started out with a last minute decision to travel out of town for the weekend. Alcohol may have been involved in the decision. Waking up in another city with a, “well here I am lets do this… Where am I?” attitude for a weekend was a life changer. My bag has evolved a little from the 2 pairs of socks and a pair of underwear from that first trip. I’d appreciate a peak into your current bag. I have yet to travel over seas, I’m not done here yet. My bag may soon evolve into an RV. haha
Love the “well here I am lets do this” attitude!
Good advice on the shoes! And I totally know that feeling of having the bag evolve into an RV…I have similar thoughts…
Safe travels 🙂
I don’t know if you’re still answering comments here but I’d like to ask about the maintenance of the Icebreaker clothing!
Since it’s wool, is it hard to keep its quality?
In their website, Icebreaker give tips for reducing pilling and keeping the anti-odor characteristic but I’d like to hear about a proper owner.
Did you had problems with pilling? Did you always washed it in washing machines? Did your clothes started losing its anti-odor power after a while?
I never had an issue with pilling. I did a mix of washing the clothing in both washing machine (in cold water, never used a dryer) and hand washing. The wool is delicate and one time I took off my shirt a little too forcefully and poked a hole in it with my fingernail. However, after I realized I couldn’t be as rough with it as I could with cotton I never had another issue with it.
For anti-odor. I noticed the shirt did lose a bit of its anti-odor power towards the end of my trip. However, this was after 9-10 months of regular wear. I had two shirts so I was basically alternating them every day and washing them once a week. This was impressive to me.
Hope this helps!