In Part 1 of this series, “How I Pack”, I discussed my overall philosophy behind packing my bag for long-term travel. I covered my reasons for choosing a carry-on sized pack, my pack selection criteria, and packing cubes, which have been a great tool for “putting it all together.” (Covered in more detail, in Part 3.)
Here in Part 2 I’ll cover specifics of what I’ve chosen to put in my pack, how much, and why. Please bear with me, as this post will be somewhat long, with photos.
THINKING IT THROUGH
Since I knew I’d be traveling around the world for at least one year, if not more, I wanted to be prepared to see that world exactly as it is, to the best of my ability. So my first critical decision in this phase was not to limit myself to climates with good weather.
I also didn’t want to cycle gear in and out of my pack as I traveled from country to country, and season to season. Not only would that potentially be expensive, it’d be wasteful and time-consuming. I’m not touring shopping malls, after all.
To add a second layer of complexity, I planned to spend time in both outdoor and urban environments. Packing for the outdoors is relatively easy. Quality weatherproof’ish clothes and comfortable hiking shoes typically suffice.
But visiting a city like New York or Tokyo or *gasp* Paris? Wearing earthtones… in public? Mon dieu!! As if being an American abroad isn’t hard enough, I didn’t want to look like one too!
So because I’m not a savage – and I’ll forgive you for the implication – I also had to strategize for outfits I could wear to a museum, a nice restaurant, or walking around in a city without looking like I had wandered in from the nearest wilderness looking for food.
Not every traveler does that, of course, and not every traveler has to. But I wanted to, and it’s paid off for me in terms of being comfortable in cities precisely because I look a bit less like a tourist. Generally I feel like the more I blend in, the better.
Don’t worry, the irony of saying that as a six-foot-tall bald guy with a red beard and arm tattoos isn’t lost on me.
I also think it makes a positive impression on residents in the cities I visit. On some level I’m trying to communicate, “I care enough to look nice, because I am a guest in your country.” And whether or not they “hear” me, I choose to express it in the ways that I can.
Once I return to my “Dark Side of Long Term Traveling” series, I’ll have more to say about how important this principle has become to me, and why.
Third and finally, I knew I wouldn’t be traveling with specialized gear. I’m not carrying a wetsuit for scuba diving, crampons for ice climbing, a tent for camping, or a dog for sled racing. Specialized gear is expensive, heavy, and usually takes up a lot of space, even if I put Rover on a diet. (Sorry, buddy.) So if those experiences present themselves, I plan to rent whatever additional gear I might need, or buy if necessary.
At the same time, I wanted to have a few basic necessities that would be useful for the outdoors, but nothing that wouldn’t be useful in the city, too. So, a portable light source is great! A portable hammock? Not so much.
(Oh, and since I am a DJ, I wanted to bring what I use do that, too. 🙂 )
THE BIG REVEAL
All that sounds like a lot, right? To try and plan for 4 seasons, city life, outdoorsy stuff, DJ’ing, and traveling for more than a year?
Like, maybe it won’t fit into a 44-liter pack and I’m crazy for trying? Like, maybe I should borrow Hermoine’s handbag with the Undetectable Extension Charm? /nerd alert
Yeah, I thought so too. But get ready because I’m gonna blow your mind.
So here is almost everything I am currently traveling with. Enough gear to take me around the world, and be relatively comfortable in all 4 seasons – plus the city, the country, and the club – and in any non-specialized environment.
I say “almost everything” because I took this picture in May, less than two months into my travels. In the six months since then, I’ve purchased new items that I either needed, or really really really wanted like really bad.
But since it took a whole afternoon to take this picture and the ones that follow, I decided not to do a re-shoot. So below each picture, I’ll list which additional things I’m now carrying, where applicable. Regardless, it all still fits into the same 44-liter pack, just with a bit more weight.
Oh, and I should mention I was naked when I took that picture. This was literally everything except my hiking shoes, which I left on the floor. Seriously.
Click to see a revealing video of me doing that.
Now I’ll show in detail all the items above. Again, please bear with the extensive documentary photos. I’ll provide a downloadable PDF with everything at the very end.
Also this post does not include what I’m carrying in my Moroccan leather shoulder bag, like my books, journal, etc. It’s just what’s in my backpack.
CATEGORY 1: CLOTHING ESSENTIALS
I’m not gonna get very far without basic clothing items like pants, shirts, and underwear. While “The Nude Backpacker” would probably be a fun blog to — actually no, that wouldn’t be a fun blog at all, even if those of you who clicked on the video above might disagree with me.
Nope, never gonna let you live that down. (Never gonna give it up…)
I should also mention I do have a little bit more than I technically “need.” But since I’m a bigger guy, the extra weight for variety and “luxury” items isn’t a big deal.
7 t-shirts – Includes 2 categories: bright shirts for the country and dark shirts for the city.
8 pairs of underwear – I can go a week+ without laundry! I started with the H&M cotton briefs and David Archy brand of travel underwear in the photos, which I don’t recommend. Now I’m slowly transitioning to Uniqlo AIRism, which are much nicer, and more fun!
3 pairs of socks – 2 medium-weight and 1 heavy-weight SmartWool brand, which I’ve written about here.
3 more t-shirts, for 10 total, which is too many. But I’m emotionally attached to some of them that I’ve bought along the way, in places like Torres Del Paine National Park, and the Temple of the Way of Light. I’ll part with a couple of them soon.
1 pair of underwear for 9 total. Woohoo!
1 pair of “dress” socks that are more colorful.
1 pair prAna Bridger travel jeans – Lightweight, durable, and reasonably stylish! See more on my website here or on the prAna website.
1 pair H&M skinny-fit black pants – These and a black t-shirt are generally my “dressy” outfit, and have been more than adequate for modern “smart casual” restaurants. (H&M)
1 Dunkelvolk (Peruvian brand) fabric belt. Since traveling I’ve lost maybe 10 pounds, so my jeans started falling off and this became a necessity.
1 prAna Barringer full-zip hoodie – I am a hoodie connoisseur, and this one is simply fantastic. I love it. It fits great, looks great, and is warm and breathable, and stylish. Greatest. Hoodie. Ever. One of my very best friends on the road. <3 (prAna)
1 pair prAna Zion shorts – Better to have a dedicated pair of shorts than “shpants” with legs that unzip to shorts. Ugh. (prAna)
1 pair prAna Zioneer pants – These are relatively slim-fitting compared to most hiking pants, and dry very quickly when wet. The thigh pocket is also super useful to put my iPhone in while hiking, traveling, or on crowded city streets if I’m worried about pickpockets. (prAna)
1 pair lightweight Reebok running shorts – After weeks of sneaking to hostel bathrooms in my underwear late at night, I bought these to sleep in.
1 Jockey undershirt – My pajama top. Recently replaced with a nicer, soft H&M v-neck.
1 ribbed tank-top – For the beach. Replaced with this screen-printed tank top, so I look a bit less like a felon.
1 pair Merrell Hiking Shoes (center) – good for general outdoor use, though not waterproof.
1 pair Onitsuka Tigers by Asics (left) – These function as my city and “dress” shoes. Added bonus: they’re light and don’t take up a lot of space. (Onitsuka)
1 pair Bedrock Earthquake sandals (right) – Comfortable, durable, made from recycled materials. Plus extremely lightweight and with the heel strap they’re suitable for all outdoor uses. They’re not as convenient as slip on/off flip-flops, but that’s a tradeoff. (Bedrock)
CATEGORY 2: OUTDOOR GEAR
With the basics covered, these are the specialty clothing items I use for hot/cold/rainy weather.
2 outdoor technical shirts – For hiking and outdoor activities. I replaced the blue one with a black technical-style jersey from Medellín, Colombia’s championship football team, Atletico Nacional.
1 prAna Gatten thermal top – An outerwear / base-layer hybrid. It’s comfortable and fits well, and I’ve used it often. But I’ll probably trade it for a thinner, dedicated base layer to save space and weight, because I don’t use this as outerwear often. (prAna)
1 pair warm gloves – I bought these in preparation for my 5-day Torres Del Paine National Park trek in Chilé. I replaced them with North Face “e-tip” gloves with the touchscreen-compatible fingertips, so I can use my iPhone when it’s cold.
1 pair unbranded thermal bottoms – Another on-the-road purchase. Replaced with a SmartWool brand while in the US.
1 Merino Wool Buff – I’ve seen this on almost everyone’s list, and on many people’s heads! Transforms from a cold-weather scarf to a warm-weather head covering to a balaclava and more. A travel essential! I only wish I had chosen something other than boring gray. (Buff)
1 North Face Packable Thermoball Synthetic Down Jacket – Stuffs into its own pocket! This was almost a deal-breaker for my pack, since it took up more space than I expected. But I found a good home for it, which I’ll show in Part 3. (North Face)
1 Marmot PreCip Packable Waterproof Shell – A late but essential addition. By Day 10 I had already used it. (Marmot)
To handle very cold outdoor environments, I layer like this:
Technical Shirt + prAna Thermal + Hoodie + Jacket + Wool Buff + Gloves + Hat = WARM
If windy/rainy then I add the Marmot shell. Like so:
1 pair Speedo swim trunks – Points if you can guess what these are for.
1 large Moroccan overshirt – I typically wear this over my tank top at the beach to protect from sunburns.
1 Peruvian woven shirt – I bought this while at my Temple of the Way of Light retreat, from a shaman named Maestro Suy, who made it. I enjoy wearing it while in hostels.
CATEGORY 3: NON-CLOTHING EQUIPMENT
Here are the various items I use for daily living and outdoor activities.
1 dark wool beanie hat: OK yes fine I know this is a piece of clothing.
1 carabiner coffee mug: I used this while trekking in Torres Del Paine, but not after. So I gave it to my friend, Superbro Gary aka Hose, and replaced it with a collapsible silicone cup like this one, which I still haven’t used much.
1 camp towel (blue): Also not used often, but my Hitchhiker’s Guide says always to know know where my towel is. I do wish I had purchased the larger “bath sheet” version, but I probably don’t have room for it. (REI)
1 laundry bag (black): This came free with my packing cubes and I didn’t think I would need it. I was so wrong. I use this all the time. I don’t know what I was thinking.
4 packing cubes (not pictured) – 1 large-size, 2 medium, 1 small. All my clothes go into these for organization and compression. More to come in Part 3.
1 Black Diamond Storm headlamp: Good for camping in the outdoors, and for use in hostels late at night with the red-light setting. Better than a flashlight because it leaves my hands free. Fun story: While traveling, I met up with a friend from Los Angeles who, before he left, agreed to buy me this headlamp using my REI dividend, and then brought it to me in his suitcase. Free international shipping! Thanks Alan! (REI)
1 collapsible Vapur Anti-Bottle (red): BPA free, and it ensures I always have a reusable water bottle handy. I recently upgraded to the much better 1-liter version from the .75L version pictured here. (Vapur)
1 handmade Peruvian llama’s wool beanie from Pisac, Peru – I had to have this.
1 handmade Peruvian llama’s wool scarf from Pisac, Peru – I absolutely had to have this too. Fortunately the hat and beanie go together really nicely.
1 packable 22L mini-backpack, like this – I originally planned to use my Moroccan shoulder bag for day trips, but found it’s not really suitable for the outdoors. This type of backpack isn’t fancy, but it does the job.
CATEGORY 4: USEFUL TECH
I made a decision early on that I would continue – and expand – my creative pursuits while traveling. The biggest consequence of that decision was that it unavoidably meant bringing a laptop.
Sennheiser HD-25 DJ headphones – There’s good reason why these are now the industry standard. Incredibly lightweight, with fantastic sound. (Sennheiser)
2x Patriot Rage 32GB Flash Drives – My preferred brand. I use these to play music from while DJ’ing. They’re rock solid, and very well-reviewed on Amazon. (Amazon)
2015 MacBook Pro 13” – Yes, it’s a lot of added weight, but I can manage my music collection for DJ’ing, work on my blog, edit photos, write email, research travel plans, and take care of life stuff like physical mail and bills. It’s so much easier than it would be on my phone or an iPad. Plus if I didn’t have a full-size keyboard to write on, I might go crazy.
Lacdo water-repellent laptop case – For an added layer of protection in my pack in case of rain. Also good for carrying to coffee shops, etc. (Amazon)
SteriPen Ultra – This was a gift from my friend “E” who I was seeing before I left San Francisco. It removes 99.9% of bacteria from water. It hasn’t come in handy quite yet, but I’m sure someday it will. (SteriPEN)
Bag of cables – Inside the bag is my travel power adapter (Amazon). It’s very lightweight, but sometimes struggles to hold up my MacBook charging brick. I’ve also got a mini Y-plug splitter, to split one headphone signal into two if I want to share music with someone, and an RCA-to-mini cable so I can DJ from my laptop, if necessary. I also threw in some Velcro zip-ties, in case I need them. And finally… A PAPERCLIP. Why? For changing SIM cards in my phone when I travel from country to country.
iPhone charging cable – For obvious reasons. Not sure why I photographed it, to be honest…
2x TSA-approved combination luggage locks – Must-haves for storing valuables in hostel lockers. And while I don’t expect to ever check my bag, one never knows, and these have the ability to notify me if they’re unlocked and re-locked by baggage handlers. I have somewhat mixed feelings about how they’re designed though. Four times I’ve had the locks magically change their combination while open, due to the way they can be reset. It’s been a pain to run through 1000 numbers, one by one, to figure out the new combo. But I still think this is better than potentially losing a key. (Amazon)
1 small Bluetooth speaker – Playing music livens up any room I’m staying in, and is nice for sharing music and distracting me while I pack. The speaker adds weight, but when I want it, I’m glad to have it.
1-Terabyte USB backup drive – I back up the content of my laptop to this drive. Again, more weight, but essential.
Microfiber cleaning cloth – Laptop screens, phones, and glasses get dirty! (Amazon)
CATEGORY 5: TOILETRIES
Toiletries! Probably the most exciting category, right? What you’ve all been waiting for.
1 Philips beard trimmer – I chose an inexpensive model to save on money and weight. So it makes a mess. But it does the trick. (Amazon)
1 sleep mask – This version “bulges” off my eyelids, which to me is far more comfortable.
1 bag of assorted painkillers and non-prescription meds (top) – Including 140 (!) Claritin tablets, since it’s the only allergy medication I’ve ever found that works for me.
1 bag of prescription medication (middle) – It’s good to have sleeping pills, antibiotics, and anti-diarrheal medication for when I need them. Which fortunately I haven’t yet, except for the sleeping pills.
4 personal grooming tools – Cuticle nippers, small nail clippers, tweezers, and safety scissors for my beard. Just because I’m technically “homeless” doesn’t mean I need to look like it.
Glasses – Sometimes I need my glasses to find my glasses. *sadface* These also have a hard case not pictured here.
Fruit & vegetable peeler – I heard this would come in handy in South America, where produce safety can be dodgy. But I never used it, so I left it in a hostel.
Spare contact lenses – I had to re-up in Colombia. Getting an eye exam in Spanish is fun! “Uno… y dos. Uno. Dos.”
Assorted toiletries – Toothpaste/toothbrush, razor w/ blades, small bottle of cologne for fanciness, contact lens solution, etc. I assume I don’t have to go into much detail here, except for 3 noteworthy items:
Eagle Creek Toiletries Case – The clear sides of this case make it much easier to find individual items without digging. (Amazon)
3M Ultrathron insect repellent – Mega-DEET. I haven’t used it yet, but should it ever come in handy, I’m sure I’ll be happy to have it. (Amazon)
Deodorant – Pro tip: Avoid traveling with roll-on deodorant. This small bottle once had its cap come off in transit, and due to pressure changes in an airplane leaked all over the inside of my bag. Fun! From now on, I only travel with a solid.
CATEGORY 6: MAKING ROOM FOR THE SACRED
I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t travel with a small amount of personal sacred items to ground me, remind me of my purpose, and connect me with something higher. I’ve also got a pretty strong sentimental streak. Fortunately, it doesn’t require large or heavy items to express these sides of me. Usually just the opposite.
Some of the things in the small bag remind me of close friends, family, brothers-in-arms, and people who have helped me get here. Others represent pieces of me that I want or need to stay in close contact with. And I have mementos and reminders of precious times I don’t want to forget. I don’t go into this bag often, but when I do, it’s always a grounding, emotional feeling.
Many of these items also came in handy during my 12-day ayahuasca retreat at the Temple of the Way of Light in June 2016. During the ceremonies, I would place them on the small prayer mat (pictured), like an altar, to give me strength and comfort during long, difficult nights.
I recently bought a new prayer mat, and gifted the pictured one to my friend Uschii, who used it during her retreat at the Temple, as well.
So… that’s everything! Coming up next, in Part 3 I’ll wrap things up, and cover how I get all this stuff into my pack. For those of you who have been asking about how I use packing cubes and why they’re so valuable and important to me, you’re finally going to get to see. Hooray!
Until then, I’ve created a complete list for everything I’m carrying, you can download that PDF via Dropbox here. Enjoy.
Go back in time! Part 1 available here.
The exciting conclusion! Part 3 is here.
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