After 13 countries and 39 cities, I finally feel like I have enough data points to write this post.
Questions I get often:
- How can you possibly travel for 3 weeks with a carry-on only? Heck, how do you travel for one week with a carry-on only?
- How does one work and travel at the same time?
- But what if… [insert unlikely scenario]?
- Is it really true your backpack consistent of 80% of your belongings?
I am going to do the whole deconstructed here-are-all-my-things-laid-out-on-my-bed. But first, these are three foundational philosophies that govern my packing:
Buy it there
If we’re being honest with ourselves, do we really need that giant bottle of shampoo? Unless you’re going to Antartica, you can find toiletries in every city. There are convenience stores in every country, they just might not be called 7-11. The general argument against this philosophy is: I don’t want to waste money. Cue price comparison. Shampoo in Canada: $9 vs. Shampoo in Colombia: $3 — I rest my case.
The power of laundry
For some reason, a lot of folks don’t even consider laundry as an option when they travel. Which is really strange to me since we do it all the time at home. Once a week will go a long way on the road.
Only multi/critical purpose items
This applies to clothing, cables, etc. Each item can be used for more than one scenario. For clothes, that means things can be layered — long sleeves, thin tops, that can be worn alone or under a hoodie. For electronics, that means one awesome adapter that doubles as a power cord. For all the “what if you… suddenly come across a snow storm in Colombia” — I refer to point number 1.
Alright, now that we’ve got that out of the way — let’s get to the fun stuff.
Note: You’ll notice a theme — I’m incredibly loyal to brands once I feel like their products have solved my needs.
I’ve added an asterisk (*) to what I think the game changers are. Just incase you don’t want to click on every. single. link.
The Goods (divided by categories)
- Minaal – Carry on
- I haven’t tried a lot of rucksacks, but here are a couple reasons why I love this bag: 1) it’s small (35L) which means it forces me to be even more minimal and it’s qualifies as a carry-on regardless of airline (more on that here.) 2) It feels good on my back, and the design doesn’t give away that I’m a backpacker. I can walk through a city and still blend in.
- Minaal – Daily
- Basically everything I said above but a smaller version that I can use daily once I’m settled into a new city (hence the name). I’ve brought it hiking and into coffee shops, works great in both scenarios.
- Packing cubes*
- Okay, the first game changer. As a self-professed unorganized, slightly-chaotic human being — I thought packing cubes were only for the anal retentive, like my sister, but man was I wrong. You can pack so much more with packing cubes, and by forcing yourself to separate bottoms in one cube and tops in another, you can easily pull things out because you know where everything is. Organization, who knew?
- MUJI toiletries bag (discontinued)
- I bought this on a random day, nothing strategic behind it. But it’s big enough just to fit all my toiletries, sometimes bursting at the seams which is a sign that I’ve packed too much.
- Pacsafe fanny pack (discontinued)
- For when I want to go out with just the essentials. This neat little fanny pack looks pretty slick and has a couple cool features like RSFD protection and a safety clip that is just safe enough, but not annoying as shit to undo when I need my wallet.
Clothing – 23 degrees+
- Shorts (4)
- Three pairs of athletic shorts (Lululemon and Nike) and one pair of jean shorts. Covers 99% of every situation I’d wear shorts for.
- Sleeveless tops (5)
- Two athletic tank tops (the bright ass ones) and three can-be-fancy-alone-or-under-my-leather-jacket tops.
- T-shirts (2)
- A plain v-neck, a scoop neck that can be worn casually or dressed up by putting a leather jacket on top.
- Bathing suits (2)
- A Calavera bikini (for things like surfing, where one can easily lose their top) and a regular Billabong bikini.
Clothing – >23 degrees
- Repping PN these days. Sometimes I still sneak in my Opencare hoodie.
- Leather Jacket
- For some reason, putting a leather jacket on top of anything makes you look like a put together human being.
- NorthFace Windbreaker
- Mostly for rain and when hiking or doing outdoorsy things.
- Long sleeves / blouses (4)
- Leggings / Pants (4)
Clothing – Misc
- Really quick dry towel, about 20 minutes indoors.
- Underwear (5)
- Bras (3.5)
- One sports bra, two regular bras and one set of pasties* (honestly, if you haven’t tried the pasties game while travelling — you need to.)
- Socks (2)
- I’m not really a sock person, but I’ll have a couple pairs incase I need them.
- Allbirds. I’ve hiked in them, walked down the street in them, ran in them — the best all-around travel shoe I’ve come across. Did I mention you’re suppose to wear them without socks because Merino wool is amazing? They’re also insanely light… Okay, I’ll stop gushing now.
- Flip flops*
Technology – Work setup
- 12″ Macbook
- My main work computer. It’s super light, which is ideal for travel or people on the go. It runs most applications, but I wouldn’t recommend it for developers or designers — you need more horsepower.
- Roost stand*
- Saving my neck and posture since 2015. Plus, it’s always a conversation starter.
- External Apple Keyboard
- To accompany the Roost stand.
- External Apple Trackpad
- See the two points above.
- Bose Noise Canceling Headphones*
- Great for focusing but even better for plane rides. The loud wind tunnel sound when you’re at 30,000 ft, disappears with these bad boys.
- iPad Pro – 9.7” with Keyboard & Pencil
- Can double as a second monitor and more importantly, be my backup computer when I’m at a cafe that has no outlets.
Technology – Misc
- For reading and things.
- iPhone 6S (not pictured, used to take the photo)
- Apple earpods (2)
- Again, for obvious reasons. But I always bring a spare because I’m prone to losing/breaking things.
- GoPro Hero 4 – Silver
- To capture any crazy adventures and when I want to make a video of my trip (like so)
- Sandmarc Compact Pole
- For the GoPro, to take pictures like this.
- Random Go Pro Accessories
- Includes extra batteries, different mounts, memory cards, etc.
- Wifi hotspot backup because my job is on the internet.
- Apple Watch + extra strap.
- Jury’s still out on this one.
Technology – Power supply
- Mogics Donut*
- An extension cord and a universal adapter. The circular design is also amazing.
- Apple USB-C
- For the MacBook
- Apple Lightning cables (2)
- For iPhone and iPad
- USB to Mini-USB (2)
- For the kindle, GoPro and BRCK
- USB to Micro-USB
- For the Bose Headphones
- Apple Watch Charger
- USB-C to many dongle
Toiletries (not shown in detail, because… it wouldn’t fit)
- Mini toothpaste
- Mini face cream
- Mini Shampoo
- Whatever I have left over from hotel visits.
- Mini Conditioner
- Same as the shampoo.
- Face soap/bar
- Same as the shampoo and conditioner.
- Dry Shampoo*
- This is KEY after a long flight for me, so I don’t feel particular gross.
- Mini Sunscreen
- Mini Comb
- Wet wipes*
- They’re just so darn versatile.
- Venus razor
- Mini nail clipper
- 3-pack Tide hand wash laundry detergent
Could you tell I prefer mini things?
For females (and males who are interested)
- MAC liner brush
- NAKED Basics
- NAKED double-sided brush
- L’Oreal Foundation
- I got this at some airport, I think in Peru.
- Stella Liquid Eyeliner
- Mini sample pencil liner from Sephora
- Shu Uemura curler
- Necklaces (2)
- Headbands (2)
- Hair tie
- Bobby pins (2)
- Q-tips (3)
- Advil and Tylenol. Great for when you sunburn your legs to a second degree burn.
- To help jet lag (if there is any).
- Allergy meds
- When I run into a fury creature that I want to play with.
- Extreme diarrhea pills
- You need a prescription for these. But they’re like the pills in the Matrix, if you have diarrhea — they’re a saviour. If you think you do and you’re wrong, you’ll have the worst diarrhea.
- Malaria pills
- Just extras I had left over. Again you’ll need a prescription for these.
- Writing tools
- Soft leather moleskin
- Field notes
- I have a partial Indonesian — English dictionary in here, created while hitchhiking.
- Pens (2)
- Bedtime Bliss Eye mask
- Ear Peace ear plugs
- Extra Allbirds Shoelace
- Minimalist wallet (I often use as my “fake” wallet incase I need to bribe a cop again)
- Credit Cards (3)
- Debit Cards (2)
- Even if you travel once a year, this is worth it. $50 USD for 5 years, countless hours saved in customs.
- Travel Insurance
- Manual Watch
- Emergency toilet paper & Ziplock bags
Since I’m an 80/20 kind of person, here’s a list of the game changers for all you TL;DRers:
- Packing cubes
- Pasties (for the females)
- Teva’s Classic Mush
- Roost stand
- Bose Noise Canceling Headphones
- Mogics Donut
- Dry Shampoo (probably most applicable for females)
- Wet wipes
Whew, you still with me? That was a long list. Can you imagine what the list would look like if it wasn’t a carry-on? Yeah, me neither.
I hope you found something on this list useful (or at least entertaining), I’d be happy to chat travel gear anytime if you have questions!
P.S. This list is in permanent beta — I’m always trying to make it better, more efficient, etc. In 2017, I’m adding a mirrorless camera (and some gear) which should shake things up — but until then, happy travels!