August 31, 2008

Travel Gear I Couldn't Live Without

Jared and I will soon be packing our backpacks again for the first time in ages. After nearly four months of living out of a car and then an apartment, we've accumulated a fair amount of stuff. Faced with 15kg baggage limits on Jetstar (Qantas' low-cost subsidiary), we can only take the bare essentials. Fortunately, I almost have packing down to a science. There are a few things in my backpack that now stand out as must-haves. For those of you who are embarking on a round-the-world trip soon, pack much less than you think you'll need (you can buy stuff along the way), but don't leave home without these crucial items.
  • Inflatable neck pillow, eyemask, and foam earplugs: Indispensable for overnight buses or rowdy hostels, and the pillow will also come in handy when camping. Spend a few bucks on an eyemask with a soft lining, and keep the airplane freebie as a spare. Make sure the inflatable pillow has a removable, washable exterior.

  • Convertible pants: Space in my backpack is precious, so everything must perform double duty. Convertible pants zip off at the knee into shorts. You'll find these at outdoor stores like REI, EMS, The North Face, and Patagonia. Shop around to find a brand that fits and flatters, and remember these are "summer clothes" that won't be in stores past September.

  • Space Bags: Put clothes into these plastic bags, zip shut, and roll the air out. Jared and I simply would not be able to fit all our clothes into our backpacks without Space Bags, available at The Container Store.

  • Collapsible water bottle: Both Nalgene and Platypus make soft water bottles that take up little space or weight when empty.

  • Quick-dry towel: It may only be one foot long by two feet wide, but hey, it dries quickly.

  • Sarong: If you're going to be spending time on beaches, bring a sarong or buy one as a souvenir. I've used mine as a beach towel, dress, bathrobe, picnic blanket, and scarf.

  • Video iPod: If you're going to be on the road for a year, buy an iPod with the most memory available. Load it with as many TV shows and movies as it will hold, especially videos that you can tolerate watching over and over again. Ever wanted to watch all six seasons of Lost, from the start? Now is your chance. (Ripping DVDs takes time, so don't leave this for the week before you depart.) Take advantage of all the free (!) podcasts on iTunes and stock up, especially on language learning podcasts like Coffee Break Spanish. Add some audiobooks and upload some photos too, while you're at it. When you are homesick or stuck on yet another 20-hour bus, your iPod will be your most valuable possession.

  • Sleeping bag liner: Perfect for when it's BYO linen, or when your sleeping bag needs to be just a bit warmer. Invest in a silk liner, which weighs less and takes up less space.

  • Flash drive: This isn't a must, but it's nice to have, and they are teeny tiny. Use it to store scans of your passport, immunization records, and résumé. Flash drives are also perfect for transferring photos from your camera. Otherwise, be sure to store a scan of your passport in your online email account.

  • Money stashes: To split up your cash and cards, you'll need something in addition to a money belt. Try flip-flops with a secret compartment, a bra stash, or a belt with a hidden zipper. The flip-flops are heavy, but worth it.

Wondering what else is in my backpack? Tennis shoes, hiking boots, a pair of jeans, a pair of shorts, ten pairs of underwear, ten pairs of ankle socks, two pairs of hiking socks, three bras, one tank top, four short sleeve shirts, two long sleeve shirts, one skirt, a micro fleece, a 3-in-1 jacket, t-shirt and boxers for pajamas, three bikinis, sleeping bag, mini first aid kit, assorted toiletries, camera, journal, books, a deck of cards, backpack rain cover, small Swiss Army knife, one bandanna, one bucket hat, three luggage locks, electric plug adapters, one small bottle of hand sanitizer, and a copy of my travel insurance policy. Now that we are out of cold weather for the foreseeable future, I'm ditching the winter hat, scarf, gloves, and sweater I bought in South America. You can also check out Jared's complete packing list, but he has since pared down. Pack much less than you think you'll need, we can't say it enough.

What are your travel essentials? Leave us a comment.


jje said...

wow jules - you've got WAY more than me! I'm impressed. how big is your bag? i'm packing now for "Leg 2", so your post was timely as ever.

My "can't live without it" includes the "bag in a bag" from (, my headlamp (used for just about anything, anywhere - heart my Petzl!), Ziploc Big Bags (my hiking boots were spider-free on my camping trips...unlike everyone else!), and my fleece stuff sack (makeshift pillow when your fleece is stuffed inside).

travel safe and enjoy getting back on the road! can't wait to see you two in SEA.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the list. Particularly like the Space Bags and the collapsable water bottles - we'll be checking both out!