Travel Light, Travel Anywhere: The Ultimate Light Packing List

My bag at LAX on Sept 01, 2009.

Note: my complete packing list is below, but parts of it have been updated in a new post: Updated Light Packing List (or I’m No Longer An Ultra Light Traveler!). After you finish below, come back up and read the update.

Update #2: Ultra Light Packing List (Freezing Cold Weather Edition) – Still using the same backpack, but with a few different cold weather items.

This post has been in the works for a while and I’ve received a few e-mails and in person requests for it so I think it’s time. :)

I actually wrote the original draft after a trip to Germany earlier this year.  My gear list has changed a bit since then so here is my updated light packing list.  This is all the equipment I have with me on my current 100+ day trip. (Note: I’ve now been traveling like this for well over 500 days.)

Some of my gear I bought specifically for travel and some of it I’ve had for years and it may not really be good for travel.  I have trouble throwing perfectly good items away until they’re ruined (like the fairly bulky Nike shorts in the first picture below).

When packing light it’s important to know your destination and your general plans.  Obvious, right?

It’s about preparedness.  You might visit somewhere warm and then go on a side trip to the mountains (for example) where it’s cold.

So know your destination and your general plans. Will you need really warm clothes?  Do you plan on swimming or hiking?  Do you plan on traveling from a warm destination to a cold destination without stopping home to change gear?  The more climates you’ll be exposed to the more clothes you may need.

The packing list works from about 5° C to 40° C because of layers.  That’s cutting it close on the cold side since I’m a naturally cold person. Any colder and I’d definitely need warmer clothes.

But I made a decision to never travel to cold climates so what I have here will suit me for almost any destination I choose.  To some people deciding not to travel to cold places means I’m missing out.  That’s the beauty of travel and life.  To each their own. There are enough warm places to visit on Earth to last multiple lifetimes.  Focusing on those places just makes it a little bit easier to choose where to go.

Before I get into it you should know that I’ve included affiliate links to Altrec and Amazon in this post. If you don’t want to support this site don’t click on the links, no worries. :) (That’s not a guilt trip, I’m serious, don’t click the links if you don’t want to.) If you do want to buy something and support the site, click the links. Simple as that…

My Complete List of Clothing

Every last bit of my clothing.

Every last bit of my clothing.

Starting from the top left quadrant and working my way around clockwise:

1) Marmot Ion windbreaker / light rain jacket

In the picture you see it folded into itself. Before packing it I wrap it with 2 rubber bands to make it even more compact.

This jacket is perfect when it’s 14° C – 20° C or when there is a light rain or wind.  I use it often as an extra layer under my Outdoor Research jacket.

Buy the Marmot Men’s Ion Windshirt

2) Outdoor Research Eternal Jacket

This jacket isn’t waterproof, but it’s fine in light rain.  It’s surprisingly warm and isn’t bulky at all.  It also looks great, which is always nice when you’re focused on function, but are rewarded with form as well.  I love the pocket on the front left.  It’s where I usually keep a camera so it’s always at the ready.

Buy the Outdoor Research Men’s Eternal Jacket

3) Ski mask

I use this strictly for robbing banks.  How do you think I fund my journeys?  Purchased at K-Mart 10 years ago for $5 and has been used consistently since then. ;) It always gets a laugh or a scared look.

4) Patagonia Capilene 3 Zip-neck Long Sleeve

Light, warm, and breathable.  This is an awesome baselayer when the temp starts dropping.

Buy the Patagonia Men’s Capilene 3 Zip Neck

5) Icebreaker BodyFit 150 T-shirt and Icebreaker BodyFit 250 T-Shirt

I’m not perfect and I didn’t make the connection before buying these that they’re not vegan.  My brother actually pointed it out to me.  These Icebreaker T-shirts are made of merino wool in New Zealand.  Supposedly the company treats their sheep well, but any animal used as a slave isn’t OK in my book.  That said, it would be far more disrespectful for me to get rid of these than just wearing them.

(Tangent: My being vegan is about respect at the core.  If, for example, I’m at a restaurant and they accidentally put some  dairy product on my food I will eat it instead of sending it back to be thrown away.  It’s more respectful to eat the food at that point than get rid of it.)

With all that you’d think I’d tell you not to buy these shirts.  The truth is, they are well made, they don’t smell (I’ve been known to wear them multiple times between washes), and they dry quickly.  They do make me itch though.  I’ve read that this wool isn’t supposed to make you itch, but I have sensitive skin and it does itch.

They’re also really expensive at ~$50 each.

Buy the Icebreaker Men’s BodyFit

6) Patagonia Capilene 1 T-shirt

This is the synthetic equivalent to the Icebreaker T-shirts.  It feels great (doesn’t itch) and dries quickly, but it attracts odors moreso than the Icebreaker.  I bought mine on sale for $25.

Buy the Patagonia Men’s Capilene 1 T Shirt

7) Nike basketball shorts

Nothing special about these.  I’ve had them for 5 years.  They are pretty bulky (especially the waistband), but I need something to workout in while I’m on the road.

8) Adidas Originals Superstar II

They’re leather, and I bought them before being vegan.  They’ve lasted a long time, look pretty nice, and are very comfortable.

Buy the Adidas Originals Men’s Superstar II Sneaker

9) Vibram FiveFingers KSO

The Vibram FiveFingers have been getting a ton of press lately.  Unfortunately, all I’ve heard is positives.  There is one glaring negative to these shoes: they stink.  The stench that emanates from them still lingers after a wash.

They are great shoes though.  I absolutely love how they feel, but because of the stink I mostly use them for working out or hiking.

Buy the Vibram FiveFingers KSO

10) Smartwool Men’s Adrenaline Light Mini Crew Socks

Bought these at the same time as the Icebreaker shirts, so also didn’t make that wool connection.  They make my feet sweat, but they don’t smell bad, are easy to wash, and dry quickly.  I wouldn’t buy them again, but I’m going to get as much use out of them as I can now that I own them.

Smartwool Men’s Adrenaline Light Mini Crew Socks

11) 2 pairs Patagonia Lightweight Endurance Quarter Socks

Similar to the Smartwool socks, except they’re 60% synthetic and 40% wool.  They don’t make my feet sweat so I hope I can find a 100% synthetic pair similar to these when the time comes.

Buy Patagonia Lightweight Endurance Quarter Socks

12) 2 UnderArmor Boxer Briefs

I’ve had these for a few years and used to only use them when playing basketball.  They’re really comfortable, easy to wash, and dry quickly.  I was going to replace them with 2 pairs of ExOfficio, but I probably won’t do that for another year.  At ~$20 per pair they’re not cheap.

Buy Under Armour Boxers

13) ExOfficio Give-N-Go Boxer Brief

The tagline to these is: “17 countries. 6 weeks. One pair of underwear. Okay, maybe two.”

And they fully live up to the hype.  Odor resistant, quick drying, light, and they even double as swim trunks. :)  $25, and well worth it.

Buy the ExOfficio Men’s Give-N-Go Boxer Brief

14) Columbia Titanium Omni-Dry Silver Ridge II Convertible Pant

It took me months to find convertible pants I was even a little bit happy with.

The shorts don’t look great, but with a 10″ inseam they are decent.  Being that I’m 6’5″ I would like them to have a 12-13″ inseam, but I’ll deal with it.

I really like the zippered side pocket.  The zipper closes down.  Which is unnatural so I feel like a pickpocket would have trouble with them.

The insides of the pockets feel weak so I hope they last.

I couldn’t find these in a darker color (the color Shade was sold outeverywhere, in stores, and online).  While we’re on the subject of color: why do no manufacturer’s make black convertible pants?  Come on people, step up your games!

Columbia Men’s Titanium Omni-Dry Silver Ridge II Convertible Pant – S’09

15) Smartwool Mid-weight Bottoms

I sure bought a lot of wool in one day, didn’t I?  These things clock in at $60, but they are warm and work well under my very light convertible pants.

No real complaints.  They’re easy to wash, dry quickly, and do the job I bought them for.  I’ll find synthetic long underwear when it’s time to replace them.

Buy Smartwool Men’s Midweight Thermal Bottom 15 852

My Complete Toiletry Kit

It looks like a lot, but it packs well.

It looks like a lot, but it packs well.

1) PackTowl – Medium

This towel is outstanding.  It packs up small, soaks up water well and dries in a few hours.  It also comes with a mesh pouch that you can attach it to the outside of your bag and keep everything in your bag dry.  (Assuming you have to use the towel and then pack up and get a move on.)

2) Earplugs

Nothing special, just a bunch of ear plugs, including a pair of EarPlanes in case I have crazy sinuses and need to fly.

3) Pack of facial tissues

4) Light My Fire Spork

This spork is awesome.  Includes a “knife” edge too.  It’s heat resistant (doesn’t melt in high heat), small, light, and durable. You can pick these up at any outdoors store.

5) Plastic comb

6) Mach 3 Razor + 4 blades

7) Pacific Shaving Oil

This, my friends, is the greatest invention ever made for light packers.  I’ve been using it at home for almost a year too.  No need for shaving cream as this oil softens the hairs and doesn’t cause razor burn.  Seriously.  I have the most sensitive skin in the world.  Touch my face and my skin gets red and itchy.  Shaving has been a nightmare since I was 13.  While it’s still a nightmare, at least I don’t get razor burn very often.  (Sometimes, when my skin is being especially irritated and I shave it gets even more irritated.  I can’t blame the shaving oil for that though.)

Each tiny bottle of this oil is supposed to last for 100 shaves.  I’ve found it lasts about 50 for me, and I’m cool with that.

Buy this awesome shaving oil at http://pacificshaving.com.

8) Pacific Shaving Nick Stick

For when you cut yourself shaving.  Which I do often because if you touch anything sharp to my aforementioned sensitive skin it breaks open and bleeds like blood is going out of style.

Not exactly a necessity, but you can also buy this at http://pacificshaving.com.

9) Razor Gator Razor Extendor

This little tool says it makes razor blades last up to 10 weeks.  If you use disposable razor blades it saves you a lot of money.  I’ve been using these for almost a year, and while they don’t make my blades last 10 weeks, they do last about 1 month each instead of just 1 week.  Well worth the few dollars the tool costs.

Pick them up at http://www.razor-gator.com.

10) Hydrocortisone cream

Did I mention I have sensitive, itchy skin?

11) SPF 50 Sunblock Stick

This stuff is awesome as it doesn’t make your face all greasy.  Unfortunately, it does dry out my already dry skin even more.  Sometimes you gotta roll with the punches.

12) Tea tree oil

Oh how I love you dear tea tree oil, let me count the ways.  Use this antiseptic oil to clean cuts and for blemishes (i.e. acne).  I go through 1 bottle per year.

13) Nail clippers and small scissors

14) Three 3 oz bottles of Dr Bronner’s Baby Mild Organic Fair Trade Liquid Soap

I buy the Baby soap because my skin is more sensitive than a baby’s.  3 oz will last about a month.  This soap is highly concentrated and I use it not only to shower, but to brush my teeth and wash my clothes.  It’s the ultimate multi-use product.  It’s also biodegradable so using it out in the wilderness is less stressful on nature.

http://www.drbronners.com or most health food stores (including Whole Foods).

15) Gold Bond Medicated Powder

I replaced Baby Powder with Gold Bond.  I can use it to help with stinky shoes AND for itchy skin.  Thanks Gold Bond.  I smell like old people and I love it.

16) First Aid Kit

I got this kit free somewhere.  The SouthLake Hospital packet above it has some aspirin and bandaids.  I don’t plan on cutting myself, but I guess if I do I can do something about it.

17) Pepto Bismol tablets

Just in case.

18) Hand sanitizer

I keep this on me at all times because nothing sucks more than getting sick while you’re traveling.  Killing the germs on your hands helps with that so if I can’t wash my hands before eating I use this.

19) Triple antibiotic ointment

Again, in case I cut myself.  Honestly I wouldn’t have packed this normally, I just didn’t want to throw it away during my downsizing.

20) Saline nasal spray

I didn’t have room for a Neti pot so this is the next best thing.  Actually, it’s not even close to as useful as a Neti pot, but it does help with dry nasal passages when you’re flying.

21) Vitamin E Oil

Holy wow is this the best moisturizer ever discovered by mankind.  A little goes a long way.  If it was possible to get a Bachelor of Science in Moisturizing I would have it.  What I’m saying is, I know my moisturizers.  If you have dry skin, use this stuff.  It’s oily, but it actually works.  Not like all that Jergens, Cetaphil, and other garbage that’s advertised on TV.  You can pick this up in the vitamin section of any store that sells vitamins.

22) Dental Floss

23) Another Gold Bond

I love smelling like a medicated old man, ok?!

24) Folding tooth brush

I don’t know where you are on the love/hate scale for WalMart, but this tooth brush is awesome.  The bristles are anti-bacterial and it’s a full sized travel tooth brush when you unfold it.  And they only cost $1.47 at WalMart.

25) Tom’s of Maine Sensitive Skin Deodorant

Made with soothing camomile.  Mmmmmm.  This deodorant rules.  Each stick lasts about 2 months.  I was only going to pack 1, but I didn’t want to throw away the stick that was 2/3 gone so I packed it.  Available at most health food stores like Whole Foods.  I’ve also found this at a lot of chain grocery stores like Publix.

My Electronic Items

Because I Need To Work On The Road

Because I Need To Work On The Road

1) Asus Eee 1000HE

This is a great laptop, but it’s not perfect.  10″ screen.  Extraordinary long battery life.  Built in 1.3 mega pixel web cam.  Almost full sized keyboard.  And it’s light, of course.

Dislikes: I wish it was flat.  The shape makes it a little cumbersome to pack.

Although I love this laptop I think the ultimate travel/work laptop should have at least a 12″ screen, a full sized keyboard, and still weight 3lbs or less.  The Apple Macbook Air would almost work if it didn’t suck. ;)  Seriously, just one USB port Apple?  WTF are you thinking?  Also not worth paying 4 times the cost of the Asus Eee (or any other netbook for that matter), unless you actually need extra processing power (for editing video or photos for instance).

Buy the ASUS Eee PC 1000HE

2) Western Digital Passport 250GB hard drive with Kroo case

For backups of my important work documents and pictures/video of my travels.

3) Unlocked Motorola RAZR V3xx

I got this free from AT&T.  I don’t buy phones.  AT&T was also nice enough to unlock it for me and not charge me an early termination fee for canceling my contract a year early.  (Of course, I’ve been with them for 9 years, so I should hope they’d be nice about everything.)

I’m now using Virgin Mobile in Australia and it’s working out well.  (Even though Virgin Mobile has spotty coverage.)

4) Flip Ultra Video Camera

I’ve had this for over a year and I love it.  Almost every video on my YouTube account (youtube.com/karolgajda) was made with this camera.  That includes the concert videos.  Normal cameras distort audio in loud situations.  Not the Flip Ultra.  Here you see it packed in a water proof aLOKSAK.  I pack all my clothes and toiletries in aLOKSAKs too.  (aLOKSAKs are also my secret to cleaning clothes virtually anywhere.  That video is coming soon.)

Pick up a Flip UltraHD Camcorder (newer version of what I have)

5) Canon PowerShot SD890 IS Digital Elph

It’s not pictured because I had to take the picture with something. :)  I love this camera.  Strong zoom and high quality photos for a point and shoot.

Buy a Canon PowerShot SD890IS

6) Pacsafe Metrosafe 200 Shoulder Bag

I bought this literally a week before I left on my trip.  I debated long and hard whether I need an extra bag.  I got along fine on a 16 day trip earlier this year with just a backpack.  I decided that I should have something like this because it makes going out in the city with my laptop and book much easier.  No need to lug around my whole pack.

The Pacsafe brand is full of theft deterring features.  I could explain them, but it’s easier if you simply visit this link and see what it’s all about for yourself.

Get the Pacsafe MetroSafe 200 Anti-Theft Shoulder Bag

Stuff I Didn’t Include In Other Pictures

Other Fun Stuff

Other Fun Stuff

1) Kiva Keychain Backpack

Not a fan of this thing for any practical use.  It is, however, good for keeping dirty clothes separate from the rest of your stuff.  I’ve also used it to carry all my clothes/toiletries from dorm to bathroom while staying in hostels.  For $10 you can’t expect anything spectacular.

2) iPod Mini – 4GB

I’m an old school G.  I almost cried when the battery on this thing died early this year. (I lie, if it died I’d be quite alright.) I went on eBay and bought a replacement for $7 shipped.  Booya!  Back in business baby!

3)  Organic Vegan Raw Food Bars

These are tasty treats when you’re starving and all you see is meat.  That wasn’t supposed to rhyme, but I have been known to be a lyrical gangsta.

4) Rayovac USB battery charger

I don’t really like this charger, but I didn’t want to use disposable batteries for my Flip video camera.  I have 2 gripes: 1) It takes 8 hours to charge a battery.  2) It doesn’t tell you when it’s done charging.  The light doesn’t change color.  Come on Rayovac, that’s amateur shit right there. It was less than $10 at WalMart.

5) Pacsafe 55L

For locking up my bag in hostels,  bars, or wherever I might need to lock up my bag.  It’s 4 lbs so it adds quite a bit of weight, but I’m happy with it. I don’t use it much, but when I do need it I’m glad I have it.

6) Flip Camera Stand

This works with any camera or video camera.  Good when you want to take a steady shot.  Honestly, not necessary and won’t gettoo much use.  But I will need it for at least 1 video I plan on making (the aforementioned How To Wash Clothes While Traveling vid).

7) Sleep Mask

There is nothing like sleeping in absolute darkness.  I guarantee it.

8) Gymboss

Interval timer for my workouts, of course.

9) Books

Brida by Paulo Coelho and Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (Gregory Hays translation).

10) Jump rope

For use with the Gymboss. :)  This is a speed rope from Lifeline USA.  It can possibly double as a whip if you’re looking to be Crocodile Dundee in the Outback.

11) Braided Stretchy Clothesline by Rick Steves

This triple braided clothesline is pretty sweet.  Attaches to almost anything and keeps clothes on the line by pinching them in the braids.

Buy the Rick Steves Braided Clothesline

12) iPod cable

13) Sennheiser CX300-B Earbuds

These are fairly low cost earbuds and do a fine job of keeping background noise out.

The Carry On Backpack

My bag at LAX on Sept 01, 2009. (Mental Floss magazine in the pocket.)

My bag at LAX on Sept 01, 2009. (Mental Floss magazine in the pocket.)

Deuter Futura 32

This backpack has a netting/rib mechanism that keeps the bag off your back, lets air flow, and keeps your back from getting soaked in sweat.  I love that. But the ribbed frame makes packing the bag a little cumbersome. It’s a tradeoff I’m willing to live with.

At 32 liters, this is a pretty small backpack by most standards. Walking around Sydney I see most backpackers in 55-90L backpacks and they look miserably loaded down. :)

Buy the Futura 32 Internal Frame Backpack

Whew! For whatever reason, writing this  post took longer than any other post. All that bolding, describing, and linking I reckon.

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Coming soon: What it’s like to tour the country (the US, that is) with a rock band in honor of my friends The Swellers, whose new record Ups and Downsizing is coming out next Tuesday. :)  My how to hand wash your clothes while traveling video is coming soon after.

{ 159 comments }

Corinna

Hey Karol,

Great post… loved it and am checking out some of the products you’re “selling.” Am particularly interested in your laptop. Do you still recommend it? I’m also considering the MacBook Air… am curious as to why you said they suck?

~Corinna

Karol

This was an old post. 2 iterations of Macbook Airs have come out since then. I bought one in late 2010. I don’t think it’s worth the premium, but it does what I want.

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