What I packed for full time world travel
So here it is ... likely the most asked question and most requested detail of my adventures ... what's in my bag?
As an aggressive researcher, reviewer and planner, getting to this post has been a journey that started well over 18 months ago. It likely started on that first trip to Iceland in 2017, but I think my obsessiveness really took off when I purchase my Cotopaxi Allpa 35L (read my review of the pack here) in 2018.
Since that time, any product that I was considering for world travel, has been severely researched and overanalyzes, to near death proportions.
This particular pack list, probably started about 18 months ago, when the dream of full time travel started to progress towards reality.
So let's dive in! I will try to link to item websites when possible.
Likely the thing everyone is most curious about. How much clothing do I have and how do I survive with so little. I looked to find either merino wool items or synthetics. Compared to cotton, these materials are more odor resistant, more breathable and faster drying.
- Black lightweight joggers: These are from Banana Republic. Originally I planned to get the ABC pants from LuluLemon, but Eli was working at BR at the time and got me these. Lightweight, quick dry, stretchy. Just what I was looking for.
- Bluffworks Chinos: I've had these since 2018 and love them as much now as when I first purchased them. A nice mid-weight, breathable synthetic material, with hidden zippered pockets for holding my passport (clearly not all the time) and credit cards. The cut is nice and they pair well with everything.
- Black Shorts: These are also from BR and basically the shorts version of the pants. Just a nice all around short for the coming summer months.
- Running shorts: These are some pretty old running shorts I've had for at least 10 years. Couldn't even tell you the brand as all the markings have worn off. These will work for running, workouts and as my swimming trunks.
- T-shirts: Three t-shirts, one each in black, white and rust. The black and white shirts are the Bluffworks Threshold V-neck, while the Rust is the Woolly Everyday V neck. The Bluffwork shirts are a synthetic blend that is very light and breathable. It feels good on my skin and is a nice cut. The Woolly shirt is 100% merino wool at 190 GSM. Its a great cut, and is slightly heavier than the other two. It does have a slight itch to it, but really only shows up when I've been walking a lot and have a light sweat going. It has already developed a small hole under my right arm, so that's a bit of a worry. For these reasons, I'm enjoying the Bluffwork shirts a bit more.
- Linen button up: This shirt was purchased before my trip to Thailand in 2018 and it's still going strong. It's really light and airy, which is great for the summer evenings, but can also go all day when I roll up the sleeves. Its my "dress up" shirt if needed since it has a collar and buttons. Linen does wrinkle easily, but that's its look so its perfect for keeping stuffed in my pack all the time.
- Long sleeve waffle knit: Since that first trip to Iceland in 2017 I've brought a blue and red striped waffle knit on every trip. It has always been my beloved Old Navy waffle that I got in like 2012. I quit wearing it around town about a year ago, knowing I'd want it on this adventure. Alas, the first time I wore it, when we were in Scotland, the elbow finally gave out. It was extremely thread bare, but I just couldn't let it go! A few days later, in Folkestone, we happened by a shop that had almost the exact same shirt. My mom insisted on getting it for me as a birthday present, so now I'm rocking a waffle knit from YMC.
- Puma Italia jacket: Debated long and hard on this item. It's fairly heavy and doesn't pack down extremely well. But with the wardrobe feeling a bit bereft of style, I threw caution and logic to the wind and packed it. It's definitely hitting on both sides as expect. I have trouble packing it, especially as the days get warmer, but it's definitely my go to when trying not to look like a tourist.
- Unbound Merino underwear: Three pairs of boxer briefs from Unbound, which are a blend of 84% merino wool, 12% nylon, 4% spandex. Simply put, the best underwear I've ever own. Soft on the skin, light and comfortable. Given the properties of wool, I have no issues wearing them for multiple days at a time. Top that with being quick drying and they are absolutely the best travel underwear.
- Comrad compression socks: Also got these before our trip to Thailand in 2018 for the long haul flight. Debated packing these as well, as they are essentially a one trick pony. They are merino wool, so they can work for other uses. So far, I've worn them on the flight to London and one other time in a pinch when I didn't have a chance to do laundry for quite some time. These will probably exit the bag at some point.
- Darn Tough dress socks: Two pairs of calf height "fancy" socks. Anyone that knows me, knows I absolutely love dress socks. So instead of getting likely longer lasting hiking socks, I opted for Darn Tough merino wool dress sock. Light weight, breathable, odor resistant and quick drying. Plus they just look darn nice :)
- Darn Tough no-shows: Two pairs of black wool no-shows. These have a weird feel on my feet when inside shoes for some reason. Not always, but consistently. That said, they are nice for that no show look. I can wear these for multiple days as well with no odors, which allows for only two pairs.
- Darn Tough anklets: One pair of an anklet height running sock. A bit more cushion for when I want to go for a run or work out. Honestly though, sort of wish I just bought three pairs of these instead of the no-shows. These socks are so freaking comfortable I just want to wear them everyday.
** Not shown: Lulu Lemon sweats I brought last minute specifically for the cooler weather in Scotland. Very thankful I did as it was windy and cold at times. These will be exiting the bag very shortly now that summer is upon me. They are way too bulky to carry around.
*** Lost to theft: I did have a very nice, lightweight, mid-layer Adidas running 1/4 zip. I wore this almost everyday and am sad it is gone. It worked as warming layer between a t-shirt and jacket, on its own as an evening layer, and was perfect for running in cooler weather. I will be holding off on purchasing a new one until after the summer now.
These items will likely see a major shake up soon. In hindsight, some were not the correct choice and perhaps I needed some time with them to know that.
- Arc'teryx Agrium Puffer: I love this jacket, but alas, it needs to go! It was perfect in MN, and I thought it would be the perfect fit for my worldwide adventures. But, and this is going to sound weird, its just TOO WARM. It does its job too well. Even on cooler days where it might be appropriate, I just get too hot, especially when walking a city. Add to that its super bulky in the pack, even when stuff down inside itself. It will certainly be exiting the bag soon. After summer, I'll be looking for a lighter, more mid-weight puffer to use in its place.
- North Face Black Series jacket: Sadly, another item in the same situation as the puffer. It does its job absolutely fantastically, and it saved my body when it was pouring rain in Cardiff. BUT! It's just too bulky in the pack. And with summer approaching, its use will be so limited. It's not nearly breathable enough for a summer rain storm, I'd be soaked inside because I'd sweat too much. As with the puffer, after the summer, I'll be looking to find a lightweight, packable rain shell.
- Adidas Terrex wind breaker: NEW ADDITION. I just picked this up in Barcelona. Its ostensibly to replace the stolen 1/4 zip mentioned above. It's not a 1:1 replacement, but serves some of the same uses. Lightweight and extremely packable, I can carry it daily for those times its a little chilly. It's also water resistant, so I can throw it on if it starts to rain allowing me to make it back to shelter. It will also be perfect for those breezy summer night on the Adriatic later this year.
- Allbirds Tree Runners: Love these shoes for travel. Lightweight, breathable and they crush down extremely small for great packability. Second pair, and will likely continue to come back to these time and again. Feel like I'm walking on air when wearing them, letting me go hours and miles each day in them.
- Adidas Ultraboost DNA 4.0: NEW ADDITION. Second pair of these as well. I left the US with an old pair of Nike running shoes that were a great combo of just beat up enough that I wouldn't care about them getting muddy or gross hiking in Scotland, but with enough life still in them to feel comfy. Finally tossed them in Barcelona in favor of some new Ultraboosts. These are the perfect counter to the Allbirds. They have more structure to the upper, and much better tread, making them a nice shoe for hiking, as well as now being my running shoes when needed.
- Nike sling: NEW ADDITION. Purchased to replace the stolen Topo Designs sling. While I miss that Topo bag a lot, I was already wondering about a slight downsizing. This Nike sling is a great size. Big enough for the Adidas jacket and either a water bottle or my travel umbrella, plus headphone and glasses. It has a back pocket that sits against my back, perfect for items that need a bit more protection. I do wish it was waterproof, but I can live without that for now.
- 66º North hat: Bought this in Iceland and have been rocking it since! Minor internal debate on always having this, but its small enough that for now its staying in the bag.
- Mountain Hardware gloves: Same as the hat. Useful when chilly or cold, staying in the bag for now.
Pretty much your standard things here. Nothing I would drop and nothing to add. Just to replenish when I run out.
- Topo Designs bag: This is their medium size accessory bag. I love these things. I had two of the mini sized ones that held misc items for everyday use (bandaids, tissue, Advil, etc) but those were stolen too. This one is a good size to work as my Dopp kit.
- Hairbrush: Could debate if this is necessary, I certainly did. But now that its been two months and I've yet to have a haircut, its almost necessary when I get up in the morning.
- Tooth paste
- Small tin full of pills: A couple of Vicodin, if I happen to injure myself and need pain relief. Xanax. Many of you might not know, but I suffer from anxiety and depression. Usually its totally manageable as I've learned techniques for dealing with it, but I do have panic attacks and depressive episodes from time to time, so these come in handy ... also as Drake puts it "I did half a Xan, thirteen hours 'til I land ... Had me out like a light."
- Shaver: Small bag contains blade and size adjustments
This section has seen some major shake up recently, some my decision, some out of my control. I made a few mistakes in my original packing, but I knew not all my assumptions were work out.
- MacBook Air M1: Love, love, LOVE this thing. Its the perfect travel laptop. Small and extremely light. And the battery life on this M1 is insane. It can easily go over a week without needing a charge. Can handle all the development work I need to do, plus all my research and YouTubing.
- AirPods Pro: These are my "backup" pair... lol. The right ear has a speaker issue. I brought them in case the main pair got lost ... or as it turns out stolen. Sounded insane before I left but so glad I have them now.
- HyperJuice GAN 66W charger: Mixed bag with this thing. On the positive, it is absolutely perfect for travel. It can charge three items at once. Two by USB-C and one by USB-A. The 66W means it can charge my laptop, iPhone and Apple Watch, or AirPods. Negative side, this is my second one already. The first one stopped working in Wales about a month into the trip. Their customer service has been shit, and as a result, I've given up getting my money back on it.
- Belkin 5000mah charger: Its a bit underpowered at only 5000mah, but its so small and light that I'm ok with that. Its really just meant as an emergency backup on long hiking days. It can basically charge my iPhone to full once, not much more.
- Mini tripod + iPhone clamp
- Travel Pen
- Airfly: Neat little device that is a bluetooth transmitter. So when on a plane, I can watch movies using my Airpods instead of crappy airplane headphones.
- Headphone splitter + Apple iPhone to wired headphone adapter: Possibly pointless for me, but its small and maybe someday it will come in handy.
- Cables for MacBook, iPhone and Apple Watch
- Eagle Creek pouch: Contains the universal adapters for the Hyperjuice charger, so I can use it in any country.
- Pouch of misc stuff: Chromecast, extra iPhone cable, extra USB-C cable, USB-C to USB-A dongle, USB-C to Ethernet dongle, backup wired iPhone headphones
- Pouch for tripod and clamp
- Tech pouch for everything else
* Not shown:
- iPhone 13 pro: Love this thing. My workhorse. Battery lasts all day no problem. The camera gets better with each new version.
- Apple Watch Series 2: Starting to show its age, but still gets it done. Battery still goes all day. Great for tracking my vitals and as a remote for the camera on the iPhone.
** No longer with us:
- iPad mini 5: I LOVED this thing. Probably what I miss the most from the theft. I was averaging a book about every 10 days with it. Was learning Italian on it. It was my go to "look something up" device. I watched tons of YouTube on it. Am I starting to get used to not having it? Yes, but it was very handy.
- AirPods Pro: Lol
- Pivo, iPhone hand grip, Moment 18mm & 56mm tele lenses, Circular Polarizer, ND filter for Moment lenses and iPhone: Ditched all this stuff in Barcelona. It was becoming clear after two months that I wasn't going to use it. I hadn't used any of it up till then and didn't see how/why I would in the future. My traveling photography style is just too fluid and "in the moment" to carry this stuff. I would need to make a conscious effort to bring it out during the day with no guarantee that I would need any of it. Just not worth it, especially since the iPhone can now shoot in RAW and I can edit in Lightroom. There have been a handful of time, I could have used one of the items above, but its not enough to keep lugging them around. Byeeee!
A mishmash of stuff. Some of it necessary, some handy, some probably needs to go.
- Cotopaxi Allpa 35L backpack: Love this thing. Had it since 2018 and its holding up so well. Love the way it opens suitcase style so I can get to everything easily. Great organization inside. Couple gripes, mainly about zippers being tight in a few places and wishing I could remove the hip belt I never use. I could see myself upgrading, and downsizing, to the 28L pretty easily. That would force my hand on removing some of the stuff above that are fringe items.
- Eagle Creek packing cubes: These are the compression version, and sometimes that comes in handy but I usually just use these for organization. the M size holds all my bottoms and shirts, the S holds underwear and socks. Keeps the backpack neat and tidy!
- Far West 95 pouch: I don't have room to buy trinkets or mementos, and I love ephemera, so this pouch, that I've had since 1995, holds all of it. Mostly business cards of coffee shops I loved, or plane/train/bus tickets, that kind of stuff. When the pouch gets full, the plan is to mail the ephemera to my parents and start filling it again.
- Laundry detergent sheets: Didn't know these were a thing, but they work amazingly well. One sheet per load. Smallest I could find was a 50 pack, so I've got them for a while.
- Covid stuff: Multiple masks, some KN-95s when its required. At home tests. I've used a few of these already, just to make sure I'm being a good world citizen as I cross so many borders.
- Wallet: This was my backup, but now clearly my main. has credit cards, passport, international drivers license, and some backup USD.
- Travel towel (in grey pouch): Its a micro-fiber towel. Super absorbent, quick drying. I could have gone with the next size larger, but it gets the job done. Most hostels, hotels and Airbnbs have towels, so its just in case, but have used it several times now.
- Photos of Eli: Couldn't go without a few memories of my favorite human from days gone by. Love that guy.
- Lock: For hostel lockers. Not gonna stop anyone, but a deterrent nonetheless.
- Pouch full of crystals: Once a hippy, always a hippy. If anyone wants a breakdown of the 10 rocks I carry with me and their metaphysical properties let me know, would totally be down to write a post just about them.
- Sea to Summit dry sack: Serves a couple purposes. If I go to the water, will keep my shit dry. Use it as my dirty laundry hamper, and then do my laundry out of it when needed. One laundry sheet, cold water and some elbow grease equals clean clothes.
- Nike string backpack: Perfect for a quick run to the grocery store, or when the sling isn't enough.
- Cotopaxi rain cover for backpack & shoe bag to keep dirty shoes off clean clothes.
- Muji travel umbrella: Bought this several years ago in Boston, never used it until recently. Seemed pointless, until it didn't.
All this comes in at just under the 7kg weight limit for budget airlines here in Europe. Which is pretty insane considering the Cotopaxi and MacBook Air combine for about 2kg alone!
In the clothing department, I'm pretty happy with what I have. I've yet to find that I'm missing something, or in need of anything. Grain of salt on that statement, since the loss of the 1/4 zip does leave a small hole in my wardrobe, which I will probably replace sooner than later. In the removals department, I could perhaps drop the Puma jacket, and certainly removing the puffer and TNF jackets would reduce bulk.
After having just shed all the photography items, I think the biggest gains could be in the removal of a lot of the extra tech stuff. As the word implies, none of it is necessary, some of it is even backup which could be purchased if the need every arises.
So that's the pack list! At the approximate weight of 6.5kg, it gets me around the world. It does feel a bit heavy if I have to walk with it more than a couple miles, but I'm usually only doing that during transit, so not all that often.
I'm super into the "one-bag" thing now, and I can totally see how/where I could reduce items and get into that smaller 28L pack, which I bet would set my weight around 4.5-5kg. I think the main challenge is being just prepared enough to go anywhere and be in any climate, yet not be lugging around unused items.
Let me know if you still have questions or want me to elaborate more on anything on the list.