|All my crap before I left. Now, 5 months later, I have tossed, replaced, or shipped home more than half of this stuff.|
One of my best friends, Bianca, is going to be joining me around November in New Zealand, and she asked me for gear advice. I'm sharing it in case anyone else is interested.
|Me with all my stuff. The small bag turned out to be too small to be a daypack.|
Use multifunctional gear with whenever possible!
This is your most important possession. You want a bag in the 55-75 L volume area with the waist traps, which redistributes some of your load off your back and onto your hips. Some good brands are Gregory, Deuter, and Osprey. This is the one piece of equipment I don't recommend you buy online: go to a store, find one that fits your body type, and fill it with 40 pounds of weight and walk around for a while.
You also want to bring a smaller daypack for hiking and going about the city. Here is where I keep my mission critical documents and gadgets. It always stays with me. Don't trust your room, even if it locks. Never stow it, especially at airports! In some parts of the world, airport baggage is routinely pillaged. I am using an army surplus semi-weatherproof backpack. If you're going to somewhere really sketchty, consider buying a Pacsafe bag. All their bags have nifty security features, such as slash-proof material and tamper-proof zippers. The downside is that they are very heavy, since they are basically a metal cage.
|The turqoise bag is my waterproof Sea to Summit bag, and the green one is my current daypack. My tupperware/cup is full of pineapple chunks.|
You shall not bring too much clothes! It's completely unnecessary. Remember the words in red: use clothes with maximum functionality. Make sure every top matches with every bottom. I don't repeat colors for more outfit combinations. For warmth, use a layering strategy instead of lugging a set of warm and cold weather clothes.
All my clothes are made with synthetics which are moisture-whicking and quick-drying. This is very important because they are lightweight, keep you cool, and most importantly dry overnight (critical for doing laundry in short order). I do not recommend cotton clothes or jeans: they are heavy and take forever to dry.
And finally, don't bring anything you would be sad to lose! Clothes get lost/stolen/torn very easily on the road!
|Zipper pants, transform!|
2x convertible zipper pants. These pants serve as either pants or shorts.
3x underwear. Use dark underwear! Months of bleeding ink and dirt has given them an unfortunate brown-grey color...
3 or 4x T-shirts. I use Underhammer and UNICLO. I recommend one "presentable" button-down for going out (but not so nice that you wouldn't go hiking with it).
Lots of socks. At least 2 of the pairs should be thick, warm socks. I've heard smart wool is the way to go.
1 thermal shirt and longjons. I picked a dark thermal shirt which I also use for going out.
One shell rain jacket/windbreaker. When it's really cold I use this as my outermost layer and it really makes a difference.
If the weather will be cold, add a scarf, cap, and gloves. If you're going to Asia, just buy them when you land, it will be cheaper.
The usual suspects: toothbrush, paste, floss, and your meds. Shampoo also serves as your body wash and laundry detergent. Ear plugs are great for sleeping in dorms and loud trains. I carry a small medicine bag with a few essentials: anti-diarrhea, acetomenophen, aspirin, caffeine
I highly recommend a microfiber towel. They have a very high surface area and soak up a surprising amount of water. I have a Sea to Summit DryLite Towel. You can squeeze out 95% of the moisture and keep reusing it, which means you can get away with just the medium size.
Documents and misc
I use a SE Travel Pouch, which goes around the waist and under your clothes. This is where my passport, cards, and money stays. I keep a shitty decoy wallet with a small amount of accessible money. I recommend getting an international drivers license before leaving.
For money, I recommend you open a Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking card. It's tied to a brokerage account which you are not obliged to use. No monthly fees and unlimited rebates from any ATM worldwide.
- hata blockas. Be cool.
- a Nano Light Miniature Keychain LED Flashlight. It is tiny and has an ultra-bright LED, which has been a life-saver in several occasions.
- water tight Tupperware which serves as a cup or food protector.
- emergency food, usually nuts.
- small notebook for keeping people's contact info and other important info and for writing thoughts. I keep a separate notebook for quick scratch paper. Emphasis on small- buy a new one for cheap when you run out of pages.
- 1 book. A must for long flights and unexpected waits.
- a small lock is useful for using lockers at hostels that don't provide locks. I lost my nifty Master Lock 4605D, which had a retractable cable. This was useful for securing my backpack to the hostel bed or to the roof of a bus so that someone wouldn't run off with it while I slept.
- light bags and rubber bands to organize all this crap inside of your big bag.
- cloth water bottle sling. Useful for when you don't want to hike/walk around with your water bottle in hand.
|Water bottle holder (I tied a knot to shorten it so it wouldn't bang my knee while riding my bike). Also pictures are my beigh zipper pants and my tiny flashlight on my keychain.|
At this point, some so-called "ultralight backpackers" would already declare I've overpacked. They buy specialized high-tech gear from at REI made with miraculously lightweight materials and a million functions. Some of the ones I've met carry get by splendidly with just their daypack. My gear is laughably heavy. My current backpack weighs almost 6 lb empty. If you have the money, you can find ultralight backpacking guides online. Otherwise...
The single most nifty gadget for a backpacker is a smartphone. It's a digital camera. It's your watch and alarm clock. It does most of what you need with a computer, especially when you have WiFi. It's a translator/dictionary. It's a calculator. It's a calendar. It's a map, GPS, and compass. It's a USB hard drive. It's a kindle ebook reader. It's an mp3 player. You can jot down quick notes and keep a to-do list. Oh yeah, it's also a phone. If you have a stable WiFi connection, you can make free international calls and texts using Google voice! I do this all the time to talk with y'all back home.
Don't forget a plug-adaptor...
If you have a DSLR, bring it or you will regret it! If you must have your own laptop, buy a netbook. However, keep in mind these two will significantly weigh you down and make you worry a lot more during your travels. I have a love-hate relationship with my E-3.
- pillows are a waste. Just fill a bag with clothes. The exception would be one of those inflatable neck pillows, which are very useful for sleeping upright.
- consider bringing a thin sleeping bag or a silk sleep sack. These compress down to the size of a cantelope or a fist, respectively. They are great for when you have to sleep in beds with sketchy sheets, which is not uncommon.
- if you plan on sleeping outside at all, consider getting a hammock tent. They keep out bugs, keep you dry, and can be quickly set up and broken down just about anywhere-- great for incognito camping. Best of all, it only weighs 1 kg or so, in place of carrying a tent, footprint, sticks, a mattress...
- roll, don't fold, your clothes. This saves space, is quicker, and wrinkles less.
- pack heavy, rigid items at the bottom-center of you bag, and as close to your back as possible. Avoid putting heavy items in the outer pockets (farther from your back). Use the compression straps to secure the items and keep things closer to your center.
- wrap strips of duct tape around your water bottle. They will come in handy.
- use clothes to insulate delicates. Keep all delicates in a specific region of your bag, so that you can sit on your bag without worrying about cracking your laptop screen or something.
- non-crucial items: a small knife or swiss army knife. One of those nifty folding spork/knife utensils. Parachord.