Over the years of trial and error packing for trips we have fine tuned what we think is worth carrying and what can stay at home. The things I’ve listed below plus our clothing make up the majority of what we carry and is essentially what we call home for months at a time.
By not having to buy nearly as much bottled water the Steri Pen has saved us a ton of money in our travels. It uses a UV light to treat the water and although it doesn’t change the flavor of the water (if it tastes bad to begin with it will still taste bad after being treated) most places we go have decent tasting water. It also isn’t ideal for trekking since it takes four rechargeable AA batteries and rural areas seem to lack the electricity to charge them, but we’ve taken it on few day hikes and it’s worked great.
Headlamps are essential and we use three rechargeable AAA batteries in each.
Andy just recently got a Kindle and it’s been amazing to have on this past trip. In a pinch we use the 3G to check email and we’ve bought e-guidebooks which are cheaper than paper ones and don’t weigh a thing.
We always bring extra thumb drives and memory cards for backing up photos.
An I pod is great as an alarm in the morning and to listen to podcasts on long bus rides. We can also use it to browse the internet and read eBooks that we’ve downloaded for the Kindle.
Since we only have one I pod we bought a head phone splitter so we can both listen to music and pod casts at the same time.
This little three AAA battery powered Altec speaker has been so fun to have on kayaking trips as well as traveling.
A lot of hostels now have WiFi so it only makes since to bring along our Toshiba net-book. Besides emailing home on it we use it to do more sensitive things that aren’t as safe to do in internet cafes like file our taxes or do online banking. It’s also great for blogging and backing up photos.
With all of these electronics we naturally need to bring a battery charger. Our reusable battery charger also has a USB port which we use to charge the I pod and Kindle. We used to even use AA batteries in our old camera, but with our new one we have to bring along a camera battery charger too.
Depending on where we travel to a mosquito net is a great thing to have.
My silk sleep sack has saved me from sleeping in some questionable bedsheets.
We always bring rain jackets and waterproof pack covers useful for trekking and when our bags gets thrown on the roof of a bus in a downpour. On some trips we also bring rain pants.
Quick drying pack towels made out of super absorbent cloth.
Andy was a skeptic of the usefulness of a plain cotton hankie, but after continuously stealing mine I think he has finally come around. I’ve used mine for a blindfold on too bright overnight buses, a mouth and nose filter for dusty rides, a sweat band for trekking, and a wash cloth.
You’ve got to carry around those passports some how. Andy uses a money pouch that hangs on the inside of his pant leg by a loop that goes around his belt. I use the classic money belt model.
On our trips we discovered that carrying pictures of family and postcards of home make great conversation topics that a lot of people we meet are really interested in.
We always bring a larger combo lock for hostel lockers and rooms with a latch and some smaller locks for keeping the lazier thieves out of our bags.
String is useful for making a clothesline and setting up the mosquito net among other things.
You can’t go wrong with playing cards.
I like to bring a nice notebook, like a Moleskin, for taking trip notes and a cheaper spiral bound one for exchanging contact info and writing down directions along with a few pens.
One of the more important things that we bring with us are collapsible water containers. They are super durable and don’t take up any room in the pack until we fill them with treated water. A harder quart Nalgene bottle makes a nice compliment to the collapsible ones.
Bringing along some silnylon stuff sacks help to keep the contents of our backpacks organized.
This cheap light weight duffel bag that we bought last minute before our India trip to lock my back pack into has turned out to be really useful. When we do treks on our trips we will fill it with things we don’t want to carry, lock it up, and leave it at a hostel and it is great for filling with souvenirs and checking for the flight home. Beside that, I also use it for the reason we bought it. Since I have a top loading backpack that has buckles instead of zippers I just put this around it and lock up the zipper on the duffel instead.
A smaller bag is necessary for walking around town or taking a few things onto a bus or plane. I use a cheap purse from H&M that seems to be indestructible while Andy uses an ultra light backpack that stuffs down to the size of an egg.
We both like our bags to be carry-on size and hate carrying huge heavy packs. For my main back pack I use a 50L Gregory Jade which I love. It can get really small and then expand to a decent size after I go on a shopping spree and is very comfortable to hike in. Andy uses a Kelty Redwing he bought for cheap which has a full zipper that can be locked and is a good size but isn’t as comfortable for hiking.
Some nights call for wax earplugs.
It seems like in every other country we’ve been to sunscreen costs a fortune so we always try and bring some from home as well as very strong bug spray.
We always pack a first aid kit which usually consists of steri-strips, antibiotic ointment, gauze, non-stick sponges, tape, moleskin, band aids, and nit-rile gloves along with some basic medications. Cortisone cream is good for bug bites and mysterious allergy rashes, Ciprofloxacin is a must and can usually be bought in country, and Ibuprofen, Benadryl, Imodium, Tums, and Pepto-Bismol are all great things to have. Don’t forget the tweezers, too.
For footwear we each bring a pair of sandals and a pair of lightweight hiking shoes and have found that to be the perfect combo. Nothing is worse than having to carry around a really heavy pair of hiking boots that take up precious space in the backpack.
As far as clothing goes we’ve discovered that bringing less than we think we need tends to be the best option. I like to make sure that all of my tops can be worn with each of my bottoms to maximize the number of outfits I have. Something that I’ve been so grateful to have on each trip is my light down jacket. It’s practically weightless and provides so much warmth. We usually pack three pairs of pants each (one synthetic, one cotton, and one thermal layer) and make sure that all of our tops can be layered on the really cold nights. We’ve found that if we ever need more clothing it is always available wherever we go and can even make a fun souvenir. The other option is to bring clothes that you don’t mind leaving behind, especially if moving from a really cold climate to a warmer one like we did on our India/Nepal trip. With all of this plus a warm hat and a swim suit you can’t go wrong.
If any one of you has something that you can’t live without when you travel feel free to let us know in the comment section!