You know that age-old question about what one thing you would bring if you were stranded on a deserted island?
Well what if you were going to become nomadic, travel on an indefinite journey across continents with varying climates and altitudes and have to carry everything on your back – including your entire office to run your business, too?
I was stuck right there back in 2010 when my partner and I set off on this journey. Through serious trial and error, I have put together our perfect packing list.
Throughout the years, I have learned so much about what is necessary, especially the things I couldn’t live without – even though others might find them unnecessary. I have also gotten rid of a lot of gear we thought we needed at the start of our trip – scroll down to the bottom to find out which items we’d though we’d have to have but ditched during our travels. Unlike others who bring only a carry-on, I pack my backpack full and carry a day-pack, too.
I get loads of questions about my clothes, gear and technological devices, so take a look inside my backpack:
I still use a 65L Karrimor backpack, which I bought just before leaving the UK in 2010. This model is available in Britain only. The 15L detachable day-pack made it through over two years of seriously heavy daily use. I replaced my detachable day-pack with a Lowe Alpine Women’s Airzone 18l Daysack.
Tip: Side-loaders are so much more practical than a toploader. Lay it down, unzip it and access everything without digging through the top, which is the problem you have with a top-loader.
Using eBags Packing cubes revolutionized my backpack. Packing became much more efficient and more importantly, locating items inside our packs is so much easier.
My latest addition to these packing cubes is a TUO – the ultimate travel undergarment organizer. After years of traveling with my undies, bras, bikinis and socks in one big cube, which was quite messy, I finally found a more organized solution. The TUO has three separate zipper compartments, two of which have three individual pockets. That way my bras, socks and panties have their own compartment. The TUO can be hung, which makes it super easy for me to access my underwear when I’ve settled into a hotel room, or an apartment during a longer stay. You can read my full review here or check them out on the Origami Unicorn website.
Dani’s way too many clothes:
7 short-sleeved T-Shirts
2 tank tops
2 pair of Capri pants
2 pairs of shorts
1 pair of Jeans
1 small scarf – bought in Guatemala
14 pairs of underwear
1 set of The Clever Travel Companion pickpocket-proof underwear (for travel days – read my full review here)
8 pairs of ankle socks
2 pairs of thick hiking socks
1 pair of Scott Hawaii flip flops
1 fleece jacket
1 pair of hiking shoes
1 pair of lightweight GoGoGoloshes (foldable wellies that fit over regular shoes, perfect for sudden rain showers!)
1 Columbia Women’s Arcadia rain jacket
1 Fox Racing Bikini
- One 3-piece Fabletics running outfit
- One extra pair of running shorts
- One extra workout tank top
- 1 extra sports bra
- 1 pair of Asics Running Shoes
- Toothbrush & toothpaste
- 1 Shampoo and 1 conditioner (for space-saving options, try Lush dry shampoo bars)
- 1 bar of soap
- 1 loofah
- Face lotion
- Body lotion
- Contact lenses for one year, two contact lens cases and one bottle of contact lens solution
- Razor with extra razor heads
- 1 bottle of sunscreen
- 1 bottle of DEET-free insect repellent
- 3-5 mini hand sanitizers from Bath & Body Works
- Diva Cup (reusable menstruation cups, saves space/$$ where tampons less common)
- Lip gloss
- Eye liner
- Cover-up stick
- 2 nail polish colors (I hate my toes, so I’ll try to make them look better by painting the nails 😉 )
- Several hair ties, hair clips
- Jewelry – bracelets, rings, necklaces, earrings
- Band aids
- Tiger Balm for insect bites and sore muscles
- 13in Asus Zenbook UX32A
- Canon T3 Rebel SLR Camera
- 1 extra T3 Rebel battery
- iPod Touch (my main entertainment for podcasts, music, photos, alarm, flashlight and quick internet access)
- 1 Portable Backup Battery Charger Power Bank. Mobile Power Source for my iPod & Kindle
- Belkin Headphone Splitter (for watching movies together on long bus rides, especially!)
- Belkin 3-Outlet Surge Protector
- 2 external hard drives – 2 1TB My Passport and an additional 500GB StoreJet
- 3 16 GB USB flash drives
- 10+ SD cards
- 1 Kindle Keyboard 3G
- 1 throwaway cheapie cell phone (I purchase local SIMs for text/calls only)
- 1 pair of LSTN on-ear headphones
- 2 small travel adapters
- Too many chargers: iPod charger, Kindle charger, camera charger, laptop charger
Other important items
- 1 sarong from Malaysia
- 1 Discovery Trekking Ultra Fast-Dry travel towel
- 1 Thermos 24 oz Intak Hydration Bottle (BPA-free)
- 1 Steripen Freedom water purifier
- 1 Victorinox Super Tinker Swiss Army Knife
- 1 key padlock and 1 Cable Lock
- 1 reusable shopping bag
- 1 Outdoors Tableset (this is bulky but we use it all the time for eating in hotels without kitchens, picnics, etc)
- 1 pack of antibacterial wet wipes (especially for bus rides)
- 1 roll of toilet paper (bus rides, travel days)
- 1 Eagle Creek Money Belt – to hold credit cards, cash and passports on long travel days
- 1-2 Guidebooks (usually Lonely Planet or Footprint. Kindle guidebooks just don’t do the trick for me)
- 2 notebooks + pens
- 1 Uno Card Game
- 3-5 Ziploc bags
- 1 Travel Sewing kit
- Small flashlight
- Laundry soap sheets (I don’t use this often, but great for a quick sink wash)
Road trip essentials
Since I road trip at least once a year and rent cars regularly, I’ve decided to also list my favorite gadgets for a car here. They’re small enough to travel with me at all times, not only during a road trip:
- ZUS Smart phone charger: An absolute must-have for every road trip – it charges your phone / iPad at twice the speed of a normal car charger AND it charges two devices at once!
- Auxiliary Audio Cable ($4.99) – To connect your phone/tablet to the car’s sound system (if there is no Bluetooth connection)
- Magnetic Mount Holder ($6.99) a magnetic holder for your smart phone –you simply plug it into the car’s air vent – perfect to see the screen at all times, which is particularly useful when using a GPS on your phone.
What we didn’t need
Before you travel long-term, you spend a lot of time thinking about the ‘What Ifs’ and worst-case scenarios. Then you end up bringing way too many things you will use once, or almost never.
What if there is no mosquito net? – I lugged a giant mosquito net around for half a year. If the accommodation is too cheap to have a mosquito net, it’s not my style anyway.
What if the beds in a hostel are gross? – I brought thin cotton travel sheets to avoid this and used them exactly once – in an extremely disgusting hostel that I stayed at as a last minute emergency.
What if I get malaria? I carried 90 giant Malarone pills with us for ages. I never took them preventatively because they have strong side effects, and if you do get malaria, odds are you can get cheaper malaria medication on location. I never travel that remotely that I wouldn’t have access to a doctor, pharmacy and medicine.
I also lightened my load by using trail running shoes, not hiking boots. I used to carry 4-8 books, but now use Kindles and iPod touches, carrying just one guidebook or two. I buy dress shoes if we need them but usually I can get by with black flip flops.
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