From my understanding, this is what a typical chap brings when he goes hitchhiking:
- Pack of Smokes and/or large block of chewin’ tobacky.
- Can of beans.
Anything beyond that is probably unnecessary.
Then again, we’re traveling around the world for months, to first world and developing nations. We’ll be staying anywhere from a classy hotel, to a tent in a tropical swamp, to sleeping under the stars in the desert, so we need to bring supplies for all sorts of situations. We are also hoping to maintain a certain degree of cleanliness and classiness on the trip, which wouldn’t concern your typical hitchhiking bum – after all, we want to make a good impression and make friends along the way. In short, we need a lot of gear, and it has to be carefully chosen.
So here it is then, EVERYTHING I’ve brought with me.
UPDATE (3 months into the trip): I way overpacked, and I updated this post to reflect that. I have marked all of the stuff that I ditched with the word DITCHED. I either gave this stuff away, mailed it home or tossed it. (Ditched stuff is marked in red.)
On a side note, One Bag was a huge help when I was figuring out what to bring and packing everything up. One Bag has got a list of all sorts of useful items that world travelers might want to bring, and lots of travel advice. That, along with all my years of traveling and camping experience.
I’ve got a Kelty Red Cloud 6650 pack, and Peter’s got a Dana Design Bomb Pack (which, if I were airport security, I’d probably think twice about letting through…).
My pack’s quite a bit bulkier and a little bit heavier than Pete’s pack, especially in that picture, because it was before I ditched a ton of stuff. Plus I had my Nalgene bottles in the side pockets. Also, because I brought a bunch more stuff than Pete in general. So far, it hasn’t been so bad…though I’m quite glad I ditched certain items.
I brought about four complete sets of clothing, plus outerwear…which is more than what most packing lists recommend – though this is a pretty long trip. (UPDATE: That’s terrible rationale. I brought way too much crap.)
We are traveling through mostly very hot climates, but will also be up in the mountains and traveling in the late fall when it will get cold, so we had to prepare for all sorts of weather.
Please note that just about all of this clothing is kept in separate Zip-Lock bags or Bundle folded (depending on the item) in order to keep it all organized in my pack. I’d go crazy dealing with it otherwise.
Four T-shirts – Two cotton shirts, one polypro / athletic shirt, and one cotton / polyester blend. Artificial fabrics dry faster and are lighter and less bulky than cotton, but cotton is more comfortable. Also, I’ve found that artificial fabrics tend to get really stinky really quickly. (I DITCHED one of these shirts early in the trip.)
Pair of jeans and hoodie – People say not to wear cotton clothing on this type of trip, but jeans look classier than polypro pants, and cotton hoodies are just about the most comfortable shirt ever in brisk weather…not to mention the built-in hat. (Hoodie DITCHED early in the trip…jeans kept.)
DITCHED: Long sleeve / button down shirt – Breathable polypro shirt made by Columbia outerwear. (I realized early on that this made me look like some kind of douche explorer / military guy.)
DITCHED: Cargo pants with detachable legs – Double as another pair of shorts. (I never needed them because it was always so hot, all the time.)
Cargo Shorts – One pair of rayon/cotton blend shorts. (I wore these about 75% of the time on this trip…essential!)
Athletic shorts & Swimsuit – Two more light pairs of shorts. (I DITCHED the athletic shorts early on and kept the swimsuit.)
Boxer shorts – four pairs
Socks – You can never have too many pairs of socks when you do as much walking as we’re planning on. Six pairs of regular cotton socks, two pairs of long wool socks, and two pairs of light Polypro liner / wicking socks. (I DITCHED one pair of the wool socks, and one pair of cotton socks because they got really dirty.)
DITCHED: Underarmor shirts and Longjohns – All made of lightweight synthetic material. I have two Polypro Underarmor shirts, and both of them roll up to a size smaller than one rolled up sock…and they keep me incredibly warm. (I ditched all of this except for one of the underarmor shirts.)
Rain/Wind Pants – Lightweight and waterproof. (I never ditched these, but I used them maybe once the entire trip.)
Mosquito headnet and upper body shirt (DITCHED) – We are traveling through areas where mosquitoes are not only rampant, but also deadly (transmitting malaria, Japanese encephalitis, and many other ailments). We have to be very careful about being bitten…hence the nets. (I DITCHED the upper body shirt…it was bulky and completely unnecessary.)
Athletic Shoes and Flip Flops – We will be doing a ridiculous amount of walking on this trip, so I chose a pair of New Balance sneakers for my main shoes (good for walking around cities or up mountains)…and a cheap pair of flip flops for when we go to the beach or take showers.
Sunglasses – I usually only wear sunglasses for image, because the sun doesn’t bother my eyes all that much…but I thought I’d bring them anyway.
DITCHED: Hat and Gloves – For when it gets really cold. We’re spending most of our time in very warm areas, and plus anyone who knows me knows that I hate wearing hats and gloves anyway.
Documentation and Money
Travel wallet – great for holding all of my money, credit cards, passport, tickets, etc. On a string so I can hang it around my neck under my shirt when in sketchy countries.
DITCHED: Safety Wallet – A second, smaller safety wallet that I strap around my waist. This thing was just STUPID! I ended up buying a regular old Pocket Wallet and using it instead after a few weeks into the trip.
Passport – Probably the single most important item I own when traveling.
Vaccination / Immunization Documentation
$200 in American Dollars – back up money accepted all over the world when you’re in a bind. If there is a universal currency in the world, it’s the U.S. dollar (though that may change soon).
Credit and Debit cards – Remember to call up your credit card companies and tell them you’re going on a trip, otherwise they’ll freeze your accounts for fraud protection!
Travelers’ Insurance Documentation – I purchased travelers’ insurance from an organization called World Nomads before I left. This will help me with all types of problems – like getting emergency medical care in foreign countries, getting a flight home, lost luggage, etc. I haven’t tried the service yet, thankfully, but it’s got great reviews.
Personal Checks – A few personal checks, just in case – though most foreigners wouldn’t consider taking them. I also have a bank statement with me. No need to bring my entire checkbook.
Student ID Card – Sure I’m not technically a student anymore, but they don’t know that.
Pens, Pencils, Sharpy Markers
Small Notebook – For writing notes and directions (or getting people to write locations and addresses in foreign languages we can’t understand). One of the single most useful items in my pack.
DITCHED: Clasp envelopes – For sending small items and letters home. (Don’t carry these with you; you can buy them anywhere.)
Head Lamp and Flashlight (DITCHED) – Two types of lights, because light is supremely useful, and it’s always good to have a backpack. Unfortunately, one takes AAs and the other takes AAAs – but batteries are cheap and can be found worldwide. (DITCHED: the regular flashlight, and I didn’t miss it. Just bring a headlamp…no need for two lights.)
Leatherman Multitool – About 100 tools combined into one supertool. This has a sharp knife, pliers, scissors, saw, corkscrew / can opener, and a whole lot more, built into one.
Water bottles – Two one liter Nalgene bottles. They say they’re indestructible. I’ve learned to bring way more water than I think I’ll need after almost dying of dehydration at the bottom of the Grand Canyon last summer.
Waterproof Matches, Strike Anywhere matches (in red vial), Lighter, Magnesium Fire Starter – Four different methods of starting a fire…probably overkill, but these are all really light and starting a fire can mean the difference between life and death.
Compass – Incredibly useful for finding your way around foreign cities, especially when the maps don’t have anything written in English. Even more useful when you’re out in the woods with no points of reference.
DITCHED: Harmonica – I really want to learn how to play the Harmonica, and it’s so small and light. This trip seemed like the perfect time to learn.
Thermometer & Compass keychain – On one of my pack’s zippers.
Repair & Survival Kit – A small kit of lots of little things that might come in useful in a survival situation…or if I need to make small repairs.
- Needles & thread
- Fish hooks
- Safety pins
- Steel nails
- Rolls of waxed string
- Bees wax
- Mini can opener
- Chopstick trainer
- Copper wire
Dice & Ping Pong balls – For pure entertainment value. So many games you can play with these!
Emergency Blanket & Plastic Poncho
Strong (Pink) Nylon String
Parachute cord (50 feet)
Lazer Pointer – Just for fun.
DITCHED: Extra AAA and AA batteries
Duct Tape – Super useful for building things, repairs and medical emergencies. Roll crushed and cardboard removed from center. (No need to bring this much of it! I DITCHED half of it early on.)
DITCHED: Steel Broadheads – My dad gave these to me, and I begrudgingly took them. They’re arrowheads which can be used to kill small animals or fish if we got lost in the wilderness. They’ll probably be of no use whatsoever, but I brought them anyway.
Bandanas – Useful for all sorts of things, including dressing up like Rambo. (I DITCHED one of them to save the extra 2 ounces of weight.)
DITCHED: Sleeping Bag – Warm and comfortable, but also bulky and way too heavy for the hot nights in Southeast Asia. This is the first thing I ditched, because it took up way too much space in my pack, even with compression straps.
To replace it, I bought a cheap. lightweight “Sleeping Sheet” / Sleeping Bag Liner — basically, a sheet sewed in half like a sleeping bag but nowhere near as heavy or hot as a full size sleeping bag. This sufficed for just about everywhere I went.
Guidebook: First Time Around The World by Rough Guides — A great guide to traveling around the world on the cheap to pretty much any country, given to me as a gift by my buddy Kevin Domanico. We also have some small guidebooks for individual countries that we pick up along the way, as well as foreign language phrase books.
NOTE: I carried this book about half of the trip and then DITCHED it by mailing it home. I also purchased MANY books along the way and did a TON of reading. Most of these were novels and books I read for pleasure…I would generally have one or two books, and then trade them with other travelers when I had finished them…or would trade them with a bookshelf at a hostel. I also purchased one or two country-specific guidebooks, which I traded away along the way when they were no longer relevant.
DITCHED: Eating Supplies:
- Plastic forks and spoons (Ditched)
- Small steel pot (for boiling water) (Ditched)
- Frisbee – which doubles as a dinner plate (Ditched)
DITCHED: Foldable plastic dishware – A Japanese invention…bendable but durable plastic that is scored so that you can fold it into a cup, a small bowl and a plate. Very useful, because they unfold completely flat and hardly take up any space.
DITCHED: Nylon stuff sack – Big sack for dirty clothes or any other uses. (Useful, but I sent a bunch of stuff home inside of this bag, so that’s why it was ditched.)
Adjustable straps – for attaching things to the outside of my pack
Extra Zip-lock bags of all sizes
Zip Ties (different sizes)
Underwater bag – A specially-designed rubber bag for boating trips, which is airtight when sealed. I’ve used it to carry a bunch of items across a river when I want to swim across for a picnic or day trip, and also to keep electronics or precious items dry on boating trips. Can be used as a flotation device. It is great for keeping precious items dry, and also doubles as a pillow.
Mini American flags – We’re not pulling any of that “I’m Canadian” bullshit when we travel around the world.
Day Pack with Water bladder – This small bag is great for day trips when I don’t want to lug around all of my crap. It also has a 2-liter bladder, with a tube that I can drink out of when hiking. The company that invented this is “Camel Pak,” but I got a cheap Eddie Bauer brand knock-off from Target.
NOTE: Early in my trip, I discovered that this small bag was the BEST THING EVER and a necessity. It’s big enough to carry all your valuables around town, and I was able to pack enough stuff for day trips or a few nights away from my big pack. I took it everywhere with me. Best investment ever.
First Aid / Medications / Toiletries
First Aid Kit – This is a pre-assembled Hikers’ First Aid Kit with TONS of stuff in it. I’m not gonna list it all, but for its size, it’s pretty exhaustive. The complete inventory list is pictured here (you can click it to view it full size). Great for most minor injuries and common ailments. This also comes with a small book explaining how to treat just about any injury you’d face on a normal hike.
Toiletries bag – All of the stuff I need to keep clean and presentable. The bag also has a pull-out shower hang bag.
- Toothbrush & Toothpaste
- Shampoo (two 3-ounce bottles of it)
- Hand soap (one 3-ounce bottle)
- Bar soap & soap dish
- Deodorant (2 bars)
- Dental Floss
- Cotton Swabs
- Razor & extra blades (Mach 3)
- DITCHED: Beard trimmer & charger – (I have a beard, and I like to take care of it, damn it!)
- Fingernail clippers
NOTE: You can buy this stuff anywhere, so do NOT overpack! I brought way too much stuff to begin with.
Sun Block (SPF 30)
Bug Repellant / Sun Block mixture (SPF 15 with DEET)
Analgesic cream (Neosporin)
Iodine water purification tablets
NOTE: I did not use any of the drugs / pills, except the Ibuprofen once or twice and the water purification tablets QUITE A BIT when I was out in rural areas.
100% DEET Insect Repellant – The most effective insect repellant…very strong.
Lip Balm (Chapstick)
Listerine tabs & Small bottle of mouthwash
Hand Sanitizer (2 bottles of Purel) – I’m not much of a germ-o-phobe, but we are heading to some pretty filthy third world countries.
Cold Medicine (Sudafed)
Allergy medicine (Benadryl)
NOTE: I did not use any of this stuff on the entire trip, even when I had diarrhea…I guess I’m not a medicine kind of guy.
Things I don’t have but are recommended: Malaria Pills and a generic Antibiotics prescription which can be taken for a variety of bacterial sicknesses. You might need a prescription for these. (Note: I acquired some of these part way through the trip, and I never once used them. I wouldn’t carry them with me again.)
Vaccinations – Okay, so this isn’t something you actually *bring* with you, but before I left, I got quite a few shots. In addition to the vaccinations all Americans get as kids (ie: Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Chicken Pox, Menangitis, and probably more), I got the following vaccinations: Typhoid, Yellow Fever, Tetanus-Diptheria and Hepatitis A. I decided against getting two of the suggested vaccinations because they cost a lot of money (nearly $600 each): Japanese encephalitis and Rabies. It’s a risk, but I figured an extra $1200 in a third world country would go a lot farther than a few shots that prevented diseases I have an astronomically low chance of contracting anyway.
Ultraportable Laptop (Asus Eee PC 900) – Pretty much everything I do in my normal day-to-day life involves a computer, and I have a lot of projects that I want to work on online in my absence…this blog for instance. This laptop is TINY. It has an 8.9” screen, a ridiculously tiny keyboard (which I’ve gotten quite used to), and weighs less than two pounds. It is not particularly fast or powerful (900 Mhz / 1GB of RAM), but it runs Windows XP very well, as well as Linux. (I’ve installed a customized version of XP on mine.) It has a 4GB solid fast access state hard drive for the OS, and a 16GB slower partition for file storage for a total of 20GB storage – but it can easily be expanded with memory cards or an external hard drive. This laptop can do just about anything I need to do on it, including editing photos, surfing the web, writing emails, word processing, watching videos, or chatting online (text, voice or video – yes, it has a 1.3 megapixel webcam). As far as expansion ports go, it has 3 USB 2.0 ports and an SD card reader – which is perfect, because it takes the same type of memory cards as my digital camera. It also has an Ethernet port and of course, Wifi reception.
Digital Camera – Canon SD750. Canon makes the best point-and-shoot cameras on the market, and this camera takes beautiful pictures. Takes SD memory cards.
Video iPod – 60 gigabytes of music and video. I couldn’t bear to go for 6 months without my music, so I had to bring this along. Provides nearly endless entertainment.
Universal Outlet Adapter – This adapter can reconfigure to fit the outlets of nearly 150 countries all over the world, so it’s very handy. It also has a USB charging port, so I can charge my iPod (or a cell phone or other USB powered device), simultaneously while I use the outlet.
USB memory sticks – Two USB memory sticks; one 512MB one for documents, and one 1GB memory stick that has all of the recovery files for my laptop in case something happens to it and I need to reinstall my OS or drivers.
SD cards – Several SD cards… I have a 1GB, two 2GB cards, a 4GB and one that’s 128MB. These can hold thousands and thousands of digital photos, as well as music and video.
Extra camera batteries & Charger – I have three batteries for my digital camera, because sometimes we’ll go for days without a source of power.
Earbuds – Multiple pairs of bud earphones in case they break or get lost.
Various cords – For iPod, digital camera, charger cable for laptop, etc.
Aside from everything I brought, there are a few things that Pete brought in his pack that we will be sharing throughout the trip. They are:
DITCHED: Tent – A portable house that we will probably stay in quite a bit once we get to more rural locations, or go on hiking trips. It’s pretty small — designed for two people and not much else.
DITCHED: Water Purification Pump – A water filtration system where we’ll be able to fill up our water bottles from any source of fresh water we encounter (rivers, streams, lakes, etc.) (Note: Use purification tablets instead. They are way lighter and smaller, and you won’t use the pump very frequently at all.)
DITCHED: Camping Stove – A lightweight camping stove that takes Propane tanks (which we’ve been told are sold all over the world). Without a fuel tank, this stove is useless, but if we ever venture into a place where we’ll need to cook our own food for an extended period of time, we’ll be sure to pick up some fuel for this.
Things I Wish I had
In my rush to pack for the trip, I either forgot to get, or didn’t have the forethought to bring a few items. I’ve survived so far without them, but these are things I’d highly recommend you bring if you go on a similar trip:
Low-Absorption Towel – One of those lightweight pack towels made of quick drying artificial materials. Every time I take a shower and have to dry myself off with paper towels or a T-shirt, I curse that I wish I’d gotten one of these before I left. Not only that, but I am blatantly disregarding the wisdom of one of my favorite books (The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy), as well as the wisest of all South Park characters…Towelie. (“Don’t forget to bring a towel!”) (Update: The entire trip, I did not have a towel. I improvised every single time I dried myself off. And you know what? It worked out fine. I usually used a handkerchief and dried myself off that way. I’m glad I didn’t have a wet cloth in my pack all the time.)
Hostel bag / sheet – I ditched my sleeping bag early in the trip, because it was too big and heavy for spending the summer in Southeast Asia. In its place, though, I wish I had a sewed-in-half sheet or hostel liner bag that I could sleep in. (I’m going to find a sheet at some point on this trip!) (Update: I was right…HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!)
Dress shirt – My clothing is fine for going on hikes or to tourist attractions, but I don’t really have anything I can wear out to bars or clubs. It would be nice if I’d brought one nice dress shirt rather than the button-down shirt I have – which looks like something a jungle explorer or Jeff Probst might wear. (Update: I bought a kinda stylish button-down shirt early in my trip that could pass as casual or kind of dressy early in the trip and wore it all the time. Definitely bring one shirt like this to where out to restaurants or if you go to a club or something!)
Regular wallet – I have two travelers’ safety wallets, which are designed to stay hidden underneath your shirt to deter robbers, but not a regular pocket wallet. It’s a huge pain, because most places we’ll be visiting don’t have a terrible crime rate, and a pocket wallet is much more convenient. (Update: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! You look like a fool using those travel wallets, and I just bought a regular wallet within a few weeks of traveling. Hardly anyone is going to pickpocket you if you’re alert.)
Watch – I have no way of keeping the time, and it has annoyed me quite a bit thus far. I don’t normally wear a watch when I’m back in the States, but that’s because I normally have a cell phone on me. I need to pick up a watch somewhere! (Update: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! I brought one and it for the entire trip…and I’m normally not a watch guy.)
Extra passport photos – I haven’t needed them yet, but I hear a lot of countries ask for them when you apply for a visa. I didn’t have time to get them before I left the USA. Update: (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! I had to buy passport photos three times on my trip…and though they’re easy to get in just about any big city, it’s better to have them with you to begin with.)
Malaria pills – If we go to a Malaria-infected region, I’ll have to get some. (Update: I found no need for these and never once wished I had them.)
Generic Antibiotics prescription – Useful for warding off all kinds of nasty illnesses. (Update: I found no need for these and never once wished I had them.)
Packets of powder Laundry Detergent & Sink Stopper – So we can do our laundry in a sink. (UPDATE: When we did our laundry in a Japanese Laundromat, we purchased a half liter bottle of laundry detergent (the smallest size) and I lugged it around for a month, because I don’t want to waste it. I did finally use it thought. I then bought powder detergent and carried it around for a long time…finally used it though. I would say buy a small amount of powder detergent and carry it with you, but don’t buy too much!)
My pack weighs over 50 pounds, and even more when I’m carrying water. But I think I have just about everything I need for 6 months (or a few years) on the road. Post a comment below if you think I’m missing anything or if you think there’s something that I should absolutely get rid of.
UPDATE: After DITCHING so much stuff, my pack weighed a whole lot less (maybe 30 – 35 pounds) and I never once regretted getting rid of stuff.) SIMPLE RULE: Bring less than you think you’ll need, and bring more money to get stuff along the way as you need it!