What’s in the bags?
I love to read other travel bloggers’ packing lists. Somehow I find my bags seem to be fuller than what other people carry. So do I really need so much more than other travelers, or are they only listing part of their stuff?
I am going to share with you what I am carrying for this year-long trip. I start off in cold weather and end in cold weather. I will be traveling on trains and buses for most of the year and will be on a ship for almost two months of the trip. In October, I plan to be walking from Porto in Portugal to Santiago in Spain, so I need to either ship ahead or store about half my stuff during a three-week period and keep my backpack to no more than 15 lbs.
Based on my past experience, I will shop along the way, so there will be several post office visits to send stuff home. I hear the advice from minimalist who say buy experiences instead of objects. Yeah, I hear you, and I still like to find cool art and textiles for my future home. Point is, I will carry an extra empty bag for picking up treasures and will periodically send them home.
Starting with clothes, I have one pair of jeans (Goodwill find) that I will wear most travel days. I will also pack one pair of black Dickies scrub pants. I think of these as my best clothing tip. Scrubs are sturdy and yet light weight and they dry pretty fast. In Thailand these dried overnight. I find them to be super comfortable too, especially when traveling overnight and trying to sleep in my clothes. I am also bringing 5 shirts: 3 long sleeve, 1 short sleeve and a tank top.I finish off with some exercise shorts and a soft cotton dress that I can wear daytime or for relaxing. These all fit into one medium packing cube.
For underwear, I have been wearing the “Ex Officio” brand since 2011. They fit well and are easy to wash and dry overnight. The ads say you can travel the world with just 2 sets, but I carry 5 sets for convenience. I like their camisoles as they are pretty enough to look like a tank top under a lightweight shirt. I have 3 camisoles and two bras that pull-on; no hooks to catch in the laundry. I also carry several hankerchiefs, a pair of long underpants for layering in cold weather and a two-piece swimsuit. These pack into two small packing cubes.
Socks are important too, and I love the Darn Tough brand. I hear so much about the importance of good socks for foot care. I have traveled with cotton socks and they take so long to dry and get smelly fast. Over the last few years, my cheap cotton socks have been discarded and replaced with wool and wool blend. Believe me they are worth the extra cost. I packed 6 pair which is as much as I could fit in a small mesh bag.
Six pair, one lightweight liners
Since I will be in several different weather situations, I am bringing several layers. I can use one, two or three layers depending on how cold it is.
Layer zero is my trusty travel vest. It is several years old now and has seen almost as much of the world as I have. I wear it all the time. It is getting pretty frayed around the zippers. I hope to have a newer version made for me in Asia with some adjustments to suit my needs and in a more feminine color.
Layer 1 is a travel hoodie I picked up at Goodwill and has the inside travel pockets I like. It is warm enough for mild weather.
Layer 2 is a lightweight down jacket from Eddie Bauer that was on sale. It is warm outdoors and yet, if I wear it indoors, I am still comfortable.
Layer 3 is only going to be used for the first part of my trip in the North Pacific in December and January. I found a used snow boarders parka in, you guessed it, Goodwill. It is big enough to go on top of the other layers. It is wind-proof and water-resistant so can act as a rain jacket too. I plan to donate this when I get to Malaysia. I am also bringing a knit cap and bright orange gloves
Parka, down jacket, travel vest, cap and gloves. Missing from this photo is the travel hoodie. These, I will be wearing during the first month of travel so they need no packing space.
I am also bringing a red rain poncho, laundry pouch and a purple silk sleeping sheet. The sleeping sheet is for walking the Camino in the pilgrim hostels. I am told silk is impervious to bed bugs. I hope that is true. Right now it is packed so perfectly in the pouch it came in. I am wondering how I will ever get it that perfect again after I use it. You can see how lumpy my rain poncho is packed 😜
This photo includes the travel hoodie, rain poncho, sleeping sheet and a laundry pouch full of “thank you” tokens (more on that later.)
I have a lightweight sleeping bag that is about a pound and it squashes down to about four clenched fists in size. Should be warm enough for indoor use. I used it outdoors camping in New Zealand and Australia in summer. I plan to donate after my Camino pilgrimage and that should free up room in the backpack for a couple new outfits for the cruise I am going on immediately after.
Lightweight sleeping bag
Travel towels: one large enough to wrap around me and one smaller hand size, in a mesh bag. These are brand new. After I use them, will they ever go back in the case neatly?
So all the clothes, towels and sleeping bag fit into this pretty purple backpack 🎒 I got a good one from REI that has some nice pockets, a rain cover and a good waist belt. Did I mention it is purple? This is bag one.
Toiletries are my biggest challenge. They take a lot of room. I really tried to cut back this time. I have sea sickness meds and malaria meds that can be discarded as soon as the need disappears. I am bringing just enough toothpaste for my time on board ship. Small box of bandaids, foot salve, deodorant, floss, hand sanitizer, cotton swabs, hand cream, tea tree oil, razor and several tubes of lip balm. All these pack in gallon zip lock.
I have a few more medicines in a small zippered case that include Aleve for aches, cold medicine, Benedryl, Imodium, and Bonine for sea sickness.
For daytime I like to use this small cross-body purse. I can carry my wallet, pens, hand sanitizer, sunglasses, mints, gum and a small makeup pouch that has mascara, tweezers, mirror, nail clippers and nail file.
Miscellaneous bits include a dry bag for day tours that might get wet and a clear dry case for my phone with a neck strap. I have a pair of black fingerless gloves and black buff along with the knit cap and the orange gloves again. You can also see my comb and round hair brush. The comb I found in Chennai India and is my favorite comb of all time. I misplaced it for a few months and grieved for its loss. Happily I found it again in a secret pocket of my pack. 😅
Next is a 1-liter water bottle that packs flat, ear plugs, extra laces, shower puff and flip flops. Little to say about these.
In the electronics section, I have a multi port USB charger with changeable plugs for Asia, Australia and the US. I am bringing four lightning cables, my old iPhone and its charging cable as backup, two pair of earphones, a charging cable for my Fitbit and a small multi-outlet extension cord. I am also bring one of my sisters old e-readers so I can read her books. (Note: e-reader not working so mailed back in Vancouver). They all pack nicely in a zippered amenity bag that I got from a prior United Airlines flight.
So one bag of chargers is not enough for me? Or is the first bag too small? In another amenity bag from a different trip, I have a solar battery charger and a large battery charger. I also have my Sonicare toothbrush charger and pair of Bluetooth earphones.
Here are some more odd bits. A plastic mug with lid for having tea, oatmeal, noodles or soup on the train or making a simple meal in a hostel. I can pick up honey and lemons and use to make a hot drink. I picked up a set of travel flatware: knife, fork, spoon and chopsticks in a zippered case. They should be useful for quick meals along the way.
I have a couple a small reusable shopping bags that roll up tight. I added a small sewing kit, bag of small bags to keep SIM cards I pick up along the way, bag of crochet hooks, bag of carabiners and a bag with emergency toilet paper. I also have a case with nail clippers and small scissors.
I picked up two zippered pencil bags that are big enough for my paperwork folded in half. One has my ticket and forms for my cargo cruise (start of trip) and another has my Eurail passes (August to November). I picked up two small paper journals for writing down memories. I found a small picture book for pointing at items, when I am language challenged. I am also bringing spiral bound index cards with the idea of writing down phrases in other languages that I can refer to. How to say “No Thanks, I don’t drink” and be polite.
For my digital life, I am bringing an iPhone and iPad. A laptop would add too much weight. My iPad has a keyboard cover combo so for longer writing periods I can type easier. I also have a iPad pencil, mostly for doodling and coloring. I have a T-Mobile SIM card which should give me 2G data in most of the countries I travel through. My phone is unlocked so I can buy local SIM cards to add to my collection. My iPad is WIFI only. I am current writing this post on my iPhone as that is my only source for an Internet connection now.
I use a RFID blocking passport case for my passport and extra cards. I carry a daily wallet with one ATM card and one credit card and just enough cash. The rest of my cards hang with the passport and yellow fever card and cash stash. The little guy, “Mel” is a stuffed toy I found at the Melbourne Zoo. He looked like an adventurous guy so he is coming along and may feature in some photos.
So all the little stuff fits in these two bags that I inherited from my sister. They have been on several trips with me.
The whole package
All my stuff in the backpack and my big shoulder bag looks like this. I did add one more shopping bag for snacks and treats on the cargo cruise. By the time I get to Malaysia it should be empty and flattened. I plan to use it for laundry when staying in one place and for souvenirs along the way – expecting to mail home packages when the bag is half full.
This is my packing story. Each trip is a learning experience for me. By the end of 2017, I will have learned even more. What is your recommendation to either eliminate or add. Please comment below.