When I first left for college an entire car was filled with things I thought I couldn’t live without. When I left for the Peace Corps I had two checked bags and a large pack. Moving to San Francisco I brought a duffel and backpack.
For this trip, I’ll be bringing one bag.
Understanding what’s important when travelling is different for everyone. For me, being able to have everything on my back and ready for multiple weather situations is key. My packing lists have evolved over the years and below is my most recent iteration. A lot of these items I’ve had for years and some I bought for this trip. Enjoy!
Osprey is incredible – if for whatever reason you decide to drag your Osprey bag up and down Everest, intentionally burn a hole in it, let your dog use it as a chew toy, let it sit for 10 years, then decide to send it back to Osprey, they’ll replace it free of charge, no questions asked. The first bag I had of theirs (an Osprey Momentum 34 in Bamboo) helped get me through college, two Peace Corps stints, and two years of almost daily use in San Francisco before it was replaced by its updated version. This new model sports all the same qualities I loved and adds a dedicated shoe compartment on the bottom along with a much improved back ventilation system.
Here’s an item I’ve been using within a week of hearing about them – Darn Tough socks. I tend to buy a higher priced, quality item that’ll outlast a cheaper, inferior product. It reduces my footprint and I get to use well-made items every day.
Darn Tough socks fall in the former category – they’re interested in “producing the best possible socks the world has to offer.” Family owned, based in Vermont, and makers of tightly stitched, merino wool socks that get replaced for free when you wear them out. I bought five pair in 2013, and am on my fourth grouping of socks – essentially 20 pairs of high-quality socks for the price of 5 (plus shipping old ones back). That keeps my feet and wallet very happy.
Adidas Boxer Briefs
Nothing fancy here. Just synthetic Adidas boxers purchased from Kohls. They last a while, are comfortable, pack down small, and don’t stretch out – a problem I had with ExOfficio Boxer Briefs after about a year.
It seems like I feel asleep on the textile world, relying on old-fashioned denim and cotton-fabrics for the past few years. And while jeans will be around for the next 100 years, as they have been for the past 100, the fabric used for the Prana Brion pant seems straight out of the future. It’s water repellent, has 4-way stretch, a gusseted crotch, is non-wrinkle (!), and has an incredible hand.
The cut’s slim enough to be on the casual side of business-casual and on your lunch break is ready to romp down a trail. They pack small and are solidly made.
Craghoppers Nosilife Pant (Discontinued)
Similar to the Brion, the fabric on this pant has the same qualities as the Brion, except being about half as think and being more breathable than an already breathable fabric. An added benefit these pants have that the Brions don’t: adjustable elastic leg openings. This converts the pants into Aladin-esque shorts and ensures the pants don’t drag when you wear them with sandals. Big plus!
Nothing crazy here – extremely light (2.7 oz.) nylon fabric with a dwr-finish. These are my running shorts and pajamas. They feel weightless when you wear them, don’t restrict motion at all, and pack down as small as a pair of boxers.
When using such a small pack, it helps to have items that have a double or triple use. These do just that. They’re my: go-to short; swimming trunks; and can be used as running / exercise shorts. Made out of nylon (polyester tends to pick up odors quicker and more permanently), these dry quick, have a great hand, and have enough pockets (including a zippered back pocket) that makes securing items easy and effortless.
In the sock review, I used this link showing benefits of merino wool. With t-shirts the benefits are the same. No wrinkles, barely any odor-retention, quick-drying, a soft and comfortable fabric that doesn’t irritate the skin (like other types of wool), and a fabric that’s long lasting.
Wool & Prince makes quality shirts in flattering cuts with some of the comfiest merino wool I’ve ever worn (better than Icebreaker, Ibex, and Darn Tough [for socks]). Yes, they’re pricy. Yes, they’re just shirts. And yes, I’m still okay with that because I’ll be wearing these more than any other top I’m bringing with me. Having an item like that fail isn’t an option.
Icebreaker 140 GT Shirt (Discontinued)
This is a lighter merino than the Wool & Prince shirts, and is well suited for exercise and hot, hot days when a shirt’s required.
This is the opposite of the Icebreaker GT shirt – used for cold days and layering. One issue that seems to keep coming up with this shirt is the sleeves: around the wrist area they loosen up and don’t stay close to the skin. This could be improved with an elastic ribbing on the cuff, but isn’t a big enough draw to not use the shirt. It’s still solidly made. Gifted from my sister — thanks, Taylor!
This is made out of Organic Cotton and is used as a layering piece and when a fancier outfit is needed. Wrinkles don’t really stand out too much thanks to its checkered pattern, and the fabric is thin but very strong. Got off eBay for $10 — eBay’s still a goldmine!
Bosch Tank Top
I bought this at a Salvation Army back in 2010. It’s been through quite a bit, including some alteration. It started as an XL and was sewed down to a Medium. It’s been with me through all my travels, and does duty as tank top and pajama top. Made out of some sort of cotton-nylon blend and packs down to the size of a Coke can.
Just like the Darn Tough Company, Arc’Teryx is uncompromising when it comes to fabrics, construction, and durability of everything they make. I got this off eBay for sub-$100, priced that way because the right pocket zipper was coming undone. Ten minutes of sewing later, the jacket’s practically new.
It packs down to the size of a Nalgene, weighs next to nothing for a down jacket (12.9 oz.), and feels like you’re wearing a comfy sleeping bag on your torso. Win, win, win.
You can spend a boatload on a packable rain jacket. Half-your-paycheck amounts. K-Way offers an affordable alternative that ticks off the same boxes as your higher end jackets (waterproof, packs down into its own pocket, somewhat breathable) but at a fraction of the price. I got this off eBay (sensing a trend here?) for $20, shipping included. Sometimes the best option isn’t the priciest.
I mentioned purchasing quality items to reduce my footprint. This item does this literally: made out of reclaimed Goodyear tires, this sandal is made to last thousands of miles and utilizes materials that otherwise would fill landfills. If you don’t know Luna’s story, check out this link, or read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. It’s a gateway to understanding the benefits of anatomically correct footwear and running. I’ve had these for two years and barely notice any wear to the sole – it’ll probably take until 2020 until these have to be replaced.
Following the barefoot-benefits train, Altra offers zero-drop anatomically correct footwear geared toward road and trail running, with work-casual options as well.
Dell XPS (2016 Edition)
If you enter “Best Ultrabook for travel” into YouTube you’ll find tons of info on what’s out there. This is what I picked. It has 8gb of ram, a 256gb SSD, still-zippy 6th gen i5 processor, and small footprint. It does what I need and can handle the rare, heavier task.
Dell XPS Charger
I pack this in the small pocket of my Lacdo laptop sleeve. Fits nice and snug.
These are high-quality, all-metal cables with a nice 3-foot length.
Hopefully I’m not the first one telling you about how battery packs can get you out of a sticky situation or offer that all-day-power option when you know you’re gonna be in a million different places with no outlet in sight. Yes, it’s a bit heavy, in part due to really great build quality, but the energy security it offers saves a lot of psychological pain and it’s already lasted two years with no signs of stopping.
Pretty generic at this point, but small and necessary. Got these free – if I had to get another, I’d get ones built by Anker that have two USB slots.
“Good cell phones are getting cheap and cheap cell phones are getting good.” – Marques Brownlee.
The Moto G5 fits at that nexus. A quality Android experience in a full-metal housing for under $250. And it’s unlocked.
Cell Phone Case
Packing cubes are one of those ideas so simple and obvious you’re surprised you didn’t think of it first. They help organize your stuff and Eagle Creek’s one of the best at it. One side’s ventilated, one’s not. Clean clothes can breathe, smelly smells are contained.
Spill proof and TSA-approved. Soft silicone helps squeeze out every oz.
Eagle Creek Foldable Toiletry Bag (Super Discontinued)
As a testament to Eagle Creek’s quality, this was handed down from my parents. They used it for years before letting me take it to Iceland. Since then it’s been a staple in my bag ensuring all toiletries stay organized and safe.
This is kept rolled up and stashed away and used to hold dirty laundry. Takes up less space than a pair of socks.
Just a basic case, made by Lacdo. Keeps the laptop safe, charging cable close, and all in a slim package.
This was the cheapest full-silk liner I could find — these things can get expensive ($70+)!
Silk is hypoallergenic, soft, lightweight, breathable, and strong. The breathability is important. When you’re using this day after day or weeks on end, ensuring it doesn’t develop a funk is key. Silk helps with that.
Sleeping bag liners can be used as last-resort bed sheets or an extra insulating layer on cold nights. Packs small and weighs next to nothing (4.9 oz.). A little space used for a lotta upside.
Few things under $15 can dramatically improve your life. Quality nail clippers are one of those things. Seki Edge SS-107 stainless steel clippers – really rolls off the tongue – really lives up to the 900+ 4.5-star-average Amazon rating. The build quality, satisfying click, sharp edge – I look forward to this every single week.
Toothbrush / Cover
Buff & Holder
Scarf, scrunchie, bandanna, headband – a buff can do a lot. This one has Insect Shield impregnated into the fabric. While I haven’t noticed a lot of bug repelling, maybe that means it’s working?