Doing More with Less

SpartanTraveler

Doing More with Less.


What to Pack for a trip Around the World 85

Posted Sep 19, 2013 by Clayton B. Cornell In: Gear

spartan-traveler-rtw-pack-list

Exactly what does it take to live anywhere?

Last week I hopped on a 19-hour flight back to Indonesia with little more than a daypack, my laptop bag, and some surfing gear. It may not seem like much, but it’s everything I need to live, work, and travel for an indefinite period of time.

I already wish I’d brought less.

Whenever I pack, the goal is to take the 20% of gear that will cover 80% of situations. If you ask yourself “but what if I do ____?” or think “this will really come in handy if ____”, then leave it at home.

This rule alone eliminates most dead weight, like that camp stove or extra shirt you carried across 18 countries and never even pulled out of the pack. The secret to success for the mobile lifestyle is to bring as little as possible.

Besides the obvious perks of traveling light, like being able to pack in 15 minutes, walking on and off flights with nothing but a carry-on, and being able to tour a city for half a day with all your gear, there is an enormous psychological benefit to taking very little with you. It’s hard to imagine until you’ve experienced it, but a “lightness of being” really emerges when you only have 2 pairs of clothing and 15 lbs to your name.

Remember: There are actual stores in other countries! With few exceptions you can always buy what you need later. I briefly considered bringing rock climbing gear with me for Thailand until I realized I could purchase everything I need there for $200, or have it shipped from the US. That’s 3-5lbs of gear I don’t have to lug around aimlessly or let decay in the tropics for the next 2 months.

A note on the gear list presented here: The kit below is currently optimized for living and working in a tropical climate, but it would be easy to upgrade to a pair of jeans and a down jacket if needed. A lot of equipment here could be thrown out if I was just traveling and not working on my laptop. But I’m in this one for the long-haul, so I brought the Spartan equivalent of the kitchen sink. Also note: Some of this gear is expensive, but I’m a fan of spending money on one good item, rather than a bunch of mediocre ones. I almost always buy closeout goods, so I rarely pay full price for anything. For discount gear in the US, check out places like Altrec.com, shop the REI sales, or just Google shopping for big discounts on last year’s gear (e.g. the Sonar pack retails for $140 but you can get it for $50 on sale from REI).

Getting down to business:

Here’s a picture I took at the Singapore International airport of my current backpack and laptop bag:

Traveling light spartantraveler

Featured: Brand-new 24L Black Diamond Sonar hiking pack, and a small laptop bag made by Rickshaw bags of San Francisco.

The backpack, which is my home-away-from home and everything I need to survive in the wild, weighs-in at just under 15 lbs (6.8 kg). I love this pack right now more than words can describe. Moving from a fully top-loading pack to the full access zipper is life-changing.

Black diamond sonar pack

That thing I need is still at the bottom, but now I can get it without dumping everything out. I’ll write more on backpack considerations later, but the Sonar won out of 5 other packs I considered based on weight, comfort, quality, and size (including the digital-nomad favorite the North Face Surge). Note that the Sonar has replaced the backpack featured at the top of the post, my 30L Black Diamond Speed, which I carried around the world for 1 year. If you aren’t sold on backpacks: it’s just the best way to carry things. Wheeled luggage is a liability once you leave the city. And quality backpacks are lighter and carry weight so much better than daypacks.

The fully-loaded laptop bag, which contains a full mobile office, everything I need to run an online business, weighs 6 lbs (2.7 kg). Getting a work sprint in on the way to SFO:

Spartan travel kit to indo

All told, my mobile life weighs a little over 20 lbs, and there’s significant room for improvement.

Minimalism notwithstanding, I may have to change the name of this site after revealing this pack list. Among the most notable ‘heavy’ and relatively expensive accessories I opted to bring on this trip include are:

  • A Sonicare toothbrush – The “$100 toothbrush” (makes me slightly ill to think about) but it’s worth way more in the ability to fix your teeth. It turns out that irregular trips to the dentist and a lot of travel are really hard on things.
  • Bose QC-15 headphones – Part of the digital-nomad lab and essential for working in noisy environments. Already proven worth the investment here in Bali.
  • A travel-mobility kit – Featuring a lacrosse ball, Voodoo band, and my plastic imitation foam roller (Nalgene bottle). Key gear for staying limber. For more read How I broke my body and then fixed it.
  • Surfing gear for Indonesia – all packed into the board-bag, not to be carried during the rest of the trip (likely shipped home).

None of this stuff is cheap, light-weight, or necessarily Spartan, but it fits into my general budgetary and weight constraints, so what the hell. If you throw these items out you’d be pushing a world class 10-15 lb total pack weight.

The SpartanTraveler World Travel Pack List:

Travel Clothing:

se-asia-backpacking-clothes-ex

Most people are surprised by how little clothing I have, but this kit is even overboard for hanging out in Bali, where most of the time I’ll be wearing nothing but board shorts and a tank-top (the same ones, every day, purified by salt water). The more you stick to one activity the simpler this gets, a la the 2 board-short 2 shirt surf trip. If/when I head to a cooler climate I’ll drop a pair of shorts and add a fleece + a pair of jeans. Some of the excess clothing here is for later in the trip.

Here’s what it looks like compressed:

packed-se-asia-clothes What’s here:

(upper body)

  • l-sleeve Capilene top (Patagonia) – This + the rain jacket keeps me warm down to relatively low temps.
  • t-shirts (2)
  • merino t-shirts (2) (Icebreaker) – I was introduced to these last year in Indonesia. They just don’t smell bad, no matter how many consecutive weeks you wear them. By the way, 4 shirts is overkill but I’m testing these right now.
  • rain jacket (Marmot) – Basic ultra-light version, not the Precip. Falling apart, but I’ve had this since 2006.
  • dress Shirt (Banana Republic)
  • tank-top (Bin-Tang of course) - I could use more than one.

(lower body)

  • boxers (2) (Patagonia cap 1 boxers) – My favorites, better than Ex-officio (lighter and less fabric).
  • boxer briefs (2) (REI brand) – Same idea as above but more sporty.
  • travel shorts (old-school REI Sahara zip-offs w/ custom zippered pocket) – I’ve worn these since 2007. Great travel shorts. I only plan to use the zip-on part for battling mosquitoes. The new ones are not as good as the old version – I’d look at other brands.
  • board shorts (2) – Quicksilver/Rip Curl. They aren’t cheap but life really is better in a good pair of board-shorts.
  • dress pants (Patagonia Rock Craft Pant) – Stretchy climbing pants that double as slacks. I have an old version with a different color grey.
  • nice shorts (Patagonia Rock Craft Short) – Unplanned Brand duplication here, but these are unbelievably comfortable, stretchy, and shed water.
  • socks (3 pair)
  • UL hiking/travel shoes (Inov-8 F-lite 195) - My favorite shoes, ever. Minimalist, near barefoot, and comfy. Very popular with the CrossFit crowd for good reason.

Electronics / Digital-Nomad Mobile Office:

digital-nomad-mobile-office

What’s here:

  • laptop (11″ Macbook air + charger) – I was a PC user for 20 years, but the MBA is hands-down the best laptop made. It’s so much better it’s not even worth listing why. If you don’t understand yet you probably haven’t used one. Add to this the fact that the Air is 0.5lb lighter than my previous netbook, with a battery life of 6-7 hours, and… yep.
  • netbook case (Case logic)
  • international phone / Camera (Iphone 5 + charger + Lifeproof Nuud case + earbuds) – The unlocked Verizon iPhone 5 can accept international SIM cards + become a wifi hotspot. It’s also my camera/video camera. I opted for the new case from LifeProof, which is waterproof but allows direct access to the touchscreen. I’m loving it. I’ll be on the beach and in boats quite a bit, and traveling will kill an iPhone really fast.
  • reading material (Amazon Kindle + neoprene case + charge cord) – The plain Kindle is one of my essential items. Take a library with you and never get stuck reading a crap Tom Clancy novel again. Getting a Kindle in 2012 increased the number of books I read by about 1000%. Finish one and the next is just a click away. Plus, download any book you want from wifi. Game-changer. [update 12/6/13: stolen in Kuala Lumpur at a hostel. MF*&!)@]
  • USB key (not pictured)
  • work headphones (Bose QC 15) – As mentioned, a gamechanger for working in coffee shops. Already more than worth the price-tag for trying to work at Jiwa Juice in Bali. [update 12/6/13: still a game-changer, but frustratingly the headphone ear-pads are blowing out already. Guess I should have brought the case]
  • universal plug adapter – works very well for a cheap-o travel adapter, though it started dropping out of the European-style sockets recently.

Travel Essentials / Accessories:

spartan-travel-accessories

What’s here:

  • passport + bag (customized Eddie Bauer travel pouch)
  • first aid kit – Absolutely essential. You can get to a pharmacy anywhere, but it’s not fun with a puncture wound in your foot or when you can’t make it off the bathroom floor. Nice to have some things ready to go. Most important tools here are Polysporin antibiotic ointment, prescription-strength pain-killers for when things get really bad, an irrigation syringe (for cleaning puncture wounds), tweezers, and something to settle your stomach (like chewable Pepto Bismol).
  • UL headlamp (Mammut S-lite) + spare AA battery – Lightest headlamp I could find that accepts a standard AA battery.
  • UL towel (MSR Packtowl Ultralight) – I opted for the full-size, needed for changing on the beach. [update 12/6/13: one thing I hate about these is they start to smell like a wet dog after a few days. Need to wash often]
  • sunglasses + case (Ocean / Julbo) – Finally opted for a good pair of sunglasses, case essential.
  • water bottle (REI Nalgene) – Doubles as a “foam” roller.
  • UV Water Purifier + Charger (Steripen Freedom) – Key for remote areas or where bottled water is outrageously expensive. Will kill everything in the water but won’t filter sediment or other contaminants.
  • micro steel cable – Occasionally I feel the need to lock my backpack to a fixed object, e.g. when I’m sleeping on a bus.
  • mini-padlock
  • collapsible backpack (Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Daypack) – Best daypack I’ve found. 20L that collapses into a palm-sized pouch.
  • leather wallet (not pictured) – I don’t carry more in this than I’m willing to lose.
  • UL pack cover (Sea to Summit pack cover) – For rainy climates.
  • spork (Light My Fire spork, not pictured)
  • foldable travel bowl (not pictured) – Occasionally I’ll buy breakfast food and make my own. This is the ‘origami’ pack bowl, a favorite for backpacking, purchased at REI.
  • handkerchief (doubles as an eyemask/dustmask/washcloth)
  • waterproof travel watch (Timex Digital Watch, not pictured)
  • journal (Mead Composition, college-ruled)
  • small work notebook
  • ear plugs
  • waterproof dry bag (Sea to summit Ultra-sil dry bag) – [update 12/6/13: note that all of my electronic gear fits in this bag. Key for rainy climates & I always keep it in my laptop bag.]
  • travel belt – lightweight nylon webbing
  • universal drain plug – portable washing machine
  • chapstick

* One thing that I threw out last minute was the GSM cell phone and charger when I realized I could use my iPhone. I thought it might be good to have a cheap one to use most of the time, but realized I could buy one anytime for $20. Note that the tennis ball was replaced by a lacrosse ball.

Fitness Gear:

Mobility wod travel gear

These are new additions and what I consider the bare minimum to stay healthy on the road.

What’s here:

Bathroom Stuff:

Se asia toiletries big

What’s here:

  • contact lenses
  • contact solution
  • Part of the first aid kit – small bag with bandaids/polysporin. New-skin in the other ziploc (key for being in the water a lot, along with super-glue).
  • Sonicare Toothbrush + charger
  • flouride mouth wash
  • beard trimmer
  • sunscreen
  • prescription drugs
  • chapstick
  • UL polycarb mirror
  • mouthguard - keeps my from grinding my teeth to pieces.
  • emergency TP
  • hair product
  • hearing/ear water protection (Doc’s pro Plugs)

Surfing gear:

I’ll save this list for another post. But for fun, here’s what packing for this trip looked like:

Spartan travel sur climb gear

Things I’d like to throw out after the first week (and likely will):

  • 2 of the 4 t-shirts – I mean, who needs 4 t-shirts??
  • Voodoo Floss Band – The lacrosse ball is the key. I wish I had a jump stretch band but the jury is out on the Voodoo for this kind of trip. Have used it at least 5 times though.
  • Steripen Freedom – I may need this yet, but right now I’m more concerned with water source. The Steripen is fantastic in a pinch, but it won’t filter contaminants. I have no idea where water is coming from right now and I’m ok spending $1 a day on water (although I hate generating that much plastic waste).
  • The bowl and spork combo – this falls into the 20% rule. If I need a bowl I can always buy one.
  • Contact lenses and my eyeballs – Laser surgery?

That’s it!

If you’d like to see an Excel version of the entire SouthEast Asia pack list, including weights of each item (yes I’m that obsessed), check out the spreadsheet.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on travel gear. What do you take?

[UPDATE: 12/6/13: So a few things have changed in the last few months in Indonesia and Thailand. Here are the gear subtractions:

  • Steripen freedom and charger (sent home)
  • All surfing gear (left in Indonesia for later)
  • GoPro (sent home)
  • Kindle (stolen)
  • 2 pairs of cheap sunglasses (broken)
  • 1 pair of Havianas (broken)
  • bottom half of my REI sahara’s (sent home)]
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81 to “What to Pack for a trip Around the World”

    • Clayton says:

      That’s the impression I’m getting…

      • Anna says:

        Don’t get LASIK, get LASEK – without flap cut. Less risky, less serious complications, but longer healing time more expensive, you can’t go back to road the first week, but hey, that’s your eyes! You don’t want to risk with your eye health.

        • Helga Oli says:

          LASIK or LASEK is subject of the doctor’s evaluation with the pacient. In my case LASIK was better, at the same time a friend of mine got LASEK. It’s not a matter of choice. Per say. If by any chance it is then less cutting is better, for sure.

    • Helga Oli says:

      Exactly. Lasik’s great. Just did it, best decision. :)

      I wouldn’t loose the spork as the guy did.

      Also, I wish the things on the pics weren’t closed, I had a hard time gettin the things listed and matching them up.

      In the end: you increased my wish to go on traveling over 9000. :)

  1. JoshFrets says:

    I love merino wool. I have an icebreaker hoody & coat that are both impossibly warm (especially when used together) despite their thinness. I’ve thus far been reluctant to get t shirts & boxers of merino for fear of roasting myself. Has this been an issue for you?

    • Clayton says:

      So far so good. The t-shirts are really thin and comfortable up to the point that a normal t-shirt would be overkill. They’re also perfect for slightly cool nights. I think they are functionally like a normal t-shirt for temp depending on material. Only reservation right now is longevity: I’m hesitant to wear my $50 MSRP t-shirt with a backpack on for fear of wear. I would love to try the Icebreaker underwear. Same concern (too warm?) but hopefully I can get someone to bring me a pair later this year.

      • Clayton says:

        One other major point I should make here: every expensive thing you bring while traveling is one more thing to lose or be worried about. Stuff goes away, and a lot of mental energy can get wasted worrying about it.

        In a similar vein, having a small amount of gear makes I more likely that you will leave with all of it if a hasty exit is ever required (like bolting from a sketchy taxi situation).

        • Josh Frets says:

          That’s good to know, I appreciate that.

          I try to be very zen about the possibility of losing gear. (Read somewhere that Buddhists try to think of a glass as already being broken, and I find that that helps me be less attached to the things that are, at the end of the day, just tools.)

          This also dovetails nicely with a conversation with our mutual friend about “insta-replace” gear: http://www.tropicalmba.com/best-digital-nomad-backpack/

          • Clayton says:

            Yeah Dan is definitely the original pro here. His original video on packing is an all time fave (and here’s the original TMBA pack list).

            The Minaal bag looks fantastic. I’m really impressed and looking forward to checking it out when I meet up with everyone next month.

            The concept of “insta-replace” gear is something I wanted to talk more about: what has change for me after 2 years of traveling is I’m much less attached to individual items. Even if it all went away tomorrow it wouldn’t phase me much. Easy to replace the parts I need because a) it isn’t that much stuff to begin with and b) I’d replace it with less. I don’t want to say “expendable” gear, because I’m not a fan of throw-away culture. But I used to think “this jacket is the only jacket I’m going to have for the next 10 years.” Now I walk into Decathlon, buy a jacket, and 2 months later give it to some kid who needs one. On the balance it’s not expensive to do this because I don’t buy anything most of the time, and I rarely need new stuff. Bottom line is don’t pack it: buy what you need, if/when you need it.

      • Josh says:

        I can add to the conversation with icebreaker briefs – they are amazing, and not too warm at all. They’re good in hot and cold weather, and since they wash so easily, I just wear one pair for a few days while traveling (they are very, very slow to stink, so this is actually OK) and then when I shower, I rinse them out, maybe use a little soap, and wear the other pair for a few days.

        You can easily swap undies indefinitely, and they almost never smell bad. My proof of concept is that my wife continues to sleep in the same bed as me, even though she’s not always impressed by my cool undies. :)

        I love Icebreaker.

        And this thing: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004NEULF8/ref=oh_details_o01_s00_i03?ie=UTF8&psc=1

        Charges a few different things, takes up no space.

        • Clayton says:

          Josh, good to hear. I’m going to pick up a few of those as soon as possible. It sounds disgusting, but I’m sitting here in Indonesia my Icebreaker t-shirt that I haven’t washed since I left home (a month ago). It smells like it just came out of the package. Unbelievable.

      • Bunny says:

        I became a huge fan of merino wool during my 2014 Appalachian Trail hike. Minus 33 brand was my choice. I got their 2 of their long sleeved ¼ zip tops, one light weight and the other medium weight. I also got a lightweight short sleeve t-shirt and tank top … yes a wool tank top!
        While a bit on the delicate side (had to be careful to not pinch/pull then in the buckle of my hip belt) they are all super comfortable, wash up beautifully, and don’t hold body stink! Merino wool rocks!

        • Clayton says:

          No other shirt can you wear for days on end. I just went through 3 countries in 3 days in my Icebreaker, and concerns about durability were unfounded: I’ve been throwing on and off a backpack and laptop bag and have only seen the slightest bit of “piling” of the material where the shoulder straps go. Best part: after wearing the shirt for a solid week it still looks nice enough to go out to the bar. And it still smells like I pulled it out of the package. Amazing.

          • Thoughts on icebreaker vs the Ministry of Supply shirts? Btw, I like the idea of the nagalene bottle instead of a foam roller – I’ve been lugging around a travel foam roller with me, I think I’m switching it out!

  2. Kevin says:

    Clayton, great post and perfect timing as I get ready for a 3 week trip to Thailand. Last time I went to SE Asia I took a 75L Osprey bag which included a zip off laptop/day pack. It worked well and I really enjoyed the ability to put the day pack on my back and use the wheels on the bigger pack. (Believe it or not, you can wheel bags in 90% of places, the beach not so much but pretty much everywhere else!)

    But now I’m looking at more minimalist options. I’m curious what your thoughts are on going with a 50L bag like this Osprey: http://www.ospreypacks.com/en/group/convertible_wheeled_packs/ozone_convertible_series_new

    which is an all-in-one solution, as opposed to having a separate laptop bag that doesn’t attach? My only concern with your solution is wearing 2 bags on my back, or even worse, one on the front and one on the back! Maybe yours works better with the strap the carry on bag comes with?

    Definitely looking into those t-shirts and curious about your experiences so far with them, how many you actually need, etc.

    Cheers!

    • Clayton says:

      Kevin, thanks for the comment! I’ve been checking out your blog lately – great interviews!

      The thing about the Osprey bags is the shape: they have a sloping cargo pocket due to the mesh air-panel. Gives them a bit of a weird shape for packing gear and stowing in overhead compartments. The big problem with 50L is you’re out of the carry-on range, which is a bummer. One thing I’ll throw out though is that if you’re only traveling for 3 weeks in a tropical country, you don’t need anything. 2 t-shirts, 2 pairs of shorts (one for swimming), one pair of pants (preferably light-weight nylon), a hat, and a dress-shirt (optional). That’s it. I would throw out 25% of what I have at least if I was on a shorter trip — knowing that I’d be home soon enough to deal with the consequences.

      My recommendation: get a 20-30L bag and then make what you have fit. The worst thing you can do for packing is lay out the stuff, then buy the bag.

      My laptop bag is tiny and fits under one arm, so not really a consideration. Definitely not like the front-loading packs you see people carry (which are about as big as my main pack).

      As for the Icebreaker Merino t-shirts: they’re starting to be my go-to shirts and I don’t want to wear anything else, especially in the evening (when it’s cooler). They comfort factor is huge, and you just don’t have to think about “hmm if I wear that today and tomorrow that means I’ll have to wash it this weekend, so I can’t wear it on Friday…”. Unbelievable. The cost is abhorrent so try to find them on sale–I’ve found them on Altrec.com before for $30.

      Good luck man and see you at DCBKK?!

      • Kevin says:

        Thanks for all the info Clayton! This helps, I’m definitely going to downsize my pack, maybe look at the one you recommend here. I’ve carried my 75L bag on many flights but with different airlines there are different rules so yeah, better off having something more versatile.

        How many of those Icebreaker shirts do you have? Yeah seems “50 dollars for a t-shirt” is insane, I’ll be looking for the $30 deals!

        Yep I look forward to seeing you at DCBKK in a few weeks!

        • Clayton says:

          I’ve got 2 icebreaker shirts with me now. I think you could travel with just those 2 shirts and nothing else: one general color one black for ‘dressing up.’ Might be good to have a 3rd for long-travel days of lugging the pack around in order to save a little wear and tear. Someone mentioned that the Icebreaker shirts have different weights – may be worth looking into the 200 vs the 150 (which I think I’ve got).

  3. Will says:

    Thought on the bowl. I’ve found taking a lunchbox is handy, you can store little bits and bobs inside it (USB stick, wires etc) and then use it as a plate/bowl when required as well! Can even be an extra water storer when you’re away from a decent water source for a longer period.

    • Clayton says:

      Whoa I’m visualizing a kindergarten lunch-box here. But you mean a plastic sandwich box? I’m all about multi-use containers.

  4. Clayton says:

    I didn’t mention this but I use an old climbing-harness bag for carrying toiletries. Mesh dries quickly and you can see everything, you can hang it, and it was free!

  5. Anouck says:

    Interesting , and very thought out Clay bone , my philosophy on packing is no pilosophy , I have had these nightmare traveling (including in the Paris Metro system) with three oversized bag wich required to run with two bags backward while keeping an eye on the third one then backtracking to the third bag with on bag and doing the same to join the third bag .To in the end fall asleep and wake up at my train stop and forget two bags out of three and having them delivered in the end by some super nice guy at my destination .
    To a week in the mountain with your Dad in Chile having to wear all my clothes in my dingy sleeping bag and still being cold . Both turned out to be very enjoyable experiences in the end .
    I lost almost every material possesion at one time or an other that includes
    Losing my passport nine times so far both American and french once were stolen with my green card and that 2 days before having to fly back to the U.S for work , wallet countless times , Lost my airline Badge post nine eleven a couple of times .
    My Dad lost me a couple of times too I think although have not much memory of it as i was under 5 .
    So I enjoy reading your awesome efficient packing advises , a bit like I enjoy watching ballet dancing knowing fully I’ll never aspire to that kind of lightness . I’m better on tips for how to recover from loosing about anything .As how to obtain a new French passport from the Russian embassy in Finland although you don;t speak Russian beyond five sentences and other stuff like that and specially on not sweating being truly unprepared . Or i should say being truly prepared to handle being unprepared .Well that’s confusing .
    See u in baja maybe

    • Clayton says:

      Thanks for the comment Anouck. I think a few simple changes make the most difference in traveling. The perfect kit really doesn’t exist and it’s better to do the best you can and just go anyway. But I have the same nightmares from metro systems that I never want to repeat :).

  6. Awesome article man. I have a lot of work to get where you aer… I have started working on it though, starting by sending my DLSR home with my mate now. But i am still 10 kg behind you i think (3x what you are carrying…)

    • Clayton says:

      Haha, it takes some time to refine, that’s for sure. But it’s easier on the road than at home. Just open your pack and ask yourself: what did I not use in the last (1/2/3) week(s)? I plan to send a box home from Bangkok and I can’t wait.

  7. Kristof says:

    Hey Clayton, good post!

    Any recommendations on board bags? Also would love some recommendations for affordable places to stay longer term in Bali near surf, with internet or near a decent internet café. Oh and a way to get rid of the crowds, haha.

    Cheers

    • Clayton says:

      Hey Kristof,

      Honestly I’ve never spent/worried much about board bags, but I’ve heard good things about the Recon II. http://www.dakine.com/w/bags/surfboard-bags. I typically buy whatever bag I can find in whatever country I’m in. For example, flying to Bali I used an old bag I had from Peru, which immediately feel apart upon arrival, so I bought a new one in Bali for about $25. With normal travel a simple bag is fine but if you’re flying: I wrapped my board in bubble wrap then a layer of cardboard, then most of my clothes.

      Surf recommendations: One of the nice things about this lifestyle is affordability. I think you could post up in even Santa Cruz CA for $1500 a month if you were careful. Lombok is great. There are numerous spots in Central and S. America that fit the bill. But beating the crowds? If I find a way I won’t be sharing it here :)!

      • kristof says:

        Yeah, I got one of those Bali board bags that’s almost been destroyed now by Ryanair flights. Probably I’ll just stick with it till I get to Bali and buy a cheap one there. Bubble wrap is definitely a necessity for flying.

        Might try Lombok, haven’t been there yet. How long are you staying in Indo?

        I’ll keep searching for that crowd deterrent. Maybe a remote-controlled shark. Startup idea :-)?

    • Hi Kristof.
      I am living in Kerobokan, just inland from Seminyak. Very popular with students and surfers here. It is a bit of drive to the beach, but it is not to far to any of the beaches in Denpasar area.

      I am staying in a mates house at the moment, but i stayed in a Villa with pool, decent internet and even though the room was small it was grand. There are loads of that kinds in this area. Check out this Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/baliroomsforrent and this group https://www.facebook.com/groups/balimeetingpoint2013/.

      Traffic and crowds you will have anywhere you go unfortunately…

      • Kristof says:

        Thanks for the tips Gustaf! Those Facebook pages look very useful.

        Yeah, I know about the traffic and crowds in Bali, can’t have everything I guess :-).

  8. Sara Mae says:

    This is great! Found your site via Huffington post!

    I am leaving for India in November then heading into Asia after. It’s nice to see what others are packing! Thanks this helps a lot!

    • Clayton says:

      Thanks Sara! My favorite posts on other travel sites have usually been gear lists like this – I always want to know what other people have in their packs. Good luck on your trip!

  9. Eric Wright says:

    I had a friend that would use a frisbee rather than a bowl or plate. He would eat out of it, wash it out, and then we would hang out and play! Multi-use is also the key to packing light.

    • Clayton says:

      Oh I love multi-use tools like that. I use my surfboard bag as a yoga mat, sleeping pad, and even a sleeping bag on occasion!

  10. Veena says:

    Love this post, and I can already tell I’m going to be obsessed with your site in general.

    In regards to losing the contacts, I would definitely suggest Lasik. I was at the point where I had to buy daily disposables because of some issue with my eyes, and it just wasn’t feasible when I was getting ready to move to India, so I took the plunge and have never looked back. It’s been 8 years, I’ve had zero problems, and it was hands-down one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

    I’m not a super heavy packer, but I am not sure I could get down to 15lbs. That’s impressive, and you’ve definitely inspired me to try it out.

    I’m not sure if India is anywhere in your current travel itinerary, but I lived there on-and-off for the last 8 years and did a fair bit of traveling. Am happy to help out with suggestions if you’re looking for them.

    Happy travels!
    Veena

    • Clayton says:

      Thanks for the feedback Veena! A lot of people are pointing me in the direction of Lasik. My original hesitation is that my eyesight isn’t that bad and my eye doc said that it might somehow affect part of my vision that was still good. I don’t remember the specifics but obviously something I need to look into again.

      India has never been really high on the list until recently. Every RTW traveler I’ve met lists India as their #1. I don’t know if that says something about them or the destination, but I’m intrigued.

  11. Very handy list, thanks. About the shoes, have you done any hiking or trekking in them? I like doing both, but only occasionally (once or twice a month?), and it seems a waste to lug heavy boots when not using them so much. At the same time, wouldn’t want to do the Inca trail or other must-do treks without proper shoes. Thoughts? Cheers!

    • Clayton says:

      My first trip I wore a pair of new balance mt100’s and I hiked volcanoes, ran, traveled, and worked out in them for nearly 2 years. Amazing shoes. The inov-8 f-lite 195’s are clearly not going to last as long. Granted I’ve been using them for Crossfit classes, but they wouldn’t survive hiking anything without a trail. If I thought I’d be hiking more I’d try to find a middle of the road shoe. Or stash boots somewhere until I need them, or, rent/buy if possible.

  12. Also, have you made the jump to a macbook air? How’s it going? No issues using your so readsheets? Im a PC user considering getting an air for my next trip (S. America).

    • Clayton says:

      I used PCs for 20 years and always hated macs for their early versions. The tables have turned. The MBA is the best laptop I’ve ever used and its miles above anything else. I still wouldn’t buy a Mac desktop because I couldn’t justify the price differential. But the competitors for net books are all terrible (windows 8? Why does it need a touch screen??) and nearly the same price.

      If you don’t need spreadsheets or other applications (that aren’t apps) consider an iPad with a keyboard case.

  13. Janna says:

    I love merino wool t-shirts. I almost feel like I could entirely live on my 1 merino wool black t-shirt – it’s good for everything, everyday use, hiking, even passable for going out to a bar or club. And I agree on the odor thing – it’s almost easier to just keep wearing it over and over again than to wash it. For women I also recommend a merino wool cardigan sweater. It’s great for layering, super lightweight and compact and could be the only outerwear item you need in summer environments (much better than a light jacket).

  14. Eric says:

    I’d recommend trading in your Bose QC headphones for a good set of in-ear headphones. I use the “Westone 4″ on all of my travels and I won’t go back to my noise canceling headphones. A good set of IE headphones will seal out the outside noise (so also act as ear plugs when music is off), have fantastic sound, don’t require batteries, and take almost no space and weight. Bonus is that you can sleep with them. I found that if I doze off with the QC’s on, if my head touches the seat, window, or other item — I will get sound leakage (or a roar of the airplane engine). With in-ears, I can sleep with my head against anything and it works the same.

    • Josh Frets says:

      I like that those Westones have detachable cables. My Sensaphonics custom-molded ear buds have that too and it comes in handy when you use them as ear plugs. I don’t know that I’d recommend them to someone who doesn’t intend to use them onstage though–they’re too expensive for non-professional use.

      The new line of Shure ear buds has detachable cables at a reasonable price. I don’t know about their comfort or sound quality, but I used the higher-end multiple-driver Shure E5 buds before getting the Sensaphonics and they were great.

  15. Anna says:

    Great idea to use your water bottle as a foam roller! Foam rollers are essential for a runner- I’ll be doing this in Southeast Asia for sure.

  16. Karl says:

    Nice. I always seem to bring too many clothes. For warm climates a hat, t-shirt (or lightweight long sleeve button up shirt with collar), singlet (tank top), pair of shorts, pair of board shorts, two cotton briefs is usually enough. As you said worst case scenario you buy an extra item you find you need on the go.

    I also wear contact lens and glasses. SO much bulk to carry around. Really want to get lasik done but my eyes are still changing so I can’t do it yet. They have to be stable for at least 24 months. Plus it costs $5000 AUD here…

    • Clayton says:

      I’ve moved to a cooler climate (Chiang Mai) but still haven’t needed to buy anything. I’m planning to head to the night market to pick up a fleece or jacket though for a few bucks.

      I’ve decided to try to get Lasik in 2014 assuming my eyes aren’t changing. Would be amazing not just for travel but also water sports. And it would save me the hassle of 5-10 minutes a day in the morning!

  17. Nicholas says:

    What is your occupation that allows you to travel so freely? I would love to be able to set off for months at a time, while still maintaining an income.

    • Clayton says:

      Hi Nicholas, I’m self-employed and I work on my laptop. Since it’s all virtual work the location is largely irrelevant. I’ll be posting more about this in the future, but for the time being check out tropicalmba.com for more.

  18. James says:

    Lots of good tips here – thanks! I too love reading this stuff and finding out what other people carry with them when they travel – especially the ones that have tiny packs, seem to have everything they need (and are not suffering at all – even bring luxury items), and are always happy as can be.
    I wear a pair of Icebreaker boxer briefs, and smart wool merino long underwear tops and bottoms for work and love them! My work takes me from heated indoors and cold outdoors and from standing around to strenuous activity. The merino has such a wide range of temp comfort and like others say, it doesn’t stink!
    I’ll comment on the lunch box… I found a locking lid watertight 4″x6″x2″ container from REI that I always take. It can hold liquids safely that you don’t want to explode everywhere, works as a bowl (claims to be microwave safe but still try to avoid zapping it) and I can put leftovers in it for later and save on food expense.
    Have you seen the Sea to Summit “Carve” and “Flow” dry packs? Carry-on size. They are a dry bag, so can get dunked and rained on, and thus you don’t need a pack cover or liner. Top loader only though. What do you think?

    • Clayton says:

      Hi James – just ordered some Icebreaker boxers, can’t wait to try them.

      Re: waterproof packs – not really necessary unless you were 90% of your time in extreme/rainy situations, so perhaps rainy season in SE Asia. Even taking my pack out to the Mentawais islands of the coast of Sumatra on a small boat hasn’t been a big deal. The key is that I have a small sea to summit dry bag that I can put all crucial electronics in and docs in, just in case.

  19. Chris says:

    Hey there,
    Cheap alternative to macbook air: any chromebook. picked mine up on the amazon factory wholesale site for $177 and love it. crazy battery life and weighs nothing at all (pretty sure it is under 3 lbs). Google docs has everything i need (full time college student)… except skype. also spreadsheets are not very intuitive, but then i guess the MBA also is missing them. also, i am an android user so the Chrome OS synchs well with google products.

    Also just bought the Rei lookout pack. its 40 liters, but sinches down small (20 or 25l). I wanted to go smaller, but I am touring Patagonia next year and needed something with a frame + hipbelt and space for a tent, stove and foul weather gear. still hoping to keep baseweight at about 20lbs. i carry their 18l flashpack as a stuffsack and daypack.

    cheers,
    chris

    • Clayton says:

      Nice one Chris – I looked at Chromebooks, only problem is I do a lot of number crunching in Excel, and offline Google Drive just doesn’t cut it for me. If that wasn’t the case it would open up a lot of options. REI has some great packs and I looked maybe at that same pack for quite a while. The fit of Black Diamond worked out a lot better for me I think.

      Btw, for this pack list my Black Diamond Sonar is more than enough space. It’s 1/3 empty when fully packed…

  20. Hey Clayton, I love this list of luggage items that you’ve put together. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I want my 2014 to look lately with this year wrapping up and I’m fairly certain I’m to take the leap into indefinite travel. I will definitely bookmark this to refer to when I start packing.

    • Clayton says:

      Nice! I’m going to keep updating things as I change them. So far so good, but I’m having my friend bring me a pair of Icebreaker socks and underwear.

  21. Jack garcia says:

    Im unable to find your card Cardsapp

  22. Mark Ngui says:

    Hi Clayton,

    I just wanted to say thank you for this awesome article. What an incredible resource to share with us. I have come to the end of 3.5 weeks in Indonesia and had I even bought the Black Diamond Sonar for this trip! I did end up packing a couple more t-shirts and regret it now, and I would’ve regretted packing jeans and button down shirts if my holiday hadn’t rolled straight into a business trip to Australia. But I’m on my first long haul multi-stop trip travelling with just the backpack and laptop bag. How great is the Sea to Summit UltraSil 20l Daypack?! The ability to move quickly anywhere and not bother waiting to wait to pick up my bag after a flight is incredible. That said I have been staying in a combination of homestays and luxury resorts, and every time I turn up at the higher end they are shocked that I only have the two bags, and within my laptop bag is a full macbook pro, kindle, ipad (should’ve ditched it) and my lomo lc-a+ and accessories (so glad I left the 5Dmk2 at home)

    Mark

    • Thanks for the comment Mark. The look of shock people have is probably my favorite part of traveling light. “That’s it?!” But just about every day I have to get onto a crowded bus or train with all my gear I breath a sigh of relief. Glad that pack is working for you!

      • Mark Ngui says:

        Just finished the final week of travel in Australia and after 8 airports, Melbourne decided to confiscate my jump rope. I kept the handles and gave up the rope. Still slightly annoyed about that. Every time I get to the check in desk they ask to look and weigh my hand luggage and then are shocked that I don’t have any luggage to check in. If I didn’t have to finish this holiday with a week of work in Australia I would be able to ditch my laptop bag, and I would only travel with iphone and kindle and be able to reduce to just the one Sonar backpack.

        • This is the second time I’ve heard of a jump-rope being confiscated! I don’t even worry about security screens any more because they so rarely care about anything. But I’ll think twice before packing a jump-rope, though I did pick up a jump-stretch band. See what they think about that..

  23. Matthew says:

    Do you have any video from your GoPro of your travels that we can see?

  24. Josh A says:

    Do you recommend renting, bringing, or shipping your own equipment? When I set out I will want to do different things in different parts of the world: biking, surfing, snowboarding, etc. Not to mention a guitar. Any tips?

    • Josh A says:

      Clothing/footwear is also a concern of mine. I don’t want to haul around a jacket or nice shoes everywhere. Have you ever been in a situation where you need to dress up a bit to go out? All I can think of is revisting “home base” to repack before each type of trip, which I also don’t want to do. Thanks Clayton

      • Hi Josh,

        Two answers: 1) most place you can buy dress shoes for less than $20 if you really need them (last time I did this was Zara in Spain).
        2) I’ve learned that in general I don’t enjoy being atplaces that require me to where a certain type of shoes, so not having them is a good screen.

    • This is tough, but there are a few ways to handle it: 1) buy/rent as you go, can be cheaper than taking it with you (eg surfboard for $200 then sell it back later, buy climbing gear for $150, etc). Rent snowboarding equipment (apparently this is really cheap in Europe).

      2) Regional base of operations. Take a huge duffel(s) to a regional base and return to it as needed.

      There really is no perfect solution, but if you can focus on one thing at a time and take gear for that this is your best bet.

  25. Sarah D says:

    Hi Clayton,
    I am just about to embark on indefinite travel starting with a one-way ticket to Brazil. We are planning on covering most of South America and have been looking into getting a SteriPEN to avoid contributing to the enormous waste of throwing away a plastic bottle every single day. How did you find the SteriPEN and would you recommend? Its seems more reliable and longer lasting than just a filtered drink bottle.
    Thanks!
    Sarah

    • The Steripen is great and I love not wasting plastic bottles. A few caveats:
      1) IN the city, you will be drinking tap water of questionable quality. The steripen is not a filter but it will take out the germs that make you sick (but not heavy metals etc)
      2) I drink a lot of water, esp. in the tropics and after a while it’s tedious to use the steripen 3 times a day. Having to sterilize twice for a quart is a pain (wish it was just one setting).

      But I’ve used mine all over the world, and it works great. Worth a try and at the very least will reduce your plastic usage by a lot!

  26. Noah N says:

    I really appreciate your packing list. I have used this as a reference for trying to teach others about the beauty and NECESSITY of learning less is more when traveling the world. I just wondered if you have done an article about which camera would make the best travel camera? I have found many people who think it is a good idea to take a DSLR only to find out its too big and bulky. For myself, I sold my DSLR after purchasing a Sony RX100 mkII. That camera can do all that my old D7000 could do and better plus it’s really small. I found someone who wrote a good article on it for travel and was wondering what your thoughts were and if you recommend any other cameras that I have not thought of. Link to article. http://www.aroundthisworld.com/sony-rx-100-best-point-shoot/

  27. Great list mate, I’ll keep this saved on the desktop for the next trip.

    Only thing I’d add to this would be a thin sarong (or some other kind of material). Mine was invaluable in my around Asia trip as everything from a curtain to a shirt to a bed cover to a pillowcase. I could also wrap up my dirty laundry in it and stop those clothes from getting the rest of my pack all stanky, I bought mine for less than ten bucks in Bali and even used it as a towel. It was also awesome for temples etc when a long skirt was required, It replaced at least 2 kgs worth of stuff I ditched a few weeks in.

    Context: Bali, Java, Singapore, Malaysia, North India, South India, Nepal, Thailand in 2012. Pack weight: 6kgs including laptop and DSLR.

    Also you’re dead right with the MBA.

  28. JC says:

    Great post man!

    I always enjoy reading packing list posts to see if there’s anything I can get rid of from my own packing list or add something that could be really useful.

    Considering on possibly adding noise cancelling headphones to my list, could really come in handy when trying to get work down…

  29. Anouck says:

    Hey Clay
    I don’t see any kite boarding items , you’re not doing that anymore ? I’m trying to devellop a strategy to take the minimum equipement ( carry on ) and still bring my kite stuff , homemade harness ? already met a guy that design and sow his own harness ( no hook either ) but i saw him kite with it and it looked perfect . no board ( planning on buying one in France and leave it there , vacum compress , one wing and carry the bar in a sling pouch on me in the cabin . Don’t really want to deal with the Golf bag option .

    • Hi Anouck! Hope all is well. I haven’t done any kiteboarding for a while although I checked out some spots in SE Asia (more on that later). What I’ve realized is that you just can’t get around having good gear for the long-run, so it’s key to bring what you need, esp. for a sport like kiting. If I was traveling to kite I think I’d just go big: get a coffin bag with rolling wheels and throw all my gear plus a 5’8″ Firewire surfboard in there too. It’s going to be 20+kg of gear no matter what you do, but the idea is to move infrequently. Not sure about roaming around with all that stuff!

  30. Patten Wood says:

    Thanks for putting in the work, Clayton. My wife and I just returned from an around-the-world ZINK Year (“Zero Income, No Kids”), and I can confirm these are excellent packing suggestions (especially the Icebreaker Tech Ts). I just spent some time comparing our lists, and I see a lot of similarities. If you’d like to check out our list, you can find it on our blog, “ZINK Year Gear”, http://zinkyear.com/2014/07/07/zink-year-gear/

  31. Sarah says:

    Here’s my list- fairly similar with a few key bits of difference.

    Your advice is great- keep the great artciles coming!

    http://sarahstackman.tumblr.com/post/97039185545

  32. Tobias says:

    Hey there!
    Quite impressive list! It looks like you’re obsessed with the weight as I am! You can check out my gear on my site!

    Keep on moving!

  33. kyle says:

    what sim card do you use while traveling

    • I grab one each country I get to, usually the first thing I do at the airport. Try to get some intel on which one has the best data package first. In Europe it’s Vodafone or T-mobile (which has been a lot better and half the price).



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  • About SpartanTraveler

    spartan traveler My name is Clayton.
    I've been traveling full-time since mid-2011 while building an online business on my laptop. SpartanTraveler is my personal travel blog of uncommon travel adventures, logbook of travel hacks, and forum for thoughts on lifestyle design and working in the 21st century. You can get updates from the site by signing up with your email address below. Feel free to reach out on Twitter (@spartantravel), , or contact me / read more about the site.

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