What to Pack – The Travel Packing List
Travel is a balance between weight, space, and convenience. Something that I’ve learnt about travel is that the more I travel, the less I bring. My travel packing list gets smaller with each passing year. I now have three travel modes depending on where I’m travelling, why I’m travelling, and for how long I’m traveling:
Short Business Trips – if only going away for 3 or 4 days, I take carry on luggage only. However, this means I cannot take a tripod, but that is rarely required on a business trip anyway.
Short Leisure Trips or Long Business Trips – duffel bag as it can reduce in size if not packed full. I can carry this in one hand (as it usually is less than 10 kilograms) and still get around quickly.
Long Leisure Trips – backpack – it carries everything I need and it is the easiest way to carry a heavy load across any surface.
I don’t use anything with wheels – they slow me down (a lot) and are only useful on smooth flat surfaces – usually in airports and some parts of some cities. As soon as you encounter a rough surface, uneven pavement, or stairs – the advantages of a backpack are significantly greater.
People love lists, so I have compiled my Top 5 Travel Items, and this is followed by the full packing list.
Top 5 Travel Items
- Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones – why didn’t I buy these earlier.
- Nikon DSLR – I’ve carried a Nikon SLR/DSLR since the 1980s – travel wouldn’t be the same without one.
- Smartphone – mine is a Samsung, but choose whatever you prefer.
- Cowon Plenue Music Player and Bose Speaker Combination – music can fill my room wherever I am in the world.
- Travel Pillow – seriously, you don’t know what you are missing.
The Travel Camel Packing List
I use an Osprey Aether 85 Backpack that is a joy to carry. When you purchase an Osprey they will mold the waist support to fit your body at no cost – brilliant! The other bag is the Africa National Geographic Medium Backpack for laptop and DSLR. This bag has an added benefit because it does not look like a bag for carrying expensive computer and camera equipment. Because the National Geographic Backpack is small by cabin baggage standards, when flying I have the option to stuff it into the duffel Osprey 40 Litre Transporter and use the extra space to bring valuables and flying essentials. If I am travelling for shorter periods and don’t need a full-sized backpack, then I bring the duffel equivalent of an Osprey 65 Litre Transporter.
Recently I discovered the excellent Albi N5 Laptop Backpack from Samsonite. This is a wonderful piece of luggage to carry with me on a plane. Very smooth handle, wheels, and zips – this is product of very high quality. It has smaller pockets in the front and a large one at the back for clothes and the all important travel pillow. If going for a short trip, this is all I need to carry.
Correct Clothes are great space and weight savers. I almost exclusively use Colombia because I love their cut, colour and comfort. Such travel clothes are far better to travel with than jeans that are heavier, bulkier and take much longer to dry. Most of my clothes are travel/adventure wear, with a set of nicer clothes (still lightweight) for occasions when needed. I ensure that my clothes mix and match with each other. For example, I’ll lay out a pair of pants on the bed and think of two different shirts that will match those pants. When I lay out a shirt, can I think of two pairs of pants that match this shirt? Generally, I’ll have double the number of shirts when compared to pants. For underwear, I use ExOfficio‘s very comfortable Give N Go range. For shoes, these do real damage to weight and space. I bring one for walking and one for relaxing in – sometimes a third pair will come if I am travelling for business.
If travelling to colder climes, I carry gloves, scarf and a thermal layer. A lightweight jacket is also essential, and finally, my Indiana Jones Fur Felt Fedora by Dorfman Pacific is always by my side. Nowadays people don’t seem to recognise me unless I am wearing it!
When packing clothes, I always use Packing Cells purchased from Kathmandu shops in Australia where I roll (not fold) my clothes. I colour coordinate my cells, so they are easier to find. My shirts always occupy the blue cells, my pants the ochre cells, and everything else (thermals, underwear, etc.) the black cells. I carry a couple of small containers for carrying different electronic items (such as battery chargers and cords). I also carry sacks of different sizes so I can place all dirty clothes (and they don’t smell out the rest of the bag) and they are also suitable for placing other items that you buy along the way. I colour coordinate these two. If I need to declare something when passing through customs (particularly food), it always goes into a red sack. Easy to find when rummaging through your bag.
I love gadgets, a trait inherited from my father, no doubt. Most important is my DSLR-Notebook combo to photograph, write and review my travels. My current camera is a Nikon D7100 with a Nikkor 16-85mm Lens. I also carry a Tokina 80-400 Lens for sports or nature shots if required. Also packed into my bags are my Cokin Filters, camera cleaning equipment and lightweight Manfrotto Tripod – there are many Manfrotto tripods but consider one of their lightweight models. All of my photos are uploaded onto my Asus X407U. Why did I choose this laptop? The screen is 14.1 inches, it has 1000 GB of memory, and it weighs only 1.5 kilograms, plus Asus power packs are very light when compared to their competitors.
Smartphones are essential nowadays – my Samsung Galaxy A22 is unlocked and has a dual SIM – this is important when travelling. I use my Samsung for many purposes, with the least of them using it to make phone calls. I can keep in contact with my family and the world via Social Media and messaging apps. I can use the maps to find where I am and where I’m going, my flight and accommodation apps help me keep organised and my two favourite games, Real Racing 3 and Temple Run 2 keep me occupied at different times.
Music is important for me; thus I carry a Cowon Plenue J. The sound on these dedicated players is far superior to that found on smartphones – especially is you utilise some of the BBE presets on the Plenue J. Good quality Portable Speakers are carried so that music can fill a room wherever I travel. My current speaker is the Bose Micro SoundLink. The sound out of this small speaker is truly incredible. Because the headphones don’t have Bluetooth, and the speaker does, I purchased the Laicomein DWR21 Bluetooth Transmitter and Receiver. It works beautifully!
My music was accompanied by the brilliant Bose QuietComfort 15 Noise Cancelling Headphones – one can even listen to quiet music (such as piano pieces) on a plane and hear no external noise. This is also excellent for plugging into the entertainment system of planes but ensure you bring an adapter. I say ‘was’ because as much as I loved the QuietComfort 15, being an over the ear headphone meant it was large to carry. Because of this, I changed to their in-ear equivalent, the Bose QuietComfort 20 Noise Cancelling Headphones. I found that the 15 provided a slightly fuller sound than the 20, but since the 20 is significantly smaller and lighter to carry, it is now my preferred travel headphones. Sadly, the QuietComfort 20 is no longer produced by Bose, so you’ll need to search to find any remaining new or very good used products for sale.
Be aware that if you wish to use these noise-cancelling headphones with every plane’s Inflight Entertainment System, do not purchase wireless headphones – they are not compatible with the majority of planes. To overcome this problem, please purchase a Bluetooth transmitter – but be aware of latency (delays) in the audio.
The music I listen to is in Lossless Format. I use 16bit FLAC because it is the smallest size without loss of quality. 24bit FLAC takes a huge amount of space for each track. The combination of a dedicated music player, high quality headphones, and lossless music is unmatched for its quality. It is significantly superior than the usual smartphone, standard headphones, and 128 kbps MP3 combination. Using my above Plenue/Bose speaker combination I can easily distinguish the difference between a 16bit FLAC and 320 kbps MP3 from the same source. FLAC has a fuller and cleaner sound, and it contains more details in the music. If you love your music and appreciate excellent sound quality – consider the music combination above.
The Petzl Tactikka XP Desert Headlamp (with coloured filters) is very handy for rummaging through my belongings or walking anywhere at night, and an AC USB Charger allows me to recharge from a power outlet.
To charge all of these items you need one (or two) Universal Plug Adapter with USB Ports. This allows you to not only keep your computer and batteries charged, but you can also charge any devices (such as smartphones) that you bring with you.
Other travel items include a Silk Inner Sheet that is easily worth their weight. Not only are they comfortable and add warmth, but they are very useful if unsure of the cleanliness of the sheets where you are sleeping. A Travel Pillow is handy for both bedroom and long journeys – my current one is an excellent Hybrid Universal Memory Pillow from Go Travel.
A Suction Sink Plug from Lifeventure is useful when bathrooms don’t have any plugs – just rest it above the hole in the sink and let the weight of the water push down on the plug, cover the hole, and so, stop the water from draining. A microfibre Towel for bathrooms is also useful for accommodation that doesn’t have any of them either. I also carry two Pegless Clothes Lines for drying clothes if the need arises. I now avoid bringing any large toiletries with me – instead, I rely on what the hotel has on offer from shampoo and soap – and if they don’t have shampoo I bring one in a small reusable plastic container. The only items I mostly carry now are my Toothbrush with a small tube of Toothpaste, Deodorant (I take this into the cabin so I can still smell fresh during a long trip. However, make sure it is a roll-on variety, or it may not be allowed inside the cabin), Shaver (with Blades) and a small bottle of Shaving Gel. One of the biggest areas for saving space and especially weight is to cut down on the number and size of toiletries you bring – the entire weight of my toiletries now is less than 250 grams (approximately half a pound) – when I first started travelling, the weight was easily four times this number.
Also important is a Reusable Hard Plastic Fork, Knife, and Spoon. You can buy them separately or have (as I do) an all-in-one combination from Light My Fire. If you are self-catering, the flimsy plastic utensils offered by take-away outlets or contained in supermarket take home meals are mostly small and useless. If I’ve had a long day photographing or attending a conference overseas, and all I want to do at the end of the day is a quiet time in my room with my instant noodles, my personal cutlery is far superior to the tiny fork found in these noodle packets.
Having a well-packed Medical Kit is vital, and mine includes two types of medication for diarrhoea (one “stopper” and one antibiotic), a general antibiotic, paracetamol, sore throat gargle, antiseptic cream and bandages. I always carry a Doctor’s Certificate explaining all the medication in my medical kit just in case questions are asked at customs or elsewhere.
Two other essential health items are an Antiseptic Hand Gel and a UV Water Purifier, and mine is a SteriPEN Freedom Water Purifier that is recharged via USB. I use two 500ml Nalgene Water Bottles to sterilise the water.
I bring a small collection of solitaire games, with my favourites being Onirim by Z-Man Games and Friday by Rio Grande Games. These are very welcome when waiting at airports, on long train or plane journeys or for whiling away time in my hotel room. For two-player games, it’s hard to beat Ingenious Travel Edition by Fantasy Flight Games, Lost Cities by Kosmos (both these games are designed by the brilliant Reiner Knizia) and for something lighter on the brain, Straw by Alderac Entertainment Group. All of these games (except for Ingenious Travel Edition) are very small and easy to carry.
Also, I sometimes bring Travel Guidebooks, but this depends on the destination. If heading to a place, I’m familiar with I won’t bring anything. If heading to somewhere new then I’ll usually bring a guidebook, especially if I think language is going to be a major barrier. Due to often taking The Road Less Travelled, the guide books I usually use now are those published by Bradt Guides.
Finally, I try to pack Scented Toilet Paper, not only is it important for emergencies, but it keeps my backpack smelling fresh.
Note: I receive no monetary compensation or otherwise for mentioning any of these products. This is what I buy and use because they best suit my travel needs.Read more: Where to Travel