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 travel with. My travel packing list gets smaller with each passing year. I now have three travel modes depending on where I’m heading and for how long:
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 fully. 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 could possibly need.
I don’t use anything with wheels – they slow me down (a lot) and are only useful on smooth flat surfaces. As soon as you encounter a rough surface 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 camera since the 1980s – travel wouldn’t be the same without one.
- Smartphone – mine is a Samsung, but choose whatever you prefer.
- Travel Pillow – seriously, you don’t know what you are missing.
- MP3 and Speaker Combination – music can fill my room wherever I am in the world.
The Travel Camel Packing List
I use an Osprey Aether 85 Backpack that is a joy to carry, and an Africa National Geographic Medium Backpack for electronic items. Because this 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 Opsrey 65 Litre Transporter.
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 cooler climes, I carry gloves, scarf and a thermal layer. A lightweight jacket is also important, and finally, my Indiana Jones Fur Felt Fedora 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 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 good for placing other items that you buy along the way. I colour coordiante these two. If I need to declare something when passing through customs (particularly food) it always go 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 in order 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 chose this laptop? The screen is 14.1 inches, it has 1000 GB of memory and it weighs only 1.5 kilograms, plus Asus batteries are very light when compared to their competitors.
Smartphones are important nowadays – my Samsung 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 used to carry a Creative Labs ZEN X-Fi2 MP3 Player – but that is now sadly broken and since they don’t make them anymore, I need another option. Currently on my wishlist is the Cowon Plenue D and I hope that one day soon it will be joining me on my travels. The sound on these dedicated players is far superior to that found on any smartphone. Good quality Portable Speakers are carried so that music can fill a room wherever I travel. My current speakers are the lightweight Razer Ferox Mobile Speakers. They are small, light and you can place them at some distant apart so you can better enjoy a stereo effect with your music.
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 fuller and slightly better sound than the 20, but since the 20 is significantly smaller and lighter to carry, it is now my preferred travel headphones. Be aware that if you wish to use these noise cancelling headphones with a plane’s Inflight Entertainment system do not purchase wireless headphones – they are not compatible.
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 is a travel pillow from Go Travel.
A Suction Sink Plug is useful when bathrooms don’t have any, so too is a microfibre Towel for bathrooms that don’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. The only items I now bring is my Toothbrush, Small Tube of Toothpaste, Deodorant (I take this into the cabin so I can still smell fresh during a long trip – but 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 amount of toiletries you bring.
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 important health items are an Antiseptic Hand Gel and a UV Water Purifier, mine is a SteriPEN Freedom Water Purifier that is recharged via USB. I use two 500ml Naglene Water Bottles to sterilise the water.
I bring a small collection of solitaire Games, with my favourites being Onirim and Friday. 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), Lost Cities and Straw. All of these games (except for Ingenious) are 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