One of the most popular requests I get is “How do you pack for so long with so little?” Much of it is a mindset which doesn’t really jive with today’s American consumerist lifestyle in the first place. That is the biggest hurdle to overcome in many of the things I talk about here.
There are plenty of packing list posts all over the travel and minimalist blogs, but since so many people ask, I figured I’d go ahead and post up my typical packing list for my office and personal needs when on the road. Since I just packed up the office recently to go to the Virgin Islands, I made sure to make a list and take some photos for this post.
My Office is Where I am
I’ve mentioned my backpack before, and how I refer to it as “My Office.” My office is anywhere I am sitting while working. I don’t like looking at the same wall every day, so I very often will be someplace new several times a week, even if just at home. Of course I don’t do work that requires a big setup for graphic or some sort of massive equipment that would be tough to carry around or even move. My laptop is the biggest item I need, and it is actually more machine than I need.
The pack I have used for a few years now is ”SYNERGY from SwissGear by Wenger Computer Backpack” I bought it one day when I was on the road and needed a better carry bag for my laptop, and it has served me well. It holds a lot of stuff, can be crammed under the seat of most airplanes, and is very comfortable to wear, even fully loaded.
It is not weatherproof in any way, and if you are a constant traveler, this would not likely be the best pack for you to carry around daily. I wouldn’t want to take this on long hikes through a rainforest with it, but it works well in an occasionally carried city environment.
Everything listed below fits into this pack, or worn on my body while traveling.
Laptop - It will shock most bloggers to know that I am not using a Mac, but I am on my third Toshiba Laptop now, and have never had major issues with them. I bought my current laptop as a refurbished 2006 model. I have used it pretty much all day every day for work, screwing around on the internet and watching tv and movies for years.
It gets a lot of use, and has yet to have any issues other than the battery wearing out. I have had bad quality and support issues with other brands, and have even spent quite a few years in the hardware industry. I can’t say how good Toshiba service and support is, because I have never had to use it.
Laptop Inverter – When I bought my laptop years ago, I was working a lot from my vehicle. I needed to keep the laptop charged as I was using it for mapping as well as my customer databases while on the road. I could not find the generic one that I have, but there are a lot of options for 12v inverters on Amazon. If you work from a car, this is a must.
Headset – I mostly use Skype or Google Voice for what little phone interaction I do, and also use Dragon Naturally Speaking to dictate articles and posts when I don’t feel like typing. After a good review of the current version from Sharon Hurley Hall, I installed another copy and have been working on getting familiar with it. I pack the headset that came with it for that dictation and communication.
Phone - I currently use a Blackberry Pearl, but as I said, I am doing less and less over the phone. I turned off the web access a couple of years ago, and now it is basically only used for friends and family, or in emergencies on the road. I am looking into switching to a prepaid phone just for those cases, as it makes no sense to pay for a service I hardly use.
iPod Touch – My 32GB iPod Touch has been very handy for what I do. I don’t actually play much music, but I listen to a lot of podcasts when out fishing, paddling or doing other things that are away from the computer. A constant reader, I have read dozens of books on it and when I need to get online, it is usually pretty easy to find wi-fi. It’s close to having an iPhone, without the monthly charge, and fits in my pocket, unlike an iPad.
Headphones - for the iPod.
Camera - Canon Powershot point & shoot cameras have been the best I have used so far. I have an SD1000 that they only produced for a short time, but there are many models to choose from. They take great photos, are easily carried in even a shirt pocket, and can even be hacked to do far more than most others, like shooting in RAW.
Underwater Camera Case – Canon makes a custom underwater housing for my camera and all of their other models. They fit each model perfectly, and are very nice. Unfortunately for me, they are about the same price as the cameras themselves. I was not willing to buy one at such a price.
I bought a DiCAPac Underwater Camera Case, which is basically a very well-sealed bag that fits a variety of smaller cameras. I have access to several cameras that I can use in wet conditions. I have taken it with me paddling, boating, and snorkeling many times over the past 2 years, and it has not leaked at all. I snorkeled 7 different days in the Virgin Islands alone, and it works flawlessly. I occasionally test it with a piece of tissue paper inside and leave it submerged overnight.
Ultimate Charger – This item I previously reviewed on the blog saves me from having to bring 4 other chargers everywhere I go. It replaces both 110v and 12v chargers for my iPod, GPS and phone.
Notebooks - I use paper notebooks to write ideas and plans down. It uses no batteries and I can add to it without booting anything. Sometimes writing out an article on paper is easier for me to process, as well.
Thumb Drives – I have a couple of USB Thumb Drives to back up files, or sometimes to take to an internet cafe or a printing house. This is rare for me, but I also keep copies of some software handy if I need it (antivirus and web settings). I got most of mine from giveaways, but they are small and handy.
SD Cards – I keep a few SD Cards in case I am taking more photos than usual, and can’t get to my computer to upload them, or I am shooting RAW files, which fill up the cards faster. Like all storage mediums these days, they are getting ridiculously cheap.
Clothing & Personal Items
Fashion is not something that is even remotely important to me. I am more about practical, comfortable and useful than what others think. The less I have, the less I have to wash, store, and otherwise care for.
I have worked on getting my entire wardrobe converted to lightweight, quick-dry items that work for me. I’ll have a separate post about that shortly, but it works best for travel, especially.
Swim Trunks - (Generic brand stuffs into its own pocket and dries quick)
Lounging/Sleep Shorts – Basic cotton gym shorts
2x Convertible Quik-Dry Shorts – The particular brand I have are Reel Legends Marlin Zip-off Pants. They are very lightweight, fairly durable, can look nice enough, and dry very fast. I can wear them in the water, and they’ll be dry enough by the time I’m done with dinner, or hand washed in a sink before bed and they’ll be dry in the morning. I found these both at a thrift store, and they have served me well for the 8 bucks total I paid for both pairs.
3x Underwear – I haven’t tried out any of the lightweight travel brands yet, though I will be looking into those when I need to upgrade.
2x Quik-Dry athletic-type shirt – I have about 5 of these total now. Lightweight, wrinkle-free and dry superfast.
3x Quik-Dry Button Shirt – Some are generic, but recently found some Columbia brand shirts that work so well. Keeps sun and bugs off of me for the most part, and I included a semi-formal shirt for dinner and such.
Hat - I packed my boonie hat I’ve used for outdoorsy stuff since 1984, but came back with a new one from Tilley.
Flippy-floppys – Generic and cheap pair to throw on when I need to walk outside.
Vibram Five-Fingers Shoes – I got a pair of Vibram Five Fingers KSO‘s for my birthday just before heading to the Virgin Islands. I only took these and the flip-flops as footwear. My feet were still getting used to them, and on some of the longer day hikes I did through the mountains, my feet started to ache a bit. But they are all I wear anymore. They are incredibly comfortable, and it does feel like being barefoot, just without worrying about stickers and glass cutting up your feet.
Headlamp – I like to carry a headlamp with me, as it always seems to come in handy.
Towel - After I got back, I finally ordered a Sea to Summit Drylight travel towel. I’m very happy with how small, absorbent and lightweight it is, as well as how quickly it dries. These will be replacing all of my towels from now on.
Wallet - I don’t keep much in a wallet. ID, ATM card, and a couple of other thin items. I am in the water a lot, so I bought these waterproof wallets from Seattle Sports. They are cheap and do everything I need them to do.
Razor - I only use 2 Mach 3 blade cartridges a year, but that’s another post
How do you pack?
Obviously, my setup may not work for you, and women or people in different climates will have other items they might need. I don’t like to check bags or have more than I can carry all day.
As an example of this setup for me, I was on this last trip for 11 days, and never felt I was lacking anything. In fact, had I never returned home, I still would not feel like I was missing anything. Much of everything else I have is outdoors equipment, like camping and snorkeling gear. There was snorkeling gear at my destination already, so I didn’t need to worry about it.
Try to pay attention to the things you bring with you on trips, how much you use each item, and evaluate whether you could get by if you didn’t bring it with you. Is it worth packing and dragging it around the globe? Or is it just an unnecessary convenience that is more trouble than it’s worth? Let me know how you do it below.