This photo shows everything I own. Every physical tool and article of clothing I own is here. That’s her camera, identical to the one I took the photo with, and I’m literally standing there nekkid taking this photo. No, I won’t do a behind the scenes video, and yes, I made sure there was nothing mirrored or reflecting in the shot. Pervs.
It’s been 2 years since I did my last packing list post. These are popular, as so many of you want to know what it really means to pack light and be (allegedly ) minimalist.
Most of the list changed from what I had back then. I didn’t realize how much until I looked at the old photos. I knew I switched up my main backpack but so much other stuff changed since I’m moving around more, but I’ll show you how I’m packing and traveling around various countries in Southeast Asia at the moment.
One of my criteria is lightweight travel. I’m by no means down to the Raam Dev level of packing light, but I keep paring things down as I go. He carries everything he owns in the smaller version of my main bag (his GoRuck GR-1 to my GR-2), but I still don’t check bags on flights. It makes travel, packing, and moving much easier than even the old amount of stuff, and I still carry more than I really need.
This updated packing list are current as of today, and are what I have left after ridding myself of some things I brought overseas. I won’t go through all the stuff I already ditched, but there is a handful of things I carried halfway around the world and subsequently ditched, destroyed, or donated.
Bags to Get it There
GoRuck GR-2 - The Main backpack I use is a GoRuck GR-2. Raam originally told me about it one of the times he visited us. I loved the build quality and layout of his pack, but decided on the slightly larger GR-2. They are not inexpensive, but I’m very happy with it. Being a minimalist is not always about finding the cheapest option. It’s worth it to buy a quality piece of gear that you won’t have to buy twice when the first one falls apart.
The old Swiss Gear pack still looked brand new after years of use, but it wasn’t as rugged as the GoRuck and the layout wasn’t as compact and what I needed. I don’t check bags when I fly, and the old pack was much thicker front to back. The outer dimensions were small enough that it could fit under the seat of a plane if half empty, but it was just too thick when packed. It was so thick that I had trouble even fitting it into an overhead compartment.
The GR-2 fits overhead with no problem, even with my way-too-massive laptop inside (see below).
At 40L the GoRuck GR-2 isn’t as large as many of the backpacker style packs you can find, but it’s definitely built for anything you can throw at it. The layout and utility of it with features like the flat opening of both compartments makes getting to everything a breeze, no matter where it is in the many compartments of the pack.
PacSafe 275 Messenger Bag - I picked this up locally in Bangkok after I got tired of loading up the pockets of my handypants with all the things. After two people tried to pickpocket me during Songkran, I found a dealer here and have been very happy with it.
It’s essentially got chain mail in the lining to keep bag slashers from getting your goodies, and even the strap has steel cables running through it. The zippers have these real nice clips on them to make it just a little tougher to get your bag open when you aren’t paying attention, and the strap can be wrapped around something and the clamp latched shut.
The passport pocket has an RFID blocking lining in case you’re worried about scammers with scanners stealing your data when you’re walking around town.
They have a ton of great models, and frankly I had trouble picking the one I liked best. Different configurations should fit anyone’s needs, depending on what you want to carry around.
I’ve been very pleased with the bag, as I tend to carry all kind of things when on day adventures, for a number of different scenarios, mostly involving the weather.
Toshiba Satellite A505 - This was her 2011 model that I got when she switched to a new Macbook Pro. It’s a great machine, but it is the one thing I need to trade the most. From the travel light category as well as the travel tough perspective, this laptop is not ideal at all. It is a massive beast. While beautiful and very functional, the 16″ screen and massive 9-cell battery makes this thing the last laptop you’d ever want to carry around the world.
It’s also not nearly as durable as I’d recommend for traveling beyond a coffee shop or other local office. It’s not something you want to throw into the cargo bay of a bus bouncing down a Laotian highway.
This is the next upgrade. Not because I need a better toy, but because I need a more appropriate one.
LaCie 1TB External Hard Drive – Really well-built drive. Used for all backups and media. Seems fast and responsive. No issues after 6 months. Hopefully this streak lasts. I’d heard good things about these, so we grabbed a couple before we left. They feel much more solid than some of the Western Digitals and other drives I’ve worked with. I haven’t tested the drop rating, but it does seem like a solid and well-built drive.
Kindle Fire – Original generation reader gifted to me, and I still love it. I would probably suggest a smaller Kindle for lightweight travel as it’s pretty hefty. I prefer the ability to read in the dark on this one, but the Amazon version of Android sucks pretty bad. Web pages are supposed to load faster with some proprietary Amazon thing, but the Fire has always loaded slower than anything else on the same networks.
Great tablet for the price, especially as a combination tablet and reader. But not going to replace an iPad or proper tablet if you do more tabletey things other than read on it.
Happy with the size and screen quality, and it’s not even the HD. If you’re around Wifi a bunch, it is a breeze to get online, but no 3G or other way to access the internet means your purchases can’t update until you get to a signal somewhere.
Motorola DEFY 525 Android Phone - Got rid of the old iPod and phone combo for a used Motorola DEFY. I love the phone for it’s waterproofness, but I am hard on phones, and I’ve broken quite a few things on it so far. I’ll be fixing or replacing this soon, as I’ve got everything from a broken earpiece to a spider cracked screen, but it still works mostly. Lots of support for rooting and modifying them.
I don’t use the phone as often as I use the internet features. Depending on your needs, you may not want to carry a phone and tablet or reader like I do, but it works for me. She has the same combination of phone and Kindle Fire, but hardly ever uses the Kindle. The screen on her phone is big enough that she’d rather use it for books with the Kindle app.
Canon S100 Camera – Almost went with the newer S110, but the feature changes weren’t important to me, and the price difference was huge after the new model came out. It’s a great camera that gives me a lot of features and settings, but still remains small enough to toss in my pocket and shoot whenever I need.
The battery life is the biggest complaint, and that’s mostly a problem when shooting video. I’m still not quite ready to go DSLR yet, and I know I could go even more compact with a better camera phone instead of a separate unit, but this one is the perfect balance for where I am at the moment.
Wacom Bamboo Pen & Touch Graphics Tablet - I don’t use this as much as I would like, and I’ve considered getting rid of it. If it’s a tool you use in your industry, then you know it’s a fantastic product. I have a lot to learn about making the most of it, but it packs flat and light, so I keep it in the kit. I do use it when working on photos or some project, so for now it stays.
Xero Shoes - These are my only shoes. I wore the Vibrams for 2 years exclusively before I wore them out. I love the minimalist footwear, but I also wanted to try something different. I first heard of these Huaraches from Raam, and like him have also gone exclusively to these. They are hardly worn down at all, despite wearing them everywhere and walking a lot more than I ever did with the VFFs. I finally wore out the original string, and replaced them with some paracord I had on hand. The Vibram rubber is back by their 5000 mile warranty, and they are cheap and practical.
There are a few scenarios where they aren’t ideal, but for the most part it feels like I am barefoot. I’ll do a more thorough review of them in a later post.
Long-Sleeve Buttoned Shirt - Light, basic, dries quick, and covers me up in blazing tropical sun. Crap brand and only worn occasionally. Works well when I need it, so I keep it. Columbia and the like make great versions of these.
5.11 Performance Polo - Bought these two to wear in civilized places when among polite company. Some of the only clothes I’ve bought new this year no longer fit well since I lost so much weight. They look like big slutty dresses on me now. But these are great quality shirts that don’t wrinkle, dry fast and look nice, if not slightly tacti-cool.
T-shirts – These 4 are still too many, but I had 85 when I started paring down, so not too bad. Kept only the lightest ones to dry quick and pack lightest. Pretty much disposable items, especially around here where t-shirts are on every block for sale cheap. I’ll look at some better made Merino Wool versions I’ve seen when the body stabilizes.
Patagonia Pants - Like most Patagonia products, these will likely outlast the cockroaches that survive any future apocalypse. They don’t mess around with quality. I found these at a thrift store, but they’re worth paying full price. Unless you try real hard to hurt them, they will last a very long time. They are light and dry quick.
Handypants Cargo shorts - Since the fitness and body changes going on, I haven’t invested in quality cargo shorts. These are also prolific around here, so I can accept outgrowing these fairly quickly. There are good quality versions out there, but I’m not going to spend too much on them until I get my body stabilized.
Board Shorts - Columbia shorts that I keep for swimming and water days.
Lounging shorts – Lounge around the house in a comfortable pair of shorts.
Ex-Officio Boxer Briefs - Down to a single pair. These seem to be holding up very well. They are lightweight, easy to hand wash each night and are dry in the morning. I don’t stick my face in them, even for science, so I can’t say if they are truly as odor-free as they claim. I’ll just take their word for it at this point.
Patagonia Capilene - Part of my cold-weather gear, this under layer doesn’t get much use in this Thai summer. I’ve had it since about 1993, worn it far more than it was ever intended, and I cannot find even a single busted thread. Very warm, wicks away sweat, and will last forever. It’s old enough for a museum, but it still looks brand new and I can’t recommend their products enough.
Columbia Fleece Pullover – Basic Columbia fleece pullover I paid $2 for at a Thrift Shop. Rarely used, but necessary in some places.
Sea to Summit Towel – Still using this travel towel as my main towel, but am looking for a replacement soon. The chamois feel on your skin is not the easiest to dry off with, but it works for a piece that packs so light. I used it exclusively for the first year I had it to see how well it’d hold up. It still seems close to new, but it begins to stink faster and faster between each washing. I’ve probably used it more than they intend, so I’d say it has performed very well. I’ll try a different material with the next one and report back.
Petzl Tikka2 Headlamp – One of the best brands, I picked this one up to replace the hooptier one I had. This one has bright white light or red. Adjustable direction and somewhat weatherproof. Used it in the rain at Angkor Wat and it didn’t seem to mind the water at all. Very light and easy to pack when not on my head, and if you don’t know the joys of hands-free lighting, you’re missing out.
Flashlight – Just a small and handy light I had already. Xenon beam.
Camelbak Eddy Water Bottle – Wide-mouth top is important for a number of reasons. I keep it clipped so I don’t drop it in the Chao Praya River like I did the last one. Also doubles as a foam roller for working out kinks.
SteriPen Adventurer Opti Water Purifier - A 2013 National Geographic Traveler of the Year Shannon O’Donnell of A Little Adrift and GrassrootsVolunteering.org told us about this at dinner one night when we were picking her brain. She recommended this to use for sketchy water scenarios. I’ve only used it a few times, and glad I had it. It breaks down the DNA and kills bacteria, giardia, viruses, zombies, vampires and such when you find yourself in areas with water of questionable integrity.
Big Agnes 50F Sleeping Bag – Decided to carry this only for occasional scenarios. We’re mostly staying in places with beds and their own bedding, but we’ve used it twice to keep warmer on slightly chilly nights here. Packs really small since it’s made for Big Agnes’s sleeping pad system. The back is just a thin layer, so it’s essentially only warmth on top. It fits two people who know each other well or can keep a secret.
Poncho - Just picked these up as we kept getting caught in the rain. I’ve gone without a jacket most of the time since it’s the tropics, but it got downright uncomfortable once or twice walking through torrential rain without a cover. We found these to use as ponchos or as a rain fly in a pinch.
Osprey UL Pack Cover – Used to cover the GoRuck GR-2 in the tropical rains.
Magnesium Fire Starter – Tiny survival tool. Scrape it and make fire. Have used them for years.
Paracord – Hundreds of uses.
Fozzil Origami Dishes Kits – Hardly used but pack very flat, holds a lot, and comes in handy. We have older versions that we’ve used for years.
Light My Fire Sporks – Usually have utensils around here, but occasionally helps. Light, handy, very useful.
Sea to Summit X Mug - Used daily. Packs light and tight. Can be used as drinking cup, measuring cup, or small bowl. Drinking coffee out of mine right now.
Bags and other Storage
Misc Drybags – Used for electronics and things we don’t want to get wet. Different bags have different levels of submergibility, so be careful with electronics or other things you don’t want getting drowned. Most of the better brands can be trusted in my experience: Seal-Line, Sea-to-Summit, etc.
Travel Space Bags – I thought these were ridiculous at first, but they make sorting and packing clothes much better. I can cram more stuff in my bag or add another layer of waterproofing to the things in my bag (I put my laptop in one before it goes in the pack). Put your clothes in, seal it up, roll it up to squeeze out all the air. I keep extras on hand. Very highly recommend these!
Ziplock Bags - Various sizes: Cheap and easy protection from the elements. Why not?
Dicapac Waterproof Camera Bag – Still using my Dicapac Underwater Camera housing. It’s still less than ideal, but I’m still getting great underwater video and photos with this one inexpensive item that’s outlasted 2 cameras already. Test regularly for seal, but vastly cheaper than proper housings from the manufacturers that cost as much as the P&S cameras.
Identity Stronghold RIFD Passport Cover – We had these to try. I have no way to test them or know how big a problem RFID skimming is in the world. I know they will set off the metal detectors at JFK airport. I almost got engaged to a TSA agent there after several passes through the machines when he couldn’t figure out why I was setting it off each time. They have foil in them, and I guess that was enough.
Personal Carry Items
Wallet-real – Carry my actual things in this recycled wallet I picked up in Siem Reap, Cambodia. From Angkor Recycled.
Wallet-toss-away – I carry only small cash amounts in this one. Whether for “Gimme yer wallet!” robberies or opening it to pay a bribe, it can be tossed away or lost without concern for important stuff in my real wallet. Done this for years, wherever I am.
Notebooks – Paper. Pen. Caveman technology gets lots of creative work done. Use whatever works or get fancy.
Business Cards – Mostly for fellow travelers when we’re meeting people from around the world.
SerenDIPity Sign – Given by our friends at Technomadia. We cat-sat for them in the US Virgin Islands, where this sign came from. I got my passport then and got this ball rolling. Only personal item I really have.
Shemagh, Kroma, Bandana, Sarong – Has to be the handiest and most versatile item in any kit. Piece of cloth. Cooling, warming, washing, sun protection, etc. Called many things, but light, thin, useful as hell.
Tilley Hat – Picked this one up in the Virgin Islands. If you’re outside a bunch, a hat is just necessary. Great quality hat with a huge fan following.
Wahl Lithium Cordless Clippers – Excessive to carry even though I ditched most of the accessories. This one works great and the battery lasts amazingly long. Had a corded version for maybe 10 years before.
Thai deodorant – Hippy sticks actually work. They don’t mask smells once already there, but not as chemical heavy as the sticks and sprays the ads sell us on the regular stuff. Lasts a long time.
Sleep Mask and earplugs – Because planes, trains, and buses and city noise and weird hours and loud music.
Gymnastic Rings – This is my new gym. Works better than a pull up bar in a door frame that may or may not fit in different buildings, and I can’t very well carry around a set of kettlebells. Also more compact and packable, and a better workout than you can get with just a bar. I got mine here in Bangkok because they work in more situations than any other piece of equipment. I’ll write more about this, but the only real debate for me was between these and a TRX system. These were just easier to get where I am.
And that’s everything. I’m not carrying all of this around every day, but on travel days I have my hands free with all my stuff loaded in one trip. I could get rid of plenty of these things, but most are at least occasionally handy, and I consider it part of a workout to carry it all.
Like all things, if something on the list doesn’t apply to your situation, ignore it. If it sounds like something that might work for you, use it.
This is all stuff I use and recommend as noted. Like everywhere else on this site and just about every site on the internet, some of the links that point to places to buy may make me an affiliate commission if you buy it after clicking. The price will be the same whether you use my link or not, and the pennies just go to pay for the site hosting and such.