When we left the U.S. in January, we kind of wondered how well we did in the packing department. We thought we had done a pretty decent job, but we still had our doubts. Did we pack too much extra crap? Not enough? Did we forget something critical?
We did a ‘practice pack’ about six weeks before leaving on our trip, which turned out to be hugely important. It left ample time for everything to not fit in my original pack, for my ensuing panic attack, and for us to purchase a more appropriate bag. Now that we’re back in the U.S. a year later, let’s revisit the topic of packing:
- We each carried one larger pack (40 L and 50 L) and one small day pack.
- We also kept a number of PDF versions of documents online (both in email and on our laptop hard drive) that we felt were important to have in case of an emergency:
- a list of emergency contacts (family, banks, credit card companies)
- color copies of passports and driver’s licenses
- copies of our SCUBA certifications
- rental insurance policy
- traveler’s insurance policy
- medical insurance policies (international & domestic coverages)
- copies of vaccination records
- package inserts (listing dosage, adverse reactions, etc.) for prescription medication we were carrying (azithromycin & Malarone) – primarily in case we needed medical treatment and needed info about drug interactions
- an inventory list of gear we were carrying (for insurance, in case of theft/loss)
Jenn – as of April 25th, every item had been used with the exception of the antibiotics and iodine tablets. I’ll consider that a tremendous success, as it means neither of us got sick (traveler’s diarrhea or anything else requiring an emergency broad-spectrum), and that we never ran out of potable water while hiking.
Stephan – every item was used with the exception of 2 USB cables and the flashlight that was bought for the GoPro.
What we wished we had packed:
- Small, solid-state hard drive to back up memory cards. (Stephan)
- A reusable spork. Several times we needed cutlery and had none at our disposal. (Stephan & Jenn)
- A collapsible mug. Not particularly important, but a possible luxury for the tea-obsessed, and sometimes kitchen-less, individual. (Jenn)
- Bring a great playlist with you. We really loved having some of our favorite music on long bus or plane rides, the few times we rented a car, or really any time we had the urge to just rock out a little.
- One versatile item I was glad to have packed was a simple, black, pashmina scarf/shawl (I selected this one from Amazon for $9 USD). It’s great for covering your shoulders in Buddhist temples or Catholic churches, and for covering your head in Muslim mosques. At the beach, it could be used as a sarong, and once it got cold enough in Europe, I also wore it as a regular old scarf. Multiple functions for very little space consumed and very little cost.
- A few other items that proved to be super useful:
(1) Microfiber travel towels. They dry almost immediately, don’t consume much space, are great for trips to the beach/lake, and are a necessity if you are staying at accommodations that don’t provide towels.
(2) Shoe sacks and a dirty laundry bag. We re-wore garments a lot… but it was great to keep the smelly, dirty clothes [and shoes/flip-flops] away from the “clean” threads.
(3) Road Warrior’s universal travel adapter. The streamlined design is also a space-saver, and the device is compatible with outlets from some 150+ countries.
- Thongs = the woman of the world’s go-to garment. Based on the opinions of women I know and love, thong underwear is about as controversial as the results of the recent U.S. presidential election: It’s uncomfortable, annoying, and chaffing (not unlike Trump). It’s unhygienic, and could increase susceptibility to urinary or vaginal infection by shifting delicate microflora (Trump again). Or, as my always-colorful cousin once suggested, “it’s just butt floss” (now that’s definitely Trump). Conversely, the underwear is practical (no visible panty lines), minimalist (no awkward bunching), and surprisingly comfy once you get used to it and give it chance (Hillary). Personally, I rest with the latter group (take from that what you will), and have been a staunch thong supporter for years. Regardless of your view on the stringy little panties, though, one thing is undeniable – thongs are fantastic if you’re trying to pack lightly and efficiently. I packed nine pairs of underwear for our year-long excursion, and I could literally fit the whole lot in the palm of my hand. Stephan, on the other hand, fit only a measly four pairs of boxers into his pack (they were even the special, synthetic travel boxers that pack down significantly better than cotton). A couple of my best friends were over shortly before we left, and were curiously poking through my packing preparations. “Holy shit, Stoney!” exclaimed my friend Jenny, “look at all those thongs; you really are trying to save space.” Yes, yes I was… and yes, yes I did. One day, after months on the road, Stephan randomly exclaimed that he was sick of never having clean underpants, and that I must really love how little space my excess of thongs consumed. Why yes, they are pretty frickin’ awesome!