When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.
~ Susan Heller
It's an interesting project to pack everything you think you'll need for a year into a backpack.
I did have some help though - a couple guide books were really helpful in my planning process. The first, Rough Guide's "First Time Around the World" was really great. I'd say about 75% of what they recommended ended up being right on. Rolf Potts' "Vagabonding" confirmed a lot of what the other book had to say, and offered a few new points as well.
Below, I've listed out an inventory of what I have in my possession at the moment. Most of it I've had from the day I set foot in Cancun. Some of it has been acquired along the way, and of course, some stuff has already made its way into the trash, or has been passed into the hands of another faithful traveler in some hostel somewhere.
I even took a couple pictures with my stuff laid out for you to have a gander. It even has labels! Fancy, I know. Without further ado, here we go:
(Click to Enlarge)
(Click to Enlarge)
1. Underwear - The most important stuff first, right? I have at least five pair, if not six, at all times. Clean undies are one of those beautiful things in life. And, I just can't do laundry that often. If I'm running down a little, and feeling any tinge of depression, it's remedied pretty quickly by throwing on a clean pair of drawers.
2. Socks - I carry five or six pair at the minimum. I've at least two pair of long ones - like mid-calf-ers, and a few shorter ones - ankle length for improved air conditioning.
3. Shorts - I bought this current pair in Knysna, South Africa - I had a pair I bought in San Jose, but the zipper broke. I made it for a couple months safety-pinning my zipper together - something I don't recommend for a variety of reasons. I've found the large-ish zipper pocket on the legs to be a major plus as a theft-deterrent system. I'd never buy a pair without at least one. A good swimming suit also comes in handy for the obvious reasons. However, I also tried to find some that are semi-stylish - enough so to wear as a pair of shorts should the need arise - and it has.
4. Pullover: An absolute necessity. I picked up this little beaut at Dick's sporting goods for about 8$. It's made from synthetic stuff that dries really quickly. It's warm enough to wear over a t-shirt in colder weather, and light enough to offer some protection against the sun while avoiding heat stroke.
5. Broncos hat: You (especially those of you in Kansas City) might be naively thinking that any hat will do. Not true. You need a certified Denver Broncos hat to travel. Not only does one look ridiculously cool, but can also be confident in proudly representing the best team in the NFL while at the same time casting a sense of style and class to all those who lay eyes upon you whilst out in the global stage. Trust me on this.
6. Button-up shirts: I have two or three in the arsenal. It's nice to have a couple that look semi-decent for pictures and for eating out with friends. They're also good for immigration desks, and help me look a little less scrubby.
7. T-Shirts: You'll end up picking up a few of these on your way, but I highly recommend carrying four or five at any one time. I have two or three synthetic ones which I can wash in the sink and have them dry over night. Nothing expensive here - I've thrown away 2-3 of them already.
8. Convertible pants: These things are awesome - lightweight, easy to pack, strong, and can zip-off into shorts. I got mine from REI - primarily because they were the only ones with an extra long inseam. The zipper cargo pocket is a must, though be careful - the zipper jammed in one pair, which necessitated the use of a pocket knife to cut it open - which sucked.
9. Hiking shoes: Probably the most important of my possessions. As any traveler will tell you, a good pair of walking shoes can make or break you. I got mine from Columbia and absolutely love them. They're not overly stylish and I can't do a lot of running or play basketball in them, but for climbing Machu Picchu or walking around Petra they pretty much kick ass.
10. Sandals: I absolutely hate the thong/between-the-toes type sandals. They're crap, and I always end up with blisters. Mine are from Columbia, and are the type you can take in the water, in the sand or on the street. If I'm in warm climates, these suckers get a workout.
11. Lightweight Jacket: I recommend this highly. I got this one from The North Face, and it's awesome (thanks again Tyler). It's light, waterproof and packs easily. Plus I think it looks cool.
And that's it. Those are all the clothes you need for a year. There are definitely some limitations - I won't be going to too many black-tie events, I'll get by.
Now, it would be awesome if clothes were the only things I needed to worry about. Unfortunately, I need to be entertained, and I need to record this little adventure in some way. The following is everything else I have with me:
12. A good backpack: I borrowed/stole this from a good friend of mine (Thanks Arch), and it's been absolutely great. Not too bulky, strong and has a lot of pockets. And I can't over emphasize strong. It's taken a freakin pounding. You'll want an internal-frame pack, and one that can carry 40 - 50 pounds pretty easily. Again, I recommend The North Face. I actually even bought another smaller one which is still at home, just in case.
13. Camera stuff: Next to my shoes and wallet, my camera is one of my most important possessions. I bought a Canon PowerShot S3IS. It's freakin awesome (So much so that those of you who have been following along will recall I'm actually on my second one). I was thinking about a fancy SLR, but I didn't really know how to use one, and I didn't want to buy all the extra lenses - much less carry them around. This little guy is perfect - good zoom, pretty small, and takes good, detailed pics. I spent a little extra on a good case for my camera - it's waterproof, and has enough padding to absorb a hit or two. I also bought a small array of memory cards (yes, you'll need more than one) and a little waterproof case for them. If you're a geek like me and want to take night shots, you'll need a little collapsible tripod as well. (And here's a little advice for anyone planning to travel: don't buy a camera with rechargeable batteries. I know it's not "green" to say that, but you won't give a damn about green or any other color when your camera runs out of power and you can't find a plug-in for your charger. AA batteries aren't that horribly expensive and they are available everywhere)
14. Writing stuff: I have a few note books, mainly because I couldn't find replacement fillers for my original leather cover. Unfortunately that means I now have three or four notebooks to carry around, but they come in handy. I've gone through 4 pens so far - and if you're planning on writing a lot go ahead and buy a few good ones.
15. Books: These will help you keep your sanity more than anything else. Outside of the guidebooks which are an obvious necessity, I pretty much always have two or three novels with me to help pass the time on buses and planes(which aren't conducive to legible writing in my journal). I've been through about ten books so far, with topics all over the board. Most hostels have book exchanges, but the majority of them have pretty poor selections. Lots of stuff in foreign languages, and a lot of Grisham and Clancy stuff. Once in a while you'll hit the jackpot though.
16. Day bag: AKA a man-purse. This is a must. When walking around city streets, museums or whatever, you're not going to want to take your big pack, nor will you want to schlep your laptop case around. This little guy is great, and you can find them anywhere. I'll never buy a Nike one again. I had one for about five days before it grew a hole in the bottom. I bought this one in Cancun from a little vendor on the street, and it's holding strong.
17. Laptop bag: I got this one on sale at Best Buy for 20 bucks - it's a really nice Targus case with a ton of pockets and zippers - which is great for storing all the crap that goes along with the computer, as well as books and writing stuff. It's a must if you're going to carry a laptop.
18. Laptop: I bought this Gateway from Best Buy for about $500 USD. It was pretty much the cheapest one I could find. IF this gets stolen, I won't be crying like a baby because of a substantial dollar investment. It has an 80GB hard drive, and all the multimedia stuff I need for managing pictures, including a built in memory card reader, and a CD/DVD burner - both key for handling the pics. I also carry an external hard drive to back my stuff up on which you carry in another bag. I have a couple of two-gigabyte memory sticks as well - invaluable for posting stories when you can't hook up your laptop to an internet connection.
19. Toiletry case: this is probably pretty obvious. A must for all the crap you need for showers, first aid, self-medication and what not. I got one with a hook so I can hang it over a door, on a shower rod, etc. I pretty much assume every place I stay won't have any of the necessities and thusly carry them here. Most of the time I'm right.
20. Towel: Another necessity, and something that most hostels don't provide. Also something that if without, can turn a good, refreshing shower into a crappy experience. The one I'm carrying is actually a free beach towel I got from a Cerner event at a T-Bones game. Yeah, I know. But it's light and dries really fast. Two things which overcome aesthetics.
Packing all this stuff is a bit of a process, though I have it down to about ten minutes. A place for everything and everything in its place, as they say. I've learned a lot about the durability and pack-ability of textiles and fabrics over the last six months.
All said and done, both bags together will weigh in at about 22-24 Kilos, or right around 50 pounds. It's not too bad, though if you're walking around for a couple hours, it can get pretty annoying.
There you have it. A year's worth of stuff in two bags. It's lasted pretty well for the first half. We'll see how the second six months pan out.