The Packing List

I wasn’t planning to post a packing list, because I’m sure in a few months the contents of my backpack will have changed, and the packing list of someone who’s been on the road for a few months is a lot more helpful to a new traveler than that of a novice.

But I’ve been thinking a lot about packing as I prepare to leave on Tuesday, and I thought it would be interesting to post my list for posterity. It’s a benchmark of where I’m starting, a point from which I can measure the way my mobile life evolves in the coming months.


I hope I’m not forgetting something

For a backpack, I’m taking the

Rei Gemini 50L Backpack

It’s different from many other trekking packs in that it’s composed of two bags that clip together – a main bag that’s essentially a giant flash bag (I estimate 30 or 35L) with a stiff internal frame and waist strap; and a smaller (probably 15 or 20L) day bag that’s more like a conventional hiking backpack. I love this system, because I can detach the daybag for use as a hiking backpack on day trips (or even to wear around town, if I’m not concerned about blending in) and not have to lug my entire massive backpack around with me.  At least, I love it now – maybe I’ll hate it in a few months.  I’ll keep you posted.

Day Bag – top portion

  • “duck’s back” backpack rain cover
  • tiny umbrella
  • foldable shopping bag
  • moleskine notebook, modded with a duct-tape penholder; zebra ballpoint pen
  • antibacterial hand wipes
  • safety whistle/compass
  • passport
  • yellow fever vaccine certification
  • “travel wallet” (cash and backup ID with a rubber band around them – sophisticated, I know)
  • chapstick

Main Portion

  • 3L water reservoir and drinking tube


  • iphone
  • headphones
  • kindle
  • iphone charger
  • kindle charger
  • universal plug adapter
  • Headlamp

Misc (some in day bag, some in main bag)

  • paracord (50 ft)
  • vegetable peeler
  • combination lock and cable lock
  • moneybelt
  • small scissors
  • 2 sharpies
  • extra ballpoint pen (I’m in love with Zebra brand)
  • duct tape (wrapped around an old credit card to conserve space)
  • plastic utensils
  • tampons
  • mini sewing kit
  • thank you cards for couchsurfing hosts
  • postcards of Roanoke for couchsurfing hosts/friends
  • small thank-you Roanoke souvenirs
  • extra hand wipes
  • deck of playing cards
  • passport-sized photos
  • Credit and Debit cards
  • ID

Clothing (main bag)

  • 1 pair of quick-drying olive green pants (can be rolled up to convert to shorts)
  • 1 wrap-around skirt (can convert to a dress)
  • 1 pair thermal leggings (can and probably will be worn as “pants”)
  • money-hiding belt (looks like a normal belt but contains a hidden zipper that can conceal bills)
  • 1 camisole/undershirt
  • 1 basic black tee
  • 1 dressy sleeveless top
  • 1 casual blouse
  • bra
  • bathing suit
  • 6 pr underwear
  • 4 pr socks
  • head warmer/earmuffs running underarmour thing
  • scarf
  • light jacket
  • ultralight down jacket
  • waterproof shell
  • misc jewelry
  • chucks
  • teva sandals


  • dr bronner’s magic soap
  • toothbrush
  • travel-size conditioner
  • travel-sized deodorant
  • small comb
  • tazorac (prescription acne cream)
  • nail clippers
  • tweezers
  • dental floss
  • earplugs
  • Concealer
  • Eyeliner
  • glasses case & backup glasses
  • Clip-on sunglasses
  • sunscreen


  • doxycyline (anti-malarial, also an acne treatment)
  • ciproflaxin antibiotic (in case of a brief illness)
  • 30 iodine/water purification tablets
  • 5 packets oral rehydration salts
  • geigerrig water filter (clips onto the hose attachment for the hiking water bladder) – filters up to 150 L
  • tylenol
  • sudifed
  • benadryl
  • lactaid (lactose-intolerance medicine)
  • immodium
  • pepto-bismal tablets
  • triple antibiotic ointment
  • hydrocortizone
  • band-aids
  • Bug spray


  • Quick-drying microfiber towel
  • Extra zip-lock bags
  • travel-sized tissues (aka emergency toilet paper)

Total weight is 17.4 lbs and feels manageable. The weight will definitely go up if I throw in a tent and sleeping bag.  For the first month, I’m planning to travel without the camping supplies as a trial.  If I end up with a lot of camping opportunities I wish I could have taken, I’ll have the tent and sleeping bag mailed to me, and that will bring the backpack up to around 24 lbs.

All this, to carry on my back for the next 6 months (maybe longer).  It’s a little scary to plan to live on so little, but also immensely freeing.  My hope is that limiting my possessions will encourage me to think creatively about solving problems with what I have (rather than just buying more things), that I will feel more free to spend my time exploring new places, interacting with and serving those that I meet, and working toward other goals I have set for myself (my reading list is up to 50 new titles and I intend to learn Spanish on this trip – to name two).

Fellow travelers, what has your experience been with the things you’ve brought with you?

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