It’s been a dream of mine to pick up a backpack and explore the world. I envisioned myself hiking through mountains, trekking through the wilderness and getting lost in the hidden streets of some of the worlds busiest cities. When I finally got up the courage to travel the world, the most straightforward question of what I should pack became the most difficult to answer.
Below is my list of what I packed, lessons learned and what I would do differently.
What I Packed
The bag I chose for our first adventure through Singapore, Thailand and South Korea was a Gregory 40 L backpack. Maybe a bit much for a three-week trip but I’ll save that for my Lessons Learned section.
7 Pair of Cool Comfort, Fresh IQ Underwear
4 Pair of Ankle Socks
Pair of Flip Flops
Pair of Allbirds Treerunners
Laptop & Cover
Point & Shoot Camera
Portable Power Bank
2 Phone Chargers
Extra Camera Battery
2 Pair of Headphones
Universal Power Adapter
Small Tech Bag for Chargers, Extra Camera Batteries, and Headphones
Health and Care
Clear Quart Plastic Bag with all of my Toiletries (shampoo, body wash, deodorant, etc.)
First Aid Travel Kit
7 Day Pill Case with Over the Counter Medicine for diarrhea, gas, muscle pains, headaches, and allergies.
25 Emergen C Packets
Tube of Nuun
Pack of 50+ Baby Wipes
Pack of 25+ Disinfectant Wipes
Travel Size Pack of Kleenex
Plastic Camping Spoon/Fork Combination
2 Pair of Travel/Luggage Locks
Running Belt Wallet
Envelope with Printed Copies of Important Documents (i.e., passport, itineraries)
Travel size Notebook & Pen
5 Lessons Learned and What I Would Do Differently
Pick the right bag for your trip
Backpacks seem straightforward, but there’s more to them that you think. There are hundreds of different bags with different styles and purposes. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and make the wrong choice. Take some time to find the right bag for you and your adventures. Reading reviews online is helpful. If you can go to a physical store, it’s even better.
I decided to go with a traditional camping bag with an internal support frame and more pockets & straps than I ever imagined. It was a great bag but didn’t quite fit our travel style. We planned on saving money by going carry-on only, but that didn’t quite work out because my bag didn’t meet international carry-on standards. Plus although the back support and frame were helpful, it made it a little awkward for packing my laptop.
Although my dream is to one day climb a mountain, that doesn’t mean I need a mountaineering bag right now. For our next adventure to Japan, we chose to use an actual Travel Backpack, The Setbout by Tortuga.
Re-think your Toiletries
I came to an epic realization after our first trip; you can buy toiletries almost anywhere. My wife and I went back and forth on what we should bring and what we should buy. We ended up picking up travel bottles from Target and using ziplock bags to meet TSA requirements. Everything worked great until we started to travel. Your toiletry bag is annoying to keep pulling out at security, and no matter how safe you are, caps break, and you end up having to rinse everything off in a sink at the airport (Yep! it happened to me in Singapore). Now I only pack a toothbrush, travel toothpaste, baby wipes and a loofa (Gimme a break I like some luxury). Just about everything else is available at the local store when you arrive. The only reason I even pack this much is that it’s nice to be able to freshen up between flights, and especially if you end up spending the night at the airport.
On our upcoming trip, I am toying with the idea of giving Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 soap a try. Let me know if the comments below if you’ve tried it before.
Everybody loves cotton, and who wouldn’t “it’s the fabric of our lives.” Well, that may work for a typical day back home, but when you’re traveling, especially to hotter and humid climates, cotton is not your friend. Consider packing Polyester or Nylon fabrics instead. Not only are they easier to pack they don’t retain smells the same way cotton does. Your neighbors on the plane will thank you.
Practice Makes Perfect
Don’t wait until the night before you leave to pack your back. Try a couple of different combinations until you find the perfect fit. It took me a few different tries to find the best way to pack my bag. The practice also helped when I needed to check my bag and quickly had to transition things at the ticket counter to my day pack.
Bring clothes that will work for any occasion
Traveling is about adventure. I like to be ready for any situation, hence the zip-away pants. But on this first trip, I did a pretty dodgy job of bringing versatile clothing. I realized it when we were visiting Seoul, and I was sitting in a T-shirt at and shorts at a high-end steak restaurant. Thankfully they let us in, I think mainly because of a language barrier, but I still felt a little uncomfortable. No matter where you’re traveling to bring a capsule wardrobe, and something that will fit for just about any occasion. It doesn’t have to be fancy just versatile. For guys, as a bare minimum pick up a golf polo and pants. They’re moisture wicking, and if you decided to eat something other than street food, you’d feel less awkward.
One Trip Wiser
Travel is about experiencing new cultures and learning more about yourself. No matter how experienced a traveler you, each new destination brings about another lesson. Hopefully, my learning will make your next adventure more enjoyable. Feel free to share your packing successes, lessons, and blunders in the comments below.
And for the ladies, please be sure to read What I Packed for 3 Weeks in a 38 L Backpack | Women’s Edition