what to travel with

Recommended Travel Gear

November 4, 2011 · 12 comments

A long time ago, well just over a year ago actually, I wrote on here about stuff I recommend to travel with. As time goes on, the advice evolves with experience and needs. I learnt, and this is not just me, but pretty much every long term traveller out there popped back to their home country for a bit during their travels. So this shows to me, you can carry less by knowing roughly what you want to do, as long as you’re honest with yourself.

The other thing I learnt is if you need something you can buy or rent it at your destination. This is probably the most important advice I’d give to someone who wants to travel (experienced or embarking on their first adventure) and about to pack.

In the previous post (which is still worth a read), I travelled with 12Kg, this also included work clothing (3 white shirts, trousers and pair of shoes), so really I’m happy to go with around 8Kg now (baring in mind I still used the same 50 Litre 1.5Kg bag, my contents really aren’t that heavy).

In fact I can easily and happily survive with a reasonably sized day sack providing I carry my SLR camera in a separate bag if desired.

I think it’s best to start this article with my ideal and recommended travel items (reasons why are within brackets), I’ve also linked the items where available to the Amazon.com links, with a UK link next to them for UK visitors:

  • 35L Swissgear Travel bag – UK Link
  • Passport
  • Wallet for local currency and ID (with separate emergency credit card hidden within bag)
  • Pacsafe wire lock
     – UK (for securing the bag)
  • Small travel umbrella (keep it cheap and cheerful, you can replace these everywhere)
  • Apple Macbook Air 13″ – UK + charger
  • Apple iPhone 4 – UK (any good smartphone like a Samsung Galaxy S2 would be fine) + USB charging cable + small earphones
  • Electric socket adaptor – UK (covers everywhere with a plug worldwide)
  • No SLR camera (smart phones are good enough)
  • Kindle – UK (there really is no need to carry any book with one of these lightweight gadgets that can replace a whole library)
  • 1 pair of lightweight shoes (I’m not really a flip flop fan but they are an ok extra)
  • 2 pairs of lightweight cotton socks (flip flops wearers don’t need the socks)
  • 2 pairs of Northface Polyester underwear (you can wash and dry these daily during your shower, wear the other one)
  • 1 pair of Lightweight Levi jeans and belt (previously unrecommended, but honestly they beat all other leg wear as long as they are lightweight, you’ll need to wait a day for them to dry but most people don’t change their location every day)
  • 1 pair of Lightweight polyester trousers (purely because you have to wait for the jeans to dry, they are no way near as tough or good looking though; travel in jeans and keep these in your bag to keep weight down)
  • 1 Polyester t-shirt (for daytime wear outside in hot countries [UV protection is the reason I choose these over a cotton t-shirt])
  • 1 short sleeve shirt (for evening wear everywhere [cotton is fine])
  • 1 lightweight fleece (for when it’s cold and you need a decent outer layer)
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, bodywash/shampoo combo, floss, razor, shaving oil, nail clippers, small can of deodorant
  • Single trip holiday insurance, Plasters (band aids), and headache pills(because we all need backup)

Next this is what I actually will be travelling with in my next trip (note I don’t intend to do long term travel anymore, and by that I mean longer than 3 months moving without settling in one location), you’ll notice it’s quite similar to the ideal above, and also in brackets how I’d substitute things depending on the climate of the place I’m going.

The below picture is everything although I replaced the iPhone with a blue plastic thing as I needed it to take the photo, and I’m wearing a pair of jeans, underwear and socks so it won’t be in my bag. I also didn’t have a travel umbrella so put a pair of socks there to represent that :-P

Essential travel gear

This is it

  • 35L Swissgear laptop backpack
  • Passport (and emergency credit card inside of watertight bag)
  • Wallet for local currency and ID
  • Pacsafe wire lock
  • Small travel umbrella
  • Apple Macbook Pro – UK 13″ + charger (I’d have an air when I can justify the expense, but this is my current computer)
  • Buffalo external hard drive – UK (for storing entertainment, but really online cloud storage is better if you can afford a monthly fee while you travel)
  • Apple iPhone 4 + USB charging cable + small earphones (or whatever the latest version is at the time of reading)
  • 5 way Electric socket adaptor
  • Electrical extension lead (I’d always had a use for an extra 1M of power)
  • No SLR camera (I’d take my Canon 500D [USA] + Tamron 18-270mm lens [UK] + camera bag if I was going specifically for photography like a diving or Safari trip)
  • Casio G-Shock Riseman – UK (I like watches but they aren’t essential; This rugged one is perfect for travel with a solar panel and altitude meter onboard)
  • Kindle (don’t currently have one but it’s on the christmas list)
  • 1 pair of lightweight shoes (I’d take boots if I was doing hiking, flip flops if mostly beach located or work shoes if I was working)
  • 2 pairs of lightweight cotton socks
  • 2 pairs of Northface Polyester underwear (I’d take more if I was going to stay somewhere longer, but not for general travel)
  • 1 pair of Lightweight Levi jeans and belt
  • 1 pair of Lightweight polyester trousers (My Craghoppers have lasted 2 years now and are still pretty good)
  • 1 polyester t-shirt
  • 1 short sleeve cotton shirt
  • 1 lightweight fleece
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, bodywash/shampoo combo, floss, razor, shaving oil, nail clippers, small can of deodorant
  • Plasters (band aids), and headache pills

Other things I’d recommend but won’t actually be taking myself (reasons in brackets)

  • Travel tap bottle (Shops and bottled water are everywhere, this takes up a large amount of space when empty, I’m not trekking a desert)
  • Kensington laptop lock – UK (I’ve never thought of a time when I’d use it)
  • Polyester shirt (these tend to be designed like you’re an adventurer, and look quite geeky when you just want a quiet drink with other backpackers – they ARE noticeably different and stand out)
  • A netbook. If you are not an Apple fan, then there are plenty of nice netbooks around running windows or linux, Don’t go over 13″ though
  • Solar phone charger – UK (These can be pretty heavy although look quite handy for the usual 1 day battery life of modern smart phones, especially if you are without accommodation for a while)
Things I don’t recommend at all (reasons within brackets assuming ‘normal’ backpacking again not trekking up Mt Everest):
  • Large medical pack (headache pills and plasters/band aid’s are necessary, anything else you can buy in a local pharmacy or visit a hospital)
  • Sleeping bag (Are you honestly going to camp everywhere or stay in hostels with beds, food, company and showers?)
  • Pacsafe Exoskeleton – UK (Overly fancy 2Kg accessory)
  • Icebreaker merino wool underwear – UK (these fell apart, I literally put my fingers through the material around the waistband in an attempt to pull them up, they are that weak. I also found they don’t do what they promise in reducing smell, polyester alternates aren’t much better, but at least they will last 4 times longer)
  • Cotton underwear (Don’t believe hype about the other styles smelling less, cotton is fine. However I wouldn’t recommend purely because they are slow to dry)
  • Boots (big, heavy, and a target for thieves, only take if you are trekking preferably in a cold climate)
  • Rain jacket (hey, it’s raining, why not keep the sweat and humidity in by covering your body in plastic?)
  • LAN cable (if you need one, you can get one from reception or change accommodation)
  • Travel gadgets (They are all rubbish. You don’t use a wind up radio/torch at home, you don’t need one when you travel)
  • A large backpack (The smaller you have, the less you carry, it helps a lot with packing when you have 25-35L of space rather than 50L

So there you are. The travel gear recommendations for 2012 and onwards. The other benefits of travelling this light is you don’t have to worry about lost luggage at airports, you can carry your stuff everywhere so don’t have to worry about theft at your accommodation, you won’t get a bad back or curse the amount of weight you’re carrying. If you need something, you get to interact with locals and have an adventure finding diarrhoea pills.

I still recommend looking at my last years post, mostly for the things I didn’t recommend then. This year I have mostly cut out accessories and halved my clothing (again).


This article proved so popular I wrote another one a year later which can be found here.
In this article I’m going to break down everything that I will travel with on my next trip, what I travelled with in the past, and analyse it so you know what works and what doesn’t. I think everyone travels with too much stuff, if not initially then you pick stuff on on route which adds to the bulk. My stuff spread out below looks quite a lot alone. There really isn’t a need for it all and I think it comes from a materialistic background of having and consuming lots of stuff.

My backpacking stuff Read the rest! \(^u^)/ →