This is something we really had to think about. When you have to carry everything you need for an entire year in two backpacks, every ounce counts. After much research and many visits to our local REI store to scope out the latest travel gear, we think we came up with a pretty good list of necessary items. We'll find out if we were right soon enough!
One thing we discovered in our quest for the ultimate lightweight, quick-drying, easy-to-maintain basic travel clothing is that fabric makes a big difference. Newer synthetic and synthetic-cotton blend fabrics (like CoolMax) designed for travel fit the bill nicely. REI , L.L. Bean and Ex Officio all offer excellent travel clothing.
Another thing -- we'll buy stuff as we go, so it's unnecessary for us to start off with lots of clothes. They're cheaper abroad anyway, and we'll have the added advantage of fitting in better with the locals.
Post-Trip Update: Well, this theoretical stuff sure comes in handy when you're planning for the unknown, but nothing tests the theoretical like reality. We found that most of our decisions about what to bring turned out to be good ones. But we ended up taking things with us we almost never used, and there are other things we were absolutely relieved to have with us on the road.
Items we've highlighted in red are those that we would lose next time -- we either never, or seldom, used or needed these items. Items that are highlighted in blue are items that we absolutely, positively are happy we took with us -- necessary items that helped us immensely over the course of the year. Take a look at our post-trip changes!
What we brought with us:
[ General Stuff ] [ Mike's Pack ] [ Jennifer's Pack ]
[ Documents & Money ] [ Medical Kit ] [ Cool Stuff ]
* Packs, convertible travel, each with detachable daypack (Eagle Creek)
* Camera, 35mm auto zoom (broke in Thailand, we bought a new one in Bangkok)
* Film (lots of it)
* Batteries, extra (for cameras, flashlights, etc.)
* Medical kit, with extra supplies (see below)
* Water filter/purifier (PUR Voyageur brand) - bottled water was available everywhere
* Iodine tablets (as a backup water purifier)
* Packing organizers (stuff sacks & packing "cubes")
* Pack rain covers (2, necessary on bus trips!) - Absolutely indespensible for protection --
not against rain, but to keep packs from getting dirty in dusty, grungy stowage areas!
* Locks, mini combination (to keep wandering hands out of our packs)
* Lock, small cable (for securing packs to other objects)
* Short-wave radio, mini (with integrated travel alarm clock) - Fun to have, but infrequently
used. We sent it home early in the trip and reduced nearly a pound off total weight.
* Sleep sacks, silk (2, as sleeping bag liners when camping) - Indispensable! Worked great
on our camping safari, but also when we had rough sheets or grungy beds. A real life
saver on many occasions, and a "must-bring" for any long-term traveler!
* Flashlights (1 ultra lightweight + 1 mini headlamp-style)
* Mini multitool (Leatherman Micro - like a Swiss Army knife)
* Sink plug, universal - An extremely handy and lightweight must-have for clothes washing
* Washing detergent, travel size (several small packs of Woolite)
* Camp soap (for general-use coldwater washing)
* Nylon line (for clothes drying, etc.)
* Ear plugs (for noisy hotel rooms and long flights)
* Eye shades (for long flights and not-so-dark rooms)
* Pens, pencils, couple of small notepads
* Writing journals (1 for each of us) - Yes, we actually kept up on our journal writing!
* Zip-lock bags (several each small and large -- keeps things dry!)
* Calculator/Currency converter
* Sewing kit (tiny little one like you get in hotels)
* Sun block (expensive and low quality outside the US) - Really expensive outside US!
* Insect repellent (DEET-based)
* Permithrin spray (insecticide for clothing, to deter the suckers!)
* Pants, zip-off to shorts travel - I wore these more than any other clothing item - excellent!
* Pants, nice khaki twills (for cities/nights out) - Really helped in the dressier cities
* Shirt, long-sleeved (2, one dressier than the other)
* Shirts, short-sleeved (2)
* Shirt, long-sleeved pullover
* T-Shirts (3, CoolMax-type material) - CoolMax rocks!
* Sweater, lightweight wool/poly blend
* Microfleece pullover (Patagonia R1) - Saved me on many a cool night
* Windbreaker, lightweight water resistant (packs into its own pocket) - Ideal combo with
the microfleece pullover
* Shorts, walking (1 pair)
* Shorts, swimming/running (1 pair)
* Socks (3 pair -- 2 light hiking, 1 regular dress)
* Hat, wide-brimmed canvas (great sun blocker)
* Sarong (indispensable as an all-purpose beach towel, blanket...you name it)
* Underwear (5 pair, lightweight Capilene-type material)
* Underwear, long thermal (1 pair top/bottom, extra lightweight)
* Belt, leather travel (with hidden zipper compartment for money) - A regular belt would have
sufficed -- never used the hidden compartment
* Teva sandals (can't travel without 'em!)
* Shoes, travel/light hiking (Rockport XCS) - Hiking boots would have been nice in a
couple of places, but shoes looked better with regular pants, and did double duty as
light hikers. Had we done any serious mountain trekking, I would have brought boots.
* Watch, water resistant - Don't buy Timex watches! Two of 'em broke on me in one year!
* PADI diver ID card - Can't dive anywhere without it
* Shaver, with extra blades
* Wallet, small front-pocket (for daily money only)
* Sunglasses - Cheap ones are available everywhere as replacements
* Pants, nylon Ex-Officio travel - Would do the zip-off-to-shorts kind next time
* Pants, nice casual
* Skirt, long (gray)
* Skirt, mid-length (black) - Indispensable in cities and in the evenings
* Dress, black mid-length (lightweight rayon)
* Shirt, long-sleeved travel (white)
* Shirt, short-sleeved (2, one blue & one khaki)
* T-Shirts (2, CoolMax-type material)
* Shorts, walking/trekking (1 pair, khaki nylon)
* Swim suit
* Sarong (bought this on a previous trip to Bali)
* Socks (3 pair -- 2 light hiking, 1 regular)
* Underwear (5 pair, lightweight cotton)
* Underwear, long thermal (1 pair, silk)
* Travel bras (2)
* Teva sandals
* Boots, light hiking
* Microfleece pullover
* Windbreaker, lightweight water resistant (packs into its own pocket)
* Face wash & misc. toiletries (gotta have those products)
* Regular glasses (prescription, with extra pair)
* Eyeglass repair kit, mini
Documents & Money:
* Passports (plus extra photocopies)
* Money (couple hundred US $ for when hard cash
needed, including lots of singles for tips, etc.)
* Traveler's checks (American Express) - Good for emergencies, but we hardly ever used them.
ATM machines are (nearly) everywhere!
* ATM/Visa check card
* VISA and American Express cards
* Personal checks (to buy traveler's checks at AMEX offices)
* Driver's licenses
* International Driver's Licenses (obtainable from AAA)
* Airline tickets
* Vaccination Certificates
* Under-clothing Money belt (to carry all of the above) - Didn't feel necessary most of the time,
but for those few places where there are many thieves (like Saigon), we're glad we had it
* Copies of medical prescriptions (to avoid hassles at border checks) - For the record, we
never got stopped and searched at customs anywhere.
* Copy of marriage certificate
* Travel insurance policy (plus extra photocopies)
Post-trip Update: Well, thankfully we never had any major medical emergencies on the road. But we never thought about getting rid of our medical kit. If something had happened, we would have been at least prepared enough to deal with all but the most serious situations until transport to a hospital could be arranged. We were really glad we stocked up on the extras like antibiotics, cold medicine, and Imodium -- they helped us through those days when we caught colds or didn't otherwise feel well. When we ran out of these items, they were easily available in any sizeable town or city.
Off-the-Shelf Kit (from Adventure Medical) includes:
* Bandages & dressings, various
* Gauze bandage 3"
* Wound closure strips
* Cotton swabs
* Moleskin (for blisters)
* Nitrile gloves
* Antimicrobial hand wipes
* Antiseptic towelettes
* Safety pins
* Irrigation syringe
* Povodine iodine
* Tincture of benzoin
* Double antibiotic ointment
* EMT shears
* Splinter/tick remover
Additional items added to kit:
* Mefloquine (antimalarial, by prescription)
* Antibiotics, general (by prescription)
* Benadryl (decongestant/antihistamine)
* Imodium AD (Loperamide)
* Pepto Bismol tablets
* 2 Syringes (in case of an emergency in an unsanitary medical situation)
Cool Extra Stuff:
* GPS, Garmin model III+ (great tool for hiking, bicycling, or driving) - This was great in South
Africa, where we drove everywhere. But we sent it home from Cape Town. Too much weight.
* DV Camcorder, Sony PC100 (doubles as digital still camera) - It may have been a bitch to
worry about, but it's what made this website possible, and we have a lot of great footage we can
enjoy years from now.
* Binoculars, compact 8 x 25 (necessary for our safari & game viewing)
* DV tapes (extra for camcorder)
* Camcorder battery, extra
* International outlet converter (for charging camcorder)
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