So I’ve spent a bunch of time googling this and ended up finding myself reading many a blog written by a 20 something year old adventurous white girl who has decided to quit her job and travel the world. To be quite frank, they have been incredible helpful. I honestly don’t think I have much to add, but I thought it might be interesting for people to read about my thought process with this whole packing thing.
I am in some ways definitely a gear-head. More often than not I spend hours researching and reading reviews before I buy something. I’m not convinced this actually helps, but in the end I have some gear I really love, some that I am fairly neutral about, and some that everyone else seems to like but I don’t. Hopefully I end up bringing items from the former section of this list as opposed to the latter, but hey, if it works no need to replace it.
For most of my gear, I have gotten a chance to test it out before this trip. I would recommend against buying things you have never tried and bringing them on an international journey. Chances are, if you haven’t used needed these items in the past 20 something years if your life, you probably don’t need them now. That being said, sure, I’ve never had malaria before but I’m still going to bring malaria pills. I usually subscribe to the philosophy of “if you think you MAY need it, leave it behind”. South America isn’t some third world country. They sell things. You can buy those things there if you decide that you desperately need it. So, leave behind that 20 in 1 travel multitool that you probably won’t use, and you won’t miss it when you are there.
So here is my packing list. I think most people’s packing list differ a little (sometimes a lot) of insight into their personality as well as their experience in this world. You can probably tell that there is a little bit of OCD with yours truly but I think that’s probably not the worst trait in the world for something like this.
So here is the classic photo, all my shit knolled out on the carpet next to my bed the night before I left.
Backpacks and Bags
As a note, I really like bags. I probably have 10 different backpacks lying around my house and apartment. I’m not honestly sure how I ended up with so many. But the ones I am going to bring with me are:
Main Back: Osprey Farpoint
Daypack: Patagucci Black Hole 25L
Camera Pack: Lowepro GearUp Camera Box
Packing Cubes: Eagle Creek
Organization Bag 1: Maxpedition E.D.C. Pocket Organizer
Organization Bag 2: Maxpedition Gear Beefy Pocket Organizer
Pants and Shorts
From personal experience and everything that I have read, it is best to bring the minimum number of every article of clothing, but especially pants. Honestly this is probably considered overpacking, but given that I wasn’t sure what activities I was planning on doing I decided to make sure I had what I needed for various conditions.
1x Fjallraven High Coast Pants These pants are awesome. I really like how tough they are and I like that they don’t stretch. They have a certain level of sturdiness to them that I appreciate. Plus they are suitable for trail stuff, flights, as well as walking around town and don’t immediately scream “traveler”.
1x Patagucci Pants These are my pair of pants for hot weather or something that needs to be quick dry. They are also super light and a little stretchy.
1x Fjallraven High Coast Shorts These are very similar to the pants but about 1/2 the length.
1x Athletic Shorts
4x T-Shirts (mostly under armor)
2x Sport-Shirts (again, mostly under armor)
I ended up buying some socks from this website. A friend recommended them to me and somehow I ended up with a $50 gift card due to a customer service mishap. Combining that with a 20% off coupon, I ended up with a few pairs of free socks. Honestly, they are super comfortable! Not sure if they are worth the overall cost, but they are really nice so I decided to bring them. My other socks are from Costco.
2x Low Wool Socks
2x Blended Socks
2x Cotton Socks
5x Compression Shorts
Combination of Lululemon (because they are awesome) and Under Armor
Nike running shoes
Many of the blogs had extensive lists of their toiletry items. Many of the blogs I read are also written by women. Here is one written by a dude who is moderately metrosexual, but also likes to believe he can be rugged.
Toiletry Bag: Sea to Summit Traveling Light Toiletry Bag
Toothbrush & Toothpaste- I thought about buying an electric toothbrush that could be charged via USB, but I missed the Amazon deal by a few minutes and then decided it wasn’t worth $23.99. So I have a normal toothbrush and sent me dentist an apology.
Face Wash - I am a little bit of a priss when it comes to this. I ended up going with a small bottle from Kiehl’s which I figure would last a decent amount of time.
Dr. Bronners soap - Good for everything. My old vegan roommate got my into this.
Fingernail Clippers - These things are dope. Well worth the 9 dollars I spent. I also get nauseous when I break a nail so this was really non-negotiable.
Electric shaver - Decided to go with something USB chargeable for the beard. Figured I would just pick up some cheap razors wherever I go to trim everything else.
First Aid Kit
This is one section that is slightly different than the standard blog you might have read. Many years ago I was a volunteer EMT for my school and I also took a Wilderness First Responder Class which is why some of this stuff might seem a little different than the traditional med kit that contains a few bandaids and some moleskin. This is really the only section where I break my theory of “if you think you may need it, leave it at home”. These things I would much rather have and not need, than need and not have. I also don’t really believe in band aids.
Aspirin - Good for preventing heart attacks if taken at the right time
Tylenol - Good for reducing pain
Ibuprofen - Good for hangovers
Benadryl - Good for mitigating allergies, allergic reactions, and helpful for going to sleep.
Malaria Pills - For malaria zones
Antibiotics - These are just good to have in case you get an infection while traveling.
Compressed gauze - This can be used for a variety of things, but most commonly is used to treat hemorrhaging . Best for things that are bleeding or need to be protected from outside elements. Can also probably be used for wound packing, but I think it’s healthier to just try and avoid being in situations where you may get shot / stabbed.
Alcohol Wipes - Use to clean out wounds if you don’t have easy access to clean soap and water.
Neosporin - Apply this on any wounds that you patch up that you are worried might get infected.
Triangle Bandage - These have a ton of different uses and are really nice to have around. Can make a sling, tourniquet, or used to hold gauze or keep a split in place.
For when SHTF
Please only use these if you have proper training. Used incorrectly in the field these can cause quite a bit of damage, like you know, losing limbs and such.
Tourniquet (CAT Style) - These things are awesome. They can be applied one handed and really stop blood flow to the extremities in case that is necessary. Before packing this make sure you know how to use it though. These skills can fade with time, and given that if you are actually going to use this in the real world, you are going to be in a situation that is stressful as fuck, so you probably don’t want to spend time figuring out how to apply this.
Quick Clot - Probably a somewhat controversial item. I have never actually used this but again would rather have and not need it than vice-versa. Basically use this if you have a wound that is going to throw you into volumetric shock and well directed pressure doesn’t stop the bleeding and you can’t tourniquet it. I think there is usually some pushback agains this from doctors and surgeons because cleaning this out of a wound is horrible. Also don’t use a bazooka to kill a fly. This is really a last resort and should be used as such.
2x Epipen - I may or may not be allergic to nuts. Might even be allergic to other things. Someone I meet might be allergic to something. Good to have. Can save a life. Again make sure you know how to use these. Don’t stab yourself in the thumb. You’ll have a bad day and possibly one fewer thumb.
When talking about photography, especially regarding equipment, things can get complicated and opinionated fast. Based on reviews, friends recommendations, and trying out different camera I settled in a compromise of price, portability, and quality. Sony has made some really great strides in the past years so I ended up going with their a6000 line and a set of prime lenses. If you have the money I would go for the 6500, but at the time I didn’t want to drop $1200 on a camera. I think I got mine with a kit lens and extra batteries and cards for about $550. Add a few lenses and the set is about $1500 for the camera system. Expensive but not too bad.
Sony A6000 - I’ll do a separate write up of this camera, but the TLDR is I think this is the best overall value for a travel camera. It has a very high quality sensor, allows multiple lenses, and is small enough and light enough to bring anywhere.
Most of my photographic style is centered around street photography. I wanted fast lenses (both autofocus and aperture) so I went with these three primes. They are all common focal lengths for street photography. Keep in mind that I am using a crop sensor so multiply that focal length by 1.5 to get the actual length at which you are shooting.
Wide angle lens: 19 2.8
This becomes a 28.5 mm focal length which is considered a wide angle lens and good for all sorts of situations.
Everyday lens: 35 1.8
This becomes essentially a 50mm lens which is a great tall purpose lens.
This lens also has Optical Steady Shoot which is really essential if you want to use it at night.
Portrait lens: 50 1.8
This is a 75 mm focal length which is commonly used for portraits. I use it for street photography when I want to capture something more than a few feet away.
This lens also has Optical Steady Shoot which is really essential if you want to use it at night.
Lens Cleaner (microfiber cloth)
3x SD Cards (64 gb)
Fenix Flashlight - I’ve had this flashlight for 6 years and it still works perfectly. Can’t ask for much more.
Kindle - it’s lighter than 3000 books.
Macbook + charger - Yeah, this thing is thicc. And expensive. But I got it for free (one of the benefits of my prior job) and I wanted something that could run SolidWorks on the go. So it’s coming with me.
External Hard Drive - This thing is awesome. It’s unbelievably fast, rugged, and tiny. I am using this to store my Lightroom photos and anything else that won’t fit on my computers internal drive.
2x Iphone Cable
2x USB micro cable
Headphones - Yup, that’s right. 3 pairs of headphones. I am super particular about these. They are also lightweight so I don’t care.
Documents and other misc stuff
Travel Wallet - This is probably unnecessary but it’s nice to have.
Backup Cash /giphy ‘money gun’
Paper Clips - Useful for consolidating documents and receipts. Also necessary for changing SIM cards.
Notebook + pens - It sounds lame but keep a journal. It’s very hard to remember everything you do and you’ll be thankful later.
Combination padlock for backpack
Rain cover for main backpack
Things that aren’t things
Encrypt Me - This is really important if you are using any public WiFi. Without a virtual private network, anybody can see all the traffic that goes back and forth to your computer (including passwords, potentially bank account numbers, and everything else)
Dropbox - This is essentially my method of ensuring that I won’t lose any data if someone steals my laptop. Use any service you want, but remember, good practice is keeping your data in 3 separate sources. Common practice is 1. The computers hard drive. 2. An external drive. 3. A cloud backup / sync service.
NAS Server - Before I left I setup a Network Attached Storage server at my parents house with my dad that I am planning on using to store backups of all my photos.
Adobe Creative Cloud - I use Lightroom and Photoshop to manage and edit my photos.
A plan of what to accomplish - It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you start planning a trip like this. I would recommend planning out specific things you want to accomplish on the trip.
So that’s it! If you have any questions about anything here feel free to drop me a comment. Chances are I’ll get back to you pretty quickly since you know, I don’t have a day job anymore.