I’m swearing, I’m sweating, and my neck hurts. No, it’s not an epic Croatian hangover, it’s just me struggling to carry my own backpack.
I packed WAY too much. I sit on my backpack for the 4th time to zip it closed, realize I forgot to include my vest, and give up – “f*** it, I’ll carry it.” Yes, even on a solo trip, I’m fighting my own ego to take the extra 5 minutes to repack my bag properly. Since traveling I’ve developed a proprietary 3-step method of safely loading my bag onto my back (obviously because I injured myself the first time) and I encourage other poor packers to utilize the same or similar method below.
- Step 1: Position body in a power stance, feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, back straight, glutes engaged. Yes, this is serious business.
- Step 2: Grasp shoulder strap with dominant hand while cleaning bag with non-dominant. Note: Step 1.5 includes going to a gym with an affinity with kettlebells for 6 months prior.
- Step 3: Pray as you maneuver the bag up and around your body that the five sessions of gymnastics you completed as a child have kept your wrist, elbow, neck, and back limber enough to prevent injury.
Despite the pain, this can still be a valuable learning experience for the future. I’m going to break out every single item I brought on my trip. The next step (for another day) will be to figure out how I could have packed much, much less. Let’s go!
If anyone knows a website/blog which has presented a similar list in a more user-friendly format please let me know! General suggestions also welcome.
- Main bag: Osprey Farpoint 55L
- Day bag/tote: LOCTOTE Flak Sack II Coalition
- Thoughts: Both bags are great and will definitely keep bringing both. I should have packed accordingly so my LOCTOTE could fit in my Osprey as it is way too cumbersome to carry two bags around. The LOCTOTE is heavy, but basically indestructible and can’t be cut into by pickpocketers when you’re walking through busy touristy areas. It is also great for trips to the beach as you’re able to lock the bag to something else (assuming the other thing can’t be stolen as well). The tricky part is the Farpoint actually has a detachable daypack as well so in combination with the LOCTOTE I kind of end up with 2 smaller bags, but probably not worth getting a different bag.
- 40oz water bottle.
- Microfiber towel (40″x72″)
- Beach mat.
- Waterproof bags. One big & one small.
- Thoughts: I actually didn’t use these much. I kind of missed “beach season” for the majority of my trip and in Lisbon, the beach was fairly far away. Often I found myself just carrying the large water bottles I bought in my bag, but I’m sure if I planned my trip better (actually during summer) I would have used the beach gear more. Also, only one hostel required you to bring your own towel and I actually found the size I had was way too large. I only used the waterproof bags once, but they’re small and would definitely be helpful around more water activities.
- TRX Training GO.
- Resistance band set.
- Polar heart rate monitor.
- Utility gloves. These are great for working out in especially if you’re using a bar or crawling on the ground. I also used them when canyoning in Split which was super helpful.
- Thoughts: While based on great intentions (which many friends have reminded me of), I simply did not use these much and certainly not enough to justify the weight of bringing both. In Barcelona, I started using the TRX a lot which provided a great workout on the beach. I think doing it again, I would bring just the TRX band and maybe some lighter, more-portable bands (instead of a full set with handles).
- Laptop safety cable. I never used this and thinking about it now, it doesn’t make sense. You can only use this if you’re leaving your laptop out where people can take it – which is obviously just dumb if you’re traveling.
- Locks. Master Lock + luggage lock. Some hostels require you to use your own lock so the Master Lock came in handy in Lagos.
- Flashlights. Small headlamp + 1 small + 1 keychain. Oddly enough as I was writing this the power went out… so I guess it makes sense to bring them. Also, someone said the headlamp is helpful if you’re exploring caves?? Not sure, but I guess I’ll trust them.
- Tile Sport. Luckily have never had to use them, but great for peace of mine.
- Safety wallet. Attaches to my belt, can be tucked inside my pants, and carries all my cash + passport. Looks ridiculous, but you are guaranteed to meet people who have had their shit stolen as you travel. The pants and shorts I brought also had small zipper pockets in the back so I would actually keep a few euros in there to pay for things and avoid looking weird.
- TWO dummy wallets. Apparently, you’re supposed to carry them around to trick people if you’re getting robbed. I kept one in my day pack just to have some extra cash around.
- Food. Epic Bars and Redd Bars. While great to have and I ate all of them (especially the Epic bars post-workout) it’s just dumb, too heavy, and takes up too much space. At least in developed countries, something similar is probably available for purchase locally if you absolutely need it.
- First-Aid. Enough Band-aids to support a small army, blister pads, thermometer, waterproof tape, small gauze, antibiotic ointment, Cortizone 10.
- Medicine. Gas-X, Pepto, Benadryl, decongestant, enough cold medicine to support small city through flu season, FULL box of Cold-EEZE + cough drops + additional medicated throat lozenges + Zicam, Advil + Advil w/ decongestant + Advil Migraine, Afrin, Imodium.
- Emergen-C. Seriously probably like 40+ packets… Apparently, I assumed I’d have the flu for the entire trip.
- T-Rex Propriety 2-Step Hangover Recovery Pack. Blowfish + DripDrop. So happy I had the Blowfish with me because it truly is great for hangovers. DripDrop is a great dose of electrolytes for hangovers, post-workout and, if you have food poisoning, actual dehydration. Unfortunately, I’m out of Blowfish… but still have way too much DripDrop.
- Thomas’ “I’m Fragile” Fly and Allergy Survival Kit. Dude Wipe (greatest thing ever), more Benadryl, more Emergen-C, Zipfizz, allergy eye drops, normal eye drops, Claritin, allergy nose spray, hand sanitizer, and Altoids.
- Thoughts: Don’t bring food (this actually hurts every time I type it), condense first-aid kit (fewer band-aids), cold medicine for a few days is more than sufficient, more Blowfish, less DripDrop, eliminate redundant supplies (cold medicine, Advil, allergy gear), only a few packs of Emergen-C are needed
- Sunscreen. If you’re going to be in a resort it might make sense to bring with you to save money, but otherwise, you can probably just buy locally. I still have half a bottle I’m just carrying around which I haven’t used since Lisbon.
- Shaving. Electric razor w/charger, safety razor + extra blades, shaving oil, shaving cream, aftershave. The electric razor is great so I can look clean but not actually shave all the time…. however, it’s also currently not working. The safety razor is dumb because it requires more creams, etc and is not allowed on planes.
- Basics. Deodorant, gel (probably makes sense to bring the brand you like), toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, Q-tips, chapstick, Clorox wipes, mouthwash
- Allergy stuff. Prescription nose spray (brought 3 month’s worth which wasn’t needed), Claritin, eyelid wipes, multiple eye drops.
- Dude Wipes. Search it, you’re welcome.
- 2 bars of soap. Which I’m just carrying around and haven’t used… all the hostels and Airbnbs I’ve stayed at have provided soap. Another good candidate to buy locally if you need it.
- Thoughts: Everything is heavily dependent on how you plan to travel. If lots of planes are involved, it’s much better and cheaper to buy the liquids (sunscreen, toothpaste, shaving cream, etc.) locally or bring smaller, travel sizes so you don’t have to check your back. Bring a normal razor, don’t bring extra liquids (mouthwash, 29 shaving creams).
- Top. 3 t-shirts, 2 short-sleeve button-ups, 2 button-ups, 1 polo, 3 undershirts
- Bottom. 2 shorts, 2 pants, 1 swimsuit
- Thoughts: I actually have a pretty good amount of clothes. I was doing laundry a little more often than I wanted, but I think that would be helped if my workout clothes were a little more versatile as an extra pair of shorts would have been great. Would drop the polo, cut out one of the short-sleeve button-ups, and make the t-shirts better for the hot, humid weather I had at the beginning of my trip. Less ugly swimsuit and maybe a second if I’m going to be swimming more.
- 1 long-sleeve workout shirt
- 1 cold-weather shirt
- Rain jacket
- Thoughts: Don’t go to a place with cold weather. But honestly, the take away is to try and choose one climate so you’re not packing warm + cold weather clothing. I used everything I brought, but not until Croatia when it started dropping to 15 degrees Celsius and rained for a few days. If you’re going hiking early or late at night you might need something a bit warmer, but that should be relatively compact. My vest was useful for chilly nights, but also very bulky.
- 3 workout shirts
- 2 workout shorts
- 1 rash guard
- Thoughts: Generally I would like the workout clothes to be much more versatile so I can wear them as casual walking around clothes as well (no tank tops/black mesh shorts). And honestly, I don’t even know what a rash guard is for, but I only used it as a backup workout shirt on this trip.
Socks & Underwear
- 4 pair sport socks
- 4 pair no-show socks
- 2 pair dress socks
- 6 pair underwear
- Thoughts: Haven’t used the dress socks and I don’t really expect to (I got crazy and showed some ankle this trip). If possible throw in a couple extra pair of socks and underwear. If it’s sweaty or you’re working out, I basically only had 3 days of socks/underwear before I had to do laundry.
- 1 pair gym/training shoes
- 1 pair dress/walking shoes
- Flip flops
- Thoughts: Again, would try to make the training shoes more versatile so they look better if I’m just walking around. The pair I brought is black which is great for not showing dirt (especially if you’re hiking) but looks pretty ridiculous outside sports.
- Laptop + mouse
- External battery. Realized after I arrived that my new cell phone didn’t use a USB cable so this was useless.
- Power adapter. A necessary evil when traveling abroad. I only brought one which worked fine most of the time, but fails when you’re rushing to charge your phone and laptop at the same time. A lot of hostels have USB chargers now which is helpful… except my phone doesn’t use USB. The only thing I would consider is getting a separate phone charger.
- Small journal. The small journal was great, but I actually wish I had something larger for sketching out ideas like a notepad. Obviously, this takes up more space, but you should be able to fit a smaller one next to your laptop fairly easily.
- 2 planners. The Daily Stoic Journal and Panda Planner. Planners were another great intention that I don’t think I opened the entire trip, were heavy, and took up a lot of space – definitely cut.
- Wine opener. 100% required.
- Deck of cards. Deck of cards makes sense… but honestly, all travelers bring cards so you probably don’t have to. I only used once.
- Glasses. Normal + sunglasses & backups of each. All the glasses are tough… they’re bulky, but I can’t see without them and being stuck in a hot place with no prescription sunglasses sounds terrible (and dangerous)
- Odor spray + charcoal shoe inserts. The odor spray was actually amazing, especially when it was hot out – helps makes sure your suitemates don’t hate you.
And that’s it! Wow… I’m so sick of writing about this. It took way too much effort to actually sit down and catalog everything I brought. The fact it took multiple days alone is probably a great sign that I packed too much. That said, I think there are some very obvious categories that I can cut back on to eliminate some weight and space for my next trip!
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