One of the most common questions we get asked is what did we pack for a cross continent, multi-climate trip so we thought we would share exactly what we brought along for the next year. Keep in mind, we did a lot of research prior to deciding on what size bag, what features we needed and exactly what items were necessities and every traveller has unique needs so be sure to determine your individual needs. The decision to go with a carry-on bag was highly recommended by other long term travelers and we would echo that and say you do not need anything larger than a carry-on, regardless of how long you are traveling for and where you are going. It is human nature to try and plan for every “what-if” situation and that extends to outfits, shoes, toiletries, electronics, etc. so with limited space in our packs, we had to be very strategic with what we brought and resist the temptation to over-pack.
The most important item you will purchase for your trip is your backpack and believe me when I say it will make or break your sanity. With the proper bag for your type of travels, you will appreciate how well designed each feature of the pack is and how you can fully utilize every pocket, zipper, pouch and compartment.
The winner – Osprey Porter 46 for a few reasons:
- largest carry-on compatible backpack
- large U-zip opening providing more organization and accessibility
- harness and hip-belt which distributes the weight of the pack
- Osprey is a trusted brand that makes innovative, high performance gear with a lifetime warranty
Once you have decided on the perfect bag for you, next is how you pack it. While packing may seem self-explanatory, there are ways to best utilize the little space you have and with the help of packing cubes, you will be a much happier traveler! The size and quantity of packing cubes you need will depend on the size of your pack but for our 46L bags, we are using 3 medium packing cubes each, plus I am using 1 small cube. Packing cubes compress clothing, organize, fills in empty wasted space and allows for easy un/repacking. Devin has been very happy with his set and I have been equally impressed by my set. They will forever change the way you travel so invest in a good quality set with strong seams and premium zippers!
In order to pack more using less space and minimize wrinkles, rolling individual clothing items is recommended. Based solely on size of clothing (women’s S/M vs. men’s XL), I was able to bring more items in the same amount of space. For accessibility I try to keep one cube each for bottoms, tops and athletic gear while all my unmentionables/bathing suits in the small cube.
Shoes, Accessories & Toiletries
Sure, packing clothes is a challenge in and of itself but you have to keep in mind all the rest that needs to squeeze into your bag in addition to your packing cubes. Ladies, this seems to be a tougher task for us as shoes, sunnies, makeup, hair products, skin care products, blow dryer, flatiron all take up some pretty valuable backpack real estate. I tried to just bring the essentials for what I realistically would need plus I had to take into consideration the carry-on liquid restrictions. I bought my toiletry bag at Nordstrom and it is the absolutely perfect size to fit in the front zipped pouch of my bag. I also brought a travel size blowdryer and a flatiron which I am willing to ditch at any point on the trip if I need the extra space.
Shoes were a little tricky to decide on because we are very active, putting a lot of steps in per day plus hiking and daily workouts so we needed shoes durable, comfortable and light enough to pack. We both decided on Nike, I went with the Nike Free RN Flyknit and Devin the Nike Free RN Commuter so far we are both happy with our choice but we may need a mid-trip replacement due to the wear and tear. In addition to a solid pair of runners, we both brought Reef flip flops and a pair of leather Birkenstock Arizona sandals which are amazing for walking. I also brought a leather pair of sandals I got in Greece that are versatile for dressing up slightly.
Sunnies, my absolutely favorite accessory! I brought 5 pairs and to Devin’s dismay, worn every pair. I always over do the sunglasses but in my defense, I pack them all into three cases and I want to have a variety of expensive and cheap so I don’t have to worry about losing/wrecking them if the daily activity gets a little out of hand! I brought two pairs of Ray-Ban prescription sunnies that I take very good care of and then three pairs that are cute but wouldn’t be devastated if I lost. While Devin was bugging me over and over about the unnecessary amount of sunnies I packed, he lost his one and only pair within the first 6 weeks…. needless to say, my eyes are very well protected.
It is also worth mentioning that every female should definitely pack a decent size scarf, you never know when you will need it and you will be so thankful you have it when that time strikes. I have worn mine on the airplane/buses when the A/C is unbearably cold, over my shoulders to go into temples, to actually stay warm in cooler climates and to sit on when I don’t have a towel on hand.
Speaking of towels, we both brought amazingly absorbent micro-fiber towels that hardly take up any space. Even if your hotel/hostel/Airbnb provides towels, I highly suggest you bring separate towels for the beach, rivers and any other random time that you wish you could dry off. They are very high quality, wash and dry easily, can clip to bag and I wouldn’t travel without one. We purchased the Zero Grid Microfiber Travel Towel – 2 Piece Set and would highly recommend.
As far as a purse for daily use, I have to have mine on me at all times but if you can do without, you are probably less of a target. If you are like me and must carry your lipstick, sunscreen, phone, copies of passports, money then you should only consider bringing a cross-body purse. Keep it small and make sure it has zippers and multiple pouches so you are never digging around for your cash or phone (easy way for bag snatchers to get you). I am so happy with the one I brought, it is Joe’s Jeans Joey Crossbody and it is perfect!
Since we planned on working remote and blogging, a variety of electronics were a must for this trip. The Osprey 46 has a compartment for a laptop but we wanted them accessible without needing our full bag. Devin was not too keen on wearing a backpack in front, and scoured Amazon for the perfect solution. He wanted a laptop bag that could convert to a backpack and found it in the Kroser Laptop Briefcase Backpack. He carries it over the shoulder when traveling and as a backpack for day trips. We each bought the TomToc 360° Protective Sleeve for our laptops, as well. We also brought our old iPad and a Google Chromecast (which Devin left at the hotel in Nha Trang), and added a Power Bank from Anker for emergency charging.
We typically just use our phones for taking pictures and videos, but Devin thought an action cam might be worth a try. Not wanting to spend GoPro type prices, he went with the Campark ACT74 Action Camera and we have been very impressed with it so far. He also bought an AVAWO Universal 12″ Inch Flexible Tripod and purchased an additional accessories kit including a floating handle and head, chest and wrist straps.
His & Her Packing Lists
What we would have done differently
I would say we did pretty darn good with what we did decide to pack but we have only been in warm, tropical climates thus far so my opinion may change when we leave the heat. The best part of starting the trip in SE Asia is that if there is anything you forgot to pack, you can find it at one of the markets or malls for a fraction of the cost. The exception to this is sunscreen which may be one of the hardest things to come by and once you do find it, it is typically in a tiny bottle, aerosol can (which we don’t like), SPF 50 or higher and more expensive than gold. It is hard to avoid the inevitable because if you only brought carry on luggage any sunscreen you do bring is under 100mL and you go through it so quickly.
There are a few items I wish I would have packed more of, and a couple items I wish I left at home. I could have used a few more Lululemon tanks as I only have a couple tanks that are versatile enough to wear as athletic and casual wear. Both the zip-ups I brought are athletic (Nike and Lululemon) so I wish I would have packed an additional dressier sweater for chilly evenings. The final item I would highly recommend bringing, or buying at the airport for all you non-kindle owners is a book! It took me forever in HCMC to find any english books so this is going to depend on where you are going but for non-touristy areas, keep in mind it is challenging to find english reading material.
There aren’t any items I wish I didn’t bring, but I will say a blowdryer and flat irons were not as much of a necessity as I thought. Devin on the other hand brought a few items that proved to only be a pain as he did not use them and ended up tossing after 6 weeks. A neck pillow seemed like a good idea for the 35 hours it took to get from Denver to HCMC but it ended up just being one more thing to keep track of. He also brought a baseball cap that doesn’t have a snapback so he couldn’t just attach it to the outside of his bag so it got destroyed and he ended up leaving it at a hotel. Lastly, Devin bought the action camera only days before we left and along with an extensive accessory kit which he brought because he wasn’t sure what he would need but looking back, he would have only selected a few items and left the rest.
Lost and (Not) Found
Considering everything we are having to haul from place to place, the constant packing/unpacking/repacking we have done, we have kept almost all our valuables (knock on wood). In the six weeks since we arrived, we have lost headphone splitter (left on the airplane), Google Chromecast (left plugged into hotel TV), Devin’s sunglasses (no idea where they ended up), and Devin’s wedding ring (lost not once but twice on our snorkel trip).
Now, I don’t want to jinx it, but I think we have done pretty well considering the circumstances and the more we travel around, the more of a packing routine we get into and that seems to help us avoid leaving things behind.
I know this was a lengthy, detailed post but for anyone who will be using this as a resource we know from experience, the more information the better!