Like Danila, I have one large carry on bag, plus one smaller carry on, which I had intended to also use as a back pack, as it incorporates shoulder straps and is a bit smaller than Danila’s version. However, in the year I’ve had it, I’ve never used it as a back pack, as it’s turned out to be too heavy and cumbersome for that. I’m now stuck with it, but if you are starting from scratch, I recommend using a single purpose carry on bag, plus a lightweight Tom Bihn back pack, an Aqua-Quest `The Himal‘ Waterproof Ultra Light Backpack Dry Bag – 20L, or similar, as these are versatile and pack small.
So, what goes into these bags?
3 pairs. All are by Craghoppers as these seem to offer the most versatility, at a reasonable price. All have legs that can be unzipped, so they double as shorts. 2 pairs are lightweight, quick drying, synthetic fibres (NOSILIFE – “permanently insect repellant”), with multiple deep pockets, including a zippered “hidden” pocket just inside the RH main pocket, where I keep credit cards, bulk cash and a waterproof 256G USB backup drive. They also have a waterproof insert in the LH leg pocket, where I put my phone and insurance papers when we are in high humidity climates, or when out in the rain. Have 2 popper belt loops to hang them from a line to dry. Wear these all the time. 3rd pair is cotton, with fewer pockets, and is used in cooler climates and when I need to look more presentable, as the others tend to look crumpled. Muted colours, so they blend in with foliage to not startle wildlife. When travelling I wear one of the synthetic pairs, with the legs zipped on, so only 2 pairs of trousers have to be packed.
4, also by Craghoppers, their long sleeve Kiwi variant. Cotton/synthetic mix, so they are comfortable, wick sweat and dry quickly. Long sleeves because in many places you want the sleeves down to protect from the sun and/or biting insects. Sleeves can be rolled up and secured with built in tabs and buttons. 2 chest pockets plus a “hidden” zippered pocket on the LHS. Like the Craghopper trousers, these have popper loops on each side for hanging on a line to dry, without having to use clothes pegs. Two are lighter in colour – “stone” – to reflect sunlight during the day and keep me cooler, 1 a sort of darker khaki for going out at night looking at wildlife, and the last one a light blue, for when we are in town 🙂 When we started out I did have 2 fully synthetic versions of these shirts, which we got from LL Bean, but they feel hot and clammy, or cold and damp, depending on the climate and also look exactly like what they are – cheap, nasty, Craghopper knockoffs. FYI, LLB also does knockoffs of the Craghopper trousers, and while they have similar features and look virtually identical on paper, in reality they have a poor fit and are similarly cheap and nasty.
One, for layering under a shirt when it gets colder. Layering is good 🙂
7 pairs. Make sure to read our article on travel underwear! 5 ExOfficio, 2 Jockey. All are synthetic, quick dry. ExOfficio are the more comfortable for me, though their styling leaves something to be desired.
1 pair of brief ones, so they fit under wet suits for diving.
7 pairs. 3 cheap, white, “cotton” that I picked up in Africa, for wearing with hiking boots while out in the bush. White, because apparently ticks are less attracted to light colours, and white also looks better. These will be ditched and replaced with better quality ones, while we are in the USA. 4 dark colour, quality wool/cotton mix for when it’s cooler and/or I need to wear proper shoes.
7, in various light colours. Useful for drying hands when there’s no towels, wiping down the travel guitar after playing, cleaning spectacles, waving off flies, oh, and blowing my nose, as necessary!
The underpants, socks and handkerchiefs all go into a medium size Eagle Creek packing cube, and then into the smaller carry-on bag.
Sandals: 1 pair, made by Ecco. They are a bit bulkier than I would like, but they are the best fit for me, provide good grip, and have decent arch support.
Hiking Shoes: 1 pair. Loads of brands to choose from. Mine are Oboz, and breathe while being waterproof, have good dry grip, though less so in the wet, and are reasonably light weight. Somewhat bulky, so I tend to wear these when travelling, as they take up too much room if I pack them.
Dress shoes: 1 pair. For when we can’t wear hiking shoes or sandals, such as formal dinner nights on cruise ships. In my case these are a pair of Bass mid brown, suede, slip-on driving shoes, which have thin soles and pack down small. Also double as in-house shoes as necessary.
I have two. Best way to keep cool and not get sunburned is to keep the sun off your skin, so hats are a necessity, particularly if like me your hair is thinning 🙂 I have one full size bush hat with fully ventilated sides for when we are in the bush, or out on a boat, plus a light colour peaked cap with a plastic brim insert that I use in town, when it’s raining (holds up the hood of my waterproof jacket so keeps the rain off my glasses), and when snorkeling – wear it backwards to keep the sun off my neck. This was a freebie give to Danila when she was in the travel business, it’s thin and folds up small enough to go into a pocket, and is the only one I’ve ever seen like it.
Very useful for keeping hands warm and for handling rough items, like logs, sledge hammers, thorny bushes and so on. Mine are antelope, purchased at Home Depot. Usually live in the RH pocket of my warm jacket.
Woolly “Watch Cap”
or bobble hat, as we used to call them in the UK. Absolutely necessary for keeping head and ears warm when it’s cold. Usually lives in the LH pocket of my warm jacket.
cashmere one that is warm, and packs small.
One, woolen, round neck, medium weight. Starting to fray at the edges, so at some stage will replace with a thinner cashmere one, which will be just as warm, but pack smaller.
1 large, 1 smaller, same as Danila. Pack small, dry quickly, very useful.
For use when I need to wear a proper jacket, such as formal evenings on cruise ships. Packs small, but is hardly used, so may get sent back to Anna, my Mother-in-Law, as it used to belong to her husband, Frank, who passed away a couple of years ago.
Danila and I have one each, both of them “padded shirts” from LL Bean. Very useful, we’ve had them quite a long time, but I’d really like to replace them with something less bulky, so I’ll be checking out LL Bean and camping shops in the USA, before we set off on our travels again.
Waterproof jacket, with hood
We bought these a while ago when in Japan when our US sourced showerproof jackets leaked like sieves, and they not only keep the rain off, they also keep the wind out, which helps keep your temperature up. I’ve also added a pair of waterproof trousers, as wet legs can get very cold, very quickly.
Several varieties out there, this one was made by Husky and cost $10 in Home Depot. Much admired everywhere, this has been extremely useful – fixing cars, electrical wiring, home appliances, opening recalcitrant parcels and letters, cutting string and rope, etc. as well as opening beer bottles. Wouldn’t travel without one now, just remember to pack it in checked luggage when flying, or airport security will take it away to use themselves.
Headlamp & torch
1 headlamp, one underwater torch that can also be used on dry land, both LED. Indispensable when walking through bush at night, going to the central toilet in the dark, lighting up dark corners under sinks, etc. When fitted with new, or freshly recharged batteries these put out an amazing amount of light, and stay bright for hours longer than we’re used to with standard incandescent light bulbs.
I need to keep my beard under control, so need a razor. I chose a Babyliss for men as it’s small and versatile. This also has adaptors for cutting & trimming hair, but I foolishly left those back in the UK.
This is where passports, credit cards and spare cash go, when they’re not on our persons. It’s a stiff bag, with metal mesh inside, so it’s slashproof, and attaches to an immoveable object like a bathroom pipe or bedframe. Places we stay don’t usually have a safe, and this is more secure than keeping things in a suitcase or pocket. I can’t remember where we found it, although I do remember we looked everywhere for the right thing! And now I can’t find it on Travelon‘s site, or anywhere else. However, Pacsafe have 2 similar looking safes.
Steel Mesh Bag, lock & cable
Big enough to take a backpack containing both our laptops & kindles. Use the steel cable to lock it to something solid. Won’t stop a determined professional thief, but intended to deter the opportunist. Bought this to give us some sense of security when volunteering in out of the way places. Have only used it once so far.
Useful things packing cube
This is as big as the one for socks, hankies & underpants, and holds the following:
– Dive computer
– spare batteries for dive computer and headlamps
– battery charger for rechargeable batteries for dive torches
– rehydration tablets. Very handy in hot climates, you need to stay hydrated. Both Danila and I have become ill through dehydration on different occasions, and these help recovery a lot
– 2 braided rubber washing lines. Can be stretched to fit in most places & lighter items are just threaded through the braid, so no need for clothes pegs.
– ball of string for extending and repairing washing lines, plus tying things down and up.
– clothes pegs for heavy washing items
– suction hooks for hanging our traveling picture on windows and mirrors
– decent looking belt for when I have to look decent
– roll of tear off Velcro strips. You’d be amazed how often these come in handy
– small screwdriver set – useful when working on laptops or other electronic items
– snips – for cutting guitar strings
– pens. Always have a few, as we often need to fill out forms when travelling
– calculator. Have one on the phone, so this might get ditched.
– pack of screw-in hooks for hanging mosquito nets
– universal sink plug
– detergent sachets for hand and machine laundry
Best way to avoid mosquito borne diseases is not to get bitten in the first place! Have one for the bed, and one for the full size bush hat. Have used both in the jungle, and they work.
Cables packing cube
Smaller one that holds all the cables needed to charge or connect with various electrical gadget, including
– my video/stills camera
– my mobile phone
– my backup hard drive (640G, removed from my Toshiba laptop which I replaced with a 500G SSD)
– universal adapter to convert from local mains sockets to US style socket
– variable voltage power block. Powers my razor (5v) and my mini guitar amp (9v)
– some other cables which I started out carrying “just in case” and have never used, so will probably ditch
First Aid Kit
Hard sided and rainproof, has plasters, antiseptic creams, bandages, metal foil blanket, sterile wipes and a variety of syringe needles. May be overkill, but we have used the wipes, plasters and antiseptic creams.
Same size packing cube as for cables, holds anti-histamines, buffered asprin, digestion tablets. May well add water purification tablets in future, as we have had a couple of run-ins with bad water.
Toothpaste, floss, nail clippers, comb, shampoo, electric toothbrush + charger (Danila and I use the same charger)
Very nice cloth one, purloined from a hotel in Yellowstone. Used by both of us, but goes in my luggage.
Very old one I got for free from Motorola, at an Embedded Systems Conference years ago. It’s quite bulky, so looking to replace it with a lightweight one, for easier packing. May also make this a waterproof one, so it can double as a safe place to store laptops in humid climates. (can also put them in Ziplock freezer bags)
Waterproof dry bag
We originally bought this for a white water rafting trip we ended up not going on, and it has been useful for keeping clothes, towels and electronics dry when SCUBA diving and when caught in heavy rain. However, it is big and bulky, so I would like to get rid of it, maybe by replacing with a lightweight, waterproof backpack, thereby killing 2 birds with 1 stone.
4 litre version. Packs flat. We’ve used these extensively in our travels to stay hydrated.
3 of these. As we now use dive computers and our phones keep better time than most watches, don’t really need any of these, but I know I’ll hang on to at least one of them. The big Russian fake gold/steel automatic one looks too much like a Rolex, so I don’t wear it any more, as it makes me an obvious target for thieves and in some places we’ve been to they’d take your hand off with a machete to get a Rolex. The St Moritz quartz is lightweight and comfortable, but has to be sent to Canada when the battery needs replacing, so they can reseal it to be waterproof down to 200 meters. That’s a pain when we’re travelling, and not going to happen, which is why I then bought a Seiko Monster, which is an automatic, with 7 to 10 year service intervals. Does not look like a Rolex, assumed to be a cheap ass piece of junk, but keeps better time and is better suited to the task of being a dive watch, than a Rolex Submariner. Even better, it’s 1/40th of the price, so when it does grind to a halt I’ll just buy a new one, as that’ll probably be cheaper than having it serviced.
Mask & Snorkel
Can’t believe this mask is 20 years old! Used for snorkeling and SCUBA diving, I bought it in a shop in San Jose when they had a sale on anything pink. Guess what colour it is!
Second hand Samsung Galaxy S4. Deliberately chosen to be new enough to have good features and speed, old enough that it’s not of much interest to thieves. Has drop resistant case, and fits easily into the waterproof insert that comes with my Craghoppers trousers. Danila has same model (bought used off Craigslist) and the waterproof insert from my second pair of trousers.
A Sony Xacti, I keep this because it has 16x zoom capability, and takes stills as well as video. Some of the stills, and much of the video on the blog comes from this camera. It continued to perform well in humid climates, so is a keeper.
Mine is a Toshiba Portege running Win 7, which I’ve had for coming up for 3 years. The battery was showing its age and not holding charge too well, while the hard disk was taking longer and longer to boot up (around 5 minutes!) and load applications and web pages, indicating that it was coming to the end of its life. So while I keep copies of important docs and files + all photos and videos on Dropbox, and a copy of everything except photos and videos on a waterproof USB drive, I did not want to lose use of a computer to a disk crash. Instead of buying a new laptop (well over $1,000 for spec similar to current one), I simply swapped the old battery for a new double size, then cloned the hard drive onto a 500G Solid State Drive, and installed that in place of the old spinning disk, for a total cost of <$300. Now boots in <10 seconds, runs on the battery for around 9 hours, runs cooler, can be thrown around with abandon without fear of crashing the disk, and I can use the old HD as further backup storage, if required.
How would we be able to have access to all those books without Kindles! Very useful, I used to download a bunch from San Jose and Las Vegas libraries, but those memberships have expired, so now Danila and I share libraries on Amazon, and get new books from freebie book sharing sites such as freebooksy.com and bookbub.com
Waterproof USB drive: Corsair Survivor 256GB. Used to store a copy of all files on my laptop, except photos and videos, which I store on Dropbox. Sensitive files on my PC, and hence the copies on Dropbox and on the USB, are encrypted using the free encryption program TrueCrypt. Backup in case my laptop gets trashed or stolen. I keep this USB drive in the “secret” zipped pocket of my trousers/shorts, so it’s with me at all times.
Roll of large black plastic rubbish bags: Invaluable for keeping yourself and your luggage dry in all sorts of situations involving water and the possibility of getting wet. Cheap, packs small, easily replaced when run out.
Mine is a Traveler Guitar’s “Speedster” electric travel guitar, which I bought used off Craigslist. Very sturdy, it’s done well, and it’s good enough that I’ve played gigs with it on our travels. Long exposure to humid climates rusted the strings and expanded the fret board, causing one fret to push up higher than the rest, resulting in very poor playability and fret rattle. Fortunately, Elixir make strings with an anti-rust coating, and I did a fret level and dress with a file and sandpaper from Home Depot, so all now good again 🙂 Though much smaller than a standard guitar, it’s just that bit too big to fit in our biggest piece of luggage. Fortunately, it comes with its own soft padded case with shoulder strap.
Battery/Mains powered mini amp: these are about the size of a medium cigar box, so don’t take up too much space and make playing my guitar more fun. Started out with a VOX AC1, which served me well on our travels, but seemed to have died between Cuba and the USA, probably due to something in the electronics succumbing to the humidity. Picked up a Fender Mini Twin off of Craigslist, so back in business again.
Note: we weren’t paid to use or endorse any of these items. We researched and bought them ourselves. There are lots of great brands out there, but these are some we’ve used and that work for us.
Picture: and of course our picture. No, not a photo of us, but the True Things drawing by Brian Andreas. I bought this for Danila this years ago as a birthday present, and it’s come to symbolise what we try to do. We had it laminated, and it sits somewhere in every room we sleep in. The quotation is “they came to sit & dangle their feet off the edge of the world, and after awhile they forgot everything but the good and true things they would do someday.”
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