Travel Gear & Packing List
So... you're going on an adventure?! Whether it's two weeks or two years, there's only one rule when it comes to packing: NO RULES. Cliché, yes. True, yes-er. You're going to love finding out what works for you, and it will set the tone for all your future excursions.
It all comes down to what you're comfortable bearing, tossing 0r ruining, and it has to fit in your tiny/huge bag(s). Some like to travel ultra-light, others like to have many options at their disposal. We happened to find some space in between.
Given our recent destinations: New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, deciding on gear and a packing plan for two vastly different climates was an interesting challenge. We decided to set a few ground-rules before we did a bulk of our gear order, and these turned out to be an excellent decisions.
- Backpacks 40L max, daypacks 20L max. Everything must fit in those confines, and mobility is priority #1 followed closely by minimizing total weight.
- Pack-to-ditch. We start in cool climes, then move to hot as f*ck. Anything we start with we've agreed to jettison, which means no expensive items or those we have personal attachments to. Your stuff will get ruined, mostly by food (Josh).
- Acquire essentials locally. This is closely tied to the pack-to-ditch mentality, budget be damned. Things like toiletries and bug sprays add bulk, and can be especially annoying when they explode on your stuff. We acquire the smallest amounts of what we need in each location, provided it's not included where we're staying. Honestly, you can find everything you'll ever need in these countries.
Quick LinksBackpacks & Pack Organization Camera & Video
- Camera Memory & Batteries
- Camera Accessories
- GoPro Memory & Batteries
- GoPro Accessories
- Laptop We Were Going to Bring
- Laptop We Actually Brought
- Other Devices
- Portable Hard & Flash Drives
- Power Adapters
- Cords & Cables
Weight: 175 lb
Build: Lanky, dad-bod in training
Before You Begin...
We've included a bit of information about the items we brought with us. To be honest, walls of text can be boring.
If you'd like a TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read) version of this gear & packing list, we've made one for you here.
We're lucky to have made excellent purchases, without a single return and it all fits like a glove in our packs. We mention specific brands because we've used, and believe in these products. These links and recommendations are merely guidelines for your own purchases, and we encourage you to shop around so you have more cash for an extra travel experience. We've chosen to use affiliate links in this content, and we sincerely hope our work and experience with this gear helps you have a stress-free journey!
Backpacks & Pack Organization
This "55L" backpack is actually a 40L main pack with a 15L daypack that zips/snaps to the main. Since Josh didn't have a decent daypack, it was a useful, relatively inexpensive combo.
The main pack offers less configuration options than a standalone 40L pack, but sports a roomy main pouch with two large zipper pockets on the top-flap. It easily fits and separates everything Josh planned to pack, especially with the addition of packing cubes. Two external handles and a comfy shoulder/waist harness make transport easy in any scenario.
One thing to consider is the M/L size main pack has a slightly larger frame than a standalone 40L pack, which could push it over an airline's carry-on limit. Josh has successfully carried on without issue.
The similar 40L backpack fits small frames well, while offering plenty of space and pockets for packing cubes and toiletries.
Excellent little bag with a sizable main pocket (laptop sleeve, internal zip-pouch), small external zip-pouch, back slot for hydration system and two small mesh pockets for water bottles. Traveling between destinations Josh fits: All camera/video gear, Kindle, laptop with neoprene sleeve, medication, monopod, quick toiletries bag, sunglasses, Platypus hydration, odds and ends.
Osprey Daylite 20L Daypack - Emily
A similar configuration to Josh's 15L daypack, the Daylite is a little roomier in it's main pocket and exeternal zip-pouch.
Sling Bag (any)
The bag linked above isn't one we purchased, but gives you a good idea of what to look for, making sure it's as water resistant/proof as possible in anticipation of those unexpected downpours. Josh picked up a random Puma sling bag halfway through our trip, and wished he'd purchased one at the beginning of the trip. It packs flat, and sits at the bottom of his main backpack when in transit.
We hadn't heard of packing cubes before planning our trip, and it's hard to imagine traveling without them now. The ability to slide a cube in and out of a bag, rather than rifling through layers of clothing and miscellany, is both a time and a sanity-saver. This system comes in small (2) - medium (2) - large (1) cubes and extra cubes can be used for camera equipment in day-packs. We both picked up a set, and it's made us packing champions.
There's bound to be a lot of electronic miscellany floating around the packs, given how connected we wanted to stay on the trip. We did our best to keep items related to specific devices into related packing solutions, i.e Camera cords, batteries, etc. in the camera case. For all else, this Universal Travel Case is perfect for keeping backup charging cables, earbuds, a tiny mouse and more in one semi-hardshell case. It's roomy, and packs well.
This mesh-ish bag-thing was a "meh, let's try it out" purchase, but has been very handy in helping us keep all of our power adapters surge protector and laptop charger in one sweet spot.
We anticipated being around quite a bit of water, whether on the water kayaking, hopping on/off boats or braving heavy showers in SE Asia. Although we haven't had to use them often, knowing our precious electronics and communication lifelines are safe from a watery death is worth the cost of admission. We decided to try two dry bags, one being a more sturdy vinyl bag which sees the bulk of the action around larger bodies of water and a lighter, more pliable sack for days where we think there may be a spot of rain.
When Josh isn't busy cracking his iPhone screen by dropping it in a New Zealand grocery store parking lot when he should have just left it in the car or bought a phone case in the first place, he likes to take care good care of his phone. The FRiEQ waterproof case seals up phones, passports and other items of that size for easy carrying around the ol' neck. If anything, it's a double-backup should our dry-bags decide to not be themselves.
Although this isn't exactly "waterproofing", it is humid-proofing and these silica packets are crucial to helping keep our devices safe as we move from air conditioning out into the increasingly insane humidity of Southeast Asia. We throw a few in a Ziplock bag and create an "airlock" when moving between indoors/outdoors, mostly because Josh likes sci-fi and making the *shhhhhhhh-hissssss* noise when he closes it.
In addition to keeping things separate, dry and visible like the TSA demands, these things are just a necessity and they loose-pack very well if you take them out of the box (dummy). We found ourselves purchasing more along the way because they're so damn handy. We prefer sliders over traditional zippys, but honestly the sliders can break and the zippys can be inconsistent. When they work they, they work, just be prepared to be smarter than the bags.
This money belt is for when we feel we're in some sketchy or unsafe areas, or need to carry along our passports and don't plan on having people getting nosy in our shorts-regions. So far we haven't felt unsafe, or the need to look like uber-tourists/magicians by pulling money-rabbits from our undergarments.
Same as above, except it goes around your neck. Your choice, buddy.
The Batmobile of travel purses. If you're a purse-cutter or pickpocket, this purse is your sworn enemy. It has an "exomesh" that prevents slashing of both the body and strap, is water resistant during those Malaysian downpours and is actually quite fashionable. You'd never know this purse could kill you in your sleep.
Note: I wonder who wrote this one... Emily says the bag is "pretty dope."
We're not going to pretend TSA locks are anything but mild annoyances for those who actually want to get into our packs, but we like to think they do make those jerks think twice about messing with our stuff. Peace of mind for us, which is worth the easy price tag.
Camera & Video
Perhaps researched a bit too obsessively, our digital camera purchase was one of most important decisions we made. Thankfully, we're thrilled with the RX100-M3!
We were looking for a device that would get us as close to a DSLR experience, in addition to shooting high quality video at various frame-rates, without a large footprint. We shoot exclusively in RAW format and use Sony's XAVC video codec, which both give us greater flexibility for beautiful post-processing. Almost every facet of the Sony is customizable, and it offers great mobile push and editing options through its WiFi connectivity and iOS apps. Its portability and quick power-on response has been key to capturing shots that would have otherwise been too slow to frame with a cumbersome DSLR. Can't say enough (although we may in a future blog post), we love this thing!
Camera Memory & Batteries
To take full advantage of the RX100M3's speed and file quality, we needed a card that could keep up. In fact, the Sony will only allow use of the XAVC codec with cards rated UHS-3. This sounds like a lot of jargon, but what it boils down to is speed to write data between the device and the memory card, avoiding a potential bottleneck in that exchange.
However, with great speed typically comes great cost, and many people shell out the extra bucks for a more recognizable brand name (Sandisk, Kingston, etc.). After scouring reviews and doing some research on speed benchmarks, we purchased a couple of Transcend cards that have been champions thus far on the trip. Not a single hiccup, missed shot or corruption.
How we lived with single-battery solutions before, we don't know, but there's no turning back. The RX100M3 uses NP-BX1 rechargeable batteries, and in our opinion the Wasabis outperform Sony's stock battery for a quarter of the cost. This two-pack with included charger is a no-brainer, and the bonus car-charger made extra sure we were never without power. When we get back to the states, we'll purchase two more pairs. We're that impressed.
This front-side grip accessory is an absolute MUST for the RX100-M3, and we're not sure why isn't included in the kit to begin with. It's super-easy to install, and if you've got butterfingers (Josh...), it'll keep your sobbing to a minimum.
Again, another must-buy for the RX100-M3. We try to keep the camera in-hand or in-case as much as possible, but we can see that despite our babying it's already protected the stock LCD from many little scratches. Best part is how inexpensive it is, which makes it easily replaceable after heavy use or a long trip. No added bulk, and another easy install.
We needed an inexpensive, yet comfortable wrist strap to add another layer of protection to our investment. It just works, and has saved ol' butterfingers numerous times.
The temptation to go all-out to protect our camera-baby was a bit crazy. We looked at expensive straps, cases, you name it... at the end of the day, space and cost became priority. Sony's soft-case fits: the RX-100M3, two batteries, two memory cards and screen cloths with room for a bit more. No-brainer purchase.
Since we were going to visit New Zealand's dark-sky preserve, we needed something light and portable, which could latch onto anything , holding reallllllly still while we shot the stars. Mission accomplished. Additionally, we've used it for GoPro time-lapses in some unique places.
We'll admit, at first we didn't really know what to do with the GoPro. You see all these cool action-sports videos of back-flipping snowboards and think "hell yeah, that's me." Except when it's not you. Turns out, the GoPro is an ultra-versatile creative tool, not just an action-sports camera. Its only limit is your imagination.
Since we didn't need the latest 4k bells and whistles, we thought we'd just "settle" for the Hero4 Silver. If this is settling, consider us entrenched. There isn't one setting/mode/option we haven't explored and it shoots beautiful footage, stills and time-lapses. We've taken it underwater in the ocean and through windy, sandblasted mountain valleys. It comes standard with a waterproof housing and three "doors" that are tailored to shooting scenarios. Two of the doors trade ability to shoot at varying depth with a bit more sound, one adding touch-screen sensitivity, and the remaining door exposes the touch-screen and records a fuller ambient audio. The only downside to the GoPro is that we're shooting with it at such a furious pace, we haven't made much time to sit down and edit/post.
The accessories that follow help make this tiny thing magic...
GoPro Memory & Batteries
Like the memory card for the RX100-M3, the Hero4 takes full advantage of speedier cards depending on the shooting scenario. Not wanting to deal with bottlenecks in file writing, it just made sense to go big with this UHS I (ultra high speed) / U3 64 gig tiny-monster. To quote Genie in Disney's Aladdin, "Phenomenal cosmic powers... itty-bitty living space!" As an added bonus, the card comes with a micro-SD to SD converter.
We won't go into much more depth about the importance of multiple batteries. If you missed some of that depth, check the Camera section above. Wasabi kicks ass, and we're especially happy being able to charge two at once via USB.
This last-minute decision ended up being one of the smartest. When you're using a GoPro head-mount, and say... on the ocean in a kayak, the last thing you want to do is reach up or dismount it to start/stop video every time you want to capture something. The remote comes with a wrist-strap, charges via USB and is waterproof in shallower depths. However, be aware that it doesn't transmit wirelessly when the GoPro itself is underwater. No big deal there, as it picks up the wireless signal as soon as the camera is above the surface again.
The idea of buying into the self-stick craze was something we thought laughable, but this monopod creates many more unique filming opportunities than if you were to just hand-hold the GoPro. It provides a variety of lengths due with its telescoping capabilities, and is comfortable to hold and includes a backup wrist-strap. It's not only great for GoPro, but also includes a camera mount adapter which we use to add some stability when shooting video with the RX1o0M3. The GoPro rarely leaves the monopod at this point, and we've really enjoyed having it with us!
Since Josh looks like a dork most of the time, why not add to the fun! We're kidding (sort of), but when considering how to get some hands-free action shots, this duo of mounts made sense. Although we haven't used the Headstrap Mount itself yet, we've used the Quick Clip a ton. Josh usually attaches it to a baseball cap (GO CARDINALS!), which also fits under a helmet if needed. We've shot from the kayak, go-karts, while trekking... we love the first-person POV.
In order to use the Hero4 with our Gorillapod, we had to pick up this inexpensive set of tripod mounting options. It's been great to combine those forces for some stunning time-lapses. Totally necessary if you're wanting some versatility with a minimal amount of gear.
We're impressed how truly waterproof the GoPro housing is, but since we're overly cautious about the humid environments we use the camera in, we wanted to make sure we're keeping it nice and dry. These very simple paper inserts look like large tabs of blotter acid (not that we'd know) and we place a couple in the housing, one on the bottom, one on the non-button side.
This case provides amazing value for the money. Seriously, buy one for every friend with a GoPro and reap the snowboard backflipping rewards when they make you their new best friend. Inside we fit: the Hero4, housing, three doors, two batteries, extra micro-SD's, micro-SD to SD adapter, micro-SD USB 3.0 adapter, Smart Remote and all its accessories, cleaning cloths, a few mounts... keep going, you say? Alright... Boba Fett keychain, tarantula sweaters, tuna sandwich, d20, vial of water bears that ride seamonkeys, and a chipped-off piece of a porcelain kitchen sink.
Laptop We Were Going to Bring
When we originally planned on the making the trip, we wanted to maximize weight and prevent expensive losses should something less-than satisfactory happen. We started looking into Chromebooks as an alternative to a recently purchased Macbook Pro, and decided to pull the trigger on the well-reviewed Acer 11.6".
We received the Chromebook a month before our departure, and Josh was using it every day while Emily did some heavy-lifting for the trip on the MBP. It's a surprisingly fun and versatile little machine! If you're going for the basics a trip usually necessitates (i.e. Google Maps, Gmail/webmail, run-of-the-mill web browsing), the Acer 11.6" can pretty much handle what you throw at it. Also, there are a number of "apps" that you can install to expand the basic experience, including photo editing web-apps, Evernote and more. Since we like to hack around a bit, Josh even installed Linux on it using Crouton, which adds even more features if you can handle the technical aspects of learning an Linux environment.
Alas, there were some deal-breakers that made us eventually choose the more powerful option, thus the...
Laptop We Actually Brought
MBP for life, yo.
The difference here is that, aside from being a beast with a small footprint, we needed something that could handle multiple tasks at once without much slowdown. Since we decided to invest in the creative side of our brand, we wanted a machine that allows us to work in familiar environments. Being able to utilize Adobe's Lightroom and Photoshop, iMovie, Dropbox for photo/video backup and other more robust apps is what solidified bringing it along. Zero regret.
Since we opted for a single laptop, we brought the iPad Mini and keyboard case along if us wanted to do some blogging or journaling while the other had the MBP. Does it get a lot of use? Honestly, no, but also leaves with an option should anything go wrong with our main rig.
Having an unlocked device to pop regional SIM cards into has changed the way we travel. We've paid as little as $5 for no less than 3GB of data, which typically includes enough call/text credit to send/receive anything necessary to communicate with locals. Depending on the service, you can also use your data for mobile hotspot in places where the WiFi isn't quite working out.
There isn't much the iPhone can't do, and we use it for everything: blogging, social sharing, photo editing, field recording, reading, time-wasting... It's bailed us out, big time.
We're both avid readers, so we're glad to have our Kindles with us. Although we miss the smell of musty pages from time to time, the Kindle Paperwhite can't be beat when it comes to bringing an entire library along at less than a pound. On the plane, on the beach, on the ferry... if we're on, it's on.
Thanks to Netflix, Spotify and other media services opening services to other countries, we're able to stream some entertainment in our downtime. When Netflix's Making A Murderer was being talked about back home, we were easily able to catch up from our hotel in Thailand. Yeah, we should be at the beach, but sunburns on top of other sunburns suck.
Most hotels/homestays provided an LCD television with HDMI/USB combos, which made streaming easy. One caveat is that if your stay's WiFi is behind enterprise room sign-in or agreement pages (basically, "yes I accept these terms" pages), the Chromecast won't work on those networks. Tough cookies, kids.
It's mini alright, and does mouse stuff like pointing, clicking and scrolling. If anything, we just got it to make fun of how little it looks in Josh's hand. All kidding aside, Logitech just makes reliable peripherals for just about every scenario, which in this case is the smallest mouse possible should the MBP trackpad become annoying.
Portable Hard & Flash Drives
Lots of space in a hard drive that fits in your hand. Well, Josh's hand, but you get the point... We use the 2TB, USB 3.0 drive as our main storage solution. It's a spinning disk drive as opposed to a solid-state, which is a bit cost prohibitive, but we take very good care not to jostle it. You may now give us bonus points to saying "jostle".
Note: There are two versions of these WD My Passport drives. One is a Windows formatted (NFTS) drive, the other an Mac OS X formatted (HFS+) drive. It doesn't matter which one you purchase, you can always format it to match the file system your OS prefers. In fact, we had no issue formatting it for use on the Chromebook, which uses yet another file system.
Backup drive! Every couple of days we manually backup one hard drive to the other, which is probably an wholly inefficient system, but we're too lazy to do it the sweet way. Point is, we're very careful to have as much file redundancy as possible and keep the drives in separate bags, should one decide to stay behind at a port of its choosing. You'll love Kuala Lumpur little hard drive, go be you!
If you're the WD My Passport route, grab two of these. Inexpensive and tough enough to slide around your bags. An elastic mesh pocket keeps the WD USB cords in place, and could fit some other odds and ends if necessary.
Flash drives are cheap, why not grab one for whatever crazy reason you may need one. So far, we've only used it to print some documents at local print shops, but that alone saves us some headaches.
If you're purchasing a Chromebook, be sure to buy a separate 4GB + flash drive to create a recovery media. Sometimes the ChromeOS can be a jerk, and the last thing you want is to be stranded without a machine to cure the boredom.
Power Adapters, Cords & Cables
A week before we were about to depart, Josh happened to read an article about Myanmar's... interesting power infrastructure. Some areas, outlets, etc. are prone to surges, and the last thing we need is a fried device. The Belkin SurgePlus has been fantastic piece of gear, and gives us plenty of options to charge, including two onboard USB ports. We were worried it would be larger than expected, but it's surprisingly small and packs well. Can't live without it at this point.
These really depend on which country you're going to, but all places we stayed in Thailand and most in Cambodia offered universal outlets for our US-based power socket types. If you happen to miss something, electronics stores, bodegas and even your hotel/hostel helps pick up your slack.
Two Lightning-based devices, two extra Lightning cables. Inexpensive compared to the real deal.
If you plan on bringing a media device it's good to bring an HDMI cable and any necessary adapters (iPhone/iPad) for that device. We lean on the Chromecast to stream, but it doesn't always mesh with televisions that are a little over.
It was hard to leave behind the bulky noise-cancelling over-ear headphones we'd grown accustomed to on our shorter travels. Since space was of the essence, we chose some extra pairs of Josh's go-to earphones, which he buys at least once a quarter. Great sound and tone-range for next to nothing.
Medical & Health Supplies
Medicines, Supplements & Hydration
Allergy medication is a matter of personal preference, but we're both plagued by all-season allergies and bringing these along has made a world of difference as we adjust to local flora.
These decongestants help keep your sinuses clear when even the spiciest Thai salad can't get the motor running. You may find that air conditioners are moldy or rooms are dusty, and even if you don't have allergies, you may find yourself set off by something in the air.
It's important to restore those electrolytes, because you're gonna sweat your ass off in Southeast Asia. We bought powered Gatorade in bulk and packed 8 or so. Once we started traveling we discovered the rehydration packets which are inexpensive and plentiful, and have bought some at many points. That means we get to come home to more delicious Gatorade.
On the legs of our journey that we were able to utilize tap-water, this BPA-free, flatpacking bottlething with a push-pull cap was a lifesaver. It fit easily in our daypack hydration pockets, has a nifty handle for carabiner attachment and stands flat when full. It's a hell of piece of hydration engineering, and even supports a hydration line attachment.
This one we will be brand-specific about. Systane and Refresh brands were recommended by Josh's ophthalmologist after his Lasik surgery a few years ago, as they're closer to natural tears than your average drop. We've been in some seasonally dry environments, and drops morning and night have kept the ol' sockets nice and healthy.
Because loose yogurt doesn't carry as well... A few times we had to tear down the system with antibiotics, so we wanted to make sure our gut was able to keep up while we explored street food. We did opt for yogurt with our breakfasts during recovery periods.
Topicals & Antiseptics
Sunburnt lips aren't something often considered, but it'll happen to you and it stings. Make sure you have something with SPF and apply liberally. You should look like you just ate a box of glazed donuts.
The stresses of travel can add or subtract years of your life, make sure you don't help the latter by forgetting to properly moisturize your kisser. Added SPF protection assures people will keep swiping right on those supermodel good looks.
Honestly might as well cover ourselves in mud like elephants every day given how much sunscreen we've gone through. Sunscreen is readily available in any location you're in, but you may pay a premium if you don't bring a little with you to begin.
Cuts, scrapes and blisters are bound to happen, especially when you're rockin' the outdoors like we did in New Zealand. We even had to cover some sand fly bites because they were so damn itchy. A few large blisters that formed as our city feet morphed into Hobbit feet were lovingly covered by the cushions, and made for comfortable next-day hikes.
Permethrin was recommended to us by our travel doctor as a first line of defense against nasty, bite-y insects. Spray this non-scented spray on your clothing and it lasts through quite a few washes. Even though it's an aerosol, we put it in our checked bags without issue as it's non-flammable.
Another travel doctor recommend. Initially developed for the US Military, what sets Ultrathon apart is its formula to extend protection over many hours with less DEET and less evaporation. Normally we'd be completely opposed to slathering ourselves with anything DEET-related, but it's wholly unwise to ignore the risks mosquito-borne diseases present in this part of the world.
These repellent wipes were a personal choice for quicker application and portability. Throw a few in a quart bag and go.
Sleep & Relaxation
Doesn't matter where you get them or which brand you choose, but earplugs are worth bringing as there's always a chance it gets rowdy outside... or next door *nudge nudge*.
Memory foam, so you don't forget how important comfort really is! This was a "we deserve this" airport purchase and it has paid off. It's the Cadillac of travel pillows, and comes with an adjustable front-clasp, phone pocket and packs to a quarter of its full size.
Clothing is all personal preference, but there are some items or brands we feel made a big difference in the comfort of our experience.
Men's Clothing (Josh)
Women's Clothing (Emily)
3 x cotton or linen t-shirts
4 x tank top
1 x linen sweater
1 x bug repeller hoodie
1 x cotton button up long sleeve shirt
1 x button up short sleeve shirt
1 x long sleeve Athleta rash guard
Bottoms / Dresses
1 x hiking shorts Merrel
1 x Athleta lounge shorts
1 x cotton Muji pants
1 x Danskin leggings
1 x Athleta hiking pants
1 x Athleta activewear pants
1 x maxi dress
1 x cotton tea-length skirt
Undergarments & Socks & Swim
7 x cotton underwear
2 x sports bras
2 x non-wire bras
1 x hiking socks
1 x Damn Tough low-rise socks
2 x cotton peds
2 x bathing suits (1 two piece, 1 one piece)
Patagonia R1 Fleece Jacket
Northface rain jacket
Bobs slip on shoes
Merrell Women's Ventilator Hiking Shoes
2 x sunglasses
3 x cotton t-shirts
1 x moisture wicking t-shirt
1 x tank top
1 x cotton polo shirt
1 x light cotton oxford
1 x light cotton long-sleeve henley
1 x light cotton long-sleeve button up
1 x sweatshirt
Pants & Shorts
2 x cotton chinos
1 x shorts
1 x athletic shorts
1 x board shorts
Undergarments & Socks