Wednesday, September 25, 2013

To carry an entire year on my back...

Once upon a time, packing was one of the more exciting elements about this trip.  Way, way back in the "dreaming" stage, when I could imagine floating through cities and countries and the things I could wear and the gadgets that would be so handy and the beautiful photographs and words I would capture.

Now, I'm looking at a pile of clothes that would normally last me a week or two, and a pile of stuff that I'd love to leave behind but are actually necessary.  And instead of being inspired to lighten my pack and remove this or that, I keep thinking of more things to take, more items to purchase, more crap to cram into crevices of an already overpacked bag.  And I keep analyzing and overthinking exactly what I should take.  What I need to take.  Reading packing lists.  Comparing advice.  Weighing options.

So, here's what's made the cut.  I honestly have no idea if I've made the right decisions here, so it could be interesting to revisit this in a few months and see what terrible mistakes I've made, what I've thrown out, what I've bought three more of, and what got sent home or donated to the last hostel...



Gregory Deva 60L backpack
Pacsafe Hobo cross-body bag
Osprey Air Porter*
Packing cubes of various sizes (Eagle Creek)**

*I debated on bringing this, but thus far it's proven fairly helpful.  It's essentially a duffel bag that you put your backpack inside of when you're checking it with the airport, overnight bus, etc.  Instead of needing to secure all the straps and zippers on your pack, you just have to worry about the one zipper on the duffel.  And since I didn't bring a smaller daypack for trekking, I'll leave the majority of my stuff stored in the duffel back at the hostel while I'm out doing treks with the larger-than-necessary pack.  
**While you lose a bit of space when you use packing cubes, they're absolutely invaluable for such a long trip.  When I get to the hostel I can easily unpack my bag in a matter of minutes by tossing the cubes into the storage locker, and those become my "drawers" as such.  I know exactly where to look if I need a charger versus a Tshirt versus toothpaste.  And they're just as easy to re-stuff into my pack when I'm ready to move to the next location.

I made a few changes after this photo, but this is basically everything.


Four poly-cotton blend t-shirts (Bella)
One merino t-shirt (Macpac)
Two plain quickdrying/workout tanks (Lululemon)
One quickdrying/workout tank with shelf bra (Lululemon)
One cotton tank with shelf bra
One long-sleeved quickdrying shirt (Lululemon)
One long-sleeved merino shirt (Macpac)
One maxi dress (JCrew)

*I already picked up one two extra Tshirts (free giveaways from my first two hostels) that I've been sleeping in but that can be easily left behind.

One pair of jeans (JCrew)
Three pairs running shorts (Lululemon)
One pair quick-drying bermuda shorts (Columbia)
One pair running crops (Lululemon)
One pair leggings (Lululemon)
One pair quickdrying pants (Lululemon)
One pair quickdrying crops (Lululemon)

I removed one pair of shorts and added one pair of long Lulu pants from this.

Four pairs of ankle socks (SmartWool)
Two pairs of hiking socks (SmartWool)
Four quickdrying undies (ExOfficio)
Five normal undies
Three sports bras
Two regular bras
Two bathing suits

Outerwear & Rain Gear

Merino long-sleeved wrap (Icebreaker)
Puffer jacket (Marmot)
Lightweight rain shell (Marmot)
Rain shell for the backpack
Compact umbrella
Baseball cap


One pair hiking / trail shoes (Vasque)
One pair lightweight sneakers (Innov8)
One pair sturdy sandals (Chaco)
One pair dressy sandals (DV by Dolche Vita)
One pair casual shoes (TOMS)
One pair shower shoes (Target)

I do not at all recommend taking as many pairs of shoes as I have.  I wouldn't have brought the lightweight sneakers except that I do plan to get in some running and CrossFit over the next year, and they only weigh 195 grams.  The shower shoes cost all of a dollar, so they can be easily left behind if Chacos will do in the shower.  And TOMS are the likely choice to leave at home, but I've worn them every day for the first week I've been here, so there's that :)


Duct Tape (wrapped around a pencil)
Bit of fishing line
Nylon cord (clothesline, etc)
Silk sleeping bag liner
Large microfiber towel (REI)
Tiny microfiber towel (REI)
Packet of detergent leaves
Dirty clothes bag
Money belt
Three small key locks
Rubber door stopper
Metal water bottle
Two dual caribeaners  

Electronics / Camera Equipment

MacBook Air (2008)
Amazon Kindle
Canon Rebel XT DSLR
Two adapters
External hard drive 
Earbuds with microphone
Various charging cords
Extra memory cards
Extra USB memory sticks
Portable rugged tripod
Filters for camera


Three journals (Moleskine)
One ledger (small journal to keep track of expenses)
Dive log
Extra passport photos
Old passport
Vaccine log
Copies of important documents


Birth Control
Two types of antibiotics
Diarrhea kit


Toothbrush + case
Soap + case
Contact solution
Face wipes
Wet wipes
Hand sanitizer
Face lotion
Travel containers for shampoo, conditioner, face wash
Mosquito repellant
Extra hair ties
Makeup brushes

Everyone recommends not bringing a full set of makeup, but I do wear makeup on a regular basis, so I wanted it with me (though I've been wearing far less than normal so far).  I also don't advise bringing huge containers of shampoo and such, but since I had half containers full after filling up my travel containers, I brought them along to finish using up, then I'll toss them.  Hopefully this will create a bit of extra space in my bag once they're gone.  The one thing I forgot was regular body lotion, so I picked up a small container of that in Lima.  I also picked up a small change purse so I don't have to get out my wallet with large bills and credit cards every time I want to buy something from a street vendor.


So, that's about it.  It seems like an awful lot written out, and it is.  I've definitely packed more for myself than I would recommend for most people (as I've noted), but the things I thought first about leaving behind have been the things I've worn most frequently upon first arriving.  Granted, the first week has been very chilly, and it will only get warmer.  The items that I would choose to send back home or abandon at this point are probably the things I'll use most when it's scorchingly hot outside.  I'm definitely glad I didn't go with the "big backpack on the back, small backpack on the front" route, but I do wish that I had a bit extra room.  I also forgot about the inevitable purchase of giant bottles of water and snack food, so the one 'move' I've made thus far has also included a plastic grocery bag with granola bars, peanut butter, fruit, and water.  I figure after a couple of months I'll have a much better sense of what I'm really using and what can be abandoned, and I'll create some space for myself at some point.

Fully packed and ready to go.


  1. Thats incredible that all that stuff fit in the bags you have in your last picture.
    So what about all the souvenirs your gonna buy... where are u gonna pack those :p

    1. I've already sent a few things back home... packing extra cords and such took up way too much room! I'm trying to limit my purchase of souvenirs, but it hasn't worked well thus far :)

  2. a) why a rubber doorstop?
    b) toms were a must- they're a good non-sneaker, non-hiking shoe for city exploring :) btw, your and LP's blog are becoming part of my Sunday morning routine

    1. a) It's a safety thing... in case you're staying in a room by yourself / night train compartment / etc. and need that extra bit of security. I haven't used it yet :)
      b) I've worn them almost every single day! Agree that they're a must. And I love that you're reading both of our blogs regularly! I need to keep up with hers more :)

  3. Wow! If I ever decide to venture out for several months to travel around the world your blog is very useful and informative. I finally had some free time today since I got back from India to navigate the internet and I'm fascinated by your experiences and stories. Little by little I'll read some more. Hope all is going great with you, safe travels