Starting tomorrow, travel writer Rolf Potts will embark on a trip that will take him around the world without using a single piece of luggage. This post will explain how he’s going to do it, and there’s a kick-ass giveaway at the end…
For six weeks he will explore 12 countries on five continents, crossing the equator four times, without carrying so much as a man-purse. The few items he does bring will be tucked away in his pockets. Though he’s a seasoned minimalist traveler (famous from his book Vagabonding), he usually travels with a single overhead-bin-perfect backpack, the Eagle Creek Thrive 65L. It’s been his go-to bag for the last 3-4 years.
So why attempt to travel the world with no luggage at all?
Rolf sees his journey as a real-time experiment in traveling ultra-light, and “a field-test for a more philosophical idea — that what we experience in life is more important than what we bring with us.”
While circumnavigating the globe with no luggage sounds like a clear enough proposition, it can raise a few semantic issues. What, for example, counts as a bag? Rolf has set up a set of ground rules to guide his own journey, including:
– No bags on the journey (not even a man-purse or grocery store bag, unless the latter is used en route to a meal).
– No borrowing items from his cameraman or using his cameraman as a pack mule.
– Borrowing or buying items along the way is permitted but excludes bags.
Since most people don’t travel with a film crew, Rolf’s advice for the average no-baggage traveler is a bit broader than the rules he’s set for himself. Here are 8 key tips from Rolf on how to plan and execute a no-luggage journey.
In Rolf’s words…
1) Manage the journey from your mobile phone.
A smartphone could well be the most important tool for a baggage-less traveler. It can store your boarding passes and other important documents, make phone calls from virtually anywhere in the world (with a swappable SIM card) and even act as a miniature blogging tool.
I recommend an iPhone with a foldable Bluetooth keyboard, which allows you to fit your mobile office inside a single jacket pocket. The iPhone can be loaded with a series of applications to replace everyday day items carried on a normal trip. The Kindle app lets you leave behind bulky books, and Genius Scan lets you use you iPhone’s camera as a makeshift scanner so you can quickly save receipts and email them to yourself on the fly. Wikihood utilizes the phone’s GPS to serve location-relevant Wikipedia articles, which is a unique and interesting alternative to a guidebook. Throw in your favorite currency converter, phrase book, and flight tracker, and you’ve got a single device in your pocket more powerful than its dead-weight paper counterparts.
Lonely Planet series of phrase books (multiple links depending on language)
Currency converter: “Currency”
2) Keep your footwear simple and practical.
With no bags, the only shoes you’re going to want to bring is whatever you’re wearing from day to day.
I’m traveling with a pair of Blundstone boots I bought in Australia in 2006. I’ve worn these boots all over the world the past four years, from Paris to Ethiopia to the Falkland Islands, and they’ve served me great. They work for hiking in remote environments, yet they’re easy to slip off and on at airport security.
Some travelers might prefer Chaco or Teva sandals (if nothing else to save packing socks) — and I won’t fault them for that — but my Blundstones look nice enough that they will get me into places where sandals might seem too informal. You are on your feet constantly when you travel, of course, so whichever footwear you choose to bring (be it sandals or boots or running shoes), make sure you aim for comfort, simplicity, and durability.
(Note from Tim: I opt for darker-colored Keen Newport Bison Leather Sandals. If you use black or dark socks, since they have closed toes, you can easily get into restaurants or even pass for business casual if you tuck the tightening strings in.)
3) Buy or borrow certain items as you go.
An old vagabonding adage goes, “Pack twice the money and half the gear.”
The same notion applies to no-luggage travel — even if you’re only packing a tenth of the gear. If a journey takes you to a beautiful beach region, odds are you can buy rubber flip-flop sandals there for a few dollars. If a given city is rainy, cheap umbrellas should be in plentiful supply — and if you get sick, the world is full of pharmacies (many of which are better-suited to cure local ailments that whatever medicine you might have packed).
Should you travel your way into cold weather, thrift stores are a good place to buy a warm jacket (which can be given way to a needy person or left in a hostel swap-box when you leave). You can also borrow things from other travelers along the way. You don’t want to be obnoxious about this, of course, but most travelers don’t mind sharing a spot of toothpaste or a couple of aspirin, and asking for these kinds of things can be a great way to strike up a conversation at the hostel or on the hiking trail.
4) Be disciplined and strategic with what you choose to bring along.
Packing light can be enough of a challenge when you have a small backpack, let alone when you have to keep all your gear in your pockets. This in mind, don’t bring anything you’re not going to use every day.
Nail clippers can be borrowed along the way; rain ponchos can be purchased on rainy days. I left my razor out of the equation (it was better to let my beard grow and then get a hard razor shave in Morocco), and before the trip I cut my hair so short I won’t ever need shampoo. Any big-box retailer should have bins of tiny deodorants and collapsible toothbrushes to keep your toiletries micro-sized. Camping stores will sell 3-ounce snap-top storage bottles that work well for toting concentrated laundry detergent or multipurpose liquid soap. Err on the side of minimalism; you can buy or borrow items along the way.
5) Wear travel gear with strategically located pockets.
If you travel without any bags, this means whatever gear you bring will have to fit in your pockets. My journey is co-sponsored by ScotteVest, an Idaho-based sportswear company that specializes in travel clothing with multiple pockets.
Most of my gear fits into the ScotteVest Tropical Jacket, which has 18 pockets of differing sizes. A majority of these pockets are accessed from the inside, which (a) is a nice deterrent against pickpockets, and (b) saves me the “dork factor” of looking like I’m traveling the world dressed like a confused trout fisherman. I can carry a majority of my gear in this jacket without looking ridiculous — plus the sleeves zip off, so I usually wear it as a vest. I’m also wearing a pair of Ultimate Cargo Pants from ScotteVest, though I’ve packed light enough that I rarely have to use the large cargo pockets. ScotteVest isn’t the only company that makes travel gear with utility pockets, of course; your local camping outfitter or travel-specialty store should provide you multiple gear options, and you can choose the clothing that best fits your needs.
6) Use a minimal rotation of clothing.
Essentially, you’ll want to travel with little more than the clothes on your back — but you will want to bring a few spare clothing items to keep things fresh and ensure you won’t get too stinky.
Given that I wear cargo pants, a travel vest, socks, underwear, and a short-sleeved t-shirt under a long-sleeved shirt on a typical day of my trip, I keep one spare t-shirt, two extra pairs of socks, and two extra pairs of underwear in my pockets.
Each night I wash the day’s socks, underwear and t-shirt in the hotel/hostel sink, and these items are dry enough to pack by morning. I’ve been washing the cargo pants about once a week (and I have yet to wash the travel vest). Some people take short no-luggage trips with even fewer clothes, but my arrangement isn’t bulky and ensures that I always have a rotation of fresh socks, underwear and t-shirts.
(Note from Tim: Here what I pack for an uber-light trip, in this example less than 10 pounds total. ExOfficio underwear are a lifesaver.)
7) Utilize the postal system for souvenirs and extra gear
With airlines baggage fees quickly spiraling upward, many travelers these days are saving money and hassle by mailing certain items to one or more destinations along their itinerary.
If, say, you’re traveling from warm climates into cold climates, you can mail your warm clothing to the first cool destination (just make a pre-arrangement with the hotel you’ll be staying at in that location). On that same token, traveling without luggage doesn’t mean you have to forgo buying souvenirs — if just means you won’t be able to carry them. To solve this problem, just hit the local post office and mail that Balinese mask or Latvian amber or Syrian silk home.
This is actually a strategy that can be employed when you’re traveling with luggage: The souvenirs you find along the way might be nice, but there’s no sense in dragging them along with you. It’s worth the expense to ship them.
8) Remember: Travel is about the experience, not what you bring with you.
In the end, that remember that going without luggage and packing ultra-light need not be an extreme act. It isn’t a contest, or a rite of travel-superiority: It’s just a great way to eliminate distractions and concentrate on the experience of the journey itself.
Freed of baggage, there’s little to forget or lose on the road. You don’t have to stow anything, guard anything, or wait for anything (aside from the occasional train or bus): You can just throw yourself into the adventure and make the most of your travels.
If you’ve ever fantasized about taking time off to globe-trot, I would highly recommend Rolf Pott’s Vagabonding. It is one of only two books I took with me when I traveled the world for 18 months. Outside Magazine founding editor Tim Cahill calls Vagabonding “the most sensible book of travel related advice ever written.”
I recently partnered with Rolf to release the exclusive audiobook for Vagabonding. For more on this incredible book, click here.
Afterword: So how’s Rolf doing? How’s he actually holding up? Check out his progress here, in real-time on the RTW (Round-The-World) blog.
Question of the Day (QOD): What tricks for light travel have you learned along the way? Please share in the comments. The more detail, the better.
Prize of the Post: Leave an answer to the QOD by this Sunday at midnight PST (8/22), and one of the best comments (hard to objectively say one is “best”) will get a Sonos ZonePlayer 120 ($499 retail) and two Klipsch speakers ($389 retail)! Just download the Sonos app for iPhone/iPod Touch, and you’ve got a killer home stereo system that can play just about anything, including Pandora and Rhapsody.
The goodies will ship directly from me in an S5 box (as I now have a new S5 setup). Look forward to your tips!
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485 Replies to “How to Travel 12 Countries with No Baggage Whatsoever”
Holy Crap do I feel old! I’m only 43 but in my 20s I circled the globe 3 times with only a carry on. I have no idea what a DSLR, Ipad, Iphone and all those other acroynms are so I certainly did’t need them on my trips. Maybe they weren’t invented yet! I didn’t even have a camera. Those were the days when you really lived in the moment and enjoyed the experience instead of worrying about blogging, capturing, photographing and documenting it for someone else! My tip would be ~ just go 🙂
Great stuff, everyone — please keep the ideas coming!
Take plain old bar soap over liquid soap — Less mess and it goes a lot further.
Great tips – heres a couple more …
1. Have couchsurfer.com on your iphone. Great way to bum a bed and have new friends who’ll really like sharing in your adventure.
2. Wear whatever you need to wash into the shower, stream, or under the hose and wash while you wear it – actually easier than trying to wash something in the shower by hand or in a too small sink.
3. Put a collapsible bag that folds into itself and zips closed to a couple of inches square into one of your pockets. Very nice to have when you buy a lunch to take with you on a hike, train, or when you bring groceries or gifts along to a host, or take gifts to the post office to mail home.
4. Use baking soda or salt to brush your teeth with your fingers or your collapsible truth brush. Salt is on every table and baking soda is at the local stores. Better for your teeth and the environment. Also use it to wash out water bottles and add to soap to get stains out of clothes. Make a paste with water to relieve insect bites,rashes, poison ivy. And a little in water relieves indigestion. Here’s a great one – it can be applied to the underarm as a deodorant.
5. Allowing yourself to be bumped from a flight often results in monetary rewards – consider it as an option. My husband and I were in New Zealand on our way home from a month long rv trip and allowed ourselves to be bumped – results – we got to see the Americas Cup sailboats, had a lovely hotel with all meals AND first class seats on the way home the next day cause that’s all they had left.
Have a great time!
Extended wear contacts=no case, cleaner, storage solution, saline, sterile hand soap, or extra glasses for nighttime. Eye drops can be purchased en route when needed. If it’s a toss up between contacts and eyeglasses, remember, contacts are less likely to be damaged or lost (as long as you don’t remove them) and you can buy a cheap pair of sunglasses when you need them instead of hauling around Rx ones. Can be had at http://www.1-save-on-lens.com for about $10 per lens.
Another side to traveling “light”–body weight!
Before taking off on that minimalist jaunt, get rid of some of those extra pounds that can easily creep on as you age.
You will find you have more energy for travel, sleep better (and quieter if you have been experiencing sleep apnea/snoring,) won’t eat as much, can stay on your feet for more hours, get up the mountainside less winded, and may even fit better in seats/beds not made for plus-sized Americans.
It also may reduce your chances of needing medical care a long ways from home.
Most seasoned travelers stay healthy and slim, but you will be surprised what a difference dropping 4-5 pounds can make!
[ARGH. Hit the space bar and published before I was done. Sorry, all.]
cont’d. Life-saving and practical:
2. Benadryl. I was stung by something giant that flew out of some ruins. I’m not normally allergic, but had a massive reaction to this thing. Be prepared.
3. Boric acid, pharmaceutical grade, dispensed in gelatine capsules. This old hippy remedy will save you from ANY type of funk in your junk, ladies. And yes, I love the Diva cup, and yes you can develop problems with rinsing it with various water sources.
4. Items from earlier posts I can’t do without: Maxi-pads and duct tape, a knife, a p-38 and my handy bandanas.
5. Baking soda is amazing. Wash your hair, exfoliate your face, clean your clothes, brush your teeth. fill a sock with it add a couple drops essential oil, and freshen your backpack.
6. Olive oil moisturizes, cleanses and freshens your skin. I buy it where I land and add a couple drops of an essential oil blend that I made with bergamot, mint and lavender. If I’ve been in the sun or on a long bus ride, I feel like a million bucks after rubbing it on. I keep it in a pop top bottle, stowed inside a couple of ziplocs. And hey, if I need to dip some bread in something, I’m ready, too!
Now for the STYLE part. I backpack, but I don’t like to blend in as much as I can with the locals and I want to look good! I rely on minimal, color coordinated items and find that you can do a whole lot more in a dress or skirt than most people would imagine. Truly.
1. I have a longer, cotton dark print A-line dress. Doesn’t show stains, it breaths, it allows freedom of movement (I do hike in it lots.). I can wear it out at night and look dressed up. I pair it and any other girly clothes with:
2: http://www.6pm.com/patagonia-poppy-black These handy shoes are stable for cobblestones, scurrying over rocks, climbing into boats, and can be worn at night. Heck yeah.
3. I like a danskin kick-pleat skirt in black. Same reasons. Allows freedom of movement, dries fast and I look great at night.
4. I don’t pack jewelry. I wear one pair of SCREW BACK gemstone studs and my thumb ring. I buy locally made jewelry for night. It satisfies my shopping urge, keeps me packed light, and I support local crafts people.
5. I take a colorful scarf that works as headgear, scarf, belt. I also allow myself to buy something locally made.
6. I don’t like to sport a day pack so that I can blend in more, and generally buy a mid-size and study bag that slings across my body. It squishes down to nothing, isn’t easy to yank off of me, and I can wear it at night, too. It carries my lip protectant, http://www.burtsbees.com/natural-products/lips-lip-shimmer-gloss/lip-shimmer.html and my camera, scarf, benadryl, etc during the day. It also has enough room to fit in my poi and water bottle and lunch.
7.Tank tops with built in shelf bras are fabulous. Lace trimmed ones go from day to night. Lose the underwire!
8. The cashmere, button down sweater is amazingly versatile too. Very warm, very stylish. (And as someone mentioned earlier, washes well)
9. I love hats. I opt for a black and white San Diego hat co. hat. It protects me from sun and rain, hides greasy hair should I have it. (Oh, if you brush the baking soda through your hair dry, it solves this problem!). The hat shields my eyes for sleep on buses, too. And just looks damn cute. Here’s a pic:
I really hope these tips help some of you out!
Safe journeys all!
I always wear a toboggan when I travel light. Not only does it keep my head warm when it’s cold out. But it also doubles as a pillow on long train rides and I can pull it down over my eyes to block out the light while trying to get some shut eye.
Looks like my previous post got eaten. I mistyped my email address, maybe that’s why. Here it is again.
I prefer to look poor when I travel. It minimizes the chance that I’ll be targeted by criminals or con men (or women!).
My favorite travel attire is mesh shorts and a wife-beater style undershirt in tropical locales. Benefit being, you can simply buy new ones instead of washing them, and they keep you cool even during midday exertion. I wear loose archless slip-on cheap hard-rubber sandals and don’t carry spare clothes. The sandals allow the toes to spread, the feet to breathe, wash easily and dry immediately. Arch support is bad for your feet.
I don’t like pockets. I don’t like odd things bumping against me when I walk. I have a comfortable leather man purse that hangs at hip level and doesn’t interrupt my stride.
For geekery, some combination of smartphone with optional USB keyboard or a mini laptop will do. You also might use Dropbox, a USB stick, or a virtual desktop application to access your data from internet cafes. Be aware that virtual desktopping and Dropbox will work poorly in low bandwidth situations, and a USB stick might have security issues with exposure to multiple international internet cafes, unless you are running a virtual machine off of it.
For info management on the hoof, I recommend a combo of audio recorder (probably your smartphone) for capturing inspirations, and a pen and notepad for practical information you will need to access again, e.g. addresses and phone numbers. Don’t rely on your smartphone for practical information, because it is unreliable: low battery, data loss, water damage, you’re making a call and can’t look anything up, etc.
Don’t make schedules. Keep all plans tentative.
Food is a big one for those of us with sensitive stomachs. I don’t eat food prepared by anyone but me. I buy fatty meat and cook it myself in the hostel microwave or whatever, then eat it with disposable silverware. In a pinch, I go for something simple like plain white rice. A single meal can cost you a week of illness – it’s not worth it.
My #1 travel tip: Walk up to the pretty girls you see with your mind blank and your heart filled with desire. Be direct about your romantic interest. A girl will appreciate your appreciation of her beauty even if she doesn’t want to date you. That habit should make you plenty of instant friends who will usher you into an interesting mix of local life. With a pretty local girl on your arm, you will find easy introduction to others you would like to meet. You do not have to consummate any relationship for this to work.
WOW! I have more stuff with me right now and I am only going from Manhattan to Queens!!! In my defense, That can be a dangerous trip
Very cool trip. I confessed my jealousy on Twitter.
While not the world’s lightest packer, I’ve actually been stopped by border security for not having “enough” for my journey in my single carry-on suitcase. My tips?
1. Double-duty everything. A single bottle of conditioner works for washing and styling hair, as well as shave cream and moisturizer. Shampoo bars, not so drying as regular soap, work for all your lathering needs, including laundry.
2. Go mini and go solid. A travel size addict, I use a syringe to top off near-empty bottles before a trip. They’ll fit in the ziplock for security without hassle. Even better are solids/powders: deodorant, lotions, perfume, toothpaste, which won’t hold you up at the security checkpoints.
3. Good earplugs, as others have noted, are a necessity, not only for the plane, but also for blocking out street noise, gunfire, etc…I also carry Tylenol PM for ensuring a good night’s sleep.
Holy WOW – that’s amazing. Good luck with it all. Where is he going to wash his underwear? I thinks that’s an extra not required, go commando and save the space for something else 😉
Love Tim, he’s get the system that I want!!! Thanks for everything…
I like to travel light by carrying only a backpack containing cloths. I have a theory of always carrying my wallet and passport on me so that if my backpack gets stolen or lost, I can still get to my destination. If I ever loose my passport or wallet, I’ll be screwed. So, the one thing I always travel with is this leather money belt from cabelas.
The leather money belt looks like a regular belt, except it has a zipper running length-wise on the inside. This zipper is the right size for carrying a copy of my passport, cash, and credit/debit cards. The credit cards do not fit, so what I do is CUT the credit card in half length-wise so that the two pieces of the credit card will fit in the hidden zipper.
If I ever loose my wallet and passport, I’ve got a back-up system to get home or on to my next destination. I can use the cash to buy food and other necessities. The two halves of the credit cards can be taped back together and used at merchants and ATM machines(I use my taped Bank of America card all the time). Finally, the copy of my passport will get me a replacement passport.
The items in the hidden zipper adds redundancy to the most basic items I need to travel(money + passport) yet it virtually adds no extra luggage. I’ve never had to exercise this system(I hope I never have), but in theory it should work to get to my destination and allow me to buy the things I need to enjoy my trip.
Super jealous, good luck sir!
How about this jacket? http://craziestgadgets.com/2008/11/20/jacket-with-40-hidden-pockets-can-hold-a-lot-of-stuff/ this jacket has 52 pockets 40 of them are hidden, Traveling light reduces risks of theft and allows you to blend in much better, the less it looks like you are carrying the less of a target you look like.
20/80 anyone? take 20% of the things you would usually and use them exclusively.
I was just wondering as I’m fairly young and don’t really have to expense to buy all the expensive gear myself. What would you recommend a newly started hiker purchased to use along with my hike?
Hmm, can’t say I’m convinced that this is more than an advertisement for that vest.
Rolf advocates slow meaningful travel yet he’s doing 12 countries in 6 weeks, with them being on different continents I assume he’s using a plane which takes up a lot of travel time which leaves 3 days per country on average.
I can see this working for such a short period; I read a blog once (I forgot the name and URL) of an American guy who travelled for 2 years with just 1 set of clothes which he made a lot of secret pockets in and proves it can be done for longer, but I prefer the comfort of a laptop and ability of my SLR camera for longer term travel. Otherwise good tips, I certainly could do with reducing the size of my backpack as it is all too tempting to fill the gaps up.
Here’s my tip,
Just take what you only need.
The bare amount of clothes, a nice wallet, and a camera/phone.
It might be hard to conceptualize not taking everything you want. But you’ll realize, out on the road, that you don’t need these things.
Having the extra pair of jeans isn’t going to make or break your trip.
And if your making the most of your trip, you won’t care what you have, but you’ll only care about what you are seeing.
Travel tip – dress like the locals. Buy clothes local when needed. You’ll fit in better and fine cheap stuff. As far as a bag goes…plastic bags you get at local stores also work well. They are super light and strong enough to hold your extra clothes, etc.
QOD response :
It won’t be any use for men, but I’m sure women will know what I mean…
I’ve found a great tool for travelling light and still keeping my legs neat (understand hairless) under any circumstances without having to carry the huge package of products needed to shave or wax…
That’s an epilating paper ! It just takes the place of a quarter of a legal-size sheet. It comes with a small scratch in the back so you can turn it into a globe. Then, you just rub your legs in small circles…
With just this special sheet of paper, you get neat, smooth, exfoliated legs in just a few minutes anywhere without water, electricity and you won’t risk cutting yourself in the process.
I never travel without it, be it for a couple of days or several weeks !
My finger ripped… I meant “glove”, not globe 😉
The trick I have learned to travel lightly is to be open to the kindness of strangers. In day-to-day life, I have a hard time accepting things from people without wanting to reciprocate or just feel guilty about it (must be the Protestant, work-for-your-way upbringing).
However, I have found that being open on the road to meals, couches to crash, washing machines, and activity-based clothes and shoes has kept my travel needs light. Of course, it’s difficult to depend on the kindness of strangers, and I definitely don’t go out seeking road friendships with the intention of borrowing/using things, but I have found that an open mindset yields positive results in a non-creepy ‘Secret’ kind of way.
In the interest of expanding your comfort zone, as was recommended in the Four Hour Work Week, my best light travel tip is to bring nothing but the cloths on your back and your passport. No money, no credit cards, no charge of clothes, no tootbrush, nadda. The way to do it would be to arrange before you go to work for only food, sheltor and transportation (to avoid work visa complications), at for instance, a local farm. In my opinion, the benefits of doing such an exercise would be tremendous. You would be reminded of the fact that no man is an island, the need to rely on others, and the general goodness of the human race (when you need to borrow necessities or ask for other help). I also think that it would help eliminate the fear of having nothing, as this would simulate it. For those who have already tried to expand their boundaries/comfort zone by flying a free hugs sign or lying down in the middle of a busy night club, this just might take things to the next level.
Great point, Rob — I actually explain on trip blog that (for a few reasons, including itinerary-speed) this journey doesn’t really count as “vagabonding” as I define it in my book:
Still, it should be a fun trip, and a good way to get people thinking and talking about traveling light.
In the interest of expanding your comfort zone, as recommended in the Four Hour Work Week. My best light travel recommendation is to travel with nothing but the clothes on your back and you passport. No money, no visa, not even a toothbrush. The way to do it would be to arrange to work for only food, shelter and transportation (to avoid visa issues) before you go, at say a local farm. In my opinion, this would have tremendous benefits, including being reminded of the kindness of strangers (when you inevitably need to borrow something), as well as being reminded of how little we really need to be happy. An additional benefit, is that this would help elimate the fear of poverty that many would be entrepreneurs experience, as this would effectively simulate it. For those that have tried to expand their comfort zone by flying a free hugs sign or lying down on a busy night club floor, this just might take things to the next level.
Thanks for all the great posts.
I always traveled with a cargo zip pants that could be used as shorts and a pair of trousers. Also never fold your clothes always roll them you can fit more. I would never carry more then two outfits because if you ever need more you can just buy an outfit and donate to someone when leaving.
Also after your flight before you disembark from the plane walk over to first class or business class and there are plenty of amenity kits that still have travel size unopened toothpaste tubes, mouthwash and other goodies. I have never had a flight attendant mind and they come in handy to barter with at the hostel.
Personally I would forgo the toothpaste- soap works just fine!
I bring my kindle with me- I don’t do internet on my phone, and I like to be able to read books. I read a book every couple days, so the Kindle has been great for freeing up room- both when I travel and at home!
Mine is real girlie
Long hair – get it braided – blended to the back of your head (not so you look like a dangerous christmas tree!!)
Then you can forget about it ….. when you take it out and wash (I’ve had it max 10days) hair looks awesome!
Thanks for the post Tim
I really like the vest and just the way with the pants it allows you to store some basic clothing. I do question the shampoos and soaps as many airports now with security don’t allow you through with all the liquids. Has something changed? As long as I have my iPhone and the clothing highlighted I think I would be good. Thanks for the Tips. Steve
Hi Rolf and Tim – greetings from Bolivia and thanks for another great post. Have a safe and fulfilling trip – a TV crew would throw me off, but I’m sure you’ll work it out.
Lots of great suggestions above. I agree completely with good footwear (I love me Lowa light weight hiking shoes) and light weight quick dry technical clothing. I also always have a reliable pen with duct tape wrapped around and a key chain size LED flashlight.
Beyond minimizing physical things that weigh you down, i think the most important things to ‘pack’ don’t take any room and will keep you from feeling weighed down.
– An open mind
– Sense of adventure (getting out of your comfort zone leads to many of life’s most awesome moments)
– A ready smile
– An intention to make somebody else’s day better and a willingness to let somebody else do the same for you.
These have served me well in 50+ countries.
Safe and memorable travels to everybody!
Tim and Rolf – If you haven’t been, definitely check out Ethiopia. One of the most stunning places with a unique and amazing culture. I am admittedly biased since my wife is Ethiopian, but I felt that way before I met her. I’ll be there in 2 weeks – feel free to join us in celebrating the Ethiopian new year (9/11) or let me know if you ever need a contact there.
Have to agree with “Ivan,” my number one necessity for travel is a large, woven cotton wrap. It can become a cover up against sunburn, a blanket or pillow while in transit, a headscarf or sarong for modesty, a bundle to tie things up in, a towel, something clean to sit on, something to cushion a fragile souvenir in your luggage, and an accessory to make the outfits you are wearing again and again look different.
Other must haves are a wireless netbook with card reader for storing photos and documents and the best digital camera you can afford. (For both items choose the smallest size and longest battery life.)
Ziploc freezer-sized bags are great for compressing any number of things into flat, compact packages. Just pack, then squeeze the air out as you zip.
One pair of full-length cargo pants that convert with buttons/ties/zips to calf-length or shorts.
Unless you are pretty sure you can’t obtain a certain medication or a particular toiletry in the countries you will be visiting, buy these as you go. I’ve yet to travel somewhere where a bar of soap or toothpaste is not available in the local market.
Love the post. I travel (even for business) out of a single teeny backpack, so this was an über-relevant read.
Several posters mentioned how great it is to carry a knife. True! Yet, impossible, really, with TSA restrictions….
Now, not I… but, um, this one guy I know… has traveled for years with a
Swiss-Tech Utili-Key on a keychain. Next to a couple of regular keys (and my trusty LED light) it has never been complained-about, or probably even detected, by gate screening.
You arrive at your destination with a small sharp blade, a phillips and slot screwdriver, a bottle opener, etc.
The difference between not having ANY tools and having this little guy is the difference between total darkness and dim twilight. With this thing you have options – I’ve opened boxes, hacked open pineapples, cut neoprene, etc in some very remote spots.
The other tip is binder clips (the black spring-metal clips with the fold-back arms). They come in sizes from teeny to huge, and can clamp up things to dry, hold a sheet up to block annoying lights, repair a tent-flap, etc. Similar but different applications to safety pins.
Whoops, I linked to the wrong tool.
This is the one I meant, actually has a cutting edge:
I just returned from an ultra-light vacation to Mexico, and even though I packed light I realized that I could’ve packed lighter. Here are some tips that I learned:
1. Never wear cotton. Mexico in summer is hot, and I sweat a lot. Cotton just holds that moisture in. When I wear a collared shirt, it’s the Reef Runner from Exofficio, which has armpit vents and plenty of pockets to hold gear, money, passport, etc. I brought cotton T-shirts, which was a mistake. When they would get wet after a day at the beach, it took forever to dry because of the humidity. I have since bought some Nike Dri Fit T-shirts, which are synthetic but almost feel like cotton.
2. Grab some Aloksak bags, which are pretty much heavy duty ziplock bags. I spent a lot of time on the water, but I felt safe knowing my electronics were in these waterproof bags. Another travel hack is to use the big bag to wash your clothes in. Sometimes hostels have nasty sinks and would only get your clothes dirtier if you put them in there. Instead put your clothes in the big bag, add liquid soap, shake it up, agitate with your hand, and hang it up to dry.
3. Bring your iPhone. It was already mentioned, but I can’t say enough how useful my iPhone was on this trip. It’s a phone, mp3 player, GPS, computer, all in a small travel size. I also took the majority of my pictures with my iPhone. I have a nice DSLR camera, but I didn’t bring it because I knew it would just get in the way. Having that iPhone camera allowed me to capture the moments while still being able to experience them free of excess equipment.
4. Less is more. I was amazed at the number of people who “traveled light” while hauling huge backpacks from hostel to hostel. The vast majority of that stuff is not necessary. You don’t need MREs or stainless steel water bottles. By cheap local food from a stand or the grocery store. Also, the only drinkable water in Mexico is bottled anyway. So you’re going to buy a bottle of water, then pour it into your stainless steel water bottle? That’s not smart. I love my stainless steel water bottle (I believe all the clean water propaganda), but I leave it at home.
5. Use your credit card. Carrying around lots of cash at all times is foolish, but you can usually find an ATM in a major (or small) city. Fortunately my bank (USAA) is traveler-friendly and pays back those fees you get for using another bank’s ATM. Also using your credit card ensures that you get the best exchange rate instead of having to settle for that exchange kiosk by the airport that doesn’t realize what the exchange rate is supposed to be.
6. Be flexible. I never planned to spend so much time in Cancun because I thought of it as an American spring break tourist trap. (Of course I wanted to see the “real” Mexico). Well I ended up meeting a bunch of cool people who were just as much real as those who lived in small Mayan villages. My preconceived notions were challenged and I stayed longer because I allowed that flex time into my travel plans.
There are plenty of other tips I could mention, but I figure the longer this comment is, the less likely it is to be read. The bottom line is traveling is about experiencing life, and carrying less baggage (physical or otherwise) facilitates maximizing that experience.
Good luck to Rolf! I always enjoy my trip more when I’ve got less to carry! Least with the ScotteVest it can be slipped off easily at airport security. Easy is the name of the game 🙂
Here are some of my tips for the QOD…deep breath – this might be long – sorry :0)
1) Earphone cables really bug me & I’ve broken so many pairs by getting them tangled so I use these retractable ones which are pretty cool http://amzn.to/dy7HFk but my favourite ones are the Sennheiser CX 300-II Precision earphones. They are so comfy and are great at blocking out noise.
2) The Design-Go Quiet Zone ear plugs are also a life saver if you’re staying somewhere that never sleeps. http://amzn.to/aA1jbC plus they have a tiny case so you can always find them as a pair!
3) Wherever I travel I always take a micro-sized tin of Golden Cup/Tiger balm. Is always for sale on ebay.com http://bit.ly/crNV8Q It’s good for hayfever, insect bites, muscle aches, headeaches, nausea etc. Just perfect if you are doing martial arts/sports at your destination.
4) I always find carrying drinks a pain. So this collapsible water bottle is perfect. http://bit.ly/dx9x3A and a toiletry bag also doubles as a drinks cooler!
5) If you don’t have a smartphone but are taking an Ipod it’s sometimes good to record a ‘travel mp3’ before you go, maybe useful phrases, addresses, phone numbers and the like. Saves you carrying extra pages of paper.
6) For all you keen travel photographers the Leica X1 compact digital camera is simply – awesome. It has the same sensor as the Nikon D300 and is the first compact camera to be approved by Getty Images!!! http://bit.ly/7asTAK
7) Travelwash makes washing in a hotel SO easy & lasts for ages! http://bit.ly/d0knkB
8) For a very cold climate I use this http://bit.ly/a1ZALF Shredz Jacket. Has an insane number of pockets but all of which are not visible. It got me through this last winter in NYC and kept me toasty so it must be good! 😛 This just shows that outdoor wear doesn’t have to be expensive. It also squishes quite well.
9)Having a long thin baselayer to tuck into your trousers saves so much warmth.
10) For changeable weather this NorthFace Flight Series Jacket is perfect. It’s breathable under the arms, ideal for showers and is the only hood you’ll need. North Face clothing is amazing – http://bit.ly/cWTcm2 it’s so light and it folds into a teeny tiny square!
11) A few of my male friends like to wear those zip off trousers (as mentioned before) http://bit.ly/cO7HyX and just wear swim shorts as underwear.
12) If you are taking a bag and if you’re going on long treks a hydration bag is good to pack. CamelBak.com do lots of different ones http://bit.ly/aGRKEV They pack pretty small when empty and it saves stopping to open your bag for a drink every 5 minutes. I’ve seen lots of them used at festivals though I doubt they are designed for beer-use 😀
13) TipsyFeet/Feet Fairies (roll-up-shoes) are a good idea (for girls) if you are changing between hot/cold climates.
14) If you’re going to the country/camping and need a torch – get a wind up version that also doubles as a phone/ipod charger. http://bit.ly/cZC3MQ
15) Microfibre socks with a zip pocket http://bit.ly/87ApP5 ideal for keeping emergency cash/keys safe.
16) The Universal Packing List is a website that creates your personalised list based on who,when and where you are travelling to. http://upl.codeq.info/
17) Moleskine pocket notebooks are great for doodling, scribbling phone-numbers & for swapping e-mails with your new travel buddies! Moleskine also do larger city note books with maps included which I love!
18) The Inka pen will write anywhere and is nice and small http://bit.ly/OzPD7
19) If you’re going somewhere really remote and are worried about the quality of the drinking water a filter straw is a necessity http://bit.ly/8XMaUS
20) Tilley.com do lightweight travel clothes that dry overnight too.
21) Remember to cut down your wallet/purse contents, leave your house keys with a family member, give them copies of your passport & credit cards to keep safe and email yourself a copy too.
22) The fingertip toothbrush is good too if you are reaallly packing light! http://amzn.to/bzzisn
23) I’ve stayed in some dodgy hostels/hotels on my travels including a hostel in Paris that set on fire in the middle of the night!! If you’ve got the space a travel personal alarm which also is a smoke detector could be a life saving piece of equipment! http://bit.ly/dD1VOw
There are some simply genius tips on here! This will be a post I check back to time and time again! 🙂 Thanks to all!
ruthless simplicity and maximum redundancy…i dress in shades of blue so that all my clothes can mix and match and i only pack 80% of my carry-on to give me some flexibility to buy essentials / forgotten (even though i have a good checklist, it happens) on the trip.
also, kids and wife may have to stay home for any trip where the goal is to travel light! just kidding honey (not totally).
great ideas on the comments page!
BTW, Dr. Bronners (peppermint preferably) is great for soap, shampoo, dish soap, laundry detergent and even toothpaste. Wow.
When I travel, I prefer to travel light. Since I also travel for business, there are some things that apply that don’t for personal travel (ie, I have to bring things with me). Here are some of my rules of thumb:
1. Airports – when I go through the airport, I know that when I get to security I am going to have to take off my shoes, unload my backpack, remove my belt and put everything through the conveyor belt. There’s no avoiding it, so here’s what I do:
a) I’m skinny and I need my belt. My pants fall down otherwise (or at least hang down). So, I wear some Adidas track pants which don’t require a belt. That way, I don’t have to remove it nor put it back on afterwards. The pockets are thin which prevent me from carrying loads of things in them which require removal.
b) If you wear sandals, rather than shoes, they are easier to slip on and off getting through security.
c) Watch the coins. Buy stuff *after* you get through security so you don’t have to carry it with you while going through it. If you pay with cash, you’ll put the coins in your pocket. If you put it in your jacket pocket and remove that while going through security, fine. But if you put it in your pants pockets, they make you take them out. Best just to buy stuff after you get through security so you don’t have to worry about where to stash the coins (unless you just put them in the tip jar which is smart thing to do because it’s not cost effective to exchagne them when traveling to another country).
2. I need to bring my laptop with me when I travel for business. I put it in my back pack and take it with me on the plane. Don’t store it in your checked baggage. This means you’ll be carrying it around. To reduce that bulk, don’t take a mouse or any peripherals that you can avoid. If you can get away with it, check the power cord in your checked baggage. It’s additional bulk you’ll have to carry with you. Given that most battery life isn’t great, you probably won’t work much anyways on the plane. I never do.
3. Take a blanket with you on the plane. Some airplanes provide them, some don’t. But I’ve been on more than my fair share of flights where I’ve been very cold and the blanket saved me. If you don’t use it to keep warm, you can use it as a pillow under your neck. It packs flat, too.
4. For personal travel, when it comes to credit cards American Express is basically useless outside of Canada and the United States, and hotels in Europe. Visa and Mastercard work, though. But once you get to the developing world, don’t count on being able to use your plastic cards (credit or debit) outside of major chains. Banks will let you withdraw cash, and that’s your best tool — in the developing world pay with cash. It’s *way* less hassle.
Don’t exchange money with street vendors. I wouldn’t even withdraw US currency within the US and exchange it at the airport. The best thing to do is just to withdraw cash from an ATM in the local country. There is a fee to do this, however, there is also a fee to exchange currency and it is higher than the fees your bank charges you to withdraw overseas. If your bank will not let you withdraw overseas, change banks.
5. And speaking of cash, the best way to carry it is with a money belt, not a fanny pack. Money belts lie mostly flat against your stomach. You put your cash and some plastic cards in there and that way it’s with you at all times. It’s safer to keep your passport in there as well when you travel internationally.
6. How many credit cards is enough? With a high enough limit, you can get by with one or two. Most credit cards now come with anti-fraud protection on them so you’re covered in case you lose it. On the other hand, you might have trouble using it overseas because Visa and Mastercard have anti-fraud detection and can detect anomalies (ie, you usually spend in Seattle and now you’re ringing up charges in Milan?). When this happens, sometimes your card will be refused. The solution for this is to call them up ahead of time and let them know you’ll be traveling… or pay cash.
7. If you’re up for staying in a hostel, then when you land in a foreign city you can go to the hotel advertisements in the airport and check up the cost of a hostel. You can book right there and share a taxi ride to them. This doesn’t work that well in the United States because hostels are much less common, but this tactic works great in Australia, New Zealand and Europe.
8. Don’t take stuff with you that you are going to use once – either rent it while you are there or buy it and leave it there. For example, if you live in a colder part of the country and are going some place warm and plan to snorkel, don’t buy snorkeling equipment and lug it with you. You’ll use it on the trip (once per year… though not necessarily once per trip). Buy it there or rent it there and leave it there.
9. You can get around fairly well by taking public transportation and asking the locals for assistance. Taxis in Europe will cost you an arm and a leg (especially Switzerland).
10. While less is more, if you are going to travel and are bringing along one bag anyhow, and you don’t have to lug it around much, then it makes sense to plan how many clothes you need. I *don’t* want to spend time washing my clothes, especially my socks and underwear. I’d rather be doing stuff or chilling out in the evening. If I’m going to spend 10 days in central America, then I take along 10 pairs of underwear so I can change them every day, and maybe 6 pairs of socks (I’ll probably be wearing sandals). It all fits in my checked bag which has wheels so it’s not that much of a hassle, and it packs flat. I might take along four or five shirts as well.
This distances me a bit from some of the advice in this thread, but I’d rather trade off the hassle of the time taken to wash my clothes vs taking along a couple of extra pairs of underwear. Or, worst case, I could simply buy some underwear and socks while I am there and then throw them out when done. Problem solved.
11. You may not realize it, but shoes take up a lot of room in your luggage. At the most, you should take along two pairs of shoes — and wear one of them so you only have to pack one.
12. Kindles are nice, and so are tablet PCs, but I like to read books the traditional way in my hands. I don’t need to recharge them either. I take along a book or two on every trip and sometimes read them, but don’t take along a hardcover book if you can help it. They are heavy and bulky to carry around.
13. Drink plenty of fluid on the plane. The air is recycled and it is thinner, so if you start feeling tired or start to get a headache, there’s a good chance you are dehydrated. Even though I drink plenty of water, one time when I was sick and 3% dehydrated (2% is when you start feeling it) the doctor said I should drink soft drinks, and not the diet kinds, because they had sugar. I don’t normally drink sugary drinks, but I did feel better after I did that. So, if you like Coke or Pepsi, go ahead and have some on the plane to avoid dehydration.
14. If you go abroad and don’t do it regularly, there’s a chance you could get sick. I’ve gotten sick numerous times overseas. Most of the time it’s just my sinuses, but not always. To that end, I ensure now that I always travel with those small kleenex packs in my carry on. I need them in case my nose starts to run because I’ve caught a cold on the plane either on the way there or the way back. Cough candies, just in case (and I’ve needed them) are also good.
However, as I learned on my most recent trip, if you are going to the developing world make sure you have plenty of over-the-counter stuff for something that calms your stomach. There’s nothing worse than having your bowels do multiple sneak attacks on you in the middle of the night. It makes the rest of your trip sh– … uh… lousy.
Good god, another tip I just thought of:
I am always wearing a bright orange drawstring bag that I got free from my hometown. It not only has a label (proof of origins, etc), which I keep on my back side so that people can’t deduce it without consent. On one of the string on my bag I keep a carabiner, great for hooking all the strings together if I want to run but don’t want the bag to fall off and for hooking the bag to chairs and other such things to prevent easy theft.
1) Bring/wear a long sleeve quick-drying cold-weather base layer from a company like Canterbury of New Zealand or Under Armour. They are quite light, and are great for variable weather. You can wash them in the sink, and they dry very quickly.
I’m on a three-month trip at the moment which has taken me through Germany, Finland, the Netherlands, and now Ireland. When I got to Ireland, it was a lot colder here than any of the other places I’ve been so I picked up a Canterbury of New Zealand base layer. This has become my new favorite travel gear.
2) I always travel with a bandana, and find it especially useful as a sleep mask and impromptu dust mask. I bring a tiny bottle of essential oil, such as lavender or spearmint, and add a couple of drops to the bandana. This can help with both relaxing, sleep, and opening your sinuses if you’re in a place with dust or allergens.
3) I’m a big fan of Dr. Bronner’s soap (liquid). It’s very concentrated and you can use it for everything, soap, shampoo, as well as dish and laundry detergent. I like the almond an tea tree flavors best.
Not a major tip, but I’d recommend bringing the Thai deodorant stone on any long term travel for several reasons.
One, its small. The travel size is only 2.5 ounces.
Two, it lasts forever. The normal sized stone (4.25oz) has lasted me for two years, using it every day.
Three, it saves your shirts. Those nasty underarm stains are actually a result of the chemicals in the antiperspirant reacting with your sweat. Using these instead will save you any embarrassment, which would be especially bad if your interacting with another culture for the first time.
Four, its more powerful than more common deodorants.
Five, it doesn’t contain aluminum like most deodorants. With a suspected link between aluminum and Alzheimers, I’d rather play it safe.
Just my two cents. Happy trails Rolf (and Tim, of course)! Keep us updated!
We were lucky enough this year to do our first overseas one month family vagabond trip with our 4 kids (ages 7 mos to 5 yrs). This poses special problems for a minimalist backpacker but here are some tips that we recommend (mostly related to travel with wee lads & lasses)…
– huge fans of New Zealand company Phil & Teds. Their products are fun, super light and look cool to boot. Three items we brought along were the Sport Double stroller (light, folds easy, streamlined, carries kids and your crap), travel cot (folds up super compact, weighs 6 lbs) and MeToo chair (clamps to table, light, folds flat, great for pubs, etc. that don’t have highchairs)
– one lightweight water resistant hoodie each (no sweaters)
– 3 sets of tops & bottoms each. This will vary depending on climate, but for boys atleast, you can make one of the bottoms a decent looking pair of swim trunks to function as shorts as well.
– kids are tough to keep clean of course, so we (ok me, not my wife) also made kid’s clothes reversible some days to hide pesky stains. I found myself doing this with my own shirts later in trip as well.
– of course, make sure the clothes are as light and quick drying as possible, and preferably roll up nice without wrinkling much
– love ’em or hate ’em you can’t go wrong with Crocs for the kids. We bought stylish little black pairs before the trip and definitely got our money’s worth. Great for wet or dry, nice and light and can be passed down to the younger siblings when outgrown.
– 2 quick drying travel towels to share. First time using and loved them. Great for bathing or the beach, light and don’t stink. We opted for slightly more luxurious, thin terry rather than the Sham-Wow variety
-strong light-weight clothesline and carabiners for hanging laundry and tying up rowdy youngsters (kidding)
-if you have someone in (disposable) diapers, don’t bring along a Costco-size pack. Bring enough for a few days & buy there. Same with other baby supplies and toiletries. So much fun to shop in foreign grocery/drug/dollar stores.
-related to this, make your diaper bag your daypack as well. Keep it light enough to have room for your camera or other gadgets. And preferably one that doesn’t look like a diaper bag. We took a nice little sling pack.
-travel size bottles of multi-purpose baby soap. Can be used to wash clothes or dishes in a pinch too…and no tears.
-share toiletries as much as possible with exceptions maybe of underarm deodorant and toothbrushes
-only allow your kids to take one small toy each if they insist. Chances are they will find new treasures there anyway. Anything they lose interest in, donate locally.
-if you can afford it, your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad can serve as a portable entertainment centre for kids during long transport or when they just get sick of sight-seeing. Less bulky than portable DVD player with multiple discs. Load up with kid friendly books, games and videos (hopefully mostly educational).
Best of luck with your trip Rolf. Love your writing and will enjoy following you.
Craig Tobin (& crew)
I have been trying to light pack for ever, but it seems that every time I start packing I think I will need everything. I don’t know if it is fear or anxiety for the trip or just because I am attached to “my things”. Girls specially, we tend to use a lot of cosmetic stuff, and personal hygiene products for “those days” and most of the time those two categories are the bulkiest ones in our backpack.
On the other hand, shoes are the “big problem” which one to choose? Am i choosing the right ones? Will they be comfortable? Are they too fancy?
Well, I am learning just from reading the posts. Thank you Rolf and Tim for doing this and encourage people to share.
The only good advice I have so far is do not forget you favorite music!
Pack a lightweight body chamois – some can pack down to size of a match box and are great to freshen up when you’re feeling dirty and gritty after a day of hiking/sight-seeing/general travelling. Super absorbent for use as a towel after bathing as well!
As a woman who took 2 large bags to Europe on my first Contiki trip there 15 years ago, I have learned that the narrow cobblestone streets and small staircases do not lend themselves to our huge bags we are used in the states. My greatest travel tip is to get a pair of pants with zippers that can be pants or shorts, bring a cute light dress, and a pair of flats that you can walk the city in or get beautiful at a moments notice in your dress and flats. Less is certainly better when you are in small european hotel rooms and walking the majority of your trip..
not a trick per se but something that hasn’t been mentioned and shouldn’t be forgotten by vagabonds.. 1 or 2 don’t take up any space but they can save you from so much trouble – on so many levels
don’t underestimate how hard it is to get them sometimes… you might think otherwise but you cannot get them ‘anywhere anytime’. especially at nighttime. and especially when you need one suddenly and unexpected.
you don’t want to go on a quest for condoms when you are in the ‘heat of the moment’. definitely bring condoms.
How ive survived various headaches by traveling light:
1. ExOfficial Boxers, 2 pairs. odor resistant, stain resistant, doubles as swim trunks, quick dry, amazing.
2. Convertible pants, can be worn for any occasion and double as shorts. i prefer the ones with lots of hidden pockets.
3. Light weight Navy or Black Jacket, perfect for most nights, easy to carry, wrap it up in rubber bands if it doesnt fold into itself.
4. Smart wool socks, they dont smell, easy to wash, quick dry.
5. Bring ONE bag. Find lightweight dark clothes that all match with each other, that are lightweight, quick dry and comfortable and you’ll only need one bag.
6. Leave the laptop at home. You feel so much more free, when you dont have to worry about a 12 yr old snatching up your macbook pro.
7. Universal Charger.
8. Smart phone. This is key. My iphone is used as a book, light, translator, reference guide, map and gps, notebook, alarm clock, calc, ipod, seach engine, newspaper, calender, weather channel, compass, camera/camcorder, oh yea and phone.
9. Reliable boots, brown or black.
10. Dr. Bronner’s Baby mild organic fair trade liquid soap. Amazing, i use it for showering, laundry detergent, shampoo AND toothpaste. If thats not the perfect light travel companion, i dont know what is…
Last year my husband and I put everything we own in storage and went to Asia for two months, then taught in France for three months. Thus summer we went back to Asia (I head home Tuesday). The whole experience was a lesson in how much I have vs. how much I need.
In our disposable acquisitive society, it can be really easy to spend your life in service to crap. We work to buy crap, then we buy a house then we need crap for the house, eventually we have so much crap we have to buy storage bins to put the crap in, then eventually a storage unit, and so it goes, oh and don’t forget a car to move the crap around.
The experience taught me that you can either spend your life in service to your crap or spend your life in service to your life. Inelegantly phrased but I hope it makes sense.
I now have no house and no car but I still have that storage unit and when I get back to the US will crack open the storage unit and start going through that crap.
Life is essentially a journey and your home is like a big suitcase. Most of us have totally over-packed (myself included). In a world where so many people have so little why do we keep needing more?
Like that really cute dress I just bought (reform takes time).
I am working on reducing all my baggage and being aware of wanting vs. needing so here is my advice.
Start with a small “bag,” that will automatically limit what you can bring more importantly what you can buy along the way.
Before buying something ask: is this something I need? What will become of it after I don’t need it anymore? Can it be reused, sold, recycled? How far did it have to travel to get to me? What was the life like of the person who made it? Does my buying it help make their life better? How far did it have to travel to get to me?
Sometimes you just want to buy stuff that you don’t need (like the dress) but I think if more people asked this, we’d have less people spending their life in service to crap and traveling lightly.
I would say transitions lenses sunglasses are great especially if you need prescription glasses. No need for sunglasses and reading glasses just one pair for any light conditions.
Thanks for the great post Tim, loved Vagabonding so appreciate all the advice from Mr. Potts.
Please forget the socks with the sandals. You’ll need to maintain SOME dignity.. I’m praying you’re bringing extra underwear in your pockets. Good luck!
Hahahaha…. I have no dignity, I assure you 🙂
Thanks for the comments, all!
As a guy who doesn’t pack much body fat, cooler evenings can give me the chills pretty fast. Most gear shops, and bike shops especially, sell hybrid spandex shirt sleeves (yes, just the sleeves) that pack up as small as a pair of short socks and have proven a lifesaver for me on more occasions than one.
Huge fan of the book, it literally changed my life! Me, Wife and Kids are eternally grateful!
Wish I had a tip but coming up blank with these to compare to. One question though:
Any advice when traveling with kids? Wife and I can travel light but when it comes to the kids, sometimes you have to bring extra to keep them happy. Not to mention from walking around with food stuck to them. Amongst other things 🙂
Looks like a great adventure, one I will follow closely.
I suggest a few ziploc bags. Roll them into a tight bundle and wrap several rubber bands around them. You will be surprised how often these things come in handy.
Use your safety pins to pin your extra 2 sets of socks together. This is an easy way to find a safety pin when you need one, as well as, ensuring you’ll never have that infamous “one” sock syndrome.
I use this daily in my life. Each set of socks is pinned together. Saves time not having to sort socks from the laundry as well as grabbing what you need from your sock drawer in a flash
When you unpin your socks you can covertly hide the pin on the inside of one of your socks and it’s right there when you peel them off at night.
Good Travels Rolf.
Just the post I needed to see for my current trip to Thailand and the Naadi readers of South India in 5 days time.My last trip was a bag dragging nightmare earlier this year and I used about 20% of the stuff I took…AND the weight doubles in the unforgiving sun…..aaaaah !
First time global wandering travelers TAKE NOTE
For the sake of making it easy for readers to benefit from the comments, I’ve consolidated what I found to be the best portions of various answers to the QOD (QOP?). Call it the SparkNotes version of the comments, if you will. I skipped them this time to avoid a conflict, but I might include some of the tips I previously mentioned once I create a similar post after the weekend ends.
For the most pedestrian travelers:
(Tahira) Don’t bother with toiletries, as you can easily obtain small amounts at your destinations.
(Fiona) If you anticipate being in or near a remote area, test any potentially lifesaving items before they are actually needed.
(PaulR) Replace maps with photos kept on a small camera.
(Dave) Keep in mind that über-light travel might make you the target of some wariness.
(Adam Mayfield) Roll clothes to make packing easier.
(Max) Don’t carry all valuables and IDs in a single pocket, as theft or loss can be devastating. External pockets should only contain amounts of money small enough to not make an impact if stolen.
(Per Håkansson) When heading out of the hotel for a day, pack the free breakfast food to save money on lunch and dinner.
(Ryan) It’s alright with the TSA if you bring a bottle or mug, just empty it before checking in. To get purified water for free, ask to have it filled when ordering at a coffee shop.
(Vinay) Wear dark colors, but not logos, so that stains and repeated wear are less noticeable. Cut clutter by using USB chargers.
(Max) A carabiner–or any other fastener, really–can be used to fasten bags/clothes to large objects, making it difficult to walk off with them quickly.
For light, but not too light travelers:
(bloo) Be picky about the fabrics your travel clothes are made of. Go for quick-drying materials.
(Fiona) Optimize by only carrying multipurpose items, such as handkerchiefs, rubber bands, and zip-off pants.
(Paul) Replace your laptop–among other items–with your smartphone and cloud services. Other users have suggested using a bootable USB drive as an alternative. Use shoes that are compact*1.
(Drew Blaisdell) Similarly to toiletries, readily available items like plain shirts are pretty much disposable, so don’t bother bringing them.
(Richard) Bulky gear can and should be rented onsite.
(Jason M) If a smaller version of an item exists, go with the smaller version.
(Kaila) Velcro pockets can help deter pickpocketing, as they usually provide an audible alert that they’ve been opened.
(Swedy) To cut down on the need for gadgets, hire virtual assistants. They can also be helpful in planning your trip.
(Patrick) For amateurs just learning the process, assemble the clothing you intend to bring, then drastically reduce it.
(Allen) Use American Express services strategically to get discounts and other assistance. Additionally, a bright bag is less likely to get lost than one with plain colors.
(Travis and Robin) If you must bring them, carry small amounts of toiletries in labeled contact cases.
For hardcore/professional light travelers:
(nick samaroo) Only bring the things you need in a mental simulation of a day at your destination.
(Jade Wood) Carefully and pragmatically consider possible scenarios before choosing a travel partner.
(kimberleebob) Don’t pack too much underwear. To refresh a pair, turn it inside out and wear it.
(Kaila) Consider not bringing electronics at all, as they are often available at your destination.
(Audrey) Though mooching is useful, don’t expect to be able to do it consistently unless you return the favor. As kathryn notes, it might be annoying.
(Michael Davenport) The locals can provide the valuable resources of friendship, knowledge, and lodging, and they often do so for free.
(Benny the Irish polyglot) Store items, including a strong bag, within a double-layered jacket while going to the airport, then stuff everything into that bag after passing through security.
For the light traveling MacGyver:
(Peatt Raftis) Sanitary napkins, duct tape, and pencils are all you need.
*1. Commentors, including Mr. Potts, seem to favor consolidating footwear by bringing only shoes or boots, not both.
Great post and blog. My tip would be to leave behind anything you had with you, but did not use on your last trip.
Rolf, travel safe and enjoy.
I kind of would like to know what it would be like a girl version of this.
By the way I’m a girl. Just curious because I hate luggage also. 🙂
A bandana or scarf can be used for tons of stuff, replacing a hat, eyemask, and more.
Carry paracord as bootlaces, a bracelet, etc. The stuff can be used a thousand ways.
Klipsch makes cheap ($40?) earbuds that make decent earplugs when off. With those in and a headscarf over your eyes, sleeping near a crying baby isn’t impossible.
This cocoon sleeping sheet that acts like a sleeping bag (link: http://www.rei.com/product/690012) was the single best thing I took with me on my travel to africa. It’s uber light, warm, comfortable, and protects you from all kinds of weird bugs crawling on you while you sleep. It’s very breathable so you can also use it as a mosquito net.
Its also great if you’re moving from place to place and don’t have the luxury of having a clean bed to sleep in. Just put the cocoon over you and you don’t have to worry about what kind of filth the bed has gone through.
The best things I have ever brought with me have been a big smile and generous heart. Lame? Maybe. But everything else I’ve ever brought with me I’ve never really needed.
Wow, people are so incredibly resourceful – fantastic tips. The only thing that I have to add is one I am sure Mr. Potts already practices. A smile, a sincere one that lets people know you see them as equals and wish them all the happiness in the world. Be respectful, humble and kind, if you are lucky enough to travel and have a window into others daily lives – remember that, and share your good fortune. Corny sounding maybe, but it has always been the best “travel aid” I possess.
I travel in a similar fashion as when I go the the field in the Army. Never pack more than you would absolutely need for the first 72 hours of your planned operations. You can always arrange to have some sort of resupply in 72 hours either by planned cache, air, ground, purchase or just doing without.
Plan on carrying everything on your back, no wheeled luggage or carts. This will help make some decisions a bit easier and a lot more practical when prioritizing. Everything should be able to fit into some sort of ziplock or waterproof bag as well.
Wow, that Sonos looks cool, so I’m posting more stuff I’ve learned. 🙂
Having a child has taught me a lot about travelling light.
When my son Alex was born he doubled the amount of gear we carried with us (maybe even tripled), despite only being the length of my forearm.
We travel a lot (he took his first 3 day road trip at 6 weeks old, his first airplane trip at 4 months) and the extra baggage was really hampering my style. (My travel style, that is.)
My wife chose what we carried for him, but I usually lugged it around. After our first flight with him I started to examine what it was I was carrying. I questioned the role of every trinket, gadget and toy and made my own lightweight diaper bag.
It consisted of a small zippered pouch (Kifaru Pullout) with:
– Ziplock bag with a dozen or so wet wipes
– Ziplock bag with one days worth of powdered formula (prior to switching him to formula, I carried food for my wife at all times, as she was the formula.)
– Small baby bottle with one portion of dry formula inside
– Ziplock bag with 6-8 diapers, which I would kneel on to push all the air out, then seal.
– small bottle baby advil
– small tube of diaper cream.
This was enough stuff that we could spend a day away from home, longer with some improvising. The diapers, formula and wet wipes are bare necessities for a baby. The thermometer,diaper cream and advil were things that if you need them, you really need them, so I always carried them.
It took a while to get my wife weened off her monster diaper bag. I started with trips to the grocery store with just my little minimalist diaper pouch, then longer trips out for the afternoon, then eventually I made her one of her own. Once she realized that with just her little pouch and a change of baby clothes we could spend the night somewhere with our son, she was sold.
We didn’t actually need to carry a can of formula, a whole package of wet wipes, a package of diapers, five changes of clothing, a bottle warmer, toys, blankets and all the other weird baby paraphernalia.
Most of this can stuff be improvised, rented, or done without, especially toys.
Alex happily played with carabiners from my pack, an LED flashlight, my MP3 player, elastic bands, car keys or my sunglasses when we traveled.
We would get hot water from a coffee shop to make him formula.
He has used my jacket and spare shirt as a sleeping bag.(It’s pretty darn cute too.)
We almost ran out of diapers once during an unexpected flight delay. I was contemplating how to make an improvised diaper out of toilet paper and duct tape, but we found some at an airport shop. I was a little relieved and a little disappointed that I didn’t get to try making a duct tape diaper.
We learned to ask hotel staff about what childrens amenities were available, to rent strollers at our destination, to find parks, museums, zoos, playgrounds and pools near our hotel, and many other strategies for keeping us all healthy and happy while traveling with minimal gear.
Many parents are intimidated by the work involved in traveling with their small children. Ironically, adopting a minimalist travel philosophy has made us more relaxed about most travel challenges.
My wife and I realized that as long as our son had food, wasn’t in pain, and didn’t need medical attention, everything else was a minor issue.
We’ve both reduced the amount of stuff we travel with as well, so our combined family luggage is less than it was before we had a son.
Alex is three now, so he no longer needs a minimalist diaper bag. He just needs some spare clothes, and I’ve been thinking of getting him an Ipod Touch soon.
We just found out my wife is pregnant again though, so I’ve been reexamining everything that we carry, trying to figure out what is really important and what is just slowing us down. I’m kind of looking forward to it.
Obviously, everyone here has some great ideas and experiences! I will honestly say the number one recommended lifesaver that ALWAYS seems to come in handy at just the right time: A roll of toilet paper! You would be surprised how many people think this is always available during travels, I have been a lifesaver to fellow travelers MANY a time with this one!
Good luck, Rolf. Safe travels! If you are stopping through Nanjing China, look me up!
– Ron Turner
First Up: Tim and Rolf I love your stuff. Hope to bump into you both some time for a chat.
Anyways: Just finished 5 weeks in Asia with less than 6Kgs of stuff. Most of which I only used occasionally. The philosophy is less is more – to a point. Everything should do more than one thing, and be useful in more that one situation. I’ve been cycling, hiking in highlands, drinking cocktails in fancy bars, and doing all the usual travel stuff. Having just finished a trip in Vietnam this probably has a Asian spin on it.
• Sleep is extra important when you are traveling. It will affect how many days of rest you need, your attitude, and make you more/less enjoyable to be around. I suggest controlling the sleep domain as much a possible. To do this you want ear buds, to dampen the noise. (Very handy for budget travelers that end up with countless crying babies). I’ve recently splashed out and got the Sony MDR-NC33 noise canceling ear-buds. These have 100 hours of use of a single AAA battery! I love them. If the ear buds and noise cancellation aren’t enough, you can create a relaxing playlist on your i(Love)Phone. There are also some apps for the iPhone that produce white noise, which masks noise that penetrates you defense setup ;). (Warning: set alarms for trains, or ask someone to wake you at your stop. This will also contribute to a better sleep and stop you missing your stop) You also want to limit the amount of light hitting your eyelids, even when closed. Light can cause the production of chemicals in the body that signal you to wake up. Thus you want some way of blocking light, the eye masks work pretty well, and help you get a little bit extra sleep during those rough nights on sleeper trains. You can always just wrap a shirt or some fabric around your head though.
• Silk Sleeping Liner – Wouldn’t leave home without it. Provides peace of mind, and comfort when sleeping in questionable places.
• EyeFi – Memory Card with built in wifi to upload you photos as you take them. Haven’t used them, but keen to try.
• Shower in a packet – baby wipes can get you to 3 days or so without a shower (more if your daring). Pick them up in single use packets around Asia as you need them. Not sure about other places.
• Get a credit card/account that doesn’t charge fees and withdraw smaller amounts of money at a time as you won’t be charged fees. (National Bank in Australia has a Gold account. $10 a month unless you make deposits of $5k a month. You can just move money back an forward between accounts to avoid this fee. In addition they often provide free travel insurance if you purchase all the tickets with the card.)
• Don’t bother with deodorants – Get of the deodorant treadmill. IMHO its not that necessary. I suspect that deodorant actually makes you smell worse when you stop using it for a period of time. Showering regularly or using baby wipes is my preferred alternative.
• Do take a toothbrush and a small or no toothpaste
• Don’t bother with a water bottle – don’t bother with a hard water bottle. Make do with refilling the first water bottle you buy, if know you can drink the water. Or (sadly) keep buying more bottled water. (I’d really like a solution that doesn’t require 1. bad tasting water. 2. using so many plastic water bottles on my trips. 3. the need to carry a water bottle of my own. If someone can solve this problem, they will be very rich).
• Jailbreak your iPhone – as a travelHacker you need super powers that can only be endowed by the jailbreak. Why??? Ahhh so much.
– You want to use a sim card in another country and your provider won’t unlock you phone. Internet café’s are more expensive than paying for 3G data in many places, and less cool. Lets face it who wants to hang out in internet café’s. Get a prepaid sim card on arrival with data included, and recharge when necessary.
– If your traveling with others, you want to share out your 3G connection over wifi (see MyWi app). This gives you access to your host of wifi enabled gadget while on trains, in hotels, sitting on lush lakes at sunset, and at the summit of Mt Fansipan, the highest mountain in Indochina (I recently found out).
– You want the ability to make Skype calls over 3G. see My3G app
– Twittelator for making nearby Twitter friends and keeping in touch with other T-hackers.
– Torch app – makes screen go white and light up the room. Useful for when the power fails while your in your hotel room.
– WikiTravel Offline – I can’t stress this enough. You need the offline wiki goodness for bus trips. Even if you have sim and data plan, its so handy, quick and responsive. I’d just love the ability to edit the pages too. Perhaps one day.
– TripAdvisor – used by 15millon people it has most of the major activities, places to eat, and accommodation. This also fills the gap in WikiTravel as you can review places here and provide feedback.
– AllofWiki – OMG did you know that you can have all of the English wikipedia on your phone. So when you wonder about the history of the Hmong people of Vietnam while looking a ruins in the jungle YOU CAN JUST WIKI IT. Woot! Warning, this freaks less technically adapted people out, using it sparingly or in secret.
– GoodReader – Books on the iPhone. Harden up, it can be done. I’ve read countless books on smartphones, the ability to take a library with you, and download niche books on request is invaluable.
– Someone above pointed out Wikihood. Thanks, I just added it and I love it too.
– You can use the iphone as a media center, to watch the latest movies and TV shows while staying the budget hotels. I.e. effectively using the iphone as a torrent, media center. Great for those ‘Foreigner/homesick days’ You need a usenet account that downloads nzb files, and gives you ftp access. Its very good if it has a web front end. Next you need FTPOnTheGo App to download the files of the FTP server, then you need iFile to unzip the content, then you need something like yxflash to play the divx/flash avi file. I’d love to get a AV output cable for the iphone, to hook it up to hotel TV’s, and a Bluetooth fold-able keyboard. Perhaps for my next trip.
– If you’d like me to write up a fill list of apps I use and how I use them let me know. MobileRSS, GoodReader, Currency, ScannerPro/DocScanner, BC Reader, GPS, SafeNote (bank passwords), Trails, QuickOffice, SudokuMagic, aDownloader, AutoStich, CameraBag
• Methodology: Dress like an onion. You want layered multi-use clothes.
• Three sets of underwear, t-shirts to you can go two days with out a wash, and still feel fresh. This also means you don’t have to wash every day, which is less extreme but more balanced in my mind.
• Use the roll technique. I prefer to roll my clothes into two sets, each set contains a new shirt and underwear. This way dirty clothes go in their own roll and don’t ‘contaminate’ you clean set.
• Don’t bother with a towel. Use a shirt and tie it to the outside of you back somewhere. Or if it’s a casual day, wear it. The heat from you body will dry it out quite quickly. Plus it is refreshing on a warm day. Note: on cold days, it’s the best chance of drying clothes anyway if your on the move.
• Dark clothes – hide the dirt. As for avoiding the heat… well… id rather look spiffy.
• Don’t bother with Jeans, they are too heavy. I’ve just traveled a month is Asia using these great Adidas hiking pants. Most of the time I zip of the bottom legs, unless I’m in an area with mosquito. Even then its nice to half unzip the legs and let some air flow. Its very important that the fabric is stretchy, as the lighter material is not a durable as jeans (I found this out the hard way before I moved to light-elastic material.) Ideally the fabric will stretch in both directions, down and across – however this is hard to find in practice. If they rip, get them sowed up. The pockets where I keep my money, zip shut and every step I walk, my hand rubs against the zip. I very quickly realise if the zip is undone. Now I do this unconsciously.
• Don’t bother with a leather belt. A nylon fabric one will be lighter, and more durable. Belts are also good for rope occasionally. My nylon belt came with the pants above.
• Don’t bother with warm pants. If you need warm clothes, just carry thermal underwear. You can wear this under your usual clothes. Of course you could just buy the thermal underwear when you get to a cold region, as pointed out above.
• Zip down the middle hiking jacket fleece. – ideally this should go with you hiking jacket, (see below). Its another layer of the onion. You can peal it of, or just unzip it to cool down if you have a backpack on and its to much effort to take off. (often the case when hiking)
• Boots – If your considering only taking your hiking boots, think again. I think wearing them every day during summer in Asia contributed to heat stroke. Also in Asia, it is usual practice to take shoes off many times a day. It can also get really hot with boots. I ended up buying some slip-ons and haven’t looked back. Note: My hiking boots were selected because they are Gortex 200gram shoes, so while they take up a bit of room in my backpack, they only weight 400grams total. I like having these for serious hiking trips. If your not into hiking well… the decision is simple.
• Water proof Gortex jacket – using the roll technique this take up only a fraction of space and gives piece of mind when hiking. Even though I rarely use it, I have had a couple of near misses with extreme cold and wet conditions when hiking. In one instance we were wet through all our clothes and it was so cold that we couldn’t stop for breaks, as muscles got cold and limbs numb. I now won’t go hiking with out it when altitude and or cold are involved.
• Wind and water resistant pants – less important than the jacket, but add comfort when in cold windy environments. Also gives you something else to wear in the every you’ve just washed everything and have nothing dry.
Thanks all for the tips, great inspiration. Can’t wait to hit the road again already with my new kit.
Awesome video! I need to start traveling more in general. The 4 Hour Work Week really gave me a new perspective but I have not been able to do much about it. School, work, mortgage, parents that need a little help, etc, etc, etc… But, after I graduate…IT’S ON!
I travel by motorcycle and many motorcyclists pack everything AND the kitchen sink when the travel. I spent 6 months going through 15 countries for more than 23,000 miles with a tiny amount of luggage space. The best advice I have is to “keep it simple” The less you have with you is the less you have to lose, the less you have to pack and unpack everyday, the less you have to get stolen. Like you said, my favorite memories were experiences. Sometimes breaking down and finding a mechanic or looking for a new tube of toothpaste was a challenge. But it was always fun!
The filter doesn’t seem to want to let me through, but anyway. Check out backpackinglight.com It’s a great collection of articles by staff and readers on shaving weight. These are the type of folks that cut off the end of their toothbrush to save weight. They do everything from testing carbon monoxide in camp stoves to DIY projects like carbon fiber walking sticks. Ryan Jordan who co-founded backpacking light, did a trip with a couple other guys where they walked 600 miles through untamed alaska with 20 lbs of gear. They did this without resupply. Ryan’s blog is also quite good. He talks a lot about decluttering and how it allows you to get out more because there’s no preparation. Grab your bag and go.
My best tips for packing light are:
Lay out everything you think you need to stuff in your backpack – then divide that by half.
Lay out the half of everything you think you need – and divide by half again! Then you’ll have all the stuff you’ll ever need on your travels!
You will always wear the most comfortable things all the time! And you can always recycle your underwear 4 times – front, back, inside front, and inside back!
the socks at exofficio look to much like hiking. any other recommendations on sock that dry fast and can also be worn to more formal occasions?
according to onebag.com the “air boss” is the carry on bag for business travel. how does their “air train” stand up to the “Eagle Creek Thrive 65L” that rolf is using?
This is a refreshing take on the minimilist packing genre. I’m not sure how much more minimilist you could go unless someone attempts world travel naked (there might be some legal issues there).
Although not mentioned, the basic notebook and pen (Moleskines are a great) should not be overlooked. There is no substitute for the blank page and a writing instrument when you want to kill some time, capture that great idea, or record your experiences. Some of my best thoughts and work have come to me during my travels. As I make my way through West Africa right now I am never far from my notebook.
Thanks for the great post and safe travels all!
Hey Rolf / Tim,
I posted a longer version yesterday but it didn’t make it 🙁 . So I’ve cut it down to my top few tips.
Wherever I travel I always take a micro-sized tin of Golden Cup/Tiger balm. Is always for sale on ebay.com http://bit.ly/crNV8Q It’s good for hayfever, insect bites, muscle aches, headeaches, nausea etc. Just perfect if you are doing martial arts/sports at your destination, saves you taking 20 products in it’s place.
The fingertip toothbrush is good too if you are reaallly packing light! http://amzn.to/bzzisn
Earphone cables really bug me & I’ve broken so many pairs by getting them tangled so I use these retractable ones which are pretty cool http://amzn.to/dy7HFk but my favourite ones are the Sennheiser CX 300-II Precision earphones. They are so comfy and are great at blocking out noise.
If you’re going to the country/camping and need a torch – get a wind up version that also doubles as a phone/ipod charger. http://bit.ly/cZC3MQ
Make a a ‘travel mp3’ before you go and store on your ipod, maybe useful phrases, addresses, phone numbers and the like. Saves you carrying extra pages of paper.
I always find carrying drinks a pain. So I use a collapsible water bottle like this http://bit.ly/dx9x3A and a toiletry bag also doubles as a drinks cooler!
Good Luck to Rolf! Maybe ScotteVest should sell those jackets with everything in them 🙂
My travel bag of choice: Bach Ultimate Duffle No.1 / 50 Liter (e.g. https://www.rucksack.de/bach-ultimate-duffel-art20200642)
Minimalistic design with durable materials. Fits into the overhead department and under a Sri Lankan local bus seat. Does not look like a tourist bag. But looks good enough to check into an expensive hotel.
To travel light I take old clothes I am ready to throw away or donate and wear them on my trip. I just dispose of them at my destination which saves me room on the way back. This works especially well when going from cold to hot climates as I layer with old stuff.
On a recent trip to Europe to visit Paris and London, I managed to travel on 4 flights without checking a single piece of luggage. All I brought with me was a small piece of carry on luggage and a little backpack that served as my purse. I even managed to bring home presents from my travels that all fit within the two small bags I had brought with me. How did I manage it? Well, to begin with, I packed my bags half full for the trip over, and I packed only necessities. The big space saver for me was the lack of clothing I brought. I decided to pack about a third of the clothing I knew I would need for the trip, but still managed to have enough outfits by packing tops, pants, and skirts that were all color coordinated. Essentially, I made it so I could put on any top and any bottom and it would match. So, 6 items of clothing (3 tops and 3 bottoms) became 9 outfits. Add some neutral shoes and I was ready for just about anything. Best of all, was that I was able to fill my bags with all my goodies without worrying about them getting lost in the mail, or having to wait at baggage claim. I guess that puts the notion of all women being over packers to rest!
Kim and I just did one month in Sicily (on a mini-retirement). We only allowed ourselves 1 carry on each. We still felt like we packed too much! God bless Rolph– but jeez— what pocket would I put Kim’s shoes in:)
I’d recommend a small, hand-held solar charger like the powermonkey-eXplorer. We just finished just over a year of travelling around the world and only discovered these at the end when a fellow traveller brought one on a rafting trip in Nepal. They can be charged from sunlight or directly from a powerpoint which is a great way of replenishing or storing power, which always seems to be in short supply on the road (at least in developing countries which is where we mostly travel). Suffice to say, on that particular trip it meant we still had an IPod to listen to by Day 4 which we wouldn’t have had otherwise. But even on the regular traveller’s circuit we found ourselves constantly runnning out of juice, be it on 24 hour bus rides or train trips or because a lot of ‘budget’ rooms only have 1 or even no power outlets that can be easily got at.
Rolf’s the man! Dance party (+tacos) at my house if I get the sonos!
-put all 4 liquid/creams described below in backpacking light minidrop bottles (they have removable dropper valve). The four essentials include:
-Dr Bronner’s mint soap for everything including teeth brushing and laundry.
-Aquamira water treatment drops (clean water for over a month, weighs just 3 oz)
-bug & sunscreen combo: Elemental Herbs suncreen sport spf22 (winner of EWG review) + several drops citronella oil and lemon-eucalyptus oil for bug protection
-Sriracha sauce for making any food taste good
BONUS TIPS: use a rubber dog toothbrush that slides over finger as toothbrush, and do your swimming at nude beaches (or night time) where swimsuits are unnecessary.
Cheers to wonderful experiments – travel on my friends!
– Earplugs (50 hours on a plane? Rolf will have at least 1 baby crying on there)
– Clothing freshener spray (Glad you armpits smell ok, but that’s not the nearest to your company)
– Go couchsurfing; a great way to dive into cultures and your hosts are generally very helpfull to suit your needs (wash your clothes, make some food, get energized). Besides a place to stay, many are willing to show you the city.
– Configure your phone to suit your travelneeds + make it a usb-storage device with your favorite programes etc so you can work from any pc anywhere.
I’ve always wondered how people make friends when traveling abroad. Do you arrange to meet people ahead of time, do you seek out people on the road?
Sounds fun, but lonely.
I’ve been reading through the comments and there are some really great ideas!
Here are the ideas I’ve had that I’ve found work for me:
For girls: Diva cup: http://www.divacup.com/ (or something similar). It’s very small and totally worth bringing. I love it!
A pashmina/scarf: you can use it as a light blanket, a hood, a shoulder wrap, a bag, a cloth for cleaning yourself, and of course as a scarf.
Cream eye shadow so you do not need make-up brushes.
1 shirt with a good built in bra so you can wash your bra.
My favourite small back pack is foldable so if you don’t need it you can easily put it away. (Mine in from MEC.ca)
For guys or girls who don’t want a pashina: a buff (http://www.buffcanada.com/) The one I have is actually not from that specific company, but they are a very useful item! A lot like a handkerchief or pashmina.
Looking forward to reading more comments when I have time 🙂
You spend a lot of time on your blog and books emphasizing what might be called a new model of prosperity: experiences, relationships, values (in general), instead of the accumulation of STUFF. I understand that that is an incredible oversimplification, but, if you would agree to that, I’m wondering if all this striving for experience, relationships, and values isn’t just another kind of consumption? Doesn’t it leave itself open to just another kind of rat race? Isn’t Desire, whether it be for an HDTV or a trip to Kosova, still Desire?
I’m just wondering if you see this as a conflict at all and, if so, how you go about resolving it. Thanks!
Posted my QOD answer 22 hours ago (9:27am Aug 21), but it still says “your comment is awaiting moderation.” So here it is again, lightly edited.
The following travel hygiene ideas are unorthodox, even downright gross — I’ll confess that up front. But they work.
1. Floss instead of toothbrush. Oral hygiene requires stopping two things: gum disease and tooth decay. The first exacerbates the second, so gum disease is the priority. It starts with rotting food above the gumline. Floss cleans that up better than brushing, and comes in spools the size of a quarter. Don’t just clean between teeth: start above the gumline and sweep the floss across each tooth to remove gunk. Then smell your floss, and take perverse joy in the eye-watering stench of the slime you have just removed.
2. Rinse with tequila, or other unsweetened hard liquor. This kills the bacteria that causes tooth decay. Together with flossing, it takes care of oral hygiene better than brushing, and is a dual-use product that will make friends anywhere in the world, though perhaps not the right kind of friends.
3. Bad breath? Overlapping but separate problem. The floss and tequila cleaned you up, but now you smell like a bender. Chew mint leaves, buy mints enroute, or gargle Dr. Bronner’s soap — painful, but leaves you minty fresh.
4. Go commando every third day — your pants are like an extra pair of underwear you don’t have to carry!
5. Shave stinky body hair. Yes, men too. Especially men. That malodorous miasma clings mostly to hair, not skin. Shave armpits in particular, and you simply won’t smell. Don’t make the hapless Moroccan barber do it — just ask the hotel desk for a free disposable razor (1st world), or buy them one at a time from a stall store (3rd world).
6. Wash your quick-dry clothes while wearing them. I learned this from a US Special Forces soldier while bicycling across Iowa. Buy a universal soap like Dr. Bronner’s. Step into the shower fully clothed. Soap the clothes, peel them off, soap your body, rinse the whole kaboodle, and hang dry. Done. Mind-bogglingly fast and easy, because you can find and focus on washing the stinkiest parts of your clothes: they are adjacent to the stinkiest parts of you.
7. Go swimming at every opportunity. Whether it’s a public pool, hot spring, lake or ocean, you will discharge more body odor by soaking 20 minutes than by scrubbing for 5. Particularly helpful for women: rinses the smelly parts you can’t reach, I’ll just leave it at that.
Hope this didn’t ruin too many Sunday breakfasts. Happy traveling.
For me, traveling light has more to do with a mindset than a gadget. I am a musician, on the road about 150 days/year. There are things I always take with me (instruments), so my ability to travel “light” is a relative term. However, I have adopted a Kaizen mentality, wherein I try to bring less and pack more efficiently each time I go out on the road. I question every “must have” item and keep a mental note of the things in my bag. Did I use them? How often? Could I do without them? Could I get the same result by adapting my behavior? For example, I went from dragging a laptop to coveting a netbook, to coveting a Bluetooth keyboard to forcing myself to learn to use the dictation app already on my smartphone. While not perfect, the app gets me most of the functionality I need and doesn’t require a carrying case, charger or space in my bag.
In other words, almost every packing light solution relates to a behavior, rather than an object.
This is by far, one of your most kick-ass blog posts, thank you. Thrilled to keep abreast to Rolf’s findings and your analysis of it. Also, I’m thankful Rolf finally has a twitter account.
You guys rock! Keep at it.
Rolf Potts Twitter: http://twitter.com/rolfpotts
For light traveling, I recommend the REI flash pack. It weighs nothing, its very sturdy, it can fold down small enough to fit cargo pockets. I used this with a bigger backpacker’s bag so I can leave the bigger backpack at the hostel and carry this super light flash pack for all purpose needs. It also doubles as a pillow: flip it inside out and stuff some clothes in there.
Link is http://www.rei.com/product/778466
From today’s Sunday Times (a UK paper):
Dame Helen Mirren has revealed her tip for travelling light: only pack underwear and buy the rest of your wardrobe from a charity shop when you arrive.
“On my way from the airport, I ask the driver to take me to a good charity shop, and I buy boots, socks, trousers, jumpers, sweaters, hats and scarves – usually for £30,” said the actress.
“On my way back to the airport, I have it all in a big bag and drop it off at another charity shop.”
My own tip would be to avoid bringing workout clothes and shoes and learn a set of body resistance exercises that can be performed in a hotel room. Or just hit the streets and walk and walk and walk. It’s a great way to get to know a new city. I always avoid public transport for the first few days and randomly walk the map. Great exercise!
Question of the day:
Essential oils Tea Tree and Lavender
One or both of these as small bottles that can be used for many many uses!
Good post Thank you and keep on doing what your doing and most importantly have fun!
I realized this morning that I somehow deleted the majority of a post yesterday intended mainly for us practical yet stylish girls. Sorry, all. Here goes again:
Practical and life-saving
1) Okoubaka. This will save your intestines over and over again. I eat from street vendors all the time. http://www.forresthealth.com/okoubaka-spag.-drops.html
2) Benadryl. If an anaphylatic reaction happens, you don’t have time to shop for it. I carry a handy pill case with aspirin and ibuprofen in it too.
3) Baking soda. Brush it in dry hair to absorb grease (really!), use it for shampoo, toothpaste. It’s great as an exfoliant after a few grimy days out. Fill a sock with it and add a couple drops of essential oil and it freshens your backpack.
4) Olive oil. Super great moisturizer, make up remover. It’s pretty great at freshening skin, too. I add a little lemon oil and bergamot and it works as a bug repellent even. I carry a pop top bottle and usually fill it outside the US.
5) Boric Acid. Pharmaceutical grade, packed into gelatine capsules. This old hippy remedy is absolutely essential for curing any type of funk in your junk. I love the diva cup, but washing it in island water can sometimes pose a problem. Try explaining what you need to a pharmacist when there’s a language barrier and you’ll thank the hippy goddesses of old for this one.
6) I take the little Starbucks instant packets and a few tea packets. If I’m really jonesing fora comforting hot drink, I’m good. I don’t use them often, but when I haven’t had decent coffee in a month, it’s nice to get at least mediocre coffee from a packet.
7) Sonic care toothbrush. Yep, I can’t live without it. Rechargeable base, sonic speed. My teeth feel great and as a SOLO female traveler, this baby does do double duty. Do the math. And nobody looks at me twice on a bag search at customs, either!
Now, the tips for Super Style on the Fly:
1) A dark print, cotton A line, longer dress. Cotton works well in hot climates, and the cut of this one keeps you cool. You can hike it in and trek all over and you can wear it in temples or out at night. Most of my other clothes are fast dry, but the dress is worth the longer drying time. Spritz it with water and essential oil, hang it in the sun and it’s fresh again.
2) Scarves. I bring 2 colorful ones. The dress up the black outfits instantly, can cover your hair, serve as a belt and a shawl. Stash and carry items, too.
3) Screwback earrings. I wear a gemstone stud pair and never worry about losing them. These are the only jewelry I take. I buy local jewelry for night wear at my destinations. Takes care of my shopping urge and supports crafts people.
4) These shoes go from day to night and yet are stable enough to scramble up and over things. http://www.6pm.com/patagonia-poppy-black
I wear black Keens otherwise. I can’t do the white running shoe and boots are too bulky for me. I keep my ankles strong and go for style.
5) San Diego hat company hats. I like a trendy black and white design. I really don’t like dorky canvas sun-blocking models. Why would you do that to yourself? These little lightweight hats protect from sun, shield eyes for sleeping on buses and hide bad hair the next morning. And you look great!
6) Black button down cashmere sweater. Ultra warm, yet vents. Durable and easy to wash. Way stylish. Leave the sweatshirts behind.
I hope this advise really helps some women out. It can be more of a challenge for us to travel light, but we’re smart enough to share.
ROCK ON LADIES. Look great. Travel safe.
QOD Shoes tend to be on of the bulkiest items brought by people on their travels. I have found that a good pair of black canvas lace up “deck shoes” covers many needs in one shoe. They go well shorts and jeans. You can pair them with a black dress shirt for dinner or a night out on the town just as easily as wearing them with shorts or your swim trunks. They are comfortable enough for a decent amount of walking. Breathable and easy to clean. The non slip bottom works well on wet surfaces to keep you safe.
If you will be traveling with someone else, try no to duplicate items that can be shared.
For example, one person can carry a camera, the other can carry a cell phone. Just forward all calls to the one phone.
One person can carry the toothpaste while the other brings the dental floss.
Same can go for the drinks and food.
Anything to lighten the load, yet still have all the essentials.
Number one advice for packing light is to have the mindset of packing light – start with that goal, be willing to ditch some necessities that you can find along the way, and be willing to part with stuff you start your journey with. I personally like to pack as if I’m going camping (minus the tent and sleeping bag) no matter what the itinerary calls for.
Clothes – Colombia makes incredible travel clothing – lightweight, breathable, and nice enough to clear any place with a dress code. I’m a big fan of the “PFG” line – made for fishing, but can easily pass for a collared dress shirt. I have not yet tried ExOfficio underwear, but I save all old underwear and socks for travel so that I can slowly throw them away throughout traveling to open up some space in my bag for souvenirs or to lighten my bag. Same with old clothes – I always pack an old pair of pants or few t-shirts that I plan on donating / not returning with. It’s travel – not a fashion show. ? Colombia is also my go-to for jackets – good interchangeable shells for varying temperatures in super-cold climates, and great packable rain jackets.
MSR towel – absolute life saver – can be used for the obvious purpose of a towel, or to quickly dry clothes (tip from Tim), and always dries out in record time. Perfect for the beach, swimming pool, shower, packing wet clothes in a hurry, shade, privacy curtain, etc.
Electronics – I sacrifice a little weight and like a camera and/or iPhone charger that takes AA batteries – chargers are bulky, and batteries can be purchased world-wide. iPhone obviously can serve as entertainment, reading, music, alarm clock, flight tracker, language translator, currency converter, and overall connection to outside world.
Documents – iPhones can be good for management of documents – I also like Dropbox and Google Docs in case I lose my phone. I make sure document copies, lists of important numbers, and itineraries are available to me anywhere there is an internet connection. I also do a good deal of research before-hand and make a Google Doc of links to sites I want to see – this eliminates the need for heavy travel books.
Toiletries – the camping section of any Wal-Mart / Target or specialty retailers have perfectly packaged paper-thin sheets of soap and shampoo, and the travel-sized section can cover things like deodorant. I always just buy 1 small toothpaste, 1 deodorant, etc to stay light and to ensure that I will have to go exploring the local shops for more when I run out. Camping sections also have gems like flat, disposable ponchos, small waterproof containers for pills, and travel-friendly squeeze bottles for sunscreen, etc.
Luggage – Allen’s post above had it right on the money – an obnoxiously colored bag is a life saver in crowded baggage terminals – and if you already have the usual black, neon luggage straps or neon duct tape help you spot your stuff from a mile away. My daypack is a packable Eddie Bauer backpack – Kiva makes similar types – they can collapse to a few ounces, or expand into a backpack for wondering cities without your primary luggage. I always like to have a garbage bag, a few gallon ziplocks, and a few sandwich-size ziplocks at all times. They take up no space, are weightless, and can save your luggage and expensive electronics in the rain, or help keep dirty clothes away from clean ones in your bag – best part – after you use one, you can always pick up an extra in a hostel/hotel/ or from maintenance at the airport or bus stop.
Earplugs – again – Allen speaks the truth – I always travel with at least 2-3 pairs. Perfect for sleeping in an 8-person hostel room, a bus full of crying children, and airplanes with corporate a-holes who talk about spreadsheets all the way to London. I have literally been offered cash for my extra pairs – a good way to make a friend for life by saving someone else the torture.
Cash – lots, and an ATM card for good exchange rates.
My QOD post has been “awaiting moderation” for over 24 hours. I reposted it, lightly edited, a couple of hours ago; that one is stuck too.
Will it still be considered for your contest?
The single best way I know to travel light is to know how to quickly MAKE FRIENDS with people you meet in your travels. Friendships allow you to tap into the knowledge of the locals, share items, and save time on figuring things out.
Two good ways to quickly make friends:
-bring a pack of playing cards that is also slightly “tricked” so that you can use them as regular cards if you want to AND do a bunch of ridiculously cool card tricks with very little to no practice. You can buy svengali or other tricked decks on ebay for 5-6 bucks.
-put together some jokes/comedy routines that don’t require knowing English (depending on where you are traveling to). I recommend the book Comedy Writing Secrets. sounds cheesy but it works! I found that natives are usually very receptive of foreign travelers and having something funny to share can be a tremendous advantage.
There are endless ways to quickly bond with people of different backgrounds/culture/language but having a few tricks up your sleeve can be enormously rewarding.
Lot’s of inspiration for a future shopping spree, which is ironic, given the goal of traveling light 🙂
Are there any tiny lightweight, USB chargeable electric toothbrushes out there?
The only reason why I need to bring a laptop is to write code; the iPad doesn’t really allow that, alhough I could use a terminal and vim…
I would be cool if there were any web based code editors, that you can hook into a version control system and that can also execute code. It would be great if I can do Ruby on Rails and iPhone development on that.
Come to think of it, I’ll give iSSH on the iPad a try; see how far that takes me.
Great post! I’m getting excited just thinking about the upcoming journey. My best traveling-light tip is a low-tech solution but one that has been a staple for me in my backpacking trips. Are you ready? Duct tape!
Seriously you can wrap a relatively long length of duct tape around itself (folding it around itself in a nice pocket-sized flat shape) or around a water bottle, deodorant canister, etc. It is light weight, low profile, waterproof, can be torn off in pieces of any size, sticks to itself without losing its sticking power, etc.
How you use it is only limited to your creativity. Say you borrow some aspirin along the way, you can fold the unused pills in a receipt or piece of paper and use a small piece of duct tape to seal it. Or, say you start to run out of pockets on that cool travel vest… you can take a longer piece of tape and tape certain items to your body (around your leg or arm for example). Or you can tape certain items somewhere hidden (say under a park bench) and grab them on your way back through. If your clothes tear, or lose their elastic quality, you can use duct tape to fashion a patch or belt until you can get some new clothes. You can also fashion your own string/rope or makeshift carabeeners by rolling up a length of duct tape and tying it. The uses are endless and limited only to your imagination.
I’ve even heard stories of it literally being a life-saver. You can use it to make a splint, sling, bandage, or tourniquet if you or someone you are with gets injured somewhere off the beaten path.
Duct tape would be high on my travel list given its light-weight and virtually unlimited usefulness. I only scratched the surface in this comment.
OMG. So I read every comment last night and even cut and paste a few great packing list tips to an evernote file i keep…THANKS EVERYONE! …and when I woke up this morning I realized the one thing that I ALWAYS pack which I actually have never seen mentioned in a light travel list…
A TINY 2oz spray bottle. empty, but worth it’s space in GOLD for easy WRINKLE FREE clothes while traveling. Just fill with water, spritz your shirt-pants-whatever, snap and smooth the fabric a couple of times, hang over a door or on a hanger if you have one, sleep, and awaken to nearly crisp-from-the-iron clothing every morning!
Of course it also does double duty – just fill it up at a coffee place or water fountain after going through airport security and you can keep your skin and nose hydrated with the occasional mist while on those horribly DRY long haul flights to Singapore or Cairo or Frankfurt.
Any trial sized hairspray bottle will do. Why this little gem goes overlooked on so many travel related posts I’ll never know. Even at home I NEVER use an iron though I do wear long sleeve cotton dress shirts nearly every day…with jeans, and flip flops of course. 🙂
HAPPY TRAVELS, ROLF…and everyone else too!