Backpacking with Craig in the Tropics
A general packing list for traveling like (and with) a nomad.
Your Mobile Home
There's no need to rush out and buy a new backpack if you don't ready have a trusted favorite. Before my brother came to travel with me a year ago in Costa Rica for two weeks, I told him that if he couldn't fit his gear inside of the backpack he used for school, he was taking too much.
But if you're still in the market for a new backpack, I'd strongly suggest a panel-loading (front-loading) pack, instead of the top-loading varieties. These types of packs look like beefed up school book bags, zipping closed, instead of pulling a drawstring and covering the opening with a flap. Look for a bag that you can lock (to keep the contents of your pack safer).
The pack should hold no more than 50 liters, and be a little over half full when you leave—as you'll undoubtedly be accumulating clothes and trinkets along the way. Take less, and buy more (cheap, memorable, and expendable stuff) when you're in-country.
Don't worry about fancy straps and supports, the pack will be sitting on the ground for more than 99.5% of your trip. You could really get away with a locking duffel bag and still be very happy.
If you're buying in North America, I've had a pleasant time with the Kelty brand, and the <US$100 Redwing series might be up your alley (as it was, and is, mine). Check out REI, if available in your area. Also, while you're there, buy a few small, cheap (<$5) ditty bags (stuff sacks) to keep your loose gear organized.
- Passport, with at least seven months of validity remaining before expiration
- A photocopy of your passport data and signature pages, and maybe one for me that I can keep in my pack for you as well
- Laminated driver's license
- Credit card, and an ATM card (two ATM cards, if possible); be sure to alert bank of impending travel so they aren't flagged for fraud
- USB thumb drive (512Kb–1GB), for taking home a copy of the photos off my camera—they're quite cheap these days
- MP3 player, or, at minimum, a pair of headphones
- A CD or two of music (in MP3 format) for me—I'm always hungry for new tunes
- Day bag with lockable zippers (for valuables, while on transport)
- A lock for your day bag and/or backpack
- Small flashlight
- Small umbrella
- Sun glasses
- A synthetic travel towel (material feels sort of like a car shammy)
- A sarong, to be used on the beach as a towel (but can easily be found for cheap if you don't have one)
- Aleve, chewable Pepto-Bismol, and Benadryl pills (or a topical anti-itch cream for all the mosquito/insect bites)
- Sunscreen, tanning oil, and/or skin moisturizers (all of these will be expensive here)
- Birth control, if that's your bag. Condoms for men with larger size needs can be tough to come by, and I'm not sure how much faith I'd put in anti-contraceptive pills purchased abroad
- A pair of pants and shorts
- Sandals that you can walk distances in and get wet (no Crocs clogs, please)
- A warm layer to wear on heavily air conditioned transport
- Take nothing that is your favorite of anything
- Leave jewelry at home, there's loads you'll want to buy here
- Take lightweight, breathable clothing (that you'll surly sweat in and get rained on at some point). Take less than more, as there's loads to buy (and that you'll want to buy) in markets
- Take clothes in a similar/compatible color scheme, so that you don't have to carry excess or worry about color-coordinating items
- I would personally never pack jeans, as they take forever to dry and weight a ton—but that's personal style and preference. Bring what you're going to be happy wearing
- Take footwear that you'll be comfortable in. I carry socks and shoes, but rarely wear them. Deep jungle trekking isn't really my thing, and stick to trails that I can wear sandals on. Removing footwear before entering a business or home in SE Asia is common, so wearing shoes that need to be laced can be a bother. Consider taking something other than sandals that is functional and looks nice enough to wear "out," if you decide to class it up at some point
- Pharmacies are available to cheaply resolve anything ailing you. I'd suggest only packing the three listed above (for pain, stomach/bowel problems, and itching, respectively)
- The toiletries you take will be unique to you, but remember that you can conserve valuable space by ditching the cradle your razor came in and buying smaller bottles to hold shampoo and eye contact solutions. Remember to leave the bottle 20% empty and squeeze out the remaining air so that they don't pop when the pressure changes
- Over half of the items in my backpack are accessories to make my life easier and more enjoyable. These accessories are your accessories when traveling with me. There is no need to bring electrical adapters, clothes pins, a AA/AAA battery recharger, sewing kit, memory card reader, or anti-mosquito coils. I gotcha covered
- Keep it simple, keep it light, and keep it under 35 liters