July 14, 2008

What's Inside My Backpack for Europe, and Beyond
Miami Beach, United States

Cataloging the current set of gear inside my pack and sharing it publicly is actually something I enjoy quite a bit. It's my perception that not enough travelers share the innards of their mobile homes, or talk specifics in any great quantity to spark ideas, or satisfy the curiosity of others.

The United States is my refueling depot. It's so amazingly easy for me to get new things or replace worn-out regulars here that it makes for a great opportunity to assess what I've got, what works, what doesn't, and make adjustments—and while I'm at it, take a few snapshots.

What's inside my backpack this year?

My bag is quite organized, with similar items (other than clothing) grouped into ditty bags (aka stuff sacks). Sloppy packing takes up a lot of additional space, and having lived out of a backpack since 2005, I've gotten very, very good at creating an organizational hierarchy in my pack that works for me.

Note: Some items are placed together in the images below for the purposes of presentation (to keep the number of pictures on the page in check).

A lot has and hasn't changed from the write-up in did in 2007 (Latin America Backpack Equipment Essentials), and I've either accumulated a lot more crap since then, or intentionally omitted a portion of my gear from the photos last year. But if you've got a specific question about an item that I didn't address in enough detail here, please give that page a quick check, as I likely wrote about it there.

Now, let's open up my backpack and see what's inside…

Reference Materials

A Lonely Planet guidebook for Eastern Europe, and a freebie laminated foldout (double-sided) pictograph communication tool—you point at objects, or combine them, to ask questions when the verbal and physical communication barrier is too great.

I always cover my guidebooks (to keep people from confirming what they probably already know I'm glancing through).

Water and Bug Protection

A rain-fly for my backpack; a light, water resistant jacket (designed for cyclists); a slim, compact umbrella; a mosquito net; and a non-DEET-based mosquito repellant.

Wearing a poncho in the tropics will get you as wet as the rain (from all your sweat). I use an umbrella 99% of the time, and the jacket as a backup or an extra layer for cold weather.

Locks and (a Sense of) Backpack Security

A sturdy bag that holds all of my locks and the such; seven padlocks that use keys; three padlocks that use a combination; a keychain compass; two keychain mini-lights; a homemade security cable for securing my backpack; and a Kensington slot cable lock for securing my laptop.

I also added lockable zippers to my backpack, though have my doubts that zippers even belong on backpacks after watching how easily (and undetectably) they can be broken into.

I carry such a wide variety of locks because there are such a wide variety of mechanisms that need to be locked. I'd love to carry only one universal lock around, but sometimes I need to lock a closet (which that big guy is great for), or the cubbyhole at a hostel. They're all used with enough regularity that I keep 'em handy.

Health and Hygiene

My blue bag is my medical bag. It looks like a lot, but it packs down small enough. Inside are the general items for dental, eye, ear, and nail care. I've got hair now, so I'm carrying a little brush—though have keenly broken the plastic handle off to save space.

I'm practically a mobile pharmacy these days, though I don't get ill often. Usually when I need to buy something from a pharmacy I get another regiment of pills (or whatever) after I've overcome the problem, and keep it in my pack for next time—if there's a next time. I usually forget what the various medications and their long, cryptic medical names (some written in Spanish and Thai) actually do when the time comes to look for the solution to an ailment in my blue bag, so I've started writing down their purpose on a sheet of paper that I keep in there.

Tiger balm is flat out one of the best things you can keep in your pack. It's topical pain relief that I've used to treat a range of issues—from ankle sprains to insect bites. Chewable Pepto-Bismol is awesome, and can be tucked away and stored wherever—like the earplugs I've decided to add to the pouch (enough for the entire family!).

I'm going to be eating like crap many days in Eastern to save on money, so I'm bringing along some vitamins. And yes, you'll need a drain stopper for washing clothes and other things—get one.

Clothespins, nylon cord for a clothesline, and powered laundry detergent. You might have access to a washing machine, but a dryer is almost certainly out of the question. Locals use the sun, and so shall you.

Electrical Accessories

Current taps are extremely useful in budget rooms that have no outlets. Using one gives me a pair out outlets by screwing it between a light bulb and the socket. A second one with a funky design was picked up last year for use with the matching funky sockets found throughout SE Asia.

Outlet multipliers (110-240v), plug adapters, and rechargeable batteries (AAA and AA) with recharger are all common travel gear, but the immersion heater is a great piece of kit that allows me to bring water to a boil in less than a minute.

Photography

Nine 512MB SD cards (though I'd now strongly recommend getting extra thumb drives over extra SD cards); flexible tripod; digital camera (Nikon P5000); extra battery; charger; and wide-angle lens (that's actually for a video camcorder, but I just hold with one hand in front of the camera).

Electronics

I finally took the plunge and invested in a laptop. With it, I'm finally able to better manage Travelvice, and watch pirated movies. If Tatiana hadn't picked up a laptop of her own, I'd still be carrying around the (excellent) PDA/keyboard setup as a backup. Note the nifty surge protector.

A mini-optical mouse; earbud headphone and microphone for use with Skype calls (always carry your own headset); thumb drives for use with Internet cafés (load your own portable apps onto it); iRiver T60 MP3 player; USB cable; 160GB external drive (encrypted); and a retractable Ethernet cable with crossover adapter. The Ethernet cable is perfect for connecting directly to a hub or modem, or sharing the Internet connection from Tatiana's laptop, which has superior Wi-Fi range (almost like using her laptop as an external antenna).

Backup Electronics

I figured out the hard way that it's better to carry a little extra weight in your pack with a replacement, than it is to do without, or have it purchased back home and shipped to you (very expensive). Keeping that in mind, I've got some general electronics sitting towards the bottom of my pack that I don't use very often, but are there in the event that I need them.

A Canon PowerShot A530 (that runs off of two AA batteries); fisheye lens (one of these days I'm going to drop and crack the other); a USB memory card reader that also includes a 3-port USB hub; male-male audio cable; thumb drive; extra headphones with a Y splitter (to share music); and a replacement battery charger for my Nikon digicam.

Other Accessories

Bangkok mood lighting; corkscrew; spoon; pocket watch; cases for holding prescription glasses, sunglasses; laminated photos of my mom (who passed away from cancer in '97), son, and Arizona/Oregon; pocket knives; flashlight; compass; various pens and highlighters; pipe with tobacco; quick currency converter calculator (convenient until you adjust to the new mental math); and my passport and Aidric's passport with a mini-calendar (excellent when debating or calculating time in country with a border official).

Repair, Cords, and Miscellaneous Items

A roll of male and female Velcro tape (because I can never find the kind with adhesive); quick-dry glue; electrical, scotch, and duct tape (without the cardboard centers); zip-ties of various sizes; cords for lashing things up/together; eyelet screws for creating an impromptu lock on a door or hanging a clothesline; and Ziploc bags with clothing repair things (thread, needles, buttons), twist ties; picture frame wire; safety pins; rubber bands; paperclips; and lots of other little things.

Footwear

I'm not going to bother talking about the clothes in my pack, as every person will pack what they feel is best for them. I've been wearing the same single pair of ink-stained shorts for over two years, but others might feel the need to pack several pair. I have excess where others don't, and vice versa.

What I am going to mention is the need for a good pair of sandals. I'm in love with my Reef Phantoms because they're light, great for wet conditions (dry quick, the rubber doesn't smell after they've gotten damp), and have the best arch support I've seen in a sandal. That being said, they're not designed for full-time wear, and because of this (and the fact that I honestly wear them roughly 360 days out of the year), I have to replace them about every five months. This will be my fifth pair, because I love them so.

So, if you haven't noticed, I'm a topics boy who hates wearing things on my feet, but if I have to, it should be sandals. I really only put on shoes about five or six times a year, but knowing full well that I'll be in Eastern Europe as late summer turns to winter, I've decided to get a new pair (at a 50% discount, thanks my friend's shoe designer boyfriend).

Bags and Towels

I can't imagine traveling without my small Dakine backpack. Purchased at a skateboard shop in San Diego in 2005, this sturdy little bag functions as the enclosure for all my valued possession when I get on a bus and can't take my main pack onboard because of space constraints. I lock the zippers with a padlock and use the skateboard straps on the front of the pack to secure a jacket (or other items) to keep my hands free. It's slated to become Aidric's around town day bag (carrying his food, change of clothes, and diapers)—yay.

A padded laptop sleeve keeps my machine from getting pounded too badly as I move about from place to place, and the waterproof Sea to Summit sacks are great for keeping electronics dry. I believe I'll donate the red one to Tatiana, as it's the correct size for her laptop.

Things I Forgot to Photograph

In the rush to get things photographed, I forgot to scoop up a few of the various items around the hotel room that are in use, or waiting to be washed. Those things include:

An orange day/beach bag; yellow shawl/sarong; bandanas; home-made extension cord; can opener; padded camera case; coiled cable lock; alarm clock; micro-fiber shower towel; quick conversions paper; and an occasionally handy pair of yarn scissors.

The Next Installment

I've got a good feeling that once we get a grip on how to backpack with Aidric (sometimes it take a few weeks to get the gear you bring sorted properly), I'll be doing a regular update on what we're carrying along with us to support a life on the road with a growing infant. Keep an eye out.

Comments:

The United States

Jake

July 18th, 2008

I hope those Sea-to-Summit bags aren't the Sil-Cordura type (so-called Ultra-lightweight), because those will leak under hydrostatic pressure (pressure from your back or other objects pushing water through the so-called waterproof fabric). The urethane coated bags (so-called Lightweight) ARE reliably waterproof under hydrostatic pressure. You won't notice the difference until you get a good soaking.

Canada

Sean

July 18th, 2008

Hey Craig,

Thanks for sharing all the items you are packing in preparation for the trek through Eastern Europe. I am myself am in need of a good replacement shoe. Unlike you I am not much of a sandal wearing guy, so was curious to know what brand of shoe that is in your picture. Can I pick them up somewhere? Do you have a particular brand/type of shoe you would recommend?

I wish you and your family the best of luck with your new adventures in Europe

Sean

The United States

Mobile

July 19th, 2008

I do believe that those are Skechers.

Poland

Craig | travelvice.com

July 19th, 2008

Indeed they are. I'm not a big fan of the brand, per se, but do like the 50% off the $70 MSRP.

Details: Citywalk - Crossing (Style: 60608), Dark Brown

As for advice, if you're going to be an urban backpacker like me, you're best off finding a shoe that does OK in the rain (stay away from all that fake suede and the such), looks good in shorts, pants, and is dressy enough to wear in a nightclub, or a nice restaurant (ie: not a pair of trainers).

The United States

jscore

July 19th, 2008

Craig,

Another great and detailed post. Thanks.

As for carrying the laptop around, I have considered that, but if I'm constantly moving around, an iPhone works real well for me.

In Buenos Aires, Argentina there were tons and tons of open wifi places, so I was able to use my iphone over wifi quite well. You can also get a skype/im client for it from fring to make calls (works only over wifi).

I consider it good for "comsuming" data not so much for "producing"

The United States

Tyde

August 14th, 2008

Who makes the laminated pictograph ("Pointie-Talkie")? You would think it would be lonely planet, but I already looked.

Slovakia

Craig | travelvice.com

August 15th, 2008

Howdy Tyde,

The laminated pictograph was a little gem given to me by the immunization office in Phoenix, AZ that I visited in 2005 for a bunch of shots. I haven't seen anything like it inside or outside the U.S.

The United States

Tyde

September 16th, 2008

there is a web site in the lower right corner of the "Pointy-Talkie" card, could you post that so we can find out where to buy that sweet tool?

Romania

Craig | travelvice.com

September 16th, 2008

Quite right — huh, never noticed that. Here's the site: http://www.kwikpoint.com/

Specifically: http://www.kwikpoint.com/consumer_translators/travel.html

The United States

Katie

January 9th, 2009

I'd like to see what Tatiana carries in her pack - get a woman's perspective on backpacking

Turkey

Craig | travelvice.com

January 9th, 2009

@Katie:

I think I'd need 10x the photos for all that stuff :D (ducking!)

No, seriously, her pack is huge and full of things like lotions, tarot cards, and clothes that neither her nor baby will wear again. I wish she'd let me help… that pack is crazy heavy.

The United States

cathyl2

February 19th, 2009

Hi. Interesting & useful post. However, as someone who's worked in healthcare for more than a decade, I have to point out that "after I've overcome the problem, and keep it in my pack for next time" is (if we're talking any antimicrobial) a very, very, bad idea. If you have a 10 day supply of antibiotics, you should feel noticeably better within 48 hours. You are not better, you've only killed off the weak bugs. If you stop taking the pills and save them for next time, you allow the stronger germs to breed. Think of it as Xtreme Darwinism. This is how superbugs are created. It will come back to haunt you. On the other hand, if you're talking about analgesics or antidiarrheal meds or such, then, you're shopping smart.

Turkey

Craig | travelvice.com

February 19th, 2009

Thanks cathyl2.

I carry an excess of such things (antibiotics) because I've got both myself and Tatiana to look after, and to possibly do it in places where those pills aren't readily available or where it would require paying to see a doctor in countries where prescriptions are necessary (such as the USA).

The cost and quality of healthcare in the U.S. can be quite terrible, and see no need to waste my time and money when I can confidently self medicate when appropriate. :)

I'll always take the full recommended course, but often purchase another round for next time (meaning in many many months to come), in a different part of the world. That's what I implied by that statement.

Thanks for reading!

The United States

Lenah

March 8th, 2009

That laminated sheet is a super awesome idea!
As a girl I've been carrying around too much stuff too, it's just always nice to be able to say "oh I have that" when someone needs something.

The United States

traveller

March 17th, 2009

wow. im an experienced traveller, with several round the world adventures under my belt, and i must say that for virtually most destinations, you dont need to bring anywhere near this amount of stuff. leave everything at home which you can get abroad ( which is almost everything) unless you like travelling with all that weight and a much bigger backpack.

Syria

Craig | travelvice.com

March 18th, 2009

@traveller:

Some of us prefer to carry clothespins instead of $200 jeans in our backpacks, though I'm sure you've had little need for such things as you've jetted between the bars and capital cities of the world's continents. Good luck with that.

The United States

Paul

March 18th, 2009

Haha, excellent response Craig.

Brand new reader, but I have to say, excellent information you are giving here.

@traveller:

Not all of us have the money to pick things up where we go, or, conversely, if we tried to do that, we would have to save up for a much greater period of time before we left. I know, I know, "most things are cheaper at the destination" and all that, but fact of the matter is, if I have it now, and I want to have it again in the future, my best chance of having it when I need it is to keep it. Of course this doesn't apply to everything, but the majority of the things in this post fit right into that category for me.

Excellent post, I'll have to start reading more often. :)

The United States

Destry

March 21st, 2009

Awesome!

I was wondering, do you actually have a job or anything? Or do you just backpack all the time? How do you afford traveling to Europe so much?

Sorry if I's being nosy, but I was just wondering because I would really like to explore Europe a lot, but I can't afford to.

Lebanon

Craig | travelvice.com

March 23rd, 2009

Hey there Destry — there's a mode of travel for every type of budget.

Give these entries a read:

The Financial Impact of CouchSurfing

Are You Secretly Independently Wealthy?

The United States

zirkel

May 20th, 2009

Wow, that's a pretty comprehensive list! Being a visual kind of person, I'd love to SEE the same pack job applied to a carry-on pack and small messenger bag. Anyone know of a link to such a site?

Thanks!

Jordan

Craig | travelvice.com

May 20th, 2009

Thanks zirkel — Actually, I've never once checked this pack for a flight :D

The United States

zirkel

May 20th, 2009

Lemme get this straight… You're telling me that you get ALL of the above items, including backup electronics, into the above Kelty and Dakine packs — AS CARRY ON LUGGAGE?!?

And the knives?

Jordan

Craig | travelvice.com

May 20th, 2009

That's right — all that stuff plus my clothing goes onto the flight with me every time on dozens and dozens of flights (save for the things I'll certainly hijack the airliner with — shaving cream, nail clippers, maybe some shampoo, and of course those knives). To transport the others, I've ether laughably checked a little trashy bag with 2lbs of gear in it (those items mentioned above — this free one I threw away), or I shove 'em into my fiancée's pack (which is way too large to sneak into the plane).

Oh, and that Dakine pack? It gets folded up and shoved into the webbed side pocket of the Kelty. Not even used, save for day trips and the such.

Belgium

Zouzou

September 24th, 2009

Hi,

Thank you for these very usefull advices… I'm searching for a pictograph communication tool as yours. Could you tell me where I can find one ?
Regards

Thailand

Craig | travelvice.com

September 24th, 2009

These are the folks that produced mine: http://www.kwikpoint.com/consumer_translators/travel.html

Spain

Placebreak

October 7th, 2009

Hi, I guess you can use all these things going further from Europe as well. To travel there I do recommend you the new site Placebreak.com, finding cheap flights and accomodation within Europe and anywhere in th world as well!

Nepal

nepal treks

October 14th, 2009

i thing all above list are not necessary. some are very important. some are not useable so dont pack all things.

The United States

wally

October 19th, 2009

I backpacked around Asia for 10 years. I didn't bring half of that crap.
People who do things for a year are not experts at anything.

The United States

Craig | travelvice.com

October 19th, 2009

Well, there's your problem Wally. I'm at 4 years and while I certainly don't consider myself an expert, I know enough that a blowhard like yourself needs to bite their tongue. Some of us travel in many regions of the world, and make do without the conveniences of Asian capital cities — or didn't you learn that in your 10 years of shagging bargirls?

The United Kingdom

Alex

December 9th, 2009

Having travelled round the world a number of times, I can only say that travellers are a bit more delicate than they were in my day…

The United States

G

December 15th, 2009

Cool list! I love seeing what other people put into their bags. Everyone's got their own, and that's the point. It's *your* list, and it works for you. Did any of these other people have a baby and wife with them on their adventures? I'm sure after 4 years, if you didn't need it, you'd stop carrying it. Clearly traveling the world for x number of years didn't make some of these people more tolerant or open-minded, just petty and mean. I can't believe some folks are still somehow able to find negativity in what you're doing. Keep up the good work, Craig. Safe travels.

Nepal

pfrenforyou

April 24th, 2010

It's a Great Article. Cool list!

The United States

Dakine Luggage

July 27th, 2010

Well written blog! It seems to be a good resource on Luggage. I found you in google while doing research on my recent page about , here: http://www.bagking.com/dakine.html I think my points are relevant :) In any event, I found your article very helpful and informative.

The United Kingdom

ecothreesixty.com

July 30th, 2010

Excellent level of detail, also you seem to have a great understanding of how to maximize the use of a small space.

Nepal

Nepal trekking, trekking in Nepal

October 2nd, 2010

you really have shown good knowledge of requirement during travel. cheers :)

Indonesia

mbali

February 14th, 2011

Consider to bring a matches. I think this item is very important.

Nepal

Gat

March 14th, 2011

It's a Great Article. I like it.

Thailand

Hugo

June 11th, 2011

Excellent level of detail Thank you.

Nepal

Annapurna Trekking, Annapurna Treks

August 25th, 2011

Wonderful collection this is really great information. it is very helpful for Himalayas trekkers.

The United States

Dagmar

July 21st, 2012

Your blog is exactly what I was looking for. Strange thing is that just a few hours ago I compiled a list of what to pack into my backpack. Your list is very close to mine! I live on an island and plan to do some exploring. Thank you.

Nepal

Ganesh Thapa

September 29th, 2012

hay you right about Electrical Accessories, I remind me my journey to China. It was hard time fitting my laptop charger. Later I purchase universal power extension, that fit with US, Europe, China, Japan and Asian standard. It's beautiful one.

The United Kingdom

Shane Todd

July 1st, 2013

You'er definately going for the minimal approach, my MRs is a typical flashpacker wants to pack everything!!!

The United States

Carlos

October 12th, 2013

Question - where did you get the pictograph communication fold out? I haven't been able to find something like that online.

The United States

Craig | travelvice.com

October 18th, 2013

The United States

Michael Smith

November 20th, 2013

3 outlet extension cords are a must have - they let you use one adapter to get 3 American plugs.

You may also consider looking at this backpacking organizer Rolo: http://kck.st/1dRh3da

Its on Kickstarter and as far as I can tell it looks like a really good alternative to stuff sacks.

Just a though

The United States

Pablo

March 25th, 2015

Craig, I found your site because I'm looking for that laminated pictogram thing as well. I got one when i got vaccinated in 2007, but it got stolen with a bag. If you still have it, can you look for any markings so I can try to find another one? Thanks!

The United States

Craig | travelvice.com

March 25th, 2015

@Pablo, grab them here: https://www.kwikpoint.com/

The United States

Pablo

June 29th, 2015

Craig: Thank you and I wanted to follow up for others who might be looking. I found the Kwikpoint guides on Amazon for about 40% than direct from Kwikpoint (owing to volume discounts, I'm sure).

Sorry for having asked a duplicate question. I see now it was previously asked, not sure how I missed that.

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