Packing like a pro

People have asked what I pack for a long-term backpack expedition. As I’ve been living as somewhat of a minimalist the past year I found packing for this trip quite easy. The trick is to pack as little as possible, and only those items that provide value. I allow myself one silly item that is heavy, yet has made my travels so much more fun – my polaroid camera! This website being on budget living and budget travel, I’m happy to point out that, apart from my shoes and a few gadgets, not a single item is worth more than $50. It’s worth venturing online or buying used to stay on a low budget.

Here is a rundown of my packing list for a multi-month travel:

First things first – the essentials:

Wallet ($50): I carry two credit cards in case my wallet gets stolen / lost, my driver’s license, and some cash.

Passport ($50): Helps getting into countries. Also, in the US I found foreigners often have to present a passport when entering a bar.

Electronics and gadgets:

Laptop ($400-1000): People often bring a tablet, but I prefer my laptop for work, writing, and making travel arrangements. I bring my MacBook Air I’ve had since college.

Phone ($100-700): Not only do I like to stay in contact with friends and family, my iPhone 6 is a cheap and practical way to snapp pictures on the road. Despite cheaper phones on the market, I like my old phone and it syncs well with my laptop (yes, I’m part of the Apple cult). There are also a number of useful apps that make travel a lot easier, cheaper, and fun. More on this later.

Fujifilm Instax Mini (Polaroid) ($40): I love to have my fridge door covered in cool pictures from my travels. Forgot to bring a present for a house party? No worries, people love the Polaroid!

Waka Waka ($70): This cool gadget is a phone charger and flashlight that charges itself using the solar panel on the back. Absolutely love bringing this on hikes.

Tripod ($20): I like taking videos, time lapse videos in particular. This little gadget I bought online has made my videos look so much better.

Chargers ($40): Usually chargers are a bit lumpy and heavy, so I prefer to bring as few electronic items as possible. I only carry my phone and laptop charger.

Power converter: Available at any electronics or Indian grocery store.


Books ($30): I don’t own a kindle, as I can read books on my laptop, and listen to audiobooks. On rainy days or when all my devices have run out of battery, I prefer to bring a physical book as back up. I’ve brought Ryan Holiday’s ‘Daily Stoic’, and one random novel I picked up at a used bookstore.

Frisbee ($10): I can’t live without one. It’s great fun on the beach, you can use it as a plate, and it’s light.

Journal ($0,70): You can buy a fancy journal, but I just got a cheap notebook at a bookstore for 70 cents (isn’t it great you can still buy things under a dollar!). I use my journal for planning, writing about my day, and ‘caging my monkey mind’.

Elastic strap for workouts ($8): As I don’t like to carry along a squat rack or other gym machines, I carry around a lightweight elastic strap for my workouts. It’s fun, easy on the joints, and you stay in great shape. Check out this video (30 sec.) I shot for my 20-minute workout.

Out and about:

Large backpack ($50): Duh!

Hiking boots ($200): I think you should take amazing care of your body and owning a good pair of shoes is essential when you go for long (city) walks. Go to a store with expertise about boots and see what’s best for you. I took about two hours getting the right pair for me.

Sunglasses ($40): Looking cool doesn’t have to cost much. I bought a good pair of ‘Moana Road’ sunglasses in Queenstown, after losing yet another pair. The specs: polarized for the intense sun, and a wooden frame (because that’s what the cool kids wear these days).

Waterproof bag ($30): Nothing worse than finding your phone or wallet soaking wet after hiking on a rainy day.

Daypack ($50): A practical daypack makes life a lot easier on the road. I have a ‘Dakine Heli-Pro’. Originally designed for skiers, I like how the main storage area opens all the way to easily pack your stuff, it has a compartment for your glasses (so you don’t loose them like I do), and a compartment that keeps your water cool.

Cutlery ($15): I love the spork (a combination of a spoon and fork) and sometimes bring chopsticks. I tend to gulp down my food and eating with chopsticks slows me down. I don’t carry a knife as I only travel with carry-on and haven’t been in a lot of situations I desperately needed one.

Nalgene bottle ($15): Love this company! They’ve been making water bottles for decades. It’s manufactured BPA free (a hormone found in soft plastics) and made from quite a hard plastic, which makes it an ideal foam roller – it’s actually designed for it.

Carabineer ($5): To hook your Nalgene bottle to the outside of your backpack.

Small lock ($5): When staying at a hostel you want your possessions to be safe. Most hostels have lockers to store your bags. Find yourself a number lock so there is no risk of losing your key.


Earplugs ($16): For those noisy hostel nights with snoring neighbors or rocking out at a concert. I love the Alpine earplugs.

Head mask ($20): On the plane or even at night, a head mask helps me sleep 10x better. I bought the ‘Eagle Creek Sandman Eyeshade’ on Amazon and have loved them as the straps go above the ear instead of over the ears.

Inflatable head pillow ($10): Ideal for sleeping on planes. I like the inflatable version as it’s light, easy to pack, and I don’t think you need a big lumpy headrest as I’m not on planes that often.

Toiletries ($20): The usual suspects include, toothbrush, small tube of toothpaste, floss, nail clippers, comb, and a razor. Be sure to buy in small volumes as they add up to a pretty heavy bunch while all these items are available on almost any street corner in the world.


Seasonal ($40-300): Make sure you are prepared for the seasons. There is nothing worse than freezing your butt off in the cold when you could have easily prevented the discomfort. Practicality trumps fashion in my world, so I tend to bring very few clothes. I have one pair of jeans, 2 pairs of shorts (one for workouts), 5 shirts, 3 bottom ups, socks, underwear, a sweater, a coat, gloves, a hat, a scarf, one pair of sneakers, and a pair of cleats (did I mention I love playing frisbee?). More often than not, I go to a local co-op or salvation army to buy my clothes. The advantage is that it’s cheap and usually they carry a selection of items you actually need in the climate you are in.

Special occasions: Make sure you bring appropriate clothing for a more official event or maybe even the exotic date.

If you think packing takes forever, think again. This is me packing my back in 23 seconds:

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