Things To Take Along

Last modified on July 23rd, 2013

My goal on my trip is to get myself down to a single backpack when I leave. It’s obviously going to be a pretty technologically heavy backpack, but it’s still going to be pretty light. Most people I know who have traveled say that the amount you enjoy yourself on trips is inversely proportional to the amount of stuff you bring along, and I can totally believe that.

That’s not to say you can’t purchase items when you arrive, because that’s what I plan to do. But in terms of what I take along, here’s a short list of what I’m planning on taking:

  • 13″ Macbook Pro (just got it — nice and light)
  • Apple iPad
  • Mini-DV to Composite Cable (I have to buy one yet, but for $20 it means I can hook my laptop up to any TV and watch movies)
  • A few pairs of jeans and t-shirts, socks, etc.
  • Basic toiletries – toothbrush, razor blades, shaver
  • Two pairs of shoes – one semi nice, and a pair of runners for hikes and day trips
  • Basic wireless router. Probably an Airport Express
  • Basic point and shoot camera – maybe the top of the line Powershot when the time comes. I’m not taking my SLR – it’s just too large
  • Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA) – I’m going to get a Vancouver VOIP number and pick up an analog phone so I can get local calls wherever I am.
  • Small, 2.5″ external hard drive with all my movies and backups on it

I’m actually planning on renting or subletting apartments when I go, so I’m not going to be living out of my backpack for long. But, I want to have the flexibility to take it all with me when I feel the need to see something new again.

I don’t really have a good backpack at this stage, and my plan is to hit MEC or another store in Vancouver and buy a nice laptop that has a slow for a 13″ Laptop inside. If anyone has any ideas where I can get a nice one, let me know.

Given that I only use my iPad for reading right now, I may even leave it behind on this trip and pick up a $130 Kindle instead. The iPad is pretty fun to read on, but it’s terrible outdoors. Given that I’m planning on heading to a sunny country, the Kindle might make more sense. But, I can always bring both I guess.

I’m sure I’m leaving things out at this stage, but that’s a rough list. If anyone can think of anything small that I might want to bring, let me know.

23 responses to “Things To Take Along”

  1. Tony Dehnke says:

    Letherman Tool
    A/C plug Adapters
    HDMI/DVI adapter (same reason your taking the analog one)
    Good noise canceling headphones with a case
    between the iphone 4’s screen and your macbook – you may just want to loose the kindle/ipad – less weight and stuff
    Loose the jeans – go with lighter travel pants – usually more versatile than jeans 1 pair black 1 pair brown
    loose the shaver – stick with the razor (1 less thing)
    Different sizes of travel baggies to put stuff in – then put into your big bag – easier to find stuff later – Eagle something or other makes a full line of them

  2. Duane Storey says:

    Good info. Leather is a great idea. Busting out the laptop to read on bus trips and what-not is a bit too much, so I definitely want a Kindle or my iPad. Then at least I can leave the laptop in my apartment while doing side trips.

    Good idea with the light pants — I’ll probably take a pair. But I definitely want to take some jeans that fit proper and are hemmed (a requirement when you’re an oddly shaped Ukrainian). I don’t plan on spending most days in lighter pants. Remember I’m mostly going to live as a normal person and not in student mode.

    I have a safety razor, which uses blades and has a separate shaver. That’s why I listed both. It’s basically one unit though.

  3. Alex Curylo says:

    “I definitely want to take some jeans”

    Heavy, bulky, take a long time to dry. Propper™ combat pants in black are your best bet for travel wear IMHO. If the incredibly useful big pockets and ankle drawstrings offend your style sense, hit up the Tilley store then.

    For the same reasons, avoid cotton socks. And you want a pair of dayhikers rather than runners, or your ankles will let you know you made a mistake. Asolo makes some really incredibly light dayhikers. Do not forget to add a pair of gel insoles.

    Backpack-wise, if you want a real internal frame backpack North Face has the strongest for the weight options, generally, but anything at MEC is probably acceptable. Personally, I do fine with a Swiss Army convertible carryon/backpack; but then again, with it fully packed for a three week trip I hit 18.4 pounds. Including sleeping bag. For which an internal frame is unnecessary if you have a decently strong back. Most people do not pack as lightly as I.

    Rather than overpriced “travel baggies”, I just use a whack of Safeway plastic shopping bags to separate cleans/dirties and so forth.

    Do not forget antibiotic cream in your first aid kit. Foreign germs you’re not used to can make a real mess of even a trivial scrape. And take triple the moleskin you think you could possibly need, you’re not likely to find more.

    And this? This is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL.

    Now, these recommendations are for the way I travel, which is on my feet 16-18 hours a day with no idea where I’ll end up. Even if that sounds ridiculous to you, you will still probably be on your feet a lot more than you’re used to so don’t dismiss the foot-related advice without some serious thinking.

  4. Duane Storey says:

    Thanks Alex. The jeans will basically go from my backpack directly into my apartment. I just don’t want to trust not having a nice pair with me. But yah, I’ll definitely pick up some lighter pants as well. Good idea with the dayhikers. I have real hiking boots here, but they’re just too heavy to take along. So maybe I can find something in between.

    When I used to hike we’d wear hiking soaks, and I have some of those around (they wick, dry quick). I don’t really want to take a pile of stuff. I’ve done week long hikes with a 60 lb pack on before, but don’t really have anything smaller around here for the amount of stuff I want to bring.


  5. Alex Curylo says:

    For five years (yeah, they’re pretty beat up, but they still work) I’ve been wearing a pair of Asolo Defender XCRs.

    Note: “Weight: 1 lb. 10 oz.”.

    Those, with the addition of gel insoles as the Vibram sole is on the hard side, are as far as I’m concerned the absolutely perfect footwear for any travel plans that don’t involve actual technical mountaineering.

  6. Dale Mugford says:

    Its DisplayPort to composite or component that you want. All apple laptops now use DisplayPort.

  7. Duane Storey says:

    Good to know. Figures that Apple would change the output yet again. Three laptops, three different interfaces so far.

  8. Jen says:

    I’m going to echo those who said “don’t bring cotton (including denim).”

    First off, cotton (and polyester) is EASY to get anywhere you are. If you’re committed to saving space, bring only some key items in technical fabrics, and purchase extra socks/undies/t-shirts at your destinations (and, just donate/toss them before leaving if they’re too bulky to pack when you move on).

    If you’re going to destinations full of people generally much tinier than you, have some back-up clothes with someone at home that they can ship to you in case you can’t find anything in your size.

    Since you’re going on a more extended trip, I’d concede bringing one great-fitting pair of jeans (the familiar comfort really can’t be beat) – leave a couple at home with family or a friend to ship to you if/when you need more. Even though you’re “not living like a backpacker,” there are precious few places on earth where denim is the trouser of choice. Tilley Khakis (or similar) would probably serve you better, both for ease of travel, durability and “fitting in.”

    Definitely pick up travel power adapters before you go. I’d also advocate bringing an ethernet cable (I’ve never found reliable wifi on my travels), and be prepared to use internet cafes on occasion.

    Bring something that works as a day-pack (MEC has a nice big travel bag with zip-off daypack), and a couple of combination locks for use in shadier areas, at train stations, etc.

    The only other thing I’ve found hard to get in some foreign locales is good mosquito repellent (something containing deet if you’re going to malarial zones), prophylactics (haven’t tested this myself, but every guide I’ve seen says outside North America & Europe the safety standards on those are shady at best) and sometimes sunscreen with proper uva/uvb protection.

    By the way, if you’re getting travel vaccinations, start researching them now – many need a double-dose a few months apart or aren’t effective for a few weeks, etc.

    For convenience, bring a tiny sewing kit, a box of assorted safety pins and a headlamp. Expensive and annoying to hunt down on the road, and really useful on many occasions – well worth the small amount of space in your pack.

    Money-wise, I’ve always fared well by using the local ATMs (rather than a currency exchange or traveller’s cheques, etc.). Check that your bank’s card works internationally, and make sure you know the cash advance pin for your credit card. Bring two credit cards if you can. Cash is King, and while you don’t want to carry a lot of it on your person, you want to make sure you can always get at some more in the event of an emergency or a skimmed/stolen card.

    I’ve done a few extended (3+ weeks) trips now with only a 28L pack, and the only thing I can say I couldn’t do without or that saved my butt at any time is printing paper confirmations of EVERYTHING. Flights, itineraries, rental confirmations, maps/directions and phone numbers. All in a plastic folder slid down the back of my pack. Power goes out, devices fail, bookings get lost. Paper confirmations, for me, are gold.

  9. Alex Curylo says:

    “and a couple of combination locks for use in shadier areas, at train stations, etc.”

    I never bother. Figure it amounts to putting a “GOOD STUFF IN HERE!” sign on it. Any real thief is going to have a knife to slice your pack open if it strikes their fancy, so your best protection is not striking their fancy; look poor and don’t bring out any electronics, and hey nobody bothers your stuff then.

    “Check that your bank’s card works internationally, and make sure you know the cash advance pin for your credit card.”

    And if you have a choice, set them to 4 digit PINs. In places a little behind the times (or even not behind the times, like in Japan) there’s a good chance of running into ATMs that can’t deal with 6 digit PINs.

    “paper confirmations of EVERYTHING. Flights, itineraries, rental confirmations, maps/directions and phone numbers.”

    You missed “health insurance”.

    “All in a plastic folder slid down the back of my pack.”

    What I find particularly convenient is to put all my printouts in one of those Staples presentation books;

    itinerary on the front cover, two sheets to each of the filler pages. That’s also a convenient place to stash my receipts, ticket stubs, etc. as they accumulate.

  10. Duane Storey says:

    Good point with the 5 digit pins.. We had to drive an hour in Costa Rica to find one that would take 5 pins for my friend’s Royal Bank card.

  11. Jen says:

    Ooh yes, the all mighty health-insurance info! definitely do not forget that one.

    As for the padlocks, I’ve been in hostels/hotels at in-between places where you need to lock your own door or locker, and in train stations where you can’t store your bags unless they’re locked. I agree that not drawing attention to your awesome stuff is a good strategy, but so is looking “inconvenient” – if there are two bags/doors, one has a lock and one doesn’t, the thief operating under opportunity (more common, imho), is going to go for the easy grab.

  12. Alex Curylo says:

    “I’ve been in hostels/hotels at in-between places where you need to lock your own door or locker”

    Right, having a lock for those situations is indeed a good idea. I was thinking more along the lines of those people who think that padlocking their zippers is going to accomplish anything but drawing attention to their bag. Especially the ones with plastic zippers. “You do realize you can split that zipper with a pen, right?”

    “the thief operating under opportunity (more common, imho), is going to go for the easy grab.”

    A logical position yes, but it seems to me from observation that one’s chances of being targeted by a professional that lurks around the bus/train/whatever station looking for marks are a lot higher … and they’ll pass up an unguarded bag that looks worthless to slice the bottom out of a pack someone expensively dressed is actually wearing at the time to see what goodies fall out. YMMV.

  13. Duane Storey says:

    Admit it Alex, you’re the guy with the knife!

  14. Alex Curylo says:

    And as long as we’re discussing anti-theft strategies, here’s what REALLY works; whenever you’re at a crowded terminal, keep an eye always out, not on your stuff, but on all the people around you, looking for the one who’s examining the other passengers and their luggage instead of being absorbed in their own tasks. Persistently hold eye contact with them. They will evaporate in very short order.

  15. Tyler says:

    What about a dry-sac (places like MEC sell them) so that in case you’re caught in some crazy rain storm you can at least keep your pack and it’s contents dry? They typically are small and light when not in use and be place around your pack (get the right size of course) in a pinch.

    I for one also like the convertible pants that MEC carries, lightweight, somewhat water resistant/proof? and be crumpled up into a ball and stored when not use. Doesn’t really wrinkle etc, and can take the legs off if you need shorts 🙂

    Granted I haven’t travelled like anyone above… but I’m learning! lol 5 star resorts are definitely not as fun as those off the beaten track places!

  16. Tyler says:

    I would just like to show for the record, that my grammar skills in the morning are at their lowest 😉

  17. Alex Curylo says:

    Yes, various sizes of waterproof sacks are not to be forgotten either. The Outdoor Recreation kayaking ones you can get at MEC are excellent, and have the handy feature of loops to fasten to the outside of your pack, I use one of those as a sleeping bag stuff sack generally. For small electronics in the daypack/while swimming/boating I like the Coghlan’s waterproof pouches;

    Coast Mountain tends to have the best selection of the Coghlan line; sure their stuff looks cheesy, but a good bit of it is actually quite serviceable.

  18. I’m gonna have to side with Duane on the jean’s front. Sure, they’re heavy and don’t dry well, but you’ll wanna avoid looking like you’re on a safari the whole trip… heck, even if you’re on a safari you probably want to avoid looking that way ;-). The only place I’ve been where jeans aren’t common was Thailand, but mostly it’s just too hot for them. I’d only bring a single pair of jeans however.

    How light do you plan on traveling? Do you just want to try for carry-on? I still haven’t gotten my packing that light, but getting close :). I’m hoping for my next trip I can do carry-on only.

    I travel with my airport express too, i’ve never absolutely /needed/ it, but it does make it a bit more convenient when the apartment only has an ethernet cable for internet.

    I’m also surprised you’re not taking your SLR… this is easily one of the heaviest and bulkiest things I take around, but it’s hard for me to let it go :). But you do way more photography work than I do. What kind of point and shoot do you think you’ll take?

    btw, if you don’t already follow this blog: you should definitely check it out. It’s Rolf Potts blog (author of vegabonding) and he’s currently doing a no-bag challenge for 12 weeks of travel which has been quite entertaining so far. Plus it’s got some good tips for packing light.

  19. Duane Storey says:

    Well, I do plan on doing day/night/weekend trips with just a backpack, but mostly I’m hoping to get an apartment and live fairly normally. So, I don’t mind taking a bit more stuff on the plane, knowing it’s going to just end up in an apartment. My plan right now is to take a backpack full of stuff, and check it on the plane. Then, my carry on will just be my laptop bag full of goodies like my iPad or Kindle.

    My SLR is a pain. It takes nice photos, but hauling it around is a lot of work and when you have multiple nice lenses, you kind of want to have them all with you. I’m actually probably going to sell the whole kit before leaving, and simply bank the money. I’ve been meaning to go Nikon anyways, so I might just wait a bit and start investing in that. I just picked up a Canon S90 actually to take with me on the trip. It’s a $400 point and shoot that has a f/2.0 aperture (all my pro lenses only have 2.8 – so it’s faster than those, at least wide open).

    How long are you in Vancouver for Scott – we should do beers, I want to pick your brain a bit about traveling!

  20. I’m only here for a few days right now, but will be back in mid october until the end of February. We should definitely get together for beers when I’m back.

  21. Sylvain says:

    Am I the only CounterPathian or Ex-CounterPathian that finds it strange that Duane is bringing an ATA? You are bringing a laptop, iPad, iPhone no? What’s wrong with Bria or X-Lite? 😉 Also we should bug Jason and Derek to force Skype to have Skype-in numbers for Canada.

  22. Nah, I agree that the ATA thing seems unnecessary :). I also didn’t think the “Mini-DV to Composite Cable” was necessary, but I’m quite happy doing phone calls and watching movies / tv on my computer.

  23. Duane Storey says:

    I actually like the idea of an ATA. Having your computer on all the time so you can receive calls seems like a pain when you’re watching TV or something. I have Bria on my iPhone – don’t think I have one on my Mac (hook me up with a license!)

    But the composite cable may not be required. It’s small though, so no big deal.

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