NEW Detailed Packing List – What’s in Our Bags Now, After Nearly 17 Months?
As of March 17th, 2013 we will have been living the nomadic lifestyle for 17 months; travelling the whole time with hand luggage only. As some of our belongings have changed over the last year I thought it was about time to update our packing list with what we still have, what has been particularly useful and what has been upgraded. I have compiled a detailed list for each of us this time.
I love packing lists. Before leaving home we read so many and they really made us consider what we took originally. They also helped to convince me that it was possible to go for so long with such small bags. Inspired by ‘digital nomads’ and sites like OneBag.com online; Henry suggested the ‘hand luggage only’ route to me right of the start of the planning stage and I’ll admit, it took some time to get used to the idea.
Now, neither of us can imagine being in charge of a 70l backpack. We marvel at the enormous bags we see on other travellers and try to guess what an earth they might have in there.
I hope our list can prove helpful to someone and that I have not gone into too much detail. Please feel free to comment and ask questions, I quite liked compiling the list and I it made me realise what great stuff we have. I’ll gladly answer questions about our choices!
- ‘Caterpillar’ 30 litre (?) wheeled backpack.
Returning from my visit home to the UK last September and having spent some extra time in airports watching luggage glide along; I was more keen than ever to replace my main bag for an option with wheels. I had started to see some viable (small and light enough) options appearing on the markets and I eventually took the plunge and haggled the price of a backpack with wheels down to about £14. (As with just about everything in the Petaling Street Market in Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur, it is a fake.) I do not know the exact capacity as it was not stated on the label but I can estimate it at (based on my last
bag and Henry’s) about 30 – 32 litres.
So far I have only used it as a backpack once. The rest of the time my shoulders have had an easy time and, despite some pretty rough surfaces, the wheels have not fallen off yet.
We are both still using the Eagle Creek packing cubes to organise our bags and can’t imagine not having them to keep everything organised.
- knee length linen skirt
- 1 pair full length cotton trousers
- 1 pair full length linen trousers
- (quite smart, saved for ‘best’)
- silk mix sarong – useful
- as a sheet, to sit one etc as well as wear for the beach
- 2 vest tops
- 3 t-shirts
- 1 sleeveless (smarter) cotton
- thin cotton dress for nightwear
- silk scarf – can wear around
- head, neck, waist etc
- spare hankie
- 5 pairs of pants (underwear)
- 4 bras – I stocked up at home as I found it hard to buy the correct size out here without paying an extortionate price
- light cotton cardigan
- swimming costume
- 1 pair of socks
- cotton hairband
Not in a cube:
- green cotton scarf
- pair of Birkenstock ‘Arizona’ Soft Footbed Birko-Flor sandals
- pair of Rocket Dog flip-flops
For the first 10 months of our adventure I had just one pair of shoes. It was fine. Sometimes at the beach I would pine for a pair of flip fops that the sand would come out of more easily, or for an alternative to the Birkinstocks that would vary the bold stripes the sun painted on my feet; but I managed OK. Then I went home for a few weeks and retrieved some of my shoes from storage. (We may have sold our cars, furniture etc but no way was I getting rid of shoes!) I was so excited to see them; I lined them up in my mum’s kitchen and took a picture!
But, I digress. The point is that having more than 10 pairs of shoes to chose from for a few weeks went to my head and I simply could not go back to zero choice. The flip flops are easy to carry as they are light and flat. I’m still loving the fact I have a choice. After looking around at home to replace my sandals, (the soles had become so smooth that I was slipping in the rain) I eventually ended up replacing them with a pair exactly the same in Kuala Lumpur last October. What a difference 11 months continuous wear makes:
My technology selection has evolved somewhat since the last list. Gone is the iPad, the Android phone and the camera. Unchanged and still very much appreciated are the amazing X Mini speakers, the old school iPod, and the JLab headphones.
I upgraded from the iPad and got a refurbished Macbook Air from Apple while I was visiting the UK. I am still very pleased with this decision. The iPad is great and a luxury to have as an additional item to your main computer but I have come to the conclusion that for me, there are too many limitations to allow it to replace a computer. And, having had my own laptop for at least the last 10 years before travelling, I did not want to continue ‘sharing’ Henry’s.
My Android phone was replaced by a grey market iPhone in Bangkok (I’m a lucky girl – Henry treated me for my birthday!) This was another great upgrade. The maps, podcasts, apps like currency converters, Facebook, Twitter, guidebooks, games and easy access to email have made the iPhone an essential gadget now. I read on it and we use it to test the wifi before we agree to a room.
The lovely compact system camera I am now using was Henry’s. He upgraded his in Singapore and I inherited his old one. We have gone from point and shoots to mirrorless compacts and we are both still very much enjoying the photography side of our adventures.
I love all my various bit of tech and I would not like to travel without them now. I am not afraid of damaging stuff as I take good care of my things and we always make sure that our laptops are locked up when we leave them in the room.
- 11″Macbook Air (2011 i5 128GB) laptop + charger + pouch for charger etc.
- soft Incase neoprene sleeve
- 2 small capacity memory sticks (useful for taking something to print)
- Nikon SD card reader + San Disk 8GB SD card (additional storage for films etc)
- travel adapter – only the laptop needs it now as our phones and cameras have plugs that fit here
- Sony NEX 5N camera + Sony camera bag + spare battery + Sony 8GB and 4GB SD cards + detachable flash + cleaning cloth
- Sony 18 – 55mm kit lens
- Sigma 30mm f2.8 prime lens – shared with Henry as his camera has the same mount, we both enjoy using this lens and it was a (KL) bargain
- Clear pencil case + USB wire + battery charger
- iPhone 4S 32GB Unlocked + quite a few various SIM cards – it has never been a problem to get a SIM card or get it cut to the right size
- red pencil case + USB wire + charger + headphones – they have the microphone that my ‘good’ headphones don’t
- JLab J4 earphones + case – brilliant build quality, lasting very well
- iPod 3rd Gen. 8GB – it has been good to have something so small and significantly less valuable than the phone to listen to podcasts, music and audiobooks on. I can take it to the beach and leave while I swim without too much worry. It is also so small it fits into my bra where (hopefully!) no bus thief would dare to go if we fall asleep on a long journey
- X-Mini (II) speaker – excellent item, obviously great for music and also for films etc as the MBAs have pretty poor speakers. I picked our other one from home when I went back so now we can have the two working together. They are robust, have great sound quality for their size, the internal battery lasts for ages and the charger for them is tiny
- LED Lenser K3 torch
- Omron Walking Style III digital pedometer
My Daypack (handbags really)
- red Case Logic laptop backpack
- lightweight nylon handbag
- small leather bag
Following the trend set by the shoe situation, actually have more bag options now than I did at this point last year. When we are on the move, I have my main Caterpillar bag and a small red Case Logic backpack. It is less than 10cm deep in the main section so I can’t overpack it. It is well made and has a padded compartment for the laptop. The camera and my usual handbag bits travel in there. If I do allow my big bag out of my sight (perhaps on a bus) the red bag stays with me with all the valuable items.
For day to day use I have a nylon bag that I can wear across the body and carry my camera, purse, water etc. When moving between destinations this folds up into the red backpack. I also have a small flat leather bag as a sort of evening bag and can hold just my phone, purse etc.
Things from my handbag that are not mentioned elsewhere on the list
- pouch with a little loo roll,
- a mini first aid kit, lip balm and soap leaves
- notepad and pen
We don’t tend to carry hand sanitiser anymore and the cards have long gone. Most places we’ve been staying in require our passports so we don’t have to look after them usually.
Although my wash bag list is still probably longer than many others, I use fewer products than I before the trip. I get along just fine with what I have and I am usually able to resist picking up extra products as the thought of having to throw them away before a flight puts me off. Sometimes, I have an additional product or two as a luxury treat.
Most of the time it has been pretty easy to find everything I’ve wanted. The only thing I’ve struggled to find in a few places is a facial moisturiser with UV protection but without bleach. I’ve often had to settle for one with no UV protection as every product is designed to lighten the skin. It has also been hard to find smaller bottles of shampoo in Vietnam (I’ve got a whole 180ml at the moment) but up until now thats not been an issue. The solid shampoo bars from Lush are good and Henry uses them (he is only on his second in 17 months!) but I have a lot of hair and it is easier to buy it as I go. I do have makeup but don’t wear much other than mascara on a day to day basis. The bag itself has been brilliant, I can almost always hang it up somewhere which is handy when there is not somewhere you would want it to sit. It is big enough to hold everything and has 6 separate compartments which keeps everything organised. It is still like new apart from the removable plastic mirror which was rubbish; I gave up on it when it became too scratched.
- deodorant (roll on)
- coconut oil with essential oils added – use as moisturiser for face, body and hair; eye make-up remover etc
- geranium essential oil – add to shampoo, baths etc – supposed to repel mosquitos
- all purpose natural balm – like Vaseline but without the petrol
- face moisturiser
- emery board
- Tweezerman tweezers – possibly the best tweezers ever made
- comb + small hairbrush
- hairbands and clips
- make-up consisting of: Urban Decay power and mini eye pencils, small brush, Benefit mini mascara, pencil sharpener
- small mirror
- sanitary towels and tampons – tampons were hard to buy in some places, especially parts of India
- 2 pairs of earrings and a pendant
- cotton buds
- exfoliating gloves
- 2 mini atomisers with perfume – I don’t use these everyday, they are a luxury treat item
currently, but not usually:
- shower gel
Henry carries a bar of soap, the toothpaste, floss, suncream, nail clippers and insect repellant when we have it. (See his list below – this balances out as I carry the medical kit and some other bits.) We usually both have some emergency loo roll stashed away.
I also have a Gelert travel bath towel which is still going strong although I don’t use it much at all at the moment. I wish I had one half the size like Henry since I use it so occasionally.
The medical kit I’m carrying has not changed much since last year:
- plasters of various sizes
- antiseptic wipes
- wound dressing
- safety pins
- medical tape
- small bandage
- paracetamol and ibuprofen
- anti- diarrhoea tablets
- rehydration sachets
- malaria medication (still carrying it, neither of us have taken any of it but it seems too valuable to throw away)
- spare soap leaves
- 1 x pair of Henry’s contact lenses for emergency situations
- sleeping tablets (new addition – used them for the first time ever on the long hauls in September and they worked brilliantly washed down with some wine)
- a smallish (2/300g) bag of washing powder (biological if I can identify it)
- tiny bottle of washing up liquid (for grease stains)
- a few pegs
- bag for it all to live in
- thin bag for laundry (not pictured)
I do all of our washing by hand every few days and have for the last 17 months. We don’t have that many clothes so washing that often is not a pain at all really. Things dry very quicky. Even in monsoon struck areas, if you have air-con or even a fan in the room you can dry clothes without much fuss. Other travellers are sometimes surprised we do it like this but I think we’ve saved a lot of money so far, even if it is only $1 per kg, it all adds up. I could save space and weight by buying single use sachets of powder but this is not economical and I only usually buy these when we have an impending flight. Sometimes I wish I had a universal sink plug, but if there is not one provided I just line the sink with a carrier bag. Henry carries the washing line.
Other Random Items:
- mini sewing kit
- small wooden door stop
- spare batteries for torch
- 2 online banking card readers
- small roll of electrical tape – my dad advocated having one with you at all times
- tea light – for power cuts and occasional relaxing bathtimes
- long strap from the camera case
- measuring tape
- small pair of scissors – we’ve only had one pair confiscated, in Singapore
- a string of fairy lights – odd item perhaps but I got them to act as more gentle source of light when we just have a glaring florescent strip light in the room but recently, in Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia, this has not been such an issue
Last Few Bits
- mini kettle element + metal cups + coffee – Brilliant! We’ve gone through a few elements but it is so good to be able to make your own coffee and tea for pennies without leaving the room. As we use our room to work I would say this has become an essential item
- mini combination padlock (I’m now on my third – first one lost, second one broke and had to be cut off with giant bolt cutters, the third time I chose better quality)
- passport + RFID passport cover
- money + credit + debit cards (I have the Halifax Clarity credit card which is good for UK people abroad)
- umbrella – not used since Kuala Lumpur as we’ve had very little rain since
- my glasses + case – prescription glasses were about £22 including frames and lenses in KL, I had the test at home
- spare copies of our passports and visas – Henry and Dropbox also have these
- spare passport photos for visas etc
- traveller’s cheques for emergencies
- some real photos of family and friends
- a few pens
- eye mask and several pairs of earplugs – use the ear plugs all the time, the eye mask only usually on flights
- inflatable neck pillow – only used on flights and occasionally trains/busses but it really earns its spot then
- orange pencil case for extra things like freezer bags and spare carrier bags, earplugs etc
- rain cover for big bag – cut from my old Caribee rucksack and kept in a side mesh pocket
I do have a lot but we’ve been away from home for 17 months. In that time we have sent 5 parcels of presents and souvenirs home and 1 parcel (in the first week!) with our trainers and warmer clothes. The weather in Kerala in November made us find it hard to imagine when we would want to put socks and trainers on our feet again anytime
I hope I’ve given you an insight as to what this particular girl has in her bags. Now, for Henry’s list!
Henry has his original North Face 33l ‘Recon’ backpack. He does not have any wheels and he is not jealous. When moving from place to place he can still fit everything into this one bag. Really, he has far fewer items than me and thinks I have too much.
- 4 vests
- 3 pairs cotton trousers
- 5 pairs underwear
- 1 pair shorts
- 1 handkerchief
- 1 pair leather sandals – unsure of brand, we got them in Bangkok to replace his from home that had worn out
and thats it!
- Macbook Air 11″ (2011 i5 64GB) + charger + Hard Candy Bubble case
- travel adapter
- Logitech mini USB mouse
- 64GB SanDisk memory stick (used for Time Machine backup)
- 32GB Kingston memory stick
- iPhone 4S unlocked (purchased 2nd hand in Kuala Lumpur) + charger + headphones + USB wire + SIM cards
- Sony NEX 7 camera + D.Life case + spare battery + spare Sony SD card + cleaning cloth and brush – pricy but amazing camera – the picture quality is easily as good as an DSLR but it is much smaller
- 18 – 55mm Sony kit lens
- Sony f1.8 35mm prime lens (we share this and the Sigma for a change as both cameras are ‘E mount’)
- X-Mini (II) speaker
- LED Lenser P3 torch – similar to mine but takes AAA batteries
- 2 x electronic bank access things
- Whal battery powered shaver + attachments – does hair and beard – highly recommended; AA batteries are easy to get hold of, last well and it cuts well; it is much lighter than a rechargeable one
In the photo you can see Henry’s ‘good’ (Sound Magic) headphones. Unfortunately, they were recently lost and he now has to uses his iPhone ones which he assures me are not as good.
- solid shampoo from Lush
- bar of soap
- toothbrush and tooth paste
- Tiger Balm or local equivalent – a must for mosquito bites and our top treatment after rigorous scientific study
- nail clippers
- tiny bottle of oil for the shaver
- contact lenses + storage pot + cleaning solution – Henry changed from daily disposables to monthly ones a while ago now. Both sorts are generally much cheaper out here. Last week he got 3 pairs of monthly ones for less than £10
Also, but not in the wash bag: small Life Venture travel towel, shaver (see tech), earplugs (used all the time), loo roll.
Walking around during the day Henry uses a cotton messenger style day bag which holds his camera with the case, spare battery and his wallet, hankie etc. This folds up and fits in his main bag when we move around. His laptop fits snugly inside if necessary.
- prescription glasses + case
- sunglasses + case
- spare contact lenses
- Washing line (the one in the picture has now been lost and we just have the elasticated travel one with hooks on the end – not pictured as it was in use)
- notepad and pens
- money, credit + debit cards
- combination padlock
- a few bits of cutlery for when we eat in the room (although its usually provided)
- his coffee – at the moment 3-in-1 single use sachets
- empty ziplock bags
- spare batteries for mouse and shaver
- bag for dirty washing
- magic trick (novelty souvenir from Angeles City)
The things that I could probably (and may) get rid of soon are:
- cardigan (I have honestly not been chilly since Bali)
- one t-shirt
- fairy lights
- door stop
- the measuring tape (odd thing to have, I know)
- socks – not worn since I rocked Heathrow with the socks and sandals look last September
- travel towel
The luxury items I could easily do without but don’t want to for the moment are:
- shower gel – I have a newfound respect for a good old bar of soap nowadays
- exfoliating (shower) gloves
- conditioner – use coconutoil
- make – up
- one pair of trousers – can only wear one pair at a time
- flip flops – again, can only wear one pair of shoes at once
The only item Henry might get rid of soon is:
- one pair of trousers
To further cut down what we’re carrying we could actually share chargers for our laptops and phones as they are the same model as well as our cameras which take the same battery. This would save us both space and weight but would mean a package home and we do often use 2 chargers at once.
Items that people might expect us to have, but we don’t, include:
- a mosquito net – if it is needed it is generally provided, or we don’t stay there
- proper shoes – we’ve managed some pretty steep treks in our sandals just fine
- warm clothes – it is not cold here, Henry has honestly had no more than a vest for about the last 8 months
- extra external data storage – we use iCloud, Dropbox, Picasa and SkyDrive etc.
We’ve not been separated from our bags at airports and so have had very little chance of losing anything. We can easily take our bags with us on trains and busses, fit into tuk-tuks as well as fit both of us and all our stuff on the back of a motorbike taxi (with driver.)
What Do We MIss?
Well, I can confidently say that when you travel for this long it is not stuff that you miss at all. (Apart from maybe shoes!) We don’t feel limited by what we don’t have. What we do miss is seeing family and friends and our cats. We occasionally miss some activities (like gardening, cooking and even teaching maybe for me and Henry misses his X-Box downtime) but things? No.
Could you do it?
Yes, of course!
It is worth researching the hand luggage size limits and weight allowances if you plan to travel like this, they vary a lot. Seat Guru seems to have most baggage allowance policies (click on the airline first.) Air Asia does not have very generous allowances but you are still allowed the extra item like a handbag / laptop bag / camera bag / musical instrument etc which is how I take the small red backpack as well as my larger one.
We have never had our bags checked for size before a flight (although we are well within any restriction I’ve found so far) but we have had them weighed. Air Asia has an official limit of 7kg. Henry’s is usually just over 8kg but when challenged he can get out his cotton bag and put the laptop in there to bring down the weight of the main bag. Mine is usually around 8.5kg -I just juggle between the two.
The best way around all this we’ve found so far is to check in online – you print your own boarding passes and never have to go near the desk and the scales.
The links on some products that look like thiswill open a new page to the item on Amazon. If you chose to buy an item after clicking this link, I will earn a tiny commission. The prices are the same with or without following my link. We purchased some, but not all, of the items from Amazon ourselves.
To see the list from April 2012 click here and scroll to the bottom half of the page.