What’s in my Backpack?
My Backpack My first bag was an ancient backpacking sack that I bought at a garage sale for $10. It did the job, but after five years I’ve realized that a bag isn’t just a sack to carry things from A to B. It’s my closet and my bathroom cabinet and office desk combined into something I can throw over my shoulder. So investing in a good travel bag is worth it.
Now I have an Osprey Porter. I have the green one. When my bag is fully packed, it weighs about 13 pounds, just under the Air Asia 7 kg carry on limit. I really like that it has compression straps, so it doesn’t take up much space and easily fits in the overhead bins of airplanes or in my lap should we be traveling on sketchy public transit or in a taxi with more than 4 other people. Best yet, it can be opened like a normal suitcase, so you can actually FOLD YOUR CLOTHES (what a concept!) and you don’t have to dump all your things on the floor to reach that one thing on the bottom. We bought ours at REI, but you can also get it on Amazon.
Ultra-light Travel Pants This is so Rick Steves but it’s worth it, I promise. Because mosquitoes. And leeches. And this horrible cactus-like palm. If you’re going to be spending much time in orchards or tramping through the jungles, you really need a pair of pants that are durable enough to get muddy, attacked by spiky jungle plants and will protect you from biting insects, but at the same time won’t fill up up your entire bag or make you feel like you’re wearing a rubberized suit (oh Jeans). In general, you can buy clothes for really cheap in Asia, but I find outdoor clothing to be the exception. Mine are from REI.
River Sandals I sometimes see tourists packing enormous, commando-style hiking boots for their week in Taman Negara National Park. I’ve never really understood hiking boots, but especially not here. I’ve been wearing river sandals for years for most of our hikes into the jungle or orchards. I love it, because my feet stay cool and I don’t have to worry about mud. I just dip my feet in a creek or hose them off at the end of the hike. If there are leeches about, a pair of socks is enough protection. I used to love Tevas, but after my third pair needed superglue within six months I swore not buy them again. It looks like new Tevas have a one-piece sole, so maybe they’ve resolved the problem. Still, if anyone else can recommend a sandal brand, I’d love to hear about it.
Travel Towel: Hostels and backpacker digs often don’t supply towels, or you may have to pay a few dollars extra to rent one. I just like having my own, plus it’s so tiny it’s super convenient. I can take it with me to waterfalls or the beach or just keep it in my purse in case I get caught in a monsoonal rainstorm. Mine is from REI, but again, Amazon has lots of options.
Headlamp Why have a flashlight when headlamps are hands free? From navigating the hostel dormitory after lights out to midnight durian hunting, I use my headlamp every day. Using the red filter to read at night helps me fall asleep. Mine is a Petzl, because it’s the cheapest one at REI. Also, it’s spelled almost like Pretzel. I just like that.
eReader On our first trip abroad I traveled with a copy of the Ramayana, a 720-page cement block that added to the challenge of bicycling through Luxemburg on second hand bikes. But in my defense, that was the equivalent of forever ago in terms of electronics and there wasn’t an eVersion available. Now almost all publications have an eVersion, and if you’re going to be traveling for awhile or are on a tight budget, it doesn’t make sense to carry a paper version. People traveling with hardbacks just perplex me. Now I have a Kindle Paperwhite (signed by Hank Green when I gave him the Musang King!)
All-In-One International Adaptor: I bought mine on my first trip abroad in 2010, and is one of the few things I haven’t lost or killed. With prongs that slip in and out of a plastic chassis, it’s like the Swiss Army knife of electronics. New versions even have USB portals! Many countries in Southeast Asia use different plugs, so if you’re going to be hopping borders a lot you should consider buying one of these. Admittedly, single converters are really cheap and can generally be purchased at a 7-11 or other convenience store. But how cool is it land in an airport, casually check out the socket and whip out the appropriate shape and number of prongs? So suave. Mine is old, but this is the new version.
Tiny Power Strip – I don’t know why, but often there is only ONE electric socket in a hotel room, and either it’s in a really strange place (the ceiling?!) or it’s the socket where the fan plugs in so you have to choose between dying of heat and using your device. If you carry far too many electronic devices like me, get a splitter so you can charge it all at one time while you’re out of the room having a good time (maybe eating durian? hmmm?)
Travel Yoga Matt After the eReader, this is my favorite possession. I’ve slept on it in airports, used it as a blanket on a few very cold nights, and — oh yeah — maintained the practice that keeps me a happy, mentally healthy person. I used to roll it up and stuff it in the water-bottle pocket of my backpack, but now that I have the Osprey I fold it into a square and put it in with my clothes. It’s decently lightweight and a great way to keep a steady practice on the road. Mine is a HuggerMugger that I bought on sale at REI, but it’s also available on Amazon.
This is a list of things I personally use and find helpful in my travel and daily life. I hope this gave you some ideas for your own pack list (if you’re the type who makes lists), or was at least entertaining to see what strange things (tennis ball?) I make room for in my pack. If you do decide to buy any of the things in this list, the Amazon links are affiliate and I thank you in advance for using them.
Of course, if you have any other questions don’t hesitate to reply to this message or email me at durianyearATgmail.com
See you soon!