For years, the most popular thing I’ve written on the web is a piece I wrote in 2009 detailing the 79 things I packed for a nomadic life. It’s one of a series of posts I wrote back then about how to live a nomadic lifestyle and how to plan for a nomadic trip, focusing on the blend between being a nomad and a minimalist. 1
Today, I focus more on living consciously than packing minimally. With a wife and a dog, living nomadically is no longer a goal nor an option, but I still carry the ethos of being aware of what I buy, use, and bring with me throughout my day and life. "Minimalism isn’t traveling the world with nothing"; minimalism is about being mindful and conscious about what we use, what we do, how we spend our time, who we spend our time with, and what we focus on. There’s a lightness of mind that comes from a lightness of posessions, and it’s something I work on every single day.
So when I pack for travel, I’m (usually) hyper-conscious of what I decide to bring with me. So what do I depend on?
While I still stand behind my idea that "heavy packs kill light lives", I’ll admit that lately I’ve packed a bit heavy on recent trips, perhaps a bit over-prepared for life. But the truth remains: "exploring the world is simpler when you bring one small bag". I used one bag back in 2009, and still use it today, the Patagonia MLC, but I’ve also started using the Tom Bihn Synapse 25.
- Patagonia MLC is still my single bag of choice for longer trips, but the Tom Bihn Synapse 25 is my choice for trips up to a week. I first learned about the Tom Bihn from Ross, and after I finally got one and started using it, I’ve loved using a bag that seemingly never stops finding space for things, but that once you take everything out it feels like a much smaller backpack. Win.
- REI Flash 18 works as a lightwight, packable, simple computer bag, hiking backpack, and travel day bag. I typically stuff it inside my Patagonia for longer trips where I’ll want a day bag.
Gear for Traveling
Whether for work or pleasure travel, I focus on packing just the things I need for living, creating, working, and enjoying my trip. 2
- MacBook Air 13". Light and powerful, I feel like it’s industry standard at the moment. I depend on Dropbox to back up all my documents and photos (iPhone photos and camera), but will admit that I’m always looking for new options and apps to test for backing up my photos.
- iPhone. I travelled without a phone for years, and back in 2009 went with an incredibly basic dumb phone, but these days, a smartphone with lots of powerful apps is an everyday companion. One hack: when traveling, I usually skip the international plans, turn off cellular data and go Wifi only. I also leave Wifi on constantly so that a) photos are still geotagged and b) I can use an offline map like Maps.me so I can know where I am. I currently use an iPhone 5, but the Nexus 5 looks pretty great also. For iPhone photography, use the Moment Lenses, both the Wide and Tele, to capture better images using my phone (reviews by Outside and the WSJ).
- As wonderful as an iPhone camera is, a camera is a near necessity for me. I’ve owned a lot of cameras over the years, but I currently am loving the Olympus OMD EM-5, a micro 4/3 camera that I use for travel, personal work and professional shoots. Paired with the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 II and Panasonic 12-35 f2.8 lenses, it’s a small, powerful combination that’s inobtrusive, performs well, and is easy to take anywere. (For professional shoots, I pack a bit more gear, described here).
- Fitbit Flex so I can know how far I’ve walked while exploring cities. I used the original Fitbit for years, and recently switched to the Flex in hopes I would lose it less. 3
- FLUXMOB Bolt for charging your phone on the go. I also tend to carry another mobile battery at times, depending on the travel.
- Koyono View Slimmy wallet, to only carry the necessities every day. I’ve used this for years, and have looked for more slim wallets, but haven’t found a replacement yet (even though the SlimFold Wallet looks pretty good).
- Verizon Jetpack 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot MiFi® 5510L because you don’t want to depend on coffee shops, hotels and Wifi access points to connect to the Internet.
Gear for Living
This summer we’re spending a lot of time outside the city traveling by car, so we can pack a bit heavier and carry a bit more gear for living. My gear will be different than yours, but my gear tends to revolve around photography, hiking, cycling, and things for our dog. When you’re not a nomad or obsessed with minimalism, and with the extra space, there’s a couple more things we bring:
- Logitech UE Mini Boom is a great Bluetooth speaker for playing music and podcasts around our temporary houses (see Wirecutter review). For music, I love Noon Pacific, and Overcast is how I listen to podcasts.
- Toys and games. I’m bringing my drone with me whenever we leave the city (an inexpensive toy drone, the Syma X1 Quadcopter, although I’ll eventually get a DJI Phantom or similar eventually), and we bring games like Cards Against Humanity with us most places.
- Books. We haven’t made the switch to a Kindle, so we often bring a book or two (or ten). For long trips with a car, we bring a lot of books, and for shorter trips by plane, we generally each bring 2-3 books, although we’ll often buy and trade books at bookstores along the way. One of my favorite things to do while traveling involves trading books at English bookstores abroad. 4
- Power strip. I often bring a power strip with me, it’s a great way to make friends. I don’t have a great one for travel, but Wirecutter recommends the Accel Home or Away, which looks pretty cool.
Somehow, even though I always aim to take less clothes, I always bring a couple things I don’t need. One hack I still use is to bring a couple items of clothing that I intend to discard while traveling, lightening my load and opening up space.
- NAU Down Sweater if I’m traveling somewhere cold, which seems to be pretty often. It’s lightweight but amazingly warm, and with some extra length in the sleeves and the bottom, it provides a tremendous amount of warmth.
- NAU Amble Jacket if I’m traveling somewhere warmer, as an everyday, trustworthy, rain-repelling jacket, and a Patagonia Ultralight Down Vest for extra warmth in case.
- 2 pairs of jeans. I usually wear one pair and pack an extra. I’m partial to Uniqlo jeans at the moment, but love the ethos of Hiut Denim after visiting them in Wales in summer 2014 and will eventually get a pair.
- 2 pairs of shoes. VivoBarefoot make great barefoot shoes for everyday living. I recently got my first pair, the Ra, and love them so far. I also bring a pair of running/athletic shoes everywhere, and are currently wearing the Nike Roshe, but might try the Vivo Evo Pure soon. I also sometimes sneak in a pair of Toms for some versatility.
- 2-4 long-sleeve and short-sleeve shirts. I generally depend on a selection of shirts from Uniqlo, Patagonia, Ben Sherman, and NAU. Also, I’m currently loving the Lululemon Metal Vent Tech Long Sleeve as a general long-sleeve athletic shirt.
- A running kit: tshirt, running shorts, socks, a watch, and shoes (included above, but recently supplemented with the Nike Air Pegasus). Physical activity is a great way to combat jet lag and an important part of bringing some part of my normal life with me.
- A towel. I always carry a towel, and sometimes, this one
That’s my general list. If you’re fixated on the number of things, check out these Andrew Hyde’s 15 things, and then look through others’ lists of 15 things. But at the end of the day, pack what you want, pack consciously, and pack to live. 5
What’s important to you?
As of May 2015, I’m currently on hiatus from wearing a Fitbit. After more than four years of wearing one, I’m taking a break so I can see how it changed my daily actions and to see what it’s like without the digital tracking overhead. ↩