Our Packing Mantra
Preparing for our six week backpacking adventure through Western Europe in the summer of 2008, Courtney and I did a ton of internet research, read a stack of outdoorsy magazines, picked brains of every backpacker, couchsurfer, hitchhiker and khaki-cladded clerk we could charm. We took that cumulative knowledge upon our backs, and quickly learned what works for us, is not always in line with the ‘logical’ or the ‘practical’ thing to pack. Sometimes, you just want to dress down to look local, and not appear a clueless interloper glistening in high-tech dry-weave. This is of course not to say you should ignore the sage advises from keyboard K-2 summitters, or the ripe-smelling guy, who’s been couchsurfing for the past six years, but weigh their commentary against what works for you in your daily life. Nothing is Gospel in backpacking!
Our Packing List
We have listed every item we are carrying for our round the world (RTW) trip, where we purchased it, how much it costs sans tax, and a brief reasoning behind some of our more ‘questionable’ and major buys. We bought our ‘technical’ items, such as boots and backpacks, from specialty outdoors stores, BUT went to mainstream discounted stores for much of our clothes. We plan to revisit this list often during our trip, to update how each of these products performed.
B&B Basics of Backpacking
While there are myriad of differing opinions on what to pack, and what to exclude, for an extended RTW backpacking trip, there seems to be a general consensus on what the two most important items are: your backpack, and your boots! You can pack your old underwear, wear them full of holes, and toss them along the way, but do not skimp when it comes to backpack and boots! These should be the two most expensive, tested items on your list, after your laptop and camera (if you are a photographer)!
Backpacks & Accessories
We are both toting The North Face Primero 60 ($220, basegear.com), mainly because it served me GREAT through Europe! Courtney had so many problems with her pack, we had to switch at the last leg of our European adventure. She loved the Primero 60 so much, the first thing we did, upon our return was to order another one! It is right size (60 L) for all our essentials, and with a little pleading, small enough to be a carry-on. Its X- frame allows the pack to move with your body, with each stride, instead of wobbling back and forth like the typical H- frames. It is also VERY water-resistant, virtually waterproof, when coupled with the Sea to Summit Pack Cover ($35, Whole Earth Provisions, WEP). Besides giving us added peace-of-mind in a sudden downpour, the pack cover also acts as a stuff sack to store ponchos, pashminas, and light jackets. We are also carrying a cheap large stashable duffle ($2, Academy) to keep our backpacks from wear, in case we have to check them on planes, trains, and buses. The duffel can be locked for travel with a Briggs & Riley, Travel Sentry Approved (TSA) Combination Lock ($12.50).
Backpacking Boots & Other Footwear
Courtney and I have never owned a pair of backpacking boots; we’ve always hiked in trail-runners, with no complaints. The main reason we deviated from our norm is we wanted to pack one pair of ‘go-to’ footwear, that will last at least a year over all terrain, and conditions. We spent days at Campmor, choosing the right ones for us. After running through the store, throwing round-houses, and going up and down their 3 feet tall ‘mountain’ a hundred times, I came away with the Mammut MTN Crest GTX ($200). The gnarly Appalachian thru-hiker that fitted us owns, and swears by these boots. Courtney bought the fiery-red Asolo Stynger GTX ($160). Both pairs of boots are made with Gore-Tex, which makes them nearly waterproof, but also kinda hot, especially coupled with the Smartwool socks. We are packing six pairs of Smartwool Hiking/ Trekking Crew Socks ($11-17/ pair), for the both of us.
We are each packing a pair of Reef Stash Sandals ($25, Campmor), made from recycled tires. We REALLY like the hidden compartments between the soles, but it’s weird that ONLY the men’s version comes with a recycled aluminum pen, in one hidden stash compartment. I guess the makers feel that men do more writing in public showers?
Clothes On Our Backs (Literally)
I was very practical when packing for our backpacking/ couchsurfing trip through Western Europe last summer. All my clothes for that trip, EXCEPT for my patchwork, heavy cotton, magical cargo shorts, were made from some form of high-tech unnatural fabric. They all performed well, for the six weeks we were traveling, but also made me feel a bit out of place. It’s tough to blend with locals when you look like the hybrid clone of Superman and the Crocodile Hunter, clad in Under Armor and khaki converta-pants! Courtney, far wiser than I, packed more ‘normal’ clothes, had just as much fun, and managed to come back alive.
We also found products made with these space-age fabrics do not feel as comfortable in our down-time. Everyone has a favorite pair of jeans or a cotton-T that doubles as their jammies. So for our RTW trip, we are somewhat thumbing our noses at the backpacking gods and liberally spreading some comfortable cotton icing, over the rugged techno armor base.
We are also purposely packing the same type of products from different manufacturers. We don’t really have a brand-name we totally trust, or any that is sponsoring us yet, so we ran with our curiosity. We wanted to see how similar products from different brands hold up against each other for such a long trip. We wanted to see how a $6 Athletic Works moisture-wicking undershirt from Wal-Mart holds-up against a $30 Patagonia, from Whole Earth Provisions. We also like to shop from discounted stores like Marshalls or Ross, and ‘luck in’ on some of the more technical brands. Here’s what we’re wearing for the next year:
- Adidas Vortex Reversible Beanie ($5, Going Out of Business Store)
- ‘Our Traveling Circus’ Baseball Cap ($25, WEP & Lids)
- Eyeglasses ($200, Eyes Are Precious)
- Liberty Sports Morpheus II Sports Glasses ($150, LensCrafters)
- Mammut Sloper Cotton Logo T ($30, Campmor)
- Patagonia Performance Baselayer Poly T ($30, WEP)
- Under Armour Loose Poly T ($10, Marshalls)
- Sugoi Bamboo Crew ($17, Marshalls)
- Sugoi Finostretch Zip ($17, Marshalls)
- Athletic Works Sleeveless Rashguard ($7, Wal-Mart)
- Athletic Works Short-sleeved Rashguard ($7, Wal-Mart)
- Athletic Works Long-sleeved Rashguard ($10, Wal-Mart)
- Exofficio Men’s Trip’r Fine Line Plaid Long Sleeve Shirt ($80, WEP)
- Columbia Rapidfire Windshell ($70, Sports Authority)
- The North Face Denali Hoodie ($85*, Macy’s) *These regularly run for $180, but my cousin hooked me up with a SWEET discount! Thanks Wahwah & Michael!
- Tecwear Pro-Therm Shell (11 Euros) *I got these on sale in some department store in Berlin last summer. It was so cold and windy, I ran in and grabbed these off the rack. They make a good windshell, and pack down nicely.
- Sugoi Spearhead Shorts ($8, Marshalls)
- Champion Shorts ($5, Wal-Mart)
- 2 Exofficio Briefs ($14/each, Campmor)
- 2 Jockey Life Trunk($7/each, Wal-Mart)
- Scent-Lock Base Slayer Carbon Long Underwear ($30, Gander Mtn.)
- Kuhl Craghopper Cotton Canvas Utility Pants ($50, Campmor)
- American Eagle Patchwork Cargo Shorts ($30, AE) *I call these my ‘magic’ shorts because you can wear them for weeks on end and it is impossible to tell how dirty they really are. They’re starting to show some wear, so I might have to abandon them before the end.
- Eagle Creek All Terrain Money Belt ($11, Campmor) *I swore I would NEVER wear a money belt again after I got pick-pocketed in Rome last summer. That money belt went inside the front of my pants, was REALLY uncomfortable, and obviously offers a false sense of security. I like this one because it actually IS a belt with a zipper along its inside to stash your cash!
- Sunsand.com Stow & Go Travel Hat ($12, WEP)
- Prana Zeya Vest ($55, WEP)
- Eastern Mountain Sports Organic Cotton Bird T ($15, EMS)
- ‘Save the Humans’ Cotton T ($5, Wal-Mart)
- 3 Various Short Sleeved Knit Tops ($7/ each, Ross)
- Gilligan & O’Malley Cotten/ Spandex Dress Nightgown ($11, Target)
- Lapis Convertible Rayon/ Spandex Dress/ Skirt ($20, Marshalls)
- 2 Nylon Bras ($5/each, Ross)
- Terramar Therma TX2 Silk/ Merino Wool Base Layer ($40, Campmor)
- Immersion Research Thin Skin Pro-Surfer Rashguard ($45, Campmor)
- Silk/ Wool Blend Pashmina ($5, NY Street Vendor)
- Wind Force Glomitt Thinsulate Convertible Gloves ($12, Gander Mtn.)
- DanskinDri-More Tech Mid-rise Cropped Legging ($8, Wal-Mart)
- The North Face Libra Cargo Pant/ Capri ($35, Sports Authority)
- 2 Exofficio Bikini Brief ($10, Campmor)
- Eastern Mountain Sports Techwick Thong Underwear($7, EMS)
- Merona Cotton Utility Skirt ($8, Target)
- Samara Board Shorts ($43, Campmor)
Meds, Ointments & Lotions
- 400 Doxycycline Malaria Tablets
- 40 NyQuil LiquiCaps
- 42 Imodium Caplets
- 40 Pepto Bismol Caplets
- 24 Benadryl Liqui-Gels
- 75 Tylenol Caplets
- 100 Apple Cider Vinegar Tablets
- 180 Berry Green Capsules
- 90 Women’s One Daily Tablets
- 3 X 1 fl oz Dr. Bronner’s Magic Tea Tree Soap
- Olay Foaming Face Wash
- 1 oz Neosporin Ointment
- 4 X 2 oz Ultrathon Insect Repellent ($10/each, Campmor)
- 4 X 3 oz Banana Boat Ultra Defense SPF 80 UVA/B Protection10 Burt’s Bees Lip Balm Sticks *Courtney’s addicted to this stuff!
Stuff on the Bathroom Sink
- Toothpaste, Brushes, & Floss
- Conair Small Hairbrush
- 4 X 1 fl oz Bausch & Lomb Boston Contact Lens Cleaner
- Lafes Natural & Organic Deodorant Stick ($5, Whole Foods)
- 4 Tom’s Aluminum-Free Deodorant Stick ($5/each, Whole Foods)
Other Travel Essentials
- Ear Plugs
- Sleep Mask
- 2 SIGG 1L Aluminum Bottle ($25/each, Whole Foods)
- 2 MSR Insulated Stainless Steel Mugs ($15/each, WEP)
- 2 Titanium Sporks ($9/each, WEP)
- Cocoon Ultralight Air-Core Pillow ($35, REI)
- 2 Sea to Summit Silk & Cotton Travel Liners ($45, 55, WEP)
- 2 Large Therma-Rest Tech Blankets ($60, WEP)
- 2 Eagle Creek Large Travel Towels ($20/each, Container Store)
- Coghlan’s Double Wide Mosquito Net ($14, WEP)
- Sea to Summit Clothesline (Free Gift, Ben & Deenaree)
- 4, 8, &13 L Sea to Summit Dry Sack ($9,11,13, Campmor)
- Eagle Creek Travel Cubes, Folders, & Sacs (Container Store) *We found these to be very helpful in organizing and compressing our wares, and giving us that extra packing space. It makes packing and repacking quicker at customs, in airports.
- 5 Moleskine Travel Journals ($17/each, Barnes & Noble)
- 2 Fisher Space Pens ($18/each, REI)
- Art Supplies: Pens, Pencils, & Water Soluble Color Pencils (Texas Art Supplies)
- Courtney’s Emergency Rations: 30 Clif & Kind Bars *Courtney has many food allergies, so we’re packing high-density protein in case she can’t find a thing to eat, in the middle-of-nowhere, Earth.
- Emergency Kit:Medicated Band-Aid, Neosporin, Paracord/ Bootlace, Moleskins, Mirror, Gorilla Tape, Gauze, Elastic Wrap, & Toilet Paper
- Benchmade Self-defense/ Glass-breaker Pen ($110, Top Brass)
- Surefire E2D Defender LED Flashlight (Campmor) *I splurged MAJOR on this high-powered self-defense flashlight. Not only is it a water-proof, nigh-indestructible source of light, it will be my only go-to self-defense tool on this journey. It has a crenellated Strike Bezel® and scalloped tail-cap, that can scoop out a attacker’s eye!
- Surefire 6P LED (Bass Pro Shops) *Courtney will be carrying my old Surefire, basic version of the E2D Defender.
- 8 Surefire Lithium Batteries ($24, Gander Mtn.)
- 2 Princeton Tec Quad Headlamps ($20/each, REI)
- SteriPEN Handheld UV Water Purifier ($90, Campmor)
- Unlocked Motorola Cellphone ($40, Cheapo World)
- Cyber Acoustics SKYPE Headset w/ Microphone ($45, Office Max)
- Worldwide Adapter Plugs (Container Store)
- Apple MacBook Pro
- Asus EEE Netbook (Best Buy)
- Western Digital 500 GB Hard Drive (Best Buy)
- Nikon D-70 Digital SLR ( Camera Co-op) *Courtney loves this bulky, clunky one-eyed beast!
- Canon Eos 7D (Camera Co-op) Courtney’s Nikon above was stolen in Cuenca, so we replaced it with this beauty!
- Olympus Stylus 850 SW Digital Camera (Best Buy)
That’s all folks! Wow, typing this list out makes us wonder how we can stuff everything inside a walk-in closet, much less our backpacks! Just click the comment button and tell us what you think about our packing list.The world is now literally on our shoulders!