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When Breada and I began planning our year+ trip around the world, we had no idea what to expect. Originally our plan was to spend 3-4 months in Southeast Asia and then move on to India, and eventually Eastern Europe and South America. It’s now been 6 months in Asia and the original plan is out the window.
Unfortunately, when coming up with my packing list, I planned for the world and not just for Asia. Some things have been invaluable along the way and others I wish I never packed. I figure the 6 month mark is a good time to revisit my packing list and evaluate my choices. I’ve broken it down into 3 categories : Essential Items, Take It or Leave It, and Wish I Left Behind. Not everything I packed will be listed in here, such as t-shirts and shorts, but only the things that stick out to me when referencing these 3 categories.
Essential Items :
I love this backpack! I think that was the exact first sentence I used in my original packing list post and it still holds up. The front loading has been essential when it comes to getting things in and out and keeping it all organized, and I’m happy I chose this particular model. I do wish it had a little more space, since the main bag is only a 55L and the detachable day pack is 15L, but if I left behind the things I should have then I would have a decent bit more room.
Durable, lightweight, and stylish. These shoes were the perfect choice for this trip. They have held up great through these first 6 months and I expect them to last through the end of our trip. Between motorbiking across Vietnam to trekking in the woods, they have taken a beating and still look brand new. Highly recommend!
For a little while I thought I was crazy spending $50 on a pair of sandals, but I gotta say they have been worth every penny. I wear these everyday, and other than some slight separation in the sole ( which I got fixed for $1 in Vietnam! ) they have been great. I can walk 10 miles in a day with them and my feet still feel great, something that would surely not happen had I brought a cheap pair with me.
The first 2 months this jacket didn’t see much use, but it folds up into a tiny ball so it wasn’t taking up much room. However, as soon as the rainy season set in in Southeast Asia ( and now typhoon season in Taiwan ) it’s been used almost everyday and now has a permanent home in my day pack. I don’t know what I would do without it.
For some reason I didn’t have these listed in my original post, but they may be one of the most valuable things I have with me. They keep all my clothes organized into three separate bags: shirts, shorts/pants, and socks/boxers. Rather than fumbling around for everything all I have to do is pull out these 3 handy cubes and I have all my clothes!
Nike Running Shorts
These are my lounging around shorts, and I wish I had a second pair. They weigh almost nothing, can dry is just an hour or two, and can be worn out and about if need be. Oh yeah, and they’re good for the not so occasional running.
This is another purchase I originally thought was a little crazy ($25/pair) but have been so worth it. I bought my first pair before our trip to London and Lisbon in 2015 and they were so great then I continued to add to the collection and am now up to 4. Very comfortable, breathable, and dry in about 1 hour making them the perfect travel boxer. Eventually, when I have a little more money, these will be the only boxers I wear.
I never thought I would have such strong feelings for a toiletries case, but I do. Sometimes I open up random zippers in this thing and find something I haven’t seen in a while, like the bar of soap I bought in Hanoi over a month ago and still haven’t used. It holds so many things, all while staying flat (hence the name) and easily packable in my backpack. Every backpacker should have this.
13” Macbook Air Laptop w/ protective sleeve and MagSafe Charger
The Shoestring Trekkers wouldn’t exist without this laptop. It has also been clutch when it comes to keeping up with our favorite tv and movies, as well researching our next destination. It also has come in handy when editing video taken on my GoPro, though I admit I have a lot of video to go through that I have gotten lazy with. Overall, I don’t think I could leave home without this now that I’ve been using it so long.
A MUST HAVE! Plug your power strip into the adaptor and the adaptor into the foreign socket and voila! 4 3-pronged outlets are at your disposal! This is perfect when you need to have multiple things plugged in at once, or when combined with the adaptor, perfect for when there are no 3-pronged outlets available. Plus, it folds up perfectly into a small packable size. Another one of those must have items, especially if you’re traveling with a computer.
I use this everyday, and am so happy I bought one before we left. My water will stay cold all day, even in the blistering hot sun. It will also keep whatever you put in it hot for up to twelve hours. One day I put hot water in the bottle, and put it in the fridge for about 5 hours. I later took it out of the fridge and opened it up and it was still piping hot! This is a much better buy than one of those plastic Nalgene bottles that can’t keep your water cold for longer than 10 minutes, especially in the intense heat of SEA.
Samsung Galaxy S5
It’s not the greatest phone in the world, but it has still been essential for me on this trip. It’s my go-to camera, my navigational support, and occasionally when I have a SIM card in it, a phone.
Take It Or Leave It :
I only have this in the “Take it or Leave it” list because I have too many pairs of them. I could have gotten by with just one pair considering i’m almost always in my flip-flops, but I have 3 and that just drives me nuts. This goes back to us thinking we would be in colder weather climates more often, which we haven’t been. Over the next 6 months or so they should see more use, but for now they just take up space.
Similar to the regular socks, these hiking socks don’t see much use because of the climate we’re in. They have been nice when I wear them, but unfortunately that’s not enough. They’re also too nice to throw away. Like the ultra lights, I’m just stuck carrying them around until the weather gets colder and they become more useful.
The GoPro has been great for certain things, like motorbiking through Vietnam, but lately it hasn’t seen a ton of use. It’s great for action video, but for regular video I think it’s just ok. I may consider selling it in the near future and opting for an entry level DSLR.
When I need it I’m happy to have it, but the hostels in Asia have been quite nice and I haven’t needed it much. That being said, It’s very light and barely takes up any room so I see no reason to get rid of it.
Wish I Left Behind :
Champion Full Zip Fleece Sweatshirt
It’s a great sweatshirt, but it’s just too hot to ever wear it!! I’ve worn it once in 6 months while we were up in the mountains in Sa Pa, but I like it too much to give or throw it away. We have some colder spots lined up for the next 6 months so I’m hoping I can get some use out of it, but for now I’m regretting bringing it at all.
2x Everlast Long Sleeve Tees
These have seen more use than the sweatshirt, but I almost have to force myself to wear these most days. One is on the thicker side too so it’s really uncomfortable to wear in the heat. Again, I’m hoping in the next 6 months they’ll see more use, but for now they’re just added weight.
I love this knife, but I admit I haven’t used it as much as I expected. It’s main job is peeling fruits, which could be done with something found at a hostel. We’re also not cooking as much as expected and that was one reason why I packed it. If we were doing outdoorsy things it would come in handy more, but for now it does a lot of sitting in my bag. Whenever we come home to visit, this will be left behind.
This is one of those things that seems like it would be handy to have, but it literally has not left my backpack once. Hand gestures and Google Translate have done wonders, making this book obsolete. Luckily I got it for free with some Ebay Bucks I had so I can’t complain too much. I’ll probably give it to the next person I meet who’s traveling long-term. Maybe they can find better use for it than I did.
I hope fellow travelers can look to this list and use it as a template for their own travels. Depending on where you go your list will be different but some items on here, such as the Pack It Flat and the Hydroflask Water Bottle, will be handy no matter where you go. The more you travel the better your packing and planning will be. This is now my 5th international backpacking trip and I’m still learning as I go.
What are your essential items when you travel? Is there anything you wish you brought with you that you didn’t? Let me know in the comments!