Making a packlist: 12 things for 90 days in 30 countries


Last time I took to the open road, I aimed to pack light—and failed considerably in that pursuit. Sure, I made it by with no more than what could fit in a fifty-liter pack and a very small scooter trunk, but still I felt anchored by my stuff, always dragging it along on my back, always cramming items within Rousseau's under-seat compartment. I brought what I thought were the essentials, but really, I brought far more than that.

A few weeks ago, a friend sent me a story about two adventurous travelers who took to Europe for three weeks with nothing more than the clothes on their backs—and, well, a few miscellaneous accessories:
Passports, credit cards and iPhones made the cut, as did a small notebook, a toothbrush and a clipped map of the Balkans.  Jeff stuffed his core items in his pockets. My dress lacked adequate pocket space, so I substituted with a small shoulder purse that allowed me space for a few additional toiletries, an iPad Mini, and the awkward-looking retainer I’ve been wearing since my braces came off 10 years ago. 
That was it.
Instantly, I was inspired. Three months in thirty countries is certainly longer than three weeks in eight, but still: the thought of simple, (nearly-)weightless, unencumbered travel—ultraminimalism—shook my foundations. And so, I've made my list.

Caveats abound: for one, I'm bringing more than nothing. In addition to the clothes I'll wear when departing DC on the fourth of May (with pockets containing a phone, headphones, wallet, and passport), I'll carry along a small backpack with some non-essential-but-really-really-desired electronics by which to document the journey, and hygiene products to keep me (semi-)fresh. And I'm not opposed to picking up a few more things once I cross the pond: a windbreaker in Oslo if it gets chilly, a pair of sunglasses in Fez if the sun's a touch too blinding. And of course, as May nears, I'm sure I'll make a few tweaks—additions, I fear—to the list below.

But for now, here it is.

  1. GoPro camcorder. For documenting sights and sentiments.
  2. Roll-up wireless keyboard. For blogging on the go.
  3. Kindle. For reading in the most weight-efficient way imaginable.
  4. Fork, spoon, and knife. For eating on the go.
  5. Sleeping bag. For sleeping on the go.
  6. Tent. For sleeping a little more securely. 
  7. Toothbrush (and toothpaste). For hygiene.
  8. Deodorant. Ibid.
  9. Second pair of socks and underwear. Ibid.
  10. Hair trimmer. For grooming on the go.
  11. Water bottle. For staying hydrated.
  12. DSLR. For more serious photographing. Still ambivalent on whether to bring.

With the exception of the tent, all of these items can fit together in my daily messenger bag with room to spare, ensuring my travels east of Edinburgh won't be bogged down by heavy luggage or random junk—and packing won't take longer than a minute.

Am I forgetting something?


  1. I'd bring a smartphone. You can access wifi as well as keep in touch with people from home. Useful for last-minute travel arrangements, looking up schedules, taking photos (as a backup or main source), and tons more. I don't remember what phone you have but Android phones have an automatic backup feature to Google+ - my friend went to North Korea and then immediately lost his phone and ALL of his photos. Don't let that happen to you!! I assume you are bringing one but it wasn't listed. Oh and you can also preload wikitravel articles, maps, and even whole guidebooks (same as a Kindle but the display won't be great for maps and color).

    1. Yup—had that up in the caveats before the list along with passport and wallet and headphones.:) Will definitely come in handy.

  2. What about a couple Tylenol and Band Aides. I suppose those could be purchased along the way, but might not always be convenient.


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