That's it. The whole kit and kaboodle. Kate and I subscribed to the Rick Steves philosophy of packing: one carry-on per person. It doesn't matter how long you are traveling for or where you are headed--don't over pack. We spent a few days in Switzerland and the rest of our time in Italy along the coast and in Tuscany. There are so many benefits to this approach. The most obvious of which is that you get to carry less stuff on your back while you travel. Some of the less obvious benefits:
1. You don't look like a silly tourist who insisted on bringing a different pair of shoes for each museum.
2. No lost checked baggage.
3. Less space to bring back unnecessary souvenirs. Or, counter-intuitively, more space to bring back souvenirs if you buy an extra bag to check (This is not a recommendation. Save your money for gelato).
4. Less items to keep track of. We watched a family on a train in Europe who had so much stuff that they had bags in different parts of the train and had to check each item every time the train stopped to make sure no one had run off with their stuff.
What's in the Backpack?
Packing cubes and their cousins are the way to go. If you haven't been introduced to these simple yet revolutionary advancements in organized travel you are in for a treat. On the surface, there isn't much to get excited about. They are pouches. That's really it. But what makes them great is that once you have your setup figured out, the packing organization can be replicated every time. This is due to the fact that the size of each pouch never really changes and therefore they can be put back in your bag with minimal thought or effort. So what are we looking at here?
Eagle Creek Pack-It Cubes: Two half-cubes. One quarter cube. One folder (small). One Sac (small). One Sac (medium).
Canon 5D Mark ii with 35mm 1.2L lens (with neoprene sleeve): Our fancy, heavy, DSLR that we couldn't leave behind. I'm glad we brought it but man, it's a load.
OR Ditty Bag: I bought this years ago and have yet to really use it as intended. There is a hook and pouches and all the bells and whistles. I would probably be just as happy with a large Ziplock bag.
Platypus Plus Bottle (1 L): This is my second favorite collapsible water bottle. Kate used my favorite--more on that in a future post. It is strong and simple but drying these things after a cleaning is a chore. Also, ditch the push cap for a simple twist cap. They are sold separately for a buck or two and give you a more secure seal.
Old Navy Flips: Cheap, lightweight, durable. Enough said.
REI Flash 18 Pack: In the hiking world they call this a summit pack. Basically, it's smaller and lighter for just the essentials when you don't need or want to bring everything with you. On our hikes through Cinque Terre this was great. We just threw a few snacks and our water bottles into this guy and headed out.
MSR Travel Towel: Any quick dry towel will do. It is amazing how much drying power one of these little guys has.
What's in the Green Pouch? (Hint: Another Green Pouch)
REI RFID Travel Wallet: I'm not convinced that this little pouch really blocks RFID signals but i do like the size and functionality. The brown and black loops are to hook through your belt depending on its color. Don't even think about wearing a belt that isn't brown or black.
Waterfi Waterproofed Kindle Paperwhite: You might not need a waterproofed Kindle but it sure is nice for peace of mind. Traveling puts you in lots of unforeseen situations. Pro tip: Check out digital books from your library before you leave. Once they are downloaded onto your Kindle just turn the wifi off. Now you have those books until you turn the wifi back on regardless of the due dates of the digital library books. As an added bonus, the books auto return so you don't need to remember to return them.
Buff: It's like a cowl for guys. It is just a tube of fabric that fits over your head in various configurations of your choosing. Need a beanie? Got it. Need an eye mask? All good. Need a full face balaclava? No prob. They are dorky and fun. I love mine.
Moleskine Cashier Journal: Just a good size for journaling and sketching on a trip. They come in packs of three.
REI Travel Adapter: As far as I can tell, this is pretty much all you need in 99% of situations in Europe. There are converters out there but they generally don't seem necessary. This little guy worked perfectly for us. No fried electronics here.
What's in the Small White Pouch?
Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow (Large): Kate and I each had one of these and we love them. Typically, an inflatable pillow supports your head about as well as a pool toy but Sea to Summit flips the script with the Aeros. We couchsurfed in Switzerland on camping mats and these performed admirably. As an added bonus, we loved them for sleeping on planes and trains. You can adjust the firmness easily to contour to any and all funky headrest situations. They also make a decent small lap table for reading.
Cocoon Silk Travel Liner: Silk liners are a great addition whether you are couchsurfing or not. They can be used as a blanket in chilly airplane cabins or while sitting on a deck on a brisk evening. They are just so versatile, not to mention their added comfort and thermal properties when coupled with a sleeping bag.
What's in the Maroon Pouch?
Ministry of Supply Aviator Chino: These are about the techyest pants you can get. They have a 4 way stretch for active movement and a synthetic fabric for moisture management. You can dress them up or down easily. I wore these to our nicest dinner and on one of our hikes.
Arcteryx Rampart shorts: These are about the least obnoxious cargo shorts on the market. The cargo pockets lay relatively flat when not stuffed with energy bars.
Sugoi Swim Trunks: It's basically a Speedo. Great for under running shorts or for fitting in with the Europeans at the beach. It's ok. You will never see these people ever again.
Nike Phenom 2-in-1 Shorts: I like that these have a built in boxer brief. They are great for lounging and doubled as my swim trunks. Also, if you run out of underwear, you have a backup.
What's in the Green Folder?
Mountain Hardwear Transition Softshell: Not totally waterproof or windproof but close enough. Softshells are known for their versatility but usually come at the cost of extra ounces. This one is lightweight and form fitting--an all time fave.
REI Endeavor Shirt: Great shirt, just not my style. As inconspicuous as the chest pockets look, it still felt like I was getting ready to go on Safari.
What's in the Big White Pouch?
Boxer briefs: I swear by synthetic boxer briefs. They wick moisture and aren't too restrictive. TMI?
T-Shirts: You can go with synthetic only shirts but, for me, they look too workoutty. A cotton-poly blend is the sweet spot for comfort and performance in my opinion.
Therm-a-rest Stuff Sack: Used this little guy for dirty laundry. Simple and effective.
What's in the Ditty Bag?
Sunscreen, sewing kit, band aids, razor, toothbrush, toothpaste, Dr. Bronners, various pills, bug lotion with Deet, hand sanitizer, deodorant, chap stick, q-tips, floss, hair gel and zip locks.
Dr. Bronners soap: It's just versatile. Unfortunately, it is also runny so it can be tough to ration. We had to buy some generic body wash in Italy when this ran out. Not a big deal.
Ziplock bags: A great item to pack because they take up no space and come in handy for lots of situations--predictable and unpredictable alike.
Pills: A good assortment of pills for things like nausea and diarrhea can be a trip saver. Fortunately, I only needed to bust out the ibuprofen for a headache once or twice.
What Did I Wear on the Plane?
This was my comfy outfit. If you fly first class they give you a set of pajamas. We did not fly first class. Basically, it's just Nike running pants, t-shirt, Icebreaker socks, Smartwool long T, and Nike Internationalist Mids. Ultimately, it was comfortable but less versatile. I imagined lounging in these running pants in our AirBNB's but I rarely did. It was warm enough that shorts were my go to. If I had to do it over again, I would just wear a comfortable pair of jeans.
Snacks: We took a gallon zip-lock full of snacks to keep us going. Mostly trail mix and Lara Bars.
Folder: We each had a folder to keep all of our printed travel docs in one place. What was included? Copies of passport (and extra photos), itinerary, emergency services addresses and phone numbers, international driving permit, airbnb contact info, and flight info.
Arcteryx Coveryor Belt: It's a nylon belt. A very cool nylon belt.
Mulligan? What I Would Pack Differently.
I was really pleased with how my gear held up. My biggest changes would be preference based and less about performance. These are the things I would change.
Jeans. I am just more comfortable in Jeans than almost anything else. They aren't as techy but I would sacrifice the performance short comings for the comfort of wearing something around town.
Shirts. I was enamored by button down shirts with big chest pockets for securing passports and money. I didn't use the chest pockets and I'm just not a Safari shirt type of guy. I generally just used the REI travel wallet. In the future, I will just bring a comfortable short and long sleeve button down. No need for vents and zippers and pockets.