How Do You Pack For That?

If you’re an avid visitor to the Unmapped Travels Facebook page, and why wouldn’t you be (wink, wink!), you may know that I planned as many things as possible for this journey…except exactly where I’d actually be traveling.  My three different roommates over the last few years can confirm I spent most nights either reading books on long-term travel or finding articles online with tips I could incorporate into my planning.  Not surprisingly, I spent the most time planning what to take with me.  Finding the perfect bag or the right laptop became the focus of many evenings of research.  I tried not to bore family and friends (too much) with planning talk but I know for at least a week after finding the exact pair of shoes I’d spent several months looking for there was at least a 5 minute conversation about them with everyone I was around.  A 5 minute conversation about shoes….that was a first for me.  Sorry about that.  But really, they are the perfect shoes!

My packing list was on more minds than just mine too.  I can’t count the number of times someone asked ‘how many bags are you carrying’, ‘you’re going to live out of a suitcase’, or just ‘what are you taking’.  Because of all the interest and questions I knew this was a blog post I’d write sooner or later.  So, how do you pack for that?  The question is a difficult one but the short answer is a simple.  Actually, to me, the answer is the same whether I’m going to Omaha for the weekend to visit family, spending 5 days in Chicago with a group of friends, or traveling non-stop over several months.


It’s cliché for a reason people; because it’s true.  Pack light and pack smart.

See…easy answer.  Easy in theory but a little more difficult in practice.

For me that packing mantra meant nearly everything that made the cut met three or four of my five criteria: lightweight, small, quick drying, multifunctional, absolutely 100% necessary.  If something fell into that absolutely necessary category I would find something that also met some of the other criteria.  It meant finding the right bag that’s not only airplane carry-on size but also has enough room to take everything I’d need and still only weigh 3 pounds.  It meant taking only light-weight clothing that are mostly multifunctional (e.g. convertible pants, ONE pair of shoes to wear as everyday walkers and running shoes that are still okay to wear to a nice dinner, a convertible jacket/vest).  It also meant not bringing any jeans (too heavy), or too many of any one thing.  It meant finding a small light-weight tripod that could hold my iPhone (which is my camera) but also has a mount for a digital camera if I upgrade in the future (but I’ve found out the iPhone combined with a good camera app takes such great pictures, there’s no reason to get a digital).

Here’s a list of everything I’m currently traveling with after 78 days on the road (it’s remarkably close to what I started traveling with):

Bags, etc.

  • Rick Steves’ Convertible Carry-on (suitcase/backpack)
  • Rick Steves’ Packing Cubes (helps organize gear and is especially handy to help give structure to a soft sided bag)
  • Camelbak Blowfish daypack
  • XPS 5 liter dry bag to protect small electronics
  • Eagle Creek personal bag (holds daily necessities like toothpaste and deodorant plus first aid kit, sewing kit, etc.)
  • Several 1 and 2 lb Ziploc bags (to keep H2O off things or to keep dirty clothes until washing)


  • 1 Scottevest Transformer jacket/vest (thank you Matt!)
  • 1 Scottevest pullover
  • 1 Marmot Precip rain jacket
  • 1 pr Nike Free Run 3 shoes
  • 1 pr Clarks flip-flops
  • 2 pr. convertible pants (quick drying fabric)
  • 2 pr shorts (quick drying fabric)
  • 1 pr workout style lightweight pants
  • 1 long sleeve top and 1 pant silk base layer (for cold days or for sleeping)
  • 2 short sleeve cotton t-shirts (thank you Laura for one of these!)
  • 1 short sleeve quick drying t-shirt
  • 2 long sleeve cotton t-shirts
  • 1 long sleeve quick drying t-shirt
  • 1 collared polo shirt
  • 3 sleeveless workout shirts
  • 1 pr workout/sleeping shorts
  • 5 pr boxer briefs
  • 8 pr socks (2 long, 6 short)
  • 1 belt
  • 1 custom-made stocking cap (thank you Jaime!)

Misc. Travel Gear

  • 1 large microfiber bath towel w/bag
  • 1 small microfiber hand towel w/bag
  • 1 custom-made sleep sheet (thank you Jaime!)
  • 1 travel wallet
  • 1 London guidebook (thanks Matt!)
  • 1 European travel tips guidebook
  • 2 combination locks
  • 1 spork
  • Earplugs
  • 2 small key chain sized lights (thanks Dad and aunt Sue for those)
  • Compass
  • Assorted continent, country and city maps
  • Sunglasses
  • Ultrapod camera tripod
  • Nalgene 500 ml Backwoods water bottle

Misc. Other

  • Jump Rope (part of the travel workout plan I planned on doing every morning)
  • 1 deck playing cards
  • 1 book (found in an English bookstore in nowhere France)
  • Passport, misc. credit cards, DL, insurance info, other assorted travel documents
  • Common Sense (thanks Mom and Dad for this!)
  • Laptop sleeve
  • Misc. notebooks/pens/pencils for writing, taking notes, sketching etc.
  • Umbrella
  • Survival bracelet (thanks Pat and Andrea!)
  • Misc. personal items (shaving oil, shampoo, nail clippers, sunscreen, etc.)


  • HP Folio Ultrabook
  • iPhone 4S w/2 USB cords, 1 plug adapter
  • Steripen Freedom water purifier (I haven’t used this yet and I knew I probably wouldn’t in most of Europe but I may need it in other areas of the world, it’s small and lightweight, very cool, and I always wanted one so it’s the one piece of gear I splurged on that wasn’t necessary)
  • Small wireless mouse
  • 2 plug adapters (1 for Europe, 1 for the UK – note: I don’t need a power converter because all my electronics are dual voltage)
  • Belkin 3-way adapter/surge protector
  • Hair clippers/beard trimmer
  • Timex Ironman watch

There are a few things I’ve picked up in the last 78 days that were intentionally left out.  I bought an umbrella when it rained enough to need one (in Paris less than a week ago) and since I wasn’t checking any bags on flights I couldn’t initially travel with large bottles of liquids so I bought sunscreen in Puerto Rico, etc.  There are a few things I’ve lost/parted ways with.  I really haven’t wanted for anything; in fact I plan on getting rid of some more things soon.

Items I have added (included above)

  • Umbrella
  • 3-way plug adapter/surge protector
  • 1 book (I found in an English bookstore in nowhere France)
  • 1 large bottle sunscreen, 1 large tube sunburn aloe, 1 large tube of toothpaste

Items I have lost or got rid of/am about to get rid of

  • Laundry bag (lost in Sintra Portugal)
  • Small wireless mouse (I never use it so I will try to sell/give it to someone)
  • Portugal guidebook (I left it at the last hostel I stayed in Portugal)
  • Hair clippers/beard trimmer (this died the first time I used it after arriving in Europe)

The below picture shows everything except the pair of shorts and flip-flops I was wearing…and the iPhone of course.

Unmapped Travels - Gear
Unmapped Travels – Gear

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