Traveling can be very hard, especially traveling on a budget like we did. But in order to just get around in some type of comfort you need stuff. Upon reflecting on our experience I put together a list of items that really worked well for us.

  • Get a nice backpack
    When I say “nice” backpack I don’t necessarily mean expensive. Considering this is one of the most important pieces of equipment you need, be sure to get something that will hold up to the constant abuse of travel. We picked up a pair of Gregory packs that fit really well and seemed well constructed. Luckily, we waited until they went on sale at REI. The sale price made them a nice little bonus. Since we were traveling for a year, we chose pretty big packs—mine was the Baltoro 70 and Jodi selected the Deva 60. With lots of pockets and straps, we had ample room to compartmentalize all our gear. Both were very comfortable for when we had to run around cities looking for a place to stay. At the end of the trip, my pack returned with no issues and worked flawlessly during the trip. Jodi came away with a broken zipper and a few burn holes from when the pack was put in the trunk of a Mongolian taxi on top of an exposed battery. The acid of the battery ate through a few pockets but the main chamber ended up being ok.
  • Some good clothes
    Our quality clothing was one of our larger expenses. We decided to ditch our cotton shirts and jeans and get ourselves some clothes that would be a bit more suitable for traveling. During our travels, I realized I really only needed three or four shirts and a couple pairs of pants. I have no problem wearing the same outfit multiple times in a week, and there were a few times when we would go without a good clothes washing for a few weeks. During our honeymoon in New Zealand, we ran across the Ice Breakers brand of clothing. Made from Merino wool, these shirts hold up really well and don’t smell if you miss a few washes. They are on the expensive side but it was easy to justify the extra cost considering the amount of use they would get. For pants I went with a good travel pant from REI. The REI Adventures Pants were awesome, lots of pockets and lightweight. The only problem was that I kept losing weight so remember a belt; I used a piece of webbing that I picked up at REI. For underwear we went with the ExOfficio line, quick drying and odor resistant. And, normally I wore run of the mill white socks but for hikes I put on a pair of Smart Wool socks.
  • A duffel bag for your pack
    In South America Jodi was always worried about our bags when we were traveling on busses. We heard a few stories of bags getting searched through by bus employees when packs were stored away. I also didn’t like it when our bags were on top of busses; I was worried about the dirt and grime getting all over the bags. We had rain covers for our bags but this didn’t really fit the bill so when we saw a post that one of Jodi’s fellow traveling friend’s wrote we found our solution. She had a duffel bag that fit over her pack. This was great so we went to REI and we found the REI Pack Duffel Bag; it was big enough for our packs and fully zipped up so we could lock it with a combination travel lock. Potentially, someone could have broken the lock but this would have been pretty noticeable and I figured there are usually easier targets. The duffel also packed down to a pretty small size so it was no problem to store when not in use. One nice bonus of the duffel bag is that sometimes you just need a really big bag while traveling. It is great for storing your stuff in a hotel while hiking Machu Picchu or stuffing it full of gifts (like on our final flight home).
  • Water filter
    In SE Asia instead of buying gallons and gallons of drinking water, we just filtered our own. We used our MSR Sweetwater Microfilter along with some chorine drops and this seemed to work since we never got sick (not from our filtered water anyway). Upon running low on water I would just fill up a cup or bowl using water from the faucet then filter that water into one of our water bottles or into our hydration bags from our day pack. I’m not sure how much money we saved by doing this but I think it was quite a bit.
  • Day pack
    If you plan to do any hiking or just wandering around the city, you will need some kind of day pack. One with a water hydration bag built in is definitely a plus. I pretty much used mine every day while we were traveling. I didn’t like leaving my computer in the hostel room so I would put it right into my day pack along with a hat and travel book and carry it around town with me. On hikes and long bus trips the integrated water bag was indispensable. Carrying around a bottle of water could be a pain, especially if you were just walking around the cities, but having the water in a slim pack made traveling a bit more enjoyable. We both had a nice performance pack from The North Face, while I couldn’t find our exact model online it was a lot like the Hammerhead.
  • Zip-lock freezer bags
    Space is limited in your pack so anything that you can do to maximize your pack is important. I had a bunch of quart size zip bags and a bunch of gallon sizes that I would pack clothes into then squeeze out the air. I figured it gave me some extra room in the pack but also protected the clothes in case my pack got wet or if there was some kind of toothpaste explosion. We went the cheap option but you can get compressions sacks that would probably work just as good or better.
  • Packing cubes
    This is kind of a weird one but packing cubes really made packing/unpacking easier. I would just stuff my shirts into one of these mesh cubes, my pants in another and socks/underwear in a third. The cubes would then slide in nicely into my pack. The cubes compartmentalized my cloths and made it handy if I just needed to get a shirt. I just had to pull out the shirt cube and get the shirt rather than rummaging through a bag of clothes looking for the right shirt.
  • Camera
    I took along a small point and shoot camera, the Canon SD850 IS, while Jodi had her much larger and nicer Sony a700 DSLR. I found it much easier to carry around the smaller camera, and it sure was more packable. But Jodi did get some much nicer shots and didn’t complain (much) about carrying it around.
  • Computer
    When we were traveling, we ran into a lot of fellow travelers but very few had laptops. We thought it was nice being able to take advantage of a hostel’s wifi without waiting for a computer to free-up. We could download our pictures to our laptop and work on blog posts before going to bed. When choosing a laptop, I went with the smallest one on the market. The 5.6 inch screen worked pretty well for us and it had wifi and bluetooth. The wifi was great and the bluetooth allowed us to have a folding wireless keyboard so we didn’t have to use the computer’s tiny keyboard when we wrote our blog posts. There are tons of netbooks on the market now so there shouldn’t be a problem picking one up on the cheap.
  • IPod
    Every travel gear post I’ve ever read says to bring an iPod, and it is totally true. My iPod Nano was filled with books, and Jodi had a slew of music on hers. It was great to be able to put in my headphones and listen to a good book while watching the landscape pass by us. I tried listening to music a few times but I could only do it for about an hour untill I got bored, but I could listen to a book for hours on end. To go on the cheap look for digital books from your library.
  • Neck Pillow
    While I didn’t really use my travel pillow that much, Jodi  loved hers during our long bus rides. I usually just made my fleece jacket into a ball and stuck it under my head but Jodi was faithful to her travel pillow. You do need something for the bus rides, trying to sleep is hard enough on a bouncing bus. A little comfort is always a good thing.
  • Poncho
    Sometimes a poncho really comes in handy, especially during a random rainstorm when your rain jacket is packed deep in your backpack. Ponchos pack up to a small square that we could just throw in our day pack and go. We found our ponchos in Cusco right before we set out to hike the Machu Picchu trail. The plan was to have a porter carry all of our stuff except for a few items that we would have in our day pack. Carrying our heavy rain jackets in our day pack didn’t seem that attractive to us so we picked up a few nicer ponchos for about $4 each. They were the same kind that REI sells for $30!!
  • Pack Towel
    In many of the hostels, you are not provided with towels. So, some kind of quick dry pack towel is essential unless you want to spend $$ for a grimy, hostel towel.
  • Sleeping Bag
    We packed sleeping bags on the South American portion of our trip but decided not bring them along when visiting SE Asia. We knew we needed them for our Machu Picchu hike and thought we would use them in hostels that had some questionable bed sheets. But I don’t thing bringing them was worth the bulk in our packs. It was easy enough to rent sleeping bags for our Machu Picchu hike and the hostels seemed to be pretty clean. If you are worried about dirty hostel bed sheets, I would recommend getting a silk sleeping bag. We picked up one in Vietnam for a few dollars.
  • Toilet Paper
    You don’t necessarily need to buy this beforehand but you will need to have some with you at all times. Most of the remote bathrooms that we came across didn’t have any, so having a spare roll on you is one of the best pieces of advice I can give you (especially if you are traveling with your wife/girlfriend).Other recommended items:

Other recommended items:

  • Headlamp
  • Nalgene bottle
  • Combo Travel lock (lock up hostel room/lock up duffel bag)
  • Sunglasses
  • Knife, fork, spoon, bottle/wine opener
  • Water shoes
  • Duct Tape
  • Soap for washing clothes
  • Flip (its fun watching the short videos that we took during our trip, camera would also work as well but have lots of memory)
  • Zip ties (they come in handy for all sorts of things…including securing your backpack zippers)