I am so excited that I literally can’t even sleep right now. Tomorrow afternoon, I’ll be heading out to to rendezvous with my two best friends in Barcelona, Spain. My flight connects from Dallas to Orlando to London and finally lands in Barca the next day. It’s a very long series of flights and layovers, but I’m proud to say that I’ll only have one small backpack to deal with. And I’m staying in Europe for SIX WEEKS.
Welcome to my light weight packing list for Summer 2013. Hopefully you’ll learn from this list that it’s more than possible to pack everything you need for a trip of any length in a carry-on bag.
3 Quick Benefits of ONE BAG method:
- No hassle of moving and carrying multiple bags, better mobility. This becomes huge when you’re constantly moving from place to place like I am.
- No paying to check baggage (discount European airlines love doing this)
- No waiting in line to pick up luggage, no risk that it’s somehow “misplaced”
The Bag: Tom Bihn Synapse 25
This 25-liter bag is designed specifically for ultra lightweight backpacking. All of the compartments are designed specifically with travel in mind. In the following photos and descriptions, I’ll explain what I’ve placed in all of the pockets You don’t need to get something this fancy/specialized, but I do recommend you stick to a sub 30-liter backpack like the Deuter Futura 28. People have a tendency to fill whatever it is they’re carrying, and you just don’t NEED more than that. The last time I went to Europe, I carried a 46-liter behemoth that just felt (and looked) awkward. It was a MASSIVE annoyance. Do yourself a favor and stick to one mid/small sized bag!
11″ Macbook Air + Charger
Until very recently, I was a loyal PC user. But the 11″ Macbook Air is absolute magic. Weighing only 2.3lbs and less than 2cm thick, it’s perfect for someone who intends to live out of their backpack. I will use this to play online poker and build businesses while traveling in order to generate income. Absolute, complete freedom… this is what I love!
iPhone 5 + Cable + International Sim Card
Last time I went to Europe, I used an expensive international texting plan on my AT&T iPhone 5. I still had to pay my normal bill for things like domestic Internet and calling, which was really pointless. I also didn’t even get texts from people half the time. (Imagine my frustration when a very cute German girl was trying to text me her number and it wouldn’t go through.) This time I’m going with a more flexible option, an international sim card by OneSimCard. [Future article coming soon on how to set this up on your US phone.] It assigns you a European phone number with free incoming texts and calls. It’s a more flexible option than buying local sim cards because you can use it in any European country at the same rate. You can also buy data, which is super convenient. Everything is pay per use.
Universal Power Adapter
If you’re traveling internationally, be aware that you need a converter a lot of the time to plug in your US device. The Kikkerland adapter is the best/smallest one I’ve found on the market. I used to have a massive adapter and I like this one a lot more.
Merino wool clothing wicks away moisture, is comfortable/breathable yet warm, and odor resistant, making it a perfect candidate for travel attire. It also dries quickly, even in the shade. This means you can wash your clothes in the shower or the sink and hang it up to dry. Complete freedom from finding washing machines that cost 5-10 Euro that aren’t even available at all hostels.
I will only be working with three tops (the crew neck shirt is for sleeping). Some people go more extreme and only have one shirt which they wash while showering. I’m not as minimalistic as that and like SOME variety in clothing. This will be tough for me to get used to because I own a lot of clothing at home and like mixing it up. But trust me, cutting clothing is a crucial step to traveling light. Make sure all of your clothes match every other piece of clothing. Go with dark colors, as they hide stains better.
Dsquared2 Virgin Wool Jeans
Same reasoning as the wool tops. It’s tough to find a good pair of wool jeans/pants but they look a hell of a lot better than convertible polyester pants that some travelers enjoy wearing. They’re also a lot more functional than normal jeans which take ages to dry. I throw these in the washer and when I pull them out they’re already 75% dry and practically wearable. I will wash these every few days in the shower or sink. They’re the only pair of pants I’ll be bringing, so I made sure they match with all of my tops and my shoes.
ExOfficio Boxer Briefs, OMNIWool Socks
I had no idea what I was missing in the world of undergarments until I found these two products. ExOfficios are made out of synthetic material; lightweight, super comfy, odor resistant, and dry extremely quickly. The same goes for OMNIWool socks which are made of synthetic fibers and merino wool. I’ll be bringing three pairs of each (one pair worn).
Maui Jim Pilot Sunglasses
I’ve attached the sunglass case on the inside of one of the side compartments with the bag’s built in O-ring. I also stuffed a pencil, a pen, and a sharpie in the utensil slots.
I bought these sunglasses near the beginning of my “materialistic phase” and they’re one of the few purchases I still love and use constantly. Mine are the polarized “Pilot” aviator style. Maui Jim makes amazing sunglasses with a really great repair policy that I’ve actually taken advantage of twice.
Dry Lite Towel, Swim Shorts, Light Polyester/Cotton Jacket
In the bottom compartment, I stuffed a pair of standard swim trunks, a light jacket, and most importantly, a specialized travel towel.
Did you know most hostels don’t provide towels? You’ve got to bring them yourself. Regular cotton towels are massive, take up tons of space, and are quite heavy. Dry Lite towels are very compact and absorb tons of water. A medium sized one will dry your entire body easily. You should wash them frequently.
I am going to Ibiza in the summer so there’s a good chance I’ll be hitting up the beach. I brought a pair of standard swim trunks. These can double as shorts for when I’m waiting for the wool jeans to dry.
I also brought a thin lightweight jacket made of cotton and polyester. I experimented with all kinds of elaborate fancy down jackets but realized I am traveling in the summer and won’t use it very often (I didn’t use a jacket in the earlier in the Summer in Western Europe at all). Besides, my tops are all insulating wool layers.
Cable Lock + Lint Roller
In the right compartment, I’ve stored a lint roller in order to look sexy at all times.
There’s also a cable lock that I’ll use for securing my bag to stationary objects (so my bag doesn’t get stolen when I’m sleeping on a train or something). It’s also useful as a normal lock for securing your bag in hostel lockers/cages. Way less annoying than a standard lock. Probably more secure too because locks can be picked. The one I got is a four combination lock as opposed to a three combination one. This is important so that people don’t just cycle through all the combinations and jack your stuff.
Don’t overdo this part. Just bring necessary medications. Don’t prepare for every little possible ailment. Just buy things you need on the way if they come up. I packed some bandaids, painkillers, prescription meds, and a ton of mints. Because life’s too short to have bad breath.
Two Compartment Wallet (Euro Sized)
I have two wallets at the moment. One is really small and compact and sized for U.S. bills. The other is a bit bulky but has two bill compartments which is useful if you’re traveling. I keep British pounds and US Dollars in one section and Euros in another. European bills are bigger than US ones, so keep this in mind.
Reef Flip Flops + Shoe Sleeve
You’ll want flip flops for hostel shower situations. It can be kind of wet/dirty in the shower rooms sometimes. Especially if it’s a combination sink + shower + toilet room.
I got some reef flip flops and slipped them into a shoe sleeve. Great for keeping your shoes separate from your other stuff. A normal plastic bag would get torn apart from repeatedly getting shoes stuffed inside, so this is actually useful.
Platypus Soft Water Bottle
The Synapse 25 has a water bottle compartment located in the middle for even weight distribution (genius). I’ve stuffed a 1L Platypus soft water bottle in it. It becomes more compact as less water occupies it. Genius again.
Tide to Go Stain Remover, Kleenex Packs, Afterbite, More Mints
Tide to Go stain remover is God’s gift to metrosexual men. It’s saved my ass from looking stupid dozens of times. Great for travelers and clumsy eaters alike.
I also packed Kleenex because I tend to get random nosebleeds.
There’s also more mints because bad breath is just awful and I don’t like the European mint market’s options for me.