What do we have in our bags?

Claudia’s Clothing and Shoes:

  • two tee-shirts (both quick dry- one is more sporty and great for hiking/long days of travel and the other is a bit more stylish, which when worn with a skirt or jeans makes for a decent-looking outfit); two sleeveless quick dry shirts; one tank top; two long-sleeved button down shirts (one for everyday wear and one that repels mosquitoes for volunteer work and hiking); one sweater; one quick dry hoodie; one quick dry long-sleeved shirt, which also works as a pajama top
  • one pair of quick dry long pants that zip off into shorts; one pair of quick dry long pants that can roll up a bit; one pair of quick dry 3/4 length pants; one pair of jeans; one pair of khaki shorts; one pair of athletic shorts; one pair of yoga pants, which also work as a pajama bottom
  • a set of Smart Wool long underwear (top and bottom), which also work as pajamas in cold weather
  • one skirt, long enough to be worn in conservative countries, where women cannot wear clothing that shows leg, and one cotton summer dress
  • a rain jacket; a lighter softshell jacket; and a synthetic down jacket that keeps me quite warm and packs down into its own little bag, taking up barely any room
  • bras, travel underwear, and socks
  • bathing suit
  • a scarf, hat, and gloves
  • hiking boots, walking shoes, Tom’s loafers, and flip flops

I think the most important things to think about when packing for a long trip like this are whether the shirts and pants will dry quickly, can be layered easily, are comfortable, and won’t wrinkle too much when packed. We’ve been doing a little laundry (we brought some Woolite and use a bathroom sink) every few days, so it helps to have clothing that will dry within a few hours so you can pack your clean laundry back up and be ready to go. The one thing I brought that most travelers will tell you is a no-no (because they are bulky and don’t dry quickly) is my favorite pair of jeans. I have not regretted this decision yet though, because they are comfortable, dressy enough (compared to my other stuff!) to be worn to a nice restaurant, and I don’t always want to walk around looking like a tourist who just got off the hiking trail.

All these clothes have been packed into two compression / dry sacks, which are an amazing invention: they pack down clothing so that it takes up very little room in your bag, while keeping it dry and also allowing air to vent in so that nothing starts smelling funky. I’ve been using one for cold-weather clothes are one for warm-weather clothes, so that I don’t have to do too much unpacking in each location, but you could also use them to separate clean from dirty clothing, for example. They keep things in my backpack very organized and clean, and make it easy to find anything I’m looking for.

Nick’s Clothing and Shoes:

  • two long-sleeved, quick dry button down shirts (1 2), two short-sleeved quick dry button down shirts (1 2), one sweater, one short-sleeved quick dry shirt, one long-sleeved quick dry shirt, one zippered long-sleeved shirt
  • set of Smart Wool long underwear, which also work as pajamas in cold weather
  • two pairs of quick dry long pants that zip off into shorts (1 2), one pair of quick dry shorts, one pair of long quick dry pants (but less sporty-looking, so can be worn whenever we might need to look a bit dressier)
  • a rain jacket; a lighter softshell jacket; and a synthetic down jacket that keeps him quite warm and packs down into its own little bag, taking up barely any room
  • travel underwear and socks
  • bathing suit
  • a scarf, hat, and gloves
  • hiking boots, walking shoes, Tom’s loafers, and Chaco sandals

Drinking and Eating:

  • Steripen: this neat little tool uses four AA batteries to power a thin UV light bulb that sterilizes a liter of water in 90 seconds. It has allowed us to drink tap water everywhere we go, which is a huge money saver, not to mention the hundreds of plastic water bottles we’re not contributing to landfills across the globe by drinking store-bought bottled water the whole year!
  • three water bottles (two stainless steel and one Nalgene) and a 3-liter Camelback for Claudia’s backpack
  • two sets of metal utensils, two sets of squishy plastic bowls, and two pocket knives (which are useful for way more than food preparation): these allow us to buy food at the markets and make meals in our hostels.

Other Gear

  • sleep sheets: these are made of 100% silk and add a layer of warmth for cold nights (most hostels do not have heating and the blankets are not always very warm); supposedly protect you from bed bugs, so they can simply be used as an added layer between you and your questionable hostel bed; and can be used as a sleeping bag when camping in warm weather.
  • travel towels: these are essential because many hostels do not automatically provide towels (and when they do you may be a bit disappointed in the quality!), and they are also great to lay on at the beach.
  • a daypack that we use for day trips and as a carry-on bag holding our valuables for bus trips
  • an over-the-shoulder bag that Claudia uses as a purse
  • a reusable shopping bag: good for food shopping and taking to the beach because it is easy to rinse out and dries quickly
  • a passport and money holder that is worn around the neck and under the shirt. Nick puts our passports in it and wears it out every time we leave the hotel.
  • ear plugs: these are key for sleeping in loud hotels or during long bus rides
  • headlamps for when we’re camping
  • duct tape and crazy glue (we should probably mention dental floss here as well, as it has been quite useful in repairing torn bags)
  • two small padlocks


  • camera: a Canon S95, recommended to us by our good photographer friend Nick Strocchia. We love the high-quality photos it takes, and it’s especially great in low-light conditions.
  • netbook: an Asus EEE, which weights only 3.5 lbs and helps us stay in touch via email, blog, and Skype, and also allows us to store and upload our photos. Most hostels and hotels have WiFi so it’s very easy to access the internet.
  • a Kindle, which allows us to keep lots of books at our fingertips without all that weight in our bags. The Kindle also has 3G, so we can check email on it once in awhile when we don’t have WiFi (e.g., a long bus ride).
  • an iPhone, which is disconnected from wireless phone service but we use as an iPod, and earphones.
  • a satellite phone, which Claudia has so that she can be contacted anywhere in case of an emergency concerning her father, who is not in good health.

Note: a phone that works internationally really isn’t necessary on this kind of trip unless you have extenuating circumstances. The internet is a great way to stay in touch with people, do research, and make hotel reservations. For phone calls, Skype works wonderfully from a smartphone or a computer whenever you have WiFi, and even if you have neither of those things, pretty much every town has an internet cafe with computers that have Skype capability. Another option is to bring (or buy) an unlocked cell phone and buy SIM cards in the countries where you need to use a phone. Finally, there are always payphones and in some countries, you can pay a few cents a minute to use cell phones on the street to make local calls.

  • a watch that has an alarm
  • rechargeable batteries and a charger
  • plug adapters, so we can charge our electronics in any country


We brought way more medicine that we’ve used in our lifetimes combined, but I guess this way we’re prepared for anything!

  • anti-Malarials: Mefloquine (taken once a week, works in all affected areas except Southeast Asia) and doxycycline (an antibiotic, must be taken every day, and since both of those things make it less attractive than Mefloquine, we’ll only be taking this in affected areas in Southeast Asia)
  • antibiotics: Ceftin and Cipro
  • cold medicine: Phytobiotic and Mucinex
  • charcoal tablets for diarrhea, which is really the one sickness you are guaranteed to experience on a round-the-world trip!
  • Advil and Benadryl
  • a first aide kit with Neosporin and band aides
  • Lunesta, for Claudia’s insomnia
  • vitamins

All of our stuff is packed into our internal frame backpacks (Claudia’s / Nick’s has apparently been discontinued)