Up To My Ears In Travel Gear

by design on December 15, 2010 · 27 comments

What Is Essential Travel Gear?

Ahhh… Christmas. As I mentioned here, Brian and I are paring down our material possessions, a hard thing to do around the holiday season. I’m trying to buy gifts that can be either A) consumed (like beer), B) experienced (like concert tickets), or C) used during our RTW.  I’m so overwhelmed with all the gadgets and quick-drying clothing and stuff sack pillows that I just can’t figure out what we really need.  Here are some of the things on my shopping list.  If you have any experience, please weigh in with your advice!  Are these things even necessary on a RTW?


{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrea December 15, 2010 at 5:47 pm

What about waterproof stuff sacks (for laundry, wet or dirty shoes, wet swimwear, etc), locks, whistles, bags to separate the stuff you’re packing (or packing cubes), water bottles and bottle/can opener

Clothes line is totally a good idea – we have one too! If you’re planning to do any laundry in sinks, bring a universal stopper


kimberlydinan December 15, 2010 at 5:56 pm

Thank you!!! I never would have thought to take a universal stopper but it is going on the list now. Waterproof stuff sacks are also brilliant and so is bottle/can opener. Is the whistle for safety?


Jess December 15, 2010 at 6:40 pm

Need I remind you of your lack of sleep on Friday? Earplugs all the way,
And I love backpack rain covers. They don’t take up too much space and they work. Much easier than dealing with a makeshift cover from garbage bags.

I’ve never seen a sleep sack. Do you think people suggest silk since it’s lighter and it takes cotton so long to dry?


kimberlydinan December 15, 2010 at 7:54 pm

Good point Jess. If I take nothing else I should take ear plugs! Love you.


EdenR December 23, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Hi there, great list and it sounds like a fabulous adventure…here’s my 2 cents on the items on your list – the one thing you are missing is 1-2 small combo locks, you may find several places where you will need to provide your own lock if you want to store some items for a day (airport lockers are good to rent if you wont need everything – like hiking boots- while you are in that location and have to come back to the airport anyway to leave, don’t know if you are going to be staying in hostels in Europe at all but they usually have lockers too but you have to have your own lock…
1) Silk sleep sack, I haven’t used one yet but yes there were many times I wish it was that against my skin rather than some of the bedding. Silk I am sure because of quick dry and small travel size.
2)Rain cover for the backpack, yes and any good backpack usually comes with one tucked away in the compartment against your back or the tip top zipper place.
3)Travel towel, don’t waste money on one, go to the auto parts store and get 2 Chamois (depending on the size or cut 1 big one into 2 pieces)..you don’t need them any larger than 16×16 or so to dry your whole body very quickly and they dry quick and fold very up very small (wring all the xtra water out b4 trying to dry it. They are even great for getting the water out of your hair quickly.
4) Earplugs – thats a personal choice, I have never used them they actually agitate me more than they help, but that’s just me, again don’t pay for expensive one’s, again the auto parts store usually has the soft cushy ones-individually wrapped in a set of 2 for like $.50 a pair, get a couple, stash em and if you need them you have em.
5) Sleeping mask – nope no my preference, if you are that tired you can fall asleep anywhere with or w/out light.
6)QD underwear YES YES YES – get at least 3 paris each, I prefer the brand Exofficio because they have lots of styles for each of you to choose from. My husband loves them so much he wears them all the time here in the states.
7)Mosquito net, yes good idea and doesnt take much space
8) Clothes pins are more important in my opinion, you can pin your clothes to the back of chair or on a branch but not without those ever handy clothes pins
9)Pacsafe – the over the body one I would say yes too. You will feel a sense of relief when walking thru a crowded center and not worrying about a knife cutting through your shoulder bag, always keep it in front and one hand on it when in crowded spaces.

My husband and I are moving to Belize in 2012 (like you selling all and heading there to live) so maybe when you do the Central America portion of your adventure we could show your around Belize!!!
Best wishes for safe travels!


Alexandria October 23, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Hi Eden! I just discovered this site and read your comment. Your advice was great and really helpful as my husband and I are leaving in six weeks to travel through Mexico into Central America. We’re planning to spend some time in Belize and I wanted to know if you were there already and if you had any advice on where to go. We’ll be backpacking through sometime in January and don’t really have any plans so far. We’d love your input and please share your website if you have one! Safe travels,
Alexandria and Omar


Kim December 23, 2010 at 11:47 pm

Eden, wow, thank you for all of this FABULOUS information. Clothes pins are a really good tip. I’m glad to know that most of the things on my list are worthy of buying. I’d tell you what I purchased but I don’t want to ruin Christmas for Brian 😉 Thank you, thank you, thank you. It helps so much to get good advice like this from someone who’s been there. Also, yay for Belize!! Do you guys have a blog I can follow (I’m not signed in to my own blog right now, so I can’t tell if you left a site address). Safe travels to you and your husband as well!!



Ryan - PauseTheMoment.com December 29, 2010 at 9:34 pm

# Rain cover for backpack – Yes, but not 100% necessary.

# Travel towel (one each? two each?) – Doesn’t have to be a “Travel Towel” Although micro fiber towels are best in my opinion. –

# Earplugs – Nope!
# Sleeping mask – Nope!

# Quick-drying underwear – Absolutely, I wore REI & EMS quick dry boxer briefs the entire trip. Best purchase known to man.

# Mosquito net – 100% YES! It’s worth the trouble of carrying around.

# Clothesline (is this totally ridiculous or the most helpful thing ever)? No need, you’ll most likely get sick of doing your own laundry on the road and you’ll pay cents to get it washed and dried. Don’t worry bout the clothesline!

# PacSafe – Can’t comment on this, never used one.


Kim December 29, 2010 at 9:49 pm

@ Ryan- Yay, thanks!!!! Alright, I am heading to the store to buy my quick drying underwear 😉 In fact, maybe I should start wearing it to work just to get used to it, a little reminder of my upcoming change in lifestyle. Thanks!


incorporation January 2, 2011 at 10:25 pm

Nice site, nice and easy on the eyes and great content too.


Siem reap February 2, 2011 at 2:16 am

Traveling, whether it is for a scheduled family vacation, for business, or just “getting away from it all” has many benefits for the traveler. People tend to fall into ruts in their lives and begin to feel comfortable only within their own defined space.


Brian February 22, 2011 at 8:54 am

Good start Kim. I’m sure you’re further along by now.

I’ve read that people go with silk sleep sacks over cotton because 1) they dry quickly – a great benefit if you’re in a humid climate and get sweaty when you sleep and 2) bed bugs and other critters supposedly have a very hard time getting through them.

Amy and I bought a pair and used them once on a weekend stint to NYC (to test them out and also because of their recent bedbug problem). It was a little weird at first but worked out fine. We didn’t get bed bugs either although I don’t think I would have willingly slept there if I had known there were any!

We also own a pacsafe I got the DaySafe 200 which has the safe insert. The backpack itself is great but I find it a little too bulky at times (especially walking around in shops). I keep my Nikon SLR, map, hat, sunscreen etc in it with no issue. Its also been known to have a baguette sticking out of it on occasion in France. The safe itself is easy to use and gives me a little more piece of mind when leaving a laptop in a hotel room or apartment. Amy owns the Pacsafe pocketbook and wallet and loves them both. She’s had it for a few years now.

Hope that this info helps. We’re looking forward to following your progress!


Kim February 22, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Brian, thank you! Yes, this info helps a whole bunch!! The silk vs. cotton sleep sack makes a whole lot of sense, now that you explain it. Also, I am happy to hear your review about the pacsafe. We’ve been going back in fourth on that one (because they aren’t cheap) but it sounds like they are worth it. The peace of mind is worth it, especially. Thanks so much!!


RenegadePilgrim March 6, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Depending on how much camping you are planning to do, I would reconsider the tent and sleeping bags. I carried a silk sleep sack with me the entire 5 months I traveled and never once used it. I also did not carry a mosquito net either.

Also, please go to Next Adventure in Portland. I got a lot of my stuff there for half of what it would have cost at REI. I got a MSR Travel towel there and it was large enough that I didn’t need another one. Cost less than $20.

Sanderson Safety Supply has ear plugs of all varieties for SUPER cheap. You can try a bunch, see what works then get a few extra pairs.

The Pac Safes that cover your pack are heavy. I saw some people with them in BKK, but never felt like I needed one. If you are worried about someone getting into your pack, then put your raincover on it.

As for underwear, any underwear that is not cotton and made of synthetic materials is going to dry quickly. I found three pairs of Hanes made of synthetic material worked fine for me. No need to spend $20 on a pair of underwear from ExOfficio.

I brought a clothesline and it did come in handy. I also used the small paper binder clips instead of clothespins. Worked just as well, took up less space and weighed less.

I looked at your packing list and you are taking too much stuff. Just my opinion. Pack less, take more money. You can get whatever you need while traveling.


Kim March 7, 2011 at 12:24 pm

I like your tips, it’s nice to hear from those that have been on the road. We’ve got a packing list but so far we don’t have any stuff (except for a few pairs of quick drying underwear and one pack!) So, it may not end up that we take everything on the list. We shall see. The more I read and the more advice I hear it think we will buy more stuff on the road.

I will definitely go to Next Adventure. Love that bargain basement.


margot April 15, 2011 at 2:35 am

Travel need not be an excuse to buy all sorts of special “travel” items and gadgets. That’s a lot of money that’s truly not necessary. I’m sure that travel underwear is awesome, but I’ve managed to travel for a few years around the world without any and I’ve never thought that my cotton undies took too long to try. (And it’s rare that you’ll literally be moving every night anyway. And in many places, you’ll probably pay a local person to do laundry, in which case it gets dried.)

Likewise, I’m sure that silk bedsheet/ssack is great, small, dries quicky, etc. But, it’s also overkill if you don’t feel like spending money on one. Over 15 years ago, before a backpacking trip through Europe, I took an old, flat sheet from my closet, folded in in half, sewed it around 2 sides to essentially make a roomy sleeping bag, and it’s served me well on every single trip, including over 1 year around the world.

I’ve never been in such need of room to hang clothing that i needed a special clothing line. Really just breathe and stop buying everything at the travel stores!! There are plenty of spots in any room to hang clothing. And if you want a line, you can buy a piece of rope in any country for a few cents.

The pacsafe site cracks me up. Seriously, save your money for ACTUAL travel. 99% of backpackers that I’ve met seem to be just fine with their normal backpacks or small rolling bags. Gadgets and all this fancy stuff are not the key to happy travel!


Carmel May 17, 2011 at 3:10 pm

I have some great quick drying underwear I think I bought at Target and they are just synthetic–Hanes I think. I only had a couple of occasions where I had to dry out my own stuff because the laundromat my friend and I used was closing and our stuff wasn’t dry yet. We made our little clotheslines in the hostel. Of course, we were travelling for only 7 weeks and our stops were at maximum 5 days–lots less time for stuff like laundry. I only had one bad experience with getting my stuff laundered and that was in Portugal. Probably should have mentioned to do the colors and whites separately. All my whites turned out pink AND it was all hung out to dry where people went to eat–underwear and all. A wee bit embarrassing. We brought a little bit of string, just in case, and a rubber bouncy ball to use as a drain stop for emergencies. Worked great!

I brought a sleep sack and only used it once, but again, this was only a 7-week trip.

And I’ve only actually seen a pacsafe used once, but I was travelling western Europe.


Kim May 17, 2011 at 7:08 pm

Oh, GREAT idea with the string and rubber bouncy ball for a drain stop… I love cheap and creative ideas like that! I swear I hear mixed reviews about the Pacsafe. Some people say they can’t live without them and others say that they’re completey unnecessary.


Amanda April 15, 2011 at 8:16 am

When my husband and I travelled through Europe, we used heavy duty Ziploc bags (the really large ones) instead of packing cubes. This way, we could also use them for wet swim items, laundry that wasn’t quite dry in the morning, etc. Plus, you can suck all of the air out of them, thus compressing your clothes down to nothing (great for socks, underwear, etc.). We also kept a stash in a pocket of our daybag “just in case”.
You will also definitely appreciate the silk bag…drier and lighter. Ear plugs are a must for us as some places are just too loud to sleep. The sleep mask is a great idea if you have room so you can catch up on sleep on the train or plane if you need to.
Also, a clothesline of some sort is a great idea. We didn’t have one and tried using the backs of chairs, etc, but with laundry for two of us we usually ran out of places to hang stuff.
Another thing I would splurge on a bit is a hanging toiletry bag (one with a hook is best). Washrooms are very different everywhere you go (and usually much smaller than you will be used to) and you will feel better knowing your stuff is up off the floor.

Hope this helps and I look forward to reading about your progress!


Kim April 15, 2011 at 10:26 am

This helps a lot, thank you! I’m hearing over and over again how important the silk sleeps sacks are, so those are a must for us. Love the ziplock bag idea. When I first wrote this post I was so overwhelmed with making sure we had the perfect things to take since we’d only be taking a handful of things (plus its fun to plan). But since some time has gone by I’ve relaxed with the idea of what we “need” and what we don’t need. I know we can find whatever it is we can’t do without all over the world. Thanks for these tips!


AnnieGirl822 January 4, 2012 at 1:48 pm

Hi Kim –

We are 3 weeks into our RTW adventure. We are loving our High Sierra rolling back packs with detachable day pack. They are cheap on eBags and they meet International size limits.

I love the packing cubes as well. We have two kids and it has made it so easy to keep us organized. Tops in one…pants/shorts in another, socks/undies in another, etc. They are each like a drawer.

We also brought along zip lock bags. They are like packing cubes for wet gear as well as convenient for storing all types of things.

We have yet to use our clothes line or our mosquito netting, however, we have only been to Fiji and are now going through New Zealand. So far our accommodations have had laundry and things to hang clothes on.

We have cotton sleep sacks yet we have yet to use them along with mosquito nets. We are guessing these will be more relevant in Vietnam, Cambodia, etc.

I have several prescriptions for Cipro which has already come in handy when I drank too much Fijian water. I also caught a cold and was glad I had cold meds in Fiji…I think the pharmacy could have come up with something but that was a long way into town and I was glad I had it.

We have Kindles for reading and we have loved them. We may be having an issue accessing Wifi though now that we are on the road. I think it is an Amazon issue but haven’t figured it out yet.

I did get the Exoficio travel undies and love them but I also have some Hanes synthetics from Target that work well, too.

I brought one large travel towel and one small chamois. I like the large travel towel on the beach. You can sit on it and wrap yourself up in it which I like.

I brought an itty bit of makeup and rarely touch it. I also brought wool socks and a hat in case we ran into colder weather when we hit China. We likely could have purchased these.

We have very lightweight rain jackets that we have all used already.

Gotta run for now…we are starting our driving tour of NZ but am looking forward to watching you guys launch! Keep it up!!


Kim January 4, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Thank you so much, this is such valuable information!!! Have fun in New Zealand, I have heard only amazing things of that country.

So do you just use a large travel towel as your beach towel, or did you pack a beach towels as well or buy one on the road? I’m just wondering because I have a large travel towels which is actually quite small and I’m not sure it would do the trick. I’m sure beach towels can be purchased anywhere though, I don’t need to pack one…

Anyway, thanks so much for your list. This will definitely be helpful when we start packing!


Judy April 23, 2012 at 8:05 pm

I’ve heard of travelers getting a sarong (? – those big scarves from India -?). They can be a beach towel, cover up, blanket, etc.


Rob Williamson February 13, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Hi… I’ll be going on a RTW myself this year. Figure I’ll be gone for a year or two. As far as the PacSafe…. I’ve read on another site that it will indeed make it more difficult to get into your pack, but it also tells a would be thief,,, “This pack must REALLY have something in it worth taking to be protected like that”.
If you are packing lite… only one carry on size pack, like REI packs or the MEI Voyageur by Genuine Gear, then I would just keep it close, and not let it out of my site unless it is in a hotel’s safe, or a hostel’s lockbox.
onebag.com is a good site for that info.

Enjoy your trip.


Kim February 13, 2012 at 7:40 pm

Thanks for this info Rob. I haven’t heard of onebag.com but I will look it up.

Yeah, I think we’ve decided not to take the packsafe. We are going to take a lock but that will be the extent of our “safety gear.”

Have a wonderful trip!!


Ian July 3, 2012 at 8:53 pm

just curious what backpacks are both of you using? i’m dreaming about a round the world trip for a year at the least and reading various blogs like yours. some people prefer a carry-on travel pack, while others don’t mind checking it in. of course both has its advantages and disadvantages. are you guys planning on checking your backpack when you finally leave USA or will you carry it on?


Kim July 5, 2012 at 8:51 pm

We are planning on checking our packs. I am carrying a 75 liter Osprey travel pack. Brian is carrying a 45 liter backpack (not a travel pack). I think that the travel pack is the way to go, after talking to other travelers.


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