My rtw packing essentials

by Kim on November 23, 2012 · 29 comments

It’s been six months since Brian and I shoved everything we own into our backpacks and set off to see the world and I still haven’t published our packing list. This is mostly because I am a terrible travel blogger who gets bored writing about almost all travel related topics.

However.

I’ve been lugging around a 65-liter pack for awhile now and have learned a thing or two about what I really need out here on the road.

So, in lieu of a publishing a packing list, here’s my list of the things I’m glad I brought on my trip around the world.

The Cannon S100 Point and Shoot Camera

The Canon PowerShot S100 Point and Shoot Camerais the best purchase I’ve ever made. The S100 is small and simple to operate but it takes incredible photos. Brian has a larger, “nicer” camera that we almost never use. We’ve found that we don’t like to walk the streets with a big flashy camera and, besides, the Cannon S100 takes equally great photos and it fits in my pocket.

Jeans

The world wears jeans and I am so glad that I packed mine. My jeans are my most-worn article of clothing, I feel like I blend in just a little better in denim. Nothing screams tourist! more than those zip-into-shorts traveling pants.

Silk sleep sack

Sure, I don’t use my silk sleep sack every day but I am ever so grateful that I have it when I need it. Like, for example, on one particularly terrifying night in Peru when a spider the size of my face was loose in our room. To save myself, I huddled in my sleep sack, tied it over my head, and cried myself to sleep.

Tampons

If I knew then what I know now I would have smuggled a years supply of tampons into my backpack. Tampons are relatively hard to find in South America and when I do track them down (normally at the pharmacy) they are locked beneath a glass case like precious jewels. Not only do I have to “order” my tampons from the pharmacist, but they’re only sold in packs of 10. 10! Really! Thanks for the 10-pack, South America. I’ll be back for more tomorrow.

Note: Yes, I bought a Diva Cup and no, I don’t use it. Best intentions, people, but there are some logistics that make using it on the road, in places with questionable water quality, slightly unsanitary. 

S-biner clips

We picked these clips up last-minute at REI and they have been invaluable to us. On travel days we use them to clip our shoes to the outside of our backpacks. During long bus rides we use one to clip our carry-on bags together and the other to clip the bags to the bus (there’s normally a rope that the curtains are strung on; we clip our bags to the rope), ensuring that no one can run off with our bags when we drift off to sleep.

First aid kit

I rolled my eyes when Brian insisted that we buy a first aid kit but it has saved us (and more than one fellow motion-sick bus riders) more times than I can count. From itchy mosquito bites to blisters to barfing, our little yellow bag of magic fixes just about anything. Bring a first aid kit and stock it well.

Steripen 

The SteriPEN sterilizes tap water using ultraviolet light. Not only does this awesome little device save us money, it also prevents us from unnecessarily using hundreds of plastic bottles.

Dirty laundry bag

I’m so glad that we brought stuff sacks to keep our dirty laundry separated from our clean clothes. When traveling, cleanliness really becomes a relative term, but I’m always happy to have that small fabric barrier between my sweaty running socks and my I-was-washed-two-weeks-ago-so-I’m-sorta-clean street clothes.

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Viviana November 23, 2012 at 2:49 am

Thanks for sharing this list! I’m glad to say that most of the items above are currently in our backpacks (I do however plan to use my cup, which I’ve grown to love during the past few months… I have read some tips about using it in places with questionable tap water and I hope I’ll manage ’cause I’d gate going back to ‘old methods’!!)! :)
The only missing thing is the S-biner clips, which I have never seen around here… :( We’ll see if we can find them somewhere, maybe at London airport even!
Anyway, hope to see you guys soon! :)

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AnnieGirl822 November 23, 2012 at 3:47 am

Hey Kim –

Thank you for sharing. We have been on the road over 11 months now and it is amazing what you thought you needed and what you really don’t. When you are planning an RTW it is easy to be seduced by all of the “travel products”.

Yes…I must admit, we each had one pair of “Travel” pants. Mine didn’t unzip but my husband’s did. We also read enough that we left our jeans at home b/c people said with the lack of driers they were just too hard to maintain. We made it 3 months before we bought jeans on the road and wear them ALL OF THE TIME! We ditched the travel pants.

Travel underwear…waste of money. You can find underwear on the road at local markets uber cheap. Buy it when you need it. Another bad call on our part.

We had many discussions about the camera and ended up bringing a small Kodak. On a quick stop home in October I got an iPhone 5 and haven’t used the Kodak since.

We did have a steripen and never used it. I left that at home on our October visit. I figured we had been through Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Malaysia, etc…without using it, we could leave it behind. You may be going a bit more remote than we are with two twelve year olds so it likely makes sense.

I totally overdid our first aid kit. I have Ciproflaxin, Amoxicillin, Advil, bandaids, Neosporin (impossible to find), an epipen, cold meds, allergy meds, laxatives, pepto, etc. It has come in handy but I did pare it down. I found in many countries you can get antibiotics over the counter without a doctor….cheap! I got Z-pac in India for a sinus infection for under $3.

Another thing I really valued were my Eddie Bauer “tall” size t-shirts. At 5’9″ I found buying shirts on the road, they ran way too short.

We liked our Kindles for reading however one broke and two were left on planes…punish 12 year olds here. ;-) I have taken to reading my Kindle books on my iPhone and do just fine.

We didn’t have the silk sleep sack…we went the budget route and got cotton. They did come in handy in a couple of questionable accommodations. You can buy the silk ones cheap in Asia for those who travel in that direction first.

I just went shopping for tampons in So Am yesterday….yes, elusive…even in Buenos Aires. I found the OB type for my daughter but they didn’t work out so well. Oh well, we only have 3 weeks left.

How do you like your 65 Liter backpack. I have been watching kids on the road and am amazed when I see someone with a 35 or 40. Do you think you could go smaller> Would you?

Keep enjoying…we love watching you and following along!

Annie (and Bill and Marley and Ben)

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Ashley November 23, 2012 at 4:39 am

Ah yes, all my favorite things! We didn’t have our jeans in S. America and I really wish we would have because those travel pants did get old. We bought some on our way to Turkey, and promptly ended up in the hottest places on Earth for the next few months, which meant they sat unworn at the bottom of our packs for months. We’re finally in Australia though and they are all I wear here…might even have to get a second pair!

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Max Neumegen November 23, 2012 at 6:36 am

We have just had some seasoned hitch hiking travellers couchsurf here. They travel light. “What u need for 3 days is same for 3 weeks or 3 years.” 6-8 kilo packs. Lightweight rain windproof coat.2 long sleeve tops. 2 tee shirts. 1 longs zip shorts. 4 lights socks. Sandals. Running type shoes. Silk sleeping bag. Lightweight hammock .hand full toilettes – first aid. Credit card multi tool. Plastic dish with lid. Android smart phone with foldable Bluetooth keyboard & charger. Phone battery charger with 5 batteries. Head phones detachable cable. Sun glasses. Pack cover. Water container extra. Any food extra.

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Gillian @OneGiantStep November 23, 2012 at 7:12 am

I just finished packing our packs again – this time for some long term ssslllloooowwww travel. I think the one thing I learned that has changed what’s in my pack this time is that regular people around the world wear regular clothes. I dressed like a backpacker last time and found myself uncomfortable more often than not. This time, it’s more ‘regular’ clothes (including jeans) so that I can feel like a regular girl! Sounds like you hit the packing sweet spot!

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Melissa Harris November 23, 2012 at 7:33 am

This is a great list! I would not have thought about the jeans. I just spent 2 weeks this summer in Costa Rica and it was stifling hot, wore the breathable quick drying pants and skirt. But I love jeans so I will be so happy to bring them along. Do you have the other kinds of pants? Do you find anytime when they have come in handy? Trying to decide if I really need to buy a new wardrobe for travel. Have read about the steripen. Glad to know it works and I will be bringing one as well. Tampons, thanks for the heads up! I was planning to try the cup. First aid kit, will do. Good thinking!

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Ian November 23, 2012 at 9:07 am

Thanks for the tips. I’m seriously considering getting the latest Canon S110 or something similar. but yeah i can understand how a DSLR can be a hassle sometimes. i dont think i can even take that camera out in certain places for a picture. the canon s100 does a better job at blending in and being stealthy lol. i have a dslr, but contemplating if i should even bring it for my round the world trip beginning next year. i just bought a macbook air 13″ just for RTW trip which should arrive next week. After that I’ll start planning my itinerary and work on starting a travel blog.

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Carmel November 23, 2012 at 10:42 am

I had to share the crying yourself to sleep paragraph with my family so they know I’m not the only one who would do that. These are great. Pinning to my Travel Gear board now!

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Tracy November 23, 2012 at 12:20 pm

I was waiting for you to post this! I am at the point where I am trying to seriously figure out what I need to pack and I am going crazy back and forth to all of the travel blogs to figure it out. Thanks for this, it really helps to get first hand experience and I am definitely going to get a silk sleep sack now

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Rhonda November 23, 2012 at 12:30 pm

lol. I was curious about the Diva cup! We did question the jeans…although we get where you’re coming from, how do you get them dry? We haven’t been to South America yet but I can tell you in Asia and humid places jeans would take days and days to dry. Are laundry facilities available enough to make it not a problem there?
Congrats on 6 amazing months on the road and Happy Thanksgiving!

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Tracey November 23, 2012 at 8:50 pm

Sleep sack and tampons will be the first things in my pack as we prepare for our South America adventure! Thanks for the list. I have been waiting for this post:)

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Dawn November 23, 2012 at 9:08 pm

I’m finding room in my pack for jeans. After 5 months on the road I’ve finally stopped fighting the idea of bringing them along! Dead on regarding the tampon vs diva cup deal too. Great post!

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RenegadePilgrim November 23, 2012 at 10:22 pm

Regarding the Diva Cup, I used mine in Thailand and India, heck, I even brushed my teeth in tapwater there! Never got sick, never had issues. If you are that worried, I would suggest using a wetwipe with antibacterial properties to clean it. I would wash mine in the shower every day with soap and water. I like mine so much, I still use it two years later. I hope you get a chance to use it more regularly.

For those of you looking for a camera, I highly recommend a micro 4/3 camera. Olympus and Panasonic make them, and I believe Sony and Nikon have jumped on the bandwagon too. They are smaller than a DSLR and have a retro vintage look to them so often people don’t realize they are digital. I ditched my D90 for my Olympus and it takes great pictures.

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Maddie November 23, 2012 at 11:45 pm

Totally agree with all of these! I love my jeans and would have really regretted leaving them at home. We have zip off pants for hiking but when you’re mooching around jeans are the best things ever.

Your terrifying spider story has given me a line of defence against the Australian critters, another use for the fabulous sleep liner!

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Sarah Somewhere November 24, 2012 at 7:03 am

Great list Kim! Do you always use the steri pen? Im reading this wrapped up in my silk sleeping liner, not because of spiders but because it’s cold here in Mexico city!!

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Lucie November 24, 2012 at 9:10 am

Really happy to see your comment about the camera… because that’s the one I intend to buy Christmas for my RTW next year! Thank you!

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ISA November 27, 2012 at 1:28 am

I’m going to get some of those clips. Thanks for letting me know about them.

Also, it’s a year’s worth, not a years worth. You are using the possessive form in that sentence.

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Erica from Livingif.com November 27, 2012 at 1:43 am

Thanks for sharing your list, lots of great items! We just ordered a Canon S100 and can’t wait to upgrade from our S90. Also, couldn’t agree more with the S-bener clips as they have been infinitely helpful in so many different situations. I also have to echo your words about the first aid kit, it is essential! Especially for all the bugs and issues you may encounter in India!

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Amy November 27, 2012 at 4:15 am

Great list – my bf and I are currently sorting out our packing list so this is really helpful. We’ve added most of the items you mention except for the Steripen – will have to do some googling to find out how cheap we could get one of those before it goes on the list!

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Kashmir December 3, 2012 at 1:03 am

A beneficial list of things to be carried with you. thanks for sharing

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Ayngelina December 3, 2012 at 1:02 pm

I am surprised you used your sleep sack. I didn’t use it once in Latin America.

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Tina December 14, 2012 at 1:07 pm

Can you tell us what you regretted taking?

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Kim December 16, 2012 at 9:31 am

Hi Tina. I definitely took too many pairs of shoes. I brought a pair of running shoes, a pair of hiking shoes, a pair of flip-flops, a pair of shower shoes and a pair of chacos. It sounds insane when I write that! I sent the Chacos (which are like sandels you can wear in the water) home. I also didn’t need to bring all of the lotions and other products from home. You can find most of that stuff everywhere. Oh, and I brought a bunch of notebooks for some reason, also not necessary.

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Stephanie November 2, 2014 at 2:15 pm

Hi Kim,
I’ve read through about 20 of your posts now and have been wondering about this whole shoe question :) When you say you brought “hiking shoes,” you mean low-tops, not boots, right? And those were sufficient for all the hiking you’ve done, including the Inca Trail? Were you glad you brought hiking shoes as well as running shoes? I’m a runner, too, and never wear my running shoes for anything except running, but of course, many things have to change while on the road…
Thanks!

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Kim November 2, 2014 at 3:23 pm

Right, low tops. I brought leather KEEN hiking shoes (I actually hate hiking boots) and they were PERFECT for all the trekking I did, including the Inca Trail and our month in the Himalayas. And I was also very, very glad I brought running shoes. I’d normally wear either my hiking or running shoes when we traveled to make room in my pack. I can’t live without my running shoes!

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Colleen gets lost December 17, 2012 at 5:58 pm

This is a silly small thing, but I love my bandana. It’s functioned as a towel, wash cloth, napkin, baggie for snacks, and once I was out of tp and had to pee really badly I admit I wiped myself with it (but washed it really really well before using it again). I don’t carry S clips but I always put my legs through the shoulder straps before I fall asleep on the bus (I’m only carrying 28L).

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Vicky February 23, 2013 at 3:27 am

Hey Kim, thanks for sharing :)

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Kim February 24, 2013 at 6:42 am

My pleasure, hope it helps!

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Kiwe October 29, 2013 at 12:18 pm

Doh, was actually just looking liner for sleeping bag for some reason this site came as result.
Well, still looking for the liner and still reading about your adventure got to admit thats one inspiring adventure.

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