I started planning for my year long round-the-world trip about four years in advance, and slowly started to acquire my gear in the year leading up to my departure. This allowed me to research the shit out everything, gave me time to test everything ahead of time and also let me wait to get the best deals.
This is my list of the things that were essential to the way I traveled. With this, I was able to camp, hike, stay connected, charged, carry everything I needed and never check a bag on the plane (except one time with Aerolinas Argentina). I could easily pack everything in 10 minutes and sprint to catch a train if needed. It was maximum performance in a minimal footprint. My bag never weighed more than about 25 pounds. Everyone always carries too much. I did too, and shed a few items. But as my year of traveling concludes, this is what I would keep.
Here is the criteria I used when choosing:
- Durability - Items that could withstand a year's beating and still perform.
- Function - Everything on this list is lightweight, versatile and highly-rated.
- Weight - I needed to keep everything as light and compact as possible. This all passed both those tests. You never need as much as you think
- Warranties - I bought everything from reputable companies with good warranties. I have zero problem returning an item that didn't function with use.
- USB Compatible - I decided that I wanted all of my battery-powered equipment to be chargeable with USB.
You form a kind of weird bond with your pack. You come to love its better parts and nit-pick the smallest little flaws. One of my biggest gripes with backpacks these days is all of the unnecessary straps, bungies and buckles. I find that these only get in the way (and look kinda dumb). The Boreas Sapa Trek by comparison is incredibly simple, and I removed a few internal straps to make it even simpler. The single vertical zipper makes packing and accessing all of your gear easier than any other pack I've used. You can throw a lock on it and keep your gear protected. It is super lightweight, decently waterproof, not a gross neon color (yay black!), and makes excellent use of space. The only thing I'd change is to make the shoulder straps a bit more supported. 18 mile days on the trail was definitely the extreme of its limitation. And with all things lightweight, you sacrifice some durability. 55 liters was bigger than I needed and yet it fit overhead on 95% of my flights.
The one thing you'll use more than your main pack is your day pack, so you should like it a lot. I tested about 10, and this one came out on top. Most daypacks are incredibly lightweight and packable (like the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil), but do you really want to wear it for hours on end? This was the best of many worlds. It rolled up like a little taquito, felt great for hours even when fully loaded and I got a lot of compliments on the look. The only thing I'd like is for the back to be a little more breathable, thought I know that would sacrifice weight and size.
This was a reluctant choice, but the machine itself is very good. I had to do a fairly large amount of photo work, so I needed something with decent storage and speed. I wish that I could have done all my photo editing on an iPad, but it's just not technically capable yet. Please Apple, make the screen of the next MacBook Air detachable and touchable. It would have saved so much space and weight, and I would have had a device that I liked reading books on. I blame Apple for my reduced literacy rate on this trip. Despite my gripes with having to carry too much, the svelte laptop is a little miracle of design. Grumble.
Oh man, did I drink the Sony Kool-Aid hard after working on the account for a year! But I'm really glad I did because this little-ish camera is a gem. I l studied every other slightly smaller, interchangeable lens, micro 4/3, semi-pro camera But I ended up loving the giant full-sized sensor way too much. It takes amazing photos; better than my previous Canon 5D. I know that's hard to believe, but when paired with the excellent 35MM Zeiss Lens, it was perfect. I bought insurance for it because I beat the hell out of my cameras, but so far it's incredibly sturdy. The performance for its size is insane. I loved that it was USB chargeable. And the battery lasts forever. Amazing camera and I'll appreciate the photos I took with it forever.
Classic look. High build quality. Tiny footprint. Great little crush proof carrying case. Just don't lose them like I did.
Snow Peak Mini Solo Cookset and Spork
This little setup is rad. The big pot is the perfect size for a lonely night of solo pasta. The cup is the perfect size for a little lonely wine to go with that lonely pasta. It fits a mini gas canister and a stove inside, and it weighs next to nothing. Titanium is amazing. I only have a few little hangups with it. Titanium holds its heat forever. A good thing for food, a bad thing for your lips. But Snow Peak makes a little silicone lip protector. God, I love the Japanese! It rattles a little to much for long hikes. I found a smaller case that fits more snugly than the one it comes with and...rattle problem solved!
Sonicare Diamond Care
Another one of my many USB-powered items. This was a luxury item for me because it was heavy and bulky. But I wasn't going to see my dentist for a year, and I happen to like my cavity-free mouth. I wish it didn't require a big carrying case to draw a charge, and the usage times were erratic. But the toothbrush itself is fantastic.
Eagle Creek Specter Cubes
Essential for keeping your bag organized. But they come in awful colors that all just beg to get dirty. I got white which was the least garish, but they show wear.
Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1 Tent
I'm so torn on this tent. On one hand, it's incredibly light, compact and was perfect for 80% of my camping this year. On the other hand, it got soaked in a drizzle, barely shed water and took forever to dry. It's such an amazing design, and having the option to camp everywhere I traveled opened up many possibilities. But lack of waterproofness in light rain is pretty unforgivable.
GRADE: B+ (As a system)
The pad is super light,t compact and really comfortable. Same with the sleeping bag. It's almost a perfect system in combination. If the bag was just a tiny bit bigger, the pad could slide inside the bag and be both warm and keep everything in a good sleeping position. This is how I slept on really cold nights and the insulated sleeping pad kept me toasty. I was just a little bit big for this dream setup. I might pass it along to my girlfriend who is much smaller than me and get a little bit bigger sleeping bag for myself.
Quixote Goose Down Pillow
When you're in a different bed every three to four nights, good sleep is a mandatory. When combined with a little melatonin, this thing was my savior.
Black Diamond USB Headlamp
I loved it until the moment I was starting my 3:30 AM hike to the top of the Torres Del Paine. It was fully charged the night before, then sputtered out about a kilometer in. Not only is that deceptive, it's dangerous. I think I'll be sticking with batteries until USB gets perfected in headlamps.
Anker Astro External Batery | GRADE C+ | I researched these things a ton and this seemed like the best bang for the buck. When it works, it's great. I'd get it loaded up, then leave for the day knowing my phone and camera would always be alive. But it's too unpredictable to recommend. It takes forever to charge, and after some of the nights I left it charging, I'd awake to find it empty. My girlfriend's was even more erratic than mine. Definitely get a small powerful charger, but there are better ones out there than this.
Bose Quiet Comfort 20i Noise Canceling Headphones | GRADE C+ | I'd give them an A, but they just broke after 10 months. I'll replace them the moment I get home. These were awesome to pop in at night to help me fall asleep. I listened to audio books on all my long hikes and the (USB-powered!!!) battery stays charged for really long time.
Sea to Summet Hanging Toiletries Bag | GRADE B+ | Nice lightweight, compact dopp bag. The zipper broke on it which was annoying, but the backup still worked.
Kero USB Lightning Cable / Kikkerland Universal Adapter / Mini USB Cable Kit | GRADE A | The smallest, lightest way to keep your stuff juiced.
Wahl Half Pint Beard Trimmer | GRADE B+ | I don't shave, but this little thing kept my stubble in order while taking up almost zero space. I wanted a USB version, but it was too big and heavy to justify. A little underpowered, but it got the job done while weighing next to nothing.
Sea to Summit Clothesline
Bucky 40 Blinks Eyemask
Broken iPhone 5
A huge stack of amazing love letters
*Note that I don't own these pictures. I'll be happy to take them down if you'd like me to.