Packing Essentials: Things to Consider

Packing Essentials: Things to Consider

What to take on a trip around the world?  Part I (see Part II)

I will admit, I consider myself quite knowledgeable about gear for lightweight, low-cost, go anywhere, do anything travel.  I have honed my packing expertise by doing trips like this many times, with my knowledge and recommendations based on how I travel.  My packing list is not suitable for you if you are planning on serious camping, athletics/sports, or first world luxury travel.  I bring gear that supports the most activities at the lowest weight and size.  I like to be prepared for anything, anywhere, anytime.

There are many other gear and packing lists on the internet.  I think most of them suck.  Writers swear by specific brands or products and claim there is no substitute (only true for Gore-Tex).  Writers extrapolate their travel style or needs to their readers and most often pack too much.  If you are heading out on a trip like ours, read many lists, email me with questions, and use these pointers to consider all lists you find:

  • How close are the activities and seasons mentioned to those you are planning?
  • What was the writer’s travel experience prior to the trip(s) of their blog?  This is important, because the more often people travel, the more they value a few key items and the rest is pretty flexible.  There are 3-4 things I am adamant on, the rest doesn’t really matter.

It is from these experiences and more that I have learned and refined “what I need”:

  • Traveled overland from Lima, Peru to Puerto Montt for 7 weeks and needed to bring supplies for one year of University.  I needed clothing and gear for backpacking, attending school, summer through winter and needed to be able to carry everything across town and in bus stations.
  • Traveled 6 weeks in Ecuador with a 50L backpack and duffel that I needed to carry gear for ice/mountain climbing, nightclubs in Quito, tropical weather in the Galapagos and everything inbetween.
  • Traveled weeks and months at a time through Bolivia, Peru and Argentina through multiple seasons with only a 73L backpack.
  • Spent three weeks in Africa from the peak of Kilimanjaro to the hot safari jeep to the beaches of Zanzibar.

My experience earned me a PhD in Packology from the school of “oh shit”.  Therefore, here are the Chua Packing Theorems to Live By (CPTLB):

  1. Never be cold.  Most of the world is poorly heated and insulated.  If you get sick it you will feel worse and take longer to recover if you are cold.  Don’t be cold.
  2. Never be wet (when you don’t want to be).  Wetness is the evil twin brother of cold; if you are wet you will get cold.  If you are in a cold place and get rained on, your chances of getting sick increase.  I assure you, if you go somewhere, get wet, cold, then sick, you will remember reading these Packing Theorems.
  3. The world is your supermarket.  Forgot something at home?  Odds are you can find it on the road.  Need to change plans, get stuff on the road.  Do not pack for improbable or remote possibilities, pack for the bulk of your trip and get other stuff as you need it.
  4. Do not take anything you don’t want to lose, break, or destroy it.  If you put it in your bag mentally separate yourself it, it’s gone, it’s broken, it’s destroyed.  Accept this, do not become attached to things, travel is hard on stuff.  The point of your trip is the trip, not the stuff you bring along.  As you will hopefully learn, grow, and lose old parts of yourself while traveling, let this occur with your things as well.  If you accept this state of mind when you put things into the bag, you won’t have emotional breakdowns along the way when your stuff inevitably gets lost, broken or destroyed.
  5. Pack light.  This is most important.  If you are uncertain about something: don’t bring it.  Packing light is risk mitigation and trip happiness insurance, here’s why:
    • The more you carry, the less able bodied you are.  If you have a 50lb pack on your back and a bag on your front, you are as defenseless as Pac Man.  Not only are you less able, but you are also a better target, who you gonna rob?  The person with a lot of stuff or not much?
    • More stuff, more headache.  The more you have, the more you have to keep track of…when your alarm breaks your passed out dreaming with 5 minutes to make the 15 minute trip to the train station, you need to be able to quickly get all your stuff into its bag and not forget something.  Your hungover hurting head will forget something…and you never forget the things you don’t need.

More to come on what to bring, what we’re bringing and reviews of gear.

Don't end up stuck on your pack due to too much stuff.


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» dad :
Dec 31, 2010

i realize i am a wimp. ok, a weak wimp, but i still would prefer to not double carry (no wheels, ugh) your 40 plus pound cargo….but if you think of it as 20#’s/ year…..not bad…..can you detect the subtle lobbying for a quick return…….peace….bka

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About the Author

thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.

About the Author
thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.


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