Three months ago we landed in Bangkok, the start of our year-long adventure traveling around the world. Both with one single backpack on our back, filled with gear we bought specifically for the trip. Now, 3 months in, seems like a good time to do a review of our round the world trip gear. We’ll give you some general information on everything we brought and both of our opinions on it. A detailed list of all our gear is on the website as well.
Reviewing our Gear – Bags
We decided early on that we’d be going for 1 carry on sized backpack each. This really restricted the amount of things we could bring, but that’s a good thing! Everything we have fits in 1 single backpack that weighs about 12kg each. So far we haven’t had to check in the bag on any of our flights, which is not only convenient but cost saving as well. Fingers crossed though as they’re technically a bit too heavy for most airline restrictions.
I’m very pleased with my Osprey Farpoint 40! Everything I need fits perfectly in it, including my laptop for which there is a separate compartment. It would probably have been better if that compartment was at the back instead of the front of the backpack, but it hasn’t really bothered me. The backpack has adjustable shoulder straps and a hip belt. It’s small enough to be a carry on bag on airplanes and I can zip away the shoulder straps, which is handy when putting the backpack in the overhead compartments on the airplane.
We bought a separate rain cover for our backpacks, which we used once during our three months on the road. Nevertheless, I believe it’s a necessary thing to bring. When you have to carry your backpack through the rain, you want to make sure your stuff, especially your electronics, don’t get wet. It’s not expensive and doesn’t take much place in your backpack, so better safe than sorry. Another “extension” for my backpack are my packing cubes for organizing my clothes and minimizing the space they take. To optimize the space fully, we roll our clothes instead of folding them, a well-known travel hack.
As a daypack, I have my Quechua Arpenaz 15 Ultralight, a small backpack you can fumble up into a little ball. It’s perfect for bringing a bottle of water, a snack, some tissues and a towel when you go to the beach or a day trip, for example. I’m glad we decided to buy it. I brought a handbag as well, but I hardly ever use it. We both have a Sea to Summit dry bag. I have used it mainly to wash our clothes, Brecht has some other genius uses for it. For washing clothes it might have been better to buy a Scrubba, a portable laundry system wash bag that has internal nodules, a little like a washboard. It doubles as a dry bag, brilliant!
The Tortuga Backpack is perfect. Plenty of space, padded laptop compartment, a great hip belt and still carry on sized! Due to its higher cost and the shipping to Belgium it ended up being a lot more expensive than Birthe’s Farpoint 40 though, which is very comparable at a significantly lower price. Probably would have been happy with that bag as well and saved a bit of money. But still, the Tortuga is an awesome backpack.
Note that the Tortuga Backpack in the photos is a model of 2015 that isn’t sold anymore. I still use that backpack for travels now though, so Tortuga definitely makes quality backpacks.
You definitely need a daypack and instead of a traditional backpack I opted for a Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag. The medium sized one I bought is perfect for carrying a laptop, water bottle and some other random stuff. Definitely the best messenger bag I’ve had so far. Compared to a backpack a messenger bag is more accessible (and maybe a little less touristy) but definitely not as comfortable. It does get a bit heavy on the shoulder after a while.
Other things we categorized in the “Bags” section: a raincover (didn’t really need it yet, but better safe than sorry, I guess) and our packing cubes (you definitely need some and the cheap ones I bought work fine). The final item in there is our Sea to Summit dry bag. I would recommend bringing one of these as well. So far is has been very useful for: washing our clothes, taking some stuff with us while kayaking, reading on my Kindle in the swimming pool and watching YouTube videos while taking a bath.
Reviewing our Gear – Clothing
If you’re leaving on a long-term trip you can’t bring clothes for the entire period. Luckily it’s possible to wash your clothes everywhere you go (who would have thought?), so you really don’t need to bring your entire garderobe. There are a lot of expensive “travel clothes” out there, but beware, not all of us think they are worth it.
I want to warn all you girls out there leaving on a (long term) trip: if you’re in doubt, don’t buy travel clothes! Brecht convinced me buying travel clothes was a good idea, so reluctantly I bought some T-shirts, a dress, a short and a skort. After a month I began really missing my normal clothes and regretting buying these expensive travel clothes. Should have listened to my best (GIRL)friend instead of my boyfriend. I did bring one of my favourite tops and I just want to wear it all the time. I occasionally remind Brecht I miss my normal clothes, so I think he regrets me buying travel clothes as well.
However, there are also “travel clothes” I don’t regret buying: my smartwool socks (they really don’t stink), my The North Face shoes (comfortable and not that ugly), my Merrell sandals (comfortable and more elegant than most travel sandals) and my Vaude rain jacket (it keeps me dry and I love the color). Although, I have to admit my Merrell sandals get me frustrated from time to time. The back strap of my right sandal sometimes opens while I’m walking. It makes me want to take them off, throw them in the nearest trash can and continue barefoot. It doesn’t happen all the time, so I always give them the benefit of the doubt. I read online I’m not the only one with that problem and if I had noticed this at home, I would have exchanged them for a flawless pair. So please, make sure you have thoroughly tested and approved your shoes before you leave.
In our first month on the road, someone (accidentally?) stole my flip flops from the shared bathroom. As a replacement I bought Jelly Bunny ballerina’s. After a couple of weeks of hating them, I now love them and am considering buying another pair, maybe slippers. I love that they don’t stink like normal ballerina’s! They’re the most elegant pair of shoes I have with me for the moment. I admit they get slippery when my feet get sweaty, but I still love them. Just like I love my sarong. You can wear it to the pool, the beach, after a shower, when you wake up in the morning, you name it! I sometimes take it with me when we’re visiting a temple and I don’t feel like wearing my long pants. My only regret is that I brought it from home instead of buying a more beautiful one in Thailand.
Another typical travel buy: my Icebreaker underpants, made from the best (or so they claim) Merino wool. They’re indeed soft and non-itchy like they advertise on their website, but so are my normal underpants. They’re supposed to have a “miraculous ability to warn off stinkiness”. I guess they don’t smell of sweat after a day of exploring a city in the burning hot sun. I’m curious how my normal underpants would perform though. Honestly, I don’t think their worth the money, as they already seem so thin. I hope they make it to the end of our trip. We’ll keep you posted!
Unlike Birthe I’m quite happy with the clothes I bought. The Smartwool socks and Icebreaker underwear are definitely worth it: they just don’t smell bad, even after wearing them for a few days. This means that the 3 boxershorts and 2 pairs of socks I brought are enough. Especially in SEA you’ll be wearing flip flops or sandals most of the time anyway, so 1 pair might even suffice.
My Icebreaker T-Shirts are great as well and are pleasant to wear even in tropical weather. They are quite expensive but I think the 3 shirts could keep me clothed for the entire year. That does mean I’d be wearing the same 3 T-shirts the entire year. Personally I don’t really mind, but if you care a lot about what you’re wearing you might prefer buying new clothes from time to time. Especially in SEA you could buy new clothes every few weeks on a market, just throw the old ones away and still end up spending less. Might have been fun as well. Then again, I’m not that fond of markets.
The travel shorts I ended up with are pretty similar to shorts I would normally buy, just with some added pockets, so I’m very happy with them. I also like the Eagle Creek Travel Money Belt that I use in them. There’s a hidden $100 bill in there for emergencies and everything is made of plastic so I don’t have to take it out in the airport.
When hiking I usually go for the long pants and plaid shirt combination which I like as well, although the shirt does tend to smell a lot sooner than the T-shirts. I’d also wear these for restaurants that require something a bit more formal, but we haven’t really frequented those yet so I’m not sure if I’d get away with it.
I also really like my Teva sandals. Not as heavy as normal shoes, very comfortable and they can even be used for some (light) hiking. I don’t like walking in flip flops for more than 30 minutes, so the Tevas are what I wear most of the time. For hiking I use my Merrell All Out Blaze shoes and they do the job just fine. We don’t really go hiking very often so heavy trekking shoes would definitely have been overkill for us.
We’ve only had a few days of rain so far but I’m happy I brought a nice rain jacket. The Vaude Fleece I bought has spent most of its time in my backpack as well, but it’s light and compact so it’s great to just have it in there when needed without taking up too much space.
Reviewing our Gear – Toiletries
Most (but not all!) toiletries can be bought anywhere in the world, so don’t worry too much about bringing everything. If you’re going for a carry on only solution like we did you have to keep the airline restrictions in mind. Only small liquids that fit in a single 1 liter bag!
I’m happy with my toiletry bag. Everything that needs to fit in it, does. It has different compartments and I can hang it from the towel rack for example. Something I didn’t bring from home, because we didn’t think it was allowed in a carry on, is a nail clipper and tweezers. We bought it in a shopping mall in Bangkok on one of our first days and carried it with us (in our carry on) ever since. So we could have brought it from home as well. I didn’t bring any make-up, nail polish or day/night creams with me.
Do bring tampons! I only brought a couple to get me started when it was that time of the month. I figured all women over the world need them, so I could just buy them when needed. Wrong. They’re hard to find in Asia (they do have pads everywhere). So bring at least enough tampons for one period and buy them when you see them. Or better yet, buy a menstrual cup. I’ve read a lot of positive reviews about it, but haven’t bought it myself (yet). I wasn’t really convinced to try it and before I could decide, we had already departed on our trip. Maybe I’ll try it when we’re back home, not now, because it has a learning curve. Main advantages: it can be worn for 12 hours at a time, you can do everything while wearing it (no leaks) and it’s good for the environment.
In every hostel we’ve been there were towels provided, so we only used our microfiber towels for the beach. It’s necessary to bring one, you never know, so this small microfiber towel is ideal. The small pocket towel is perfect to bring in your daypack if you need to dry your sweaty face.
Not a lot to say about this section. The Eagle Creek toiletry bag is great, but any bag would do, I guess. I’m also happy with the electric toothbrush I brought, which was the only one I could find that works on AA batteries. A microfiber towel is a great item as well, but go for a small one as you probably won’t use it very often.
The Dr Bronner Magic Soap does deserve a special mention. We don’t use it for all of the advertised 18 uses (I really don’t recommend brushing your teeth with it), but it’s great for hand-washing clothes and you only need a few drops of it.
Reviewing our Gear – Electronics
Since we’re traveling and working at the same time, there are a few electronics we just can’t do without. Some of these can be recommended to anyone going on a trip!
The cheap Nokia Dual Sim phone we bought is perfect. We never really use it, but at least we know when someone tries to reach us on our cell phone number. The headlamp is handy as a night lamp when there isn’t one provided. A Kindle is a must, you have all the books you want in one little device. Too bad mine doesn’t have backlight as Brecht’s Kindle does. I couldn’t blog without my Macbook Air of course, so another necessary electronic. It’s perfect, because it really is light. We use a headphone splitter when we watch a movie on the bus, train or plane, handy!
This category is definitely my domain. I’m a bit of a geek and love my electronics. It does seem like we brought a lot, but I assure you there is use for every single one of them. Let’s take a look.
My Macbook Pro was obviously essential as I need it for my work. An external hard-drive is a must for keeping backups as well. I also brought the iPad Air to serve as a second screen while working, but I haven’t actually used it for that, to be honest. It does get used nearly every day for entertainment purposes, so I’m glad we brought it anyway.
A smartphone is such a great device for traveling. We buy a local sim card everywhere we go and it’s perfect for navigating (Google Maps), finding places to eat (TripAdvisor), staying in touch with the homefront (Snapchat/Facebook) and tons of other purposes. Just make sure to bring an external battery as well then. Your battery will drain fast when you’re using it for all of these things.
While some smartphones can take beautiful photos I really wanted a compact camera to capture our trip. I’m extremely happy with our Sony RX100 III. It’s expensive, but definitely one of the best compact cameras out there. It’s incredible what they’ve managed to pack in such a small device. The camera is not waterproof though (unsurprisingly), so we also brought my GoPro, allowing us to take photos while kayaking, swimming and diving.
I’ll keep this one short: all travelers should have a Kindle.
Those wondering what the TP-Link TL-MR3020 and Vodafone R215 4G Modem are doing in our gear list: both can be used to create your own WiFi network. The first one can be used when there’s only wired internet, the second one is to be used with a sim card. You probably won’t need either, unless you require internet for your work like I do.
Something you will need is a travel adapter. The Skross World Pro USB we bought was expensive but includes 2 fast-charging USB ports that definitely come in handy. The PowerCube we plug into it gets us 4 outlets in a compact format, so that’s great as well.
One gadget I hesitantly left at home was our Chromecast. Most rooms we stayed in did actually have an HDMI port so it would have been fun to watch movies on TV, but we don’t really miss it that much.
Reviewing our Gear – Other
These items don’t really fit in any of our other categories but come in quite handy nonetheless.
Brecht holds the money and cards, so I hardly ever use my handbag. My Sea To Summit travel wallet holds all my important documents and stays most of the time in my backpack at the hostel. It’s handy though, the perfect size. My Platypus Soft Bottle was a great purchase: we fill it up with free drinking water at the hostel (if it’s available) when we leave, and when it’s empty, it’s light and barely takes up any space.
Definitely happy with our Sea To Summit travel wallet for all our important documents. The TSA Locks we brought make us feel a bit safer as well, especially when leaving our backpacks behind somewhere.
We haven’t really needed the first-aid kit yet, but I guess that’s a good thing. The mini duct tape has had its use, but the one we bought is quite crappy, so make sure you check it before bringing it on your trip.
Our advice on what to pack for a long term trip
Learn from our successes and mistakes!
When you’re leaving on a long term trip, keep in mind you’ll need everything (or most of the things) you use in your daily (or weekly) routine. Seems I forgot this and left some little “necessities” at home, like my favourite hair clip, my foot file, my tweezers and a scarf. Nothing I can’t buy here, but I still wish I would have brought mine. Oh, and I hardly brought any jewelry, which I regret as well. Found a nice bracelet on a market in Chiang Mai though!
Concerning clothes, bring your favourite ones! You’ll need to wear them all the time. Just make sure you have a decent outfit (that covers knees and shoulders) to visit temples and an outfit for “adventurous” activities and hiking. I for example haven’t really got an outfit for when we want to have drinks at a sky bar. We both have an outfit that will do, but it’s still “travelly” (if you know what I mean) which makes us stand out from the crowd. But I’ve learned to not care what others think. (Even though I’m jealous and want a nice dress, elegant shoes and classy jewelry too.)
You really only need 1 backpack and unless you need clothing for extreme weather situations you can probably make a carry on sized backpack work for you. I’m really happy we didn’t bring more stuff that we’d just have to carry around from place to place. I feel like we’ve got everything we need.
Nearly everything you need can also be bought in a more expensive “travel” variant. Just think about travel toothpaste, travel wallets, travel locks and travel clothes. In some cases it’s worth it, but make sure to really think about it first. We bought a lot of travel-specific stuff and it cost us (we’ll probably do a blog post about our gear expenses later). I’m really happy with some if it, but the normal variant might have been good enough as well.
So what do you guys think?
Any travel gadget we missed out on and should definitely check out? Or do you feel like we still brought way too many things?
Let us know what your round the world trip gear looks like in the comments!