Stuff in my travel bag.
That’s all you travel with?!?
If you’ve read any of my packing articles, or travel ones, you’ll know I travel light. I still get questions about the gear I bring, and how I manage to bring so little, so I wanted to do a photographic tour of my bag, with some tips.
So, the first question I get is: “Wait, that’s it?” And yep, that’s all I carry for an indefinite trip. If I was camping out, I’d have to carry a bigger bag, but I wouldn’t bring any more gear beyond a tent/sleeping pad/bag. You can really get away with having this little stuff, I promise. And, if you panic and decide you need more, most places sell bigger bags, and stuff.
The one “comfort item” that I love to have with me is the travel slippers in the upper left. They’re discontinued, but came from Muji. You can find all kinds of slippers like this, but it’s a fantastic feeling to take off your shoes on a plane, or at your remote apartment, and put these on. Really makes a place feel like home, in my opinion. At home I have some jute/wool ones I got in Canada, but they’re too bulky for travel. There’s also a lens cloth for glasses or screens, sunglasses, and a pocket blanket for the ground or wherever from Matador. The rest of the gear I’ll detail below.
I have two bags, but this one is both my daily carry, and my typical trip bag. When I go to a country like Japan, or plan to bring a sweater, or a toy bag (NSFW), I might bring the Ryu, but this Topo Design’s ~8L Travel bag works for me really, really well. It’s waterproof*, has just enough organization to help me get my iPad or MacBook out easily, but not forget where things are. It’s also pretty comfortable for all-day wear, and holds up to a fair bit of abuse and slinging around. I seriously love this bag. There’s usually a little room left after I put all my stuff into this bag, so I can sometimes jam my coat into it as well, and always add a water bottle (mine is black, obvs).
*there’s a small gap where the main zips meet, and while I haven’t had an issue, it’s probably best to zip them to the side, and if you’re truly worried, use a trash bag or dry-bag.
One extra bra, one or two extra wool socks (long & short if there’s changeable conditions), 2 pairs of underwear, one extra shirt, and a bag to fit it all into. The real trick to packing ultralight is being willing to wash your clothes in a sink — in a bathroom, airport, wherever. Wash your gear when and where you shower, then hang it in your room, or on your bed-frame if you have to. Most spots you stay will have water, some soap (or you can buy some), and a place to hang stuff. If you’re worried, you can always get the Wirecutter’s recommended cord. If you wash your drawers every day, and your shirt and pants once a week or so, you’ll be fine. Not pictured is the yoga pants, or joggers I bring for laundry day, house lounging, and airplanes. I love these from Lucy. Usually I bring a sports bra + a regular bra, and I make sure my panties are thinner cotton from Toru & Naoko or MeUndies*.
*a quick note on MeUndies: I was a big fan for a while, but have noticed they don’t last that long, which is a bummer, especially since they’re expensive. I’ve wanted to look into some merino wool panties, but haven’t made the jump yet. The MeUndies I currently own will be my last, bc the stitching hella falls apart after a month in some cases of regular wearing. YMMV.
clockwise from the left:
Lamy Safari & Hobonichi Techo for notes on my trip, my day, or my feelings. It’s really nice to daily journal, and I rediscovered this joy when I went to Japan in January, 2017. I try to draw little pictures daily too. I love this pen, and the Hobonichi is rightfully a favorite of many folks. It’s rad as hell. I especially love the moon cycle notation at the top of each page.
iPad Pro 9.7 for my daily computer tasks, work or personal. Sometimes I bring a 12" MacBook, but it really depends on how much work I need to do wherever I got. My work vacillates between writing, speaking, and server testing, but mostly I can do it all on an iPad. I love not having to think about the battery life, and that it shares a charger with my phone.
Anker USB multi-port adaptor, Apple 1m lighting cable, and Anker USB-Micro to USB-A cable for charging my Kindle, vibrator, iPad, portable USB battery, and headphones. If I bring my Macbook the Macbook charger takes over duty from this, as I have USB-C to USB-A, and lightning cables. There’s not much to say about this thing except, it’s an adaptor, and it has 4 USB ports. It’s pretty small too. I recently saw a 2-port adaptor that can become a portable battery, and I’m considering switching over to that since I rarely charge more than 2 things at once.
B&O H7 bluetooth headphones are how I listen to music almost every day when I’m not at home. I have a Sonos setup for my couch and bedroom time, but these headphones have impressed me with their comfort, sound quality, and battery life. One minor complaint: the touch-sensitive controls aren’t capacitive, so trying to fall asleep on the right-side of a plane is a recipe for annoyance.
Jackery Bolt keeps all my devices charged when I’m away from a power outlet for a full day or so. I love this thing, because the cables are built in. It’s 6,000mAh, so it might not work for everyone, but I’ve been happy. I think it’s discontinued (didn’t see it on Jackery’s site), but Amazon still sells them. Replace with whatever USB charger you like (I go with the Wirecutter’s recommendations, usually).
JimmyJane Form 2 and magnetic charging base to get off on the go, or have fun with a date. Take a vacation from your Magic Wand sometimes.
Kindle Paperwhite for reading as many books as I want without extra weight. Sometimes, I’ll pick up a paperback or two, and read them and leave them behind. Sometimes I’ll bring home a book as a souvenir, but I always keep this with me for reading. The built in light is fantastic for not disturbing a date, or your seat-mate on the plane. Whether or not you want to give money to Amazon is up to you… there are other ways to get books, and other devices to read them on.
not pictured: my Apple Watch and charger. Barely any extra weight… but I wish it charged via lightning sometimes.
The small bag is from chrome, and is waterproof. I bring a razor, toothbrush*, toothpaste, nail-clipper, condom (and usually nitrile gloves), lip balm, essential oil, sanitizer, and pills (vitamin B, D, lactaid, fish oil, etc). If you run out of anything, it’s usually easy to replace this stuff unless you’re in a forest. I also bring chopsticks (the small owl container) for when I don’t have utensils.
*I actually hate the Quip that’s pictured here because the motor broke within a month, and will either replace it with a random soft-bristled disposable, or bring my Sonicare from home next time.
** you never know what you might get up to, and staying safe with partners is super important. Condoms fit over the form 2 really well, and gloves are good for hands, naturally.
Hopefully after reading this you understand a bit more how I get through a trip to Japan, Oakland, or wherever. I might add a sleeping bag liner at some point, or bring a sweater or お土産 for a friend, but this is my typical load-out. Message me here or on twitter @brookshelley with any questions. I think at this point I’m allergic to stuff, and am definitely a hopeless dork when it comes to ultralight travel packing.