Three days before my trip, I panicked—I hadn’t packed a single thing. I had procrastinated, hoping my backpack would magically pack itself. What do you bring on a long trip across multiple continents and climates? After much thought and research, I narrowed my belongings down to a select few. It was a painful process. I worried I would forget something, until I came to the realization that if I forgot anything, I could pick it up along the way. Whew! That mindset made packing easier. For instance, today I needed fingernail clippers. I forgot to pack fingernail clippers. (Long nails drive me nuts.) I found a pair at a pharmacy in Reykjavik, and I bought them. The most important thing is to pack light. Nothing is worse than carrying around a 200 lb. backpack.

The Backpack

The vessel to store all the goods. It’s important to make sure this bag is comfortable. I went to REI to try some on and decided on the Boreas Lost Coast Backpack. The designer in me wanted a backpack that was both comfortable AND looked cool. This particular bag won Editor’s Choice in 2012 by Backpacker Magazine. I discovered Boreas through my friend, Bri Scarff, who designed their website. The fine folks at Boreas gave me a special coupon to save $10 off any purchase of 2 items or more. Just use “KEEGJONES” during checkout.

I super-glued this California patch on my bag as a reminder of where to head home after traveling.

Clothes

There is no need to bring the entire closet. I hand-picked a few of my favorite clothes that I already own. It’s unnecessary to buy a bunch of new, fancy travel clothes. Most hostels have a washer or sink to do laundry. As an anonymous traveler, I’m the only one who knows if I’ve worn the same shirt 3 days in a row. Who cares?! It’s my dirty little wearable secret.

2 t-shirts

3 button up shirts

1 tie (sometimes it’s business time)

1 pair of long underwear

1 sweater

1 pair of sweatpants

1 pair of Levi’s

1 pair of REI waterproof pants

1 pair of shorts

1 pair of flip flops (to wear in the hostel bathroom and on the beach)

Patagonia Down Sweater — This looks like a light jacket, but is extremely warm. It’s also designed to fold into a nice tiny cube by stuffing the jacket into the front pocket.

Patagonia Rain Jacket — This jacket also folds into itself.

5 pairs of underwear

5 pairs of socks — SmartWool socks are your friend. They are comfortable and don’t become stinky like cotton.

Clark’s Desert Boots — I love these. I picked up a new pair before I left, because I wore a hole through the sole of my previous pair. (I wore them every day for a year and a half.)

Pack clothes by rolling (instead of folding, this keeps them less wrinkly), and stuffing them into a compression sack to conserve space. Watch this YouTube video to see how to pack like a pro.

Electronics

Most of the things below are completely unnecessary. But for someone who has an unhealthy obsession with technology, I had to bring them.

13" MacBook Air — By far the best computer I’ve ever owned. It’s super light and perfect for 90% of the tasks I need it for - including design and photo editing.

iPhone 5 — I discontinued my cell phone service while traveling. International data is expensive. So instead, I’ve been using my iPhone like an iPod Touch — bouncing from Wi-Fi hotspot to hotspot. After 3 weeks without cell service, I’ve realized how many times I impulsively check Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/Email. It’s freeing to have this distraction unavailable. Attention is a scarce resource and it’s a shame to mindlessly waste it on impulsive tendencies. Technology is amazing, and the benefits far outweigh the cons, but I’m practicing living in the moment instead of through my phone.

Canon 5D Mark II — Along with two lenses, the 50mm f/1.4 and 24mm f/1.4, inside a Crumpler camera bag.

Amazon Kindle — The battery lasts forever, holds hundreds of books, and only weighs 8oz.

Miscellaneous

USA Passport — This could be important.

Lock — To secure the backpack in a locker.

Belkin Power Strip — with travel adapter plugs.

Ear Plugs — To block out the guy snoring in the hostel.

Advil

Moleskine Journal

REI Travel Sack — I ended up returning this sleeping bag. Most hostels have linens available, and this took up unnecessary space. Instead, I got a sleeping bag liner, which is essentially a sheet sewn together like a sleeping bag. I’ll use this in a worse-case scenario if the linens the hostel provide are bad.

Day Backpack

Fork Spoon — A man has to eat.

Map of Iceland — My friend Jessica Zollman gave me the map she used during her trip to Iceland. It has hand-drawn annotations of cool things to do and see. Thanks Jessica!

Insurance

Getting stuff stolen would be a bummer. I bought travel insurance through World Nomads. It protects against stolen or lost baggage and also emergency medical evacuation. I picked this company, because it’s recommended by Lonely Planet and claims can be made online.

It’s amazing how few things a person needs to survive. Life is simple, yet easy to complicate. Pack light, be happy.


Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed
by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.
So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor.
Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.—Mark Twain