Everything You Need to Travel the World in One Backpack

Tom Wahlin
Jul 25, 2016 · 17 min read
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Me in Lofoten, Norway

Pack

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GORUCK GR2

I don’t live in my home, my home lives on my back.

Clothing

Most of the stuff listed here is wool or synthetic, and wide in style variety for different contexts—good anywhere from:

  • Keeping a low-key, muted, kinda grungy profile to get into Berlin’s best clubs (including Berghain 🏢).
  • Looking semi-fancy for a tasting menu meal in Paris.

Tee Shirts & Tank

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Outlier Ultrafine Merino T-Shirt | Woolly Short Sleeve Ultralight V-Neck | Icebreaker Men’s Anatomica Tank Top
  • Woolly Short Sleeve Ultralight V-Neck (middle): Thinner than the Outlier. Good for warmer weather. Not 100% on the color but the lighter color is better when it’s very hot/sunny out.
  • Icebreaker Men’s Anatomica Tank Top (right): Good for showing off the guns, especially if you’re huge like me from typing on the computer and moving a mouse around a lot.

Sweaters

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Woolly Long Sleeve V-Neck | Ministry of Supply Mercury Sweater
  • Ministry of Supply Mercury Sweater (right): This thing looks pretty good, but requires a more frequent wash than the rest of the shirts in the bunch. If I was going to ditch a shirt, it’d be this one, although it helps keep a polished look.

Oxford

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Wool & Prince Button Up

Hoodie

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Icebreaker Shifter Long Sleeve Zip Hood

Jackets

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Patagonia Alpine Houdini Jacket | Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket
  • Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket (right): The weight to warmth ratio with this thing is magical. It’s extremely thin and light. The synthetic material inside the nano-puffs are more durable than actual down as well, meaning, if it gets wet, it’s not a huge issue. This jacket alone is good for about to 40° fahrenheit and above weather. Also doubles as a pillow when compressed (although it’s little stiff).

Pants

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Outlier Slim Dungarees

Shorts

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Outlier New Way Shorts | Billabong Crossfire X Submersible Short
  • Billabong Crossfire X Submersible Short (right): Another shorts / swim trunks combo. Much cheaper than the outliers, and still do a good job. It’s a little harder to pass them off as “shorts” due to the swim-suit looking aesthetic and the “swishier” material that trunks usually have.

Underwear & Socks

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Woolx Merino Wool Boxer Brief | Darn Tough Socks
  • Darn Tough Socks: Wicking and cushiony — even with no traveling, I think I’d switch to these due to durability and again, the ability to wear a couple times between washes.

Shoes

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Earthrunner Sandals | Vivobarefoot Shoes
  • Vivobarefoot Men’s Walking Shoe: The idea of these are great. Minimalistic, light-weight, and versatile. Good for wearing while walking around exploring, and can also pass as something “fancier” if you’re sneaky (short of a pair of wing tipped loafers, of course). The one problem I have is sizing. A 42 is too small, and a 43 is too large for me personally.

Warm Gear

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Wool Buff | Headband | Wool Gloves
  • Headband (bottom left): This thing does a great job of keeping gorgeous locks out of your face if you’re out for a run.
  • Wool Gloves (right): These are good for use outside, or in an overly air conditioned coffee shop/co-working space. They also make you look like kind of a psycho if you’re wearing them with only a tee shirt just to keep your hands warm. Works for me. YMMV.

Hat

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Ghostly International Cotton Camp Cap

Accessories

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Void Watch | Bomber Paracord Bracelet | J. Crew Belt | Han Kjøbenhavn Doc Sunglasses
  • Bomber Paracord Bracelet: A paracord and a fire starter (flint) all in one? And it’s TSA Compliant? This thing is probably overkill for the type of travel I’m doing, but I still like to think it impresses people.
  • J. Crew Belt: This thing is incredibly durable, and has been used by me everyday for years. Still intact, and looking good.
  • Han Kjøbenhavn Doc Sunglasses: Purchased these following a hot tip from Katherine Lewin. These are inside of a deceiving Warby Parker Case (the hard case is pretty rad). For what these are, they take up quite a bit of room in my bag. Have looked at some foldable glasses, but they’re not quite as aesthetically pleasing. Not in the slightest.

Tech

The thing I love about all this is that it’s possible to work from virtually anywhere with an internet connection. Right now, I’m sitting in a coffee shop called #HASHTAG in Berlin, tomorrow I may be working from inside of a train, the next day, a beach. The possibilities are endless.

Laptop

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MacBook Pro | Surge Protector
  • Surge Protector: There are various opinions online about whether or not you need one of these. I’m kinda paranoid, so I use one. Plus, there’s a USB port which replaces the little iPhone charging brick (although it charges a bit slower). Although small, every little bit of space saved is worth it.

To save pounds, cut ounces.

E-Reader

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Amazon Kindle Voyage | Origami Case

Accessories

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  1. Griffin PowerJolt Micro: This is the tiniest car adapter I’ve ever seen. I hardly use it, but it’s so small that it’s rarely noticeable in the pack. Sometimes, it’s difficult to pull out of the socket, but ultimately worth having.
  2. MagSafe to MagSafe 2 Converter: This is still surprisingly useful to have, especially when using a thunderbolt monitor with the old MagSafe adaptor.
  3. Kikkerland Travel Adapter: Small, lightweight, and can convert just about every outlet anywhere.
  4. Kenu Highline iPhone Case (green and black leash): Some people use leashes for pets, others for phones. At first, I thought this idea was kinda dumb. But then, I dropped my phone down a large cliff on Angel Island and also watched this video of massive phone theft in Rio De Janeiro. This thing keeps your phone from being dropped or stolen because it’s literally attached to you. It’s also hardly noticeable. Just loop it through a belt loop and forget about it. A tiny part of this case cracked, but Kenu sending me a new one for free that’s supposedly stronger. Will update if that one breaks.
  5. Apple Ethernet Adapter: Good to have if the hotel or Airbnb has real shit wifi but an ethernet cable.
  6. Shure SE425-V Earphones: The sound and noise-cancelling with these earbuds is pretty great, but I can’t say the same about the durability. Maybe I’m hard on my electronics, but I’ve had to replace these 2 times using their warranty. It’s nice to get a “new” pair of headphones each time, but I’d pay a couple grand for amazing earbuds that will last for life. Suggestions?
  7. Apple Magic Mouse: It’s a mouse. Used for computer work. It’s great.
  8. Power Splitter: You know that crappy feeling you get when all the outlets are taken at the coffee shop and you’re left with dead electronics? With this thing, if you ask nicely, the person using the outlet may allow you to plug this bad boy in so each of you can get your juice. The smallest splitter I’ve been able to find that’s still 3 prong.
  9. HooToo Battery Pack and Wireless Router: This charges an iPhone 6S 2–3 times from a full charge. It’s also a router, so if an accommodation only allows you to connect one or two devices, you can use the router feature to distribute sweet, sweet internet to all of your devices.
  10. Apple Lightning Cables: Cables. Used for charging devices. They’re great. (I don’t mess around with any 3rd party stuff when it comes to cables. I like living in luxury with Apple.)
  11. Transcend Thumb Drive: Thumb drive used for transferring files when a network is slow, or printing off design comps from an archaic printshop that doesn’t accept files any other way. Don’t particularly like the look of this drive, but it does the job.
  12. Pencil Lead: Replacement pencil lead for a mechanical pencil. Pretty sick.
  13. Apple Power Adapter: It’s a power brick. Used for charging stuff. It’s great. Also, probably going to ditch it, because the surge protector has a USB port.
  14. Micro USB cord: for Kindle, HooToo, and irresponsible Android user travel buddies that forget their chargers I meet along the way.

Toiletries

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  1. Deodorant: Yep, deodorant.
  2. GoToob Travel Bottles: Fill these up with whatever you want. I’ve got Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap (a little of this goes a long way), Face Lotion, and Sunscreen.
  3. Toothpaste: Getting it as close to a 3 ounce tube as possible is good so you’re still within the TSA liquid budget.
  4. Nylon Travel Toothbrush and some floss: The size of the toothbrush is nice and compact, although the bristles are a little stiff.
  5. Comb: Keep the hair in check.
  6. WAHL Compact Travel Trimmer: The smallest trimmer I’ve been able to find. Works pretty well, although I find myself changing the battery about every 8th use.
  7. Swiss Army Nail Clippers With File: Probably the worlds smallest nail clippers, also, the main event of this article. If you’re still reading — you’ve made it to the best part. Congrats! Really love this thing though, and it brings me a lot of personal satisfaction to optimize for the smallest item and weight.
  8. Tweezerman Moustache Scissors: Works well for grooming a beard / trimming a moustache. With the pointed blades, I’m surprised TSA hasn’t taken these away from me yet.
  9. Mr. Natty Dub Hair Pomade: Hair product of choice. Good hold, smells good. The dude that makes this works at Freeman’s in NYC. Highly recommended.
  10. Schick ST2 Disposable Razor: Since it’s hard to travel with a safety razor (thanks TSA) the next-best space-saver is buying a bunch of disposable razor cartridges. I ripped the handle off of all these and use each 4–5 times before disposing. Works well for me, I keep a groomed beard and shave about once a week.

Nail Clipper

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Swiss Army Nail Clippers With File

Miscellaneous

Here’s the rest of the stuff that didn’t really fit into the categories above.

Playing Cards

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Bloodlines Custom Playing Cards

Wallet & Notebook

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Herschel Supply Raven Leather Wallet | Herschel Supply Raynor Passport Holder | Moleskine Notebook

Water Bottle

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Vapur Eclipse Water Bottle

Tools

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Beta-QRv2 Flashlight | Gerber GDC Zip Hex | Leatherman — Piranha | Gerber GDC Zip Driver
  • Gerber GDC Zip Hex, Leatherman — Piranha, and Gerber GDC Zip Driver: I tried a ton of different mini multi-tools, and found this combination to be the best for fixing things like uneven tables at coffee shops and loose chairs in hotel rooms. Shouldn’t need it for much more. You can get a pretty good amount of torque with the mini gerber drivers in comparison to other mini multi-tools, and the Piranha has a ton of different tools in one. Even though they’re TSA compliant, I imagine I’ll get these taken away by some cowboy TSA person.
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ZZZZZ Gear

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Towels

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First Aid

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Compression and organization items

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  • Sea to Summit Compression Dry Sack (the orange one): Same idea as the others, but this has a draw string to really compress things down. I keep my hoodie, buff, and gloves in here packed up tight.
  • Apple Bag: NBD. Just a smaller day bag I use for bringing my laptop and snacks to the coffee shop. Assuming it’ll fall apart at some point.
  • Cedar Chips: I think old people use these in closets to keep away bugs and make their stuff smell nice. Old people are right — these really work. I stick one of these in each eagle creek bag to keep clothing fresh.

Sentimental Items

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  • Whale Figurine: Gotta carry some stuff with no function, right? I have this little whale figurine that I carry as a reminder that not everything needs a functional purpose. The Whale is one of my nicknames given to me from an agency I worked at called space150 and is a good reminder of my roots as a designer.

Putting it all together

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Pack Hacker

The best travel gear for digital nomads, corporate road…

Tom Wahlin

Written by

Founder of @packhacker. Digital nomad. Formerly: @infatuation, @apple, @coverpay (acquired by @velocityapp), @space150 & @the_nerdery.

Pack Hacker

The best travel gear for digital nomads, corporate road warriors, and frequent travelers

Tom Wahlin

Written by

Founder of @packhacker. Digital nomad. Formerly: @infatuation, @apple, @coverpay (acquired by @velocityapp), @space150 & @the_nerdery.

Pack Hacker

The best travel gear for digital nomads, corporate road warriors, and frequent travelers

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