Everything You Need to Travel the World in One Backpack

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

Edit: I’ve launched a full website called PackHacker: We test and review the best gear for travel so you don’t have to.

Sometime back in January of 2016, I decided to leave my job with Apple and take a dive into the unknown — explore the world while working remotely.

Below is everything I’m currently traveling with, and basically everything I own (besides a storage locker in Minneapolis that holds my other possessions). Generally, it feels freeing and good to have next to nothing. Adding the constraint of a 40L backpack has made it even more challenging when deciding what to bring, and what to cut.

Everything on this list is TSA compliant, and I can fit this bag underneath the seat in front of me on the airplane. This allows for relaxed, fluid travel, with no need to race other passengers to the overhead bins. When arriving at a new city, I’m not forced to lug a giant roller bag to the hotel immediately as well—I can start doing whatever, right then and there, backpack in hand.

Some of this stuff is a bit pricey, but I’m apt to spend more on something I have less of. Paying for quality is worth it.

As a note, below are referral links, meaning, I get a little something if you click and purchase.

BUCKLE UP, THIS IS A LONG ONE—onto nearly 100 items. Oh, and if you’re more of a spreadsheet person, you can take a look here.

Pack

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:

Weather-wise, this combination of clothing works well down to about 25° fahrenheit. Anything colder, and I probably won’t travel there. I’ve had enough Minnesota winters to last a lifetime.

Tee Shirts & Tank

Outlier Ultrafine Merino T-Shirt | Woolly Short Sleeve Ultralight V-Neck | Icebreaker Men’s Anatomica Tank Top

Sweaters

Woolly Long Sleeve V-Neck | Ministry of Supply Mercury Sweater

Oxford

Wool & Prince Button Up

Hoodie

Icebreaker Shifter Long Sleeve Zip Hood

Jackets

Patagonia Alpine Houdini Jacket | Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket

Pants

Outlier Slim Dungarees

Shorts

Outlier New Way Shorts | Billabong Crossfire X Submersible Short

Underwear & Socks

Woolx Merino Wool Boxer Brief | Darn Tough Socks

Shoes

Earthrunner Sandals | Vivobarefoot Shoes

Warm Gear

Wool Buff | Headband | Wool Gloves

Hat

Ghostly International Cotton Camp Cap

Accessories

Void Watch | Bomber Paracord Bracelet | J. Crew Belt | Han Kjøbenhavn Doc Sunglasses

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

MacBook Pro | Surge Protector

To save pounds, cut ounces.

E-Reader

Amazon Kindle Voyage | Origami Case

Accessories

iPhone 6s Plus (not pictured, because it was needed to take photos of all this stuff!)

Toiletries

Nail Clipper

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

Bloodlines Custom Playing Cards

Wallet & Notebook

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

Water Bottle

Vapur Eclipse Water Bottle

Tools

Beta-QRv2 Flashlight | Gerber GDC Zip Hex | Leatherman — Piranha | Gerber GDC Zip Driver

ZZZZZ Gear

Howard Leight Laser Lite Foam Earplugs and a Sleeping Mask: These earplugs are soft, can stay in for long periods of time without any irritation, block a ton of sound, and are beautiful (ok, maybe not beautiful, but they work). The sleeping mask is something I got from a Delta flight. It’s great to bust out this little kit and fall asleep virtually anywhere.

Towels

Packtowl Personal and small towel from REI: Towel and washcloth combo — these are good for Airbnb’s that don’t provide towels, hostels and the beach. They both dry extremely quickly.

First Aid

First Aid Kit: Better safe than sorry. I’ve got the full kit from this VSSL First Aid Kit (ditched the package because it was too heavy, although it looks awesome), malaria pills, antibiotics, and a tourniquet given to me by a U.S. Army field medic I sat next to on a plane once. Haven’t had much use for any of this yet, but it’ll be good, and potentially life-saving to have when needed.

Compression and organization items

Sentimental Items

Putting it all together

And there you have it. My entire load-out for traveling the world in one pack. Here’s everything in spreadsheet format if that’s your thing.

Super thanks to Tynan, James Clear, Everyday Carry, Carryology, and Legal Nomads for inspiration on the gear—check out the linked articles for more info on one bag travel.

If you’ve read this far, you probably really love gear :) — I’ve created a website of curated travel gear recommendations over at PackHacker.com if you’re interesting in checking it out.

Pack Hacker

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