Everything You Need to Travel the World in One Backpack

Tom Wahlin
Jul 25, 2016 · 17 min read
Image for post
Image for post
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

Image for post
Image for post
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

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

Sweaters

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

Oxford

Image for post
Image for post
Wool & Prince Button Up

Hoodie

Image for post
Image for post
Icebreaker Shifter Long Sleeve Zip Hood

Jackets

Image for post
Image for post
Patagonia Alpine Houdini Jacket | Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket

Pants

Image for post
Image for post
Outlier Slim Dungarees

Shorts

Image for post
Image for post
Outlier New Way Shorts | Billabong Crossfire X Submersible Short

Underwear & Socks

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Woolx Merino Wool Boxer Brief | Darn Tough Socks

Shoes

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Earthrunner Sandals | Vivobarefoot Shoes

Warm Gear

Image for post
Image for post
Wool Buff | Headband | Wool Gloves

Hat

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Ghostly International Cotton Camp Cap

Accessories

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
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

Image for post
Image for post
MacBook Pro | Surge Protector

To save pounds, cut ounces.

E-Reader

Image for post
Image for post
Amazon Kindle Voyage | Origami Case

Accessories

Image for post
Image for post
  1. Headphone Splitter: Good for when you’re meeting friends that love the same music you do. For me, that music is Techno & House.
  2. 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.
  3. MagSafe to MagSafe 2 Converter: This is still surprisingly useful to have, especially when using a thunderbolt monitor with the old MagSafe adaptor.
  4. Kikkerland Travel Adapter: Small, lightweight, and can convert just about every outlet anywhere.
  5. 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.
  6. Apple Ethernet Adapter: Good to have if the hotel or Airbnb has real shit wifi but an ethernet cable.
  7. 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?
  8. Apple Magic Mouse: It’s a mouse. Used for computer work. It’s great.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.)
  12. 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.
  13. Pencil Lead: Replacement pencil lead for a mechanical pencil. Pretty sick.
  14. 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.
  15. Micro USB cord: for Kindle, HooToo, and irresponsible Android user travel buddies that forget their chargers I meet along the way.

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

Toiletries

Image for post
Image for post
  1. Fjallraven Gear Bag: Perfect size to fit all of these toiletries. Also has a nifty strap to hang on towel hooks & the like.
  2. Deodorant: Yep, deodorant.
  3. 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.
  4. Toothpaste: Getting it as close to a 3 ounce tube as possible is good so you’re still within the TSA liquid budget.
  5. Nylon Travel Toothbrush and some floss: The size of the toothbrush is nice and compact, although the bristles are a little stiff.
  6. Comb: Keep the hair in check.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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

Image for post
Image for post
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

Image for post
Image for post
Bloodlines Custom Playing Cards

Wallet & Notebook

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Herschel Supply Raven Leather Wallet | Herschel Supply Raynor Passport Holder | Moleskine Notebook

Water Bottle

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Vapur Eclipse Water Bottle

Tools

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

ZZZZZ Gear

Image for post
Image for post

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

Image for post
Image for post

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

Image for post
Image for post

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

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post

Sentimental Items

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post

Putting it all together

Image for post
Image for post

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

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

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store