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Ok so here’s the thing. If you’re a new reader, hi my name is Hanna (Bubu Backpacks) and I’m a nomadic freelance web developer. I’ve been semi-nomadic for the past three months and if everything falls into place, I’ll be making the jump to traveling full time very soon. As I’m working towards that date, it’s been a whole process to narrow down what I need to / can bring with me on the road. I don’t know about you, but I suck at packing (true story one time I went home for winter break (like four weeks) and forgot to pack SHIRTS.)
The greatest piece of packing advice I read before planning my first long backpacking trip is to keep the weight of your bag as low as possible, because you have to be able to carry it. In the sun. For long periods of time, when you inevitably get lost on the way to your hostel.
The image of these two tiny girls I met in Croatia who were struggling to lift backpacks that were easily half their weight and almost as large as they were into our van will forever stick in my mind, because it was just so absurd. For one, how could you possibly need 50 pounds of stuff, or at that point why would you not just get a suitcase? All it takes is one time where you pick it up wrong or trip while wearing a bag that heavy, and you could hurt yourself badly enough that you have to stop traveling.
I picked a 45L bag because 1. I’m a relatively small human, and 2. don’t need to travel with that much stuff. I also kept myself to a semi-arbitrary 28lb. max weight limit on my large pack, and then ended up with a smaller daypack for holding my sunscreen / water / snacks / etc. That got me through 2+ months in Europe, and I definitely had things I didn’t wear or use the entire time, and I had to cut the weight down even further after I lost my appendix and wasn’t supposed to carry a backpack at all (but did anyway because lol I’m stubborn/stupid).
This time around is a little different because I have a one way ticket and no plans to stop traveling any time soon. I’m sticking to warmer climates so I won’t have to pack as much heavy clothing, but planning to be on the move indefinitely sure has its challenges.
(Quick note about my process: When selecting these items, I had two criteria: price and weight. I care more about keeping the weight down than whether an item lasts. Maybe that’ll change as these items eventually wear out and I’m forced to replace them, but for now I’m just going with what I’ve got. Some of the items on here are no longer available from the original seller I purchased them from on Amazon. I’ve tried to find some comparable ones.)
Here’s what’s in my bag:
Tech / Tech Adjacent Stuff
Kindle Fire – Other than stuff that I literally need to do my job and my smartphone (for GPS so I don’t get as lost, lol), my Kindle Fire is THE THING that I can’t travel without. I haven’t taken very good care of it and probably should have gotten a case that covers the screen so it wouldn’t get scratched to hell at the bottom of my bag, but I’ve dropped it 2342342 times, traveled with it for two years, and used it almost every day since spring 2016 and it still works perfectly, minus the crack in the screen from when I hid it under my beach towel so it wouldn’t get stolen and then stepped on it because I suck. And I’m actually on my second one – I had my first one for almost three years before that until I accidentally dropped it in the bathtub and it was done. They’re not waterproof, but they can withstand pretty much anything else you can throw at them. These babies are amazing – it can do everything that I personally would need a tablet to do (primarily Netflix and reading books, basic Google Docs with my bluetooth keyboard when I was traveling without a laptop) and is relatively inexpensive (like under $100, y’all), so it’s cheap enough that while it would suck if it finally broke or was stolen, I don’t guard that shit with my life, like I do with my MacBook, because I could replace it relatively painlessly.
Monitor and monitor stand – I’m a web developer, and my online teaching job requires me to have a second monitor. This one is lightweight, fits in my backpack, and lets me have the convenience of two screens without sacrificing the ‘my whole life fits in a 45L backpack’ schtick that I’ve built up for myself over the past year. I just got it this week, and I’m not sure how well it’ll hold up to traveling, but it seems to do the job so far. Plus the stand so it doesn’t slide off the ledge of my WeWork phone booth and shatter, because that would be sad.
External battery – I suck at making sure my phone battery is fully charged before I go anywhere and routinely forget to plug it in overnight, so this thing is a lifesaver for me. I actually have two, so if I only have access to one outlet, I can charge one up and then use it to charge up the rest of my crap (because as a nomadic dev, I have to travel with a lot of tech). Plus, this one is solar powered, so in a pinch, you can just put it in the sun and not worry about taking up precious outlet space to charge it up.
Power strip – Bring a lightweight power strip with you, because you won’t always have outlets near your bed in a hostel and if you’re like me, you’re going to have 234234 things to charge anyway. Just make sure you plug directly into the wall when using it so it’s not a fire hazard.
Tripod – Ugh, I know, it’s obnoxious and I’m still at the wannabe photographer / travel blogger stage, but I got this lovely lightweight tripod so that I can actually get to be in some of my photos and stop annoying all of my friends. This one is light, seems to hold up pretty well, and does what I need it to do (hold up my camera), so I don’t have any complaints yet. I also have a bluetooth remote for my camera but I haven’t really tested it yet, so we shall see.
Backpack / Packing Stuff
Packing cubes – I’ve been living in hostels long enough to have a routine, and these play a huge part. I don’t know about you, but I move around all the time and unless everything has a place, it’s going to be forgotten and left behind. (Throwback to when it went from cold af in Chicago to summer weather in a week and I forgot literally all of the essential things and ended up with a bag full of sundresses that it wasn’t actually warm enough to wear yet because I got too excited). I’ve had these ones for two years and used them extensively, and they’ve held up relatively well. This particular set came with one more than I need, so it’s at home as a backup. The zipper on the smaller bag is starting to fall apart and the words on the side have rubbed off, but it’s still going strong two years later.
Backpack – When I was planning my first trip, I wasn’t really in a position where I could shell out $200 for a backpack. You should always be wary of the cheap, low quality shit on Amazon, but I found this one as a cheaper starter option that fit my needs and it’s held up relatively well for the two years that I’ve had it, and I’ve used it regularly for about 8 months of that time period. I like it because it fits my small body and it’s not actually that wide or deep so I don’t feel like I’m bumping into literally everything. It had this annoying plastic clip on it that gave me the weirdest bruises when I first started using it a lot, but once I got smart and started watching for it, it got better. Plus I accidentally broke it off about a year ago, so it’s no longer an issue. (Note: this isn’t the exact one I have since it’s no longer available on Amazon, but this one is comparable. Ultimately, your backpack should fit your body, style, and price range so you should do your own research)
Clothes / Shoes
Tevas – These are not the cutest or the most stylish pair of shoes I’ve ever bought, but when you’re walking 30,000 steps a day, you’ll be really glad you have them. I’ve had them for two years and they still look relatively brand new once you wash all the mud off of them, and they’re great for everything from just wandering around the city all day to some relatively strenuous hikes. They will definitely give you blisters if you wear them when they’re wet, so keep that in mind and hose them off after you’re done hiking and not halfway through, but otherwise they’re wonderful and 10/10 would recommend.
SCOTTeVEST Travel Jacket – My mom actually got this for me for Christmas and while it’s not the most stylish thing, it has SO MANY POCKETS so it’s good if you’re going to be out all day and need to bring a lot of things but don’t want to carry a bulky bag with you. It’s also awesome for the airport / trains because I can keep everything I need on my body and don’t have to worry about someone stealing my passport and money if I fall asleep.
Did I miss anything? Let me know the one thing you can’t travel without below in the comments!
Hanna (Bubu Backpacks)
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