Unpacking A ‘Round The World Backpack

Some people need a lot of things when they travel. Others need next to nothing. I fall somewhere in between. While I never got down to a single carry-on bag, my 45L backpack was only 75% full at any time.

There were a number of things I debated about bringing: a cell phone, a small laptop, more clothes or shoes, an iPod, more makeup, etc. I can honestly say that I did not miss what I did not pack. I did laundry more often. I used the many internet cafes everywhere I went. I called home with my Skype account whenever I wanted.

All in all, packing for a year away was not much different than packing for any two week holiday. The basics are the same. After all, the less you take, the less you have to carry.

Let’s see what I did take with me…

Don’t Leave Home Without:

1 agenda with key emergency contact and insurance information

1 USB stick with scans of important I.D. and insurance documents

2 credit cards

1 debit card

$200 USD currency

3 $100 American Express Traveler’s Cheques

1 passport + 3 photos for visas along the way


1 pair flipflops (mandatory for hostel showers)

1 pair Merrell light hiking boots (not a single blister!)

5 pairs socks (all black, wool/cotton blends)

1 knee-length heavy cotton skirt

1 pair black sweatpants

1 pair light cotton/khaki pants

1 cotton dress

1 black Mountain Equipment Co-op rainjacket

6 pairs of underwear and 3 bras (2 regular, 1 sports)

1 bathing suit

1 hat

3 t-shirts

1 light long-sleeve shirt

2 tank tops

1 summer pajama pants

1 thin wool sweater

1 big long scarf (never imagined how useful this would prove to be)

2 pairs of earrings


One of everything I needed in travel size: shampoo, soap, conditioner, moisturizer, toothpaste, toothbrush, floss, pads, tampons, lip gloss, mascara, hair elastics, bobby pins, deodorant, roll of toilet paper, etc. I refilled and replaced everything along the way.

First Aid kit:

hand sanitizer, serious bug spray, SPF 30 sunscreen, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, bandaids, a bit of gauze, scissors, anti-diarrhea meds, anti-malaria meds (for Central America and Southeast Asia), anti-altitude sickness meds (Peru/Bolivia) and Polysporin (for disinfecting cuts).


1 ten degree MEC sleeping bag

1 silk sleep sack (bedbug-bite proof but really hot)

1 borrowed airplane pillow

1 small-med quick dry towel for my hair

1 sarong/body towel

1 book for leisure reading

1 notebook for writing + 3 pens

1 deck of cards


1 pair of sunglasses

1 pair prescription glasses, box of contact lenses, travel bottles of eye drops and lens solution.

1 camera (plus extra memory card, etc.)

12 pack AA batteries (for camera and Discman)

1 Discman and 6 mixed CDs (I was teased a lot for rocking the portable CD player instead of an mp3 player, but I never had to worry about running out of power, breaking it or having it stolen.)

1 flashlight

1 small Swiss Army knife (including knife, scissors, bottle opener and corkscrew)

1/4 roll of duct tape wound on a pen


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