While traveling on our round the world trip, we each carried a single backpack with all our personal belongings. Our packs have seen things. They’ve been dropped, spilled on, kicked and jammed into places where they didn’t fit. Before the trip, we planned out everything we would need. And upon setting off, I was sure that I had figured it out and packed all the right things. But everything seems to change when you start traveling. Planning your flights and travel logistics is just one aspect when setting out on a long trip. Packing is not universal and I realized that one person’s packing list may not work for another. Certainly, two gay guys traveling the world together are not your typical backpackers, but our packing list did not originally reflect that. We realized in the first week of our trip in Mexico City where we went wrong and quickly made some changes. Take a look at the original article I wrote last year with an updated list of every item we packed for our round the world trip. Now nearly a year and a half later, I’ve rounded up a list of the top 10 items we couldn’t live without while traveling.
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We used our phones to navigate every city we went visited. Apps like OffMaps2 allow GPS map tracking on a pre-downloaded map without a data package. Email, internet, hostel booking apps, blogging tools, social media apps and exchange apps are just a few that we also used daily.
My neck pillow was truly my best friend on all the traveling. Whether it was by bus, train, plane or boat, this inflatable, lightweight piece of heaven kept my neck from cramping on quick naps or overnight bus rides. David’s foam style pillow smashed up into a make-shift carrying case.
I have yet to see a single other backpacker with a water sterilizer like we carried. We spent more than 6 months visiting countries where the local tap water could put you on your ass and destroy your stomach. Rather than buying bottled water, which is not only expensive (it adds up!) but it’s extremely wasteful and often inconvenient. The sterilizer costs about $50 but probably saved us $100 over the year of traveling versus buying bottled water. It did add a bit of extra weight to my pack, but it was well worth it. There were times when drinking water out of the tap in places like Mexico, India or Africa seemed scary even after sterilization, but in the end we never got sick from water so it was the right decision.
We used our travel towel everyday so it’s worth the extra money to buy a big, nice quality travel towel. After a couple months of putting up with my handkerchief-sized travel towel, trying to wipe down my shower-soaked body, I gladly spent $40 on a nice towel at a camping store in Heidelberg, Germany. This one actually wrapped around my entire body but was still compact, lightweight and fast drying.
#5 Best Item – Bandana
The bandana was surprisingly versatile. From a headband during my long hair days to a dinner napkin, our bandanas received constant use. One time David even cut his finger badly and ripped a piece off to tie his finger until we could find a proper bandage. This is a must have item.
A pocket knife might be a debatable item among backpackers. Caring this item prevents you from ever taking your bag as a carry-one during plane rides. But luckily for us, we got most of our luggage checked for free so it wasn’t normally an issue. We actually carried a fairly large sized knife and we constantly used it, mostly when preparing our own meals. The knife allowed us to quickly make a sandwich on the fly after stopping by a market for a loaf of bread and some meat or cheese.
Spending a month in Ghana, we faced power outages on a near-daily basis. These lights were critical to make our way around our room at night. It also came in quite handy on the rest of our trip when returning to our hostel room late at night. The headband was actually almost as important as the light itself since it frees up your hands.
The outlet converter was an absolute necessity. Unless you travel without electronics (who does these days?) you will need a converter. We snagged a universal converter that can both accept any plug type and plug into any outlet type around the world. Even traveling as a couple, we each brought our own and it was well worth it. We got ours online for $3 each which was a steal. Thanks China!
I was surprised by how much we actually used our extension cord on the road. The primary use wasn’t the extension feature but the ability to turn a single outlet into three. We found most hostel accommodations to be short on outlets and it was also quite convenient to find a single outlet in an airport, train or bus station and have the ability to each plug in our laptops and phones to charge.
Finding a open Laundromat is not always easy when traveling so hand washing becomes a common activity. Though we didn’t use the drying line on a daily basis, I wouldn’t want to travel without one. You could probably bring a simple line or thin rope or twine but this one was convenient because it had Velcro on each end for easy attachment. The braided elastic cords also created a way to hang clothes from the line without the need for clothespins or other attachments.
So there you have it. You can see the packing list that we started and ended with in our original post. Hopefully this post sheds some light on why we chose certain items and tossed others while in route. If I learned one thing, it’s that every traveler has his own priorities. We attempt to be moderately fashion-savvy while maintaining some practicality of living out of a backpack. And while we can’t stand the backpacker that refuses to shave, shower or put on a clean shirt, we do understand that it’s more difficult to keep a good hygiene routine. But dude, nobody wants to smell you and well frankly, we really don’t enjoy looking at you either.What's are some of the things you could absolutely not travel without? Agree or disagree with our list?