What to Pack for RTW Travel (for men)

It’s our hope that this blog will serve as not only a chronicle of our Chasing Summer adventure, but also an inspiration and resource for those considering a similar experience. So to supplement our regular posts about what we’re seeing and doing, we’ll also include posts from time-to-time with travel advice, lessons learned, and other stuff that may be useful to the world.  In this post, we’ll focus on what we learned about how to pack for a round-the-world (RTW) trip.

This post is written by Jared and targeted at the male perspective.  Lauren will write another post soon for the female perspective.

I’ve learned that you should bring half as much stuff and twice as much money as you think you’ll need. Even before this trip I was a fairly seasoned international traveler, having visited close to 40 countries and hundreds of cities in my life.  I knew that to travel for a year I’d need to pack light, but I still underestimated how light would be light enough.  I limited myself to one carry-on sized backpack, the awesome Osprey Meridian 22, for everything I’d bring (clothes, electronics, toiletries, exercise equipment, etc.) and still managed to pack more than I’ve actually needed.  In terms of clothes, here’s what I packed and have actually used:

– One pair of nice jeans for going out (I like 7 For All ManKind)

– One pair of travel khakis (the Arc’teryx Palisades which have been great)

– Two pairs of colored t-shirts (the Icebreaker Superfine 150‘s which are also great)

– Two pairs of white ExOfficio t-shirts (for working out or the beach)

– Three pairs of ExOfficio underwear (these are a “must have” for long-term travel)

– One nice button-down long-sleeve cotton shirt

– One pair of mesh shorts (for working out)

– Two pairs of shorts (one casual cotton pair and one nice linen pair)

– One Patagonia lightweight long-sleeve shirt (for chilly nights)

– One wool pullover (for even chiller nights)

– One Arc’teryx Beta SL rain jacket (which I also use a wind-breaker sometimes)

– One bathing suit

– One pair of black Prada sneakers (for nice bars and restaurants)

– One pair of black Vibram KSO Trek shoes (for jogging and long walks around cities, plus getting lots of stares from Greeks and Italians)

– One pair of Havaiana flip flops (for the beach)

– Two pairs of black dress socks for the Prada sneakers

– Two pairs of Injinji socks for the Vibram’s

– One wide-brimmed travel hat (looks dorky but great for blocking sun)

That’s it for clothes, and it has easily been enough. Note that nearly everything that gets daily wear is made from a quick-dry material, which allows me to wash it in the sink and lay it out to dry overnight.

In terms of general travel accessories, I packed:

– One pair of sunglasses (I like these Maui Jim’s)

– One hanging toiletry bag (plus assorted toiletries, of course)

– Earplugs and an eye mask (great for hostels, planes, and just sleeping late)

– A travel luggage lock (mine has been discontinued but it’s similar to this one)

– A thin silk sleeping sack (for rough or questionably clean sheets)

Don’t sweat it if you under-pack when it comes to toiletries or travel accessories, as these kinds of things can be easily bought on the road.

I’m a bit of a workout freak and knew that gyms would be hard to come by in many places that we’d visit, so before the trip I started getting into P90X because it requires such minimal space and equipment.  It has proven perfect for travel because all I need is the P90X videos on my laptop, a 5 x 10 foot floor space, a towel to put on the ground, some resistance bands, and my Lifeline chin-up handles (or I use the occasional ceiling beam, tree branch, etc.)  I’ve also found that yoga and running are great for working out on the road — you can do either just about anywhere.

In terms of electronics, my iPhone 4 has been a lifesaver.  I use it everyday for just about everything imaginable… it’s my camera, video camera, email device, GPS, ebook reader, MP3 player, movie viewer, Web surfing device, weather aid, notepad, calculator, Skype device, and sometimes even phone.  I’d be totally lost without it.

I also brought both my iPad and Macbook Air laptop.  I know that’s a lot of technology for someone “traveling light” but I wasn’t sure what I’d end up needing.  As it turns out, I’ve used the laptop daily and the iPad almost ever.  I ended up selling the iPad and bought the new Kindle 3 instead.  I don’t really need the Kindle, but it will be nice for reading ebooks on the beach and my PDF format Lonely Planet guidebooks (the iPhone 4 works for this too).

As for the Macbook Air, it’s a much nicer computer than one really needs for emails, Web surfing, blog updates, and playing P90X videos.  However it packs small and I already owned it, so that’s what I brought.  For most travelers a cheap netbook will do just fine.

While traveling, I also bought a universal electrical plug adapter (nearly all electronics these days accept either 120 or 240 volt current, which means you don’t need a converter, just a plug adapter) and some travel walkie talkies to avoid using our cell phones to coordinate when we’re running around separately in the same city.

Now, regarding money… We’ve been trying to travel frugally, but we’re still spending nearly twice as much in the average day as I’d budgeted.  Part of the problem is that we’re traveling in Europe at the moment and the dollar isn’t very strong against the euro, and the other part is that we’re not making the day-to-day sacrifices that “true backpackers” tend to make.  For example, we’ve spent much more time in private hotel rooms than dorm-style hostels, we eat nearly every meal in a restaurant, and we haven’t hesitated to rent a car, scooter, or ATV when it adds convenience, even when buses or trains would have sufficed.

My advice to other world travelers is simply “know thyself” and budget according to the level of comfort and convenience that you need (or want) and not that of others.

I really hope that this post has been helpful to folks.  If you have any questions, just ask!


Filed under Lessons Learned

11 responses to “What to Pack for RTW Travel (for men)

  1. Gia and Steve

    Hi Jared,

    Thanks for the great advice. We’re hoping to be doing our own RTW trip in the near future…this is a good list to start with (and morph according to one’s own needs, of course!).

    Safe travels!
    Gia and Steve

  2. Great advice, Jared.
    I love the product links and reviews.
    the most fun I had traveling was trying to stretch my dollar, which required that i stretch my innovation. It’s too easy to spend your way out of actually immersing yourself into the cultures that you are trying to experience.
    not judging, just saying.

    • Jared

      Ryan, I agree completely with your philosophy. Fine hotels and restaurants are the exact same the world over, so better to fly ‘closer to the ground’ to truly get to know foreign cultures. I don’t think the cash we’ve spent on private hotel rooms has diminished the cultural experience, but what we’ve spent on private transport probably has. If I could do Italy all over again, I would pass on the rental car and ride trains like the Italians.

  3. Dad

    Hi Jared,

    I just read your travel packing advisory and thoroughly enjoyed the snapshot of what you use everyday. Of course, I loved the humor too about renting ATV, scooters, etc when a bus would suffice.

    All is great here in USA. Continue having fun, Dad

  4. Vick


    To who?? You get premo euros for it?

  5. cedric

    Hey Jared, I had a question about the workouts, now keeping the physique when traveling is pretty impressive; were you just sticking to bodyweight routines with the p-90X because I know it calls for weight training? Thanks again

    • Yes, it’s important to keep your physique when traveling because you never know when CNN.com will post a photo of you shirtless 😉 I chose P90X because it can be done with such minimal equipment. For the resistance exercises you can use either weights or bands, and to avoid the obvious disadvantages of traveling with weights I opted for the latter. The bands aren’t quite as versatile as weights but they work well enough. -Jared

  6. Rich

    Jared, I agree, mostly, with the packing list, but question a rolling bag. Level ground is hard to find in most of the world and ~2500cc backpacks, lightly packed, seem easier. Agree with synthetics, sink washing keeps you in clean clothing. You look to have < 20 lbs., congrats on less is better. $60 t-shirts?? I traveled for 1.5 yrs. with 16 lbs., tropics. I carry a down vest which is great for cold and can double as a quilt between the sheet and bedspread on cold nights. Stuffs to nothing. No raincoat, I get out of it.

    • The main reason we decided upon the Osprey Meridian pack is that it can either roll on wheels or be used as a regular backpack. I initially thought that it would spend more time on my back than on its wheels, but after 3+ months of traveling I haven’t used the built-in straps once! As for clothes, we did pack very light and with lots of synthetics and wool, which has made all the difference. Yes, the Icebreaker t-shirts are rather pricey, but they’ve held up much better than cotton would have. That’s a nice idea about a down vest – thanks for the tip. -Jared

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