I meant to publish this post right before I started my RTW trip, but gotten lazy and been putting it off. On the other hand, since I've been on the road for a while now (over 6 months), I can give you additional information about how they performed and how much I've used them :).
They say your backpack is your home when traveling, so I gave it a lot of thoughts when choosing which one to buy. I've also taken them on a few test runs to make sure I'll be comfortable carrying them.
After tons of research on which main backpack to buy, I've decided to go with the
Osprey Kestrel 38. This backpack fits nicely on my back and small enough to qualify as a carry-on luggage when flying. It has very few pockets which I didn't like at first, but it turned out this was a good thing as it kept things simpler and I didn't have to think too much about where I put my things. In my opinion, if your backpack has too many side pockets you might also make yourself a bigger target for pick-pocketers as they might think you have valuable items stored in there (which you may do for convenience), like a camera, for example.
The backpack is also small enough to place on my lap when riding chicken buses that don't have a place to store your luggage inside. I always try to avoid putting my backpack on the roof of the chicken buses as I've heard enough stories of things getting stolen from them. I'm also worried it might fall off the bus or get wet when it suddenly rains.
Another thing I like about Osprey is their great customer service. Their products have lifetime warranty, which I didn't even know until I accidentally broke one of my belt buckles while getting off a bus (it got caught onto something as I jumped out of the bus). I contacted customer support and told them I was in Peru at the time and if it was possible to pick up the part from one of their stores in Lima. They gave me the contact info of one of their distributors there and I sent them an email with a picture of the part and told me I could stop by as early as the following day to pick it up. Very easy, no questions asked about how it broke.
So far, the Osprey Kestrel 38 is still in great shape, haven't seen any sign of wear at all (but currently very dirty due to all the bus rides I've taken, which is kind of a good thing as I'd look poorer).
A small daypack, in my opinion, is also a must when traveling. I'd been using it a lot when walking around the city, when doing a tour, or doing day hikes. I went with the
REI Flash 18 Pack Daypack as it can easily be folded and stored in my main backpack while taking very little precious space. It's quite small, very basic with only a few pockets inside, but does the job. I've actually seen quite a few travelers using this daypack. It's also big enough to hold my 11.6″ netbook (with sleeve).
My REI Flash 18 is actually already starting to fall apart. The opening has a small hole from frequent opening and closing. One of the shoulder straps is also starting to come apart. But it was easy enough sew back together. I just have to make sure not to overpack it in the future as I think that's what caused the damages.
I brought 3 long-sleeved, collared shirts with me where the sleeves can be folded and secured. These are great for layering when the temperature drops, sun protection, bug protection, and two of them look good enough to wear if you want to go somewhere where you feel like you should dress up a little. They're all wrinkle-resistant and quick-drying as well. I tried to get different styles.
This shirt is not very stylish. There are 2 huge pockets in front and baggy fit, but I love the fabric. Really good shirt to wear in hot climate or when trekking. Very light and easy to handwash.
This is a good all-around shirt. From hiking to eating at nice restaurants. Has two front pockets where don't look very obvious, great place to put your passport or tickets when traveling.
This has a little bit thicker fabric that the other shirts. The fabric is also stretchy, which is great when hiking or climbing. Really nice looking shirt as well.
All the T-shirts I bought are quick-drying, moisture-wicking, wrinkle-resistant, and light. Sure, you'll be paying a lot more for these types of T-shirts but they're well worth it. You'll save time from waiting for them to dry when hand-washing, keeps you cooler and more comfortable in hot climate or when doing strenuous activities, less weight to carry, no need to iron, and they'd probably last longer than normal T-shirts as well.
This is easily my favorite T-shirt! I wear it a lot as it's very comfortable. It's made of Merino wool with the ability to resist odor, which is a big plus. I've worn it for 5 days straight during my road trip last year, which included hikes in between, and it didn't smell bad at all after that! The fabric is very thin, though. While it still looks to be in pretty good shape, I noticed a few tiny holes starting to appear. It's probably not a good idea to have it machine washed often. But I'd still buy it again if the holes get big enough that I'd look homeless (well, technically, I
I really like this T-shirt as well. The build quality is definitely better than the SmartWool T-Shirt. It also looks more formal/expensive. It is also odor-resistant but nowhere as good as the odor resistance of the SmartWool T-shirt. I can see this T-Shirt to last me for years.
The North Face T-shirt
I don't know the model name of this T-shirt. I remember only buying it because it was on sale. It's very comfortable and very thin, but surprisingly durable. It has no odor resistance, though.
Since I planned to start my travels in Central America, I didn't think I'd be using this right away. But then I found out that there are areas in Central America that gets pretty chilly, such as Antigua and Quetzaltenango in Guatemala. Also, when doing hikes up mountains and volcanoes it could get pretty cold at the peak as well. This sweater makes a great base layer, very comfortable, and odor-resistant as well. I've worn this for days in a row without washing when I did my road trip in the USA late last year.
Very light rain jacket. It even packs into its own pocket. I use this as a windbreaker as well and as a top layer when it's really cold.
San Juan Water Shorts
Water shorts that also look good enough to use as regular travel shorts. Has 2 zippered pockets which is great for storing locker keys, money (in a zipped lock), or an underwater camera, for example, while playing in the water.
My favorite pair of pants! Quite expensive but the quality is really good. Very comfy, I sleep on these. Stretchy fabric makes it great for climbing, hiking, or any activity where you have to make a lot of movement. Has 1 side pocket with 2 zippers (the second zipper is great when you need to get something out of the pocket while sitting down). After over 6 months of heavy use, these pants still look almost as good as new.
Different style than my other pair of pants. It has 2 zippered side pockets that are not very obvious to see, making it a good option if you need to wear something more formal.
17 Countries. 6 Weeks. And one pair of underwear. Okay, maybe two.
I bought 4 of them since they take so little space and may not be easy to find on the road. This is the only type of brief I've been wearing the last few months before I even started my trip. Very light, comfy, easy to wash, dries quickly, odor-resistant, and looks like it will last a very long time. You can wash it while taking a shower, hang it in the bathroom, and it will be dry the following day. It's pretty expensive for a pair of briefs but well worth it!
SmartWool is very well know brand for hiking socks. These socks are quick-drying and odor-resistant. I've still gotten blisters while wearing them, but I think they would've been a lot worse if I wore a regular pair of cotton socks. Very comfy and feels great on my feet.
I originally bought these socks for my
Vibram FiveFingers KSO Trek shoes, which I didn't bring with me as I've decided to bring the regular KSO version instead as I could use them as water shoes. These are quick-drying toesocks as well, but no odor resistance. Thinner than the SmartWools that I brought and lower cut which is great in hot climate.
Note that the link above is for the Ultra 2 version, the original Ultra version seems to have been discontinued. I bought these shoes a few months before my trip to really test it out as I'd be wearing these a lot during my travels. I originally thought about getting regular, mid-cut, hiking shoes as I planned to do quite a bit of hiking, but I'm glad I went with trail running shoes instead as they're lighter and looks more like regular sneakers. I also went with the “GTX" (Gore-Tex, waterproof but breathable material) version as I know there will be times where I'd be walking in the rain and waterproof shoes would come in handy.
I'm pretty happy with it so far. Seems to be holding up pretty well and doesn't get too warm. I've taken it on a 3-day hike in Guatemala and had no problems with it. I also really like its lacing system as it makes putting on and taking off the shoes very easy to do. You also won't have to worry about getting the laces untied with it.
Already showing signs of wear after about a year of use, but I think it will hold for at least another 6 months.
I love these “shoes"! These are minimalist shoes that give you a feeling of walking barefoot. This model is a great all-around footwear, from walking around town, running, hiking, or water activities. Just be aware that you'll stand out while wearing these and you'll get looks from people or get approached by them asking what these are.
In warm weather, I'd been relying on these a lot on short walks around cities/towns or at the beach as they're very convenient. I'm actually on my third pair now as the original ones I bought already crapped out on me. Get a cheap pair made of rubber as they dry quickly and won't stink. Also great when using shared bathrooms in hostels.
My co-workers used to make fun of me when they first saw me with this phone because of its size. But I love it! I basically look at this as a handheld computer that can make phone calls and take pictures. This is actually now acting as primary camera as well since my “waterproof" camera seems to have died when a few drops of water got inside.
Reading has been my main form of entertainment since I've started traveling. With a battery life that lasts a month and a screen that looks great under direct sunlight while weighing almost nothing makes this an amazing device to take with you on your travels. There's enough memory storage to store books to keep you occupied for years.
I wanted to pack light so I originally though about buying a 10.1″ netbook. Then I noticed while researching that it's very rare for a 10.1″ netbook to have a high enough screen resolution for my needs. I also went to the store to check them out and found them way too small for me to be able to comfortably write code on them. So I decided to go with this 11.6″ netbook instead that has a 1366×768 LED LCD screen. It was on sale when I bought it and I believe I paid $200 for it. I can get about 4-6 hours of battery life and it even has an HDMI port to hook it up to an HDTV which most netbooks don't have.
I hate using the touchpad when I'm on the computer, especially when I'm coding or writing blog articles. I've had this mouse for a few years now and easily the best mouse I've ever used. It works pretty much on any surface, including glass, making it great for travel as you never know where you'll end up working on your computer. It also has a tiny, low-profile receiver so you can pretty much just leave it plugged in to your laptop or netbook. The 2 AA batteries it uses last for a good amount of time as well.
Portable and comes with a case. Also has a mute switch. I use it with Google Voice to make calls. Should work with Skype as well.
This was a great camera before it broke. A few drops of water unfortunately got inside while I was snorkeling in Roatan, Honduras and it stopped working, nothing was functioning. I'm still hoping it might return to normal after a few more days. 10 days after the incident some functions of the camera came back, but the LCD/lens are still pretty messed up. I was using my Dell Streak Android phone for a while until I finally decided to purchase another point and shoot camera.
Much cheaper compared to the nano. Great when you want to listen to music while walking, running, hiking, biking, etc. as it's so small to get in the way and can be clipped on to something if you don't have a pocket to put it in.
A bit bulky but does the job. Also useful when you encounter an outlet that only has 2 prongs (with the ground missing) but your device has 3 prongs, which I've seen while traveling in Central America. You can use this adapter to get around it.
At times you might find yourself needing to charge a bunch of things at the same time (like your laptop, phone, and camera) but there's only one outlet available. Or all your dorm mates already used up all the available outlets. Also, when you're traveling in a country that has a different outlet, what you can do is plug in your adapter to the outlet, then plug this in to your adapter. Now you have 4 regular outlets for your devices.
This is a must. I've been in situations where I would go out and night and the streets don't have any lighting. Power goes out. When hiking in the dark. Some hostels don't have electricity or insufficient lighting. As a reading light. When arriving late at night in your hostel dorm and don't want to disturb your sleeping dorm mates. Or even at time when you just need additional lighting while looking for something.
8GB USB Flashdrive
For transferring files between devices. I got mine for free at a conference.
REI Rugged Leather Belt
I've lost quite a bit of weight in the past 6 months of travel, probably due to all the walking I've been doing, and glad I brought a belt with me. I actually had to add 2 additional holes to my belt already as I didn't expect to lose this much weight.
You can also of course just buy this on the road when you need it.
Very small, light, quick-drying, very absorbent towel. You can fold this towel and put it in your pocket. Don't let the size fool you, it can soak up to 4 times its weight in water.
Dr. Bronner's soap, floss, lotion, lip balm, razor
REI First Aid Kit, Pepto Bismol Chewables, pain reliever,
Burt's Bees Res-Q Ointment (I use this thing for everything).
Fold it to save space in your backpack when empty. I use this a lot. Of course, you can just buy a bottled water and reuse it. But they crack and take up more space. Over 6 months of constant use and still in great condition. Very durable.
A cheap plastic spork. Great for eating soup.
Small Unbreakable Mirror
In case you end up staying in places with no mirrors. Great for shaving while taking a shower.
For hanging your clothes. Easy to attach to anything. Could be useful for doing exercises as well.
101 Uses for Duct Tape. 'nuff said.
Expensive but a lot more durable than ZipLock. bags I bought different sizes and using 1 as a wallet. Great for
washing clothes as well. I also use it for keeping food safe from ants/insects when staying in tropical climate and you don't have a fridge to store food.