I am living on the road with a cabin sized backpack, going to places of various comfort levels. I am working in the meantime, so my pack is also my office. I aim for the smallest amount of things to stay comfy in most situations, most climates, and enjoying life while sticking to my clients deadlines.
- • Avoiding big cities
- • Comfort: slightly above camping
- • Not looking like a tourist
- • Moving around easily
- • Not being careful with gear
I managed to do so with a little bit under 11 kg / 24 lbs. This is slightly above most cabin weight limit but since the bag look small (it fits under the front sit) I never had an issue. So here is everything I pack, No funny trick, everything fits inside the pack while I carry it barefoot in swim shorts.
- Packing and organising
- Toiletries & first aid
- Tools & Accessories
- Tech & electronics
- Unnecessary stuff
Packing and organisation
Living off your backpack is one of the greatest feelings. Not needing anything else than what you have on your back, and the freedom that comes with it is one of the reasons we do what we do. Keeping organised is crucial so you can quickly access anything. Knowing where is what is also a good way to not forget or lose things. This list has no affiliate links.
Goruck GR2 34L
The best backpack for what I am doing. Indestructible Cordura, low profile, clamshell opening, good organisation, good laptop protection, modular, lifetime warranty, large padded straps, cool looks. The size is carry-on. A bit heavy. If you think you want to travel with a rolling case or something, maybe not. Trekking backpacks offer more comfort but I find them less practical and they tent to give you that irresistible look that scammers love.
Mystery Ranch "in and out" Packable Daypack
A 19L packable daypack. Nice to have for short trips, hikes or carrying the laptop to a coffeeshop. Well thought with useful features, robust, although the inside started peeling off after a few months.
Matador Hip Pack
Three pockets, useful to keep travel documents at reach and looking like a French drug dealer. Does the job pretty well, simple and practical. It can collapse into its own pocket. I removed the branding on it because it was a bit too prominent. Due to its high packability, it's also quite fragile, but the Cordura 30D Ripstop™️ is holding surprisingly well after a pencil poke through…
Muji Hanging Travel Case
Simple and cleverly designed. The hook turned out very useful. It serves both as toiletry pouch and first aid kit.
Matador FlatPak™ Soap Bar Case (stolen)
Alleviates the mess of storing a wet soap. You put the soap wet inside and somehow it gets dry. That's pretty much magic if you ask me. Good replacement from the metal box I had before. I am not sure how durable it is since it got stolen. Will get a new one once I have the opportunity.
Muji M Packing Cube
All my clothes holds in there. Probably not the toughest packing cube around but so far so good. If you are not using Packing Cubes already, this is one of the first things you should change. It saves a lot of space by compressing it all, keep you clothes insulated from the dirt your bag might collect and helps a lot with organising your backpack.
To gain a little space, I am using the "ranger roll" technique.
Bought in Vietnam. It has three pockets to organise cables and small things related to electronics. The zippers keep falling off, but I keep it to give a subtle note of colour to my everything black set.
The rules of clothing: merino, layering, neutral colours. Merino is the best fabric for traveling. It allows you not to smell, plus many other benefits. Mastering the arts of layering and neutral colours will allow a minimal amount of clothes to be combined in a maximum of configurations. Ranging from tropical heat to winters in Europe, from a pool party to something more formal. I want my clothes to be comfy wether I am hiking, island hopping on a dodgy boat or working on my laptop in a coworking space. All of this while avoiding the tourist/backpacker/mountaineer look. Since there are a few clothes, they get worn much faster. Basic clothing should be changed about once a year. I haven't, so now I start having a little bit like of a homeless look.
I have been using those pants intensely for several years now. The cut fits me perfectly, it has clever hidden zipped pockets, an elegant and versatile look, breathability and comfort even in intense heat. They feel as nice when commuting on a bicycle in Berlin's winters as they feel on a 12 hours bus transit in Borneo. The 5% Spandex included in the Merino/Polyester/Spandex blend started doing weird stuff in the some regions after a while, and I had to mend some seams but nothing bad compared to how bad I treat it. I now have to buy a new pair, because the seating area is becoming see-through.
Icebreaker Perpetual Pants
Quite disappointed with those pants. Saggy wide cut, fragile fabric, lousy pocket design. I keep them as backup. So far, I have only been disappointed with the Icebreaker products I bought. If you want merino garments, I will advise you to stay away from Icebreaker.
Excellent T-shirts. No other merino t-shirt is this good and versatile. Colors faded out quickly in tropical regions, but the fabric remained in good condition.
It has both "Action" and "Merino" in the name so I had to buy it. It's a brand from France, and made in the EU, which is rare in this industry. The fabric is very lightweight – much lighter than the Wool & Prince, making it perfect for suffocating warm climates. The white ones are a bit see-through (can be a plus or a downside), and due to the thin fabric, they are rather fragile.
2x Mons Royale Boxer Briefs
Durable, comfy, decent junk support. Only two pairs? You nasty! — If you don't know merino, you don't know what you are talking about. Otherwise, you are aware that you can wear merino for 666 days in a row without detecting a single smell. You don't do it, but you could. While I wear one, the other is fresh and clean, or it can be washed and worn immediately after, you know, it's 40°C where I write this article.
2x Smartwool PhD® Run Ultra Light Mini Socks
I tested many socks, but the Smartwool are the only merino socks I found that don't fall apart after a month. They are really cosy and breathable. After almost a year of intense use they barely look worn. After a day of hot weather hiking in my shoes I don’t notice any smell. Highly recommend.
A pair of swim shorts, also doubles as regular shorts. Currently the one I have is borrowed. Nothing special. It's important to have swim shorts that can pass as regular shorts to minimise the amount of clothes.
A piece of merino with an infinity of uses: scarf, sleep mask, beanie, hat, ski mask, face mask, bandage. Much more useful than I thought it would be.
Elegant, cosy. A versatile merino layer that doesn't look like you are going on a Himalayan trek. I trashed it a little bit motorbiking through Asia on it, I am afraid I won't be able to clean up the oil stains.
Patagonia Nano Puff
Packable synthetic down jacket, can be used as an emergency pillow, benefits from Patagonia repair or exchange policy. Make you look a little bit like you are going on a Himalayan trek. I believe it is the most warmth you can pack in so little space. Just make sure you rince the zippers if you go at sea with this jacket, or they will rust. Even if you travel to hot countries, you need one: about everywhere in tropics they set the A/C so cold that you can die from hypothermia on a bus trip.
Nothing particular here. A good and relatively packable hardshell. Protection from rain is pretty good, protection from wind is ok. I don't recommend it though, there are better options out there, and I find a bit fragile, especially for the price.
Nike Air Max 90
As a sneaker head, I find all those "Earth friendly" and barefoot shoes mostly ugly. I will investigate deeper once those Air Max 90 decide to die, but they have been pretty good in most situations. They recently got chewed by a stray dog but still going strong. I don't wear slippers at all, I'd rather be barefoot.
Fjällräven Trek Belt
Simple, elastic belt with nylon buckle. You can keep it at airport security. I did not think a belt could be cool but this one is.
Toiletries & First Aid
The stuff needs to hold for longer periods of time, in countries with different products, habits and techniques. Once you have this part sorted, I promise you can be happy when showering with a bucket of cold muddy water, without electricity in the middle of a spider infested jungle.
Toothbrush, Dental Floss
Pretty basic here. Dental hygiene is important. Dental floss can be used with a needle to repair about anything.
Ajona Stomatikum Toothpaste
The best toothpaste for traveling. One small metal tube will last about two month for two people. I got the hint from Warm Roads, who might hate to be cited in this kind of list. I made a small stock before leaving Germany, and family in visit brought me some more. Now that we are running low on it, my only hope is to find German travellers and trade with them. In Germany you can find it at DM or Rossmann.
Dr. Bronner Soap (Gone)
Soap, shampoo, laundry detergent, shaving soap, emergency toothpaste, biodegradable. It's solid so not restricted in airports, it will last you much longer than anything liquid, minus the useless bottle. Any bar soap will do, but I would say the shorter the ingredient list, the better. This one is fine if you shower in a wild river, it will not irritate the eyes of the fish around.
Mostly to signal my presence to other boats when we are stranded on an island, but I sometimes use it as a regular mirror.
Merkur Safety Razor
A cute safety razor that holds in a tiny pocket. You screw it together and you have a good looking razor. The blades are cheap and can be found everywhere on the planet — Mach3 blades are 2,50€ apiece, safety blades 0,10€. Better, cheaper, durable, classy. Just remember to remove the blades before you take a plane or you will cause panic.
Victorinox Nail Clipper
From the makers of the Swiss army knife. Tiny, flat and durable. Will not get confiscated by the airport security, even after they panicked when they saw the safety razor blade you forgot to remove.
Microfiber towel (stolen)
The only type of towel you should have. Small and fast drying. They are unpleasant to use compared to a regular towel but the gain in size is a good tradeoff. Someone stole mine. Not the first time it happens. Who the hell want to rub their face with someone else's towel?
Insulation Flare Audio Earplugs (lost)
Ear insulation. A remain from my clubbing years, they filter all frequencies roughly the same way so you can go to concerts and rave without hearing just muffled bass. Perfect for the usual snoring, drunken yelling and mysterious moaning in hostels and dorm rooms.
Tea tree, Eucalyptus, lavender. Helpful with many things: calm insect bites or heal the many cuts and wounds you get. Combine with rubbing alcohol to do insect repellant, spray it on your clothes and backpack to prevent mould in humid climates.
You know, when you're in a bus or a crowded boat for hours and the shits hits you. Just don't take it in case of food poisoning.
Helps preventing annoying belly pain and weird stuff that happen to your bowel when you travel, like exploding farts.
Paracetamol, Ibuprofen, Aspirin, Analgesics
For when something hurts. Like hangover.
Even the tiniest wound in tropical weather tend to get really nasty if not taken care of.
Rubbing alcohol (used)
Useful to repel bed bugs, clean everything, disinfect, or as a flamethrower to burn mosquitoes in mid-air.
Band aids, Steri-strips (used)
None remain, we used them all already.
I'd rather have this than getting the malaria vaccine.
Tools & Accessories
Maybe I got a little bit overkill here. I wouldn't need all that if we were travelling in hotels and planes, but we spend more time outside and we avoid planes as much as possible. Not for the planet but because I hate planes and airports. We are often in situations where we have to fix a bike, a leaking faucet or a broken backpack zipper, etc.
The best multitool available. Apparently it is so powerful that it represents a threat to the security of a whole plane so it goes in Margaux’s checked bag when we fly. Did I already told you I hate planes? This multitool with pliers has proven itself useful so many times there is no way I go anywhere without it.
Nitecore MH10 Flashlight (dead)
Powerful, USB charging, also accepts AA Battery. It's better in most situations to have a headlamp, but Margaux already had one. I present you the worst price/quality ratio item I have. Waterproof like a colander but sold as IPX-8. The clip broke after a few uses, USB cover doesn't stay in place and much more. It just died yesterday when I dropped it in 5 cm of water. Will replace it soon with a Fenix UC35.
I already have a blade with the weatherman, I could ditch this one. Or could I? This is a true French classic, excellent affordable knife, timeless look, exposed in NYC MoMA, designed in 1890 in the French Alps to perfectly chop cheese and saucisson on the go. No wonder someone stole it from me. I will replace it with the even frencher version of it (with built-in corkscrew).
Always handy to have some rope or wire. Solid, reusable, infinity of uses. It helped me secure things on the motorbike, fix a lousy bike saddle, hold many things together, but mostly I used it as an improvised clothesline. You can also do macramé if you are bored.
Matador Pocket Blanket™ 2.0
Not sure about this tiny tarp but it has been useful a couple of times. As curtain in dorms, to waterproof my backpack on the motorbike, to set a picnic on the beach. It's one of the things I will get rid of, but I know the day after I will need it.
Carabineers, Zip Ties
Always handy to have a bunch of those.
Lifestraw Go Filtering Bottle (lost twice)
Probably one of the thing I use the most. Most places do not have drinking tap water. So this allows you not to use plastic bottles everyday. The only problem with this bottle is that I left it in a boat. Then I bought another one and I forgot it in a car.
Useful a thousand times. When you do paperwork at the border or when you need to explain something with scribbles.
A farewell present from my friends at Californie Française.
To mend clothing obviously, but can also be used to close an open wound (thankfully I never had to).
When you need to be seen at night. Can be attached anywhere. I found it one day but never had a use of it.
Lock with Digits, Cable
Lock your bag, the dorm locker, or things together. Digits are better than having a key lock and lose the key, or you can always give the code to someone if needed. Not the safest but good enough. I wanted a higher quality lock but I couldn't find one.
Casio W-59 Watch
My dad was wearing the same when he was my age. It is cheap and durable, and I like the retro look. I keep it to my home's time because some say I am romantic, but also because a lot of my clients are in Europe. We found one in the sea when we were snorkelling and was still working.
Adidas Protean Cycling Sunglasses
Enveloping shape and good grip. The few sunglasses that don't fall off if you are a little bit active often look like alien eyes. Mine are initially made for cycling, so they have good comfort and protection, but still have a classic look.
Southord Lockpick Kit
Not that I want to break in and still stuff, but lock picking is a sane and satisfying activity, much better than puzzles. This kit served us well, one night that we were heavily drunk. To try to cheer up our mate who had just learned the loss of his friend, we wanted to cook some French specialty. The hotel's kitchen was closed, and it was impossible for us to toast all this cheese who needed to be melted. So we broke in.
Tech & Electronics
I work as a freelance designer, mostly designing websites and mobile apps. My work setup has always been simple, even before traveling. Since I never found any gadget that improves my productivity, I never bother carrying one. Most of my devices charge with usb-c.
MacBook Pro 13 Touch Bar
My work station. Small and relatively lightweight, good screen, decent battery life. Not everyone needs such a pricy laptop, or a laptop at all, but for me this is the best tool I can get. The quality of the touchpad allows me to work without a mouse. This one is the deadly fragile keyboard / stupid touchbar generation. Unfortunately the quality of MacBooks lowered lately, going from actual pro towards fancy nonsense features not a single pro user ever asked for.
I stash it in a basic incase sleeve, but will soon change for an aqua quest sleeve, properly waterproof.
Google Pixel 3
Best android phone available, best camera at the time, longest support and update life, low profile design, free unlimited cloud storage. From my experience with google phones (Nexus 4, Pixel 1), the updates make the phone better and faster over time, not artificially lagging when a new flagship is released. It feels like a promising prototype of what could be the perfect smartphone, but instead you pay 800€ and after a year of use it has so many issues that you want to get rid of smartphones in general.
Bluetooth + cable, excellent sound quality, comfortable. Modularity done right. Mine is configured with bluetooth but they all have line in by default. If something breaks it can be replaced or upgraded instead of throwing away a perfectly working headset just because the cushioning has worn out. I like the stealth look and minimal branding. It's quite big compared to the highly praised Bose Quietcomfort, but you can take it apart if needed. It is also the headset I use for mixing.
Anker Powercore II Slim 10.000mAh Powerbank
Anker is making good simple stuff with simple and durable design. This one charges my phone about 3 times.
External hard drive Transcend
Cheapest solid option with 1To I found. I'd rather have SSD but my bank account did not agree.
Simple reader. Slim, many books stored inside, long lasting battery, kinda close to actual paper. You can toss it in your bag and forget about it until you have time to read.
Old school Nokia
I never had to use it but it could turn useful. Actually I might throw away the Pixel Phone when it dies and use only this one.
This one is of the worst quality. All of them are. They actually all come out of the same factory with a different logo on them, a useless bright LED, and they fall apart quickly while doing giant sparks. Please tell me if you know one that is decent.
Cables and adapters
Mostly usb-c. Trying to keep those as minimal as possible, cables are annoyingly space taking and messy.
I am not a hardcore backpacker. I also bring with me things for various activities, those are personal items that are absolutely not essential. Things I am happy to have with me.
Ikea folding tray
A nice organiser that I can deploy anytime. It conveniently folds flat. I did not plan to take it but when I packed my bag it was sitting there, so why not?
Algoriddim Reloop MIXTOUR
A portable DJ Controller. One of the biggest items in my pack. I plug this to my computer and I can throw a party anywhere. Here's my Soundcloud if you want to hear what I mix. If you're interested in DJ gear for traveling, I would suggest to get the Traktor Kontrol instead, more reliable, clearly more professional.
B&O A1 Bluetooth speaker
Bluetooth+cable. This splash and dust resistant speaker fits in my headset case. I love the sound quality, the form factor and brilliant design. It has some flaws. Its weight for example. I made a review of it.
Vortex solo x10 Monocular
I like to watch
naked people wildlife. A pocket sized rugged monocular. Flip it and it works as a magnifier, pretty useful to get splinters out.
Zoom H1n recorder
We're recording music on the move. This little tool is the best size/quality ratio on the market, it has a built in mike and line-in.
La Nuit de l'Homme Intense, Yves Saint Laurent
Somehow useless, but I like to feel fancy after several weeks swimming in my own sweat in the jungle.
Things I don't have anymore
Since everything is useful, I can list what is in my bag from the top of my head. If I don't use something, I get rid of it. But there are also a few things I lost along the way. May they make another traveller happy.
Rotring Rapid Pro Pencil
My fancy pencil. I lost it. I had it for a while and I liked it a lot. It will be remembered.
Fisher Space Pen
The second expensive pen I had and lost. Some overkill pen with useless features like writing underwater, upside-down… I forgot it in a dorm in Mekong Delta. Lesson learnt, from now on I only use cheap pens.
French Army Sweater
Nice piece of warm garment, but too big, too heavy. I hope it found a good new owner in Cambodia where I left it.
Olight flashlight Baton Mini
Going in the sea with it wasn't a good idea. Apparently waterproof doesn't mean saltwater-proof.
Silva Ranger SL Compass
A cool compass. I gave it as gift to a fellow traveller we met who needed it more than I did.
A gift from my friend autochrone before I left Berlin. A Polish friend borrowed it.
Obviously this is a continuous process of optimisation, tailored for my current way of traveling. The next step is to downsize backpack for the Goruck GR1, changing from 34L to 26L.
We only recommend quality gear and solutions that we bought ourselves, thoroughly tested and approved. Gear we know works perfectly, and more importantly, that we are sure will not become trash after a month of use. Traveling puts more strain on your gear, and you need it to be reliable. Also, only buy the stuff you are sure that you need.
Safe lightweight journey, folks