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This is all I pack for most any trip. Really.

What is all this? Starting from the bottom-left corner, and going left to right:


Row 1: Harmonica, flashlight, power adapter, flash drive, maps, guidebook, iPod (and chargers – I use my smartphone almost exclusively now and take a three-outlet plug), travel journal/writing utensils/small writing pad & business cards, binoculars, earplugs, jeans, swim suit.


Row 2: Passport, wallet, digital camera with charger (the shiny silver thing above the passport), smartphone (internationally capable), 3 T-shirts & 3 polo/nice/casual shirts, 2 long-sleeve shirts, & 1 sleeping shirt.


Row 3: Socks, a couple bandanas, poof ball & shower/hygiene stuff, knickers (underwear).


Row 4: Backpack – the Lookout 40 by REI*. It has compression straps, a solid waist belt, sternum strap, and lashing spots on the bottom where a sleeping bag can fit. It also comes in a ladies model. It’s nice, but I feel it has, many superfluous straps...


What’s missing?


Shoes, sweater/coat/jacket (if winter traveling), another pair of trousers and paperwork (rental car/plane tickets & reservations – if you still need those). Obviously, I wear that sweater, the shoes, trousers, and coat (if applicable), and just slip the paperwork into one of the bag’s outer pockets.


Trust me: Everything in this picture fits in the backpack with room to spare. THIS IS ALL YOU NEED, and you can get by on less, even for a several month-long excursion. It’s also best to use stuff you already have – don’t go buy a bunch of new stuff. See my packlist HERE.


*I have used Northface’s Yavapai, REI’s Vagabond and Lookout (shown in the above image), Oakley’s Ballistic, and Victorinox’s Mobilizer packs. They each had their good points and downfalls, and I liked each of them for different reasons. From 2012-2022, however, I used Osprey’s Porter 46 exclusively, because it fit my larger frame (though I generally used only a little over half its capacity. It also has no frills, no extra pockets or straps to get in the way (like the Lookout), and outstnading compression capabilities.


Beginning in late 2017, I wanted to downsize and still look stylish, yet professional. So I picked up Victorinox’s Professional Deluxe Travel Laptop Backpack from their Altmont 3.0 collection. Its functionality and sleek look appealed to me. Even though it’s 25L (compared to the Porter’s 46 and Lookout’s 40), it fit me very well, even with my large frame and broad shoulders. Plus, it had a dedicated, padded, and separate laptop space which is super nice when passing through security since I increasingly took my laptop with me. But I still gravitated to the Osprey for most every trip, keeping the Altmont for 2-3 day trips.


Then, in summer 2022 I discovered Cotopaxi. They offer a lot of different options, but when I tried on the Allpa 35, it fit. And at 35 liters, it's smaller than my Porter plus it has a dedicated laptop compartment! My wife was so impressed that she purchased the Allpa 28. Even packed full, the Allpa35 can fit into the overhead bin on a small commuter jet. Aside from lacking compression straps, I believe it to be THE travel bag (though I purchased small bungee cords to act as compression straps, and they work well. I can also use the detachable hip belt for a compression strap, since the pack sits so well on me, even with a full load the hip belt is unnecessary). Plus, they’re just FUN!

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