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...
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 2012-2021, 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 (unlike the Lookout), and outstanding compression capabilities.
Then, in 2022 I discovered Cotopaxi. They offer a lot of different options, but when I tried on the Allpa 35, it just...well...it fit. And at 35 liters, it's smaller than my Porter – plus it has a few additional features my Osprey didn’t! My wife was so impressed that she purchased the Allpa 28. Even packed full, the Allpa35 can still squish into the overhead bin on a commuter jet. Aside from lacking compression straps, I believe it to be THE travel bag (although the hip belt is unnecessary). Plus, they’re just FUN!