Whenever I encounter people as I travel, they are often curious about my luggage. It seems to be invisible. They’ll often ask where my bag is, assuming that it must have gotten lost in transit. Their eyes go wide and confusion sets in when I tell them that the bag on my back is the only one.
It is my estimation that at least some people would be curious about what gear I travel with. They ask how I’m able to pack all the necessities into such a small space. There is no great secret to traveling light. All it takes is a little research and compromise in creature comforts. If you have browsed the postings of other nomadic hackers, there might be little to be gleaned from this post. Here’s a basic rundown, with almost each article deserving its own article.
It should go without saying that nobody paid for me to write this post, and likewise nobody as sent me any products to test.
Tom Bihn Synapse 19L backpack. This backpack is the key to fitting everything. Unlike conventional backpacks, the pockets in this one intrude less on the space of other pockets. The pack is lightweight, durable, and has the incognito look of your grade school Jansport backpack. Although it lacks a laptop pocket, instead it has a system of hooks and rails to keep a separate neoprene case in place. I found Bihn’s neoprene cases to be far too bulky for serious use. Instead, there is a small elastic sub-pocket in the main pack cavity that can be used instead. The pack has a central water bottle pocket, which is ideal for a collapsible water bottle. Their small clear document organizer pouch is the perfect size for passports, travel docs, and accumulating receipts. The under-bag storage is ideal for keeping all my clothes and a pair of sandals.
Lenovo Thinkpad X240. Lenovo must have made a deal with the devil to get a device with this much battery life. It has an internal 24Wh battery and an external 3-cell or 6-cell 72Wh battery at the back. I often get a marathon day of heavy usage, or two days of lighter usage without charging. This model is a new re-design from Lenovo. Unfortunately for this model, Lenovo decided to remove the Trackpoint mouse buttons. This made a lot of Thinkpad users grumpy, so Lenovo added the buttons back to the X250. Linux runs swimmingly on this laptop with almost everything working out-of-the-box.
Etymotic hf-2 Canalphones. These canalphones offer excellent sound reproduction, and have an integrated microphone. The microphone also has a button for controlling playback on an Android device. The noise insulation of these canalphones is close dedicated earplugs. They come with several different tips to find the best fitment. Although they can be uncomfortable at first, they are unnoticeable after finding the ideal tips. Custom ear-molded ones are also available.
Nook Simple Touch E-Book Reader. This is what I bring instead a tablet. I like the read-anywhere e-ink screen, open source hackability, and long battery life. Left suspended this device can last for months on a single battery charge. It can be hacked to run other Android apps, including a VNC server to tether to the tablet as a second screen. Unlike a Kindle I don’t need an account anywhere, and it can read EPUB files.
Dr Bronner’s Magic Hippie Peppermint Soap. My name for these products aside, they do an excellent job at cleaning anything. This soap is more concentrated than regular liquid soap. The result is that a single squirt is enough for a complete shower. Likewise, a small dab will also do an entire load of sink laundry. I’ve also been meaning to try out their soap bar.
GoToob Travel Bottles. These little bottles are for storing various liquids, usually toiletries. The’re made of a pleasant soft silicone material, and come in 2oz (nice) and 3oz sizes. My initial experiments show the lid has problems staying on under stress. If I were to pack again I’d rather keep the Dr Bronner’s in its original container, and get a small shampoo container.
Vapur Element 0.7L Water Bottle. I find this bottle to be just the right capacity of water. It is collapsible, which means when not full, the extra air can be squeezed out to make it smaller. Likewise when it is empty, you can fold it up and secure it with the attached carabiner. After about a year of use the only wear is the blue sticker is starting to separate.
Uniqlo Airism Boxer Briefs. Unlike all the other wool you see on this list, these things are 100% synthetic. Their fitment is top-notch, and they don’t ride up your legs, unlike a lot of other undergarments. They’re also inexpensive considering their quality. Unfortunately they’re not as anti-odor as Icebreaker boxer-briefs. They also tend to restrict certain delicate anatomy.
Wool & Price Better Button Down shirts. I carry one or two of these with me everywhere. These are my favorite shirts. Most of their patterns can serve formal and informal duties. They can be donned to formal events and at a neighborhood pub. They are 100% wool, so they are anti-wrinkle and anti-odor. Their one down size is that they tend to smell a bit sheepish when wet.
Icebreaker Wool Pants. These are pretty conservative brown pants. They don’t have obnoxious pockets, zippers, and logos all over the place. Alas, they do have a bit of the irritating external stitching, but it does serve a worthwhile purpose on these. The stitching allows the front pockets to be fixed, which means no more backwards-facing front pockets when putting on pants. Although they are a wool blend, they keep most of the excellent anti-odor and anti-wrinkling properties.
Icebreaker Multisport Ultralight Mini Socks. These socks are nice and soft, and come with a lifetime guarantee against holes. I’ve had these long enough to figure out why: the webbing is made of a much stronger material than the wool, so although the wool on the bottom of the socks will wear off, the elastic webbing will not. Still, they’re good in hot and cold weather, can be washed in the sink, dry quickly, and keep you warm even when wet.
PackTowl Nano Lite Towel & Large Towel. These towels are excellent travel compansions. The pocket towel can double as a washrag and resists stains despite its bright color. The “large” towel is still pretty small, but is lightweight and folds up to about the size of two decks of cards. Both towels are quick-drying and resist odors.
Clark’s Desert Boots. In the beeswax color these are formal and and informal enough to wear anywhere. Like most shoes, they are not without their problems. For example, they pinch the upper foot due to the position of the lacing. There is little to be done about it. They also do a poor job insulating against rain. Additionally the interesting crepe bottom wears out faster than usual shoe rubber. All that said, they do look and feel excellent. Nonetheless, I’m looking for better alternatives.
Leatherman Style PS. This is a small travel-friendly multitool. I take it through airports all the time, although save time by taking it out of my bag before X-ray. I’ve been flying with it for about a year now with no overeager TSA agents confiscating it. It is the only tool that I need to disassemble my laptop.
Let me know if this post was useful for you. Likewise, let me know if you have some tips on something that might work better for me.