A minimal (male) packing list for 6 months of travel in South America.
I’ve always imagined travelling the world with just a small bag on my back, getting up and being able to leave at a moments notice with just a few possessions. It just sounded so cool, like I was Steve McQueen or something.
For years I thought this meant being a millionaire and being able to purchase clothes on the road and throwing them away when I was done with them. Unknown to me I had fallen into the Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen in Wall Street) mode of thinking.
“I think that if I can make a bundle of money before I’m thirty and get of this racket, I’d be able to ride my motorcycle across China”.
Turns out both Bud and I were idiots. You can do it all for cheap, nobody needs a bundle of money to do these things. In 30 mins of Internet searching, you’ll find that to motorcycle across China would take at least 4 months. 4 months in China would probably only cost £5,000 (max) plus a couple of hundred for a good cheap bike (which you should buy there). Sort out some Visa’s and off you go. You don’t need a high-flying job and loads of money to be able to afford that. It’s doable is all I’m saying and doesn’t have to cost the world. Shout out to /r/onebag for showing me that this type of travel is possible.
Having said that I still spent a good chunk of money in the end on the stuff below (I’ll follow up this post with a budget update), but I went with some expensive gear (I think in hindsight I didn’t have to) and bought it over the course of a year (and plan on using it for the foreseeable future). So taken in context, I feel it was cheap.
Below is the list of things I packed and some reasons why I hope it helps give you inspiration. (Added affiliate links if you’re interested in buying anything I got).
These buggers are usually the main weight and bulk in any travel bag. One of the main arguments for bringing more clothes is to have options, and also the dreaded ‘in case shit’.
To defeat the ‘options argument’ I aimed for clothes that all went together. I used Google Drawings to save images of the clothes I possibly wanted to bring and to make sure they all paired well. This being the case it means I can have at least 8 different evening (restaurant/nightclub/bars) combinations and a further 7 daytime outfits (plus I can use the evening 8 during the day if the weather permits). So in total, at least 15 different get ups, enough to be able to mix up the photos at least.
Next is the ‘in case shit argument’. “What if the French ambassador invites me to a black tie event while I’m travelling?” Obviously, that’s ludicrous but my point is the ‘in case shit’ probably won’t happen. If it isn’t something you’ve come across in your daily life at home you’re unlikely to need it away (just apply some 80–20 logic for this). Worse comes to worse you can make a one-off purchase when you are there for that one off event. The cost will most likely be the same if you were to buy at home and bring it all the way.
- 2 x Outlier Pants — Expensive, but taken over the course of a whole year it’s very little — and that’s how long I’ve been wearing and loving mine. They are great for business casual, nightclub, biking, and even lounging wear. They are super quick to dry and odour resistant too, so it means you can wear them for many multiple days without looking or feeling like a tramp.
- 2 x Outlier Shorts — Expensive also, but these puppies do multiple duties. They are dressy looking shorts, but they can be used for swimming as well (and perform very admirably too), plus they dry super fast and are odour resistant. Win win here for me.
- 3 x Outlier Merino Wool T-shirts — Go well with everything, quick drying, odour reducing, simple to wash, work well in cool and hot climates, what’s not to like? Cheaper alternatives I’m sure are available though and in future, I’ll look out for these.
- 1 Merino Wool Jumper — This pairs nicely with the majority of my clothes, handy for cool nights too.
- Wool and prince shirt — For when I want to dress up a little, again its merino wool, looks good, fast drying etc. It goes well with the shorts as well. Itchy at first until I washed it but now it’s great.
- 1 set of Merino Thermal Layer — Top and bottoms, to combat cold mountain nights mostly.
- Uniqlo Ultralight Down Jacket — Extremely light weight and very warm too, for the cold mountain nights and early mornings.
- 4 SmartWool Socks — I have a mixture of ankle socks and higher (hiking socks), these are fantastic, sooooo comfy, cool, odour resistant (can wear a pair for days) and quick drying.
- 4 Ex Officio Underwear — Sweet Jesus, I bought into the hype and I’m so glad I did, it’s like a moisturised angels hand gently cupping your meat and two. Plus again they are quick drying and odour resistant…fantastic.
- Dune boots — People always go for walking shoes here. But I walk a lot as is. And I wear Dune a lot and find them very comfortable for this. So these fit the bill for walking, plus they are great for restaurants and going out at night (there is no such thing as a good looking walking boot). My opinion here is to keep it simple and to what you’re comfortable in.
- All birds runners — Wool runners! My girlfriend pissed herself when she found out I bought wool runners. Up real close, they look like your granddad’s slippers. But any normal distant and they look like minimal runners. Plus they are as comfy as granddad’s slippers. The grip isn’t amazing (I nearly died trying to cross a ski slope in them) but otherwise, they’re fantastic. I use them for the gym and walking around the city and mountains in normal weather. They pack down pretty flat too.
- Wool Buff — At this stage, if a product said wool I was buying it. This thing is probably not worth the money, it’s a hat/scarf/eye mask etc. all in one. You can also look like an arsehole and wear it as a pirate hat type thing. Probably more suited for women (with the different possible styles).
- Flip flops — Hate, hate, flip flops, but need these for the hostel showers.
- Gloves — Cold mountain nights again! Just a pair of liners, but they weigh nothing and come in handy.
- Belt — Can’t wear trousers without them in my opinion.
- Packing cubes — These are great, I didn’t believe they’d help me save space until I tried them. Now I’m never going back to being without.
- Osprey wash bag — Jury is still out on this one, it’s pretty cool, has a little shave mirror, three compartments, a little hanger and rolls quite nicely. But when there is a bit of stuff in there the rolling just doubles the volume really. Otherwise its been great. I bought my girlfriend a similar one (not roll) from Muji. It’s neater I think, so I’ll let you know which fairs better.
- Razor & Blades — My girlfriend and I use the same blades so this is handy.
- Dr Bronner Soap bar — Initially my hair was straw, then it was great, now it’s straw again. Still not sure if this is everything I want it to be. I wrap the bar in a Japanese salux cloth and pop it in a ziplock to keep the gunk to a minimum.
- Aftershave — Just a small bottle of my usual poison, haven’t tried solid cologne yet…baby steps.
- King of Shaves gel — This comes in a tiny bottle, and can last ages. It works quite well.
- Earbuds — Don’t care, ear buds make me feel cleaner.
- Clippers — Not looking to become the witch from Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.
- Toothbrush — Colgate does a really nice fold up. Plus you feel a little like a thug with a switchblade when opening it up.
- Toothpaste — Haven’t made the move to powder just yet. So I take my mini paste and buy on the road as I go.
- Crystal Deodorant — I don’t sweat a lot, or at least it doesn’t smell that bad. I also had lots of trouble with other deodorants staining my clothes. Went with this and I think its great. It’s odourless so might not work for some but it lasts forever and works really well as an antiperspirant.
- Washcloth — Mostly used to wrap the soap bar in. Also considered an exfoliate, and handy for a wash on the go.
- Lip balm — To protect my auld kiss magnets
- Also, have some surgical tape (not really needed), sweeteners (which I like instead of sugar but it’s always a nightmare to get when away) and my retainer (not in the box of course).
- Phone (Moto G — Not Shown) — In general I’m a Google fanboy. Battery lasts a whole day with constant use. I use it as my e-reader, I keep all my travel documentation on it, it’s my music player, and my camera (I know this is sacrilegious for some but a 12MP camera is good enough for me, combine it with the fact it fits easily in my pocket and it backs up automatically to Google Photos — any camera I’ve ever owned doesn’t hold a candle to it).
- Chromebook (Acer)— I plan on writing my screenplay and novel while travelling (aka watching movies and TV shows). This is light and suits my needs perfectly. It’s my personal laptop at home too and everything is backed up to the cloud so it’s the simplest thing I can think of.
- Skross Universal Adapter — I’ve been using it a little while now, it’s really sturdy and has two USB ports. Think it’s a winner winner chicken dinner.
- Anker Portable battery — As I use my phone for a lot of things I do need some extra power on longer trips between accommodations.
- Extra USB sockets — Think this might be useless but I’m hoping that I’ll be the hero when it turns out there is only one socket in the hostel.
- Light — This is just my old bike light, handy for hostels or outdoors at night.
- HDMI cable — To hook up my Chromebook whenever we have a nice AirBnB.
- Chromecast — Weighs nothing and I’ll probably never use it, might give it the heave-ho, to be honest.
- Cables — Plug for my laptop, USB for my phone, chromecast and light
- Samsung M3 Slimline Hard drive (not shown) — 2 TB of shit I’ll never watch. Love it though. And it’s really very small for what it’s packing.
- Earphones — I have two pairs, one as a backup really. One pair is Bluetooth headphones, so they’re handy when I’m calling home.
- Earphone splitter (not shown)— To watch movies with my girlfriend.
- Wowee Speaker — I’ve had this for years, and I keep it for sentimentality now more than anything. Plus it sometimes impresses people when you show them that it uses windows and other objects to amplify the sound.
- Dry bag — My favourite multi-purpose item. I’ll use it as a dry bag, an air pillow when needed, a way to wash some clothes on the road if needed and most importantly as a mobile kettlebell. Just fill it with water and I have an automatic kettlebell (1L ~ 1KG). I’ve used it about 12 times so far and no issues with leaks or anything yet.
- Zip lock bags (not shown)— I organise tonnes of things into zip locks, they are useful for putting earbuds into, my flipflops are in them as well. Great when you want to separate smelly, dirty or wet clothes from the rest of your stuff. I’ll also use them as sandwich bags when going on long treks.
- Lock — Small lock for hostels etc.
- Spork — Handy when eating on the road.
- Towel — Quick dry one, had it for years. It’s the business.
- Platypus bottle 1L (Not Shown)— This rolls up small so it doesn’t take up space, I use it to keep track more easily of how much water I drink a day.
- Dryer sheets — Pop these in and around my bag to keep things smelling fresh and clean.
- Osprey Daypack — Need this to carry water and food when walking around the city or elsewhere for a day.
- Sunglasses — I’ll never go back to non-polarised. It’s worth the extra 20 quid over the (usually 3–5 years for me) lifetime of your shades.
- Ear plugs — For noisy hostels, aeroplanes, buses etc.
- Wallet — Any old thin one will do.
- Measure tape — I use this on a weekly basis instead of weighing myself. It gives me an idea if I’m letting myself go or if my brain is trying to make me feel like shit for no reason.
- Google Trips — Still in Beta mode but really like it so far. Needs a good few additional functions but what it has is worth it. Organises all your trips and gives you downloadable guides for each place too.
- Spotify — I never thought it would be worth the £7 a month, but I’ll never go back. Some songs I can’t find on there though and that annoys me but otherwise it’s great. I have a 64GB additional SD card on my phone, you can set up Spotify to save offline playlist there. Music sorted.
- Google Photos — Love this one. When on WiFi it’ll back all my photos up, then delete what is on my device to save space for the next ones. But the biggest plus to all this is the ease of use and the suggested photos edits (and animations) it creates. They’re class, makes me look like a pro…sometimes. See image above (from my 12mp camera phone and Google Photo magic)
- Pocket — I use this for articles offline, usually, when I see something interesting I won’t read it then and there (as I’m probably supposed to be working). So I save it to pocket and read at my leisure. I use it to store Wikipedia history pages of the places I’m visiting or other travel articles that I can look at on the road.
- Kindle — For my books, like highlighting notes as well.
- Google Maps — Download areas offline so I can navigate without a mobile network. I will also save places I want to see so they are big shiny stars on my map when I’m walking about. I’ve also started using the My Maps add-on to keep my folks updated on my plans etc.
- Google Sheets — My budget is all in here, available on my phone or laptop, I don’t have any documents on hard drives, all in the cloud so it’s not a big deal if my stuff gets robbed.
- Google Docs — For writing my novels and screenplays! Or more likely for other useless ideas.
- Trello — You may have noticed already that I’m a bit organisation mental. I use Trello as my own personal project management board. I find it incredibly useful. I update (create a sprint) once a week. It helps me keep track (and not wandering off to other things) and allows me to focus on the big picture (goals etc.) and not just the other crap that can keep you busy every day.
- Revolut — My brother told me about this. It’s a MasterCard which has zero transfer fees, and exchanges cash (in advance or then and there) at the inter-bank rates (you cannot feasibly get any better). Sign up as they have a backlog, I got mine after 3 weeks. But so far it’s epic. They used to have zero fees for withdrawing cash (it’s zero fees for purchases though), but it’s gone up to 2% after the first 200 a month. Still, 2% is better than my current account.
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