Around the world in a carry-on

As some of you may know, I will soon be embarking on a 6-week round-the-world trip. My itinerary is:

  1. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  2. Berlin, Germany
  3. Amsterdam, Netherlands
  4. Rome, Italy
  5. Cape Town, South Africa
  6. Kruger National Park, South Africa
  7. Cairo, Egypt
  8. Luxor, Egypt
  9. Jerusalem, Israel
  10. Moscow, Russia
  11. Beijing, China
  12. Tokyo, Japan
  13. Kyoto, Japan
  14. Sydney, Australia

I almost always travel with just a carry-on, but this is a must with the above itinerary which has so many destinations. I won’t be in any one place very long and will spend a big percentage of my time in transit; I won’t have time to deal with lost luggage or drag around a heavy suitcase. So as usual, I have condensed my luggage down to a small duffel bag and my GoRuck GR1 backpack.


Having said that, the wide variety of destinations did present a packing challenge. Criss-crossing the equator, some locations will be hot (like Rio and Cape Town) while others will be chilly (like Berlin and Moscow). So in the interest of answering all at once the many folks asking what I’ve packed, below I’ve broken down my luggage item by item. Some of these items I purchased specifically for this trip, but I’ve had others for a long while (and field-tested on many previous trips).

Duffel bag contents (clothing and toiletries)


ExOfficio Men’s Give-N-Go Brief – In what is probably the only TMI item on this list, these are hands-down the best underwear around. I use them at home for comfortable everyday use, but they’re great for travel because they dry quickly. I’m bringing 4 pairs for this trip.

Neleus Men’s Race Swimsuit – This is a packable, quick-drying men’s swimsuit for those lacking the confidence to go full-on Speedo. It will fold up into a snack-sized ziplock bag.

Xero Shoes Barefoot Sandals – These sandals (partially obscured by the hat in above picture) are great for travel. Not only are they comfortable and easily repaired (with excess paracord), but unlike regular sandals they will roll up very tightly and fit into a sandwich-sized ziplock bag.

ExOfficio Bugsaway Adventure Hat – This is a packable, quick-drying hat to keep the sun off my (bald) head. It’s also infused with permethrin to keep bugs away.

Columbia Men’s Watertight II Jacket – This is a packable light jacket, great for keeping the sun and mosquitos off but not letting me overheat.

Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pant – These are the most comfortable travel pants I’ve found. They’re loose, light, and quick-drying. I don’t expect I’ll be unzipping them to use as shorts very often, but it’s good to have that option. I’m bringing two pairs on this trip.

Hawke & Co Men’s Packable Down Puffer Jacket – This warm down jacket packs into its own pocket (shown this way in above picture). This is one of the items I purchased specifically for this trip. I chose this particular jacket because it was significantly cheaper than similar items from Patagonia and Columbia. It seems like it will work fine, although you can tell it is cheaply made (the zippers especially).

Merino Wool Shirts – At home I normally wear polos, but due to the collar they take up nearly twice as much space in a suitcase (plus they present layering challenges). So when traveling I normally take merino wool tee shirts. They are lightweight, packable, fast-drying, and they do not hold onto odor like synthetic fabrics. The best-fitting brand I’ve found is Minus33.

Columbia Men’s Thistletown Park Long Sleeve Shirt – This is a nice lightweight long-sleeve shirt that works equally well in the heat or the cold. It is not particularly fast-drying, though.

Patagonia Men’s Capilene Midweight Bottoms – This pair of long underwear will be a must, as the convertible pants are very thin and will not do well alone in colder climates.

Merino Wool Socks – I’m bringing 4 pairs of ankle socks and 2 pairs of crew socks for colder areas. Again, merino wool is perfect for these, as it’s odor-resistant and fast-drying.

Cold-weather hat and gloves – For colder portions of the trip.

Patagonia Men’s Capilene Midweight Zip-Neck – This is an ultra-warm base layer for the colder portions of the trip.

Sea to Summit Trek & Travel Laundry Detergent – This is hands-down the best concentrated travel laundry detergent I have found. Far better than Dr. Bronner’s, which requires quite a lot to achieve a nice sudsy wash.

Kiva Travel Gear Clothesline – This travel clothesline is a must for hanging up clothes to dry in the hotel room overnight and while I’m out adventuring during the day.

Aloksak bag – I don’t like the idea of washing my clothes in a hotel room sink where people spit their toothpaste (frankly one of the less off-putting examples I could have given). This is basically a large ziplock bag that I use for washing clothes.

Laundry bag – I carry this with me because it’s light and it’s great for those occasions when I need to transport dirty clothes (and keep them separate from my clean clothes.

Packtowel – These towels are great; they’re very small and lightweight but absorb an insane amount of water for easy drying off. They also wring out mostly dry afterwards. I mainly carry this with me to dry myself and my gear off (at the beach, in the rain, etc.).

Backpack contents (camera and other gear)


Portable Camera Bag – I use this bag (in the upper-right corner of the picture) as a day bag to carry my camera and sunscreen. It squishes down small enough to fit into my backpack for travel, plus in a pinch (if I need more room) I can attach it to the outside of my backpack with the built-in MOLLE webbing.

Travel umbrella – Great for rainy days.

First-aid kit – this is the small tan pack in the bottom right of the image. I like to carry individually-labeled medicine so I don’t have any trouble at customs, so I stripped down a Medique 77501 International Traveler First Aid Kit for all the medications.

Sony NEX3n + lenses + batteries – I carry this since it is a “good enough” camera in a lightweight and pocketable form factor.

GoPro + headmount + floating handle – This is much better for video than the NEX3N; the headmount lets me record hands-free, and the floating handle is great for water sports.

Burt’s Bees Sensitive Facial Cleansing Towelettes – These are good for cleaning your face off on airplanes and during transit, when you maybe have missed a shower or tw0.

Sunglasses – Prescription

Plastic Spork – I’m not 100% sure if this is a legal carry-on item, but so far I’ve managed to keep from getting it confiscated. It’s one of those items I don’t always need but I’m really thankful for when I do.

Amazon Kindle – For reading

Lewis N. Clark Travel Neck Pillow – This is hands down the best travel neck pillow out there. It inflates easily and is super comfortable.

Passport – Duh.

Platypus Water Bottle – This is great for including in my day pack. It shrinks as you drink the water.

Dell XPS 12 – Laptop.

Anker Wall Charger – 4-ports, works at 100-240V

HooToo Wireless Router – Great for rooms without wireless (or with slow wireless). Also keeps you from having to sign in on the hotel WiFi multiple times for different devices. I connect it up using a retractable ethernet cable.

Casio Travel Alarm Clock – I use this as a backup in case my phone is dead.

Anker External Battery – Great for keeping my devices charged on-the-go, especially internationally where an easy-to-use plug may not be available.

Dry bag – I use this when I go swimming at the beach by myself, so I can take all my stuff in the water with me rather than leave it on the beach to get stolen.

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