On a recent BlinkPacking trip to New Orleans, my faithful Deuter AirComfort backpack was filled with just a handful of items. The pack was light enough for easy all-day wear, and I had all the essentials and comforts I needed for two overnight bus trips and a day of exploring the city at a breakneck pace.
For those new to this style of adventure, I thought a glimpse inside the backpack would be helpful. So what’s in the bag?
1) Deuter AirComfort Lite Backpack – AC Lite 18
This lightweight pack has a neato mesh system that keeps an opening of air between my back and the pack. Its small size is perfect for stowing beneath the seat of a bus, but its thoughtful design opens up like a cavern to tote plenty of gear. Plenty of loops and external straps provide easy options for drying laundry on the go, and a handy top pocket keeps cameras, subway passes, and city maps close at hand. This pack also comes with a hidden rain cover which has come in handy more than a few times.
2) Wool Hat
The beanie is a bald man’s best friend, and this one keeps me warm when the icy AC is chilling the bus. I pull it down to cover my eyes when those darned few insist on firing up their overhead courtesy lights to read at 3:30 am.
3) RX Sunglasses
Prescription or not, don’t leave home without sunglasses. Ever.
4) iPhone, Earbuds, and Wires
I travel with only one device, and what a device it is! The iPhone 4S is all I need for navigating a city, searching for great eateries and dives, and taking decent photos of the trip. The battery usually lasts through the day, but I always bring a wall plug and a standard charging wire to make sure I can juice it up at cafes and libraries. Megabus, Greyhound, and other transportation options are starting to offer standard plugs at each seat, so the phone charges as I snooze away the night.
Earbuds are essential gear for any long trip, and my eight dollar pair came with a dandy soft case for coiling the wire. Score.
I keep the grooming supplies to a minimum. Hey, when BlinkPacking, I have no one to impress! A toothbrush with a plastic sleeve and a little tube of travel toothpaste is the bare minimum. I usually bring a little vial of Baking Soda (my standby deodorant — works way better than commercial stuff), a small bottle of Advil (oils the joints and keeps headaches at bay — I usually take two pills in the morning and two before bed on these trips), and a small bottle of liquid soap for makeshift showers in public restrooms (a true art unto itself — more about this in a later post).
What is a BlinkPacking trip without snacks? I usually bring semi-healthy munchies that don’t crush or melt easily. The weather was cool this time, so chocolate covered blueberries were in the bag. I also had Trader Joe’s Kale Chips and a package of nutty trail mix along for the ride. Pack more or less depending on the mode of travel and the convenience of the final destination, but food weighs down a pack, so opt for the minimum whenever possible.
7) Plastic Bags
Bring three plastic grocery bags along — one for dirty clothes, one for clean clothes, and one for ten thousand other potential uses. I pack everything in plastic as an extra shield in case of rain, and it is easier to find items when they are sorted by category. Your bags will slide in and out of the pack with ease and the trip’s essentials will stay much more organized. Give it a try!
I also bring two or three Zip-Loc bags for storing the iPhone, wallet, and cords in case of inclement weather.
I usually bring a disposable bottle of water on BlinkPacking trips. I packed a Nalgene this time because I was traveling with my wife, and I figured (correctly) that we would need the extra water. But I prefer disposable containers because they are easily refillable and lightweight, and there is no heartbreak when they are left behind on a bench at a bus terminal.
9) Extra Credit Cards
I keep my main credit card and my license inside my wallet, which stays in my front pocket at all times. I place an extra credit card, a debit card, and my health insurance card, along with twenty dollars (a ten, a five, and five ones) in my backpack, should my wallet become tragically separated from me.
10) Glasses Case
Without glasses, the world looks like Vaseline to me, so I always carry an empty hard case for storing my frames while I sleep. The case is bulky, extra weight, but the benefits outweigh the downsides.
11) House Keys
What good is an adventurous time away if you can’t open your front door when you return home? Bring the house keys and clip them to an internal loop in your pack so you will know right where they are.
These foam babies are lifesavers on noisy, snore-filled overnight buses and trains. Pop two of these in your ear canals, pull a wool cap over your eyes, and you are off to dreamland even in obnoxious conditions.
13) Velcro Straps
I bring two or three small Velcro straps along. I use them for keeping wires neatly coiled and tangle-free.
14) Two Extra Pairs of Socks
Clean, dry feet equals a happy BlinkPacker. I generally try to change my socks every 12 hours — it is amazing how clean a simple sock change will make you feel.
15) The Amazing Homemade Blanket of Wonder
I purchased a full, flat sheet at a thrift store, folded it once, and sewed up two of the remaining three sides. The result is a lightweight blanket that is easy to fold and stow in backpack. Bonus: leaving one short side unstitched renders my travel blanket a perfect sleeping bag for hostel stays and couch surfing. Just slip inside and avoid touching those ratty mattresses.
16) Wicking Underwear
Yes, I did just post a photo of my personal underwear for the whole world to view. Yikes. I always wear a pair of REI wicking boxers, and I pack one extra pair. The synthetic fabric is comfy and will keep you feeling cleaner than standard cotton. Wear one, wash the other, and you are good to go for months if needed.
17) Extra T-shirt
I usually wear three layers of clothing: a short sleeved tee as a base layer, a long sleeved tee, and a comfortable, thinner sweatshirt or sweater. This pretty much covers me for anything except for the coldest of weather conditions. On the bottom, jeans always fit the bill, as long as I don’t have to wear any sort of belt to keep them up — belts are too uncomfortable for all-day and all-night wear. Tennis shoes keep me ready to run for a subway, walk five miles across town, take an unexpected hike, and zip around on a rental bike.
I only carry one extra short-sleeved tee in the backpack. If any of the clothing is going to become smelly, it will be that base layer, and a quick tee change halfway through the trip keeps me feeling fresh and ready to go.
That’s the list — pretty minimal for a few days of maximum fun and adventure. When you go on whirlwind trips, what do you bring? How does your list differ from mine?