Before going back to our topic, i'd like to show you this awesome ATD1 backpack review recently published by by Adam at City Trekker. Apart from our backpack, the channel has unbiased and comprehensive bags and packs reviews, done with knowledge of materials and seasoned with the perfect pinch of irony, so it's definitely worth a look.
The Packing List: essential items and travel specific items.
If the first part was about luggage choice depending on or regardless of travel specs and expectations, we will now explore its content and go nerdy with lists and kits.
Packing to me is a matter of layers. I start with my on-body EDC, then my EDC pouch, i add necessary kits among the ones I keep prepared (dopp, first aid, medicines, survival, etc) and then top with clothing, some travel gear and destination specific items.
As a base, there’s the same EDC set(s) I carry when I'm not travelling. It works with two different levels and I can spend one or two nights out with it only.
Kumbamela in Nasik, India 2015
First EDC level consists in:
1 - wallet (Bellroy Note Sleeve, second iteration in more than 10 years)
2 - phone (with Ulmon offline maps downloaded when I travel)
3 - keys (with a titanium clip)
4 - Zippo torch lighter (replaced by a Bic lighter most times i travel abroad)
5 - One or two coins
6 - bandana/hank
7 - Kleenex pack
8 - face mask
9 - pen (a small one, Fisher Bullet pen or TI Mini pen)
10 - knife (Victorinox Solo Alox in urban settings, something more beefy when in the country or if location allows/requires it. Removed or checked in when flying)
11 - mini tin box with one spare set of contact lenses, microUSB to lightning adapter (microUSB cables are widely available), button compass, SERE items.
12 - Micro tin box containing some mints / chewing gums plus pills when needed.
13 - tobacco, rolling papers and filters (i buy cigarettes in countries where rolling my own will attract unwanted attentions or where rolling tobacco is not available)
Items from 9 to 13 are sometimes packed in a small AFP pouch to avoid rattling into pockets
Depending on occasions or season or location or even part of the day, I could add Airpods, lip balm, sunglasses, mosquito repellent or my second phone (ATD Supply is not my only job, so sometimes i have to carry two phones).
This first EDC level is carried on my body if I wear garments with enough pockets or in an ASP pouch worn as a cross body sling if I don't, like in summer: I like to blend in and don’t look touristy if i can, so If I'm just hanging around, no matter if it’s my city or anywhere else, you can often see me carrying no bag at all. When a passport is required, I carry it in my pants pocket, packed in a ziplock or medium AFP pouch.
Some of the items in my 1st level EDC
The second EDC level is packed in a small ASP pouch that goes in all bags I use: anytime I carry a bag, because I need my laptop, or extra garments, or I know I will do some shopping or if I am travelling or just testing out a prototype, I have this pouch in it. It features:
- Multitool (Victorinox Spirit, removed or checked in when flying)
- Flashlight (Olight)
- a small amount of Duct tape (in a piece of shrink tube to avoid glue leaking in hot weather)
- Lightning cable for my Iphone
- A couple of adapters to charge most phones with my cable
- Powerbank (Mophie)
- Soft cover A6 notebook (Moleskine)
- Small mechanical pencil (Zebra TS-3)
- Comb (wooden, large teeth to be suitable for both hairs and beard)
- Small med kit in a ziplock (4 bandaids, 2 sanitizing wipes, 2 hemostatic gauzes, aspirins, ketoprofene)
- Tin Box with a miniaturized toilet kit (perfume in a Travalo vial, toothbrush and paste, 1 floss arch, one cotton swab, nail clipper, Allume pencil as a deodorant and hemostatic, mini Tiger Balm tin) and a small sewing kit (bobby pins, needle and some black nylon thread for repairs)
2nd Level EDC in a Small ASP pouch
I also have a large AFP pouch with an A5 notebook for notes and sketches, a ruler and a Rotring set with a pen and two mechanical pencils i a pen sleeve i made myself. I carry this set in my bag of choice but almost never bring it when traveling, unless I really have room for it, since i already have pen, pencil and and A6 notebook in my EDC
Other kits I always keep prepared and add to my bag when i need them are Dopp kit, medical kit and outdoors/survival kit.
Dopp kit is organized in two levels: the first one is an unbranded clear PU pouch and it features an allume stone (best deodorant ever and great antiseptic), toothbrush, paste, floss, spare contact lenses, container and liquid, spare face mask, beard/aftershave cream, cotton swabs plus shower gel and intimate soap (if i’m not staying in proper hotels where they are provided), and electric Gillette trimmer (if i’m staying more than 4-5 days): this is what i carry for trips under 10-15 days.
Second level goes in a dopp pouch I bought at a Muji store more than ten years ago, and you can definitely tell that from the wear spots in the lining, but I'm just too lazy to replace it. It has everything in the first level plus extra perfume, Tiger Balm and hand sanitizing gel, hair styling gel, skin cream, comb, small beard brush, Marseille soap bar (good for both clothing and body), folding shaving mirror, scissors, tweezers, micro face towel (in an outer pocket, usually facing pack’s access): this is what i carry for long trips or for those destinations where i may need to bring some more extra “comfort” with me, since it is possible that i won’t find it there. All bottles are from Muji.
First level Dopp Kit
Medical kit has two levels as well. The first one is a first aid kit packed in a small Lifesystem pouch with bandaids, vinyl gloves, sanitizing wipes, hemostatic gauzes, antiseptic cream and a roll of woven bandage in it: this is what I throw in the pack when I hike, for example. The second level is an old, passport sized ATD Cordura® pouch and includes thermometer and travel medicines in their blisters (antibiotics, aspirine, anti-diarrhoic, paracetamol, painkillers, antihistamine, ibuprofen, etc). I only carry this pouch to destinations where access to medicines is not easy or quick. For years, when i was carrying both, i’ve kept them together in a larger medical pouch, also from Lifesystem, but i prefer to pack them separated now for better modularity.
Outdoor/Survival kit sits in a small Aloksak pouch and features an emergency blanket, 10 chlorine tablets, fire starters (in a shrink tube) and firesteel, sharpener (a Fallkniven DC4 and a small leather strop), peanut lighter, Dyneema microcord, duct tape, whistler and a signaling mirror.
Outdoor, First aid and Medicines kits
An additional Travel kit goes in an old medium sized flat pouch I made myself and it is the least fixed i have, often changing according to the trip itself: it can carry cables, adapters, earplugs, a spork, sunscreen, door locking device, SD with my documents, camera stabilizer for my phone, and any other small item specifically needed for that trip. If not full, one of the previous kits can go in here.
We have discussed all the gear, kits and sets to make any trip safe and comfortable: now, what about clothing?
First of all, I have no “travel garments”: except for some heavy denim and some bulky wool jackets, I pack garments that I wear on a daily basis even when I'm not far from home.
I tend to mix technical garments with more “normal” ones to blend in better, sometimes even vintage pieces. Materials of choice are often merino wool for tops and underwear and technical stretch nylons for pants. I prefer to use shapes that can be dressed up or down, like chinos pants, shirts, crew neck jumpers.
This is a list of the clothing I packed for a two weeks trip to the Philippines in 2019 at the end of monsoon season, ranging from northern Luzon mountains to Palawan beaches, including Jeepney trips, motorbike trips and lots of potential rain/mud, no formal meeting expected. It includes the garments i was wearing:
- 1 pair of pants (Outliers Futureworks) + 2 swimming shorts (from Carhartt WIP, usable as regular shorts)
- 5 briefs (2 random branded cotton and 2 Merino ones)
- 2 or 3 pairs of merino socks (regular and no-show)
- 5 tops (mix of merino tees, cotton tees and a linen shirt)
- 1 lightweight merino knitted jumper (from some Italian knitwear brand or from Uniqlo, light and warm)
- 1 hardshell jacket (Patagonia Torrentshell or and old TNF, i can’t recall the model)
- 1 lightweight ripstop cotton hooded jacket (Carhartt, not technical at all but it’s often my comfort garment when I travel)
- 1 lightweight sea to summit drybag for laundry
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 large cotton scarf/shawl (usually one bought in a Thai market)
- 1 pair shoes (Sneakers, mainly)
The amount of clothing I carry is the same for any trip lasting more than 2 weeks, unless I have specific needs (more formal occasions, for example, hiking boots, or real cold weather). The mix of long and short pants can change according to the destination but I would never bring more than 2 or 3 bottoms, and same goes for the 5 or 6 assorted tops i can layer if needed. If weather is expected to be to be cold for the entire trip i switch to heavier garments and a winter jacket instead of the cotton one (that wouldn’t be packed, but worn), while if it’s expected to be mixed i’d go with the same list, plus a puff jacket to be layered under the hard shell (a V-necked one from Uniqlo, usually), gloves and beanie.
My clothing, plus a towel, an Indian dhoti, Ipad and an old dry bag for water activities, for 4 weeks in northern India and Kashmir in 2018. A wool shirt was bought in Himachal Pradesh.
This leads to one of the most important topics in the entire discussion: Iterations. Should you iterate or not?
To me, it is a NO most of the time, with some exceptions: there is no iteration across different levels of the EDC or across the levels of the same purpose built kits, as we have seen, but there are iterations between EDC and those kits. For example, I don’t need two nail clippers (that’s why my dopp kit lacks one, since i have it in my 2nd level EDC), but long travels lead me to bring two small perfume bottles, ot two Tiger Balm containers (in both cases, one in the EDC and one in the dopp). I have first aid items both in my EDC and in the first aid kit itself and the small toothbrush I carry in my EDC pouch allows me to brush on the go without having to open the dopp kit. for the same reason, I have a big travel towel I use both for washing and beach or pool, but I carry a small face towel that is great to have at hand during stopovers or night trains.
An open topic for me is definitely shoes. Apart from cold weather destinations where I can wear boots, Most of my travels are in warm locations where local culture requires frequent on and off. Plus, I'd like something not too heavy, waterproof and not too technical or tactical looking for an urban dinner. I still haven't found a solution, so I always end up traveling with simple sneakers, mainly Vans classics because they are cheap and can be found almost anywhere, or the ones I would use at home.
Non-clothing gear for the same trip to India in 2018, and the full set up once packed in cubes, close to the only luggage i had, the ATD1 backpack in Cordura®.