Update: In the many years since I wrote this post, I’ve learned a lot about choosing your inventory wisely. So I wrote a brand new updated article!
One of the more overlooked aspects of travel is the personal travel inventory.
It doesn’t matter if you’re going to the Great Pyramids or only to a local museum, your travel inventory always has the potential to make or break your mood during a given trip. For instance, if you plan a hiking trip and neglect to bring any rain gear, you’re not going to be a happy camper when a thunderstorm comes looming over your head. But you also wouldn’t want to be hauling around 60 lb. (or if you’re cool, 30 kilos) worth of stuff all day if you knew you probably weren’t going to use half of it. The solution becomes obvious: Balance. Just as you are balancing between too challenging and not challenging when you work in the flow or balancing between a huge file size and low video quality when encoding video for a podcast, balance is also key when creating your travel inventory.
Your Optimal Travel Inventory
Striking a balance between too much and too little is what I call your Optimal Travel Inventory. You may have heard of “travelling light”, but there’s a balance. If you travel too light, you may also be leaving behind things that are more expensive if you need to buy them at your destination. Optimal Travel Inventory is finding the happy medium between bringing too much and too little.
Over the course of the past few trips I’ve made, firsthand experience has helped me refine my own Optimal Travel Inventory. To come to the list I have today, I first did some research on the what other travellers have brought on their journeys. Research is a part of my learning process again and again because I see no reason to reinvent the wheel. I am reminded of what Douglas Adams mentioned in his book, Last Chance to See:
Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.
~ Douglas Adams
As funny as this quotation may be, it’s really only funny because of how true it is, but I didn’t want it to be true of me.
Wheel’s Already Invented
Research is how I avoid reinventing the wheel, and through my research I found it very helpful to contrast other’s inventories. A good place to get inventory lists, as well as a cornucopia of other info, is DigiHitch.com, an extremely helpful resource for travellers, and specifically hitchhikers. Using ToboBear’s packing list as a starting point and incorporating some other lists I came across, plus my own common sense, I came up with my current travel inventory.
It’s worth keeping in mind that the following inventory was written for summer. Travel inventories are very seasonal and your needs will change depending on the season. I’ve put a strike-through line through items in this list that I didn’t bring, but you may want to think about bringing those items depending on the size of your pack. And by buying smart you can save money as you assemble your travel inventory. For instance, under the Hygene category below, I’ve listed Dr. Bronner’s Soap, which is functions as a general soap, dishwashing soap, and shampoo — and amazingly it does all these jobs well. Believe me, I’ve tried all three.
Here’s my Inventory List from my last trip:
Carry That Weight
- Pack that is Waterproof or has a cover.
(I recommend an Osprey pack.)
- Outside strap or a place to carry sleeping bag. (Most quality packs, like the Osprey Kestrel, have the straps built-in and are specifically designed to hold a sleeping back on the outside.
- Sleeping bag suitable to your climate
• in the summer this isn’t much of an issue and I actually use a super-soft silk travel sheet
• in the winter months, do your own research to see how cold it will get. use common sense.
2 shorts & 1 pair pants (depending on climate)
Glasses and/or Contacts + Lens Solution (if appicable)
Spoon/ fork/ cup/ bowl/ plate
Dry food such as:
• Granola Bars
First Aid Kit
Flashlight on AA batteries
Road Journal & pencil
Swiss Army Knife/Leatherman
playing cards(Takes up space. Only needed if you’re going to a boring place, right?)
Towel (Every traveller should know where their towel is.)
Wide-brimmed Hat (depending on climate)
3 pairs socks
3 pairs underwear
Pajama pants &
Fleecefor night time
1 pair Pants
Some pocket money in a Chump Change Wallet
A real stash for your real cash
Multipurpose Soap (Dr. Bronner’s Soap is excellent)
Clothes line (some twine works)
Universal sink plug
Breath mints or gum
Needle & thread
The Byteful Travel Inventory
As I said above, if you’re ready to get a pack, and you want to get one that will really last, I highly recommend an Osprey pack. I’ve had my Osprey Kestrel for about two years and traveled over 6,000 miles with it (probably closer to 10,000 now) and it still doesn’t show any wear. This thing will last for years.
To make it easier for you to find some of the essential travel gear that I’ve outlined in this article, I’ve taken the time and created a special “What I Bring on Every Trip” section over at the Byteful Shop that contains the main items I bring with me on my travels. (UPDATE: this section has been shut down as of 2017 due to Amazon discontinuing this feature.) I’ve added a preview of this special section to the side of this text; and, as you can see, I’ve written a short description under each item to explain why each one is so incredibly useful. After using these products for years now, I’m excited to share the results of so much trial and error.
And remember, by purchasing something through the Byteful Shop (or any link on this article), a small percentage of your purchase goes to Byteful Travel which allows me to continue providing all of Byteful Travel’s content completely free of charge.
Remember, it’s people like you who allow Byteful Travel to continue to exist. So thank you for your support!
It’s All Up To You
For me, the inventory outlined in the list was a good place to start, and it was within my 48 liter pack’s optimal weight range. Every pack has an optimal range of weight, so within that range the pack will work best. If you go above that range, wearing the pack will probably be dangerous to your health, and if you go below that range, the pack will probably not fit as well.
However, this list is only meant to be considered a starting point for you. Your own Optimal Travel Inventory will be different from mine. In any case, the longer you travel and the more trips you take, the more refined your Optimal Travel Inventory will be.
At the end of the day, use common sense, and don’t bring something if you won’t use it. Be really honest with yourself. Above all, get out there and travel!
Life’s too short not to.
UPDATE: To learn how to pack your travel inventory into your pack as efficiently as possible, you don’t want to miss: How to Pack Your Bags like Chuck Norris