Over on Everyday Wear, Steve and I detail out our packing lists on a regular basis. The neat side effect of that work is that you get a very good sense for what you pack, and what you didn’t end up using. It’s incredibly effective at lightening your load out. It also works well to help you identify stuff you pack that you really find essential. That’s what this post is about.
And no, I don’t do the Craig Mod method, however I do recommend his tip for showing up to the airport stupidly early.
- Bose QC35s: I know a lot of people have their beloved headphones, but noise canceling is a must. I put these on when I sit down on the plane, and take them off when we land. It’s bliss, and even though they take up all most as much room in my bag as my clothing, worth it. I don’t ever want to fly without them.
- AirPods: Yes, I take these too, but for when I’m not on the plane. They are by far the best and easiest way to carry on a voice call of any kind while on the go and much more convenient than carrying wired earbuds.
- Tissues: I don’t know what it is about planes, but they make my nose run. Likewise, you just don’t know when you’ll find an allergy hotspot. I always take two travel packs of tissues, and I’ve yet to not use at least one.
- Small towel: I like the grid linen towels from Outlier, but one of those microfiber travel towels will do. From wiping your hands clean when you eat something you didn’t expect to be messy. Wiping off a spill. Or just dowsing it in cold water when you land, and wiping your face. I mean don’t do all those at once, but otherwise I tend use my small towel for one of those items each trip. Bonus is you can wash them in your hotel and they dry super fast.
- Food: you can always buy food during meal times, but I’m talking about stable snacks. I pack two granola bars and a pack of beef jerky for most trips. It can often be hard when you land during off hours to find a decent meal, and paying Airport markups on these items is absurd. Always be snacking.
- Medicine: of course you pack any prescriptions you have, but I also back a staple rotation of: two doses ibuprofen, two sleeping pills, allergy pills, two migraine pills. If I am traveling to another country, add Imodium. I almost always take at least one of those at some point.
- Listerine strips: they are like dissolvable mouth wash and they can instantly make your breathe smell better and your mouth feel cleaner. I carry a few packs since they are small.
Those are the easy to packs things, but I also pack one more thing: extra storage space. For this I am not just talking about my 90% rule (never fill your bag more than 90% full), but I am talking about the ability to carry much more back with you if you need. To accomplish this I carry two things which help: toiletries kit in a field pocket, and elastic shock cord.
If needed the field pocket can be attached to the external MOLLE webbing on my GR1, and thus free up more space inside the bag. Alternatively, if that’s not enough space I can weave the elastic cord through the external MOLLE and lash much more to the bag itself.
Lastly, the external carabiner on the bag can easily hold the handles of a shopping bag. None of those are long term options I want to bank on as part of my routine, but all three work to allow me emergency flexibility, which is a crucial part of only packing in a 21L backpack.