- I’m taking a trip around the world that will have me traveling for many months on end as Business Insider’s International Correspondent.
- I wanted to bring only a carry-on suitcase and a backpack so I could travel lighter and avoid baggage fees on the numerous flights I’ll be taking.
- Most of the packing lists I found online were ridiculously minimalist. I couldn’t afford to be, with travel plans ranging from business meetings to hiking trips.
- Packing properly required a lot of planning to make sure all the travel essentials I need.
As Business Insider’s International Correspondent, I’ll be spending the next three months traveling through Hong Kong, China, Vietnam, Singapore, and Russia.
When I started planning my round-the-world trip, there was no shortage of packing lists to draw from. But most packing lists are laughably small. Minimalism is the dominant philosophy of travel bloggers everywhere.
That wasn’t going to work for me.
My trip has a wide range of scenarios to plan for, and that’s before you include the copious photo and video equipment I’m carrying with me to document it all.
I’ll be spanning Beijing’s frosty early spring to Hanoi’s sweltering summer and situations ranging from boardroom meetings with executives at Chinese tech startups to hiking China’s Zhangjiajie National Forest Park (the mountains the 2009 film Avatar was based on).
With all that in mind, I decided to eschew the minimalist mantra of the backpackers of the world and go maximalist.
Consider this carefully planned packing list my Watch The Throne.
I’m going to take a ton of flights, so I don’t want to deal with checking baggage. I decided to bring a carry-on and a backpack for efficiency.
(1) TravelPro MAXLITE 21″ Expandable Carry-On Spinner: Contrary to popular belief, there is no one correct carry-on suitcase size. Some airlines allow bags up to 22-inches, some only 20-inches. This bag is 21-inches. That should be small enough for most international carriers.
TravelPro is the brand you’ll see flight attendants and pilots using. I don’t know if that’s because they get them for free or because they’re so ergonomical. For now, I’ll pretend ergonomical and report back in a few months.
(2) Peak Design 30L Everyday Backpack: I’ve been carrying the small radioactive orange Lowepro camera/hiking backpack for 6 years. While I love it, it was time to say goodbye.
When I started looking for a new camera backpack for this trip, I came across Peak Design, which launched one of the most successful Kickstarters ever and is the choice backpack of tech journalists, or so I’m told. My early impressions are largely positive.
It’s stocked with tons of pockets and functional design choices so you can fit (and keep organized) everything you might need on a workday: laptop, notebooks, paper, camera, lenses, flash, water bottle, chargers, knickknacks, etc.
It’s also fairly stylish, if I do say so myself.
Packing the carry-on was a lot easier using packing cubes to keep things organized.
(1) Bicycle card deck: I always carry a pack of cards of me so I can perform my sick magic tricks on new business acquaintances. Just kidding. But they are a good distraction.
(2) New Outlander pocketable backpack: This is a good day pack for hiking. Super-light and folds up into the pocket so its smaller than a paperback book.
(3)Overboard Dry Tube Bag: I have a lot of expensive camera equipment and I plan on doing some adventure-type activities that I’d like to document on the trip. This bag will keep everything bone-dry so I don’t have to worry about calling the insurance company.
(4) Domke 19-Inch Protective Wrap: This Velcro wrap is a handy piece of gear so I can pack up sensitive equipment that doesn’t have its own case.
(5) Fuji X-T2 Battery Grip: This add-on grip for my Fuji camera houses two extra batteries and adds some extra performance punch when shooting video with the camera. Extra bonus: I can use it to charge two batteries at a time.
(6) Card tin + business cards: I refashioned a tin for holding playing cards as a business card holder. I learned my lesson on my trip to launch Business Insider Japan last January about not having business cards in Asia. I only hope I brought enough.
(7), (10), Godox VING V860IIF: A speedlight for my Fuji X-T2 that’s fraction of the price of other leading brands while capable of doing everything I need it to. Plus the charger.
(8) Godox XPro-F: I just started getting into shooting with off-camera flash. This controller will allow me to execute more complicated lighting arrangements by firing the flash without it being connected to the top of my camera.
(9) Sony camera charger: In addition to my Fuji XT-2, I’m also carrying a high-end point-and-shoot, the Sony RX100 Mark IV. This is the charger for it.
(11) Ultraviolet and Neutral Density Lens Filters: This is a package of four lens filters for my Fuji lens. The UV filters protect the lens from scratches or smudges, while the ND filters reduce the amount of light to the camera.
(12) Lexar 25-in-1 memory card reader: For transferring my photos and video to my computer for editing.
(13) 3 Legged Thing Equinox Leo: A lightweight carbon fiber travel tripod that can handle a full camera setup. One of the legs is a detachable monopod. I’ll be using this a lot on upcoming shoots. A good thing it folds up to a little over 16 inches long.
(14) Travel towel: You never know when a place you are staying won’t a have a towel. This travel towel has come with me on a ton of trips. it folds up small and drys fast.
(15) Dakine Travel Kit Backpack: This toiletry bag has a ton of good reviews so I decided to give it a try after lugging around the same boring black one since I was 14. It fits a ton in there. See the next slide.
(16), (17), (19) – HiDay Travel Organizer Bag System: My girlfriend purchased this set of seven packing cubes for herself, then decided not to use most of them. I’m finding these to a be functional way to keep my clothes organized amidst all my other gear.
(18) Dollar store flip flops: I bought these at a dollar store in Canada last summer and they are still holding strong. I’ll keep using them until they disintegrate. Maybe then I’ll upgrade to some Havianas.
(20) Nike Roshe One Running Shoes: The Nike Roshe’s have become something of a cult favorite Nike shoe in the last couple of years, mainly because of its lightweight top and thick sole. The clean design combined with that reputation for performance convinced me that it would a good shoe for the many walking tours ahead, as well one I could use for morning exercise while traveling.
While I rarely buy travel-size toiletries, a few items like moleskin and Gold Bond can make long trips far more enjoyable.
(1) Oral-B Toothbrush: I had bought a Radius Scuba toothbrush a month ago to bring on the trip. That toothbrush is supposed to last 9 months (versus most toothbrushes 3 months) and is supposed to better on the gums. Unfortunately, it lasted a week before I lost it. A foreboding sign.
(2) Marvis Whitening Toothpaste: Let me start by saying I rarely, if ever, purchase travel-size items. They’re overpriced and too small. This one I acquired while staying at The Beekman for a story recently. Like Ross Geller (You know you’re a 90’s kid when …) I always stock up on hotel amenities for future trips.
(3) Floss: With apologies to my dentist, and my teeth, I don’t floss often. But I’m trying to change that. If New York me doesn’t floss, maybe I can convince world traveler me to do so.
(4) Marrone Scurro Creme: I recently bought an expensive pair of Italian leather hiking boots (see following slide). This tube of leather cream (?) came with it. I assume it’s for shoe care but I’ll be honest I don’t really know. Might as well bring it.
(5) American Crew Forming Cream: I’m going to be at a lot of business meetings so that means stepping up my hair game. This cream gets my hair to look thick and pushed back without going full American Psycho.
(6) Nioxin Scalp Treatment: Like many men my age, I’m very slowly losing my hair (VERY SLOWLY, thank you).This spray came in a trial pack of other men’s hair products. It says it helps keep your scalp healthy. I’m not holding my breath.
(7) Old Spice Swagger body wash: I know I said I don’t buy travel-size toiletries, but this one was rolling around in the back of my medicine cabinet. I can’t be blamed for what a younger me purchased.
(8) Travel size shampoo and body lotion: I got these on vacation last October in Austria. I told you I stock up at hotels.
(9) Conair Hair Brush: It’s probably time for me to downgrade to a comb as I no longer have Thor-level locks, but I’m holding onto my youth as long as possible, thank you.
(10) Nioxin shampoo and conditioner: This also came in the trial pack. They lie flat so I figured I’d might as well pack them.
(11) Advanced Clinicals Beard Oil: I’ve never been one to use cologne as I find most scents too pungent for my delicate nose. But this sandalwood-scented beard oil serves that purpose while I also making my standard-issue 2010s-era Williamsburg beard nice and soft.
(12) Aquamira water purifier tablets: I’ve been storing this in my toiletry bag for at least a decade and have never used them. Still, it gives me peace of mind to know that if I’m ever caught in the wilderness, I’ll be able to drink from a stream. LOL.
(13) Fa Sport Deodorant: I’ve got nothing interesting to say about this deodorant except that I bought it in Europe and, for some reason, European brands of deodorant come in much smaller packages, which makes them ideal for travel.
(14) Blistex lip balm: I’ll be traveling to western China (Shaanxi and Inner Mongolia provinces) where it is very windy. You’ll see – this one is going to come in handy,.
(15) Wahl beard trimmer: The benefit of having a beard means not having to carry razors and shaving cream. The downside: you need a bulky electric trimmer to keep it professional-looking.
(16) Ibuprofen: Don’t be fooled. This miniature bottle of Ibuprofen also contains Imitrex for my migraines, which is a loving condition I was gifted when I turned 27. This bottle has since been moved to my backpack after suffering a migraine on my New York to Hong Kong flight.
(17) Moleskin: No, not the notebook. Moleskin is possibly one of the most clutch items to keep in your travel bag. After walking for days on end, you are bound to get blisters on your feet. Slap the Moleskine over them and you won’t feel them.
(18) Gold Bond Anti Itch Cream: Chafing is an eternal traveler condition. This tingling bottle of relief mitigates the issue.
(19) Antibiotic ointment (i.e. Neosporin): I usually carry a full first-aid kit on hiking trips. I plan to do some hiking during this trip, but I just don’t have the space for the kit. This will have to do.
(20) Eco Soap Bar: I will never run out of travel-size amenities. Trust me. I’m a squirrel storing nuts for winter.
(21) CVS bandages: You never know when you are going to cut yourself. Particularly when you are a klutz like me.
(22) Tums: Eating a lot of strange foods and drinking a fair amount – sounds like a recipe for a stomach ache, eh?
(23) Malaria pills: I’m not sure if these are really necessary, but I will be in Southeast Asia next month and my doctor wrote the prescription.
(24) Z-Pac: It’s always a good idea to have antibiotics on hand. Most food and drinks are made with water stocked with foreign bacteria. Your immune system is not always going to be able to fight them off.
Specialty travel undergarments like those made by ExOfficio can make it a lot easier to pack light.
(1) Uniqlo Sprz NY Pocketable Parka: It’s a rain jacket that folds up into a tiny bag. Perfect for travel.
(2), (3) Hanes ComfortSoft Boxer Briefs
(4) ExOfficio Give-N-Go boxers: These boxers are lightweight, durable, and can be washed and dried in a matter of hours, making them the perfect travel companion.
(5), (6) Uniqlo AIRism boxers: ExOfficio boxers are great, but expensive. I’m hoping these Uniqlo boxers, which have a lot of the same features (quick drying, anti-microbial, etc), will offer similar performance.
(7), (8), (9), (11) Black athletic socks
(10) Black silk Tie: A black tie matches with just about anything and is just as appropriate in party wear as business attire.
I pick pants, and shorts, that serve multiple purposes.
(1) 14th and Union navy blue trousers: These might be the most comfortable pants I’ve ever owned. Seriously. They feel like pajama bottoms.
(2) Outlier New Way Shorts: These shorts are super expensive, but they look stylish and promise to be useable for athletics and swimming. I’m excited to put them through their paces.
(3) Levi 511 Slim Fit Jeans: These are the only jeans I’ve been wearing for the last two years. They are super comfortable, stylish, have just the right amount of give, and come in a variety of washes and colors.
I try to stick to neutral tones that match with lots of different pants and shorts, like gray, blue, and black.
(3) Banana Republic button-down
Here’s what my carry-on suitcase looked like once it was all packed up and ready to go.
I purposely picked a backpack that could carry a lot of extra equipment. As a photographer and journalist, it’s hard to travel light. Particularly when you are on assignment.
(1) Peak Design Field Pouch: I bought this when I purchased the 30L Everyday Backpack and it’s quickly become my favorite item to travel with. It has lots of pockets for all of the little items (chargers, batteries, glasses) in a backpack that tend to get lost.
(2) Emergency Blanket: This is something that I keep in my backpack on any trip I go on. You never know when something might go wrong on a hike and I feel a little more prepared knowing this little foldable blanket could keep me warm in a pinch.
(3), (12) Zoom H1N: As a journalist, I used to record all of my interviews on my iPhone with the Voice Memos app, but after a few too many malfunctions, I’m switching to an actual recorder. The higher quality audio will also come in handy for recording podcast segments or audio for short videos. The additional bag (12) has a few accessories.
(4) Earplugs:I sleep in hostels a lot when traveling. Earplugs make sure I get a good night of sleep no matter what’s going on around me. For my money, Mack’s Originals are the best I’ve tried.
(5), (6), Hakuba Lens Cleaner and Lens Wipes
(7) Anker Nylon Braided USB Cable with Lightning Connector: I’m always looking for an iPhone cable that won’t break. Let’s hope this nylon braided one stands the test of time.
(8) Anker Portable Charger: Traveling in this day and age without a portable charger is silly. This one is compact and can charge my iPhone two and a half times.
(9) Pens: I’m very picky about pens so I try to bring a lot of my favorites like the Uni-Ball Signo gel pen.
(10) Sony RX100 Mark IV: This is as good as it gets when it comes to point-and-shoot cameras. The sensor inside this camera is the same size as many larger mirrorless models and it shoots 4K video. It was expensive, but when I can whip it out on a dark street corner and get the photo I was looking for, it’s all worth it.
(11) Monster Inspiration headphones: I listen to a lot of music, particularly when I’m editing photos or writing so having a good pair of headphones is essential. I’ve had these ones for five years and they’re still going strong, with excellent sound quality and a comfortable fit.
(13) Fujinon XF 56mm F/1.2 Lens: I like to use fixed focal length lenses for my Fuji XT-2 as they provide sharper quality. This lens is perfect for taking flattering portraits and isn’t too heavy.
(14) Micro-USB cable: For charging the Sony RX100, the Anker portable charger, and my Kindle Paperwhite.
(15) Wasabi Power batteries: These batteries aren’t the official Fuji batteries, but they cost less than a quarter of the name-brand versions, and I’ve found they hold up well.
(16) Notebooks: I find it much easier to take notes and write up drafts for in-depth stories by hand. For some reason, it helps me break through writer’s block. To that end, I’ve got a Apica CD Notebook I picked up in Japan last year for drafting, a Moleskine Notebook for journaling, and a “reporter’s notebook” for taking notes on assignment.
(17) Apple headphones: These are actually an ancient model of iPhone headphones from a decade ago. My dad had an unused pair in a desk drawer. Good for using on the go.
(18) Kindle Paperwhite: I much prefer to read physical books (I look at digital screens all day), but that’s just not feasible for a long trip. The Kindle Paperwhite is small and has a backlight, which will be good for long train rides. First up on the reading list: Mo Yan’s “Life and Death are Wearing Me Out.”
(19) Eye mask: Another traveler must-have. You don’t want to get woken up on the plane by your seatmate peeking out the window.
(20) More pens, and a highlighter
(21) Fuji X-T2 and Fujinon XF 23MM F1.4 lens: This is my workhorse camera and workhorse lens. I use it to shoot just about everything. The images that come out of the camera usually require little editing, which means more time shooting and less time on the computer.
(22) Fuji W126S Batteries
(23) Hakuba Card Wallet – For storing my SD cards after I fill them up with photos.
Every piece of clothing I picked, from my boots to my pants, had a particular purpose in mind.
(1) Fracap M120 Ripple Sole Scarponcino Boots: With apologies to my mother, these are likely the most expensive shoes I’ve ever bought. But with limited space, I need them to serve a pretty ridiculous dual purpose – heavy duty enough that I can hike in them, while snazzy enough that they can pass at a business meeting.
(2) Outlier Futureworks Pants: Another set of highly specialized (read: expensive) clothing. NYC-based Outlier has been making a name for itself for making small batches of highly functional, but stylish clothes. These pants look like slacks, can be worn in multiple climates, are extremely comfortable, and can serve as hiking pants.
(3) Eagle Creek Silk Undercover Money Belt: A Christmas present from my brother. Unlike the dorky money belts of old, this one slips under the pants and you can barely feel it.
(4) Darn Tough Wool Socks: I was a huge fan of SmartWool socks, but when I was going to buy a new pair for this trip, I saw that recent reviews complained that the quality had gone down considerably. I decided to try out Darn Tough, which have a lifetime warranty. They’re holding up pretty well so far.
(5) Zara faux-leather bomber jacket: I bought this a few years ago and it’s always served as a great stylish spring jacket. Unfortunately, I lost this a day after I arrived in Hong Kong. Sigh.
(6) Reversible belt: Some days I’m going to need a black belt and some days I’m going to need a brown one. But I don’t have the space to carry both.
(7) Harding Lane for Opening Ceremony Fire Hat: In another life, I might have been a hype-beast. For now, this hat will have to do.
(9) Serman Brands RFID Blocking Slim Wallet – I’ve been warned of the terrors of scammers in China stealing credit card information from RFID chips, but that’s not really why I bought this wallet. It’s super slim and has two handy features – an outer pocket for your most used credit card, and a pull tab on the other side for easy access to another card.
(10) Glasses: I can’t see long distances without them. Pretty necessary in my opinion.
(11) Business cards and business card holder: It’s a bad idea to be caught in a business meeting in Asia without business cards. I finally wised up and got a carrier so I can keep them on me at all times.