Gear / Packing

We worked on planning this trip almost daily for 18 months straight.

We researched details on locations, what we needed to do to leave our home, I tracked every little detail of our forecasted budget, worked on our sources of savings, we adjusted our itinerary many times, we captured detailed notes and tasks in shared OneNote and Google Sheets.

I ended up working on most of the trip and prep logistics while Pedja comfortably settled in a supervisory role, keeping me calibrated and on track.

From the get-go, we decided we would try to travel light. That meant we would take only carryon luggage and backpacks. For us, it was an ambitious goal considering that we would be gone for 18 months and cover vast geographies with different clothing needs.

Pedja was the Master Packer. He was concentrated on packing so much that he must have been all packed 12 months ahead of our trip. That photo below was taken almost 11 months ago.
He researched every single bag that’s currently on the market, he could tell you how each one was made, its ratings, highlights and pitfalls, etc. He tested a few of them, developed packing lists, constantly moving his packing cubes from one bag to another. He would demonstrate for us every single bag he got. He was quite proud of himself with every item he was able to repurpose or eliminate. He really excelled at packing and we are now better off because of that.

He bugged me daily about needing to pack to see how little I could fit in my carryon. He drove me bananas for 12 months about my packing. At the end, I got packed in the last 3 days before we left (with 90% of my wardrobe from Value Village). I didn’t really pack all by myself. I couldn’t have done it without Snezana, Barb and Rachel V that were my brain, my sanity checks, my trusted helpers. Pedja is probably better packed than I am but it makes no difference at this point. We made a deal that he wouldn’t say ‘I told you so’ along the way and in the first couple of weeks of our trip, he didn’t have to.

However, even though we ended up going on this journey with only carryon luggage and backpacks, we both now feel that we’ve probably packed too much.
It’s hard to move around with bags that are packed solid. We are only 2 weeks into our trip, and I feel I should have packed less. Pedja was right, he told me that we should all pack 50% of what is allowed by the airlines, but I didn’t listen. I thought “Even carryon is a stretch for me so don’t bug me to be even more efficient”. Now I say that I should have listened to him better (and I don’t often admit this).

Packing tips:
1 – Packing cubes are a must. Each one of us has 3 cubes – 2 medium and 1 small (mediums = one for tops and one for bottoms and small = undergarments and accessories). Don’t overpack the cubes because they become ridged and they can’t mold to the bags. We all have different colored cubes so if we ever need to pack them all together in a bigger (duffel) bag, it’s easy to tell them apart.

2 – Bags (per individual needs, bag features and available budget at the time of purchase):
A – Pedja has Topo Designs travel backpack, 40l. He highly recommends it. He also tried Tortuga and Mystery Ranch and he liked Tortuga but unfortunately, it did not do well on a 3-month test-run on his trip to Serbia last summer. The reason Pedja has a backpack and not a wheeled luggage is because the weight of his empty bag is less than ours (so he can pack more in it) and he wanted to have hands free to help with Nina’s and Maki’s bags if needed.
B – 4 carryon bags with wheels –Osprey, Gregory, Eagle Creek and Ebag (heaviest). Each bag is 22x14x9 inches (55x40x25 cm). They are all sturdy, have good reviews and warranties and should serve us fine in the next 18 months.
C – Backpacks – we used what we already had, Petra’s Timbuk2 school bag, North Face we got in Japan, old REI hiking pack, Eagle Creek Nina used as his school bag. Pedja also uses a small Timbuk2 messenger bag (since he already has a backpack).
D – We picked up Eddie Bauer’s 30l stove away backpack that is usually packed in our luggage as an extra daypack. It has already proven to be really useful for running around town on daily basis.
E – We also packed one empty, folded duffel bag and stuck it in Maksim’s luggage in case we ever have to repack our bags for smaller budget airlines and have one checked bag instead of checking all 5 of ours (when we have more weight than allowed).
NOTE: Don’t overpack each bag. Weight is more of an issue than volume.

3 – We all have our puffy jackets and good performance shells – versatile and useful for any climate. I’ve used my puffy jacket in the middle of a hot summer in mountains of Bosnia and our shells can be useful for tropical hot rains (as we needed them yesterday) as well as snow (as Pedja and I used them in Japan for skiing a couple of yrs back).

4 – For clothing, avoid heavy cotton items, it takes forever to dry. Use mix of high-performance synthetic clothing, cotton blends, wool, etc.

5 – # of shoes – Pedja’s advice is to carry as few shoes as you can. Most of us have 3 pairs of shoes (tennis shoes, flip flops and street shoes) but I have 5 pairs (couple of flats, tennis shoes, flip flops and street shoes).

6 – Clothing is only half of our luggage. Rest of the space goes on meds, toiletries, electronics, accessories, etc.

7 – No matter how little you pack, you’ll wish you had less when you have to lug it around for an extended time.

All these tips can be found in long-term travel websites. Pedja read them ‘all’. However, the amount of information on long-term travel available on the internet was overwhelming to us. Now that we are packed and are living with whatever we have in our 5 bags/backpacks, we think we did well. We could develop each one of these topics a lot more (if I were to write a blog), each point has a lot more thought and detail behind it. This is just a quick dump of my thinking process at one point in time. If I wrote this post tomorrow, I would probably have somewhat of a different take on it. If you need help with packing, Pedja can tell you all about it.