The items on this list have been tried and tested on Cloth Map excursions as well as personal trips, but that doesn’t mean I have it all figured out! I fully expect everything on here to change and evolve (which is why I included “2017” in the title of this article). That said, I hope this list will at least provide folks with some insight into other ways of doing things and/or serve as a good starting point for those new to international travel. Enjoy!
Being Cloth Map’s presenter, camera operator, and equipment transporter means I have to be pretty selective when choosing what to bring on trips. There simply isn’t room for anything superfluous. What follows is the master list I choose from (I don't take all of this with me every single time—no sense bringing gloves to the equator, for instance).
Let’s get to it!
As mentioned above, traveling with a lot of video gear means there isn’t room for much else, so I pack pretty light when it comes to clothes. To keep the item count down I travel with one change of clothes and only wear synthetic. This enables me to wash the dirty set every day in the shower and hang it out to dry for the next day while I wear the clean set.
All-Purpose Soap: Dr. Bronner's Pure-Castile Liquid Soap - Baby Unscented
I haven't tried synthetic pants in the field yet but many people suggested I check out a brand called Outlier. A pair of charcoal-colored Slim Dungarees arrived in the mail a short time ago and so far so good! I'm sure I'll have more to say about them in the future once I get to really put them to the test.
Taking a pullover and a thin jacket eliminates the need for a gigantic coat, since I can just wear both to stay warm. Having a hat and gloves also enables finer heat regulation. I had a tough time finding gloves that were warm but not huge. The ones listed here are okay but I’m thinking about trying these.
Jacket: North Face Thermoball Jacket
My goal with footwear is to toe (heh) the line between functional and fashionable. I want sturdy and comfortable shoes but don’t want them to scream “tourist” (although let’s face it, no matter what they’ll see me coming a mile away). I bring my normal running shoes with the best of intentions but often find it tough to work in running time when I’m on the road. Brings a whole new meaning to “guilt trip.”
Boots: Ecco boots (couldn't find a link to my exact boots, but these look like the current model)
Running Shoes: ASICS Men's GT-2000 3 Running Shoe
Having a hanging toiletry bag makes things so much easier when counter space is hard to come by (surprisingly common). For bonus points, have your toiletry bag sitting on top of everything in your suitcase for easy extraction when you’re in airport security lines.
Hanging Toiletry Bag: Rick Steves 7 Inch Travelin Toiletries Kit
“Q-Tips? You say you pack light and you bring Q-TIPS?” Look, as romantic as it is to imagine cruising the world with a stick and bindle, it’s important to recognize what will keep you happy and sane while you’re outside your normal home life. For me, keeping up my daily hygiene routine makes me feel fresh and ready to take on all the unknown things I’m going to encounter every day while on a trip. The space these items take up is a small price to pay for feeling good!
Q-Tip Case: this one is similar to mine
Tubes for Liquids: Humangear GoToob
Hair Product: R+Co Mannequin Styling Paste
Face Lotion: Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisture w/ SPF 15
Anti-Beard-Flakiness Solution: Honest Amish Beard Balm
Toothbrush: AIM Travel T/Brush
Floss Sticks (THAT’S RIGHT, I FLOSS WHILE I TRAVEL): Oral-B Complete Glide Dental Floss Picks
Towel: Packtowl Personal
You’ll notice a lack of shampoo/conditioner and soap on this list. These are items that are almost always included in hotels or AirBnbs, so there’s no reason to bring them. If you discover your place lacks these items, just go buy some! You’re not taking a trip to the moon; humans are everywhere and they all have similar needs, so finding a place that sells shampoo and soap isn’t hard (and can be kinda fun). In a pinch, I use Dr. Bronner’s (above).
Medicines could theoretically be “On-Site Procurement,” like soap, but deciphering foreign medications can be difficult and maybe a little dangerous. And frankly, when I need a medication enough to go buy it, I don’t usually feel like going and buying it. I need it NOW. Here’s what I bring in my personal pharmacy:
Ibuprofen (for head- and muscle aches)
Phenylephrine (nasal decongestant)
Pepto Bismol (upset stomach)
Imodium (anti-diarrhea, a MUST)
I couldn't find links to the exact models of pill containers I use but I’m pretty sure I got them at the Container Store.
It’s almost impossible to totally eliminate the suckitude that comes with long airplane rides but there are a few things you can do to take the edge off. Noise-cancelling headphones, a sleep mask, and a white-noise app can do a lot to put you in your own little world. Ear plugs are a cheaper alternative to the headphones and can be a lifesaver if you discover your sleeping area is next to an artillery range or something.
Headphones: Bose QuietComfort 20
Sleep Mask: Lewis N Clark Plush Travel Eye Mask
White Noise App: Relax Rain
Ear Plugs: I got mine at CVS, but these'll do
A neck pillow is required for me, and while this one isn’t perfect, it’s one of the few I’ve found that at least tries to support your chin rather than (perplexingly) pushing your neck forward.
Neck Pillow: BCOZZY Chin Supporting Travel Pillow
PHONE & INTERNET
Getting a Google Pixel phone with Google Fi is probably overkill for most travelers, but I've found it hugely convenient when you just want some dang INTERNET. International data is a topic for another day, but the Pixel/Fi combo is how Cloth Map do. I also bring my personal iPhone and connect it to wifi or tether it to the Pixel.
Regarding security: hopping on free wifi is a great way to keep the data costs down but for Pete's sake use a VPN! I've been testing Private Internet Access and like it so far, but have yet to do extensive international testing.
POWER & BATTERIES
Since pretty much every piece of electronics I take with me has a USB power adapter, I can get away with what is effectively a USB power strip. Outlets are sometimes at a premium and I’ve found this to be the perfect solution.
Just make sure to check the fine print on your devices to be certain they accommodate the voltage you’ll be using (it’ll say something like "Input: 100-240V") and get a plug adapter or two. Adapters, which just change the shape of your plugs, are different from voltage converters, which I never take.
USB Power Strip: Anker PowerPort 6 60W Wall Charger
USB Power Adapters: Liger USB Wall Travel Adapter
Power Adapters: mine are pretty similar to this
Having all of my devices charge off of USB also means I can take a portable battery with me in case my phone or camera needs a top-off. The 20100 mAh battery listed below is probably overkill for most. I’d consider the smaller 10000 mAh version if I were to get another.
Portable Battery: Anker PowerCore+ 20100
I keep my passport on me at all times, hidden in a money pouch (along with some cash) that attaches to my belt and hangs between my hip and the inside of my pants. Please don’t mug me.
Money Pouch: Eagle Creek Undercover Hidden Pocket
Watch: Timex Weekender
Pocket Notebook: MALEDEN All Weather Spiral Notebook
Pencil: Pilot G2 Mini
BAGS AND LUGGAGE
The suitcase I have is pretty expensive but I’ve used it for years and I love it. It’s taken a beating and hasn’t let me down once. I also love the integrated lock. When shopping for a suitcase, be sure it’ll fit into the overhead bin of most airlines. Having to check your bag is a real pain when you’re trying to be in and out of airports as fast as possible.
Suitcase: Rimowa Salsa Deluxe Cabin Multiwheel
Of course, weight can also force you to check a bag. A luggage scale can help you stay under the limit or at least let you know that you may have to check.
Luggage Scale: AmazonBasics Digital Luggage Scale
Carrying a full-size backpack while you’re walking around a foreign city or (especially) riding on trains can be overkill, so I like to bring a small drawstring bag that compresses down to virtually nothing. Great when all you want is some way to hold your water bottle. I talk more about the big backpack in the video equipment article.
And there you have it! Again, I’ll probably be adding and subtracting from this list as the trips go on but it’s a start! By the way, if you’ve somehow come here without knowing what Cloth Map is, we make videos with the fantastic support of our friends on Patreon!
Now go do something fun!
In case you're wondering, nobody has paid me to talk about any of these products. Most of the links in this article are Amazon affiliate links, which means I get a kickback if you buy something, but it doesn't affect the price of the item. It's kind of like a tip, only you don't pay it! ;D If you think that's weird for some reason you can tell me about it here.