Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Packing List - Backpack

Green Bay, WI

I have with one backpack, two saddlebags, and a luggage rack with a few things on it. That doesn't leave me much room for packing, but I've made do with what I have.  Now that I'm almost done with the trip, I'm finally getting around to listing what I packed for this trip (I actually started this post in Portland, OR, and I've worked on it multiple times over the trip).  Here's what I put in the backpack - I'll cover the other stuff later.

BackpackOrtlieb Flight 27

The big benefit of this backpack is that it's waterproof (and dustproof), so I can strap it on the back of my motorcycle and not worry if it's wet or muddy.  I can tuck my electronic chargers in the front pocket, and the back pocket is big enough for everything else I have.  The backpack is about the same width as my laptop, so that fits perfectly in the back of the pack, and I can pack everything else in front of it, which allows me to slide it in and out without unpacking or repacking the rest of it most of the time.

It has one organizer pocket with three sleeves which I tuck a few important things into, and everything else goes in the main pocket.  The main downsides are the lack of organization, and the zippers are tough to pull because they're waterproof (and they require lubrication every once in a while to keep them moving well).

Laptop: Lenovo T420

A pretty even balance of power, small size, and low cost, the biggest benefit of this laptop is the battery life - I've got a 9-cell battery and an additional 9-cell slice battery.  With the screen brightness low I can keep it running for 20 hours or more without a charge, which is nice when I'm camping out a few days in a row.  The long battery life also means that it can serve as my phone charger when I'm camping without worrying too much about the laptop dying, which is useful.

I'd prefer if it were a little lighter - it's the heaviest thing in my backpack by a pretty big margin, and the spare battery contributes quite a bit to that.  If I was camping less, I'd probably ditch the spare battery.  I'd also prefer a solid state drive and then replace the CD drive with a larger hard drive - that way it would be faster while still having plenty of space.  I already filled up about two-thirds of the drive, mostly with music and TV shows, so a little more room would be nice.

I keep it in a sleeve I won from a contest on ScienceBlogs, which lets me not worry so much about tossing my backpack around a little bit.

CameraSony NEX-5

I got this camera just before leaving on the trip, and I've loved it.  It's hardly bigger than a point-and-shoot, but produces much higher quality pictures, and is upgradable - at some point I'll probably get the zoom lens for it, and there are adapters to allow you to use most DSLR lenses.

The one downside of the base model is that the lens doesn't have any zoom at all.  There is digital zoom on the camera, but it makes focusing much more difficult and produces lower-quality pictures.  But in a pinch it can work just fine.

It connects through mini-USB, but I don't ever hook it up to my laptop - I have an SD card slot on the side of the laptop, so I transfer pictures that way. I also have a spare battery, and a plug-in battery charger

Shirts: Icebreaker rules the day here.  I have four t-shirts, one long-sleeve base layer, and a sweater.
  • Tech T Lite - This is my oldest Icebreaker shirt, and I rarely wear it - it has a small hole in the back, so I mainly wear it when I'm doing other laundry, or when I'm doing something that might damage the shirt (like when I went mountain biking.
  • Hopper - I have two of these, different colors.  Probably my favorite Icebreaker shirts.
  • I have one other one that's similar feel/fit to the Hopper, but is black with gray around the neck and sleeves.  It doesn't appear to be on the Icebreaker website anymore, but it's labeled as "Superfine Lite"
  • Oasis Crewe - This is the base layer.  Used it a ton up by Yellowstone/Glacier/Rockies, then went from Seattle until Toronto without using it.  The last week or so I've used it a few times, and it's a life-saver on cold days.
  • Icebreaker Sport 320 (can't find it on their site) - This plus the base layer has been enough for all but the coldest of days, even when riding.  The only times I've been cold have been in Yellowstone, when it was 33 degrees when I woke up, and when I got snowed on in the Rockies.

Underwear/Socks: This is all Icebreaker as well.  I have two pairs of underwear and two pairs of socks, and frequently when I shower, I take my underwear and socks in the shower with me and wash them with my soap (listed below).  This keeps them fresh, since they're usually the first thing to start smelling, so I can go a little longer without doing actual laundry.

  • Bodyfit 150 Boxers - At the risk of giving too much info, these are a perfect fit.  I had Icebreaker briefs for a while, and they were uncomfortably tight.  The boxers aren't loose like most boxers, so they actually still work well for athletic stuff.
  • Lite Crew Socks - Two pairs of these.  These actually do end up smelling pretty quickly if I don't wash them in the shower, one of the few Icebreaker things that do.
PantsGander Mountain Convertible Pants
This is the color my pants started out as.  Now they're much lighter.

This is my only pair of pants.  I would prefer nylon pants for traveling, but that's not so good for the motorcycle.  These are the thing that most frequently dictates my laundry schedule, especially after a few hot days where (sorry, probably TMI) my butt sweats a ton since it doesn't get any breeze while I'm on the bike. The convertible part is nice - it means I can get off the motorcycle and be in shorts quickly, without needing to really change. So I'm pretty much ready to hike in a few seconds.

The cargo pockets are also nice, especially since they're above the break, so whether I'm in shorts or pants, I don't have to switch things between pockets.  The only time things come out of my pockets are when I do laundry.

Other ClothesStarter Loose-Fit Compression Shorts and Starter Dri-Star Compression Shorts
These are both just cheap things from Walmart, but the shorts are some of the most comfortable ones I've ever owned.  The shorts are what I sleep in, and the combo of the two serves as athletic gear and my swimming suit, as well as being what I wear when I'm doing laundry.  They dry out pretty quickly, and I haven't had any problems with them smelling except after some extremely vigorous frisbee in hot weather.

Dr. Bronner's
I'm packing relatively light for toiletries.  The main thing is the soap - I'm using Dr. Bronner's soap for everything.  It's my soap, shampoo, laundry detergent for when I wash stuff in the shower, dish soap, and anything else that needs soap.

I carry two 3oz containers of the soap in GoToobs.  These things rock - they're easily squeezable, the opening is designed so stuff won't come out until you squeeze them even if the lid is off, and when the lid is closed they will not leak no matter how hard you squeeze the bottle (unless the lid is loose - learned that the hard way).  You can even get them with a suction cup on the side, so you can just stick them to the side of the shower and leave the lid open, and then just squeeze out soap when you need it.

The bulk of my toiletries is for shaving - for the first half of the trip I was shaving my head every few days.  I have a Merkur Travel Razor, which is a safety razor.  That means I usually just pick up some double sided razor blades from a drugstore or something, no cartridges or special blades necessary.  There's usually only one kind at any given drugstore, so whatever they have is what I get.  The downside is that airport security doesn't like them - I had a couple packs confiscated when flying from O'Hare back to Las Vegas.

I also keep with me a shaving brush - with the shaving cream I started the trip with (in a GoToob, of course) it wasn't strictly necessary, but lately I've switched and started using a bar of shaving soap, which does require a brush.  I tried the soap when I first started shaving with a safety razor, but I think my skin was extra sensitive because I hadn't used the safety razor for long, so I didn't like it.  But once I ran out of the shaving cream (and couldn't find a similar one that I liked at the store), I switched back to the soap - and it's been working fine.

I use an MSR packtowel - this thing is starting to get ratty, because it doubles as the towel I use to wipe the dew off my bike.  This towel is also one of the driving laundry pieces, as it's synthetic and smells bad much sooner than any of the Icebreaker stuff.  On the plus side, it packs small and dries quickly.  Often I end up not even using it if the people I'm staying with provide a towel, but it has definitely come in handy quite a bit. I definitely wouldn't travel without a towel.

The rest of the toiletries are pretty standard.  I use a pretty simple travel toothbrush, nothing special there, and a regular travel tube of whatever toothpaste I found at the store when I ran out.  For deodorant I use Tom's Natural Unscented.  It works, but I'm not passionate about it or anything.  I also carry a cheap pair of nail clippers and toenail clippers.

Other Electronics

Cooler Master 95W laptop brick - This is nice for two reasons: (1) the cord from the brick to the laptop is long, and (2) there's a USB charger on it, which I use to charge my phone anytime my laptop is plugged in.  It's a small brick too, which is nice.

Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse - I don't use a mouse often, but this one is nice because it packs so light.  It lays flat when it's off, and then to turn it on you simply bend it.  The USB dongle is extremely small and I wouldn't feel worried that it would break off if I left it in the laptop while packing the laptop back in the backpack.  Otherwise, the bottom of the mouse is slightly magnetic which lets you stick the dongle to the mouse when you're not using it, so it doesn't get lost.  The scroll wheel on the mouse is a touchpad, and I don't really like the "throw" on it - when you flick your finger down to scroll, it holds too much momentum, far more than a normal mousewheel.  There might be a setting to change that, but I haven't taken the time to find it.

Belkin Micro Power Kit - I have this whole kit with me, including the car charger despite not having a 12V jack on my bike (I was planning on adding it at some point, but ran out of time).  The AC/DC wall charger is what I use anytime I need to charge the phone but not the laptop.

I also have a standard USB to iPod connector, the original USB to micro-USB cable from my first Droid (which is nice because it's short), and a micro-USB to mini-USB adapter to charge my camera - which I never use.  I have a spare battery which I charge in a standard plug-in charger whenever one of them is low.

Droid Charge Dock - I got this for free from Verizon when I bought my new phone (a Droid Charge), and while it's big, I keep it around for the benefit of the spare battery charger.  I can use it to charge a spare battery separately from the phone, which is a HUGE benefit for me.  With my old phone I always kept a spare battery, but if I ever used it, I had to first charge it back to full, then switch to the dead battery and start charging it.  This way I can just plug in the spare battery and continue using my phone, and then once the spare battery is charged, start charging my phone.

I say "and then" because I've tried charging both at once before, with sub-optimal results.  An overnight charge of both resulted in a half-full spare battery (but a full main battery at least).  That's a downside, but one I'm willing to put up with for the benefit of a charger that lets me charge a battery out of the phone.

I think that's pretty much it for the backpack.  I try to keep it as light as possible so that it's not uncomfortable to carry around if I'm going to be away from the motorcycle for a while.  Let me know if you think there's a place I can improve my packing list.


  1. I'm glad you like the shirt I got you!

  2. So when all is said and done, about how much did the whole trip end up costing? Was it more/less/right-on what you budgeted for? I know you couchsurfed and camped to save money, any other tricks for keeping costs down?

  3. Definitely more. I'll do a post on the cost once I get it all figured out, but I think the main extra expense was miles: I budgeted for a 12,000 mile trip, and I've done 21,000 so far. That means more gas, oil changes, spark plugs, and tires.