How to Pack a Carry-On for Travel Around the World

How to Pack a Backpack for Travel

After nearly a decade of traveling I have learned that packing small and light is the way to go; I stick to a carry-on sized backpack for the majority of trips I do now. The only time I pack more is if I am planning to camp, visit extremely cold places, or perform other “gear intensive” activities where it does not make sense to rent or borrow the equipment after arrival.

The benefits of packing small and light including not incurring additional baggage fees, being able to carry your bag on public transport, having the ability to walk great distances, and being able to live simply and travel simply without the need to worry about your stuff.

Live Simply. Travel Simply.

The below packing check list is my reference for when I pack my carry-on backpack. The list includes clothing for both warm and cold weather, making it possible to travel around the world in normal city conditions with a backpack that is carry-on sized. It is amazing what long-underwear, middle layer (zipper hoodie), down jacket, wool hat, and gloves can do to keep you warm for a small and light pack weight.

Some people think I’m crazy to travel with this little, including immigration officials who often ask a few additional questions, but I swear that after years of trial and error across ~100 countries, this is the only stuff I need.

I see a lot of travelers pack for every possible medical incident or situation whereas I just plan to borrow or buy the ‘exceptionals’ when I need them. I also occasionally rent, buy, or borrow clothing or equipment for exceptional weather conditions or activities, but since I do most wilderness adventures in foreign lands with the assistance of a tour agency or guide, this is easy and usually expected.

Without further adieu, these are the packing essentials that will get you through most countries and conditions with ease.

Travel Packing Check List



Long Pants x1 Phone / Charger x1
T-Shirts x3 Kindle / Cable x1
Collared Shirt x1 Laptop / Cable x1
Shorts / Swim Shorts* x2 Travel Towel x1
Sleeveless Shirts* x2 Pen / Writing Pad x1
Zippper Hoodie*1 x1 Universal Adaptor
Packable Down Jacket* x1 Packing Cubes x3
Long Underwear* x1 Packable Daypack x1
Underwear x5 Tissue x1
Socks x3 Condoms/Meds x2
Dark Shoes for Hiking and Formal Attire x1 Headlamp x1
Flip Flops* x1 Packable Daypack x3
Hat or Baseball Cap x1 Travel Guide / Dive Cert x1
Sunglasses x1 Toilet Paper x1
Beanie & Gloves* x1 Packable Daypack x1
*Weather Dependent Travel Lock x1
Camera Gear  Toiletries, Liquids, and Gels (<100ml)
Camera / Lenses x1 Toothbrush x1
Batteries x2 Toothpaste x1
Charger & USB Cord x1 Deodorant x1
Memory Cards x1 Dental Floss x1
Back-Up Hard Drive x1 Body Wash / Shampoo x1
Razor / Shaving Cream x1


Facewash / Soap x1
Passport x1  ◊ Sunscreen x1
Flight Tickets x1 Bug Spray x1
 ◊ Flight Itinerary x1 Hand Sanitizer
Airline Points Card x1
Photocopy of Docs x1
Emergency #s x1
Backup US$ / Euros x1
Debit Card / Credit Card x2
Scuba Dive Cert x1

After reading this list you may be thinking that there is no way all of this gear could fit into a 55cm x 40cm x  20cm carry-on backpack. The below photos show the things I took for a 6-month Around the World trip, including how it all packs down. My laptop and Kindle are not shown in the photo but I did carry them in the special laptop sleeve on my backpack.

Around the World Packing Check List

Around the World Packing List

Around the World Packing Check List

Fully Packed and Ready to Travel Around the World

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How to Pack a Carry-On Backpack for Around the World Travel



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