One of my goals for this trip was to travel with just a carry on and a personal item. I didn’t want to deal with checking and possibly losing luggage. I also didn’t want to haul a 90-liter backpack onto buses, trains, and ferries. Limiting myself to a carry on was a daunting task, mainly because I started with way too many clothes. I pared down my wardrobe, piece by piece. I avoided most white clothing (gets dirty easily) and chose staples I could mix and match. I ended up with a lot of grays and moisture-wicking v-neck t-shirts. Boring, but I can live with it. I tend to stick to neutrals in my everyday wardrobe anyway, especially at work.
I have the Tortuga V2 backpack, which I love. It meets the carry-on specs for most airlines. Unlike many backpacks, it’s front- rather than top-loading, so I can easily unzip my bag and see what’s inside without having to take everything out. It has a laptop compartment and lots of zippers and pockets. I’ve taken this backpack on weekend trips and a two-week vacation in Greece. Tortuga has released a new version of the backpack called the Outbreaker, so it no longer sells the V2. You can still find the V2 through third-party retailers. I admit that I’ve been eyeing the Outbreaker, but there’s no reason to get it as long as my trusty V2 remains perfectly functional.
I wanted a big tote to accommodate anything that didn’t fit in my backpack. The Victorinox Charisma fit the bill. Like my backpack, it has a laptop compartment. It has plenty of room for bulky items (shoes…) that I want to bring. I also like that the lining is bright purple, which makes it easier to find things.
My eBags and Eagle Creek packing cubes are the real MVPs in making my carry-on goal attainable. When I traveled through Australia and New Zealand during study abroad in law school, I started rolling my clothes to save space. This is an old travel trick, but it was a game changer for me. Packing cubes were another revelation. They’re capable of holding a lot of clothes and still keep everything organized. I prefer the eBags packing cubes since they’re front-loading, just like my backpack. The zippers for the Eagle Creek cubes only go halfway around the bag, which means I have to take some clothes out if I’m getting something from the opposite end of the cube. However, the Eagle Creek cubes have an added feature of a compression zipper that can reduce volume.
Packing cubes aren’t perfect. Although they can reduce volume, they don’t do anything for weight. In fact, my bag probably ends up weighing more since I can jam more clothes into it. Rolling can also wrinkle clothes, depending on the fabric. My travel wardrobe only consists of casual clothes, so luckily, wrinkling isn’t much of an issue.
What am I stuffing into my bags and packing cubes? Check out the list below.
- 2 tank tops
- 6 t-shirts (1 for sleeping)
- 2 pairs of shorts
- 3 pairs of athletic shorts (1 for sleeping)
- 1 skirt
- 1 pair of gray jeans. I may regret bringing these since they’re bulky and heavy. I don’t know how often I’ll wear these in Southeast Asia in the summer. Worst case scenario, I’ll toss these. They’re an inexpensive pair, so it won’t be a huge loss. I can always get a replacement pair in Japan, where I’ll most likely need them.
- 1 pair of leggings
- Casual black dress
- Rain jacket
- Underwear (10 pairs)
- Bras (3 everyday and 1 sports)
- 2 swimsuits
- 2 pairs of socks
- 4 shoes (1 pair of sneakers, 1 pair of boat shoes, and 2 pairs of sandals). I absolutely refuse to buy Tevas or any other sports sandals since I think they’re hideous. I don’t care how practical or sturdy they are. I have morals, and I’m sticking to them!
- Jewelry (1 necklace and 1 bracelet). I hope to buy more on the road to make my wardrobe more interesting.
- 3-1-1 bag:
- Moisturizer with SPF
- Face wash
- Body lotion
- [NB: bug spray is noticeably missing from this list. I couldn’t fit it into the 3-1-1 bag, so I’ll get some as soon as I land in Hanoi. Mosquitoes love me, so this is a necessity.]
- Brush. My hair is fine and tangles easily. This is an awesome detangling brush that’s particularly useful after a day at the beach.
- Nail clippers
- Vitamin C. I had laser eye surgery in December, and vitamin C is part of my post-op care. I’ll continue taking this until the end of June.
- Go Pro
- Phone. I plan to use a local SIM card in each country.
- Chargers and adapters
- Extra memory cards and batteries
- Earphones. I am a big fan of the Yurbuds Inspire 400. I have trouble keeping Apple earphones in place. These Yurbuds stay put.
- Small crossbody bag
- Sunglasses. Necessary for post-laser eye surgery care until the end of June.
- Hand mirror. I’ve found this useful on previous vacations, so hopefully it will come in handy if a hostel bathroom is occupied.
- Compact mirror
- Travel towel
- Ear plugs
- A couple of plastic bags for dirty clothes
- Backpack rain cover
- 4 TSA locks
- 6 packs of Ice Breakers mints. For all my obsession with conserving space, these mints are the exception to the rule. I’m weirdly passionate about them and have them constantly throughout the day. Wintergreen is the only acceptable flavor; there are no substitutes. I’m dreading the day I run out of these. No joke!
- Playing cards
- Folder for documents
I’m sure I’ll never use some of these items and that I’ve forgotten something vital. I keep reminding myself that as long as I arrive in Vietnam with my passport and debit card, I should be able to buy anything else I might need.