Living itinerantly out of a backpack for long periods of time requires a precise packing list that efficiently makes use of the limited carry space.

The gear vagabonds and nomads carry is more than just equipment and clothing, it’s our life in a backpack and in a way, everything we own.

So every item needs to be vital, functional and pack efficiently for mobility. Without these traits, that gear does not belong on a traveler’s kit.

Winter Coat

A single article of clothing that takes up a disproportionate amount of space and weight that’s only useful during 1 season. An avoidable hassle to lug around for constant travel. Instead pack a light windbreaker or waterproof shell – takes up significantly less valuable room. Of course the exception to this rule is if your primary location(s) is freezing.

PRO TIP : Get the same benefits of warmth by layering thinner clothing that you’ll have anyways.

Rolling Luggage

The red headed stepchild of adventure travel packing. Backpacks are without question the best type of luggage for a life nomadic. Rolling luggage or even suitcases are much too big, take up too much space and are not easily transportable (bus, motorbike, tuk-tuk) despite the “rolling” feature.

PRO TIP : If a backpack is uncomfortable or you don’t like the appearance, settle for a duffle bag.

Overt Jewelry

Don’t make yourself a target and wear too many pieces or really flashy jewelry, especially in poorer, more tourist targeted countries – even potentially dangerous from other travelers. It impresses no one but does gain attention, just not the good kind. Beyond theft, there’s the chance of loss. Do as I say, not as I do.

PRO TIP : If you need to wear jewelry, hide it under your shirt or sleeves when in known dangerous or shady places.

Controversial Clothing

Not all cultures are as lenient and forgiving of self expression and style as the US or other Western nations. In some countries, revealing too much skin can get you in “social trouble” and wearing the wrong message on a shirt can get you in real trouble like actual jail time.

PRO TIP : If you just need to express yourself, wear a funny shirt – not a religious or racist print.


A century ago tents were the most vital item for vagabonds, but now made irrelevant due to extensive global hotel, hostel, couchsurfing coverage. However, a tent is necessary for certain adventurous travels or if intending to keep it old school and sleep outdoors whenever possible.

PRO TIP : If in a position where a tent is required, rent or buy a cheap one for each use. Beats hauling heavy equipment indefinitely.

Sleeping Bag

Even with advancing materials, sleeping bags are still inconveniently large when packed. Unless a majority of your travels will be in the outdoors, sleeping bags will only be a nuisance. In fact, some hostels don’t even let you use them. Besides, finding bedding will almost never be a problem.

PRO TIP : Get a sleep liner or survival blanket instead, both of which are packable and light. I carry none.

[The featured photo features my FAST Pack EDC backpack and was taken on a beach in Malaysia.]

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  1. I completely agree with this list, especially the rolling luggage. I hate those things!!!

  2. Word on the tent, sleeping bag and heavy coat, I made the mistake of carrying these when I went backpacking through South East Asia. Never used any of them once!

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