Camel Driver

This is a bulletproof checklist I go through every time I travel. It allows me to completely skip the mental work of figuring out and deciding what to take with me. I just go through the list and make sure I’ve packed everything on it. Boom, ready to hop on the plane.

I’ve been using the checklist religiously for the past three years. It was first battle-tested when I was traveling in Europe for two months, and I’ve used it on every trip since.

Take a look. I’ve bolded the items that should be worn on your person.

Essentials

  • phone
  • phone charger
  • travel adaptor (if necessary)
  • earphones
  • wallet
  • passport
  • flight tickets
  • travel insurance card
  • hostel reservation printouts
  • mini towel (MSR PackTowl, read below)
  • 5 articles of underwear
  • 5 T-shirts
  • 5 pairs of socks
  • 3 long-sleeves
  • jeans
  • sneakers
  • toothbrush
  • toothpaste (keep ziplocked)

Since the bolded items are already worn, we’re mostly just left with additional clothes, and some toiletries. These should go into your carry-on backpack—your only item of luggage. Lugging around an additional suitcase with 40 pounds of unnecessary clutter will only make your journey cumbersome. Just stick with one convenient bag that you can also use on a daily basis at your destination (the contents can stay in your room). If you happen to buy larger souvenirs, you can always mail them to your house.

You can also choose to buy a toothbrush and toothpaste at your destination, but I personally prefer to have everything I need so that I’m always ready to wash up and go to sleep upon reaching my destination. You should at least have a toothbrush and some toothpaste with you, because the last thing you’ll want to do is wander around looking for a convenience on your way to the hostel at two in the morning (happened to me in Seoul).

What you might want to buy at your destination later are nail clippers, razors, sunblock, and skin cream. (Note: Nail clippers and razors aren’t allowed in your carry-on.)

As a backup, be sure to store a copy of your passport and other travel documents in your email or other easily accessible cloud service.

I usually pack my additional clothes in sets of five. Having a limited supply of underwear and socks forces you to do the laundry at regular intervals, which prevents dirty clothes from piling up. You can also handwash your underwear and socks in the sink, and take the shirts to the nearest laundromat every three days or so.

When I travel, I’m usually fine with just a single pair of jeans. But if I happen to be traveling in summer or in a hot climate, I’ll usually pack an additional pair of sweatpants or shorts. The same applies to colder countries as well: jackets, gloves, and hats are a must if the average temperature falls below 15 grados centígrados (59 F).

Finally, the towel that I use in my travels deserves a paragraph of its own. Thanks to Tim Ferriss’s video on traveling light, I’ve discovered a very compact and travel-optimized towel called the MSR PackTowl. This inexpensive piece of travel gear is crafted from a polyester/nylon microfiber blend and is designed for fast drying. It’s ultra-thin, dries up extremely fast (it took about three hours to dry in Hong Kong, where the air is humid as fuck), and efficiently absorbs water. I highly recommend it.

Enjoy your journeys, and free your mind from material possessions! Got more tips? Please leave them in the comments below.