Monday, November 23, 2009

The Ultimate Packing List


The Long Awaited, Much Tested, Totally Amazing, Ultimate Backpacker Packing List!

This was started with my friend Liz while in Peru / Bolivia in 2004. We had thought we'd packed really light and fast and easy. That was until we got there and our porters on the Inca Trail were struggling under the weight of our bags. Before we were rushing to a bus with a huge backpack each, and carrying a big duffel bag between us. Before we couldn't put everything onto the 12 seater plane heading into the Amazon and had to leave a LOT of stuff at the hotel.

So it began in South America, and the next year when I went to Southeast Asia I said "I'm going to follow this to the T, and see how it all works out."


It's been slightly modified for different trips, but really just barely. (When we started it we didn't have iPods:).

So here it is, in it's most recent incantation. Obviously you might need to modify it for your particular needs, but don't be fooled into thinking you need a ton more than this. It's much easier and more fun to travel when you aren't trying to carry your house with you on your back. And besides there is no need, the point of the trip is to get away from home.

You might also notice that there is no Cell-Phone, Blackberry, iPhone on here. You don't need it. I have never taken one with me. At first because it would have cost a fortune, but after one trip I realized how wonderful it was to get away from those things. To be free. It's a little scary, and totally awesome.

There is also no Laptop. Most backpacking countries, and developing or developed nations have Internet Cafe's. (That's where I type these updates afterall). And having to worry about a laptop, which is very expensive, and worth more than a month's (or even a year's) income to people in some nations, isn't worth the stress.

The point of this is to give you a good starting point to add or subtract what you need. But stay light and you'll be free to go where you want when you want. I obviously haven't been everywhere, or even close to it, but it's worked for me for where I have been.



By Craig Ouellette and Liz Cornejo (July 2004)

* Indicates the item can be split/shared by partners rather than each carrying their own.

-1 adjustable Internal or External Frame backpack with multiple pockets (approx 3000-4000 cu. Inch)

-1 Wide brimmed hat with String

-2 pair zip offs cargo pants/shorts – dark color – polyester

-3 t-shirts

-1 “nice” shirt (something collared guys)

- 1 "nice" dress, skirt, shirt combo (girls)

-Hiking boots OR dark trail shoes

-Flip flops OR aqua sox OR sandals (only 1 type)

-3 pair underwear

-2 bras (1 nice, 1 sport) (this includes you Jared!)

-3 pair hiking sox (quick dry)

-1 set of sleep clothes

-1 fleece with hood (note, not in hot weather locals)

-1 compressible/portable rain shell

-1 swimsuit

-1 sarong (for use as towel etc)

-Portable toiletries

- hair stuff (clips/braids)

- 1/2 size toothbrush

- travel toothpaste

- travel deodorant

- travel floss

- razor/electric razor

- *nail clippers

- *small shampoo/conditioner

- *small liquid soap

-1 lip balm

-Hand sanitizer (small)

-*bug spray (small)

-*sunscreen (medium and small for daybag)

-fabreeze spray (small)


-Swiss army knife

-waterproof Headlamp

-*language phrase book (unless fluent)

-*Travel Book (Lonely Planet etc)

-travel pillow

-Journal and Pens

-1 paperback book

-Ipod/MP3player (favorites/sing-along/dance selection)

-Money Belt


- ATM card

- Student ID (if applicable)

- Travelers Cheques

- Immunization Records

-2 balance bars per day (okay, snacks of some sort!)

-eye cover


-Long Pad Lock/Pad locks for bags (TSA acceptable)

-4 bungee cords

-Mini Sleeping Bag OR sheet (depends on climate)

-*Game OR cards

-*Frisbee OR small ball to play with

-Small DAY BAG (collapsible is preferred)

-*Power Converter

-Small Digital Camera (Waterproof preferred)

- Extra battery

- Charger

- Memory cards

- Cables

-*Sewing Kit

-*Water Purifying tablets

-*First Aid Kit

- Ibuprofin/asprin

- Anti Diarrhea

- Cold Medicine

- Condoms

-zip lock bags (3 Gallon, 5 quart)

-*mini alarm clock

-2 extra batteries

-watch (with alarm if possible)

-toilet paper wad

-*scotch tape

-*mini scissors


COLD TEMP (add these to list)

-gloves (mid size)

-extra layer (flannel shirt OR sweater)

-fleece pants OR slick sweat pants (wind resistant is better)

-1 warm hat

-1 pair warm socks

-1 scarf

FRIDGED TEMP (add these in addition to Cold Temp items)

-Long Underwear (top and bottom)

-Thick Coat

-Tick Gloves

-Heavier Sleeping bag


Remove from basic list.

-Fleece with hood

-portable sleeping bag

Bring Instead:

-flannel OR light outer layer

-Silk sheet liner OR sheet

3 Rules of Group Travel

Hey Team,

So in my day I've gone solo and I've gone with groups. I enjoy both types of trips, as they both offer different advantages and challenges.

During a group trip to Florida for Spring Break, Senior Year of College I learned a few things. The trip was 5 of us in my tiny Toyota, Corolla. None of us had a lot of money, so we stayed with a recently graduated friend who worked at Disneyworld.

Due to all sorts of reasons the trip was a lot of stress. A lot of disagreements, arguments, even fights (not physical, but verbal) happened due to no one being willing to do what they wanted to do and more or less forcing or guilting other people into doing what they wanted to do.

It's easy for me to point the main blame at one certain guy, but really it was everyone, and me just as much as anyone else who caused the problems.

In the end we made it back to Iowa, and somehow stayed friends, which is kind of amazing when I think of how bad the trip went.

In the end, I came up with two RULES of group travel. The Third was officially added on the recent trip to Australia when we were discussing the RULES of group travel.

Now you might say "Craig, Really, RULES? Should Travel be free and fun and not have RULES associated with it." And I would tell you "Yes, it should. But these RULES will free up any group trip to be what (most) people want it to be. And thus a more memorable happy experience".

There will always be those who disreguard these rules, so I always like to put them on the table before a trip. Sure, I do it in a playful joking way, but by putting them out there, we can always go back to them when disagreements about what we "should" or "want to" do come up.

It's up to you, you can use them or not, but I offer this advice: Ignore them at your own peril.


"Wait, what? We're on a group trip. We should stick together. We should do everything together so we can have the memories."
And I say, with 100% certaintainty, "No, you shouldn't do everything together, and you'll have the memories".

And here's why. When you are with a group it is almost inevitable that different people will want to do different things. Sure, you might like to do a number of the same things together, but it's rare to find someone who wants to do everything someone else does.

Which gets you into the sticky situation of arguing for your point. Sure, it's cool to say why you want to do something, and it's great to try things you might not have thought about, but the issue comes when people will MAKE you do what they want to do. They may be straight forward, or they might be passive agressive, but either way leads to tension and resentment.

Better, when two people want to do different things, and there isn't enough time or desire to do both, to go your separate ways. Yep, split up. You goto the museum all day, and your friend (or wife, or husband) will head to the park and go on the boat tour. You go shop while they watch the circus. Whatever it is. Just set up a time to meet later, dinner, or maybe the hotel that night, and you can both share your adventures, tell your stories, and be grateful you got to do what you wanted to do on your 3 days in Barcelona.

Just because your friends, family, lovers or strangers, doesn't mean you have any idea what the other person wants to do or where they want to go or even how they like to travel. Be sure to tell people what kind of trip you like to have (adventure, culture, partay!), so you can see where you are similar or different. Do this before a trip, to make sure to not end up with a group you can't stand. And do it regularly during the trip. It's okay to take a day off, it's okay to go 110% all the time, but make sure you make it clear to the other people what you're feeling. And don't expect them to join in or want to do the same thing. Respect what they want as well.

And if it all comes down to it, remember rule #1.

For the love of God ,you're travelling. Sure there will be challenges, and setbacks, and your luggage will get lost or you'll hurt your neck or get sick, or you'll have an argument. But really, think of how lucky and blessed you are to be out taking this trip, seeing the world and having these experiences. And if for some reason the people you are with are making you miserable (or you are them), remember you can always split up for a good portion of the trip. Just because you had a plan, doesn't mean you have to stick to it if everything's going to hell.

So that's what I got. RULES.
RULES can get in the way, but here are a few that I think really help out with group trips.

Get out there, grab your friends, and enjoy!

6 Levels of Travel Destinations

I've come up with this rating system (based on English speakers admittedly, but you can apply it to your own language). What purpose does it serve? It can make you figure out what you feel comfortable with, and maybe make you feel good when you take your traveling to the next level.


0. BEGINNER - Traveling in your own country
1. EASY - Traveling in a country with the same language (for USA, such as England, Australia etc) where they have a good tourist services.
2. MODERATE - Traveling in a country with a different language, but good tourist services (see Thailand, or perhaps France). Where perhaps the main tourist track speaks English.
3. ADVANCED - Traveling in a country with a very different language, and not good tourist services (See Russia, Kenya, or Peru if you didn't know Spanish)
4. EXPERT - A country with different language, little to no tourist services, where you have to get local transport, perhaps bribe officials and such. (See Uganda, Bolivia, etc)
5. INSANE = Going to a war zone like Iraq or Somalia. Enough said.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Welcome to Craigotravels

Whew, it's taken awhile, but I finally got all my travel emails into a blog format for easy reading. Feel free to search by trip on the right hand side, or just enjoy at random. As most of you know, blogs go in reverse order, so if you want to read about any of these trips in order, head to the bottom of each section and work your way up.

And head to for more travel tips and fun!

Thanks for stopping by