What’s in Our Carry Ons?

When packing for long term travel, there’s a lot to consider! We suggest starting the process by turning on the TV, curling up with a soft blanket, and procrastinating hard. Or, if that doesn’t work, there’s always the list method. Regardless, you’ll need to prepare yourself, because the simple task of packing involves selecting your must-have items (or so you thought), squishing, trying to zip, unpacking, remembering something you forgot to add the first time, adjusting, cramming, and so on, until you can eventually close the bag and feel okay about it. Even when you’re being as tactful as humanly possible, it’s not improbable that you’ll hit a wall and simply can’t take everything you wish you could.

Oh, and because that’s not fun enough, we decided we wanted to travel as light as possible. Each with just a carry on luggage (airline approved) and backpack (this counts as the ‘personal item’ on most airlines), the idea was such that we could avoid having to pay for checking baggage whenever possible, as well as being able to get from A to B without too much bulk. And for those of you wondering, these are High Sierra bags. Hey, High Sierra… call us, we’ll totally be your new endorsers. 😉 But until then, we’ll continue to plug you guys and the brand because we’re cool like that.


Some things we thought about when trying to figure out what the heck to bring with us:

  • Length of travel (6 months)
  • Seasons (all of ‘em, baby)
  • Methods of transportation (planes, trains, buses, boats, and whatever else comes our way)
  • Activities (sunbathing, boating, snorkeling, hiking, blending in with smartly dressed city-folk without looking like hobos, and then some)

Shannon’s Carry On:


I assume that anyone who’s ever had to pack for more than a night away from home can empathize with my plight. I immediately threw any notion of looking cute and stylish out the window because frankly, I would just disappoint myself. After 30 hours of travel, I knew I’d be more concerned about how comfortable I was than how on-trend I looked. My philosophy: stick to the basics and bring as many multi-use pieces as possible. The only items that don’t quite belong in the crossover category are the jeans (which I will likely not be wearing in 90+ degree heat in Langkawi, Malaysia) and the shorts (those will be tucked at the bottom of my suitcase in snowy Alps). Oh yeah, and the bathing suits; probably won’t be out much after SE Asia either. Pretty much everything else works solo or in layers. Also, I went with the “rolling” method, which in my experience, prevents wrinkled clothes and also lets me get in as much in the little nooks and crannies as possible. Michael, on the other hand, chose to fold.

If I had just a liiiiitle more room, I’d have taken another pair of shoes. While the sneakers work nicely for doing outdoorsy things, I’d prefer something a little less athletic for just walking around. It would have been nice to take a ‘night out’ top, maybe a medium weight sweater… the list could go on, but I’ve got what I need. Mostly. As sort of a compromise with myself, if I come across something just too good to pass up, I can just switch it out with an item I already have (upgrade!).


Between our two backpacks, we pretty much just divided everything that’s either too fragile to go in the carry on (in the event it needs to be checked), or that we will want easy access to. One of the umbrellas was packed away in my luggage, but the smaller and more colorful one (the crappy one we bought in London last year for 3£ that has outlasted countless, more expensive others) is available for quick access. The most important item in my bag is the Nikon D40x. Michael’s bag has the Nikon D3200, and we absolutely love both of them. Having our cameras in the backpack means they’re quick to get at, and that we’re always ready for a photo op.

Michael’s Carry On:


My goal when packing was lots of socks and lots of underwear – accomplished!  As Shannon mentioned, the biggest problem we faced is packing for extreme heat and cold.  I managed to get in my essentials for both summer (boardshorts, tank tops, and t-shirts) and winter (jacket, gloves, and scarf).  I know how inexpensive clothes in Asia are, and wanted to take that into consideration too.  The last time we were there I wanted to buy some new clothes, but really didn’t have room in my suitcase to bring them back home.  So this time a good amount of the clothes I packed are old, and I don’t mind getting rid of them.  Now if I see a new shirt I want to buy, I have no problem leaving another one to make room.  One other thing pictured here that I find essential is the waterproof bag.  I picked this up in Thailand for about $12 a few years ago.  It’s 10 gallons, and fits a good amount of stuff – at least one camera and valuables.  Quite handy if you’ll be on the water!

Unfortunately, I could not fit a few things.  My shoes are kind of huge, and I wish I could have brought a pair of rain/winter boots, but no luck.  Also, most of the winter stuff I did fit is good for the city, but not so good for excursions.  It would have been nice to fit some more “ski” clothing.


My backpack has a few interesting things that I’ve come to really rely on while traveling.  Especially in Europe and Asia where every airline has some obscure luggage weight limit, you must have a luggage scale!  The flexible tripod is also a must.  It’s compact, only cost $12 on amazon.com (here), and is strong enough to hold a DSLR camera.  I just got the adjustable locking cable for $11, also on amazon (here).  I always hear stories of people’s bags getting stolen, or broken into while in their hotel room.  So I’m really fastidious about locking our stuff up!  With this gem I can make sure all our bags and zippers are secure in the room; tied to a bed post or something that’s immovable.  And finally, you may be wondering what a “Camera Spy Lens” is, just see for yourself here.

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