What to Take on a Round the World Trip and Gear Review
Jay and I have been home for a month now and are about ready to wrap up our travel blog. Just a couple more final posts. And here we go...
One thing that people have been so curious about during our trip is what we brought with us, what kind of bags we had, and how much we brought. It’s now time to review what we brought with us, explain what we bought along the way, and assess what was good and useful, and what we could have done without.
Jay and I were determined to travel light on our round the world journey. Based on budget airline rules, ease of movement, and convenience, we were committed to each having only a carry-on size bag as well as a day pack. And so we purchased our bags after lots of internet research and in-store checking out and in the end we were both very satisfied with our purchases.
At the end of our journey we both have the same bags, which have held up magnificently throughout the nine months, but our method of traveling is different now. When we flew out of the US on Norwegian Air, we went through all kinds of subversive moves to make sure our bags fit into the carry-on weight limits for that airline, including stuffing our pockets with heavy gear, and wearing multiple layers of clothing in the heat of the summer.
Now, when we flew back to the US, our bags were heavier (especially Jay’s), and so we both purchased a check-in bag with Jetstar to reduce our stress. Through our travels we learned through direct experience that Jetstar can be absolutely rigid on their international flights about the weight of both check-in and carry-on bags.
So here is a summary of the good, the bad and the ugly of what to bring on a round the world trip.
I went for the Osprey Ozone Convertible, a nice set of zip-together bags. The bigger bag is on wheels and can easily convert to a backpack. Jay bought Eagle Creek Switchback, which has the same features. The differences in the bags are that his expand pretty wide, which was great for him as he is an accumulator of goods. His love of buying new things and hanging on to the old things made this bag perfect for him, but meant that he was over size and weight limits for much of the journey and we ended up checking his bag for many flights.
The Osprey Ozone Convertible was great for me because the size it is remains the size it is. It does not expand and so it forces you to stay within the dimension limits. This meant that when I purchased a new item, I had to give up a similar sized item. This meant some hard choices, and occasionally I passed something on to Jay to carry so I wouldn’t have to make the choice.
I would recommend the Ozone Convertible, in terms of quality and durability and design, but honestly, after Vietnam, I never switched the bigger bag to backpack mode. I never really had to. And I NEVER zipped the two bags together. So getting the ensemble, while cool, wasn’t really necessary. On the other hand, Jay zipped his Eagle Creek bags together every time he checked his bag. This allowed him to have one large bag checked, and then he took one of my bags and we both had a carry-on.
My bags weighed less, which theoretically meant I could have packed more weight, but the size limitations prevented me from adding anything to them.
After almost nine months of traveling, both bags have held up extremely well. They both look like they are brand new. There is no sign of wear or tear on either of the bags. We love our bags!
I got the Oboz Sawtooth Men’s, and Jay got some Merrells. We both LOVED our boots and used them a LOT. The boots empowered me and made me really confident about hiking on rough mountain trails.
These boots made it through hiking over hills in Greece, mountains in Nepal, jungles in Thailand, deserts in Israel, and countless multi-day treks in Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand. We also used these boots for our workaway experiences, while building, gardening, and general maintenance work.
While climbing up and down mountains, and trekking over wet and slippery ground, my boots never let me down. I could trust that they would get enough traction to walk down even the steepest or slipperiest paths.
I have bad feet and so supplemented my Sawtooths with arch support insoles from my podiatrist, as well as ankle braces, and with these items, I NEVER had a problem with my feet. (while wearing the boots)
It was only after logging lots and lots of miles, that at the end of the Milford Track, in New Zealand I decided it was time for a new pair of boots. That’s when I started feeling the trail a bit under my feet.
I cannot wait to get home so I can buy a new pair of Oboz Sawtooths. I LOVE these boots. (P.S. I've already bought a new pair!!!)
Here are the best, most useful things I packed:
Columbia puffy coat (above): It was lightweight and perfect for me, who gets cold when the temperature goes below 60 degrees. Wearing it over a long sleeve shirt and lightweight fleece made it perfect for temperatures into the mid-40’s. I don’t know what I would have done without it. Plus, it was so light to carry around it was not a burden for me. I did not put this in my bags but carried it onto the plane each time without a hassle.
Silicone, collapsible water bottle. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CNMHZ63/ref=asc_df_B07CNMHZ635486323/?tag=hyprod-20&creative=395033&creativeASIN=B07CNMHZ63&linkCode=df0&hvadid=241981163024&hvpos=1o5&hvnetw=g&hvrand=13869243993448367480&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9032802&hvtargid=pla-445951500700
It fit nicely into my Ozone daypack side pocket, although the silicone texture and the smallish, non-expandable, side pocket made it somewhat challenging to squeeze in when full. It was super convenient to collapse when not being used. The bad thing about it is that if not washed regularly it gets a bit moldy on the inside. But it easily cleans up with a brush and some soap and is good for another month of use. The other bad thing about it is the top of the cap that meets the drinking spout got moldy and would not clean up properly. But I use it regularly anyway.
Columbia omni-heat long sleeve midweight base layer shirt: totally comfortable, wore it a zillion times without it wearing out. Kept me warm when worn with multiple other layers. The most challenging times when it came through were on the Nepal Mardi Himal trek and the New Zealand Milford Track. Both times I encountered very cold weather and having this shirt as an on-the-skin layer really kept me warm.
On the Milford Track I got wet on one of the days, and having this shirt was clutch, as it was warm even when wet, holding in my body heat, even though it was cold out, and it dried quickly once it stopped raining.
Columbia lightweight fleece jacket. Fantastic all-around versatile necessity. Wore it all the time, and it has held up wonderfully.
Columbia and UnderArmour lightweight quick dry short sleeve shirts: both brands are great, kept me cool in hot conditions, and the quick dry feature makes it perfect in sweaty weather. It was also convenient to hand wash these shirts, as they dried very quickly.
Fits merino wool socks: two pairs that I got at a clearance sale at our local outdoor outfitters. Awesome for hiking. Really comfortable padding, held up well over time, but they are ready to be replaced.
2 just-below-the-knee summer cotton sleeveless dresses from The Gap. I wore these dresses a LOT in the fall, in Greece, in Israel, and every once in a while after that. They were great when in cities and not wanting to look like a backpacker.
They were great for visiting the temples of Angkor Wat with a short-sleeved shirt underneath, and they were great for the holidays and Shabbat dinners, especially when accompanied with a…
J. Jill cardigan sweater that I got on clearance. This was perfect for pulling over one of the dresses when it was cooler, and also when I needed to be dressed more modestly.
Teva Tirra sports sandals are FANTASTIC!!!! I wore them all the time, like so much. And they are still almost perfect. The sole on one of them is separating so needs to be glued, but once it is glued it will be like new. The straps have held up perfectly, the Velcro still sticks, and I LOVE these sandals!
Electrical adaptors. You need them. They work. Don’t need to say more.
Columbia headlamp really came in handy a number of times, especially when going to the bathroom in the middle of the night during our multi-day treks. The batteries never wore out and so I carried an extra set of batteries all around the world.
Things that weren’t so great
Columbia Saturday Trail pants. They were great in the beginning. I got black so was able to wear them comfortably on both hiking trails as well as in city visits. They are very comfortable pants and move with you so they are perfect also for long plane rides. As the months went on, they started to wear out, got saggy, didn’t hold their shape well. Plus I lost weight so they were big. I was tempted several times to leave them behind, but I still have them. They will be disposed of once I get home.
Columbia rain coat.
Luckily it hardly ever rained during our nine month journey. The very first day it POURED in Oslo, and while Jay’s raincoat failed, mine held up beautifully and kept me dry all day long. After that first day I really didn’t need it for rain. I used it against wind and for extra warmth over my puffy coat several times and it was terrific. But then, during the Milford Track, when it rained, and snowed for several hours, the heat sealed seams along the zipper didn’t hold up, and the rain leaked in through that seam. When I took off my coat, my shirts were wet all down the front, along the seam. So, now I know this coat is good only for short excursions and I will need to get a more heavy duty raincoat for future expeditions. But it is still good for wind blocking and an extra layer of warmth over the puffy coat.
Things I left behind, or replaced along the road:
Two pairs of pants that were too big for me as I lost weight along the road. One pair of Columbia hiking pants and one pair of Columbia black stretchy pants.
I replaced them with one pair of Columbia hiking trousers that I found in a Columbia factory outlet in Israel, and a pair of Gander Mountain hiking pants, that may or may not be authentic that I found in a market in Vietnam. Both have held up great.
I lost my Columbia quarter-zip long sleeve shirt along the trail of the Mardi Himal trek in Nepal. This is one of the last known photos I have of that beloved shirt:
The only consolation I have is the picture I have in my head of a Nepali woman carrying a sack of rice or vegetables up a mountain wearing that awesome shirt. I would definitely get another one of those shirts.
I replaced it with a (possibly fake) Jack Wolfskin quarter-zip shirt I bought in Pokhara, Nepal. It is good, and has held up under many months of continuous use, but it’s not the right colors (blue rather than purple) so I don’t feel as emotionally attached to it.
I left behind all three pairs of Columbia hiking shorts I brought as they all became too big for me. I replaced them with two pairs of fake Nike and UnderArmour sports shorts I found in markets in Vietnam and Cambodia. They are sufficient, and will make it to the end of our journey.
New Balance sneakers were great, until they wore out and so I replaced them with real, authentic Adidas sneakers I bought at the authentic Adidas store in Vietnam. The Adidas are ok, but they aren’t wide enough for my feet, so I can’t wait to get home and get a new pair of New Balance.
Best things I bought along the road: (Notice it is all cold weather gear that I bought starting halfway through the trip and wouldn’t have wanted to carry from the beginning)
North Face heavy weight pants (most likely fake) that I bought in Nepal. These pants are the BEST thing I bought. Once we hit colder weather in Nepal, Northern Vietnam, and the southern hemisphere in Autumn, these pants were SOOO cozy to slip into after a cold day of slogging along a trail. I LOVE THESE PANTS, and have endured squeezing them into my bag even though I now have to carry something extra in my hands. They take up a LOT of space. But they are worth it.
100% Australian Merino Wool heavy weight socks. We bought a three-pack of these amazing socks in Daylesford and we would have bought more if we had the space. They were soooo inexpensive!!These are too heavy to hike in, but were perfect for warming up my toes during the Milford Track and at night in Tasmania and New Zealand when there was no heat in the house!
Cheap neck warmer from Thamel, Nepal. This little bit of cloth was surprisingly versatile and warm. I could wear it as a neck warmer, a headband, an ear protector.
My favorite experience while wearing it was in Vietnam when riding on the back of a motorbike to our jungle trek. Pulling this bit of cloth over my head, so it protected my ears from the cold wind, and then up over my face made it cozy to ride on that awesome motorbike ride over the country roads to the jungle.
Worst purchase, biggest waste of money, EVER:
Lifestraw water bottle: always afraid we would not have access to drinkable water, so bought this in Nepal before the Mardi Himal trek, and carried it around the world thinking there are plenty of treks we are going on where it says there is no drinking water. In the end, there was drinking water everywhere we went and I NEVER had to use it. But it’s too expensive to dump, so I’m just going to carry it home. Maybe I’ll sell it. Or maybe I’ll hike somewhere where I know I’ll need it. 😊 You do not need a Lifestraw drinking bottle when you are on the Mardi Himal Trek, the Great Ocean Walk, the Milford Track, or the guided hikes in Vietnam or Thailand. There is plenty of drinking water everywhere!
So there you have it. Our gear and equipment that saw us through this amazing journey! There are lots and lots of gear lists out there on the internet for round the world trips. I think you have to do your own style, and not spend loads of money getting just the right thing. We spent many months ahead of time looking around and were able to score lots of gear at clearance sales. Because we weren’t in a hurry to get our gear, we could afford to wait until the clearance sales to pick out exactly what we needed at a very good price.
For example, Jay picked up two pairs of shorts (Northface and Columbia) at an outdoor gear swap meet, as well as a brand new lightweight puffy jacket, a pair of Keene sandals, and a Columbia raincoat. I picked up a pair of Teva Tirra sandals. And this is because we kept our eyes open for deals and sales, etc. It worked out great for us. Pretty much everything we bought was on sale, except for my boots and bags. Of course, Jay’s bags were on sale.
I think the moral of the story is to shop early and scout around for the best deals over several months.
And pretty much every blog already says this, but notice that we did replace things while on the road, and we bought things that we didn’t initially pack. So just remember, just pack one or two things of each pair of clothes, layering is key, and when something wears out, gets too big, or you just get tired of wearing it four times a week, just buy a new one. Asia was great for replacing items and buying the cold weather gear.
But we also replaced things in Australia. You would think things there would be more expensive, but we found what we needed on sale, so it ended up being reasonable.