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Travel equipment: what we took in our backpacks!

“What am I going to put in my backpack?” is the question that has replaced our daily “What am I going to wear today?”… We can tell that moving from a city life to a nomadic one is not easy at all, and above all not obvious! So we decided to share our experience, thoughts and advice on how to prepare optimized backpacks – tested and approved in all seasons and circumstances!


Backpacks: how to choose them well?

First of all, it’s necessary to figure out the total weight of a full backpack that you’ll always carry on your back: we usually hike with backpacks that don’t exceed 25% of our body weight – in order to not feel uncomfortable or burdened. With this weight limit in mind we have sorted the stuff that we will take with us for our World Tour (goodbye my heels!)

We each bought a good hiking backpack (second hand for Julien, a discounted new one for me), 40L to 50L maximum in addition to our small backpacks (20L) that will contain our valuable material. Keep in mind – the lower your backpack volume, the less stuff you will carry!
We opted for backpacks with a rain cloth and side pockets for stuff that we would like to be easily available. Our backpacks also feature a full length zipper, so we don’t need to empty our bag entirely each time to access the bottom! But the most important point is that our backpacks fit us  perfectly, to transfer 80-90% of the total weight to the hips in order to relieve our backs and shoulders. Feel free to try several brands and backpacks types in a store, and ask a seller for weights to fill and test them full.

Another tip: Buy some packing cubes in order to compartmentalize your backpack and protect your clean and dry clothes from the dirty ones! 

Our backpacks

Margaux’ backpack

Underwear

  • 4 panties
  • 2 pairs of hiking socks
  • 2 pairs of warm socks
  • 1 bra
  • 1 bikini

Clothing

  • 1 tee-shirt
  • 1 synthetic sleeveless top
  • 2 long sleeve tops
  • 1 jeans
  • 1 hiking pant convertible to shorts
  • 1 leggings
  • 1 dress
  • 1 hoodie
  • 1 fleece long sleeve top
  • 1 long sleeve thermal underwear top

Shoes

  • Trail shoes
  • Foldable ballerina flats
  • Flip flops

Add-ons

  • 1 microfiber towel
  • Gloves
  • 1 winter cap
  • 1 balaclava
  • 1 summer cap
  • 1 big and warm scarf
  • 1 warm and waterproof coat
  • 1 pocket raincoat
  • 1 sleeping bag and silk liner
SerialHikers stop autostop world monde tour hitchhiking aventure adventure alternative travel voyage sans avion no fly profil Margaux photo

My top tips:

I use my bikini set as undies when the others are dirty/drying

I took a multi-purpose dress, both simple and classy, for an outing day at the beach as well as for a night party in the city!

Another tip for small sizes like me: you can buy your clothes in the children section, more economical (14 years size is equals to a XS / S woman size)

My foldable ballerinas are the perfect solution to fit in my backpack and allow me to walk in town (or for an event!).

I use my flip flops for outdoor showers at the beach or sometimes indoor showers

I use my scarf to prevent from the cold and it can be worn over the head if required

My sleeping bag is essential to sleep more comfortably or in a bed with a doubtful cleanliness. As for the format, I recommend a relatively warm sleeping bag (0 ° C) for extreme situations. Also good to know: there are « duo » sleeping bags that you can zip together… A must for couples!

Julien’s backpack

Underwear

  • 4 boxer briefs
  • 2 pairs of hiking socks
  • 2 pairs of warm socks
  • 1 swim briefs

Clothing

  • 2 cotton tee-shirts
  • 1 synthetic tee-shirt
  • 1 long sleeves shirt
  • 1 jeans
  • 1 hiking pant convertible to shorts
  • 1 thermal underwear
  • 1 hoodie
  • 1 fleece long sleeve top
  • 1 long sleeves thermal underwear top

Shoes

  • Trail shoes
  • Light sneakers
  • Flip flops

Add-ons

  • 1 microfiber towel
  • Gloves
  • 1 winter cap
  • 1 buff
  • 1 summer cap
  • 1 down jacket
  • 1 raincoat
  • 1 sleeping bag and silk liner
SerialHikers stop autostop world monde tour hitchhiking aventure adventure alternative travel voyage sans avion no fly profil photo Julien

Julien’s top tips:

I also use my swim briefs as an underwear: this one dries very quickly after washing!

My long sleeve shirt in a casual style can be wore to prevent from the cold, sun and mosquitoes, but also for an event. As for jeans, I use it as a casual wear, but it can also be wore for a night out!

I invested money in a good convertible hiking pant with pockets on the sides: it’s very important for me to have my wallet and Swiss army knife at hand! Another practical adds: one of the pockets is equipped with an anti-theft fabric sewed on the zip.

My sneakers are very light and suit me very well in town and for an event

I use my flip flops for outdoor showers, at the beach and as indoor slippers

I use my buff fold on my neck as a simple scarf

Finding good clothes that combine warmth, lightness and small volume is a real challenge. I prefer to invest in a good and warm jacket, light and waterproof (few are waterproof). As for the raincoat, I can wear it in case of heavy rain in combination with my down jacket, or simply over my clothes when it’s hot.

Our tips to have less heavy backpacks
 

We had to find out some tricks to deal with all situations, all seasons and all climates. So we favored lightweight dual-purpose clothing such as convertible pants, down jackets and long-sleeved t-shirts as it reduces unnecessary amounts of clothing!

We also have preferred some fabric types:

  • Synthetic for tops, because it’s a very breathable material that dries quickly: ideal for daily hand washes!
  • Cotton for underwear: comfortable to wear and very breathable, it’s recommended for women who are sensitive to urinary infections;
  • Thermal underwear with high thermic protection which are an indispensable base layer for cold and can be used as pajamas;
  • Microfiber towels for how light, fast-drying property and ultra-absorbent they are;
  • Silk liner for sleeping bags: a light liner that protects our sleeping bags from dirt (also silk liner is way easier to wash) and makes you feel warmer.

 

Before leaving, sort all your clothes and if necessary buy your equipment second-hand (an economical and ecological solution). However, for dual-purpose clothing such as convertible hiking pants or down jackets, do not hesitate to invest in quality and fitted products.
Another option to avoid unnecessary clothes to carry: buy clothes directly in the country you visit. It’s often cheaper and adapted to the local weather. And when your clothes are no longer used, you can give them  away or send them back home via postal packages. 

Travel accessories

To always have something to lit paper or wood, or to burn the used toilet paper in the middle of nature…

Our favorite tool to secure extra stuff on our bags!

Essential accessories to hang our linen during our camping days, or at local’s house

Used for our small backpacks, where we stored our valuables

The essentials for travelling!

Efficient tools for writing notes, drawing hitchhiking signs etc.

Convenient to real all our favorite books without being burdened by the weight!

An optional which proved to be useful as soon as we got outside Europe…

A soft, light and foldable canvas bag that we keep with us to avoid unnecessary plastic bags when shopping

In our case, we carry a Lifestraw that allows us to drink impure water directly from the stream, thanks to the filters built into the straw!

Absolutely essential for fixing our clothes, shoes, and bags while travelling (tested and approved!). A spare set of shoelaces is always useful.

With our old smartphones, we still can browse internet via WiFi, to use certain offline applications (maps, dictionaries), to call each other if necessary etc. Phone models we have are not really valuable anymore, but they don’t make quality photos… If you have a valuable smartphone (which you also use to take quality photos for example), taking an extra old phone might always tend to be useful in places where there is a high risk of theft or a serious issue with your smartphone.

To listen music everywhere! Personally, we take it simple with a pair of headphones and computer sound!

To adapt the different SIM cards that we get locally for our phones (micro SIM, nano SIM)

We brought a quality foldable solar panel and an external battery, so that we can recharge our devices at any time. In terms of alternatives, you can also find tuto to build water and wind turbines for travel!

Used when camping, or when we have to venture into darker corners: a must – in our opinion!

Useful on a hike, with a whistle to warn and a compass to find your way – especially if the smartphone doesn’t work anymore (due to the lack of battery for example)

Before leaving, we bought the “Point-it” – a small pictionary specially designed for travel: when words are no longer enough, you just have to point out your thoughts in pictures!

To sleep better, protected from noise or light

Essential for our picnics and small repairs!

Always useful in certain situations…

Multimedia

It’s not essential to take a whole arsenal of multimedia material when traveling; but we wanted to have the highlights of our trip secured, keep some memories and especially share with you our discoveries… And what could be better than a world tour to perfect a passion for photography / video? Julien has taken an extra 8 kg of multimedia equipment with him!

SerialHikers stop autostop world monde tour hitchhiking aventure adventure alternative travel voyage sans avion no fly Matériel multimedia photo video PC

More about our multimedia equipment

How to protect your valuable material?
 

All valuable equipment, money and papers are stored in our small 20L backpacks worn at belly level. They can be kept folded in our big bags or used as a tote bag for a day’s walk!
For a better walking comfort, our small backpacks have a belly belt for a better weight distribution. In practice, we first hang the small backpack on our belly, then we put on the big backpack and we attach the belly belt of this one below the one of the small backpack. This way, the weight of the small bag will rest on the belt of the large bag! This method of attachment also allows you to put your big bag down easily when hitchhiking (bus hold, car trunk…) and to always keep your small backpack with your valuables with you!

Hygiene and First Aid kit

Obviously, in addition to our clothes we carry a toilet bag and a First Aid kit for two. By sharing all these items by both (such as toothpaste, soap, scissors, comb) we also reduce the total weight to carry! Our tip: do not take on unnecessary products! Soaps and drugs can in most cases be easily bought in local pharmacies or drugstores.

SerialHikers stop autostop world monde tour hitchhiking aventure adventure alternative travel voyage sans avion no fly santé vaccins pharmacie

More about hygiene and first aid kit

Tent or not tent?

During the first year of travel, we choose to not take a tent. Why? First because of its weight (+ 1.6kg for a good quality tent which is not negligible!) and because we wanted to meet one of our travel goals, which is to meet people. And we can say that this strategy has paid off: on the dozen times in 13 months where we hadn’t have a place to spend the night, we did in most cases meet fabulous people to host us!
Then we bought a tent from our second year of travel, because we crossed countries with low population density, where it was very difficult to find hosts (as during our time crossing Kazakh steppes).

SerialHikers stop autostop world monde tour hitchhiking aventure adventure alternative travel voyage sans avion no fly Kazakhstan Kaindy Lake lac sunken forest forêt immergée camping

More about our tricks to wild camp safely

Let’s weight our bags!

The weight of our backpacks may vary slightly depending on the weather (in warm weather, sweater and winter coats remain in our backpacks) and the food / water that we carry (for us or our hosts). We also made the choice to carry a wide-range equipment for every season (tested and approved from -20°C to +40°C).
At the end, we travel with a total weight ranging from 26 to 30 kg distributed in our two backpacks like this:

Margaux’ backpack

  • 5.8kg of clothes and sleeping bag
  • 3kg misc
  • 2kg Toilet bag and First Aid kit
  • 0.5kg air mat

Total = approx. 12kg

Julien’s backpack

  • 6.2kg of clothes and sleeping bag
  • 1kg misc
  • 0.5kg air mat
  • 1.6kg free standing tent (good for 2)
  • 8kg multimedia equipment and laptop

Total = approx. 18kg

Of course, no one can say that our travel backpacks are very light, nor we are perfectly minimalists… But it’s a good compromise, in our eyes, to combine our two passions: travel and photography!

End note after 4 years

To conclude, we felt it was important to go back to the list of clothes we took when we left in October 2016 and compare it with the contents of our backpack when we returned in October 2020. What has changed? What would we have liked to take more?

Margaux’ backpack

  • 4 panties
  • 2 pairs of hiking socks
  • 2 pairs of warm socks
  • 1 bra sports bra
  • 1 bikini
  • 1 tee-shirt
  • 1 synthetic sleeveless top
  • 2 long sleeve tops
  • 1 jeans
  • 1 hiking pant convertible to shorts
  • 1 leggings
  • 1 dress
  • 1 hoodie
  • 1 fleece long sleeve top
  • 1 long sleeve thermal underwear top
  • Trail shoes
  • Foldable ballerina flats Trekking sandals
  • Flip flops
  • 1 microfiber towel
  • Gloves
  • 1 winter cap
  • 1 balaclava
  • 1 summer cap
  • 1 big and warm scarf
  • 1 warm and waterproof coat
  • 1 pocket raincoat
  • 1 sleeping bag and silk liner

Julien’s backpack

  • 4 boxer briefs
  • 2 pairs of hiking socks
  • 2 pairs of warm socks
  • 1 swim briefs
  • 2 cotton tee-shirts
  • 1 synthetic tee-shirt
  • 1 long sleeves shirt
  • 1 jeans
  • 1 hiking pant convertible to shorts
  • 1 thermal underwear
  • 1 hoodie
  • 1 fleece long sleeve top
  • 1 long sleeves thermal underwear top
  • Trail shoes
  • Light sneakers Trekking sandals
  • Flip flops
  • 1 microfiber towel
  • Gloves
  • 1 winter cap
  • 1 buff
  • 1 summer cap
  • 1 down jacket
  • 1 raincoat
  • 1 sleeping bag and silk liner

Conclusion: few things have been changed in 4 years! We are proud to say that we had seen pretty much right at the beginning!… But to detail the small changes made:
– I bought a sports bra in China to replace my (very) worn out bra – and that purchase came in handy! With so much movement/walking during the trip, I really needed a solid undergarment for support.
– We both purchased trekking sandals to replace our flip flops AND light shoes. Not only did they prove to be more resistant, but the gripping sole of the sandals also allows us to use them for hiking (or walking on the deck of a wet boat).

As for the accessories, we didn’t use the picture dictionary much (we got used to miming or pointing) and we didn’t use the whistle and the compass at all – but that doesn’t mean that it’s completely useless to take them!… They can literally save your life and moreover, they don’t take much weight/space in the bag.

We hope that this feedback will help you to organize the content of your backpack for a long journey… And leave you with a light bag and no worries! 

Note: Huge thanks to Dan, who helped us with the translation of technical words !

* Post written according to our personal experience *

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