- Buyer's Guide
Packing List :: A Vagabonding Lifestyle, 1300 Days and Counting…
Whilst making a phone call before my departure from Bangkok on a bench at Suvarnabhumi Airport, a shaggy and healthy-looking white homeless couple each hauling a backpack approaches me and asks for a light. Moving in closer to give the man a light, I realized how perfect his teeth were, the “Arc’teryx” logos of their high-end but dirty jackets and finally the woman holding her experienced German passport stuffed with visas. They weren’t homeless at all. They were backpackers.
I learned that they’ve been traveling the world for 21 months straight with no end in sight, each with just a backpack. Their story, while not unique (especially outside of the USA), was fascinating to me in the most profound way. Their mobility, flexibility, free-spirited and responsibly hedonistic nature. Stunned at their way of life and effectiveness of it, my Zero Halliburton attache and Louis Vuitton suitcase suddenly became, well, excess baggage.
Living to travel has always been an interest to me but traveling to live became my goal. So a few years later in the summer of 2012, I retired and started to live out of a backpack and travel the world as a way of life.
This is the gear that lets me live as a modern nomad.
Disclaimer: John reviews EDC for his website Vinjabond and he's been gifted a lot of the below to test. That said, this is a curated list, these are the best items he's chosen to regularly use on his adventures.
Volume: 34 liters // Cost: $7200 // Seasons: 3.5
"Living to travel has always been an interest to me but traveling to live became my goal."
I’ve equipped 3 primary backpacks since I started, all from Triple Aught Design. For the first few years it was the FAST Pack Litespeed, then a year with the new version of that. Now it’s the FAST Pack EDC ($340). It’s perfectly sized for me with a stock capacity of just over 32 liters. Overfilled, I can pack every single item of my packing list in (and on) it, including the clothes and shoes I would otherwise wear. It’s tough, agile, versatile and far more comfortable to equip than a tactical rucksack should be.
The Optics Case ($12) from Nite Ize has been with me from the beginning to securely store my sunglasses.
Also from the start but recently replaced with a newer set are a couple of Storm Dry Bags ($10) by SealLine, for waterproofing needs.
A modified Janus Extension Pocket ($35) by Maxpedition is attached to the top forward of my pack and currently serves as my toiletry kit.
Holding most of my cables, wires and adaptors is the TravelTech Organizer ($20) by Zero Grid.
In use for almost a decade is the EVA Earphone Case ($3) by Case Star, cheap but everlasting.
Discontinued but has been handy for years is the Kit Organizer ($30) by Victorinox, now used to store certain GoPro parts.
Despite its cost, I’m surprised these Versace Sunglasses ($300) have lasted this long and through so much, sometimes you get your money’s worth.
The LockOut ($24) by Sands Precision is an overbuilt polymer canister that is vital for my daily life as it secures my meds from the elements.
The Operator Pen ($100) by Tuff-Writer is a fine writing instrument with tactical/defense capabilities.
As far as micro multi-tools with pliers go, the Dime ($15) by Gerber is unbeatable, especially for the price.
The Exilis ($269) by Guardian Tactical is an advanced tactical folder with a sub 3-inch blade, making it suitable for worldwide legal carry.
One of the few items that’s on my person at all times is Triple Aught Design’s Life Capsule Omega ($95), holstered to my ankle.
An always-adapting modular bracelet made primarily from Maxpedition’s TacTie Straps ($9) and various other parts and tools for each situational purpose.
"One of the few items that’s on my person at all times is Triple Aught Design’s Life Capsule Omega ($95), holstered to my ankle."
Made entirely from titanium is my own Stealth Combat Necklace w/Cache ($N/A). Designed for everyday wear with defense and stash capabilities.
Quite possibly the best designed pocket pry bar tool ever made is the CQB Pry Bar Tool ($60) by Raidops. Titanium construction with a clever clip and high functionality.
The Bellroy Elements Sleeve ($69) is a superbly minimal wallet that’s been a welcome addition to my rarely used pant pockets.
"Quite possibly the best designed pocket pry bar tool ever made is the CQB Pry Bar Tool ($60) by Raidops."
The device that created Vinjabond.com and has served me well by always working without falter while being a joy to carry around the world. The MacBook Air 11 ($1000) by Apple is a minimalistic digital nomad’s dream.
As beautiful as it is useful is the PowerPlant ($70) by Nomad. A high-capacity external USB battery made with actual walnut wood that charges my iPhone, Xperia and GoPro whenever needed.
Not shown is the Xperia Z5 Compact ($440) by Sony. It’s my primary smartphone due to its waterproof, superior camera and advanced features.
Also packed is a Hitcase Pro ($100) equipped iPhone. Also waterproof as well as shockproof and with GoPro-like shooting capabilities.
I don’t wear actual watches but do like using fitness trackers. My current favorite is the Vivosmart ($90) by Garmin. It’s one of the few that’s completely waterproof with all the other features, including a clock.
Found in a back alley street market in Taipei is the Smallest Universal Plug Adaptor ($15) I have found. This no-name device can’t even be found through the power of Google. But it works like a charm with all my devices. This thing is gold.
The Flea 2.0 ($11) by Blackburn is designed for cycling but I sometimes utilize it on my modular bracelet or as a backup flashlight.
Although SOG is known for knives, their DarkEnergy 214A ($50) is one of the best tactical flashlights around at that size in that price range.
The only other comparable single AAA battery flashlight you can find than the E05 ($20) is made by the same brand, Fenix. Tiny but powerful.
"Although SOG is known for knives, their DarkEnergy 214A ($50) is one of the best tactical flashlights around at that size in that price range."
The Charge Key ($15) by Nomad is a key-sized micro USB/Lightning charger. Extremely useful for when carrying a full cord is not ideal.
When set off, this Personal Keychain Alarm ($10) by Flippo screams an incredibly painful sound that effectively spooks anyone with hearing. I modified it to act as a backpack alarm or door intruder notifier when I’m staying in shady places.
I’ve been looking for a (good) USB backup battery the size of a credit card for a long time. The relatively new Powerstation Card ($40) by mophie finally answered that call. While thicker than a credit card, it’s got a similar footprint meaning its carryability is fantastic.
A completely water/windproof jacket that’s durable and wearable for any season is what I need, not a coat I have to lug around and wear only when it’s freezing. That’s why the Stealth Hoodie LT ($475) by Triple Aught Design is my choice.
"A completely water/windproof jacket that’s durable and wearable for any season is what I need, not a coat I have to lug around and wear only when it’s freezing."
The Quantum Half-Zip ($110) by Triple Aught Design is a fitted merino wool base layer long sleeve. Works well in warm climates as well as excellent for layering in the cold.
Also by Triple Aught Design is my long-time favorite pant, the Force 10 AC Cargo ($100). It’s as comfortable as wearing pajamas at home but built for performance in the outdoors while looking good doing it. Can even work as swimming trunks.
I store 4 shirts in one of the three PackLite Cubes ($25) by Zero Grid.
Since I discovered merino wool, that’s all I’ve been using for shirts but am currently experimenting with some hi-tech cycling shirts made from advanced synthetics. First up is the Cool Seamless Shirt ($52) by Craft. Seems to really cool the body in very hot conditions.
Also an advanced synthetic t-shirt for high activity wear. The Spring Interactive ($75) by Assos really forms to my body like a second skin. I need more of these.
"Since I discovered merino wool, that’s all I’ve been using for shirts but am currently experimenting with some hi-tech cycling shirts made from advanced synthetics."
The Traverse Tech Shirt ($70) by Triple Aught Design is overall the perfect t-shirt. Merino wool with just the right sizing for just about anyone.
An Armored Compression Long Sleeve Shirt ($900 est.), made with Kevlar and certain proprietary fabrics tailored for me.
I only pack 3 pairs of pants with two of them in one of the three PackLite Cubes ($25) by Zero Grid.
Recently acquired but haven’t tested is Helly Hansen’s Packable Rain Pant ($48). Completely waterproof but comfortable in any season and packs small enough to fit in my pocket.
A tailored Black Casual Pant ($332) by Prada from back in the day.
My FAST Pack EDC backpack has 2 large internal zippered mesh pockets. I keep socks in one and briefs in the other.
I prefer Black Ankle Socks. This is the only item I don’t actively seek the best of. Instead I buy them whenever I come across them in my travels.
Tied as the world’s best underwear for men is the Commando Boxer Brief ($38) by Triple Aught Design. Made from super soft merino wool for ultimate active use, fast drying and is as comfortable as silk. Even has a stash compartment.
"Tied as the world’s best underwear for men is the Commando Boxer Brief ($38) by Triple Aught Design."
The other world’s best underwear is the Give-N-Go Brief ($20) by ExOfficio. Slightly less sensuous but slightly better performing.
I prefer lightweight tactical boots over hiking boots or technical sneakers for my primary wear of world travel. There are better offerings than the TacLite Boots ($120) by 5.11 that I’ve been using for millions of steps but have yet to find one that personally fits me better.
"I prefer lightweight tactical boots over hiking boots or technical sneakers for my primary wear of world travel."
I’m not a “flip flop” person but it’s vital to have a pair for a constant traveler. Spending a lot of time on beaches and tropical climates, I opt for the premium Phantom Flip Flops ($20) by Reef.
The PackLite Barrel Bag ($15) holds spare parts, repair kits and other items for maintenance of my other gear/apparel and for future modifications.
A pre-built Coiled Gear Sling Kit ($10) ready to be equipped when my current one fails.
I always have a Spare Shockcord Roll ($5) for any number of tasks and repair jobs. I’ve found it to be far more useful than paracord when it’s not for load-bearing purposes.
The best invention since duct tape is the Tenacious Gear Tape ($5) by Gear Aid. It’s like duct tape but made of fabric and without the mess. Patch up holes in clothing, repair rips in bags and much more.
"I always have a Spare Shockcord Roll ($5) for any number of tasks and repair jobs. I’ve found it to be far more useful than paracord when it’s not for load-bearing purposes."
Strips of Velcro Sticky Back Tape ($10) have been extremely useful in countless ways.
A 3-piece set of small and 3-piece set of the larger GoTubb Containers ($6) by humangear holds everything else I need for repairs and spare parts.
"The best invention since duct tape is the Tenacious Gear Tape ($5) by Gear Aid. It’s like duct tape but made of fabric and without the mess. Patch up holes in clothing, repair rips in bags and much more."
One of only two souvenirs I ever bought is a fist-sized LINE Teddy Bear from a street market in Taiwan. There’s a story behind it which is why I keep it as part of my packing list but it’s a “you had to be there” type of thing. There’s a popular saying “Collect Moments, Not Things”… I like my saying better: “Collect Things That Represent Moments.”
My United States of America Passport. An official documentation of every country I visit with almost all 50 pages used up.
I keep some important documents as well as backup cash in the iSeries Compact Case ($35) by SealLine. Completely waterproof, low profile and easy to pack.
Instead of permanently packing a bulky and potentially messy water bottle, I’ve been using the Lexer Cylinder Flask ($25) by Visol for years because of its unique and very packable shape. Not so much for hydration but for when I need to take my meds, emergency water stash, if you will.
"There’s a popular saying “Collect Moments, Not Things”… I like my saying better: “Collect Things That Represent Moments.”"
I can’t go into why I have a Jar of Elvish Honey that’s valued at $900 for a single serving but I also can’t bring myself to open it and eat it.
Suspiciously inexpensive but surprisingly effective, the Echo Pocket Monocular ($15) by Brunton. Compact enough to add to a minimalist packing list while being useful for many tasks.
The world’s most beautiful carabiner is the Arcus ($40) by SVORN. Perfectly sized for pockets and damn good-looking while being rugged enough for EDC.
My Micro Pocket Head Net ($13) by Sea to Summit is rarely used but a godsend when needed. Covers the entire head and protects against mosquitoes and other bugs. Packs to the size of an egg.
Made from S35VN steel, the EDC Multi-Tool Card ($60) by Cha-O-Ha puts all other “card tools” to shame.
"The world’s most beautiful carabiner is the Arcus ($40) by SVORN. Perfectly sized for pockets and damn good-looking while being rugged enough for EDC."
The Wedge-It ($10) is a clever security door stop tool invention. Very useful for effectively securing doors and windows against intruders; shady hotels, rundown guesthouses, lockless rooms etc.