RTW Gear List – We Have To Carry These Around The World?

Now that we don’t have jobs, we finally have time to focus on preparing for our RTW trip proper — including the stuff we’re going to carry on our back.

It turned out that our RTW gear list is a lot longer than I expected. I especially balked at all the electronics we’re planning to take.

I mean, here is what our tech gear list looks like right now:


MacBook Pro 13″

My little baby. A graduation present from my dad.

MacBook Air 11″

Jack’s best friend and companion. He even takes it to work. It’s so cute and light.

1 TB external hard drive

The only thing we bought specifically for the trip. This will be our main backup drive.


Nikon D70

Our first dSLR camera.

Canon S90 point and shoot

It’s small but packs quite a punch.

Cell phones

Blackberry Curve

Oldie but goodie.


Ipod Touch

We got this for free by opening an account with Bank of the West during their promo.


Jack’s anniversary present for me.

Some people would look at this and scoff, ‘Dude, I’ve carried thrice that amount on my around the world trip. What’s the big deal?’

But I look at the list and am horrified.

We have to carry all of this stuff around? Around the world?

I think of all of the different chargers and the paraphernalia that come with them. My shoulders start to ache. My stress level rises thinking about how we’re going to guard them from thefts and our own destructive clumsiness.

One of the questions during the interview with A Dangerous Business was, ‘What is the one thing you wish you could travel without?’

If she had asked us now, our answer would be different.

We wish we could travel without all of these… these… stuff!!

But that’s the thing about wishes right? They almost never come true.

I played around with the idea of leaving my laptop behind. But can you really do an extended travel without a laptop nowadays? How would I do my research? Or answer emails? Or make a reservation?

And no, Jack and I can’t share a laptop. It would not end well.

Maybe I’d leave our heavy dSLR camera behind. Then I look at pictures it has taken and sigh to myself. Our point-and-shoot would not be able to capture those images.

I didn’t care so much about Kindle. Until I sold my books and felt like I sold a piece of myself (the piece that loved trashy romance novels). Kindle helped me gain it back. It’s not the same, but I’ll take what I can get.

Chickybus wrote about what it would be like to travel like we were in the 90’s… no technologies.

Just us.

Man (and Woman) vs. the World.

We’ll have to depend a lot more on other people.

What, we have to talk to a travel agent to book a flight? Go to the library to do research on attractions? Ask the locals for direction and advices?

Not updating Twitter and Facebook statuses?!

How horrifying.

Yet intriguing. And liberating.

What would it be like (other than 20 lb lighter) to travel without the stuff on this list?

Would we ever be able to find a flight out of South America without our own laptop?

Would we die out of boredom without the Itouch?

Would you, our dear readers, get our tweets and status updates sent through telepathy?

Would we make it?

Tell us:

How does your tech gear list compared to ours? Have you ever considered going ‘dark’?


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55 Replies to “RTW Gear List – We Have To Carry These Around The World?”

  1. Our most favorite (smallest and cheapest as well) was a small power strip! Best way to charge multiple electronics in those dingy hostels and the rare power outlet at random airports using only one adapter!

    Have a blast guys! We miss traveling so much!

    1. Based on another reader's suggestion, we ended up getting one (it's actually a surge protector with many outlets, including 2 USB ports). It has been super useful.

  2. Perfect timing, I'm about 4-5 weeks away from leaving for an extended trip through Africa and have thought about my "list" for some time. After reading other posts, I'm not feeling as overwhelmed with the weight. As with a lot of folks, I'm heavy into photography and the bulk of my weight is associated with it. With power cords, 3 extra batteries, DSLR, 2 lenses, 1 extender, 2 external hard drives, Alienware 11x laptop, Kindle, Lumix Lx-5 P&S, and Goal Zero Sherpa 50 solar charger all told take up about 25-30 lbs of my current 47. I decided to go with a Kindle as it was significantly lighter than the Lonely Planet African guide book. Only problem I heard was its maps weren't too good so I'll have to rely on other folks along the way. The solar charger adds about 4.5-5 pounds to my pack and it would be nice to leave it at home (and take another lens) but I'm not sure how my trip is going to pan out yet. I anticipate spending more time in areas where electricity is limited to non-existent so having power to charge camera and laptop batteries to download and store images is essential.

    One thing I am curious about others traveling with all this gear is does it change the way you travel? ie: are there certain places you would or wouldn't go or things you would or wouldn't do for fear of your gear getting broken or stolen?

  3. I lived without an internet connection on a sailboat for 2 years in the Pacific. It was horrible. I thought I'd be okay without the internet, I even thought "It'll be good for me!" but it wasn't good for me. I missed email. I felt so lonely. I craved news and information. Unanswered questions kept me awake, like: 'Are Lemon Sharks dangerous to humans?' And it was so frustrating not to have my pal Google there to guide me. Without that connection to the world, I felt like we'd dropped off the edge of the earth.

  4. I always have my Odin (Storm 2) Blackberry, my Canon Powershot D10 underwater pocket camera, and now that I just got my MacbookPro 13" like yours, I started to pack it in my travel backpack as well, but maybe not for every trip (as I'm doing shorter trips, not RTW). Oh I also can't do travels without my ipod. (I just lost my classic ipod movie though, so now I'm back to using my sister's old iPod shuffle, you know, the classic one, the 1st generation of shuffle).
    I like being 'lighted', but I have no problem when I'm in no-signal area, or in places with mininum supply of electricity. It's actually a blessing in disguise 🙂

  5. We traveled with similar gear… you can do it! We made sure everything fit in a small carry-on backpack so we could always have it with us and didn't have to check it on any flights. We also carried microphones for all our video stuff. Without fail we were asked for double security at airports because mics look like bombs. fun!

  6. I like it. It's rather old (5-6 years) so I'm sure for the same price we got it for you can get a much, much better one nowadays. If we had to get another one, I'd probably get the one with a video capability as well. Having said all that, our Canon S90 can do most of the things I like about the dSLR (shutter priority, aperture priority), it has its drawbacks of course, but it does save a lot of weight.

  7. I have no doubt that our electronics will be the bulk of our weight so we're desperately trying to pare down to just what we need. Thanks for the tips, especially on budget app and the converter. We are currently researching those two so we'll definitely keep what you said in mind.

  8. Sounds very liberating indeed. I love your MSPaint drawings — maybe we can get Jack to make you an Iphone app for that.

  9. We're currently considering ditching the dSLR too. You're right, it's too heavy. The nice thing about taking both the Itouch and Kindle is that both Jack and I can read our ebook collections at the same time without fighting over the Kindle 🙂

  10. We left two weeks ago on our 14 month RTW, and our electronics list is very similar to yours (except we have a 13-inch Air instead of a Macbook Pro). And my pack weighs 25 pounds fully loaded (Logan's weighs 35 or so), so it's really not a lot of weight! I couldn't imagine travel without these items so far.

    We've used the Skype app on our iPhones for international calls – unlimited to the US for $3.00 a month. Of course, it only works in wifi, but that hasn't been an issue so far.

    My only piece of advice would be to ditch the external hard drive. Ours failed before we even got out of the country. We're going to use a combination of CF cards and online storage (been really impressed with SugarSync so far) and then you have an off-site backup, important if hard drives fail or bags… well, walk off.

    Can't wait to read more about your adventures!

  11. We basically travel with the same electronics, except we share a netbook. I personally wish we had two, but my husband was having none of it (and in fairness, he gets the shaft because I use the computer way more than him). You could travel without a laptop or two, but it is so much easier with a laptop. That's how we research upcoming travel, keep in touch, process photos, write the blog, call home, and entertain ourselves with downloaded shows and mindless internet surfing.

    The external hard drive is a must, but don't forget to use it, often (coming from someone whose camera was stolen and whose operating system/hard drive failed).

    As for the cameras, again you don't need two, but I miss my point and shoot. We didn't replace it after it broke when I dropped it in the desert and there are many shots I have missed because it is too cumbersome for dragging out the SLR. The point and shoot allows you to get more discrete travel shots. (We actually plan to get the S-90 or 95 when we get home!) The SLR is heavy and a pain, but I love photography and I figured if I didn't use it for this trip, why do I have it?

    I love my Kindle. The Kindle is actually way lighter than carrying books (because good ones are hard to come by on the road, you'd probably end up carrying a few at a time when you find them). Just a word of caution: guidebooks are awful to navigate on the Kindle, so if we buy a guidebook, we go paper copy.

    We bought a cheap cell phone, but we barely used it. It is a pain not having a phone, but when we usually need it the most, we haven't gotten around to finding a SIM card yet. The Ipod Touch is awesome for travel, from the FX Budget app we use to track our budget, currency/unit converter, calendar, and wireless internet capabilities on the move. We also save PDFs and webpages to read off line to use when we're out and about instead of carrying a guidebook.

    Just keep in mind, as Akila said, you will need to carry all of the cords and chargers and such as well. There is no doubt electronics will weigh you down, but for me, it is worth it. There are other ways to cut your weight (which believe me, you will want to do the first time you put on your pack – I still think mine's too heavy and I've cut lots of pounds since the beginning).

    p.s. Try to find a good converter. We've been through at least 3 now because they keep breaking, and ones converting American plugs, especially three prong ones, can be hard to find on the road.

  12. It's not so much about the amount of stuff, but rather the weight of the stuff, from our experience. Some of the items you're taking might seem a bit much, but a kindle is actually lighter than most books, so that's good.

    Get a good camera/laptop bag. Or maybe two.

    Here's what we took:
    – 2 DSLR's
    – 4 lenses (a few were rather large)
    – laptop
    – backup hard drive
    – 2 containers of blank DVDs
    – 2 small tripods
    – various chargers, cords, converters
    – a not so great bag (get a good bag!)

    We met a guy from Australia who was carrying a lot of stuff and he had a 6-plug surge protector with him – it made me jealous.

  13. My list is the same! Except replace boyfriend's iPad for your Kindle. Your shoulders get used to it, and I really couldn't imagine traveling long-term without all this stuff. But that doesn't stop me from asking once a month if we REALLY need it all 🙂

  14. I am also currently going through this process of deciding what is making the cut and what isn't.

    I'm planning on taking my Dell Inspiron Mini 10" Netbook (It's tiny!), My Canon G10 camera, a 500gb HD and my iPod Touch. I'm pretty happy with this amount as they're all pretty small and light pieces of kit.

    On the subject of going 'dark'. I had thought about doing this initially and taking just a moleskine notepad with me but then I woke up. I'd love to do a part of my trip like this but I just don't know how long I'd last….

  15. You know, considering there are two of you… the stuff you're carrying isn't THAT horrifying. 😉

    I tried to do the extended trip laptop-free (I have the same macbook pro 13" that you have). I lasted 5 months. And then I requested my mom send it over with a friend who was meeting me in Europe. And have I ever been happy to have it back!

    I did, however, enjoy the time away from it. I blogged, but I blogged with -*gasp!*- a pen and paper! And now I'm very far behind in updates on my website, but it was kind of fun to "be in the dark" for awhile. Especially in Mongolia. I would have somehow felt like I was cheating, being there with the nomads and typing away on my macbook pro? There's something really horrifying about the thought of that.

    You know what I do? I take "blackout periods" from all my stuff. I put it all away. Phone, laptop, even the iTouch. It's liberating!

    PS How's that DSLR camera of yours? I've yet to buy one, but I really want one and would love any thoughts! 🙂

  16. My most valuable travel tool is my iPod Touch. There are apps for everything. I traveled for 3 months last summer leaving my macbook and kindle behind. The only thing I missed was that I couldn't do my MSPaint drawings for my blog posts, lol.

  17. We traveled for 15 months, with out a lap top for the first 6 months. I don't think I could travel again with out one. We got tired of using the internet cafes and finally broke down and bought one of the smallest and thinnest at the time.

    Otherwise, the only thing I would never be able to sacrifice is my DSLR and my lenses. I have 3, and two of them add a good amount of weight. Anything and everything would get left behind before my camera equipment.

    We had no cell phone other than for a short period of time while self driving around South Africa. We bought a cheap one in the event of a breakdown/emergency.

    The rest of the stuff wasn't invented yet during out trip, lol. I wouldn't have brought any of it even if it was available. It becomes to much to carry around. I hate the added stress of either carrying it with you every time you go out and worrying about someone mugging you or leaving it behind in your room in hopes that it will still be there when you get back.

    I also think that having fewer electronics forces you to find more entertainment from the surroundings of your destination.

    1. The blackberry can be used as a phone (and we're hoping if we could find cheap data plan, use it as a backup map) — Itouch is nothing but a fancy game console for Jack 🙂 I wish we could combine the two gadgets and got an Iphone instead. But Iphones are so pricey!

  18. We are six months into our year long trip and there it is such a love/hate relationship with all our electronics. The best thing we took with us was a Belkin mini-surge protector. It helped create our perpetual (and often precariously balanced) real charging station – the kindle, ipod, and iphone can be charged through its USB ports, and the computers and cameras take the outlets. http://www.belkin.com/IWCatProductPage.process?Pr

  19. My gear list is pretty similar to this. I'd love to take my DSLR but I just can't afford the weight. I've got the Lumix LX3 which I swear produces better pictures than my DSLR. Love it!

    I'm really considering the Kindle, but then I can use my ipod touch to display kindle books…

  20. We both bring our laptops (Kali has a 17-inch, yikes!), iphones, kindles, and camera every time we travel. When we head abroad we'll also bring a small hard-drive and tripod, but I think that's pretty much it — so we have a list similar to yours.

    For us, it's not even a question about bringing those items or not; it's all just such a big part of our lives that we can't imagine traveling without most of it. I know some people sort of reject how dependent we as a society have become on technology, but we're not really that way. Technology allows us to do so many cool things, so we embrace it. 🙂

    1. Society has indeed become dependent on technology. But like you said, there's no point in rejecting it. I just wish all of these electronics were not so darn heavy (and expensive).

  21. I always leave my iphone at home. Have any of you found a good way to travel with the phone and without the fees? I'm definitely jealous of the macbook air though. So tiny, so powerful.

    Thanks for the great post!

  22. Oh yea… our list looks very similar to this. We are also carrying around 3 different lenses and a tripod. We don't take two laptops on shorter trips or even on our 6 week trip, but on a RTW trip I wouldn't want to have to deal with internet cafes for that long!

  23. It's a lot but it all seems necessary if you want to stay connected, blog, take good photos, etc. Obviously you could leave it all behind but you don't want to! Our electronics packing list will probably look about the same. But we'll learn from you guys how do-able it is 😉

  24. Thanks for posting Jill! Oh boy…as you know, Jerry and I will be carrying all this and more! I'm terrified of it getting stolen, but b/c of photography and work, we're taking it. I'm actually a lil relieved reading other comments here saying that they've taken the same amount and even MORE tech gear… so it can be done and we're not insane! I'm actually bringing two 1 TB hard drives (same as yours) b/c I plan to take a lot of HD videos too. I'm stressed thinking about all the gear, but we bought a Pacsafe travel/portable safe to lock up all the electronics and important stuff in while we explore. I'm hoping that will give us more peace of mind.

  25. Yep. I think that's a lot to lug around. I also have a Nikkon DSLR, a D80, but decided to leave it at home.. I'm taking a waterproof point & click. Sure I sacrifice image quality, but less to carry & less risk of theft; not to mention, reduced insurance.

    I also have an old 13" notebook, but I'm leaving that behind too. Got a 10" netbook and 1TB backup drive.

    Also have iPhone.. Cell & music & guidebook in 1.

    Hopefully I manage to keep my gear safe while on the road.


    1. I'm honestly considering ditching the dSLR… but we do want to go safaris and have been told long lenses are more than essential. The question is, is it worth it lugging it around just for that purpose?

  26. – Nikon D300S
    – 4 memory cards
    – 3 lenses
    – Canon SLR
    – multiple canisters of film (friend had OLD film and I'm using it for fun)
    – Flip HD
    – MacBook Pro
    – 15" PC laptop
    – Crappy HP P&S
    – Apple 3G
    – External HD
    – All the plugs/chargers
    – 2 batteries
    – Tripod
    – 2 iPods

    Granted, I photography is my profession so I need all the bells and whistles. We're separating our goodies between all bags.

  27. Our list of electronics is just as extensive!

    – Macbook Pro 15"
    – Secondary Notebook for Amy (to be bought later)
    – External HD
    – Canon EOS 450D
    – 3 Lenses
    – Canon IXUS 100 P&S
    – iPhone 3GS
    – HTC Desire

    And that's all I can think of off the top of my head, there's probably a lot more!

  28. I did a lot of "dark" travels in the 90's. I had a 35mm camera (with actual film!), a Sony Walkman (yes, that wicked yellow one), an alarm clock so I could get my ass outta bed in the mornings to catch buses and tours, and guide books galore.

    I remember meeting a Canadian in Turkey who didn't have any of that stuff. Not even a guide book. He said he would just arrive places and figure it out from people he met along the way. Not a bad way to travel. But for my next trip, I plan to carry as much gadgetry as I can fit. The dark days are over!

    1. The dark days are definitely over. I do miss them though. I used to travel with only a disposable camera — you know, the one that you have to wind up first? Got (really bad) pictures to prove it too. They're great in a nostalgic way but I had such a hard time converting them to digital format.

  29. We have a similar amount of electronics, except no phone (we've never really needed it except for a few occasions when it would have come in handy) and I have a netbook instead of a Macbook Air (although very tempted by it!).

    Just make sure as much of it is insured as you can and don't worry about it. Also we cut down on other stuff (like clothes!) so we still fit all that into 40 litre (Simon) and 30 litre (me) backpacks.

    You'll be fine!

  30. I'm not a RTWer but on every trip or assignment, my gear list looks similar.

    -MacBook Pro (same as yours)
    -Brenthaven laptop bag
    -Canon T1i
    -17-85mm lens
    -70-300mm lens
    -50mm lens
    -10-20mm lens
    -Brenthaven camera bag
    -Canon G12 or SD870 as a pocket cam
    -Underwater housing
    -GoPro Helmet Cam
    -Droid 2 or BlackBerry Tour

    It's a bit excessive…no???

    And I'm buying a similar external hard drive as yours for our six-week road trip of the West this summer!

    1. Lol… so many lenses! I love lenses. How do you carry them around? Do you have a wheelie or just put all of it in a backpack?

  31. Well, we made it through one year sharing a laptop, and *just* bought a second – just a wee netbook that doesn't take up much space next to our Mac. We didn't fight too much when we just had one, but that was when we weren't really blogging much, and didn't worry about enhancing our pictures. Now that we have our full fledged website, it was getting really hard to just have the one.

    I wish I had a Kindle. We really struggled to find books in South America. Book exchanges at hostels are usually pretty terrible, PLUS most of them want a 2X1 exchange, so that really sucks when you run out! We managed to find a few bookstores along the way but English books tended to be pricey, and sometimes they only had true classics (bonus: I had never read Charles Dickens before! But in Argentina I read David Copperfield and loved it!)

    Before we head out again after this house sit, we will likely upgrade to a DSLR. We also have a wee little pocket camera like yours which is perfect for drunken nights out. =)

    Our iTouch's are our favorite things. We can play Risk! And Battleship! And Fruit Ninja! The fun never stops!! 🙂

    1. Jack does love his Itouch. We both spend crazy amount of time in front of our computers can't imagine sharing one right now. Once we're on the road, it might be different so if it turns out to be the case, maybe we can ditch one of them.

  32. For a weekend I just take my iPhone and cameras. Wouldn't dream of ever leaving without my DSLR, telephoto and point and shoot. iPhone can get me online. Anything longer I also take my netbook and external hard drive. Depending where I am going I take either the netbook (if I'm moving a lot) or my full size laptop (if I'm visiting family and/or not moving round too much).

    I'm actually still a fan of paper books, but I can read kindle on my iphone if I want. Unfortunately the books do weigh me down, but I do swap as I go along (unless I get too attached to it).

  33. Wow…this is a tough question. Do you have to have the MB Pro? What about the MB Air plus an iPad? Then you wouldn't need the Kindle. Or keep the MB Pro and take an iPad? I think that 2 full-sized laptops is too much… I do think the cameras make a lot of sense. One serious one that's heavy but worth it and one that's lighter and accomplishes a lot for being a p/s.

    PS: Thanks for mentioning/linking to my article re: the low-tech travel days. Here's the crazy part. Despite the way it was back then, I still felt weighed down. I had a Nikon SLR (plus large flash) and 2 lenses (one was a 70-300), an 8 mm video camera (weighed as much as a netbook) and a Sony Walkman (plus cassette tapes–LOL). Heavy, bulky stuff! And with all of that, I was very disconnected from home….just able to share nicely when I came back. 🙂

    1. Lol! You had a 8 mm video camera? That's so funny! We try not to buy any thing just for the trip, so we're kinda stuck with what we have right now. We can leave items behind though. Luckily the Macbook Air that Jack has is so thin and light it's probably not much heavier and bulkier than and Ipad.

  34. Yeah, we carry a LOT more than this, too . . . (and don't forget about all of those darn cords) but, then again, we work while we're traveling. My best advice for you is to make sure that the bag that you carry your electronics in is VERY well-padded. We have two daypacks in which we carry all our electronics (way more than your list) and both are made for electronics, cameras, etc., but still our computers get dinged up.

  35. Sharing a laptop seems like the easiest way to lighten your load, but you say that wouldn't work. What about uploading your pics remotely to a storage site and ditching the external drive? Or doing without the kindle and finding used books at thrift stores along the way?

    Then again, I had so much stuff with me on my van trip, I'm not one to talk!

  36. Our tech packing list is not complete yet, but it's looking similar.

    1 laptop (Thinkpad x201)
    2 external hard drives (I'm a bit paranoid, gotta backup the backup)
    1 memory card reader (why can't they build compact flash readers into laptops?)
    1 Canon Rebel XTi with all purpose lens 18-200 IS
    1 Canon point and shoot
    1 iPhone 3gs without plan (a glorified iTouch)
    power adapters
    memory cards

    It really looks like a lot when you put it in a pile. In truth, I would probably do without all of it if we were not into taking photos. Because we both like photography, we decided to bring the cameras and laptop, which lead to us wanting a travel blog. Now we are committed to hauling all this stuff around.

  37. Wow… I wish I could pack so light. I constantly worry about all my camera and computer gear. I don't understand why hotels cant make a closet the locks securely. Those tiny hotel safes are barely big enough for a lpatop, and in some cases a 15" laptop will not even fit.

    That's my biggest gripe, having to carry so much more than most travellers because of my job. As much as I'd like to travel lighter, it's just impossible.

    1. I think those hostel safes were made for the time when the most precious items one would carry is… a watch or a necklace or something. I bet you carry a ton more, but at least you're getting paid for it 🙂

  38. I spent 5 months traveling RTW last year. I had an HP Mini 1037-NR Netbook, 500GB External HD and a Canon G10 Camera plus my iPod and an unlocked Blackberry Storm2. I went with small and light and it worked.

    For my next RTW trip in 2012, I plan to have an 11" Macbook Air (I missed my Mac soooo much!), an Olympus PEN Camera w/2 lenses, plus the phone and iPod. I'll also have an external HD, as well as an online backup plan in the off chance something gets stolen. That's the bare minimum. I know so many other people who travel with so much more than that. I don't think any of it's necessary, but I like to stay connected and it helps me stay sane while traveling.

  39. Suggest sharing the MacBook Pro, instead of also taking the MacBook Air, for saving weight and for the Pro's greater capabilities.

    The "Genius Bar" in an Apple Store can help merge data, if you need help.

    Ideally, you want to avoid checking luggage or feeling that you cannot walk very far with all your stuff whenever possible. Overseas, with its more restrictive carry on regulations, you cannot always avoid checking, but at least try.

    Also, based on your first flight to Columbia, I'd add be very careful about buying tickets into a country without having an onward ticket. Some won't allow you to enter. In others, you may attract the unwanted attention of immigration officials.

  40. Such a timely post, as this has been on my mind lately (even though I am many, many months away from actually leaving). I've been reading so much about minimalism lately and then thinking about how I'm going to have a list like this for my technology, too, and wondering how much less clothing I can pack to be able to fit everything in a small-ish bag.

    I still think I'd rather take it than go dark. 🙂

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