Packing Light

I'm often asked, "how do I prepare or pack for a trip?"  "Especially when going overseas!?"  Here's what works for me.  Your needs may be different depending on your experience, pack size, climate, and region of travel.   Complete The Following Prior to Departure
  • Register with the US Embassy in the country deploying to (
  • Obtain necessary vaccinations for the country deploying to (
  • Obtain visa for country deploying to (may or may not be necessary)
  • Obtain travelers insurance policy with evacuation coverage (
  • Obtain infection control certificate
  • Obtain currency of country you are deploying to
  • Obtain international calling plans with your cell phone carrier
  • Notify banks and credit cards of travel intentions
  • Obtain appropriate amounts of personal meds/prophylaxis
Provide The Following Documents to Your Family
  • Trip itinerary and scheduled check in times
  • Copy of your valid passport
  • Passport sized headshot photo
  • Copy of immunization records
  • Copy of traveler’s insurance policy
  • Completed medical questionnaire (medical conditions, medications, etc.)
  • Emergency contact information
  • Copy of visa information if necessary
  • Copy of infection control certificate
Carry the Following Documents with You
  • Passport
  • Visa if applicable
  • Immunization records
  • Infection control certificate (if required)
  • Travelers insurance policy
  • Emergency contact information
EQUIPMENT AND PACKING IF I CAN, I PACK LIGHT, CARRY ON ONLY Consider using a backpack style bag that is 42 liters (or 2600 cubic inches) or smaller and a personal item such as a large purse like bag.  Items in the following table are listed by “survival” need such as clothing, shelter, water, etc.
Area of Need Item Qty
Wicking Layer Polyester or silk T-shirts 2
Wicking Layer Polyester quick dry underwear 2
Wicking Layer Polyester or wool long johns top and bottom (colder weather climates) 2
Insulation Layer Fleece (polyester) or wool (no cotton please) shirt 1
Outer Layer Pants (lightweight synthetic, quick dry, convertible) 2
Outer Layer Shirt button down or pullover for use in cold climates when wicking layer is not enough (lightweight, synthetic) 2
Outer Layer Rain jacket/shell coat (either Gore-Tex or treated nylon) 1
Outer Layer Rain pants (either Gore-Tex or treated nylon) (colder weather climates) 1
Socks Synthetic, wool, or wool blend hiking socks 4
Boots Broken in Hiking shoes 1
Hat - Warm Breathable hat that provides sun protection (rimmed or neck drape) I use “Outdoor Research Sun Runner Hat” 1
Hat - Cold Insulated hat with drop down insulated ear muff option (colder weather climates) 1
Hat – All Weather Balaclava that covers head, most of face, and neck I use “Outdoor Research Option Balaclava” 1
Bandana Bandana 1
Gloves Prefer gloves that allow finger dexterity I use, “fingerless wool gloves” but wind resistant fleece is fine too 1
Flip Flops Flip flops for around camp (only if room) 1
Sunglasses In all climates, sunglasses to help prevent sun or snow blindness or eye wear 1
Shelter, etc.
Tent Tent or personal shelter (1-2 person, 3 season with rain fly) I use “Big Angus Copper Spur UL 1 Tent” 1
Sleeping Pad Sleeping pad (compact, light weight) I use “Big Angus Insulated Q-Core SL” 1
Sleeping Bag Sleeping bag (compact, light weight) per current conditions I use “Kelty SB35 800 Fill DriDown, Long” 1
Backpack Backpack – maximum size is 42 liters or 2,600 cubic inches I use “Gregory Z40 Backpack (2,440 cu in)” 1
Heat Source Fire starter (Ferrocerium rod, matches, etc.) I use “Light My Fire Original Swedish FireSteel” 1
CamelBak (or similar) CamelBak hydration system 50 to 100 ounces (1.5-3 Liters) I use “CamelBak Dart” (carried in pack on trail and on back in camp) 1
Drinking Mug Plastic or metal drinking Mug 1
Purification Iodine tablets or chlorine tablets (50 count per bottle) I use iodine since chlorine takes 4 hours before ready 2
Comfort Foods Bring food items you enjoy like cliff bars, power bars, candy, etc. Think weight, calories, and speed 1
Eating Utensil Plastic Spork (spoon on one side, fork on the other) 1
Medications If you take medications, bring enough 1
Medications If traveling to malaria risk region, bring prophylaxis (start before leaving US) 1
Mental Health Bring a picture of your family, book, or whatever motivate you 1
Traumatic Injury Mole skin (minimum of 4 inch by 4 inch piece) 1
Traumatic Injury Sam splint (optional) 1
Traumatic Injury Small first aid kit (optional) 1
Traumatic Injury Trauma shears (cheap as they may be confiscated by TSA) 1
Environmental Injury Personal hygiene supplies (toothbrush, toothpaste, soap. deodorant, Everything 3 Oz. or less for carry on) 1
Environmental Injury Baby wipes (lots of this) 1
Environmental Injury 3 Oz sun screen 1
Environmental Injury 3 Oz bug repellent 1
Environmental Injury Chap stick with SPF 1
Environmental Injury Personal hand sanitizer 1
Environmental Injury Ear plugs/hearing protection (2 pair) 1
Environmental Injury Small quick dry towel 1
Compass Simple orienteering compass I use “Suunto A-10 compass” 1
Map Print out a general map of the area you are expected to be in.  Establish an emergency heading that will take you to a well-traveled road no matter where you might be. 1
GPS If you want, bring one.  But not in place of the orienteering compass (optional) I do not use a GPS 1
Whistle A loud easy to find whistle I use “Fox 40 Sonik Blast CMG” 1
Signal Mirror Glass (not plastic) signal mirror I use “2 inch by 3 inch military glass signal mirror” 1
Flashlight Headlamp with extra batteries 1
Cell Phone Bring whatever cell phone you carry (be sure to discuss international use, with your provider, and what needs to be done before you depart).  Bring spare charged battery 1
Portable Charger A USB charging system that can re-charge your phone (since you may use all of the portable chargers power, consider one that can be charged via the sun) 1
TSA Safe Multi-tool.  (Example is the Leatherman Style PS 1
If not flying, bring a fixed blade knife (4 inch blade is fine) I use a custom built knife for this but there are plenty of good options 1
If not flying, bring a good folding blade knife I use a BenchMade axis lock (exact model is no longer offered).  Use a plain edge (not serrated) 1
Wrist watch 1
Paracord (make sure it is 550 cord with 7 inner cord strands) – 100 feet 1
Ink Pens 2
Notepad 1
Passport (make sure it is current) 1
Visa (before departure, check to see if this is needed) 1
Copy of Credentials (medical licensure, etc.) 1
Copy of Travel insurance along with what it covers 1
Credit cards, etc. 1
Local currency (may exchange at the airport if time allows) 1