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As our little group of hikers paused at a vista in the Simien Mountains in Ethiopia, Jun, a Tokyoite who worked for Nikon, stood back from the group, crouching, then standing, then crouching again, to get the best shots with his massive DSLR camera. Then, he swung it around on his back and pulled out an iPhone to capture one last shot before moving on.

“It’s my back up,” he said to me. “And actually, the iPhone camera quality is quite good. I heard one of the biggest updates on the iPhone 6 will be better night shots. They’re putting a lot of effort into it.” Immediately, my opinion on iPhone cameras changed.

Although I loved (and still love) my Nikon DSLR, it’s not always the easiest to travel with. Until then, I thought I needed it to get a decent shot, but if an expert in the camera industry approved of iPhone camera quality, what would this mean for an amateur photographer like myself? Would this change the equipment I traveled with? It was the first time I really asked the question:

What’s the best camera for travel: a DSLR or an iPhone?

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Thanks a million to those of you who responded to the Podcast Survey! We want your voices to be heard and we appreciate you all sharing your thoughts on what you’d like to hear. Continue to send us questions and feedback, it won’t go unnoticed! Now, check out the results…

In This Episode

  • 01:26 Survey results overview
  • 04:21 Q1: Travel or business/entrepreneurship?
  • 08:07 Q2: Did you buy a Tortuga before listening?
  • 08:34 Q3: Had you read Packsmith before buying a Tortuga?
  • 09:42 Q4: How did you first learn about Power Trip?
  • 11:56 Q5: Satisfied with the quality/content of Power Trip?
  • 12:47 Q6: How do you listen to Power Trip?
  • 14:46 Q7: Do you subscribe to the podcast?
  • 16:17 Q8: What should we stop talking about?
  • 17:49 Q9: What do you want to hear more of?
  • 19:18 Q10: More/less interviews?
  • 20:45 Q11: Final feedback for the podcast?

People On This Episode

Links from This Episode

  • Packsmith – Our blog! Check it out for packing lists/tips

Word to the Wise

  • Jeremy: Send to Kindle – Make your life easier by sending text documents to your Kindle; you can scan PDF docs by using Prizmo or this method.
  • Fred: Google Forms – Super easy to create survey questions and set up however you like; also makes data gathering a cinch.

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Every month we give away a $100 gift card to someone who subscribes to and reviews the podcast. Subscribers, ratings, and reviews are how the show gets ranked in podcast directories and found by more travelers. We appreciate your help spreading the word about Power Trip.

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If you have any feedback about the show or questions for us to answer on the air, email: podcast at tortuga backpacks dotcom.

“Nice bag. Is that the one you started off with?”

Nope, that’s not a pick-up line.

Like most things that evolve — relationships, self-education, career — your travel bag also morphs. The outside forces of your trips, experiences, and learning more about yourself (and what you really, truly need vs. excess) creates forces on your bag to change it over time.

My travel bag is no different.

In the first part of this post, I revealed how my travel bag has transformed over the years I’ve been traveling. And, I showed what I used to pack before I figured out what I must pack versus what I think I must pack two very different ideas.

But my travel bag is not the only one that changes over time.

I interviewed a few veteran travelers about their trips,to see how their bags have changed over time. Read on to find out some of their hard-earned packing tips (and their stories of travel mishaps).

Image courtesy of Extra Pack of Peanuts

Image courtesy of Extra Pack of Peanuts

Travis Sherry:

Travel Writer and Entrepreneur, at Extra Pack of Peanuts

How long have you been traveling on long term trips? (1+ month trips)

I’ve been traveling long term since June 2009, which was when I first set off for a four month internship in Lausanne, Switzerland. Before that, I had never gone on any trip longer than 10 days. After that, well, let’s just say I got bit with the travel bug pretty hard. Six years and 30+ countries later, I’m still loving every minute of it.

If you can remember, what kind of travel bag did you take on your first long-term trip? And what kind of items did you pack?

I had two HUGE suitcases: the plastic shell kind with rolling wheels.

Why can I remember it so well? Because one of them broke on me within an hour of landing. I landed in Geneva, took the 30 minute train ride from the airport to the town I was living in, and then walked the mile to my house. Not ideal, but not a huge issue with two rolling suitcases. Until the wheel completely broke off one suitcase within the first few meters.

Rolling my suitcase turned into me dragging my suitcase the entire mile — in 90 degree heat — on my first day. Not pretty.

What was in those suitcases? Clothes, upon clothes, upon clothes. I honestly can’t even imagine what else I had in there, but I had two suitcases completely full (50 pounds in each).

Tell me about the bag you currently travel with on long trips. And, if you can, a quick list of what you always pack in the bag.

No matter how long I’m going for, I only travel with two bags: my Tortuga Backpack and my Tortuga Daypack. Doesn’t matter if it’s one week or three months — that’s all I need.

I only pack what I need for one week. Even if I am going longer (which is almost always the case) you don’t need more stuff. Anywhere in the world, you can do laundry.

So, I pack for one week, and it usually includes most of the following:

  • 4-6 t shirts
  • 2-4 long-sleeve button down shirts (casual but nice enough to wear out)
  • 1 heavier sweatshirt, sweater, or jacket depending on the weather
  • 4-5 pairs of shorts
  • bathing suit
  • 2 pairs of pants
  • 1 pair of Rainbow sandals
  • 1 pair of sneakers (I prefer VivoBarefoot Motus)
  • 1 pair of semi-casual, but dressy enough, slip on shoes (I prefer Vivobarefoot Tigray)
  • 7 pairs of quick-drying, easy-to-wash boxer briefs (I like the Reebok ones)
  • 3-4 pairs of socks


Other Items

  • Eye mask
  • Earplugs
  • Toiletries
  • Moleskin notebook or two
  • Travel towel

How has your bag — either the bag itself or what you pack inside — changed over the years?

A ton of ways.

  1. I’m smart enough to never bring a suitcase anymore. I’d rather have a backpack any day, so I don’t have to worry about wheels breaking or rolling over cobblestone or up stairs.
  2. I’m smart enough to not pack 50 pounds anymore. Every single item I carry is one that will weigh me down while traveling, and that I’ll literally have to carry on my back. So, I try my best to bring only the essentials.
  3. I carry a lot more electronics due to the fact that I still have to run our website, podcast, and business while traveling. I try to keep them as light as possible (a Macbook Air instead of a Pro, thinner external hard drives, the smallest DSLR camera you can get).
  4. More electronics means I carry way less clothing. I’m now a huge fan of a carrying a few, high-quality clothes versus a lot of clothes. So, fewer items, but better ones. And, you can always buy clothes in other countries if you absolutely need to.
  5. Lastly, shoes! I know it’s easier for guys, but even still, most guys pack way too many shoes. You don’t need that many shoes. These days, I make due with one pair of nice sandals, one pair of casual shoes, and one pair of sneakers. Oh, and packing barefoot shoes is super helpful. They are half the size and weight of regular shoes, usually more comfortable, and I love how they look.

Do you think your bag will continue to change in the coming years? If yes, throw out a guess on how it’ll change.

I think I’ll continue to pack less and less, which means I’ll probably move to smaller and smaller bags. After I’ve finished packing for each trip, I try to make myself take out 1-2 more items so I can slowly whittle down what I need.

As companies continue to make better, more travel-centric gear that doesn’t look lame (Vivo for shoes, Bluffworks for pants) it’ll become easier and easier to carry fewer pieces of luggage but still look good, and have what you need.

Which is perfect, because as I get older, I’ll want to carry less and less on my back!

Image courtesy of Afford Anything

Image courtesy of Afford Anything

Paula Pant

World Traveler, Financial Blogger, Founder of Afford Anything

Do you tend to go on long term trips (1+ month trips) or shorter ones?

I nearly always take long term trips. Three weeks to one month is the minimum amount of time that I like to spend anywhere — though sometimes my trips have been known to stretch for a few years, in which I’ll constantly be on the road without any permanent address. I’m self-employed and can work from anywhere on the planet that has internet, so my life is designed for long term travel.

When I was younger, I chose long term travel for the very practical reason that I needed to be budget conscious. If I was going to spend a bunch of money on a flight, I wanted to squeeze as much mileage out of that airplane ticket as possible, by spending more time on the road.

These days, my decisions for long-term travel carries a second reason as well. I like to fully immerse myself in a new environment so that I can really understand the culture, food, music, arts, and environment of the places that I visit.

How long have you been traveling?

I’m the child of immigrants. So when I was a kid I shuttled back and forth between the United States and my native country, but that’s not what I consider to be travel.

My first time truly traveling — in the sense that I was exploring a country that I was unfamiliar with — happened in the summer after my freshman year of college when I was 18: I went to Japan for a month.

If you can remember, what kind of bag did you take on your first long trip? And what kind of items did you pack?

On my first trip in Japan, for one month, I took a small backpack (just a day pack). I had a pair of hiking boots, layered clothing for hot and cold weather, and very basic toiletries. That was about it. I packed as lightly as possible.

Tell me about the bag you currently travel with on your longer trips. And, if you can, a quick list of what you always pack in the bag.

Currently, I travel with my laptop, charger, and phone, which is a major change over the zero technology that I carried when I first began traveling. I still pack lots of layers so that I can transition between hot and cold weather, and I bring plenty of sunblock, basic toiletries, one dress for going out to a nice restaurant or bar, and a Kindle.

I keep life as simple as possible when I’m traveling. For example, my hair is always, always in a ponytail or bun, so all I need to bring is a small comb.

How has your bag — either the bag itself or what you pack inside — changed over the years?

These days I pack technology and electronics. When I started traveling, I had stacks and stacks of books with me because I wouldn’t know how many months would transpire until I would reach another English-language bookstore or trading library.

I would rip the covers off of books in order to make my pack lighter, and then I would rip the pages out as I read. But it still didn’t change the fact that I was carrying two or three months’ worth of books with me at a time. The invention of the Kindle changed everything.

Do you think your bag will continue to change in the coming years? If yes, throw out a guess on how it’ll change.

I’m sure my packing style will continue to evolve in the next coming years as technology changes, but what that will look like is anyone’s guess. I’ll leave that to the tech bloggers and the futurists.

Image courtesy of MileValue

Image courtesy of MileValue

Scott Grimmer

Travel Hacker and Founder of MileValue

Scott’s first long trip was in 2003 on a six-week school trip. His bags on that trip? A big suitcase and a smaller backpack.

That trip was just the beginning of Scott’s travels. Since 2013, he hasn’t lived in one place for more than six months.

Tell me about the bag you currently travel with on long trips. And, if you can, a quick list of what you always pack in the bag.

I’ve now come full circle, and I am again traveling with a big suitcase, a carry-on-sized backpack and a personal-item-sized laptop bag.

Now that I stay in cities for one to six months, I want to carry my tennis rackets. Inside the suitcase, I carry a tennis bag diagonally. The corners of the suitcase are filled with junk I really don’t need but packed because, hey, I had the space.

The stuff I need and carry:

  • My laptop
  • Phone
  • Few books that I try to give to another traveler or book exchange when I finish
  • American power strip (so that one converter is enough to charge everything)
  • 2 AAA and 2 AA batteries
  • Melatonin
  • Toilet paper
  • Portable blue tooth speaker
  • Several SIM cards for countries I frequent
  • Frisbee
  • Sunscreen
  • Pens
  • Loose-leaf paper

How has your bag — either the bag itself or what you pack inside — changed over the years?

I’ve changed my bags up a lot. For a while, I started each trip with only a rectilinear carry-on-sized backpack (specifically a Red Oxx SkyTrain) and had a collapsible Baggu bag inside that I could break out and use if I wanted to carry extra things I picked up along the way or separate dirty clothes.

In general, I consider this the best way to travel if you are moving a lot. But lately, I’ve wanted to carry my tennis rackets with me because I am staying in each city one to six months.

Do you think your bag will continue to change in the coming years? If yes, throw out a guess on how it’ll change.

Yes. Next month, I will go back to my home base for a week and reorganize my bags. I will head to Buenos Aires for 2.5 months before coming back to the home base.

In Argentina, I will want golf clubs and tennis rackets, so I will pack a golf travel bag with tennis rackets and a few pairs of shoes. Then I will use my rectilinear carry on backpacks for clothes and knickknacks, and my laptop bag for laptop and books. That will be all I need.

For a month in January, I’ll travel with just the backpack and laptop bag.

For February to April, I will go to Rio — probably with tennis racket handles sticking out of the backpack and a laptop bag. Beyond that, I don’t know where I’ll go or what I’ll want to take.

Image courtesy of Snarky Nomad

Image courtesy of Snarky Nomad

Eytan Levy

Travel writer at Snarky Nomad

Do you tend to go on long term trips (1+ month trips) or shorter ones?

This has changed a lot for me, and probably for other people too. It used to be kind of an all-or-nothing deal if you wanted to do a long-term trip, as you’d have to quit your job and start from scratch when you got back.

It’s now much easier to work from wherever you go, so scheduling a trip has become a lot more flexible. I’ve done long trips before (up to 9 months at a time). But at this point, I’d rather do shorter trips — but more frequently — of maybe a few weeks or a few months at a time, rather than plan a huge year-long trip and then crash afterwards.

How long have you been traveling?

I’ve been traveling on family trips since I was a kid, but the first time I actually enjoyed where I was going was during a trip to Vietnam when I was 16. We were studying the Vietnam War at the time, so it was immediately relevant, and we saw first-hand the scars of the war.

Travel can be a lot more meaningful than touristy sightseeing, and that was the kind of trip that made me want to do more of the same.

If you can remember, what kind of bag did you take on your first long-term trip?

It was a quickly-purchased hiking pack from a random outdoor store in Spain. I had to get something quickly, on a low budget and without much time to research. I was glad to get rid of it years later.

And what kind of items did you pack?

Sadly, I was plagued with ordinary clothing in the middle of winter, and quickly learned how much of a disaster it is to wear cotton clothing while hauling a giant hiking backpack up a steep slope in below-freezing temperatures.

One of the worst experiences was getting locked inside one of the train stations for a whole night, and waking up at 5am in a cold sweat, for some dumb reason. Luckily, the train station bathroom had one of those blow dryers instead of paper towels, and I just kneeled underneath until I was warm again.

It still ranks as one of my all-time happiest moments.

Tell me about the travel bag you currently travel with on long trips.

I’ve been using a school/college-size student backpack for a little while, though I prefer the suitcase-style openers of “real” travel backpacks.

I try to keep everything as light as possible.

What I usually pack in this bag:

  • Few changes of clothes (all quick-drying so I can wash them in the sink if necessary)
  • Light fleece or wool sweater
  • Down or synthetic puffy jacket
  • Raincoat
  • Umbrella
  • Toiletries
  • Single pair of shoes or sandals
  • Travel towel
  • Book
  • Water bottle
  • Pen
  • Sunglasses
  • Smartphone
  • Laptop, if necessary

That’s as light as I can go, but I don’t really feel like I’m missing anything. All you have to do is do laundry once a week, and you’ll be fine forever.

How has your travel bag — either the bag itself or what you pack inside — changed over the years?

Hiking backpacks used to be the only option, but digging through the entire bag to find something packed away at the very bottom was just absurd. I don’t know why no one in the hiking community complained about it before, but now that more and more people have realized how useful it is to be able to open up the whole thing like a suitcase, we have far better options.

As for what I pack, things have gotten a lot better as well. Certain companies have realized that quick-drying clothing is great, but so is looking like a normal person, instead of being a fluorescently-colored weirdo. The companies that sew ordinary clothing out of performance fabrics are the only ones making ideal travel clothing, and I sure would have appreciated them years and years ago.

I’ve also ditched the point-and-shoot camera in favor of the smartphone, which works almost as well (except for the zoom), and allows me to upload the pictures to a photo storage service instead of worrying about them getting lost.

I also got an e-reader recently, because I devour books whenever I travel, and run out of them way too quickly.

Also, I’ve been using guidebooks less often, but I still think they’re more useful than certain people think. For a short trip I wouldn’t want one, but for a big trip, getting all the info you need for a 6-month adventure via a single purchase of $30 that won’t run out of battery power still seems like a good deal to me.

Do you think your bag will continue to change in the coming years? If yes, throw out a guess on how it’ll change.

In terms of gear, someone really needs to make shoes that look like regular canvas sneakers, but are made of ballistic nylon. They’d last a million times longer, never get stained, resist the rain, and would look just like normal shoes.

I’d also love to see lightweight, flat-packing versions of leather shoes, or maybe a soft shell fabric shoe. These things already sort of exist, but they’re almost impossible to find. Come on, guys. We’re waiting for you.

Every day there seems to be a new smartphone app that makes travel more convenient. Some of them make life easier, and some of them — like AirBNB and Uber — actually change the way you travel.

It’s hard to predict what other changes there might be, but with a supercomputer already in every pocket, there’ll be plenty of them.


While your reasons for traveling may be different from mine, you should still experiment with your travel bag to find the perfect balance between lugging stuff and having exactly what you need.

A few key takeaways:

  • Pack clothes for just one week and do laundry on the road
  • Aim for high-quality clothing so you can pack less
  • Ditch bulky items (like books, thick laptops, or even guidebooks) in favor of e-readers, slim laptops
  • Experiment and test!

Figure out what works for you and your bag. And don’t be afraid of cutting items out of your bag even after you’ve packed. Who knows — you might leave something at home that you’ll never miss.

Image: Andrew Collins (unsplash)