How to Travel Around the World With Just a 20lb Backpack:

People carry too much gear. We are planning a trip to Scotland this year so we are working on how to fit everything we need into a couple of sub 500 gram backpacks such as these . For about a month away we will want to be carrying sub 20 lb  (<10 kg) on our backs at all times, usually much less, so we will take these day packs as well..

We will be hiring a camper, but we will also be doing some overnight/multi-day hikes so we need a tent (so I will have to make a silnylon version before we go) and all our camping gear. As Scotland is hardly the untamed wilderness, there are things we normally take on forays into wilder climes (such as Fiordland) which we will not need. This post gives you some idea of things which I might normally take for a week’s trip into the wilderness.

We will also be taking an inverter so Della can dry her hair in the car, and a hiking shower and a couple of gas canister stoves so we can have a hot shower when car camping. I think there are lots of places i will find where we can do this. I will just look for patches of ‘bush’ on Google Earth and head for them. At our age and as farmers I doubt we will get into any trouble with the locals with our ‘free camping’. The alternative is to shell out $75-150 per night basically for a shower (we already have bed/s) and in some crowded accommodation I wouldn’t want to stay in anyway!

This young man has spent a year touring the world with just a 20 litre backpack and 20 lb (or <10kg) of gear). He is wise. I see lots of travelling folk virtually crushed by 60+ litre backpacks (which clearly weigh around 3kg empty – more than my basic gear list!) and which are obviously 30+kg full. That’s a lot of weight and gear you just don’t need and which can just make your trip a misery.

I walked the Everest Base Camp Trek  about 12 months ago (without a guide/porters) carrying all my own stuff, way less than 10 kg, probably not much over 5! I was prepared to camp out (on ice if necessary) in sub -20C temperatures, and was prepared for every contingency. Fortunately I was also prepared for the pneumonia which I contracted – as I otherwise probably wouldn’t be writing this! So I am not arguing for anything risky.

A BTW: On the EBC there is a ‘tea house’ with accommodation/food/shopping every few hundred metres – and there is mobile service practically all the way. I was even able to video talk with Della via Messenger from nearly 6,000 metres up from the top of this ‘hill’ near Dingboche:

By the same token, you can get stuck on some pass at this sort of altitude (in a snowstorm perhaps), so you need that warm sleeping bag and comfy pad – and some sort of shelter, such as this. In such a situation you might not be able to drive tent stakes in, and a helicopter might not be able to land – or come!

For example, I always have at least a Satellite Messenger/PLB. Della and I carry these handy goTenna communicators which work independently of the mobile system in case we become separated. To guard against getting lost if you are inexperienced these Brunton devices are a good idea at 37 grams.

This guy’s advice as to how he cut down his travelling gear to sub 20 lbs (ie<10kg) is worth a look:

Here is his gear list. (I would normally make quite a few weight/space savings on this list – and of course I would also include gear which would give me the ability to camp out. I might take an extra change of clothes if I was going away for a year though – but you could get by with one change, I agree. Clearly he is always planning to stay in some sort of accommodation – which would be the opposite of what I would want to do! There are some ridiculously heavy/bulky items here, eg the thermos! I could easily cut a couple of kilos off his list – which would allow me the essentials of camping out! Some of my alternatives in italics.)

‘The everyday clothing I packed included:

2 t-shirts (Icebreaker)

2 pairs of socks (one by SmartWool, one by Icebreaker)

3 underwear (2 by Icebreaker, one by Exofficio)

1 pair of pants (Prana)

running shorts (Prana)

cap (Arc’teryx Spiro)


sandals (Invisible Shoes)

The cold weather gear I took included:

long-sleeve Merino wool shirt (Icebreaker)

down jacket (Montbell EX Light)

rain jacket (Patagonia Super Cell)


long underwear bottoms



Electronics I packed:

laptop with charger (Sony Vaio Z-Series)

camera with charger (Sony NEX-5)

waterproof sport camera (Kodak Play Sport)

Amazon Kindle (I would read books on my phone)

pocket flashlight

universal travel adapter

USB mini-cables (3″ cables for phone, Kindle, and Kodak)

1.5 TB external hard drive

8 GB flash drive

Apple iPhone Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini

The miscellaneous gear continues to follow this theme:

insulated water bottle (Platypus)

travel clothesline

sleep mask with ear plugs

silk sleep sack

tripod (Gorillapod) (

sunglasses (Ray-Ban Foldable Wayfarers)

pen (Inka Expandable)

towel (PackTowl Ultralight XL)

notebook (Moleskine)


My extra pouches/bags within the backpack:

toiletries bag

chargers/cables pouch

padded pouch for external hard drive

vertical padded laptop pouch

packing cube for cold weather gear

bag for clean clothing (

bag for dirty clothing’

Check out David’s main page. You will be pleasantly surprised:

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