Practical Packing

Behold my final ‘practical’ blog entry (unless I think of anything else practical to say – unlikely). The first two entries are here and here.

Today I’m going to discuss what you actually want to pack. So let’s get right to it. Here is a list of everything that currently has to fit into my backpack and pockets, and by extension, the entirety of everything I own in New Zealand:


Underpants x 8

Socks** x 8

Slipper socks

T-shirt x 7

Thermal undershirt x 2

Casual shirt x 3

Smart shirt* x 2

Tie x 2


Casual trousers** x 3

Smart trousers

Smart jacket

Jumper/Fleece x 4


Waterproof jacket

Floppy hat

Woollen hat*



Hiking shoes

Work shoes



Travel Essentials


Emergency money

Sleeping bag

Lonely Planet travel guide

WWOOF host guide*


Waterproof backpack cover

Emergency food**


Document wallet















Travel towel






Shower gel**


Hair product

Hand gel

Electric shaver

Shaver charger

Ear plugs x 3

Eye mask

Toiletries bag

Medicine bag












Skin cream*



Antihistamine tablets

Insect sting spray

Lip salve* x 2








Laptop charger


Camera charger

SD card x 2


Backup mobile phone


USB charger x 2

Plug adaptor** x 2



Spare torch batteries x 2



NZ debit card* x 2

UK debit card

UK credit card

Driving licence

UK National Insurance

European Health Insurance

Hostel membership* x 2

Internet access* x 2

Wellington Snapper*

Christchurch metro*

Melbourne myki*

CAA security access*

Gym access*



Glasses** x 2

Glasses case**


Pen knife

Day bag*

Work bag*

Padlock x 2



Photocopy of passport x 2

Printed copy of visa x 2

Insurance documents

Driving licence

Bank statements

Vaccination history

Various receipts*


Pack of cards


Pen** x 3

Friendship bracelet

Porcelain elephant*


Passport photos x 3

House keys

*Bought/Acquired while in New Zealand
**Replaced while in New Zealand
***Replaced approximately a gazillion times while in New Zealand

In case you’re wondering, I was given the elephant by my New Plymouth friend Tamia (thanks Tamia!), and I bought the superglue to fix my shoes.

It’s a long list, but most of it doesn’t take up much space. For example, the entirety of the Cards list fits inside my wallet, and the entirety of the Paperwork list fits inside my document wallet. In fact, if you take the time to peruse the table, you’ll probably find a number of omissions that you don’t think you could do without for a whole year. But it’s surprising what you can get used to when you’re resolved to live a simple life.

There are also some items I carried around for a while, but have since been left by the wayside. Numerous socks have disintegrated, and I used to have a ground mat called Turkey that I think now lives with Molly’s uncle in Auckland. I keep losing headphones, water bottles and toiletries, and I abandoned my senior-ranking pair of jeans in Sydney.

Most immediately, I’m currently mourning the loss of a pair of green trousers that I’ve owned since I lived in Indonesia at the age of 13. They have fought valiantly, but the enormous hole revealing my arse has now been matched by a smaller but more brazen hole that allows me to pee just a little too easily.

Looking at the list, I’m confident that I’ve been as streamlined as possible. Arguably I have one t-shirt and one jumper too many, and I already discussed the potential non-necessity of a sleeping bag in this blog entry. However, there’s not much more I would cut.

Perhaps the other interesting question is: what don’t I have that I’ve missed? Not much. I’ve acquired the odd thing I should have brought with me: smart shirts for work and a day bag for excursions. What else? Sometimes I miss my DSLR or wish I had a camcorder, but both would have been too bulky to be practical. I should probably own a pair of waterproof trousers, but so far I’ve survived by borrowing them from the farms I’ve worked on.

And yes, sometimes I still wonder how different this all would have been if I’d had a car. I spent a month at the start of my trip considering buying one (which I would then have re-sold at the end). Eventually I decided against it, partly because of the cost (both of the car and the subsequent tax and fuel) and partly because I’m absolutely hopeless with motor vehicles, so there’s simply no way I could have avoided buying a lemon. Really the only time I’ve missed having one is when I’ve wanted to camp more. It’s so much easier to reach the wilderness with a car – and of course there’s no way you can carry around camping equipment without one.

So to conclude: there is something astonishingly liberating about being able to confine one’s entire material existence to a single bag. This is true in the literal sense of being able to move around with more ease, but also true in a deeper sense of living a de-cluttered life. My possessions do not stress me or control me; they are easy to compartmentalise and can be considered as a discrete whole. This may be an extreme, but I’d advocate the philosophy behind this streamlined minimalism to anyone – whether or not you have any intention of ever leaving your home.


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