Now that we’re about one week into our trip to China and Mongolia, we’ve ventured beyond Beijing, our first destination. For this two month trip, we’ve packed as lightly as possible. Instead of each of us taking our normal packs (around 80 liters in size) and also carrying additional smaller packs, we’re only carrying one medium sized pack (about 35 liters) and smaller backpacks. Also, one of the smaller bags is a camera/laptop bag.
We decided to pack light after our experiences with previous long-term trips. While living out of a suitcase (or backpack) gets old, so does carrying a heavy load. We learned what we can and can’t live without, and have adjusted accordingly. We’re also not going anywhere with drastic weather changes, and that makes it a lot easier to cut stuff out.
We’re each carrying about 6 shirts, mostly the nylon fast-drying type. I’m also taking one pair of shorts, a pair of jeans, and a pair of safari-style pants that zip off into shorts. Of course, the requisite amount of underwear and socks are included. Socks are very important, never underestimate their value. For slightly chillier weather in Mongolia, we also have warmer fleece shirts and light rain jackets. It will be cooler up there, but not too bad since we’ll arrive in July.
We also have smaller bottles of shampoo and other personal hygiene items. Larger bottles are heavy and consume a large volume of space in our bags. We can always buy more of these items as we travel if needed. Furthermore, we’re taking one towel for both of us. Hopefully we can keep it dry.
We each have one pair of shoes and a pair of flip-flops for showers and lounging around. So far every hotel we’ve visited in China has provided shower shoes. It’s the Asian way, I think.
Electronics make up a large portion of our weight. We’re carrying a laptop and associated cords and plug adapters. We’re also avid photographers, and have two digital SLRs and four lenses between us. A small case of blank DVDs will be used to backup our photos, and zip lock bags are used to keep all of the cords, batteries, and memory cards dry and organized.
On our year-long trip a few years ago, we brought a pocket knife for peeling fruit. It’s generally a bad idea to eat raw fruits or vegetables in foreign countries without peeling or cooking them first. (“Peel it, cook it, wash it, or vomit.”) We packed the knife again for this trip, but upon arrival at the Beijing airport it was confiscated at the security checkpoint to get onto the train from the airport to downtown. Now, every time I see some attractive and exotic Asian fruit in the market, I get upset. We’ll probably buy another knife once we get out of the big cities, but every entrance into the Beijing subway system has a security checkpoint. I guess they just don’t want me to eat their fruit!
So far, the lighter bags have been much easier to handle than the larger packs we’ve carried on other trips. Time will tell if we decide that we needed more space, though.
For a comparison, you can check out our packing list from our 2009 trip around the world as part of our Round the World Trip planning guide.