Travel Checklist

Whether you are traveling or just headed to the office  the Tinder will help you look good along the way.
Article By:
Chris McNamara
Founder and Editor-in-Chief
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Saturday
May 13, 2017

Share:

The Essential Checklist for Fast and Light Air Travel


As light as you think you travel, there is always a way to cut the list down so that you can focus on fun and not on lugging around extra weight. We organized the list from light to heavy travel. We include both domestic and international travel checklists. Start with Packing Light which we define as packing a bag small enough that it fits under the seat in front of you. If going abroad, add in items from the International Travel Checklist. If you need more space, read Traveling with Just a Carry-On.

May 2017 Update
This spring we updated a lot of the products mentioned in this article. The general advice stays the same: go fast and light!

Packing Light


This is everything OutdoorGearLab co-founder Chris McNamara took on a trip around the world in 13 days to visit The New 7 Wonders of the World. The bag weighed only six pounds and was plenty (as long as you do laundry in your hotel sink every once in a while). Below is the video from the trip.

  • Backpack — Take a pack smaller than 30 liters
    Chris McNamara & Megan Sullivan in Machu Picchu  Peru. Both traveling around the world with only a carry on backpack.
    so it will fit under the seat in front of you. This ensures that, if no overhead space, you won't have to check a bag. A top loading pack is ideal because it lets you cram in extra items. We like the Patagonia Arbor because it is simple, lightweight and stylish.
  • Camera — For most applications, your cell phone will work great and be much easier to share photos. If you want high-quality video, take the Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera - likely the best picture in the smallest package currently available.
  • Down Jacket — This is the key to being warm while still packing light.
    Chris McNamara world traveling with the Patagonia Tres Down Parka.
    For most trips, a super light down jacket is ideal like the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer. It's plenty warm and compresses down to nothing. Or, our personal favorite for cool and cold weather trips is a down jacket that combines with a rain jacket. Our Top Pick is the Patagonia Tres Down Parka because it provides warmth, rain protection, and style. The advantage of a combined jacket (also know as a 3-in-1 jacket) is that you can combine the two when walking onto the plane and free up carry on space.
  • Drivers License — Forgetting this (or your passport) is usually the only thing that can keep you from getting on a flight.
  • External Battery — A must-have for long flights and as an emergency backup to get your phone, camera, GoPro, headlamp, or tablet charged when on the move (or when you forget your international adapter). On our around the world trip, we were almost held in India because our smartphone was dying and the Indian officials wouldn't let us leave unless we could prove, on the smartphone
    About the same size and weight as a smartphone. If an external battery can save you some headache  it might be worth carrying the extra weight.
    on Google, our claim of a recent change to Chinese Visa laws. Or, when late for a flight, our phone was about to die and take our mobile boarding pass with it. Midway through the security line, the external battery came to the rescue. Perhaps more importantly, an external battery will make sure you don't have a phone or tablet failure mid-flight and mid final season of Breaking Bad. The technology changes so rapidly.
  • Fleece Jacket — Heavy fleece jackets are so 2010.
    With its thumb loops and hood  this fleece kept us warm  while wicking away sweat on this steep uphill hike (shown in 2013 color).
    It's much better to use a lightweight down jacket or synthetic insulated jacket. However, light fleece jackets, a bridge between long underwear and a heavy fleece jacket, are quite versatile. Our favorite is the Patagonia R1 Hoody because it provides a hat and partial glove in a light and functional design.
  • Hat
  • Headphones — While noise-canceling headphones like the Bose QuietComfort 15 are the most deluxe, we find them too bulky for our fast and light style. A headphone splitter is ideal for sharing movies whether in the back of an airplane seat or at a table. We currently use the Belkin Rockstar Multi Headphone Splitter.
  • Laptop — Not mandatory if you have a good smartphone, but we find that many smartphone apps still don't work well with some international travel sites, which can be a pain. Triple check that you have the charger (and any other essential cables).
  • Pants — We steer away from the traditional journey or hiking clothing which may be easy to wash in a sink, but makes you stand out like a tourist. We prefer light jeans with some stretch, usually achieved through 3-5% spandex. Our current favorite is the Prana Axiom Jean.
  • Phone and Phone Charger - Make sure boarding passes and reservation information is available for fast offline viewing (consider taking a screen capture and saving it to your photos).
  • Rain Jacket
    The lightweight Outdoor Research Helium II.
    As mentioned above, we often take a down jacket and rain jacket 3-in-1 combo. If you are bringing a separate rain jacket, we recommend an ultralight one like the Outdoor Research Helium 2.
  • Shirts — We just take what is comfortable, which is usually cotton. Keep in mind thinner shirts dry faster, and synthetic shirts dry the fastest.
  • Shoes — Like pants, we prefer shoes that are comfortable and stylish than can go on a short hike if needed. We like the Toms Chukka Boot and used them on the 7 Wonders Trip.
  • Socks — We like a mixture of cozy cotton and synthetic socks medium length and short. In our around the world trip, four pairs were just fine. Our favorite are the SmartWool PhD Outdoor Medium Crew Socks.
  • Sunglasses
  • TSA PRe / Known traveler number — If you fly more than a few times a year, get TSA Pre. It costs $85 and about an hour of your time depending on how far you live from one of the 300 enrollment centers. Not only do you get MUCH shorter security lines, you don't need to remove your belt, shoes, jacket, laptop or 3.4 ounce or less liquid/gel containers.
  • Underwear — Take synthetic underwear that can easily be washed in a sink like the ExOfficio GiveNGo Boxer Brief. Roll in a towel, step on it, and air dry it for an hour. You have the hotel room laundromat.
  • Electric Skateboard — Don't laugh, we're serious.
    Boosted Dual+ electric skateboard
    These boards not only make getting around fun and create a more intimate experience with a city, they can save you a lot of money in taxi and Uber rides. Some cities are better than others. New York, Amsterdam and any city with a lot of bike lanes is ideal.

International Travel Checklist


Take everything from the previous list Packing Light and add:
  • Credit Cards — Use a credit card without foreign transaction fees which can add 3% to every purchase. Not sure if you have fees? Call the customer service number on the back of your credit card or just do a google search. If your journey takes you to Europe, it's convenient to have a card with the new chip and pin number.
  • International Adapters — You can buy these at most airports, but you will save money buying them in advance. If you forget, sometimes the hotel front desk will have extra (they also might give you a toothbrush if you forget that).
  • International Phone Plan — You want to set this up a few weeks before your trip. You will have to choose how much data you need. In general, SMS is the cheapest way to communicate internationally when you can't find wifi and use Skype. Reset your phone's data counter and check every day or so to make sure you are not going over. Overages are expensive!
  • Passport and copies of passport — Remember, if your passport expires 3-6 months after your flight, it may not be valid. We know, it makes no sense. Why can't the expiration date on a passport be the expiration date? But a few friends with valid passports have gone through customs/embassy nightmares because their passport was set to expire a few months after their trip. Ouch. Store a copy of your passport, key reservations and itinerary on the cloud (Google Drive for example).
  • Visas — If traveling from the United States, most countries either require no visas, want you to pay a fee when you arrive, or let you buy a visa within 72 hours of your trip. However, a few countries like Brazil require either a visit to a consulate or paying an agency to deal with the consulate for you. Visit this site to see requirements.

Traveling with Just a Carry-On

  • Carry on Bag — While we generally avoid carry-ons in favor of a very small and light backpack, we understand they are sometimes necessary. We like light and simple carry-bags especially since international airlines often have strict weight requirements. Our favorite is the Eagle Creek Tarmac Carry-On.

Chris McNamara at Big Sur  2008
Chris McNamara
About the Author
Chris is the founder of OutdoorGearLab and serves as Editor-in-Chief. Climbing Magazine once computed that three percent of Chris McNamara's life on earth has been spent on the face of El Capitan—an accomplishment that has left friends and family pondering Chris' sanity. He's climbed El Capitan over 70 times and holds nine big wall speed climbing records. In 1998 Chris did the first Girdle Traverse of El Capitan, an epic 75-pitch route that begs the question, "Why?" Outside Magazine has called Chris one of "the world's finest aid climbers." He's the winner of the 1999 Bates Award from the American Alpine Club and founder of the American Safe Climbing Association, a nonprofit group that has replaced over 14,000 dangerous anchor bolts. Chris is also the founder and lead author of the rock climbing guidebooks publisher, SuperTopo. He is a graduate of UC Berkeley. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter or ChrisMcNamara.com. He also has two Lake Tahoe Vacation Rentals here and here.

  • Share this article:

 

Follow Us


Unbiased.

You Might Also Like