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Active Travels: The Ultimate Packing List

Travel light


By Steve Jermanok

I’m off to Kenya in a week to research and write four stories. Most people stress about packing for a trip, including my wife, who hates the thought of reducing all her possessions into one measly suitcase. I can often pack in less than 15 minutes, thanks to my trusty packing list that’s stored in my computer.

Depending on the locale and weather, I adjust the list, but for Kenya it will include passport, printed copy of passport page in case passport is stolen, airplane information, prescription drugs like Malaria pills, Imodium (no travel writer leaves home without it), other bathroom accessories, notebooks, pens, laptop, laptop plug and surge protector, headset for Skype, plug converter (incredibly important. Kenya is on the British plug), iPod and headphones, iPod charger, Flip video camera, Canon camera and additional long lens, camera charger, suntan lotion, Carmex, mosquito repellent, file on Kenya, two good books to read, most likely downloaded on my Nook, the latest Economist (which takes about five hours to read, perfect for trans-Atlantic flights), baseball cap, two nice pair of pants for dinners, shoes, nice long-sleeve and short-sleeve collared shirts for dinner, cargo shorts with four pockets to hold my notebook and pens during the day, lightweight long sleeve safari shirts, more casual T-shirts, polar fleece jacket because it does get cold at night in the bush, socks, underwear, flip-flops, sneakers, swimsuit, money belt, $300 US cash, one credit card, business cards, and finally a gift of pencils, crayons, and stickers for school kids. They went gaga over the Obama stickers I brought on my last trip to Africa in 2008.

And that’s it. I’m finished, ready to roll. Write it down once on your computer and you’ll have it for every trip in the future.



Steve Jermanok As a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, adventure travel expert at Budget Travel, and regular contributor on outdoor recreation for Outside, Men’s Journal, Health, and Sierra, Steve Jermanok has written more than 1,000 articles on the outdoors. He’s also authored or co-authored 11 books, including Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England and Men’s Journal’s The Great Life. His latest book is Go Now! Put Your Life on Pause and See the World, due out late 2010. He’s currently an adventure travel expert at Away.com and blogs daily at Active Travels.

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  1. June 28, 2011 at 10:46 am — Reply

    Way too practical. Where is the romance in this list? No Ralph Lauren Safari for Men? No Tomb Raider hat? No alligator belt, aviator glasses? Common now!

  2. June 28, 2011 at 2:50 pm — Reply

    this is really a great help for the people who are looking for such tips..

  3. June 29, 2011 at 8:54 am — Reply

    As someone who travels to East Africa three times a year this packing list is right on the money.

  4. Mike H.
    June 29, 2011 at 11:51 am — Reply

    In addition to the photocopy of your passport (which, too, can get stolen if you really get rolled), I also suggest a scan of your passport. Email the scan to yourself and archive it in a “travel” folder. Should you find yourself bare-naked in the middle of Botswana, you can almost always have the authorities give you access to your email where you can retrieve your passport details. I also do this with credit card 800#’s, just in case I need to call in card cancellations or what-have-you.

  5. July 7, 2011 at 8:46 pm — Reply

    While your list is accurate and complete for a travel writer going to Africa, that doesn’t describe most people’s travel. Notebook and pens? One of each is enough, since they are sold everywhere. Suntan lotion and mosquito repellent? In Paris in October…I don’t think so. Two books? My wife and I each take one and exchange. We also find books in English all over the world. (Nook or Kindle will soon make this obsolete) Cargo shorts? Maybe in Africa, but in central Mexico (where we spend the winter), men don’t wear shorts. Polar fleece jacket? Sure, in season, but the rest of the year I take a light sweater. Shoes? Does that mean one pair or more? I now travel with one pair of all purpose walking shoes (Eccos). However, I like to work out or run, so I take running shorts (doubles as swimsuit), T shirt for running, one pair of athletic socks, and Nike Free lightweight running shoes, which can also be worn around town. I also skip the safari shirt for most of the world (except perhaps Africa). Shirts? How many? Three (2 long, 1 short sleeve or vice versa, depending on season). I also often throw in a tiny folding umbrella. I now carry a small GPS, which is also useful for walking in cities, an Ipod Touch (for Skype, maps and other applications). Also an unlocked cellphone, which allows me to buy a SIM card wherever I am. Since purchasing an iPad recently, we’ll ditch the heavy laptop and use the iPad. No headphone is needed for Skype with the iPad. My wife and I now take matching Canon G11 cameras, so we can share one charger and spare battery. My main worry is that the small case in which I carry my chargers, batteries, cables, adapters, etc. keeps expanding. Why don’t companies standardize, so one charger can handle everything? By the way, I sometimes carry a 3 way plug, so I can charge multiple appliances if there is only one outlet.

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