Mark Danger Powers

drummer • educator • author

Pack it up, pack it in . . . in under 8 lbs.!

Today I head out on another Thailand adventure!

This one is going to be a jam-packed two weeks. . . traveling with Lucinda Vette; visiting the Tycoon Percussion factory in Bangkok; studying traditional instruments again with Inchai Srisuwan (at the Thai Faith and Music Foundation); hanging and making music with my best friend, Benjamin Cloyd, on the island of Ko Tao; earning my scuba diving certification; collecting gongs and other musical knick-knacks that I run across; meeting up with friends Brad and Emily (who now live and teach in Kuwait), exploring a few different regions of the country; and connecting with other fellow CouchSurfers and traveling bloggers!

Speaking of ‘traveling bloggers,’ Colin Wright, Chris Guillebeau, Karol Gajda, Everett Bogue, Jonny Gibaud, Benjamin Cloyd, Rose Barker and Adam Baker have all generously agreed to contribute to a FREE eBook that I’m currently working on! The book will feature Ultralight World Travel tips from all of us, including our personal recommendations on what to pack and what to leave at home.

I’m often met with skepticism when telling someone how lightly I travel. And I really don’t feel that I’m all that extreme. As I prepare for the PDX to BKK flight, I thought it would be interesting to post a list of exactly what I’m taking. I keep a foreign travel packing list saved online as a Google Docs file. Referring to the list before and after each trip, I usually find myself deleting (and rarely adding) items from the list. This can, of course, change a bit depending on the destination and its weather. But it’ll give you a pretty good idea of what I take.

  • Everything packs quite nicely (with plenty of room to spare) into my handy-dandy ‘Towne & Country II’ convertible pack from MEI (now manufactured by Genuine Gear). This is my only luggage . . . there is nothing like traveling with just a carry-on! The T&C II is 14″x13″x6.5″, 1500 cu. in. (about 24.5 liters), and has two zippers that hide sturdy shoulder straps- converting it from briefcase to backpack in merely seconds.
  • Kiva keychain pack: just in case I find some cool Thai percussion instruments to add to the collection back home! They can be carried in this until I find a spot to ship them to the States.
  • quart-sized plastic baggie (TSA requirement for liquids), which carries sunscreen and hygiene items (toothbrush & paste, contact lenses & case, saline, bodywash and deodorant).
  • small stack of ‘Bounce’ fabric softener sheets (one of the world’s best, and safest, mosquito repellents!).
  • clothes: I’ll change into a short-sleeve shirt, a pair of shorts and flip-flops in my truck at the Portland airport. In the pack are some swim trunks, two extra shirts and extra boxers. That’s right- no long sleeves, long pants, shoes or socks! It’s averaging 80-90°F in Bangkok right now, and even warmer in Chiang Mai. And if I really need any of those things (which I won’t), a few US dollars will cover it. Oh, and of course my trusty hat! It’s a pre-travel ritual of mine to shave the head before departure. It makes travel life much faster, lighter and easier!
  • Nikon Coolpix S570 camera: Along with an extra battery, charging cable, mini tripod and multiple SD memory cards. On this trip, the Nikon is serving double duty, capturing still photos and video.
  • currency conversion chart: I printed small ‘Thai Baht to USD’ and ‘USD to Thai Baht’ CheatSheets at oanda.com, and laminated them back-to-back for $1.25 at Kinko’s. I always like having a fairly current quick-reference in my pocket for those moments when unfamiliar numbers are flying around (tuk-tuks, Suan Lum night bazaar, Khao San Road).
  • selected travel guide pages: Have you seen the most recent Thailand Lonely Planet? 820 pages! There’s no way I’m taking all of it . . . perhaps, if I had sufficient time to explore the far corners of the country. Instead, I just tear out any pages that I realistically may use, which amount to more like two dozen.
  • eyeglasses.
  • bandana (handkerchief): I’ve found all sorts of uses for these- tying it into a carrying pouch; saving my baldness from Equatorial sun; face mask/air filter on a four-hour, dusty, West African road trip; and temporary bandage.
  • several sheets of music manuscript paper: To document rhythms from percussion lessons.
  • ruled Moleskine notebook & a couple of pens: Because I can’t stop working, and ideas have to be recorded when they arise!
  • business cards: Love meeting other travelers out conquering the world!
  • passport pocket: Not something I usually carry, but road-testing a new one that is soon-to-be-released by my good friend [and CouchSurfing Nomadic Ambassador] Rose.
  • passport and travel documentation.
  • small amount of cash: Enough, but not too much.
  • credit/debit card.
  • emergency contact info: Also a small, laminated sheet (two copies- one in my bag, the other in my pocket).
  • extra photocopies of my main passport: Kept separate from the original.
  • expired driver’s license and old, canceled debit card: kept in a front pocket . . . just for good measure.
  • a couple of guitar accessories (extra picks and strings, etc.) for Benjamin on Ko Tao.
  • a tin of Altoids: Because they’re curiously strong.

Thanks to the scale at my local post office, I have an official total pack weight . . . 7 lbs., 8.6 oz.!
While there is no concrete definition, many travelers consider “ultralight” to be 10-15 lbs. or less. My goal was 8. I’ve still got nearly a half of a pound to spare. Hmmm, what can I take?

No laptop? Phone? PDA? iPod? As frequently as I normally use all of these, travel brings a welcome break from technology. And, when I do need to check messages back home (which I have emailed to me by an answering service), I actually get some weird, unexplainable enjoyment out of those dingy overseas internet cafes. If I really find a reason to be making/receiving calls on the trip, less than $30USD will buy a phone and SIM card. It’s no iPhone or Droid, but there’s also no worry of theft, loss or snorkeling damage!

That’s about it! Keep your eye out for my Ultralight World Travel eBook. It will be available right here- for absolutely free!

In the mean time, comment below about your travel packing habits. Anything you just can’t stand leaving home without?