I've put quite a bit of thought into this stuff I'm bringing; perhaps my research can help you as well. If you just want my recommendations, just read whatever's in bold. Anything I enthusiastically dis-recommend is
Osprey Comet. 28 L (1700 cu. in.), 1.75 lbs empty. It's lightweight, it's a good brand, it has a bunch of pockets, it's a front loader/half clamshell/regular pack (as opposed to top-loading backpacking backpacks). Your luggage will grow to the size of your pack, so pick that target first and go from there. The 28 L seems about right to me. Backpacking backpacks are mostly too big; daypacks are mostly too small, or too heavy and toploading if they're big enough.
Others I've considered: the Osprey Hornet series is super lightweight, but not many pockets and didn't feel like they held very much. Even the 32 felt smaller than the 28L Comet. The 46, meanwhile, is a top loader (and too big).
The Arcteryx Miura 30 was the one that Andrew Hyde (an inspiration for packing style) uses, but I couldn't find one to try out, and it cost $200 (mine is I think $80).
I already own the REI Vagabond, and it's great, but at 40L, it was just too big for this trip.
The basic principles here are: small, layerable, quick-drying, sink-washable, and not cotton.
- Patagonia Capilene long sleeve crew. (link approximate) It's a good cool weather shirt. Capilene is Patagonia's synthetic fabric deal; quick drying, wicking, etc. There is one chafey seam on the neck, but hopefully they've fixed that in current models. Good substitute: any non-cotton base layer.
- Patagonia Capilene 2 t-shirt. Great for warm weather. Quick drying, fits well. In lightweight base layers, you can get synthetic (like this), merino wool, or a blend. Merino is supposed to be a little nicer and a little more odor-resistant, but a little less durable, so I went for synthetics. This is my best shirt. Heartily recommended.
- REI lightweight polartec power-dry crew. This one is okay too. A little cheaper than the Patagonia. Also synthetic fabric.
- a button down shirt. Made of... cotton. This doesn't matter as much, as it's not my outer layer, and it's not next to the skin. Plus, I don't want to look particularly REI-chic if I can avoid it. Regular clothes stores just make shirts that look better. (that said: dear any clothing store, please make a medium shirt with long enough arms.)
- from January: some synthetic Reebok t-shirt, bought at the Mustafa Center in Singapore for $20. It's fine, but not long enough. I figured I could use a third t-shirt for bike riding and stuff. I think that 3 is actually the best number of t-shirts.
- Patagonia Capilene base layer bottoms. (link approximate) Same as the top. These have been really useful.
- Kuhl Renegade pants. I like these a lot. They fit, they look reasonable, they're dark-colored (to hide spots), they have discreet zipper cargo pockets, and they're not cotton. I wear between a 30" and 32" waist, and 30"x32" fits me perfectly. I have found no substitutes that come even close.
- belt made of nylon webbing. Lighter weight than leather. Avoids awkwardness in Jain temples as well.
- from September: a pair of green lightweight cotton cargo pants I found in Dharamsala for $14. The fact that they're lightweight is very good. The pockets, though, are too small; when I sit down, stuff falls out. (Replaced with a pair of linen/cotton pants from H&M in April, with long-enough pockets.)
- from January: actual swim trunks, from Sihanoukville, Cambodia, $4. Nice to have if swimming a lot. (left these out when going to Europe in April-June; figured I wouldn't be swimming much.)
- Feathered Friends Daybreak down jacket (red). Found this on sale at their Seattle store. I was going to bring an existing (synthetic) coat, but down packs really small. The downside (npi) is that you can't get it wet. Also, you shouldn't keep it squashed for more than a few days. Time will tell if this garment is too high-maintenance for me. If you're buying down, check out the fill power of the down; 800+ is good stuff. This has been a great layer that is both warm and small. I recommend a down jacket. Others I considered: Patagonia, Marmot.
EDIT, in January: Don't rely on this for your waterproof layer. It is not waterproof at all. I only got by with it for four months because it almost never rained. In New Zealand I replaced it with:
- from January: a Vaude Anga III lightweight waterproof jacket. $180 NZD. It's got numbers for how waterproof and breathable it is. 15000 each, which I think is pretty good. This has been great too; I recommend this or any similar waterproof jacket.
- Miscellaneous Patagonia underwear x2. Yeah, it's $30 boxers. But if there's one thing I want to dry quickly, it's that. Other benefits: in a pinch, they look like shortish swim trunks. Hey, I won't tell if you won't.
- I brought a
- Biking shorts x2, while in New Zealand riding a bicycle. Don't ride bikes for a long time without them. I've had these for a while, and I don't know that any particular one is better than the other. I like the kind that look sorta like real-people gym shorts, with pockets and all, rather than the spandex ones.
- Luna Sandals original. Barefoot-inspired, which means they fit with my current theory of shoes, and they're super-lightweight. Pretty comfortable. (the first flip-flop-like sandal I can wear; the heel strap helps a lot.) People comment on them too. Maybe the best sandals I've ever owned (incl. Chacos).
- Vivo Barefoot Miles M. Also barefoot-inspired. Black, so they go with things. Pretty comfortable. I've never had a shoe that I liked for long periods of time, so who knows, maybe this will be it.
EDIT, one month in: both shoes and sandals have been fine, but not awesome. Good points: they're very small; I can even fit the shoes inside my bag for travel days. This is a bigger deal than I expected. Being on a long crummy bus is bad enough, but being on a long crummy bus wearing shoes and therefore having sweaty feet would be terrible. Bad points: neither has much grip or padding, which means I'm a terrible hiker in them and my feet hurt after a while of clambering over rocks. That's mostly fine, as this isn't primarily a hiking trip.
- Merrell Moab Ventilator shoes that I've had forever (replacing the Vivo Barefoots)
- Some cheap new
- Socks: I've gone through all sorts of socks. I don't like any of them.
- Asus Eee PC. Slow and painful, but it was only $230. Currently running Ubuntu. If I break it, no big loss; but still, I kinda hate this thing. If I were a richman, I might have brought a Macbook Air. Or maybe even an iPad.
- Power cable.
- India plug adapter, $1 in Nepal after my original one broke. (the computer has its own transformer, which adjusts the voltages, but you still need to make the plug actually fit in the outlet.)
- Australia/NZ plug adapter, $12 in the Sydney airport.
- All-Europe plug adapter, $8 in Bulgaria.
- Nexus S. Android, no bloatware, no lock-in with carriers, no OS upgrades denied. This phone, or another smartphone, is almost a necessity. Google Maps alone changes your life. Also an 8mp camera, ipod, and computer in your pocket. It tethers too, which is good when my phone does internet.
- Micro-USB cable, with wall adapter.
- Headphones. I started out with
- Kindle. I hate buying $10+ DRM'ed e-books from them, but the device itself rocks, and it beats carrying big heavy real books. Cable is micro-USB, like my phone.
- little transformer plug. Are all power-to-USB plugs the same? I don't want to risk my Kindle to find out.
EDIT: the screen broke after 6 months. I wasn't particularly gentle to it, but I always kept it in a case. At any rate, I replaced it with a Nook Simple Touch, because you can root it and put Android on it (and thereby read Kindle or Nook books). Either way, I recommend a Kindle or Nook; lifesaver for long bus/train/etc rides. One downside is that people commented on it a lot in India.
EDIT, one month in: This was a mistake. First of all, it's annoying: water comes out slowly, and half with bubbles. It's hard to explain, but it means I drink less water, which is bad. And tap water tastes bad, filtered or not. Second of all, it's unnecessary. Most places I stay have a way to refill water bottles safely, which cuts my bottle usage down by a factor of maybe 5? So we're talking 140 bottles, not 700, for the year, which is an amount of waste I can deal with. I donated this to a resale shop in McLeod Ganj.
- Laminated passport copy
- International drivers' license. I think this was required to drive in Europe. Note that you need a motorcycle endorsement if you want to drive a motorcycle.
- US driver's license
- IMGlobal insurance card
- debit card
- 2 credit cards: one from Capital One, which has no fees on international transactions, and one from Chase, just for backup. Set up a PIN on your credit cards before you leave; it'll help you use them in some European countries, and then you can use them to get a cash advance in a pinch.
- ISIC. It's saved me a few bucks by getting me "student prices" a couple times. Worth it. You can usually just walk into a STA travel and ask, and they'll give you one.
- Bhutan visa and flight ticket
- 165 Doxycycline pills, for malaria
- Regular toiletries. Get a backpack with a bunch of little compartments, then don't bring your own "travel kit". the kit itself can take up a lot of space, when each thing individually is very small. A couple hacks: shampoo can be soap, and detergent, in a pinch. You don't need shaving cream; just shave after a shower.
- Black Diamond Ion ultralight headlamp. I am not sure this is necessary. It's come in kinda-handy a couple times, but usually the light app on my phone ("TeslaLED") works well enough.
- Legami Nondimenticar notebook with pencil included. I do not know how to get this in the US. I also do not know why I have not found a notebook with a pencil included anywhere else in the world.
- 5 juggling balls. I soon sent them home because I had no desire/opportunity to juggle.
- one bottle of Armani Code perfume. A request from my Bhutanese tour guide. And then he didn't even thank me for it, or pay me back, citing a $20 fare increase when he fixed up my plane ticket that he botched. Well, he's lost my recommendation.
Weighing in at 13 lbs.