Avoiding Stay Puft Marshmallow Man Syndrome

The backpacker is a common site in airports, bus terminals, tourist sites. The ones that always stick out to me are the overloaded ones. Huge 100 liter pack on the back, filled to the brim, framed, towering over them, extraneous items lashed to the outside. Another, smaller daypack on the front, filled with more crap.

The physical burden is obvious, they toddle around like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. I have to wonder about the other burdens. Obviously there is some small financial burden, from checking this as luggage or paying for it’s storage. There is the burden of time spent packing, unpacking, digging through it. Missed opportunities and slipped discs are both things I want to avoid.

The backpack is the lifeline, but also the burden. Balancing this is the challenge. Everything I need, but as little as possible. What do I really need? Here’s what I’ve put together, based on the advice of travel bloggers, friends and family.

First Level of Packing

Clockwise from Top Left: down jacket, sleeping bag liner, folding shopping bag, backpack, sandals, rain jacket, laundry bag

Down Jacket: Montbell Ultralight – 900 fillpower, 8 ounces, packs down to a baseball. Got slightly used from GearTrade.com for $111. Half of the weather protection plan.

Sleeping Bag Liner: Cocoon Coolmax Travel Sheets. Really comfortable but just a bit bulky. I’d love to get something smaller in the future.

Folding Shopping Bag – Timbuktu. Found it in my bedroom left by a previous tenant. Somehow I found it two years after she moved out. We’ll see how much use this gets. May get replaced by a plastic bag after a month.

Backpack  – Tom Bihn Synapse. 25 liters, well built, nice organization, highly recommended by Tynan.

Sandals – Rainbow double layer hemp sandals. Anti microbial, comfy (after the long break-in) and well built.

Rain Jacket – Marmot Micro-G. Hurricane level protection, packs down to a soda can. The other half of my bad weather gear. That’s it.

Laundry Bag – Fleece lined on the interior so I can turn it inside out, stuff it and use it as a pillow



Electronics (Clockwise from Top Left: Kindle, laptop, laptop charger, usb charger, camera battery charger, travel mouse, outlet adapter, flashlight, usb cables)

Kindle Paperwhite with plenty of books loaded up. Travel guides are loaded on here and the laptop. No hard copies. Maybe one real book just in case.

Laptop: Lenovo X220 Tablet – this thing is fast and works great but it’s bulky and heavy. I miss my Dell Adamo. The accompanying charger is oversized and has too much cable on it. If I had extra cash I’d scoop up one of these.

USB Charger: 4 ports, two 5V 2A, two 5V 1A. Plug folds away. Works on 110 and 220v. Two Micro-USB cables, one Mini-USB cable. Charges the phone, the Kindle, the flashlight and whatever anyone else needs charged. $15 on amazon.

Camera Battery Charger: I wanted a camera that charged via USB too, but I got a great camera on Craigslist for $70. Can’t say no to that. Guess I’ll lug this stupid charger around.

Travel Mouse: Folds flat, pops up for use. Nifty design, good feel, and it was free. Thanks Charlie!

Outlet Adapter: Converts anything to anything. The size of a deck of cards.

Flashlight: Very bright, long life LED flashlight. The lithium battery is recharged via USB. If I had more cash, I’d pick up this Flashlight/USB Battery Pack



Clothing (Clockwise from Top Left: 3 merino t-shirts, 3 merino boxers, cotton shorts, basketball shorts, 3 pairs merino socks, merino hoodie)

It’s all merino wool of varying brands and thicknesses. Anti microbial, odor resistant, moisture wicking wonder fabric. One pair of cotton shorts, one pair of basketball shorts for lounging, sleeping, swimming


Toiletries: (Clockwise from Top Left: deodorant, Dr Bronners soap, Lactase, travel toilet paper, Eucalan, sunscreen, shoe anti-stink spray, fish oil, vitamins, q-tips, nail clipper, razor, sewing kit, medical tape, lip balm, toothpaste, toothpaste, toothbrush)

The key to the toiletries set is the Dr Bronners soap. It’s bodywash, shampoo, shaving lotion and more, in one bottle. The Eucalan is special laundry detergent for wool, it replaces the lanolin, natural fats that keep the wool soft, comfortable and durable. The folding toothbrush has been replaced last minute with the Ionic toothbrush that I normally use at home. Small size, easy use, just as effective as all the expensive electronic toothbrushes but for $20. There’s also a minimal first aid kit. Everything ends up in three different Ziploc bags, organized into one thin nylon Dopp kit.

Stuffed into the bag, there’s also the following: Sleep Mask, Earplugs, Travel Clothesline, Sink Stopper, Deck of Cards, Pen and Moleskin Notebook, Maps (torn out of guidebooks, hole punched and key ringed together), Water Bottle, Travel Towel, Breath Mints

On my person: merino t-shirt, boxers, socks, Lucky brand jeans, leather belt, Sorel desert boots, belt wallet, phone, camera, passport, headphones.

That’s it. What do you think I am missing? What do you think I could get rid of and why?