Living out of 2 backpacks: A 3-month retrospective

In January of this year, I set out for semi-permanent traveling with only two* backpacks: A Goruck GR1 26L, and a Goruck GR2 40L. Prior to setting out I had done a -lot- of research, and made a detailed spreadsheet (down to the gram) of what I'd be taking. It's not too bad I think, although the gorucks are more weighty than I'd like.

* See EDC below.

My Philosophy

Before you take me to task over the items I bring, please understand one thing: I like fashion. While I was preparing these items I read a lot of of /r/onebag and /r/minimalism, but most long term backpackers... have an ascetic style taste, to put it one way. Indeed, the only way you can really cut down to one backpack longterm is by gutting your wardrobe. Or only traveling to warm climates, like some people.

I travel with three pairs of shoes. And no, that isn't too much, for me. If you can live on one pair, bully for you. I can't. Stop, before you even try to think of it! There is no shoe that is good at everything– wearing daily, hiking, and still looking sharp enough for a suit. None. Every time someone links one of these so-called versatile shoes in /r/onebag I barf because they're hideous without fail.

Part of cutting down to 2 backpacks was figuring out what the absolute minimum was for me without hating myself. Wearing one or two outfits only is not something I can do.

Although I would like to only have one backpack, it's just not feasible with my tech + clothes. And I think that's okay. If I fly, my 26L goruck still fits under my plane seat and the 40L goes overhead.

Initially I wore my redwing boots + outlier slim dungarees + w&p work shirt combos more often, but I slowly transitioned to a more streetwear look. Now I typically wear my nike free runs or common projects, nike or adidas sweats, and a tshirt or long sleeve shirt. This is great in Korea since streetwear is basically the core fashion aesthetic here, but in Japan I felt like a slob, woefully underdressed compared to the sharp salaryman look there. If I stayed there longer I would probably go back to a red wings + chinos + ocbd look or wear suits daily.

I actually really like wearing suits. Summer or winter, it doesn't matter. But wearing suits daily while living out of 2 backpacks...? That would be quite a tough challenge I think. And expensive.

Even so, I've been thinking about getting one suit in a versatile color, and 2-3 dress shirts. The problem is shoes. I would need a pair of shoes that goes well with a suit, but then I'd have 4 pairs of shoes.

The Items

Things I ended up not using

Items that almost made it here were the glove liners and the coal beanie. I only used them once while hiking 북한산 (백은대) in March.

I also only used the patagonia torrentshell once or twice, but I bet I'll use it much more in the summer season.

Outlier Ultrafine Tee (Light Grey)

This shirt showed my nipples too easily. My problem with merino wool is that undershirts show too easily.

Tan chinos

I added these at the last moment before I left for the airport, hence they're not in the spreadsheet. They took up too much space and were cotton, so they were annoying to dry.

Although I miss having tan/light brown pants so I want to find some lightweight ones here.

Outlier Slim Dungarees (Navy)

Due to wardrobe changes I don't wear my boots often. When I do, I typically wear the black dungarees. I'm going to get rid of one of the pairs.

Panasonic Lumix G85 & Gear

Yep. The thing is that although I do want to make youtube videos, my time invariably goes towards other things.

I just send photos to friends or post to instagram occasionally, so my iphone X is more than sufficient.

5w apple wall adapter

This is a backup so thankfully I've not needed to use it.


I haven't had a reason to use this yet but it takes up like no space at all.

Things I haven't used as much as I'd like

Card Travel Adapter

This was worthless at first because Korean outlets are recessed, so the adapter can't fit. On my first day back in Korea I had to find a hardware store and bought two cheap adapters.

Now at home I daisy-chain the card adapter to the cheap adapter. It's pretty nice. I just get home and plug in my kindle/iphone/ipad/anker power battery, etc as needed.

In Japan I daisy-chained it in reverse with the cheap adapter to plug in my 3-prong mac charger. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Amazon Kindle

I got tired of trying to make my way through a Korean history book. I had the mentality of "finish one book, then read another" but this doesn't pan out so well for information-dense books.

Instead, now I read what I feel like reading. I'm in the progress of Pro Git, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, and Korea's Place in the Sun now.

Clothing Additions

sweatpants x3

I decided to get the nikes after trying them out in a store. The tech fleece is lighter than expected but takes forever to dry. (It's not common to have a dryer in Korea). The jordan dri-fits are amazing because they're so light, but unless I'm running in them I pair them with the smartwool base layer.

sweatshirts x3

F.Illuminate is a Korean brand. I found these sweatshirts in a random store but couldn't find them on their website. They're nice and simple, no logos–I'd say these are now my main staples along with the sweatpants above.

RipnRpr's designs are mostly cringy but this one is gold. Normally I don't like streetwear graphics, but how could I -not- wear a 1988 Tokyo olympics sweatshirt with a parody of Frosted Flakes on the back? This is a really fun sweatshirt but takes forever to dry because it's oversized/baggy, and still somehow shows undershirts. I'd prefer a regular sweatshirt version.


  • Korea was more windy than I remembered, so I got a scarf from a random street vendor.
  • I got 3 pairs of long black dress socks, since smartwool socks don't quite match with common projects.

Item additions

Keep in mind even with these additions I was still able to travel with everything I originally packed. It really was just a matter of re-organizing things more efficiently. The gorucks always astound me with how much I can pack if I get creative.

iPad Pro 11" + Apple Pencil v2

I initially bought this to use with Duet as an external monitor, but duet sucks. It's laggy. So I was disappointed at first but then I realized it's pretty nice to use when I'm not programming or writing. I study kanji through an Anki deck on this if I don't use my laptop, and I can put on netflix in the background while cooking or cleaning. "But can't you do that with your laptop also?" you might ask. Well, yes. But the ipad is way lighter and nicer to use in this case.

I fucking loath taking notes on the ipad, or any other digital device. Pen. Paper. Only. I really tried using GoodNotes 5, but I never want to wrestle with a tool or its UI while I'm trying to write down my thoughts.

  • For some reason, the stylus would randomly change to eraser mode at times.
  • I wanted to study kanji by writing 1 character ~50 times, so I thought "surely it must be easy to copy a character, paste it into a text box in GoodNotes, and then resize the textbox". Nope, you utter fool. Resizing a textbox just doesn't work, the character gets clipped.

GoodNotes' saving grace is with annotating PDFs... once I save it in the right format to my phone, of course.

ProCreate is a nice app, but it's a PEBKAC issue here. I just don't find myself often sitting down to just... draw. I should fix that.

Fountain pens + inks

Let me start off with saying I am not a snob about writing tools. I like rollerball pens (you know, these ones) just as much as I like niche fountain pens. Now, with that out of the way:

Sailor Pro Gear Slim - Mustard, Fine Nib

I tried out a Mustard Sailor Pro Gear Slim at Kingdom Note in Japan, and I was blown away. I love writing with this pen. It's from Sailor's Vegetable Collection and I really want the Carrot one as well.

Platinum 3776 Century, Fine Nib

I tried this one out at Kindome Note as well and enjoyed how it wrote. It is a bit finer than the mustard Sailor so I use it a lot for kanji practice.

TWSBI Eco Demonstrators x2, Bright Green/Red, F/EF Nib

I found a small fountain pen store in Korea and got these for fun. The F is too wide for kanji kractice but I like the extra-fine.

PS4 controller

I picked up one in Japan. I missed being able to play games like street fighter on my mac.

  • Kindom Note Blue
  • Kobe Inks - Ginza Itoya Sepia
  • Kobe Inks - Blue
  • Sailor 100th Anniversary Collection - Yamaburo Red

Is traveling with these a pain? Yes. I want to slim down to just the Kingdom Note Blue + Yamaburo Red and probably triple wrap them in ziplock bags.

My Current Routine

  • wake up between 9 and 10am
  • brew coffee, get ready, do chores if needed
  • eat (usually at a local restaurant since Korean food is super tasty and healthy)
  • decide to take a bus ~40 mins to wework, stay home, or go to a local cafe
  • work (with breaks every so often)
  • study kanji or go to a language exchange
  • (occasionally) relax at a pc cafe for a bit before heading home

Intersperse randomly with hanging out with friends. Midterms are going on currently here so all of my college friends are quite busy.

The downside of working + diligently studying [Korean vocab and Japanese kanji] + working on personal programming projects + writing is my time just magically disappears. I try to talk to people on HelloTalk for language practice but I find myself going days without responding. Even with my friends this also happens.

EDC (Every day carry)

Wallet, phone, watch (my wrist shall not go unadorned), small notebook (that can fit in my pocket) + uniball pen.

Arc'Teryx jacket if it's cold/rainy, patagonia torrentshell if it's just rainy. I make sure to always have the pen + small notebook in the jacket pockets.

The following items are if I'm working, writing, etc.


For EDC both gorucks are way too bulky. The GR1 was fine in the US since I drove everywhere, but have you ever been on a crowded train in Asia at rush hour?

So I travel with a backpack nested inside of the GR2, an Invisible Rolltop by OPPOSETHIS. I chose this for three primary reasons:

  1. As mentioned, the gr1 was too bulky for daily use.
  2. I wanted a sleek, minimal backpack that doesn't scream "I am a backpacker".
  3. The bag fits my laptop + expands via the rolltop if I pick up some groceries, etc.

Macbook pro 2015 retina + sleeve

My programming machine. The heart and core of all my operations. I got a quality leather sleeve to protect it while moving around.

Leuchtturm 1917 A4 softcover, dotted

I cannot travel with out this. All my language notes, doodles, thoughts, tasking, and everything else go in here.

I might try out the grid paper ones next, but the dotted style is also very nice. Anything except standard lined, please.

Small 3-year daily planner

I saw this while traveling in Japan and thought it would be neat to have one spot for a daily log. I did this in my leuchtturm but it got buried by my notes and such. I use this to log my kanji study for example, so I can look and quickly see my progress. The hardest part was getting used to writing in it daily since I'd always forget.

Pens + fountain pens

I carry pretty much all of my pens in my backpack since they take up little space.

Bose qc20 noise-canceling headphones

These are like magic while traveling. In cafes and at WeWork they're okay, they cut out a lot of stuff but don't stop conversations or music super well. I just crank up rain sounds. I had to buy the lightning adapter as well–I avoid losing it by always packing the qc20s in their case with it when I'm done.

The bose over-ear canceling headphones are way better for cafes and sound quality but are also much bulkier.

Anker power battery

This has saved my butt a few times when my phone died while traveling or when I simply forgot to charge it the night before

cheap power adapter

For my macbook charger.

apple earbuds (lightning + 3.5mm)

I always carry these just in case. The bose have a lightning adapter as well.

Sometimes carried items

Folder of 50 sheets of kanji paper

I study kanji every single day and I do it on specific grid paper with outlines. I keep them all since I want to see my progress, but at some point I'll just digitize them.

iPad Pro 11"

Acts as an external monitor or replaces the macbook if I'm not doing much beyond studying kanji or grammar.

Roost laptop stand

Helps prevent those nasty neck and back problems. Dunno if the price was worth it, but it's been rock solid.

I DO NOT use this at cafes. I'm not that guy. I use this at WeWork or at home only.

Microsoft arc touch mouse

The price is definitely worth it. This mouse is freaking amazing.

Logitech keys-to-go bluetooth keyboard

Look at how thin this keyboard is!! I couldn't believe it when I saw it in person. The downside is that it's super mushy as a result and typing on it for long periods begins to hurt my fingers. It also has an ever-so-slight delay, so when I use shift I often get "BOok" instead of "Book". It's probably just operator error though.

Soon I'm going to look at the Logitech k380 or similar.


{Write pls}

Have any observations, criticisms, or corrections? Feel free to email me. Have a nice day!

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Tags: Backpacking
Categories: Self

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