What’s in my carry on bag? More than you might expect…

what's in my bag

In nearly every written trip report here on this blog (as well as every video on my YouTube channel), you’ve seen a glimpse or two of my poor little carry-on bag stuffed to the max with what only God (and me) knows what. So – If you’ve ever wanted to know what’s in my bag, this is the post for you.

Actually, you’d be surprised how many requests I get for a peek of what’s inside my carry-on bag. At first I thought it was kind of creepy that y’all wanted to see pics of my dirty underwear, but as the requests kept pouring in I realized it was all about the gadgets and tools – and not the dirty underwear.

I recommend getting out pencil and a notepad before proceeding any further, because some of the things I’m about to show you have been total life savers for me while I’m out on the road doing the travel blogger grind. They might save your travel life as well!

sanspotter whats in my bag
Just me and a backpack stuffed to the gills with all I need to get content for my trip reports and videos.
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What’s in my bag? Lots of stuff actually.

Even though it may look like that I travel light, my bag is stuffed to the max nearly every trip. Because there’s so much stuff, The most organized way to see what’s in my bag is to examine it compartment-by-compartment. Don’t worry. I’ll spare you pics of my dirty underwear.

The bag

I think the best way to kick things off is by telling you about the bag itself. It’s a Swiss Gear TSA-friendly 15″ laptop compatible backpack, which I picked up from Amazon last September. It’s been a great carry on bag for me so far, and I can’t say enough good things about it. As a matter fact, I love it so much that I wrote an entire article about the specific one I purchased – which goes fairly in-depth into my process of choosing it over several others.

I love how compact and versatile it is, and there’s tons of little pockets to store all the little gadgets that I’m about to show you.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that it’s not perfect. My biggest complaint has been the obnoxious laptop strap in the rear compartment. I still haven’t taken a pair scissors to that flappy thing yet, but it’s definitely gonna happen before my next trip. It’s always getting in the way!

swiss gear carry on backpack
My Swiss Gear backpack and all of the individual compartments. Read on to find out what I keep in each!

The front compartment

The front compartment of my carry on bag is by far the most important. It contains all of the chargers and cables I need for all of the devices I have stuffed elsewhere in the bag, plus a few extras. I’ve been totally paranoid about carrying extra cables with me ever since losing my iPhone charger on a flight from Tokyo to Beijing two years ago and I never want to make that mistake ever again.

what's in my bag
The contents of the front compartment of my bag. It’s also the messiest and most disorganized – I can assure you that NONE of these cables stay this neat and tight, and I spend quite a bit of time during each trip untangling knots.

The contents of this compartment include:

  • Two iPhone charging cables: As I already mentioned, I’m paranoid. One would do just fine but I’d feel naked and exposed without the second.
  • One USB-C cable for charging my GoPro: One of these days I’ll learn my lesson (the hard way) and start carrying two of these.
  • An all-in-one international electrical plug adapter (similar to this one on Amazon): Cheap, but it does the job.
  • An Apple Watch charger cable: Can you tell that I’m an Apple fan boy yet?
  • Two USB-A electrical outlet adapters: I can never have enough of these, especially with all the electronic gadgets I travel with.
  • A Belkin USB-C to USB-A adapter: I use this for offloading iPhone pics to my laptop via one of the cables I mentioned above (any Apple laptop owner knows the struggle).
  • An Uni Micro SD to USB-C adapter: Used to get footage off my GoPro and onto my laptop.

If you’re curious, the reason why I use the front compartment for all of these chargers and cables is because they are my most frequently used items during any point of my travels. I am always charging devices, whether it be in an airport or on an airplane, and I need really quick access to that stuff.

The side compartments

One of the really nice features about my Swiss Gear backpack is the fact that there are two small quick-access pouches on the sides. Although not quite deep enough a bottle of water, they still do come in quite handy.

what's in my carry on bag
The contents of both side compartments. And no…I promise. That’s not a doggy poo bag.

Contents of the left side container:

  • A plastic bag that I use to put dirty clothes in as I travel: Not only does this keep the clean clothes separated from the dirty ones, it’s a very neat and organized way to remind myself which clothes I have worn already and which clothes that I haven’t.
  • SANspotter business cards: Yup, besides the “what’s in my bag” question, the other most common question that I get is “why are you filming everything?” Telling people that I’m a travel blogger feels a lot more legit if I can hand them a professional-looking business card as I’m saying it. Heck, I even start believing it myself! Anyway, I designed these cards myself, and I used 123Print to get them printed on heavy-duty card stock. I can’t recommend them highly enough for business cards.

Contents of the right side container:

  • My GoPro Hero 8: This is my primary travel camera, so I need a very quick access to it (you know, for things like loo reviews and stupid selfies).
  • Extra battery and charger for said GoPro Hero 8: All of you GoPro owners out there know very well the necessity of having quick access to spare batteries. Filming everything at 4K/60fps (at a high bit rate with image stabilization pegged to the max) eats up batteries. Fast.

I should probably mention that I could easily get away with only one side container if I had to. As a matter of fact, I really wish this Swiss Gear bag had a dedicated water bottle holder in place of one of these side containers. That would be incredibly convenient! However, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not that big of a deal. You’ll see why in a moment…

Contents of the three main compartments

My Swiss Gear backpack has three main compartments – not including the front compartment that I already told you about. I am a fairly organized person, and I always use each compartment for the same thing on every trip. What I’m about to tell you applies to each and every adventure that I take. I’m definitely not anything like Casey Neistat – throwing all my stuff in a bag 10 minutes before leaving for the airport would stress me out to the max. I need to be organized!

1. Main compartment #1

This is the smallest compartment of the three, so I use it to hold a lot of my little gadgets and trinkets that I’d need fairly quick access to at any given time. It’s easily the most important compartment of the bag.

main compartment 1 contents
Contents of compartment #1. Pro tip – if you ever see me in an airport, and you want to steal really good stuff from me, reach for this compartment. You’ll ruin my day in an instant!

The specific contents of this compartment include:

  • My passport
  • My Buffway RFID wallet: Not because I’m paranoid about having my data stolen, but because it’s very small and compact.
  • Global Entry card: So that I can use the short line at passport control when re-entering the US. It should be noted that I’m a really big fan of the Mobile Passport app as well.
  • Priority Pass card: For lounge access in over 1200 airports worldwide
  • My AirPods Pro ear buds: Which are amazing for traveling by the way – did you read my post about how much I love the AirPods Pro for flying?
  • A pair of wired headphones: I use these to plug into video entertainment systems on airplanes
  • An ink pen: Mostly used for filling out customs and immigration forms prior to landing in a new country
  • My iPhone 11 Pro
  • My old iPhone 6s: it’s always good to bring along a backup phone, just in case!
  • One safety pin: To be honest I have no idea why I have it, but I always feel like it’s going to save my life in a heroic MacGuyver-like situation one of these days. I can just feel it.
  • My old GoPro Hero 5: Again, I am a full-time travel blogger and this is my livelihood, so having a back up camera with me is vitally important. I learned that lesson the hard way on my Iberia A340-600 flight from Madrid to London last year.
  • An Anker 10000 Pro rechargeable power brick: This is a recent addition to my bag for 2020, and after doing just one trip with it, I do believe that I’m never going to travel without it ever again. It’s an amazing feeling knowing that I can charge my phone or GoPro at any place at any time. Talk about total freedom! I can get just over three full iPhone charges from this thing, which is amazing for its compact size.
  • Ear plugs: I’m really picky about ear plugs (it’s my oddly-shaped ears j guess), and I’ve tried many. These WOOTRIP’s are the first pair that I’ve tried that not only block out lots of different kinds of sounds, but are comfortable enough to sleep with as well.

If there is anything at all to take away from this “what’s in my bag” article, it’s that this first compartment is the most important by far. It contains all the things vitally necessary for travel, and I keep it relatively simple because don’t want all my really important stuff mixed in with other less-used things (such as dirty underwear).

2. Main compartment #2

The middle compartment is the most boring and unflattering compartment of my carry-on bag. Yep, this is the compartment that holds all my dirty underwear. Well, technically it holds things like dirty underwear, socks, pajamas, and other light clothing such as T-shirts.

bag middle compartment contents
Contents of the middle compartment (excluding clothes). *yawn*

I keep light clothing in this compartment for two reasons:

  1. It’s not as large as the rear compartment (which I’ll get to in a moment).
  2. There is also a zippered pocket in this part of the bag where I keep all my toiletries. Things like soaps, lotions, and general grooming tools that (when added all up) take up a lot of space. It’s difficult to cram in a lot of bulky clothing in there as well.

Although this is the most unexciting part in the “what’s in my bag” post, there are several items in here that you might be interested in:

  • Wrinkle-free travel clothes: Since it’s a very small compartment, I need to wad up some of my clothing in here into the smallest bottle possible (without fear of looking like a bum later). I’m a pretty big fan of the Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hoody right now, as you have probably already noticed by watching my videos (and reading my trip reports) over the past several months. It’s an extremely comfortable shirt, and because it resists wrinkles, I never have to worry about it showing the battle scars of being wadded up into a fist-sized ball in the deepest depths of my carry-on bag for more than a week.
  • Toiletries – including business class toothbrushes and toothpaste: One of the benefits of flying business class every now and then is that I never have to worry about buying travel toothbrushes and toothpaste. The little zippered compartment in this section of my bag is filled with tiny containers of toothpaste that I have collected from my travels all over the world. And you know what? Toothpaste really *is* the same wherever you go.
  • Zojirushi SM-SA48-NM refillable aluminum water bottle: Since there’s no dedicated compartment on the outside of the bag for water bottles, I keep my aluminum refillable water bottle in this section of the bag. I usually keep it as near to the edge/zipper as possible for easy reach.
  • Plastic containers for soaps / lotions: I’m really picky about things like face soap and sunscreen, so I have a collection of little plastic containers (various sizes) that I fill with that stuff. Nothing fancy.
  • Samsonite money belt: Call me paranoid, but I never explore a city without my passport (and at least one credit card) strapped to my sweaty belly.

3. Main compartment #3

This is the largest compartment in my bag, and the one where I keep my bulkiest and most expensive stuff.

16" macbook pro in carry on bag
Contents of the rear compartment (minus the clothes). Basically, it’s the SANspotter mobile editing station.
  • 16” MacBook Pro: Can you believe that it was only one month ago that I started traveling with a laptop? I had been using an iPad to stay connected to the world before then, but I finally decided that I could be far more productive if I had a laptop so that I could take my video editing on the road with me. The 16” MacBook Pro was the solution (thanks to its horsepower and compact size), and it’s totally changed the way I travel. Yeah, it’s a lot heavier than my iPad but I am far more productive while traveling now.
  • MacBook Pro charging block and cable: A necessary evil for the power-hungry laptop.
  • Bulky clothes such as jeans and sweatshirts: I will say that clothes that end up in this compartment usually require ironing before wearing, since the amount of cramming and shoving I have to do in order to get that stuff in there easily qualifies as “aggressive”. However, as long as I’m willing to wear the same article of clothing at least twice in a single trip, I’m easily able to get a weeks worth of clothes in my bag.
  • Apple Magic Mouse: Simply because there ain’t no way I can edit video without a mouse.

A few final words about my travel bag (and the contents of it)

I pride myself in never having to check a bag whenever I fly. Of course I’m forced into it sometimes, and I’m cool with that, but I like the idea of having everything I need right at my feet (under the seat in front of me) on a flight.

My Swiss Gear backpack holds a weeks worth of travel gear – plus all the clothes I’ll need along the way. The best part? It does it in a compact enough way to fit under the seat of nearly any commercial airliner (even tiny regional jets). Consider me satisfied!

swiss gear carry on backpack under seat
Can you believe that I can cram this bag full of all my stuff and still get it to fit under the seat in front of me on airplanes (such as this WestJet 737-800)? No “encouraging” kicks needed!

Finally, I plan to make a “what’s in my bag” article just like this on an annual basis from here on out. I hope it’s helpful to you.

Speaking of being helpful, I’d love to know what’s in your travel bag! Do you have any trinkets or gadgets that you just can’t travel without? Do let me know in the comment section below!

Comments (8)

  1. John Doe

    February 11, 2020
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      February 12, 2020
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        February 14, 2020
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          February 14, 2020
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    February 13, 2020
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    February 13, 2020
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