Dan and the other Tropical MBA guys have been bugging me to write this post ever since I landed in Bali. They think I went a little bit overboard with gear like I am some cross between a boy scout and James Bond.

But when you are limited to just a backpack and laptop bag for several months you have to care a lot about the gear you bring with you. I was inspired by Tynan’s gear posts and Dan’s gear post to put a lot of time and research into choosing the right gear for my Tropical MBA adventure.

Deuter Futura 28 Liter Backpack

The Deuter Futura 28 Liter Backpack is a great bag for digital nomad types. The organization system is so smart that you know it was designed by a German. The bag has one large compartment which can be divided into two by zipping the divider and an integrated rain cover in the bottom of the bag. There are two side mesh pockets useful for water bottles as well as a flat front pocket which is useful for maps or tickets.

The best part about this bag is the ventilation suspension system that keeps the bag a few inches off your back to allow for airflow – which is great in Southeast Asia to reduce sweatyness. I know Dan loves his Northface Surge but the Deuter Futura 28 is the next level.

Invisible Shoes

I hate regular shoes now – they are uncomfortable and make you more prone to injury. These “Invisible Shoes” are the closest you are going to get to barefoot. They are just rubber 4mm thick Vibram sole material tied with some rope. You can build your own shoes, called huaraches, according to the directions on the site. And a brand new upgraded version just came out and I can’t wait to get them.

These sandals dry in like an hour and rarely need cleaning. The only downside I found is that keeping them tied properly can be kind of annoying.

North Face Paramount Peak Convertible Pants

For some reason it is hard to find convertible pants online, but I am glad I put in the effort because these pants are straight awesome. The bottom half can be zipped off to convert them into shorts and they look decent enough as shorts to wear out to bars. Go with grey or black for color. These pants wick away sweat, don’t hold odor, and dry super fast. They have lots of easily accessible pockets and have a built in belt.

I have been traveling with them as my only pair of pants and not had any issues. I wore them for a month straight without washing and it was only after doing manual labor volunteer work in the Philippines for a week that they finally started to smell a bit and need a wash.

ExOfficio Shirts and Underwear
I love ExOfficio gear for travel because they are quick-drying, moisture-wicking, and odor-resistant. There will be times that you have to wear the same clothes more than one day in a row, and ExOfficio clothes really help reduce the gross-factor.

ExOfficio T-shirts
are quite comfortable and I prefer black for shirts because they don’t show dirt/stains as easily. I would go with the regular Tshirt over the Vneck.

ExOfficio Give-N-Go boxers
are the best underwear I’ve worn yet. I disagree with Dan about liking the boxer briefs – they feel too restricting for me.

For my TMBA adventure I brought these ExOffico clothes with me:

  • 1 black Tshirt, 1 grey Tshirt, 1 black Vneck
  • 2 pairs of boxers, 1 pair of boxer-briefs

Once I go home I want to add 1 more set of underwear and shirts to get 4 total changes of clothes. Having to do laundry every day can be a real pain, so the extra set of clothes is worth the space.

Acer Laptop Bag

I bought a 15″ Acer laptop bag from Chinatown in Singapore for $35 US (can’t find a link). This bag is smartly organized and my favorite part is the zip pouch in the front which is the perfect size for a Kindle. This bag feels too big though, once I get a smaller laptop I will be downsizing my laptop bag also.

My current laptop is a 2 year old 15.4” Asus which weighs over 6lbs. It works fine but it’s just way too big and heavy to travel with. As soon as I get enough money I am going to upgrade to the ultra-light (3lbs) new Macbook Air 13.3”

Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse

This thing is the ultimate travel mouse. I hate touchpads and a regular mouse is too bulky. Enter the Arc Touch wireless mouse which can “snap” flat to store in your bag and then “snap” into a curve to turn the mouse on. It uses a tiny usb wireless receiver and runs on 2 AAA batteries for almost 2 months of daily use before needing replacing. Kudos to Microsoft for making this futuristic device – it seems like something Apple would think of first.

Jlab J3 In-Ear Earphones

Whether it is a snoring roomate, motorcycles driving outside, or airplane engines – these noise isolating headphones are worth their weight in gold. The sound quality is great and they came with lots of different rubber ear pieces, so I found a small ear piece that fit me comfortably. I use them mostly for trying to sleep.

Pro tip – If you are looking for great music to relax you, then check out Ulrich Schnauss for amazing ambient music. His first album Far Away Trains Passing By has been drifting me to sleep for the past 3 years.

iPhone 3GS

I don’t use it as a phone but it is still really useful while travelling for taking notes, checking email, snapping pictures, and GPS. I have been happy using the iPhone as my only camera because there is not that extra barrier of having to remember to take a standalone camera.

My favorite apps are CityMaps2Go for Offline GPS Maps which has kept me from getting lost many times, and ProHDR for great pictures. The battery life on the 3GS sucks but is better on the newer iPhones. Get an unlocked and jailbroken iPhone for more functionality and free apps.

Cheap GSM phone – Nokia 1200

I use this for calling and texting because my iPhone is not unlocked. I lost this phone on a beach in the Philippines but it didn’t matter because it only cost $25 to buy a new one. This phone is very durable and I’ve dropped it on the ground a dozen times and it still works fine.

The call quality is mediocre but I do like the easy to press number buttons. Everyone texts a lot in Asia so I wish I could use my iPhone or a phone with a full keyboard to be more efficient with texting.

Sleeping Mask

You should have a sleeping mask. They are very useful to improve sleep quality on planes or in hotel rooms where the curtains suck. I had the Tynan recommended 40 Blinks sleepmask which was great but then I left it on a bus in Manila. I bought a new one at a Manila department store and it works fine.

Shamwow Towel

It works great as small, quick-drying, easily packable towel. It’s super absorbent – I can completely dry myself off after a shower. Some people skip on a towel in their gear because hotels have them, but I have found the Shamwow useful enough times to keep it. I don’t care if that crazy Shamwow sales guy on TV went to jail, I still like the Shamwow for traveling.

Klean Kanteen

The Klean Kanteen is made with stainless steel and doesn’t have the harmful chemicals like BPA that plastic bottles have. It is easy to clean and also has vacuum insulated lining to keep drinks hot or cold for hours. I got the largest one 20oz because I drink lots of water.

Overall thoughts:
Even though only taking a backpack and laptop bag seems like “packing light” for a lot of people, my future gear changes will definitely be towards taking less stuff and reducing weight. Now 3 months into my Tropical MBA adventure I have figured out what is truly useful for me and realized there is a lot of gear I can improve or remove.

My one-way flight to Bali, Indonesia from New York City on the Cathay Pacific airline would have cost over $800.

I got the $800 flight for free. How did I do it?


Frequent Flyer Miles

Most people think that you need to fly in order to earn Frequent Flyer Miles, but that is not the case. The best way to earn miles is actually from special offers such as contests, signing up for newsletters, applying for credit cards, and other limited time promotions.  With some work you can get enough miles for several free flights per year.

The problem is that the available deals to earn miles are always changing and a real hassle to keep up with. The post I wrote about how I got 75,000 miles from one Citi credit card was obsolete within a month of me posting it.


This is where the Travel Hacking Cartel comes in – they do all the hard work for you.

They keep a constantly updated list of opportunities to earn miles so it only takes 30 minutes of your time per month to stay up to date on the latest offers. The cartel sends email alerts for the latest deals and has easy to follow video tutorials that explain every step in the process of earning and redeeming miles for free flights.

The Travel Hacking Cartel subscription is well worth the cost because just one good frequent flyer miles offer can get you enough miles for $500-$1000 in free flights. This year I was able to earn enough miles from the Travel Hacking Cartel for over $2500 worth of free flights.


Join the Travel Hacking Cartel

Start flying for free with the Travel Hacking Cartel 14-day trial for just $1.


Ever since hearing about it from Ramit Sethi, I have been using a Schwab Investor Checking account (US only) while travelling in Southeast Asia and it has already saved me over $50 in fees compared to the bank I used to have. There is no foreign exchange fees or ATM fees anywhere in the world. In fact, Schwab will even reimburse you for ATM fees that other banks charge you!

The only catch is that you have to also sign up for a Schwab investment account at the same time, but you aren’t required to use the investment account if you don’t want to.


This is an excerpt from Ramit Sethi’s post: My favorite checking account


Most people think of Charles Schwab as an investment bank. But they also offer what I believe to be the best checking account available. Why?

  • Interest on your deposits
  • No fees
  • No minimums
  • No-fee overdraft protection
  • Free checks
  • Deposit checks via pre-paid envelopes or via iPhone app (snap photos of your check — no need to go into branch)
  • An ATM card
  • BEST BENEFIT: Unlimited reimbursement of any ATM usage

This last point is critical. How often do you go out with friends and have to withdraw money from out-of-network ATMs? How often do you find yourself at a liquor store at 3:30am, needing to withdraw $280, but you hesitate because of onerous ATM fees?

Me too.

Those fees can add up, and Schwab reimburses you for all of them. If you rack up $200 worth of ATM fees in a month, you’ll see a $200 deposit from Schwab before the month ends. This means you can use ANY ATM — corner stores, other banks, whatever — without having to look for some specific bank’s ATM.

When I saw this account, I wanted to marry it.

Schwab Investor Checking account (US only).


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