During the planning stages for my extended travel career break, I viewed a handful of packing lists from more seasoned world travelers to get an idea of what I should and should not be bringing along with me. Here are a few of those articles I read for reference:
- Travellerspoint – This is a standard catch-all of the items that will be useful to a long-term traveler
- Married with Luggage – American couple who have been traveling for over a year now, this is their update on what’s been useful and not so useful
- Women on the Road – This list is geared more towards women and has some useful explanations for multi-purpose items
Like any journey, the list of crap one needs to haul around is going to be unique to each person. After considering all of the advice out there from strangers and friends this is where I’m at with the packing situation. In terms of things like travel documents, I’ll discuss that in a later article. Here I’m only focusing on the durable goods.
A few notes to consider when reading through my packing list:
- I am a woman – interpret as you will.
- I am very well aware that some of my so-called needs are obnoxious and I try to acknowledge this where appropriate.
- I intend to do volunteer work with microfinance institutions along the way and so I’m packing a moderate amount of business appropriate clothing which probably accounts for 7-8 lbs. (3.2-3.6 kg) of the weight in my pack.
- I’m packing for both warm and cold weather which means a lot of layering pieces.
- I have an irrational fear of being caught anywhere without toilet paper and antacid medication.
Clothing – Work
- 1 pair of khaki pants and 1 khaki skirt
- 4 layering camisoles
- 1 white button down shirt
- 2 blouses
- 2 long sleeve shirts – I don’t know how to describe them but I can wear them on colder days and they can pass for business casual
- 2 pairs of brown trouser socks
- 1 brown belt
- 1 pair of brown shoes
Clothing – Standard
- 7 tank tops – For my tops I tried to stick with neutral colors as much as possible to avoid any silly outfit combos.
- 3 long sleeve shirts
- 2 short sleeve shirts
- 2 linen pants
- 1 pair of corduroy trousers – I intend to wear these on travel days so they will rarely be in my backpack.
- 2 capris
- 1 skirt
- 1 maxi dress – Ya know, for just in case I have a date or something.
- 2 bathing suits – I know I should only have one but I’m kind of neurotic about wearing wet bathing suits so I must have a dry one on deck. Whatever, it’s not taking up that much extra room.
- 2 scarves – Again I know I should have only one, but one of them is more of a cover-up for churches and cold nights and the other is the checkered Yasser Arafat scarf Elisabete gave me which I refuse to leave home without.
- Long underwear – I LOVE LONG UNDERWEAR
- 2 flip flops – 1 for the showers, 1 for the streets.
- 1 pair of hiking boots – I intend to wear these on traveling days
- 2 pairs of quick dry socks
- 1 pair of silk shorts – Another item of clothing I refuse to part with, I’ve had these shorts for 15 years and they go where I go.
- 3 sports bras, 1 normal bra
- 3 pairs of quick dry underwear, 2 normal pairs
- 1 hat
- 1 polka dot trench coat – This warrants an explanation. I consider this my luxury item even though I probably already have 5. I’ve been working at Banana Republic over the holidays and being around clothing and having a nice employee discount made it hard even for me to resist buying something. I also wanted one item of clothing that was not backpacker chic. Whatever, it’s only an extra 2 lbs / .9 kg.
- 1 fleece jacket and 1 rainproof shell – This is my cold weather jacket solution and the shell will work well on warmer rainy days.
- 1 pair of gloves – They have hidden pockets, how could I not?
- Ear muffs
- Toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss
- Shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, deodorant, etc.
- Contacts, lens solution, glasses
- Q-tips – I don’t know why but I feel like these could come in handy some day for something other than cleaning my ears.
- Wet wipes – After one really unfortunate incident in Bali, I don’t care how much extra weight it means, I absolutely refuse to be without a supply of wet wipes on me at all times.
- Insect repellent
- Grooming tools
- Feminine products – I shouldn’t have to explain this.
- Backpack – This should be obvious but I’m mentioning it here to note that it does weigh 5 lbs / 2.3 kg.
- Packing cubes – Because digging through your backpack for one thing and then having to repack the entire thing again is not in any way fun.
- 1 umbrella
- 1 beach towel
- Laundry leaves – I saw these at EMS and they looked like they’d prove more convenient than carrying around liquid soap or stealing it from someone.
- Water purifying tablets
- 1 Portuguese bottle opener – This was a gift from Elisabete and is another item I refuse to leave home without.
- 1 quick dry towel – I had this with me all throughout Spain and it was a Godsend!
- Silk sheet and pillowcase – I know most travel vets pooh-pooh the silk sheets number but I think it’s great to have just in case you are couchsurfing and the host doesn’t have any sheets. Plus I found a great use for my silk pillowcase one night in a hostel. It has a pocket into which it folds itself, but when you’re using the pillowcase the extra pocket serves as a convenient place to put your cell phone/alarm clock without worrying about knocking it off the top bunk, and yes I have done this before.
- Duct tape – This shouldn’t require an explanation
- Extra zip lock bags
- Under clothing money belts and pouches – I love all of this covert crap that lets you hide money in a million places on your person.
- First-aid kit
- 1 laptop
- 1 universal adapter – I found an adapter that fits any plug and will accept any plug. This has been extremely useful to me since I have a few European and American electronics.
- 1 camera
- 1 Flip cam – This was a gift from the lovely Nidia.
- 1 IPhone – This was such a nice surprise! The gang in Amsterdam came together to get me this parting gift.
- 3 burn phones – I love this because it makes me sound like a spy but the reality is I’ve acquired a few cheap phones along the years because of random occurrences and my thinking is that somehow I’ll end up acquiring another collection if I don’t have back-ups with me.
- 1 ipod
- 1 ipad – I was on the fence about this but since I was doing well in keeping my pack under the weight target, I’m taking it along.
- 1 solar power charger – Many thanks to Noah for gifting me this awesome gadget.
- All of the connectors that go along with these devices.
- 1 travel scale – This is how I’ve been able to know how much all of this crap weighs.
Last but not least, there are a few items in my pack that I didn’t mention because after I saw all of the luxury items I was packing, I was downright ashamed to admit I had anymore. However, I still reserve the right to gloat about their inclusion should they somehow become pivotal in a survival situation. In total, my main backpack weighed in at 33.4 lbs / 15.1 kg. Initially, I actually started out 25 lbs / 11.3 kg but when I got excited about being underweight, I packed some extra toiletries and picked up the trench coat. The smaller daypack with most of my electronics is close to 13 lbs / 5.9 kg so all in all I’m pleased that I kept the total extra weight I’m dragging around at less than 50 lbs / 22.7 kg. I’ll update along the way to let you know which items turned out to be brilliant choices and which ones were disasters.