Packing light is one of the top questions I get about my RTW career break. We all know that person who drags a mammoth rolling suitcase on vacation and many of us have encountered the smelly guy who brags about only carrying a daypack. I like to think that there’s a happy medium that anyone can accomplish.
- Backpack size is important. People often comment on how small my pack is. I have the Marmot Diva 35 2,100 cu in (no longer on the market, I got mine for $70). While it looks tiny compared to a lot of packs, keep in mind that for being 5′ 3″ and 125 pounds it’s the perfect backpack. If you’re small, your pack should be proportionate to your size. Ladies, I recommend something in the 35 liter range and getting one built for women is usually going to be more comfortable on your back.
- Ziploc bags are your friend. Gallon size freezer bags are great as cheap/disposable compression bags. Stuff, sit on, zip.
- Don’t let your toiletries get out of control. Chances are, if you’re going to be gone for a year, you’re going to have to replenish your shampoo etc anyway. I pack 2 oz bottles and then repurchase every few months or refill when staying in a hotel.
- Bring what you’ll use. Don’t let the “experts” say what you can and can’t pack. If a blow dryer is really important to you, then buy a travel one and bring it. Besides, I’ll probably ask to borrow it! ;) My “Packing Nazi” no-no item is a pair of jeans.
- Think about layers. How do you pack for snow in Japan and surfing in Australia, for museums and shopping in Barcelona and mosques in Istanbul? It’s all about layering. And a scarf goes a long way.
- Skip the hiking boots. I’ve met so many backpackers over the last year, with the obligatory pair of huge hiking boots tied to the side of their pack. My anecdotal research tells me that most of them have only used them once if that, and it could have been done in running shoes. So if you don’t already hike in hiking boots, you probably won’t need them. I hiked for 6 hours in the mountains in Morocco with my Diesel slip-ons – granted they were nicely broken in and kind of like low profile running shoes.
- Leave room for purchases. I pack 1 scarf and 1 skirt, and always come home with about 4 scarves and 3 dresses! It’s fun to pick up clothes along the way, but I try to save most purchases towards the end of my trip. By the time I came home from Morocco in November, I was lugging an extra: 2 huge pieces of material/blankets, 5 scarves, 2 dresses, 1 leather purse, a leather belt, 10 pillow covers, and a cardigan.
The Ultimate Packing List
Diesel tennis shoes (or low-profile running shoes)
Havaianas flip flops
3 pairs shorts (2 short, 1 long)
Helly Hansen Fleece or hoodie
Columbia Packable rain jacket with hood
7 tank tops for layering
2 long sleeve shirts
1 button-up camp shirt
2 bras – black, nude
1 sports bra
4 pairs of socks
REI toiletry bag
2 oz shampoo / conditioner
3 oz mint body wash (keeps the mozzies away)
toothbrush / toothpaste / floss
Burt’s Bees chapstick
Misc. travel meds
small pack of tissues
Antibacterial hand gel
REI Quickdry towel
iPod Lego block speaker
Swiss Army knife/usb drive
SD card USB reader
Black Diamond headlamp (way cooler than a flashlight)
camera battery charger
Otter Box for camera
extra 1 GB SD card
PacSafe Wrap Safe Lock
REI mini Clothesline
Sea to Summit Silk Sleep Sheet
laundry kit (soap and sink plug)
Moleskine Cahier pocket journals
money belt (which I’ve never actually used)
Moleskin 2008 info journal
Mildew free wet suit bag
The following items didn’t make the cut, after my first 4 months on the road packing list:
- cell phone
- collapsible water bottle
- Malaria meds
- fleece (I switched to a hoodie)
- Nike running shoes (I switched to Diesel city shoes)
What’s on your packing list?