Packing light is one of the top questions I get about my round the world 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. Here’s how to pack for a long trip. One year, in just a carry on bag! This is my round the world packing list for my RTW trip. I was backpacking and fairly minimalist. Here’s everything you need for long term travel.
RTW Packing List Tips:
- 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.
Long Term Travel Packing List
- Casual walking shoes (or low-profile running shoes)
- Havaianas flip flops
- dark jeans
- hiking pants
- cargo khakis
- 3 pairs shorts (2 short, 1 long)
- fleece or hoodie
- Packable rain jacket with hood
- 7 tank tops for layering
- 3 tees
- 1 skirt
- 2 long sleeve shirts
- 1 button-up camp shirt
- 1 bikini
- 2 bras – black, nude
- 1 sports bra
- 10 undies
- 4 pairs of socks
- REI toiletry bag
- 2 oz shampoo / conditioner
- 3 oz mint body wash (keeps the mozzies away)
- toothbrush / toothpaste / floss
- nail clippers
- face lotion
- face sunscreen
- minimal makeup (concealer, eyeliner, mascara)
- misc. travel meds
- small pack of tissues
- antibacterial hand gel
- REI Quickdry towel
- iPhone and charger and headphones
- mini travel speaker – lego block
- headlamp (way cooler than a flashlight)
- camera & charger & backup SD card/reader
- Otter Box for camera
- universal adapter
- PacSafe Wrap Safe Lock
- mini clothesline
- silk sleep sheet
- laundry kit (soap and sink plug)
- wet bag
- travel guidebook
- reading book
- Moleskine cahier pocket journals & pen
- money belt (never used)
- photocopies of passport and cards
- visa photos
- insurance info
What I ditched 4 months in:
The following items didn’t make the cut, after my first 4 months of long term travel:
- flip cell phone
- collapsible water bottle
- Malaria meds
- fleece (switched to a hoodie for warm climates)
- Nike running shoes (I switched to Diesel city shoes)
What’s on your round the world packing list?