Planning a trip and looking for ideas for your long term travel packing list? You have come to the right place – travel packing lists were always one of my favourite blog posts to read when I was planning my first big travel adventure.
Creating a long term travel packing list can help you remember all the essentials while also lowering the chances of overpacking.
Over the years my travel gear has been smashed, shattered, ripped and worn out. Some of my gear has become obsolete, replaced by my ultrabook and smartphone. Others products have stood tall against the test of time.
“There is always a sadness about packing. I guess you wonder if where you’re going is as good as where you’ve been.”
― Richard Proenneke, One Man’s Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey
Creating a Long Term Travel Packing List
Creating a long term travel packing list from start to finish can start become a bit of nightmare when it comes to planning events that might happen six months away. Sometimes it’s hard enough packing for a two-week trip, let alone for many months or even years ahead of time.
So what should you pack?
In theory, you could just jump on a flight with passport in hand, a bank card and the clothes you are wearing. Rolf Potts did an experiment where he travelled around the world for six weeks with no luggage at all.
What should be packed is as individual as the person packing it and what you take travelling will be dictated by how you travel.
When travelling to more remote locations or less developed parts of the world consider that you will be more reliant on carrying your gear as public transport can be few and far between. For large towns, inner city or CBD locations there will often be more transport options and less walking involved.
Your travel bag starts to become your life after a few months away. So it makes sense to pick a smaller travel bag that will stick out less and therefore give you less stress.
The less bulky it is, the happier you will be.
Suitcase, One Backpack, or Two?
Most of all it’s important to choose a travel bag that’s comfortable to lug around. Some people prefer roller suitcases and roller duffel bags as they keep clothes flat and mostly crease free. The roller system excels in urban environments with lots of flat surfaces, but the downside is once you get off the beaten track those rollers soon get jammed up with dirt.
I’ve experimented with suitcases in the past for shorter trips but find backpacks are a more suited choice for a long term travel packing list.
Backpacks do offer more freedom to explore off the beaten track. The only downside I can think of is your current strength and fitness levels will play a role in how much weight you can carry.
As a general rule, the less weight packed the further the distance you can walk before tossing the backpack on the floor and swearing at it!
For most of 2012, 2013 and 2014, I used only my Porter 46 Backpack as a carry on bag only setup. Some travellers prefer this one bag setup as its lighter than a full sized backpack and you can get away without paying check in baggage fees on budget airlines.
Then once I started blogging in 2014 more electronics started appearing on my long term packing list and eventually upgraded to the 30L daypack and carry-on size backpack configuration I’m using today.
Every Day Carry
Every Day Carry basically covers everything I carry either in my daypack or stored in my pockets when wandering around and doing day to day stuff.
A decent daypack should be light enough to carry around for a long afternoon of city exploring but still have enough space for a camera, laptop, charger, sunscreen, sunglasses, rain jacket and water bottle.
I like that the Momentum 30 daypack I use has a separate laptop and tablet compartment which allows me to easily access my ultrabook when needed. For wet weather protection, a high-visibility rain cover is tucked away at the bottom of the pack. Perfect as I will often buy or rent a cycle/scooter.
Should you take a laptop travelling?
Well, it’s true that once upon a time it was common advice not to pack electronics like laptops and other gadgets as they were expensive, heavy and could be a target for thieves. Today lightweight ultrabooks and smartphones are what enable travellers like me to stay connected and work remotely from tropical islands on the other side of the planet.
There is alway a risk of theft but being able to work from anywhere in the world is worth the trade off.
For my every day carry you will find:
- HuMn Carbon Fiber Black Wallet
- Noise Cancelling Earphones
- Under Armour Rain Jacket
- ESS Interchangeable Lens Sunglasses
- 50+ Sports Sunscreen
- Face Wipes
- Paper Notebook
- Rite in the Rain pen
- Lifestraw Water Filter
- Fenix LD12 AA Torch
- Merino Neck Warmer
- Camelback Water Bottle
- Skross World Travel Adaptor
I have tried a few different setups over the years, including iPads, HP laptops, Asus and Acers. Tablets can be handy for basic web stuff but ultrabooks and laptops are still more versatile if you plan on working while you travel.
I traded my heavier 2.7Kg HP Laptop in a while ago for a second-hand 1.4kg Lenovo X1 Carbon. An extra 1.3kg may not sound like much, but it adds up when carrying a full daypack all day. A 256GB SD card and Windows Arc Travel Mouse also come with the ultrabook.
Not a Mac you say? Don’t worry my girlfriend travels with one – but I still prefer Windows systems!
Unlike the majority of the world, I use a window smartphone. The main reason I brought the Nokia 1020 smartphone (20/03/17 update: replaced with Windows 950) was the 41px camera. For a while, it was the only camera I travelled with.
With Here maps its possible to download the maps before travelling, meaning you can still use the map without a local sim card, mobile internet or Wi-Fi access. With Onedrive the Windows phone automatically uploads you travel snaps to the cloud when connected to the internet. This can save time transferring them your laptop via cable but its also good if you loose or break your phone.
My brother updated his phone recently only to find the past four months of travel photos had been erased. Note: always back up those travel memories!
Apps I use for travel are:
- Evernote – for taking notes and reminders
- Adobe PDF reader – eliminate the need for a printer by downloading your flight boarding ticket or hotel receipt
- AccuWeather – displays the current weather phones as the screen saver
- XE Currency – helps me find out how much 50,000 VND really is
- 6tag – get all the Instagram features on your Windows smartphone
- Agoda – my go to for budget hotels and guesthouses.
- Airbnb – book one-of-a-kind alternatives to your traditional hotel
- Tripadvisor – for accommodation and attraction reviews
Travel and Camera Gear
The main backpack I’ve used since 2011 is the Porter 46 backpack. It’s not a traditional top loader as the zips open up like a sports duffel, meaning you have full access to everything inside.
At 46 litres the bag is the maximum carry-on size for most airlines, so it can either be taken as carry-on or checked in luggage. Although it’s not the largest of backpacks, its size does prevent overpacking.
I used packing cubes to help compress clothing and create space. Dry bags are also handy items to take, especially if you plan on taking part in any water activities. They come in various sizes and my larger one doubles up as a hand washing bag.
Learning how to hand wash clothing will make things much easier as access to a washing machine or laundry is not always guaranteed.
I also use a second smaller dry bag for my toiletries bag to cover any fluid leakages.
My travel and camera gear includes:
- X-Frame Ultralight Travel Pad (check out my review)
- Snugpak Travelpak Lite Sleeping Bag
- Lightweight Travel Towel
- Aeropress Coffee Maker
- Stainless Steel Drinking Cup
- Light My Fire Titanium Spork (I broke my original plastic version)
- Phillips ‘do it yourself’ Head Shaver and Camping Mirror
- Macadamia Nut Oil
- Japanese Body Towel
Deciding to buy a half decent camera was probably one of my longest decisions and I have been using the Sony A6000 since mid-2016. Due to the size and features, I recommend this model as a god travel camera choice and I have also met other travel bloggers who use it. If you have limited funds, then the A6000 is going to stretch your budget further, and there are plenty of lenses available.
I’m by no means a professional photographer and the lenses I carry are from the cheaper end of the market. The Sigma 19mm lens is great for landscapes + city architecture shots and the Sigma 60mm lens is perfect for portraits of people + sunsets.
For storage, I used the virtually instructable Pelican 1150 shockproof and waterproof case.
My other camera gear includes;
- Spare Battery
- Contour Roam 3 HD Waterproof Action Video Camera
- Car Window Cam Mount
- Floating Camera Grip
- 2 x 64GB Samsung Micro SD Cards
- Samsung 3M 2TB portable Hard Drive
There’s plenty of choices out there when it comes to selecting clothing for travelling. Choose to spend most of you time in warmer climates like I do, then you can certainly get away with packing less and lighter.
Some of the clothing marketed at the travelling community is of excellent quality, uses lightweight fibres, can be extremely breathable and easily hand washed.
But they can also have a big price tag to match the features.
When it comes to buying travel clothing my recommendation is only to spend within your budget, but at the same time buy the most comfortable clothing you can afford.
Rotating constantly through the same few outfits means you will be spending a lot of time in them.
Some lightweight travellers do suggest removing jeans altogether from your long term travel packing list. Jeans generally are heavier to carry than other travel pants, hot to wear, and they do take ages to dry when washed.
This can be a discomfort for some, but jeans do have their advantages. They tend to last a very long time (often for years) and still look good when they’re all destroyed with holes. A good pair of jeans will match most other clothing and are widely accepted in most parts of the world.
Nearly every country I’ve been to I have seen locals wearing jeans, so if you want to fit in, why pack one pair of jeans? I do.
My current travel clothing includes:
- Levis 504 Jeans
- Lightweight Linen Pants
- Adidas Golf Shorts
- Lounge/Sleeping Shorts
- Merino Wool T-shirt
- Plain T-shirts
- Polo T-shirt
- Long Sleeve Shirt
- Zip Up Hoodie
- Merino Wool Jumper
- Under Armour and ExOfficio Sports underwear.
- Wigwam Lightweight Hiking Socks
- Flip Flops
When it comes to travelling to warmer parts of the world, rather than packing all the winter gear, it’s much easier to plan your travel around similar climates. If it does turn out to be a little cooler than expected it’s always possible to layer existing clothing or pick up a few extra items as needed.
Clothing is available worldwide and although they may not stock your favourite brand you can guarantee there is some local alternative.
Gym and Workout Gear
While it’s true some sports do require specialist gym equipment, I found when travelling you don’t need that much.
A simple travel fitness routine could mean anything from lifting rusting dumbbells in a backstreet gym in Vietnam, sprinted along stunning sandy beaches in the Philippines, performing chin ups and dips at the park in China, swimming enough pool lengths so that your arms hurt in Malaysia, or slowing it down by doing a little yoga in your room in Japan.
The only limit is your imagination.
I know because I’ve done all the above and managed to exercise in every country I’ve travelled to so far. Asia and beyond
Travelling can play havoc with a fitness routine, but only if you let it.
Fitness clothing is extremely light to travel with and will hardly make a dent in your long term packing list. To cover the basics all you really need are a change of workout clothes and some sports shoes. This setup should cover 99% of situations and for activities such beach running, yoga and swimming the sports shoes are optional.
My fitness gear is basic but does the job. I don’t even bother packing swimming shorts anymore and just use my workout ones.
My fitness gear includes:
- UA Short Sleeve T-shirt
- UA Long Sleeve T-shirt
- Karrimor Running Shorts
- Coldgear Leggings
- Running Hat
- Karrimor Low Running Sock
- Merrell Road Glove Running Shoes (20/03/17 update: replaced with Inov-8 F-Lite 235)
- Skipping Rope
- ScanDisk Jam Mp3 player (added 20/03/17)
Remember there will always be stores or markets where you can pick up stuff along the way. It doesn’t matter if you plan on joining a yoga retreat, taking surfing lessons or staying at a boxing camp, I guarantee most of these places will hire out the gear you need. Just send them an email before you arrive to check.
Using the communal boxing gloves might leave your hands smelling like rotten chicken and certainly won’t be the highlight of your trip. Yet personally I don’t see much point in carrying around a pair of 16oz gloves for months on end just so you can use them for two weeks.
Having your own equipment is nice but a luxury when travelling.
Finally, Remember to KISS
Everyone knows how to Kiss, but knowing about it doesn’t mean you’re good at it 😉
BTW – KISS is an acronym that stands for Keep It Simple Stupid
When people ask for suggestions on what to pack for a three month trip around Europe or a one year sabbatical around Asia, I look back to my own past mistakes. Like many others, it adding way too much to my long term packing list.
It’s impossible to pack for every situation, but I sure did try. It felt like everything I owned was with me on my first trip to Australia in 2008. Did I mention the eight books I somehow managed to fit in my backpack? Just because they might not have books or libraries in Australia….
Anyway. it’s no surprise that one of the plastic strap buckles on my cheap ALDI backpack snapped at the airport under the weight.
And this was all before I had even left the UK!
I packed way too much because in my mind I was asking questions like – what if it’s cold, should I pack all my winter gear? What if I get invited to a fancy restaurant or club, should pack my dress shoes? What if I go hiking, should I pack my hiking boots & Gortex jacket?Pack for the trip you are going on, not the trip you might be going on. Click To Tweet
These and hundred and one other questions will always crop up when its time to plan a big trip and putting together a long term travel packing list.
It’s simply impossible to cover every eventuality and it’s crazy to even try.
Now when revising my long term travel packing list I go with the 80% mentality – whatever I pack should cover 80% of situations that I will come across on my trip.
The other 20% I will fix if and when they happen 🙂
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