Long Term Travel Packing List: My Travel Gear

Long Term Travel Packing List - My Travel gearPlanning 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 46L carry-on size backpack configuration I’m using today.

Travel Gear

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:

Long Term Travel Packing List: My Every Day Carry

Ultrabook

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!

Smartphone

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.

Two things I like about the windows platform is they have Here maps installed and a Onedrive backup function.

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:

Long Term Travel Packing List: My Travel Gear

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 1120 shockproof and waterproof case.

My other camera gear includes;

Travel Clothing

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:

Long Term Travel Packing List: My Travel Clothing

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:

Long Term Travel Packing List: My Fitness Gear

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 🙂

Please note: some of the product links in this post are affiliate links.

Barry Sproston

Barry is a traveller and expat who spends most of his time between Asia and Australia. He has spent 12 months training at a Gung Fu school learning Wing Chun. Explored the island of Taiwan by scooter more than once. Been tricked into eating raw horse meat sushi in Japan. Even tried to overcome the fear of heights by bungee jumping in Thailand. One day he plans to open a guesthouse.


Barry Sproston on FacebookBarry Sproston on GoogleBarry Sproston on InstagramBarry Sproston on PinterestBarry Sproston on Twitter

48 thoughts on “Long Term Travel Packing List: My Travel Gear

  1. pat kerr

    Pretty cool stuff but one pair of pants is on the homeless bum side of things in my opinion. there are a lot of light pants out there where you can carry more than just one pair. But a lot of good stuff and ideas besides that. I would shoot for a better way of packing the clothes. Wrinkly clothes put of a bad impression to people.

  2. daisy

    I would like to know if I may bring homemade cookies in my carry on bag? We will be leaving on May 4th with United Airlines to Switzerland & it’s going to be a long flight, I hope I can.

  3. Kreete

    Wow I didn’t expect such a comprehensive post! Love KISS and that experiment with no luggage sounds awesome too! I am very interested in your laptop selection as I am looking to find a new one. Anything I should know about the Lenovo ThinkPad? Is it any good for editing videos?

    1. Barry SprostonBarry Sproston Post author

      I’m happy with the Lenovo X1 Carbon Thinkpad. It’s aimed at business users so it is everything that a ultrabook should be. More often than not I will go to coffee shops and find that the size is perfect for working remotely. It’s fast enough to do everything needed for my business and to run this blog.

      If I had to nitpick, I would design a slimline charger and improve the battery life a little. The speakers also aren’t the best if watching a movie, but I typically use my noise cancelling headphones anyway.

      Also, I’ve done some video editing and had no issues.

  4. Diana - MVMT Blog

    Really helpful tips! The longest I’ve been on the road is a couple of months, and I’ve managed to fit everything into one backpack. Not sure how that would go if I were a permanent digital nomad or traveling for a whole year. I do love my foldable daypack though that I can just clip to the outside of my backpack so it takes up no space inside, and when I arrive at my destination, I’ve got a daypack ready to go.

    1. Barry SprostonBarry Sproston Post author

      No problem! Packing for a couple of months and a year isn’t that different. For me, it comes down to separating the things that I need from what I think is necessary. At one time I travelled with a portable scanner to help me go paperless, but in reality, it got used once every month or two. In the end, it got ditched.

      One backpack can work with fewer electronics, and there are some good packs on the market which have both main pack and a detachable day pack.

  5. Tracy

    Really fantastic list! We used to carry backpacks but in the past few years I have struggled with the weight so have changed to a suitcase but I think with an upcoming trip to Asia it will be back to the backpack so I will have to pack as lightly as possible! I have considered those packing cubes so may look into those a bit more!

    1. Barry SprostonBarry Sproston Post author

      Packing cubes are great for creating extra space and just organising things better. The Maxpedition ones I use are fairly heavy duty and almost like a separate mini bag. I can really stuff them full and not worry about busting the zips.

  6. Garth

    Wow amazingly comprehensive, you are obviously well travelled Barry! windows smartphone? I do the notebook, pen and jeans .. as for everything else I’m still digesting, as I always take too much or not enough of the right clothes! going to bookmark for future reference!

    1. Barry SprostonBarry Sproston Post author

      That’s right I have been using the Nokia 1020 for the past three years which runs on the Windows 8.1 platform. Compared to Android and IOS the Windows phones do get a bit of stick due to the lack of apps available. I guess it depends on what you use the phone for and as long as I can call, send messages, have access to maps and take a few photos, I’m happy.

  7. Anna Schlaht

    Wow, Barry, this is full of incredibly helpful information! Mr. Nerd and I have never traveled more than two weeks at a time, but we have some oddball travel plans for the next couple years that may yet come to fruition. In that case, this post and your suggestions will be immensely helpful! Even thinking of packing for long term makes my head spin, so I appreciate the jumping point here.

    Also, I love that you have a two bag system (backpack and day pack). We’ve done that on our shorter trips, and it’s always worked well. Love your list of packing items!

    Thanks for sharing! Will save for later use.

    1. Barry SprostonBarry Sproston Post author

      No problem Anna and glad to hear Mr Nerd and you have some big travel plans. Although you could get by with one bag for shorter trips the two bag system works well for long term travel. It creates a little extra space for some home comforts.

  8. Trippin' Turpins (Kelly)

    Fabulous list! We also use backpacks. I find that our electronic stuff i.e. computer, iPad, phone, camera, go pro and all the relevant batteries, chargers and external hard drive take up so much room! Not easy to travel light.

  9. ThriftyTrails

    8 books?! How did you manage to take that plus all the other items?!. Love the “Just because they might not have books or libraries in Australia”. Tim found a super stretchy pair of jeans that didn’t impede his movement when we were hiking the mountains in Poland and he wore it quite often. It would only need to be spot cleaned most of the time and he wore it while on the plane to lighten the pack a bit. I on the other hand couldn’t find a pair of jeans I loved before our 6 month honeymoon trip so I just ended up with hiking pants/capris/shorts and leggings. I love seeing how other travelers pack for long term trips because it also shows our priorities like exercising for example. Packing cubes are a travelers best friend!

    1. Barry SprostonBarry Sproston Post author

      Looking back I know it seems so crazy to carry eight books. My main backpack was literally at bursting point (probably why the strap snapped), and I remember weighing it at the airport. It was exactly 20kg – also the weight limit for that flight. They were books that I enjoyed reading before, and I figured they might take away the homesickness. Still seems madness looking back at it now. Stretchy jeans are great and Levis 504’s that I love travelling in are also made from some stretchy material mix.

  10. SamH Travels

    A great post and a great list. I haven’t travelled for an extended period of time so I have not been in this position, but someone clearly needs to be very disciplined to only take the essentials. I think I would really fail at this! I can see the sense in your discussion about what luggage should be used 🙂

  11. Lisa

    Ditto…great list! Haven’ had to really think beyond a couple of weeks packing. I tend to not take enough but always get by, mostly hiking clothes. I’ll keep this in mind when I finally get to do some long term travelling. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Barry SprostonBarry Sproston Post author

      Hiking clothes can be perfect for travelling in as they are lightweight and if layered are great for warmth. If done right you can put together a half decent wardrobe. Having said that if done wrong you can look like you’ve just stepped off the Himalayas!

  12. Travel Lexx

    Really awesome post Barry and definitely the kind of thing that I need to make me rethink what I travel with – I always take too many clothes and then don’t end up wearing about 70% of them! Workout stuff is important and I always carry my resistance bands on longer trips. Great set of lists and I will be saving it for my future travels!

    1. Barry SprostonBarry Sproston Post author

      Yeah agreed – clothing tends to be the area that most overpack on. I’m used to rotating through the same few outfits now so if it’s something I don’t wear then its time to get rid. To be honest I’ve only used resistance bands a couple of times while training Krav maga. It would be interesting to try them out while travelling.

  13. wayfaringsarah

    I fully agree with backpack > suitcase. I have no idea how people travel long term with them?!?! As soon as I reach my first kerb or cobbled street it becomes mission impossible! haha. Also good shout on the notebook and pen! This is often the most useful thing I take with me whenever I’m traveling, yet it’s one that most people probably overlook!

    1. Barry SprostonBarry Sproston Post author

      Hey Sarah, nice to hear the notebook and pen are getting some love! I use mine for making notes and drafting up new blog posts ideas. I spend way to much time behind my laptop so am always looking for ways to reduce my online time.

  14. Oana

    Wow this is such a great list. I used to pack unnecessary things thinking “I might need this” but lately I started packing really light which is a good idea, especially while travelling on long term. Most of the time we travel just with carry-on and we always chose a backpack over a suitcase. Very useful post!

  15. Simona

    This is a great list! It is really thought through and detailed. I do find it harder to pack for colder climates. Definitely pinning this for later!

    1. Barry SprostonBarry Sproston Post author

      No problem Simona. Colder climates can be harder and I prefer the layering method to save travelling with too many clothes. Having said that if it’s really cold then some specialist winter clothing will more than likely be needed.

  16. David

    Such a thorough post Barry, great work. I’d love to be down to one pack but just like you its the electronics. My day pack can fit my laptop, camera and other assorted odds and ends and thats it. Totally agree on Jeans, incredibly versatile and for any urban area they work a treat. Really need to try packing cubes and dry bags to see if I can maximise the space in my pack. “Remember there will always be stores or markets where you can pick up stuff along the way” is something far too people forget, great nugget of wisdom there. My biggest struggle lately was travelling from winter in Europe to summer in Oz and back to Europe, I had shorts in my pack for Europe and a coat and jumpers in Oz – no easy solution around it.

    1. Barry SprostonBarry Sproston Post author

      Cheers David. Most of my packing list has been formed by trial and error of what I need vs. what I think I need. Glad I found another traveller who enjoys jeans – there are some social situations where you just feel silly wearing hiking pants.

      Packing cubes are great for creating space and helpful if you need to take something out of your backpack fast. I find that Customs officials always target solo traveller for bag checks and there’s nothing worse than tipping all your dirty underwear over the counter for everyone to see.

      Packing cubes keep clothing separated from all the other travel stuff and are certainly worth the investment.

  17. Sina (Secret Traveller)

    That’s such a great list, thanks for sharing! I’m travelling in South America for 5 month at the moment and really struggled with what and how much to bring. At the end, I decided to go with a 45l + 15l backpack to avoid bringing too much. So far, it’s working out fine although my clothes choices are very limited in cooler countries like Bolivia and Peru. It feels weird that I couldn’t bring a proper jacket (only a fleece jacket) but luckily it’s not too cold and layers work well. But I also brought a few things, I haven’t used or worn once, so there’s still much to learn 🙂

    1. Barry SprostonBarry Sproston Post author

      Hey Sina, great stuff the 45L + 15L is a good size and is less than 46L + 30L setup than I’m using now. I think the main thing is choosing a size that you can comfortably carry and like you said going a bit smaller does help to prevent overpacking. I’m pretty ruthless these day and will either throw it or donate it if it’s not getting used. I used to carry a compact portable scanner because I prefer being paperless but ditched it as I found most towns or libraries have scanning facilities.

  18. Maria

    Really well made post, so many great tips! I didn’t know that noise cancelling headphones existed (only thought you could get the big bulky headgear) – what a great invention!

    1. Barry SprostonBarry Sproston Post author

      I’m sure most people associate noise cancelling headphones with the big retro style over the ear ones. I use the sporty style because they don’t take up much space and are very useful for running. The pair I used now is charged via USB. The downside is the battery only lasts a few hours.

  19. Angie (FeetDoTravel)Angie (FeetDoTravel)

    I can definitely tell you are an experienced long term traveller with this packing list! We have just begun our full-time travelling with so much packed it’s ridiculous, clearly we do not pack light! I find our heaviest gear is the electronics, the laptop, charges, replacement batteries for the usb mouse etc and I cannot resist picking up Lonely Planet books either! Yes, yes I know people say you can get that information online and in truth, that is what I planned to do, until I realised that getting info online means internet and so far, I haven’t been in areas where it is readily available so a good old fashioned book wins again :-). So, I am still at the stage of throwing my bag down, and standing there in a sweating heap swearing at it lol. #feetdotravel

    1. Barry SprostonBarry Sproston Post author

      I’m the same as you Angie. I love a good old fashioned book but its just not practical to carry them around in 2017. Most of my reading is done on my laptop these days. Having said that if I’m staying put in one place for a while, I will use the local library. I think everyone starts off by packing big but after a while, you start to realise what you use and what’s just taking up space.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *