What to pack for full-time travel – editor’s note: This post was published in 2010. I’ve since repacked – and repacked again – my worldly belongings. Click here for the latest greatest packing list for full-time travel!
What to pack for full-time travel? Here are all my worldly belongings.
For the purposes of this post, I recently unpacked my bags and took pictures of everything. Although I surprised even myself with a few things (like how much clothing I have, and how much more I got rid of along the way), I was also pretty impressed that I’ve been able to survive for over three years with little more than what fits in one just-larger-than-carry-on sized suitcase and one daypack.
My belongings have evolved and streamlined over the last three years, and anywhere I camped out for more than six months involved an inevitable accumulation of things that either got sent home for storage or given away/sold. But the longer I travel, the less likely I am to accumulate much at all, even if I stay somewhere for a while.
Without further ado, here is a list of everything I travel with, for you to use as a guide for what to pack for full-time travel:
Luggage and Bags
I love my High Sierra Wheeled Backpack with Removable Day-pack luggage; the main case zips right open for easy access to everything, it has wheels (which I almost always use), and zip-away backpack straps (which I almost never use, but which is handy if the terrain is rough or I’m navigating dense crowds).
My Day Pack zips onto the front of the main case so I’m only carting around one piece of luggage, and it’s perfect as my carry-on bag and around-town bag.
You can also see my TSA-approved combo lock dangling from the zipper of my luggage – very handy for security during flights as well as in hostels.
Stuffed into my main bag is another two bags: one thin lightweight compression sack (which I occasionally stuff clothes into to keep my packing volume down), and another favourite: the Outdoor Research Drycomp Summit Sack.
This bag has seen me through many treks and mountaineering summit attempts, as it’s a soft-sided, waterproof, lightweight bag that doubles as a compression sack. Between this and the dedicated compression sack (and a few smaller mesh stuff sacks), I can organize my belongings quite effectively.
I do also carry a purse, which houses my wallet, camera, copies of ID, and other items I like to have close at hand for either convenience or security.
I’ve always been a fan of my hiking boots, but there’s no getting around the weight and bulk of something that I only occasionally use (but when I use them – boy do I ever). My runners (which I bought second-hand two years ago were also looking pretty sorry, so I recently went on a long drawn-out search for some new shoes. I always joked with the salespeople that I wanted a pair of shoes that could do everything – double as both good lightweight walking shoes (to replace my runners), as well as hiking boots (which I wanted to get rid of). And they had to look stylish and cool.
Well wouldn’t you know it: one day, the salesperson – instead of laughing at me – handed me exactly what I asked for.
The Salomon Mid GTX hiking shoe are my new favourite shoes. Despite being larger than runners, they are no heavier than a regular pair of runners, and the profile and black colour make them appear like decent shoes underneath a pair of pants. But the solid structure and ankle support make them awesome hiking boots. I’ve taken them into the middle of volcanic craters, as well as around town for long walks (and even out to a few dinners), and they fit the bill in all scenarios.
Aside from my main shoes, I have three two other pairs:
- Tevas (good for summer action and water-sports) (They’re uncomfortable and bulky, and just got “left” at the last place I was staying)!
- Flip-flops (easy slip-ons and great for hostel showers)
- Nice strappy sandals. I only own these because a) they were dirt cheap in Thailand, and b) they are incredibly thin and lightweight – even more so than flip-flops. That, and they make me feel pretty (I’ve got to do the girly thing from time to time).
Yes, yes; I probably have more clothing than I should, but I’m struggling to figure out how I can cut down and still be prepared for any season (and I get cold easily). Here’s what I have:
- Pants: Black quick-dry that also convert to ¾ length. Great for trekking, as well as looking nice for dinner.
- Pants: Black cotton yoga pants. Super-comfy.
- Skirt: Black knee-length.
- Skirt: Blue silk wrap-around sari skirt, which can be worn a million ways, including as a dress. Actually incredibly practical as everything from a beach cover-up, to picnic towel, to dress-up flowing skirt.
- 2 T-shirts.
- 1 black collared sleeveless shirt (nice for dressing up, and packs up incredibly small).
- 2 Long-sleeved merino wool Icebreaker shirts – one as a standalone base layer, another as a nice top with a collar.
- 1 Long-sleeved lightweight shirt (for hot countries that require arms to be covered, among other uses).
- 1 Purple possum/merino poncho. This is incredibly lightweight, unbelievably warm, my New Zealand Souvenir, and super-stylish. Yes, ever the “girl” I am.
- 1 blue Down Jacket. It’s actually polyester – not down – but it feels like down so I call it such. It also folds into its own pocket to pack up small and make a nice pillow when I need one. Oh yeah – and it’s incredibly warm.
- 1 Pashmina (or incantation thereof). It makes for a great scarf, accessory, airplane blanket, wrap, throw, etc. Super handy and very stylish.
- Work clothing: I also travel with clothing specifically intended for some of the dirtier jobs that are sometimes asked of me, depending on where I work-trade: 1 short-sleeved merino wool Icebreaker (that has seen better days), and one pair of quick-dry reinforced pants. They were quite handy as such at Mana Retreat.
- 1 Rain Jacket: bright pylon-orange style. The colour wasn’t my first choice, but again – it’s incredibly thin and light, and it does the trick.
- 1 Pair of PJs: being a lightweight top and pair of pants that could also be worn out in a pinch. Important for hostels, where sleeping – and running to the bathroom – in undies isn’t exactly kosher.
- 3-5 pairs of socks (different weights and uses)
- 3-5 pairs of underwear (pretty much the same use!)
- 2 Bikini Swimsuits: Yes, I could probably do with one, but they just don’t take up that much room. I mean, really.
(Also in the picture above is 1 one-liter water bottle. As you can see from the stickers all over it, it has seen more than a few places in the world).
These get stuffed into a mesh bag, and although I often forget I have as much as I do in there, I’ve also used everything at one time or another. Although I have a lot of scarves, they are also useful for warmth, accessorizing, hair ties, belts, bag-identifiers, and make-shift tools.
- 1 winter scarf
- 1 lightweight cotton scarf
- 2 silk scarves
- 1 sun hat
- 1 long canvas belt (actually, this belt was a recent casualty of another reduction spree before my trip to Europe).
- 1 Toiletry Bag: I won’t detail the exact contents of my toiletry kit, but suffice it to say I have mini-versions of everything I need stuffed neatly into my black fold-up toiletry bag.
- 1 Adventure Towl: one of the best pieces of travel gear I have. It’s small, dries almost as soon as I’ve wrung it out, and dries me when I need it to.
Because I love trekking as much as I do, I have enough belongings to hit the trails – even overnight (save for the tent & sleeping bag).
- 1 pair of gaiters
- 1 thermal base layer
- 1 thermal sleeveless top
- 1 pair of gloves
- 1 small wool hat (useful for more than trekking)
- 1 fold-up plate
- 1 fold-up cup
Bit and Pieces
The last thing to go into my main bag is a bunch of miscellaneous items, as listed below:
- Adventure medical kit
- SteriPen with solar charging case
- Small Bag with membership cards I don’t need in my wallet but seem to want to hang on to, as well as extra shoelaces (another multi-purpose item)
- Extra laptop power-adapter (I took a side-trip and forgot to bring mine once, so now I have two and can’t bring myself to part with one – what if I forget it again?!)
- Installation CDs and software (for my laptop)
- External Hard Drive (which is kept in my luggage to be separate from my laptop; if one goes missing I won’t be up the creek).
Believe it or not, all that goes into my main luggage. Here’s what goes in my day-pack and purse:
- International Driver’s License
- iPod Touch
- Folder with official documents
- Waterproof bag with plug adaptors, business cards, cables, DVD’s, whatever
- Ziploc bag with mini optical mouse, web-cam, and adaptors/cables I use regularly
- Camera with extra SD card
- Travel Journal
- Deck of cards
- Passport Wallet (used in airports to hold boarding passes , flight itineraries, etc)
- Money belt (for passport etc)
- Underclothes mini-pouch for USB stick (with encrypted copies of ID) and extra cash (last resort)
- Laptop, including neoprene sleeve and power cord
- Earplugs (my best friend in hostels)
- Headlamp (another piece of truly prized travel gear)
- Padlock (for hostel lockers)
- Eyeshade (although I never remember I have it when I need it)
- Unlocked Cell Phone
- Small case of miscellaneous meds (painkillers, anti-histamines, anti-nausea, etc)
Although I was once inspired by a video I saw on ultra-light packing and almost took my full-time entourage into carry-on mode, I realize that my love of the outdoors – and the gear to go along with it – will prevent me from downsizing too much more. Although there are a few items on this list that could be chucked out if I had to lighten the load, I’m pretty happy in knowing that I can handle – and enjoy – whatever the world throws at me.