The Ultimate Packing List for Full-Time Travel

by Nora Dunn on July 22, 2013

Want to see the packing list I use for my full-time travels? I wrote about this a few years ago, but since then the contents of my bag have evolved (and shrunk!) to a lovely manageable load that covers all the bases.

 

This is the Real Deal

This is – quite literally – exactly what I pack for my travels. There are a few minor differences in colour or style (some things I own are older), and in a couple of cases I’ve gone with a very close approximation (since I may have bought that scarf from a Nepalese lady in a market).

If you click on any of the items in the packing list, you’ll learn why I travel with that item, tips and tricks for using it effectively, and even where you can buy it.

 

Here’s my packing list in all its glory…..keep reading below to learn how I reduce this to carry-on size only, along with a few clarifying notes.

 

It’s Not Carry-On

This full packing list is not carry-on friendly. I check the wheeled backpack on flights (it weighs about 15kg), and I carry on my purse and daypack containing my electronics, a scarf for warmth/blanket needs, and anything else I’d need immediately if my luggage went on a round-the-world tour without me.

 

But it Could Be

When I am able leave the full monty somewhere and travel from there for a while (as long as three months, as I did while sailing the Caribbean and house-sitting in Switzerland, then I reduce this load to carry-on size.

 

I travel with my daypack and purse (containing the same items as above) and my OR Compression Sack with the rest of my stuff. It’s light and waterproof, and very sturdy despite its thin soft shell. I sling one bag over each shoulder and off I go.

 

Obviously I don’t take as much stuff with me when I travel with carry-on only; I reduce my wardrobe to a few items that will satisfy the climate and culture of my destination, and everything is coordinated so I can mix and match at will. This reduces bulk quite a bit.

I also usually leave behind the following:

  • Headlamp
  • Adventure Towl
  • Toiletry Case (I use a mesh bag instead to save space)
  • Adventure Medical Kit
  • USB Hard Drive (usually)
  • Wheeled Backpack (obviously)

 

Why Not Carry-On All the Time?

With a relatively paltry list of things that I tend to leave behind, you might question why I don’t travel with carry-on all the time.

When I take my “carry-on” trips, I usually know where I’m going and what I need for that place. Thus I can choose appropriate clothing items and pack accordingly.

But in the realm of full-time travel and my packing list being the entirety of what I own and live with, I need a wider range of things, to help me function in whatever environment I’m in.

Hence – the full meal deal you see above.

 

 

Electronics

Remember that with every piece of gear, I carry an accompanying entourage of cables and adaptors. The things I immediately need are in my laptop case, and the rest in ziploc bags (all contained in a mesh bag).

 

One item not included in this packing list is a travel adaptor, important for plugging your electronics into different sockets. Remember though that they don’t convert voltages; if your device doesn’t have an adaptor that says 120-240V on the back (most laptops and electronics have it), then don’t plug a 120-volt device into a 240-volt socket, you’ll fry it.

Travel adaptors like this one are nice and compact, but I also like ones like these for their surge protection qualities. It’s also nice to find ones with USB adaptors so you can charge USB devices simultaneously.

 

Which one do I use? I’ve used them all – and continue to. They’re highly used (and abused) items, so they usually need replacing about every year. I don’t have a favourite one; I just tend to buy them when I see them – often in airports.

 

 

Staple Toiletries (that sometimes get nicked)

The only other items in my case that didn’t make the packing list above are a few staple toiletries, which sometimes get confiscated by security when I travel with carry-on only: tweezers, nail clippers, and a small pair of scissors. These are relatively easily replaced when they get taken – but they’re frustrating to lose.

 

 

Sorry Guys…It’s Girly

Although many of these items are not gender-specific, a lot of it is. Guys – I hope you survived the toiletry entourage and girly clothing choices to glean some knowledge about the sort of gear, packs, and yes, even shoe choices (generally speaking) you can make to travel full-time in comfort and style.

 

 

Occasional Extras

If I’m in one place for a while, I often buy an inexpensive item or two locally to complement my wardrobe (eg: stylish shoes, or warmer layers). I never spend much on them, and I usually give them away when I leave. The general rule is: if it can’t replace something in my bag, it can’t come with me!

 

 

More Information on Some Packing List Items

I’ve written full reviews of some of the items you see in my packing list. If you’d like more information, check these out:

Scroll through these resources to get your travel gear juices flowing:


Anatomie: My New Favourite Travel Clothing (Monika dress, Capri pants)

Wheeled Backpacks: Why They’re the Best, and Tips for Buying One

My Search for the Perfect Travel Sandal

 

 

A big thank-you to Round the World Experts, who created this awesome app to display my packing list in living colour. Just in case you don’t know who they are, they provide Round the World Tickets for travelers.

Also: There are affiliate links in this article and graphic. Since these items are exactly what I own, I’d be hard-pressed to say I don’t endorse them!

 

 

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Try New Things July 22, 2013 at 8:30 pm

I am older and just getting started on my longer term travel plans. This is a great starting point for me as inexperienced (but excited) new traveller. I did not even know that wheeled backpacks existed and planned to use a suitcase with wheels. But I know that there are many places that are not easy to access and carry a suitcase like running for a train with a gap in London or climbing stairs to cross a highway overpass in Athens. I will print this and use it as my starting point. And I will definitely look at backpacks with wheels.

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theprofessionalhobo July 23, 2013 at 9:02 am

Hi Try – Glad you’ve discovered wheeled backpacks! I hope they’re as useful for you as they have been for me. Happy travels!

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OCDemon July 22, 2013 at 11:36 pm

I like the little icons. It’s like one of those “dress this doll” games where you can add outfits to a cartoon person. Not that I play those ever. Shush.

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theprofessionalhobo July 23, 2013 at 9:03 am

Ha ha – So true! (Not like I ever play it either. I mean, really).

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Hogga July 23, 2013 at 9:01 am

wow, this is awesome!

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theprofessionalhobo July 25, 2013 at 9:05 am

Thanks! Hope you find it useful…

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Kristin Addis July 23, 2013 at 9:28 am

I’m pretty similar except I do only travel with a carry-on. That would change in a cold environment where hippie pants just aren’t practical, though!

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theprofessionalhobo July 25, 2013 at 9:07 am

Kristin -It’s mostly the cooler weather clothing (much of which is suited for outdoor activities like hiking – with a bit of style!) that keeps my entourage as a checkable entity. But the more I keep taking off with a small bag for up to months at a time, the more I realize it’s possible to do it with carry-on only…if I put some effort into it, and cut some corners.
But as long as I’m not moving around too much, I don’t mind bringing a bigger bag and hauling it from base to base. It gives me more options. (For now)!

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Amber July 24, 2013 at 8:03 pm

We seem to be of a similar mindset. It is unfortunate that we have to pack so much variety of items, like I have long pants with me, in case I am some place cold, but I have been in Southeast Asia since early February and felt cold maybe twice. That said, my bag could fit in an overhead bin, unless I fly Air Asia which limits you to 7kg for carry on. My back usually runs around 11-12 kg. I differ from you in that I do not carry any type of hiking boots – we learned long ago that it takes up space and I am not outdoorsy. We swamped them out for a hybrid walking shoe and trainer, but even those I barely use now – limited to flip flops every day. Anyway, I always find it interesting when people share what they pack!

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theprofessionalhobo July 25, 2013 at 9:12 am

Hi Amber – I started out with big clumsy hiking boots, which I offloaded after a couple of years, in favour of my hybrid shoes above. Even those I don’t use that often, but I AM a hiker at heart and they served me really well for some epic hikes in New Zealand, Sweden, and Switzerland.
So, despite the fact that they don’t get used unless I’m walking far and/or am in cooler weather (rare), I haven’t seen my way through to letting go of them yet.

Being of the sandal-wearing ilk, you might be interested in an article I’ll be publishing on the site in the next couple of weeks – on choosing the perfect travel sandal. Coming soon! :-)

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Dalene July 26, 2013 at 3:15 pm

I have been so on the fence about wheeled backpacks. I desperately want one, but know that I am going to curse the day I have to strap it on and walk for 45 minutes to find our next hotel. GARR! I just can’t decide.

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theprofessionalhobo July 27, 2013 at 7:58 am

Dalene – When was the last time you had to walk 45 minutes to your hotel on ground that was completely unnavigable with wheels? I count three times in my entire traveling career.
I’m willing to bet it’s a relatively rare occurrence…especially compared to the number of airports and lineups and stop/start situations you’ve had to slog through either with your pack painfully straining your shoulders, or getting kicked along in front of you (or worse yet, having to constantly put it on and take it off)….
Save your back, girl! And ask Jeannie of Nomadic Chick what she thought of watching me with the wheeled pack during the Ultimate Train Challenge….I believe both Michael and Jeannie were duly impressed…. :-)

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Orit July 27, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Great Site, great idea! ….just one thing…I tried looking at the camera, but when I clicked on it, I got to this: Pacsafe Luggage Venturesafe 20L Adventure Day Pack…..
I need a new camera ;-)
What application did you use to make the pop up list?

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theprofessionalhobo July 28, 2013 at 11:35 am

Hi Orit,
So it does….here’s a link to the camera:
http://www.amazon.com/Canon-PowerShot-Digital-Camera-3-Inch/dp/B009B0MY6S/ref=sr_1_1_ha?ie=UTF8&qid=1375025366&sr=8-1&keywords=Canon+G15

As for the pop up list, that was designed for me by Round the World Experts. Cool, huh? ;-)

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Orit July 28, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Really cool!

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Lois July 27, 2013 at 10:53 pm

Wow, this post is helpful! I just started traveling full time this year and still need to adjust my travel gear. I feel that I’m bringing too many unnecessary things but lack essentials like a headlamp or poncho. This is a great checklist, thanks for sharing!

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theprofessionalhobo July 28, 2013 at 11:37 am

Glad this was helpful Lois!
I must admit, I wish I had access to such packing lists when I started traveling….you can’t imagine the ridiculous stuff I started out with! (Solar panels, climbing gear, functional-yet-utilitarian clothing…and the kitchen sink! Ha ha)

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Barry August 9, 2013 at 7:43 am

Hi Nora,

Nice to find another nomad who is technology heavy like us! I know it’s not cool to carry lots of things these days, but we’re unashamedly happy to bring lots of tech and gadgets and we haven’t had any problems yet!

Thanks for sharing!

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theprofessionalhobo August 9, 2013 at 9:29 am

Hi Barry,
I actually thought I had a pretty sleek amount of kit given the necessity to earn a living from it! I’ve shied away from SLR photography due to the bulk of the cameras and lenses, and I use the slimmest lightest laptop I can manage.
But it certainly adds up….especially with all the cords and adaptors to accompany each device!

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Ali August 11, 2013 at 11:53 am

Except for a couple of minor tweaks, this is essentially my travel list as well :)

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theprofessionalhobo August 13, 2013 at 10:27 am

Sweet!

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debbie ann August 13, 2013 at 3:21 am

we are moving/living around the world and we are down to 27 kg of luggage each (20 kg checked and 7 kg carry on) – and it was hard work to get to that. We have no storage unit anywhere, no house anywhere to leave stuff. We must be a lot more sentimental than you – we have things like incense, a small clay statue, a clay bowl we made, paint/pen/paper for art, lightweight scanner. I could easily live for 6 months or a year on your list, but find it hard to give everything up permanently. We live in a place for maybe a year before moving to the next place.

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theprofessionalhobo August 13, 2013 at 10:32 am

Hi Debbie,
If you move every year or so, then taking more with you is justifiable; the journey isn’t hellish, and if it’s point to point, it’s manageable.
But if you end up doing some faster travel through an area (without being able to leave your main bag somewhere), you’d probably end up finding more ways to cut down your stuff!
Then again, 20kg plus carry-on is pretty slick, and most of your extras seem small and light. Your biggest challenge would probably be flying on budget airlines that only allow 15kg bags before charging stupid overage fees!

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Laurence Goldman August 13, 2013 at 10:29 pm

Osprey has come out with an ultralight wheeled line-no straps tho-who really needs them. I picked up a 19″ Version =meets Ryan AIR one bag requirements-weighs 4# or less-my whole kit is about 7 kilos with birding binoculars, medical nebulizer, travel waterpick, Canon camera, NeXUS 7. ipod touch. electric razor-wires and plugs. I also wear two vests-the outer one is super light and will hold 15L of clothes stuffed in it shd the need arise. I also pack a 28L Marmot Kompressor ascent pack-weighs a pound-so I have the option of wearing almost all the gear.

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theprofessionalhobo August 14, 2013 at 7:32 am

Your entire kit is 7kilos – with all that? I’m impressed! I’m not a big fan of vests (I tried a Scottevest and found it way too impractical and terribly unflattering), but it looks like you and I are singing from the same hymn sheet with the Kompressor ascent pack – which is very similar to my OR Compression Summit Sack.

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Laurence Goldman August 18, 2013 at 6:44 pm

Yeah. I’m just not taking much clothes at the moment. That could get old, I suppose. We’ll see. I use Royal Robbins Travel vest which I’ve lived in for years. EvERYthing stays here PP, money,Canon s90, ipod touch, Nexus 7. I keep it ine bed w me. If BAG is stolen I’m still OK_I guess if I’m robbed… Then I JUST GOT this British Rufus Roo vest which goes over everything which has huge wearable pockets. So I could just have a day bag or no bag and wear everything. Maybe too extreme-but I will not pay RYAN Air An extra dime.

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theprofessionalhobo August 19, 2013 at 7:54 am

Ha ha! I also think that guys have an easier time of stuffing pockets than girls do.
I spectacularly failed the No Baggage Challenge a couple of years ago…
http://www.theprofessionalhobo.com/2011/07/florida-with-no-baggage/

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debbie ann August 14, 2013 at 4:43 am

It sure makes us evaluate everything by weight. So far we have been able to do short trips and leave the big bags at a work place or sometimes at an airport. Went to Malaysia for 4 days and about to go to Myanmar for 11 days, luggage stays in Singapore. When we first started moving around the world we had 21 boxes shipped to India, so we have gotten rid of so much.

I only have one pair of shoes (but I’m not a hiker) and buy flip flops when I get somewhere that I need them. We have a jambox for playing music, and aeropress+grinder for making coffee, definitely more creature comforts.

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theprofessionalhobo August 14, 2013 at 7:36 am

Hi Debbie,
I love taking a proverbial peek into other people’s bags to see what they carry; and most of us choose a few luxuries that are worth the weight to us. I’m liking your aeropress+grinder for coffee…the quality of morning coffee can make or break my day!

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A.L. August 20, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Hi, Nora. This list is so helpful! I’m particularly interested in the walking shoes, but the Amazon window isn’t functioning in my usual browsers. Would you mind telling me the kind/name of the shoe or posting a direct link? I’ve been on a quest for something similar. Thanks!

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theprofessionalhobo August 21, 2013 at 9:52 am

Hi A.L. – Yes, there’s a wee glitch in the app; you need to right click and open in a new tab to display the amazon pages correctly.
Here’s a link to the shoes: http://tinyurl.com/k7xfdhx

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