What to pack to travel the world? Good question. It’s different for everybody and every trip, but there is a bit of a formula. Want to see the ultimate packing list I use for my full-time travels? Below you’ll find my full packing list travel, which will totally give you some ideas for your next trip.
I first wrote about this in 2010, and since then my “hobo essentials” have changed and morphed many times over. In October 2019 I re-composed this entire list and surrounding content.
I now keep this post up to date with the latest and greatest travel bits and bobs that I hit the road with…every time! It’s the perfect template of travel bag contents so you can create your own ultimate pack list.
Check out my special Amazon Storefront with specially curated travel gear that I use all the time!
Travel Kit Contents: This is the Real Deal
This is – quite literally – exactly what I pack for my full-time and long-term travels. There are a few minor differences in colour or style (some things I own are older or newer), 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). Your own travel kit contents will vary according to your personal style and preferences; consider this your travel packing list template.
In the description next to each of the items in this post, you’ll learn why I travel with that item, tips and tricks for using it effectively, and a link so you can get more information and see where to buy it yourself.
Note that many of the links below are affiliate links; if you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a (deplorable, but noteworthy) commission. This is how I make my living, and can spend all the time I do providing posts like these to help you travel. I thank you in advance for your support!
Use this travel packing list as a guide for developing your own ultimate pack list, for vacation, a long-term trip, or lifestyle travel. The truth is, once you have a certain amount of basics, you can travel for as long as you want with it.
FELLAS: Don’t get overwhelmed by “little black dress” recommendations. Aside from clothing and some toiletries, you’ll get lots of use from this packing list.
For wardrobe choices, check out the Best Travel Clothes for Men.
Time to Pack my Bags! Here’s the Ultimate Packing List for Travel
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 and packing information. When it’s time to pack my bags, this list is exactly what I use.
Luggage and Packing Tools
EAGLE CREEK GEAR WARRIOR 26″ (REI, Amazon) – This bag is perfect for the items on this packing list. It’s 63 litres, expandable to 67 litres. I actually travel with the Eagle Creek Gear Warrior 29” at 76 litres (since discontinued), because I have a few extra personal items not on this list. Here are the features I look for in my luggage: soft-sided, rugged wheels, durable lockable zippers. This luggage has all that…and more. NOTE: It is not carry-on sized.
See also: Checked vs. Carry On Luggage, and How to Choose What You Need
ROLO PORTABLE ROLL-UP TRAVEL BAG – Although the ROLO is not a hardcore space-saver, it’s a great time-saver and organizer! All of my clothing goes into the mesh compartments, and when I arrive to each destination all I have to do is unroll it, hang it, and then I can hit the beach.
HOBOROLL – The Hoboroll has been a long-time friend and useful packing/travel companion. It organizes all my little stuff (like underwear, socks, scarves, workout gear, etc) and compresses it to fit gracefully into my luggage. And it’s ultralight so it doesn’t add weight while saving lots of space.
PACKABLE TRAVEL BACKPACK – This is one of my favourite pieces of travel kit. If you enjoy trips to the wilderness, bring along a lightweight summit pack like this one. It’s waterproof, ultralight, incredibly durable, and even has some cool anti-theft features.
PURSE, WALLET, DAYPACK – Your daypack, purse, and wallet choices boil down to personal preference and needs. At the very least, look for RFID protection in your wallet. Having a purse/daypack that is water resistant and tamper-proof also helps.
If I’m traveling anywhere where keeping up appearances is necessary (for example, attending a conference, or traveling in stylish parts of Europe), I ADORE using the Sherpani Convertible Tote Bag as my purse and laptop bag. It’s small enough to be my personal item on flights, and large enough to be a great daypack/laptop bag/purse combo. The straps allow you to carry it as a tote or a backpack.
However; if I’m traveling somewhere where personal security is an issue, this wouldn’t be my first choice of purse. I prefer to use something a bit more secure – eg: a cross-body purse/bag with slash-proof material and straps and a pick-pocket-proof design; Pacsafe makes great secure travel-friendly and stylish bags – I own a few purses and daypacks made by them and can attest to their quality.
See also: Best Anti-Theft Bags and Accessories, and Tips for Keeping Your Stuff Secure
I’m obviously skewing this list towards women (since this is exactly what I travel with), but men can translate the basic idea to fit their own needs.
2 PAIRS OF (FULL-LENGTH) PANTS – Two pairs of pants are all you’ll need, if you’re also bringing the stuff below. Fellas, unless you really want to pack dresses and leggings, you might just want to take three pairs of pants. 😉 My absolute must-haves are Anatomie’s Kate Cargo Pants and Luisa Skinny Jeans. If you have sticker shock, click here to learn why it’s actually worth it.
Use the discount code NORA20 to get $20 off your order!
(Minimum order amount is $120 to qualify. Enjoy free shipping on all domestic orders.
1 PAIR LEGGINGS – Leggings are multifunctional as pants, Pjs, yoga/workout wear, and as an underlayer for extra warmth.
1 PAIR CAPRI PANTS or SHORTS – Go with a pair of capri pants or shorts – as you like (I find capri pants to be more versatile).
“LITTLE BLACK DRESS” – Every girl needs the perfect “little black dress”! Here’s what to look for in a travel dress: lightweight and short sleeved (you can add layers for cooler climates), wrinkle-free, dark colour, classic style. I actually own two dresses, but if you want to keep your pack light, one will do.
2 TANK TOPS – Regardless of climate, tank tops are invaluable as shirts (duh), Pjs, workout wear, and underlayers. I like to have 2-3 tank tops on hand, and I replace them as needed. If you want a high-quality and super duper comfy one, check out Anatomie’s Bri.
2 TEE SHIRTS – 2-3 tee shirts are ideal (depending on how many tank tops you also have). I really like the Evolve Top by Encircled because it can be worn a few different ways, dressed up or down, and is super comfortable (and sustainably made).
1-2 LONG SLEEVED SHIRTS – Assuming you’ll be traveling through different climates, a long-sleeved shirt is a must. I like these ones (REI, Amazon) because they’re understated and multi-purpose, they layer well, and Icebreaker makes awesome long-wear quality merino wool stuff. It will take you from hiking the mountainside to relaxing at the cafe.
CARDIGAN (SUGGESTION: CHRYSALIS CARDI MULTI-FUNCTIONAL CARDIGAN/DRESS/SCARF) – I have had the Chrysalis Cardi (pictured above) for over 6 years and gotten a ton of use out of it! It’s super versatile, ridiculously comfortable, and can be worn a million ways, from scarf to dress to shawl. A great extra layer to have on hand.
LIGHTWEIGHT JACKET – To be perfectly honest, I have a couple of light-to-medium weight jackets (which is partly why I have bigger luggage than listed here). But if you want to pack light you only need one, and if I had to choose, I’d choose the Kenya Safari Jacket (by Anatomie) for its versatility, style, and comfort.
PACKABLE WATERPROOF RAIN JACKET (REI, Amazon) – You need a waterproof layer that can fold up into nothing. You can use it on its own in warm climates, and over layers in cool climates. This one packs down small, can be worn a few different ways, has a hood, and is perfect for chucking in your daypack just in case it rains.
DOWN JACKET (REI, Amazon) – My jacket is light, warm, packs into its own pocket, and is weather-resistant. I’ve worn it on cool nights in temperate climates and on mountaineering expeditions alike. I consider it essential travel gear.
UNDERWEAR – I have around 5 pairs of underwear; synthetic materials are notoriously easy to dry, so bring fewer pairs and wash more often as a rule. (I usually stock up at La Senza when I can).
BRAS – One or two bras should be enough. Look for support, a good fit, and most of all, comfort. I buy relatively high-quality bras since I wear them daily and they need to last. La Senza’s Body Kiss is a long-time favourite.
SPORTS BRA – I use my sports bra for working out, and for active expeditions such as long hikes.
PJs – If you are staying in communal dwellings or in other people’s homes, it’s prudent to have something to sleep in (and make nighttime bathroom runs in). So comfort is paramount; but also something that you can be seen in (if not downtown, then at least downstairs).
BATHING SUIT – 1-2 bathing suits will do (depending on how much you like to swim/sun); bikinis have the added benefit of doubling as emergency bras/underwear!
SCARF (FOR STYLE & WARMTH) – A warm scarf takes the edge off cool or cold days, is easily layered and accessorized, and can be used to wrap up fragile items (like external hard drives) while traveling. I like to buy scarves on the road; they’re the perfect wearable souvenir!
WARM HAT – Choose a low-profile, lightweight, easily packable hat that you can chuck on in cool climates. It also doubles as a packing-aid to pad fragile items.
Your choice of footwear can make or break your trip. They’re important for comfort, function, and style. But also, they need to be multi-functional otherwise you’ll be hauling around too much weight. Here’s what I travel with:
SANDALS – I could write an entire post about my specific choice of sandals and what makes for the best travel sandals. Wait a minute: I did! You must read this before you buy/select your next pair of sandals for travel.
TIEKS – It took me a while to get up the courage to spend almost $200 on a pair of ballet flats, but just like every other traveller who has done it, I haven’t regretted it one bit. These handmade Italian leather shoes are incredibly comfortable, last forever, and look great. I get complements on them all the time, and they serve as both excellent walking shoes and my “dress” shoes since I don’t have room for heels.
WALKING/CASUAL SHOES (OPTIONAL) – These are optional, depending on your personal style and the climate you are traveling in. (You could just get a decent pair of shoes that fit the below description for hiking and wear those everywhere). My all-purpose walking-around-town shoes are Converse. They’re comfortable, stylish, and fun.
HIKING SHOES (NOT BOOTS) – Who needs hiking boots! They take up too much room and weight and are clunky as hell.
I’m all about barefoot trail shoes, and in my experience they work 10x better than hiking boots! They’re ultralight, squishable, water-resistant, breathable, lightweight, and easy to pack.
My first pair of hiking shoes were Vivobarefoot Trail Shoes – which lasted seven years and hundreds of mountain trails. But when they wore out, I discovered there were other barefoot shoes out there at better price points.
So I got a pair of Xero Terraflex shoes, which are light, comfortable, and super-duper-grippy. If you want ankle support, Xero also makes barefoot hiking boots.
Not sure about using barefoot trail shoes in place of hiking boots? Watch this video which explains why I love them 100 times more!
CHEAP FLIP FLOPS – A cheap pair of flip-flops can serve many purposes: You can use them as indoor shoes/slippers, in dodgy showers, and even around many places in Asia where you are required to leave your shoes outside before entering temples and some businesses (and your expensive shoes will surely walk away without you). Flip-flops are light and easily packable; trust me you will find uses for them.
Your specific choice of toiletries will be very unique to your needs. You’ll see from the list below that I’m a raving fan of Lush products, since they’re natural, long-lasting, and mostly solid (which is infinitely easier for packing). One shampoo bar lasts me 6+ months. Use this list as a guide for your own selection of toiletries:
FACE WASH – Looking after your skin is more important than ever when traveling. Different climates can be incredibly harsh on your skin. This face wash is from Lush and is particularly handy for travelling as it is solid, making it easy to pack and use whilst on the road.
MOISTURIZER – Jojoba oil is a great multi-purpose moisturizer. I use it mostly for my face, and a few drops will do, so it lasts forever.
SHAMPOO BAR – The more solid toiletries you own, the less messy disasters and carry-on tribulations you’ll endure. I like Lush’s solid shampoos (and matching tins); they smell great and a little goes a long way – it lasts upwards of 6 months.
CONDITIONER – Unfortunately Lush’s solid conditioner bars don’t work well with my long curly hair. So I use whatever conditioner I can get my hands on while I’m on the road. BUT…..I always use R&B Hair Moisturizer from Lush when I get out of the shower. It smells incredible, goes a long way, and even doubles as a light styling agent.
HAIR STYLING – Yay for solid toiletries! This Queen Bee Hair Honey bar smells divine, and on days when I don’t wash my hair, I simply rub some of this on my hands and rub my hands through my hair. Styled and ready to go! (Note, best for thick curly hair).
RAZOR – Get a razor with replaceable blades; they last longer, do a better job, and pack smaller. Go with a popular name like Gillette (I actually use their men’s razor); you stand a better chance of finding replacement blades abroad.
HAIR TIES – If you have unruly hair these are a must! They can be really handy when the weather gets especially hot or humid and you want to get your hair up and out of the way.
TOOTHBRUSH – You can bring any ol’ toothbrush you like, but I personally like to use bamboo toothbrushes to get away from plastics.
TOOTHBRUSH COVER – These lightweight best-selling toothbrush covers ensure your toothbrush is kept clean wherever it’s stashed.
TOOTHPASTE (TOOTHY TABS) – I like to use Lush’s Toothy Tabs, since they’re solid, take up almost no space, and just half a tab will do so they last a while.
NATURAL FLOSS – I sometimes go years before I am in a good place to have my teeth checked/cleaned by a dentist (Chiang Mai is my preference), so I’m a sucker for good personal dental hygiene, of which dental floss is an essential part.
DEODORANT (SALT CRYSTAL) – This wee little crystal deodorant stick easily lasts 6+ months, is free of all the chemicals of a traditional deodorant, and is solid, light, and easy to pack.
EXFOLIATING WASHCLOTH – You get a great exfoliation, and a little soap (solid or liquid) goes a long way. The little tab makes it easy to hang anywhere and it dries quickly.
SOAP – You can usually collect little bars of soap along the way. I like to use natural soap when I have the chance, and Dr. Bronner’s makes some great (liquid and bar) soaps. The bars go a long way, and can be used for many things including hand-washing laundry; just get a container for it for easy transport and use.
NAIL CLIPPERS – I like the large sturdy toenail clippers, that also have a built-in file.
TWEEZERS – A good pair of tweezers is not only great for cosmetic purposes, but can be quite versatile for many unexpected uses!
MENSTRUAL CUP – These take some getting used to, but believe me it’s worth the effort. You’ll save the cost and hassle of carrying tampons/pads, there’s no waste, and you can wear them for longer times (ca-ching! Can you say long rides on buses?)
MAKEUP – My makeup kit is very small. I have an eyeshadow stick of some sort, a couple of shades of eyeliner, and mascara.
BLEMISH STICK – I get zits, and when I do, they’re usually epic. So I use Burt’s Bees herbal blemish stick to get them under some semblance of control.
I carry a small baggie with over-the-counter meds to get me through just about anything. I also take vitamins and supplements to keep my immune system in top working order – at the very least I take a probiotic and multi-vitamin when I travel. Learn more about that here: How to Stay Healthy While Traveling.
ALLERGY MEDS – I never know when I’m going to be staying with animals I’m allergic to, so I’ve usually got allergy medication on hand. A few different blister packs in a ziploc bag doesn’t take up much space or weight.
PAIN KILLERS – From menstrual pain to migraines, pain killers are life-savers in a pinch. A few different blister packs in a ziploc bag doesn’t take up much space.
ANTIBIOTIC CREAM – From nasty insect bites to cuts that just won’t heal, a good antibiotic cream can help the healing process and prevent infections.
OIL OF OREGANO – I like to have these on hand to take when I feel illness coming on; oil of oregano is a great natural immune-booster.
TURMERIC – Turmeric is one of nature’s most potent antibiotics, without killing your natural (good) gut bacteria the way prescription antibiotics do. Also good for inflammation. You needn’t use capsules either; you can mix powdered turmeric and honey, or use fresh turmeric (where available).
Your specific choice of electronics depends on what you do on the road. Digital nomads will have more sophisticated technology requirements; as will professional photographers again. Interested in getting more than one point of view? Check this out: Electronic Travel Gear – Travel Experts Reveal What’s in Their Bags. Here’s what I take:
LAPTOP – I live by my laptop, as it is the conduit to my location independent career. Thus I need something that is light, small, has a long battery life, and solid-state storage (which can take the hard knocks of travel better). For me, the winner is the MacBook Air with a souped-up ram and processor.
LAPTOP SLEEVE/CASE – Although a neoprene sleeve would do the trick, I like extra laptop protection in a case that also has pockets for chargers etc. InCase makes excellent laptop accessories; I have owned this very bag for almost 15 years, and I only replaced it (with another InCase sleeve) because I changed laptop dimensions.
SMARTPHONE – My phone is also my camera. I like to say I have the kind of camera that also makes phone calls. If you’re buying a new phone, make sure it’s unlocked so you have the greatest amount of choice for how to use it abroad. Essential reading: Cell Phone Travel Basics: International Phone Plans, SIM Cards, and More
PORTABLE EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE – A portable external hard drive is essential for computer backups, as well as storing extras like photos or movies that may not fit on your computer’s hard drive. I have this Silicon Power Rugged Shockproof model for extra durability.
KINDLE E-READER – I love my Kindle! It holds an arsenal of books (which are impractical to carry in paperback while traveling), and the Paperwhite version of the Kindle is great for reading in any environment with an adjustable internal light. And the battery life is exponentially better than the Kindle Fire and other tablets.
ALL-IN-ONE POWER STRIP/EXTENSION CORD/SURGE PROTECTOR/TRAVEL ADAPTOR/USB CHARGER – I absolutely adore this puppy, and it comes with me on every trip, no exceptions. It’s a compact extension cord (since room layouts aren’t always great for working and charging stuff), has two outlets that you can plug any type of plug into, four USB charging points, and it has surge protection. It’s literally one of my favourite pieces of travel gear and when I’m packing for travel – checked or carry-on – it always comes with me.
Almost done packing! Here are some final tidbits that will make your trip go smoothly and comfortably.
SUNGLASSES – In the first few years I cycled through multiple pairs of cheap sunglasses. Finally I invested in Polarized Ray-Bans (REI, Amazon) and I haven’t looked back. They look and feel great and polarized lenses make all the difference. And because it’s a good name I’ve had them replaced when things have gone wrong (as they do) without question around the world. Plastic frames are more durable for travel.
SUN HAT – The main characteristic you need in a sun hat is something light, preferably made of a material that will keep your head cool as well as sheltering you from the sun. Bonus points for something that squishes into your luggage and comes out looking great.
EXERCISE BANDS – I exercise almost every day on the road, made possible by my exercise bands. They’re light and easy to pack, and help me to get a total body workout with various resistance exercises.
TRAVEL YOGA MAT – Travel yoga mats come in many formats, some of which are very thin roll and fold up very small. I chose one of the thickest models, because I need some cushioning. This is one of the reasons why I choose to travel long-term with checked luggage! Staying fit on the road is that important.
PLASTIC DOCUMENT HOLDERS – There’s always a few official documents you’ll need to have with you, in addition to copies of your passport and other ID. Store them in compact plastic folders to keep them safe, organized, and protected from the elements.
RFID-PROTECTED PASSPORT WALLET (REI, Amazon) – Your choice of passport wallet is personal. At the very least, look for something that is RFID-protected, since somebody can walk by you with a scanner and steal all your personal information if your passport isn’t shielded. I like the kind of passport wallet that holds my passport, boarding pass, and extra currency. While in transit I wear it around my neck and underneath my clothing to keep it secure while still being easily accessible.
HEADLAMP (REI, Amazon) – This is an awesome piece of kit. Not only great for camping and backcountry trips, but it’s great for finding your way to the bathroom in yet another new place, providing light when there’s no power, and lighting the way when your day-hike goes long. The headlamp strap is crucial for hands free work. I personally own that is USB-rechargeable, and has a hands-free activation option.
STERIPEN ULTRA – If the water is questionable, a SteriPEN is crucial! Stop wasting plastic by buying bottled water; the SteriPEN makes any (clear) water drinkable in 60 seconds. This model is great because it fits any sized bottle top, and is USB rechargeable. But….a SteriPEN isn’t infallible. Click here to learn about all your options for drinking clean water abroad.
COLLAPSIBLE TRAVEL MUG – The latest addition to my Zero Waste Travel kit, I love this collapsible travel mug so much more than my Contigo, because it’s so ultralight and easy to carry! I have no excuse to ever order coffee in a paper cup again. IN ADDITION to my collapsible water bottle and travel mug, I also have collapsible tupperware and reusable cutlery. Click here to learn more about how I eliminate all single-use waste when I travel.
MINI SEWING KIT – You can sometimes find awesome mini-sewing kits in hotel rooms; until then, this is a good one to go with. Essential for repairing clothes along the way. And it’s the size of a credit card and pre-threaded. Can’t lose!
SMALL SCISSORS – Although these small scissors are usually called “nail scissors”, I find them to be a handy multi-purpose scissor that (almost) always clears carry-on security, just in case you’re going carry-on only.
Wanna see me pack everything, and learn more about my specific choices of gear? Watch this video:
How I Turn This Into a Carry On Packing List
This full packing list is not carry-on friendly. I check a wheeled case 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.
Learn more about why I prefer checked luggage here.
When I am able leave my big suitcase somewhere (like a home base) and travel from there for a while, then I reduce this load to carry-on size. My first two carry-on only trips were about three months each; one was while sailing the Caribbean and the other was house-sitting in Switzerland.
I remember one fateful carry-on trip when I left my base in Grenada to spend a few months house-sitting in Panama. Unfortunately life got in the way of my best-laid plans, and I never returned to Grenada and the rest of my stuff there. After that happened, I ended up traveling for two whole years with carry-on luggage only! If you want to see what I used to pack, check out The Ultimate Carry-On Packing List.
Packing for Travel With Carry-On Only
When it’s packing time for a carry-on trip, obviously I don’t take as much stuff with me as I would with a full suitcase packing list; I reduce my wardrobe to a few items that will satisfy the climate and culture of my destination, and everything is colour-coordinated so I can mix and match at will. This reduces bulk quite a bit.
I also reduce my toiletries list down to the essentials for the amount of time I’m traveling. (Because I like some specialty toiletry products, I tend to stock up a bit when I have my full suitcase).
Lastly, I usually leave behind some or all the following (depending on the trip):
- Travel Towel
- Toiletry Case (I use a mesh bag with fewer items)
- USB Hard Drive (for shorter trips)
- Checked Luggage (obviously)
- Hiking Shoes
Here are some tips for a smart and light packing guide, especially suitable for carry on travel:
Digital Nomad Packing List – Electronics
Any good digital nomad packing list is going to have a fair few electronics. (Check out this post, where a panel of professional travelers reveal what electronics they pack for their unique combo of travel and work: Electronic Travel Gear – Travel Experts Reveal What’s in Their Bags).
Remember that with every piece of electronic gear, there’s an accompanying entourage of cables and adaptors. The things I immediately need are in my laptop case, and the rest is usually contained in a nondescript light waterproof bag (dollar store stuff; nothing fancy).
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!
Down the Rabbit Hole…
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:
Travel Bag List
Luggage is one of my favourite topics, and I’ve tried just about every kind out there. Here’s a breakdown of my travel bag list:
Pro Packing Hacks – Here are the Best Travel Accessories to make your travels a breeze
Best Traveling Clothes for Men (including a solid case for merino wool)
Miscellaneous Travel Gear and Clothes
Every year, I publish an annual roundup of my new favourite pieces of travel gear. There’s just too much to list here! Have a look for yourself, and click on what interests you.