Traveling around the world for a year is a different beast than a one-week or short-term vacation; in essence there are a lot of similarities, but long-term travelers often need a few alternative things in their packs. When I left on my year-long trip I had a lot of anxiety about what to bring. This post shares not only my one-year packing list and the updates I added along the way, but also my current packing list and things I have added since then.
Picking the Right Backpack Combination
The red backpack is my main pack and it’s a 52L Eagle Creek Meridian. Eagle Creek doesn’t make that pack anymore, but this one is nearly identical to mine (though this one comes with a daypack). At the time I feared I may need something bigger, but this backpack was free (from my bestie in LA)–free won out–and now that my RTW is over, 52 L was an awesome size (this is still the bag I used nearly five years later, and I will go smaller if I ever need a new one as this 52L was big enough to carry clothes for two. On my travels through SEA with my niece, we shared this backpack and each carried a daypack).
The blue bag (Northface Surge) held my laptop and acted as a a daypack when out exploring. I used Eagle Creek packing cube system to organize everything in my bag. This was my system for six years. Eventually, in 2014 I changed to a rolling suitcase from Timbuk2. I travel more slowly, so it doesn’t make sense to have a packing system that I used on a RTW trip. But, even to this day I swear by the packing cubes. When I left my pack was packed to its seams, but much of my stuff did not make it beyond Australia.
I have an in-depth guide on how to pick a backpack. The size and fit of a pack is so important — it’s imperative that you take the time to pick a good one that will serve your trip well. And if you are convinced that I overpacked (I did that first year!), then this Guide to Carry On Travel might be up your alley. Erin has great advice and it’s a good jumpstart on your research.
General Travel Packing List
This packing list summarizes my 8+ years of travel experience with a look at what you need to pack for long-term travel.
My RTW Packing List
Because I believe in the preservation of information, this is the packing list I took on my year-long trip. I also maintained the dispatches from the road which cover exactly what I had to replace, send home, etc. This list is what I published in November 2008 when I left on my trip. The packing list above is a curated packing list that includes things I’ve learned over the years. :)
1 pair of lightweight Columbia pants
1 pair of jeans
1 pair of sleep/athletic shorts
1 slip dress
3 tank-tops (1 dressy tank)
1 sun shirt/rashguard for outdoor activity
1 long-sleeved thermal
1 long-sleeved cotton shirt
1 hoodie / pullover
1 zip-up hoody
4 pairs of socks (love my two SmartWool socks; plus 2 cotton)
8 pairs of underwear
2 bras 1 sports bra
2 pairs of leggings
2 pairs of capris
1 pair of Chacos sports sandals
1 pair of New Balance hiking boots ( I deeply love these as hiking shoes)
1 pair of flip flops (for shower shoes in nasty hostels)
PacSafe Mesh net
Microfiber travel towel
Silk-blend sleep sheet
Deet insect repellent
1 extra copy of my passport
1 mini sewing kit
1 carabiner clip
1 headlamp flashlight
1 mini set of eating utensils
1 pocket knife
1 travel adapter set
1 travel medical kit: Advil/Tylenol/Aleve, (Antibiotic), (Malaria medicine), Band-aids gauze triple antibiotic ointment, cough/zinc drops
Random bits: bobby pins, safety pins, sharpie, pen, duct tape (wrapped around a pencil), small scissors, etc.
Refillable travel size containers of: shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen for face, face wash, travel size toothpaste, floss, deodorant
Contacts (12 month supply)
Contact solution and 1 case Eye Glasses
1 small bottle of foundation
1 compact eyeshadow duo
These are things I carried in my daypack!
My Laptop: (I had a Dell but now use a Lenovo ThinkPad )
Western Digital hard drive (1 TB is a mere $100 so it’s worth bringing one to back up photos!).
MP3 Player (now I travel with an unlocked iPhone)
Camera: Canon PowerShot SD800 (I now travel with a Panasonic Lumix GX7)
Headphones for Skyping/music
Kindle (as of 2012 I carry one of these now)
Book: Started with “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen
Neoprene laptop cover (it’s my computer’s rain coat!)
Deck of cards
My money belt (around my waist version; I only used mostly for trains in India and Eastern Europe)
Dispatches From the Road
01/07/09: RTW Update from Australia
- My beloved headlamp that was so helpful at the hostels here was lost/stolen on my outback safari to Uluru. Plan to replace as soon as possible.
- My hat was left on a bus along with my nalgene water bottle.
02/02/09: Update from Cambodia
- Shipped home a package of souvenirs by sea — hope it gets there!
- My jean skirt is now unnecessary, shipped that home too.
- One pair of capris was stained beyond wear (trust me) so left those behind in Phnom Penh.
- Bought a pair of farmer-style pants in Laos.
- Contact solution has been incredibly hard to find. Wearing glasses for now
02/25/09: Update from India
- Helen brought me a new headlamp to replace the flashlight I have been stuck using.
- She also brought a new nalgene water bottle and a SteriPen — amazing, truly.
- Bought an Indian kurta and haven’t regretted it for a moment. GREAT for trains and blending in as much as possible.
- Picked up a new scarf. Lighter than the warm one that came in handy in Oz and Laos – much better for India.
- Left my purple shirt behind in Jaipur, it was nubby as hell!
04/25/09: Update from Nepal
- Did some major shopping here! Shipped home a package of souvenirs.
- Bought a knock-off North Face rain jacket for the Poon Hill trek — works like a champ.
- Bought a safari-style hat for the trek and beyond.
- Replaced sleep-sheet, mine was too short!! And it was uber cheap.
- New silk “hammer” pants. Great to sleep in, pack up tiny.
05/20/09: RTW Update from Italy
- Sent another package home with souvenirs from Nepal; though super touristy Thamel has incredible bargains and neat items if you dig around.
- Threw another worn out shirt away and replaced with a couple new ones from H&M. New sundress too, gave other away, it didn’t fit right anymore.
- Chacos smell disgusting and not responding to cleaning, but they still work fabulously besides the stinky-feet syndrome.
06/25/09: Update from Slovenia
- Just bought a Western Digital external hard drive to backup photos and my computer is falling apart and sadly destined to die soon.