Adding & Subtracting, a Packing List
I’m interrupting my parade of places to bring you this comprehensive packing post (at least from a woman’s perspective – guys, you’ll have to adjust accordingly).
Many people struggle with packing, and have asked me for a complete list of what I’ve brought on my around the world journey. I thought 6 months into my travels is a good time to post not only what I brought, but what I wished I’d brought and what it turns out I didn’t need to bring. Also, I’ll get into what was gained and what was then left behind (with a backpack you don’t have much, if any, spare room for new acquisitions unless you eliminate something to create space).
This particular list is for long-term travel on a budget, mostly following summer. It’s not for a short-term trip to a big city where you’ll be dining out every night in fancy restaurants, or on a cruise with formal dinner parties, although I think even with what I have, I could make do. This list can take you from hiking in the mountains…
…to lounging on beaches…
…to perusing museums…
…to wine tasting…
…to dining out at a fish shack or a 4-star restaurant.
First, my original Packing List:
Kindle (as much as I love “real” books, this was an obvious choice – 1000 books for the size and weight of one)
1 pair jeans (lots of packing lists say leave the jeans at home. I brought one pair, and despite how long they take to dry, am glad I did)
1 pair gray quick dry hiking pants
1 pair quick dry black pants (can be used for dress or casual or pajamas)
1 pair quick dry green capris
1 pair black tights (can wear with my dress or layer under pants for warmth)
1 pair quick dry tan shorts (7 years old, later they went out to make room for a second pair of capris)
1 black quick dry dress
1 brown quick dry skort (skirt with shorts built in)
1 quick dry white blouse (I’d have picked a different color, given a good choice – white might look nice, but not for long)
1 gray t-shirt – long sleeved, quick dry
1 black long sleeved light weight cotton shirt (alternates as a pajama top)
1 brown patterned quick dry top, long sleeved (patterns are good, they hide the dirt)
1 patterned quick dry green t-shirt
1 green quick dry short sleeved t-shirt
1 striped quick dry short sleeved shirt
2 cotton tank tops – teal & blue (later ditched the old, worn teal for a coral tank after my complimentary color consultation from my Travel Angel, Amanda)
1 striped sleeveless top, brown & black
1 black quick dry sleeveless hiking top
1 taupe cotton long-sleeved top with black tank (layers for warmth & tank can be used for pajama top in hot weather)
3 pair hiking socks
2 pair short black socks
1 pair cushy flip flops
1 pair Tom’s shoes (couldn’t find summer walking shoes before I left in late November in Michigan, so took my old Tom’s as a temp solution. They ended up lasting me 5 months and I was sorry when they bit the dust and had to go)
Gloves (light weight)
Sarong (multiple uses – skirt, dress, beach cover up, night gown, towel, blanket, tablecloth)
1 pair short pajama bottoms
2 thin decorative scarves
7 pair quick dry bikini underwear (you can totally get away with 3 pair if they’re quick dry, but my 7 rolled up only take up the room of a pair of socks or 2, and I like not having to do laundry every day, plus you tend to lose small things sometimes)
A few pair of inexpensive earrings, rings, necklaces (leave your good jewelry at home, you’re likely to lose it, and flashy stuff makes you more of a target for thieves, plus this is one thing you can purchase cheaply for a souvenir that doesn’t take up much room)
Rain jacket & rain pants
Fleece jacket & thin cardigan
Pashmina (can be used as a blanket as well as a shawl)
Packing cubes (see my post about top things to bring, these are great!)
Silk sleep sack (you might not need this often, but when you do it’s nice to have and takes up the room of 2 pair of socks)
Money belt (not the most comfortable, but important to have)
Pack towel (a bit pricey up front, but well worth it – they’re quick dry, antimicrobial, and pack up small. It’s the only thing I’ve had stolen in 6 months of travel & I bought another one)
Door stop (cheap, small, with a big security factor)
Drain plug (can’t tell you how many times I’ve used this! Don’t know why so many foreign sinks have no drain plug, and it’s the main place I do my laundry)
Converter kit (I only use the adaptor plugs, left the converter at home, as my phone and computer have their own, and many appliances like hair dryers now come with a way to switch the current)
Tiny keychain flashlight
Small packets of laundry soap (you can always buy more where you go)
Snacks (just a few for on the plane, you can always buy more wherever you go. And keep in mind many countries don’t allow fruit or nuts in, so eat them before you arrive)
Regular glasses & sunglass clips
Zip lock plastic bags, quart and gallon size (bring more than you think you’ll need, as you’ll use them all & wish you had more)
TSA approved locks for back pack and day pack
Travel document pouch with passport, drivers license, credit cards, debit cards, plane ticket (always bring at least 2 credit cards – I learned this the hard way on another trip – if one is compromised you’ll have another one for back up)
Small amount of cash in US dollars (bring some 1’s, and make sure they’re new, not creased or torn – it really is true that some places will only take new bills!)
Immunization certificate (I haven’t had to show it to anyone, but I have it if I do)
10 extra passport pictures (for visas – you can get them abroad but it’s a hassle)
iPhone (I use this for my camera, but otherwise add camera to your list)
iPod for music
Lightweight 11″Macbook Air Laptop
Cords and plugs for computer, phone, spare battery, Kindle
Spare battery charger (I use this almost every day!!)
Earbuds for Ipod
Backpack (up to you if you want a roller bag or backpack, personal preference, both have advantages and disadvantages)
Small zip-off daypack
Pocket-sized plastic poncho
Length of nylon rope (can be used for a clothesline, among other things)
Spork (small plastic spoon/fork/knife all in one)
RX ‘s (bring what you think you’ll need, as you may not be able to get the same thing abroad, however I was able to get my migraine rx for a fraction of the cost in both New Zealand and Thailand – $5 vs the $40 a pill I have to pay in the States!)
Antibiotic – general rx for potential intestinal problems
Epipen for allergy
Bonine for motion sickness
HBA’s – bring small quantities of your favorites if you want, just keep in mind the airline rules about small quantities in a clear plastic quart bag. Some airlines don’t check at all, and others will take away your face cream tube if it’s too big, even if there’s only a tiny bit left. You can always pick up shampoo, toothpaste, etc. where you’re going, just not always your favorite name brand, but you might find something you like even better!
Shampoo & cream rinse
Toothbrush & toothpaste & floss
Razor & extra blades
Mascara, liner & remover
Eye & face cream
Tweezers (make sure you put tweezers, nail clippers and nail files in checked bags, some airports really will take them!)
Contacts & solution (bring extra contacts)
Hair dryer/flatiron (you can really leave these at home)
Art supplies (something most of you probably won’t need):
Travel watercolor kit
Pencils & sharpener
Pens – drawing & calligraphy
Small watercolor paintings as gifts for some of my longer-term hosts
Copies of documents & rx’s (passport, drivers license, credit cards, etc. -put this somewhere separate from your actual passport and cards, and also take a photo of everything and email it to yourself, as well as to a trusted friend or 2, then if your bag is lost or stolen, you have access to all of your records. If you’re out of the country, it may be easier to ask a friend to make some calls on your behalf)
Things you can get ahead, but I planned to get at my first destination:
Good walking shoes
Hat (more fun to buy on the road, unless you already have a favorite – make sure it’s crush proof, as no matter how careful you are, somebody will sit on it or put their bag on top of it)
Bug spray (too many liquids are hard to carry. Almost any place you travel that you need these, they will be readily available)
That’s the list! Modify to suit your needs. This is pretty much all I’ve needed in 6 months. You can figure that whatever you need for a week, should just about cover you for a year, with a few exceptions. I did end up buying a base layer in Australia, as I’d planned to hike in the glaciers in New Zealand and had already been caught in rain and hail hiking in summer in Tasmania. These I don’t need often, but when I do I’m glad I have them, and have used them for pajamas in chilly places as well. I also bought a wool beanie cap, and have worn that to bed, and used it out on the fjords in New Zealand. The gloves I left in a hostel for someone else in the give-away bin. I might need some down the road, but something had to go as I couldn’t zip my bag!
What have I brought that I haven’t used? I’m happy to say I’ve used almost everything I brought, except for things I’m glad I didn’t have to use, like motion sickness pills, and my Epipen (thankfully, no allergy-inducing mushrooms have crossed my lips!), and my emergency whistle. I’ve used only one bandaid when I cut my finger on a metal door hinge, and did have to use benedryl for a couple of colds I picked up in a hostel and on the Tokyo trains (they wear those face masks for a reason). I’ve used my hair dryer only twice, even though I have long hair now, but if I’d been traveling in cold weather places instead of mostly following summer, I might have used it more. I brought a mini hair straightener and only used it once, so that was a waste of space. On the road, you need very little make-up, jewelry, or fancy clothes, unless you’re doing a very different kind of traveling. Really, it’s a nice break to not worry all the time what your hair looks like!
What did I wish I’d brought? More zip-lock baggies! This may seem funny, but you use them way more than you’d think, and even though you can purchase them most anywhere, I don’t really need a box of 50. Other than that, pretty much anything you need you can find most places – toothpaste and shampoo, clothes, tissues, you name it, other countries have it too. I highly recommend quick-dry clothes, which you can’t always find in all countries, or in some, they’re very expensive, unless you want to be waiting for days for your heavy clothes to dry on the line. Most of the countries I’ve visited don’t use clothes dryers, which are so prevalent in the US. They use good old-fashioned clothes lines and pins. Which reminds me, throw a few clothes pins in as well!
With all of that, try to leave a little empty space in your bag for acquisitions, as you’re bound to see something you like, and it would be nice to have room to carry it. The hardest part of my trip in 6 months is that moment each time I move (which is frequent) when I try to zip my backpack closed, because as light as I’ve packed, I still have too much stuff. And if you’re traveling to Southeast Asia, you can go with just what you have on and an empty backpack and buy a complete wardrobe for about the price of one quick-dry name brand outfit back home.
Just remember, those elephant pants that look so cool out on the street in Thailand might look a little out of place back in the mid-west, but if you’re a bit of a bohemian, who cares?
What have I acquired? Very little. A pair of loose cotton “elephant” pants and top in Thailand for my meditation retreat. Some clothes were loaned or given to me, and some clothes I gave away. I did buy a bikini in Australia – they have great bathing suits there! And women in their 80’s don’t hesitate to flaunt their stuff in 2 piece bathing suits, so I got over my I’m-too-old-for-a-bikini mindset.
I replaced my years-old cardigan, and I’ve bought a few gifts for people who have provided me with accommodations or made the effort to come meet me, however with my minimal budget and lack of backpack space, plus no home of my own to ship things to, I haven’t bought much. It’s hard when you see so many cool things in other countries that you know you can’t get at home, and I’ve thought more than once I might like to be an importer and shop for a living 🙂
But I’m not traveling to acquire things, I’m traveling to experience things! My photos and my memories are my souvenirs…
…and my new friends from all over the world are what really make this lifestyle worth living. (I would love to post pictures of all of them, but that would take up pages and pages!!)
Right now, my job seems to be the role of good will ambassador, showing people from other countries that we Americans aren’t all bad, and inspiring you to follow your own dreams!
But back to packing – remember whatever you do take along or pick up, you have to lug around, so think seriously about if it’s worth it…
Just think, the monks only have one outfit, and they seem pretty happy and enlightened…
That’s about it, although I may have forgotten a few things here or there. Even in a backpack, it’s hard to keep track of everything all of the time.
Also, remember when you pack your bag full and head off from a winter location, wearing your jeans and long-sleeved shirt and fleece jacket and hiking boots, and head to a summer place where the temperature is 99F, you aren’t going to want to keep wearing all of that heavy gear. So then where do you put it? In a kangaroo bag! And now you have 3 bags to tote around. Pack light, pack light, pack light. And bring twice as much money. That old adage, for better or worse, is true.
This kind of travel isn’t about making a fashion statement, although it’s nice to look presentable. It’s about being comfortable, warm and dry (except maybe when snorkeling or diving), and having a great time exploring our beautiful world!
Feel free to message me if you have any questions I haven’t addressed, and happy travels!!