Trying to decide what to bring abroad and how to pack for traveling long-term can be difficult. There may be times breaking down and hoping your stuff magically packs itself is the best option. Unfortunately, there is no packing Merlin to save you. Don’t worry, check out these lists and hopefully you’ll breathe easier.
While on the road, I’ve met several different types of travelers. There are some with nothing more than a 35L backpack and fanny pack for an entire year. There are others with a giant 120L wheeled hardshell, day pack, and fanny pack. Depending on your level of luxury, I will break down 3 lists: Ultralight Dirtbag, Moderately Modest, and the Luxurious Heavyweight.
The Ultimate Packing List does not include specific products and I am not an affiliate partner with any brands or stores. These are simple lists so you choose what products and brands work for you.
Ultralight DirtbagYou don’t mind wearing your underwear 4 different ways. If your shirts get a little tattered, that’s ok. You are also ok with finding items you may need along your travels as well as letting go of items easily. You do not become attached to things and possessions. If you need a book, you find one on the free rack in your hostel and leave it when you’re done. You are primarily traveling to warm to moderate climates thus don’t need much warm layers. You’re the kind of person who doesn’t care what others think based on what you wear (or smell like). You want your entire pack to be a carry on and skip checking a bag at all costs. You’re gambling with the idea that you’ll find some of your necessities along the way or the accommodation will have them such as a towel.
Moderately ModestYou like to travel relatively light but you have your limits. You like having a little bit of versatility in your wardrobe but are ok with mismatching if it comes down to wearing clean clothes. You like rugged adventure but you also enjoy sitting out on a terrace people watching in a city or town. You have small attachments to possessions but if something were to happen to them, you can detach if need be. You like having entertainment such as books and movies but don’t need to bring a paperback or an entire computer when a simple tablet or eReader will suffice. You’re also traveling primarily in warm to moderate climates but are smart with your clothing options thus is easy to buy cheap layers if you do decide to go to cold climates. You take care of personal hygiene but don’t need to be extreme and shower every day. You’re ok with checking a bag and having a carry on day pack.
Luxurious/Adventurous HeavyweightYou like your creature comforts or you are the rugged adventurer. You may enjoy looking fabulous and have a wardrobe to prove it. Or, you know you’re going to cold climates and more rigorous types of adventure thus need to carry more items. You’re smart with making your clothing versatile on style and use. You like don’t mind lugging around a heavier pack because you know you’re just going from one accommodation to the next. You enjoy staying in contact with friends and family back home and prefer using a computer. You also have your eReader because who wants to read a book on a computer? Or, you’re a digital nomad and need access to a computer at all times. You like your things and would prefer to hold on to them. If you are heading to more adventurous terrain, you prefer to use hiking boots opposed to cross-trainer shoes. When it comes to flying, you just barely make the 20-23kg checked bag requirement.
The Add-onsThere are some items that you may want to consider but are not essential. Traveling long-term is a rare opportunity so items like a journal and camera might be considered essential for this trip, but you can survive without them. Here is a list of some other items to consider.
Final Thoughts and NotesYou can mix and match or add items I didn’t even list. What it comes down to is “Do I need this or do I want this… when I am abroad?”. Other questions to ask yourself are, “Can I find this abroad?” and “am I willing to lug this around everywhere I go?”. You’ll out quickly if you overpacked after the first month abroad. Luckily, it’s easy to ship home or, better yet, give to someone in need. By the time you return from your trip, you’ll realize how unnecessary certain items you believed to be necessary truly are. You’ll also discover how much you can get by with and that you really don’t need much. It is liberating to downsize and its not only good for you but also the rest of the world.
Have a favorite item missing from this list? Maybe a list you like instead? Shoot us an email!