How to pack for a yearlong trip is a question not easily answered. Especially if you, like me, are planning to visit different climates and need to accommodate for all sorts of different circumstances: hot, cold, dark, humid, insects – you name it!
Initially, you’d think you just pack the usual: clothes, toiletries, accessories. But when it comes down to optimizing your pack for volume and weight (after all, I’m going to have to carry all of this across the planet!) you’re asking the question: “Do I really need this?” more and more.
So this is my preliminary packlist, which I will update as I get new insights.
Hand luggage – Essentials
These are the kind of things that you never want to check in when going on a flight, and in most cases even carry with you on a daily basis.
- Passport + copy
- Vaccination record + copy
- A list with important phone numbers/data (like emergency contact, bank, embassy, travel insurance)
- Contact lenses
- Small bottle of contact lens solution (as backup)
- Sunglasses with UV protection
- Money belt
- Roll of toilet paper – Yes, this should always be in your pack. You never know if your next lavatory has paper.
Any sort of electronics (see further down) will usually also end up in hand luggage during flights, but not necessarily on a day to day basis.
A self-explanatory category, but you can safe a lot of weight and volume here by packing smart. Have items that you can wear in the heat of Fiji and that you can combine in layers to wear in the coldest of Russian winters.
- Head scarf – This only really applies to women if you’re planning on going to Muslim countries or even just if you’re planning on visiting a Muslim sight. It’s always better to carry your own than to borrow one that’s potentially been worn by a hundred people before you.
- Sun hat/baseball cap – Don’t underestimate the sun and the lack of shadows around noon near the equator
- Hat + Scarf + Gloves – If you’re planning to go somewhere cold
- Winter jacket – This will only really be necessary in Nepal I hope, so either I’m leaving it home and buy or rent one there, or I will leave it there once I’m done. I’ve managed to stuff it into my air mattress compression back, which means I can pack it surprisingly small! It could also be the solution for my sleeping bag vs liner problem (see section Tools and gear)
- Light jacket
- Rain jacket
- Rain pants – This is on my maybe list for now
- Sweater/hoodies x 2
- Long sleeve shirts x 3-4
- T-Shirts x 3-4
- Pants x 2 – I like the hiking-style pants that have zippers on the pockets
- Tights/leggins – I’m taking my workout tights which can double as workout gear and winter underwear
- Underwear/socks x 8 – I know some people take less, but this isn’t taking up that much space, so I like having a week’s worth around
- Compression socks – Hear me out, this is not just for preventing DVT when flying but also excellent for when you’re legs are hurting from walking around too much. When I visited China last, I was walking +20k steps per day and eventually just couldn’t move anymore. Enter the compression socks and my calves and feet felt like new! I don’t use orthopedic/prescription socks though, but the ones you can buy in sports stores for running. They are around 10€ and worth it.
- Bathing suit
- Rash guard – Not strictly essential but it gives you the triple whammy of extra sun protection, extra cover when swimming in a Muslim country (sometimes required) and obviously as a rash guard if you like surfing.
Shoes take up a ton of space, especially big hiking boots, which is why it landed them on my maybe list. I know many people list sandals, but I’m not a fan, I like solid cover on my feet.
- Hiking boots – These are actually on my maybe list. While I do plan to do some serious hiking, I have a feeling that my waterproof and great grip trail shoes might be good enough for this.
- Trail shoes – They are essentially a more outdoorsy sneaker. Much lighter than hiking shoes
- Sneakers – Trust me when I say there needs to be a second pair of shoes. The first pair can get wet and won’t dry properly or it gets a massive hole in it and it’s Sunday so you can’t buy new ones.
- Slippers – For any sort of indoor activity (some floors you do NOT want to walk on bare-foot) and beach.
Tools and gear
Ah, gear. I love gear. It’s one of the things I have to be careful not to pack too much of.
- Flashlight and batteries – In some countries the night can get very dark and blackouts can occur
- Day pack
- Sunscreen SPF 50+
- Insect protection
- Padlock – If you’re planning on staying in hostels
- Leatherman – I have a cheap Tchibo leatherman and it’s worth its weight in gold and then some
- Clothesline – You won’t be taking many clothes, so be prepared to hand-wash a lot
- Mosquito netting – Make sure that it’s big enough to cover a full sized bed
- Travel hair dryer – This is the only “luxury” item that I’m allowing myself, since I absolutely hate running around with wet hair, especially when it’s not super warm outside. These come in in pretty small and cheap though (definitely smaller and cheaper than my hiking boots), so I’ll allow it
- Towels, 1x large and 2x small – Okay, well, I’m also taking three towels to have one bigger one for drying off, one for my hair and one that’s more of a rag to stand on. They are all travel towels though, so they take up minimal space.
- Emergency sleeping bag – This is a glorified sheet of aluminium but it’s tiny and light and can potentially make all the difference
- Sleeping bag liner/Sleeping bag – Aaaah. This one I’m not settled on yet, although I’m tending towards the liner. I do get cold easily and I plan on doing some couchsurfing. But my sleeping bag, while already amazingly small and light for its oompf, is still almost 4kg versus maybe 1/10th of that for the liner, plus it would take up at least ¼ of the backpack. The jury is still out on this one!
- Diving log book + certs – I’ve been told that if you are PADI certified, schools can just look up your credentials online. Equally, you probably also don’t *need* to bring your log book. But neither take up much space and I’m planning to do some diving, so they’re coming along. I will be leaving my computer and other dive gear behind though, and rent instead.
This one is hard to estimate for a whole year. Chances are you’re gonna have to re-supply at some point. But at least start of with the basics.
- Hand sanitizer – For those times when there is no running water
- Band aids
- Bandages ~1-2
- Betaisodona – Or some other brand of iodine disinfectant creme
- Paracetamol – Use this against fever
- Ibuprofen – Use this against inflammations
- Imodium/Loperamide – Use against diarrhea
- Meclizine – Use against sea sickness
- Water Purification Tablets – As a “just in case” or when you go hiking in more remote areas. There is also the steripen etc, but tablets take up the least real estate if they are just meant as backup.
- Toiletries – Toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, hairbrush, contact lens solution plus whatever else you might need
Okay, so I think electronics are highly personal, depending on how much you want or feel the need to carry around. I reckon a phone is the bare minimum.
- Phone + charger
- Camera + charger
- Tablet + charger
- Laptop + charger
- USB cables
- Multiadapter – This has space to charge 3 USB devices, so I’m saving a bunch of chargers here
- Power bank – Check airline regulations, especially around China, how much is okay to carry. That being said, standard powerbanks should be okay
- Headphones – Even just the cheap tiny in-ear airlines ones – for when you need to disconnect from the world.
And that’s it!
Feels like so much stuff. All of this will have to fit in a 60+10l Deuter backpack but I’m not planning on filling it up just so that it’s full.
I’m working on a printable checkbox version of this, so stay tuned.
I hope this helped you guys. If you have questions or feel like I should add something, let me know!