Packing for long-term travel can be daunting. Your life in a bag for months, maybe a year or longer! In reality it’s not that scary and with a few tips and a bit of common sense you will travel like a pro and soon be more focused on moments not things!
Less is more: I know… you want to take everything you may possibly need. That’s totally normal but you will be shedding things after week one if you do, and cursing yourself as you limp around with a ‘monster’ on your back! Get your bag from a shop and get it properly fitted; looking after your back should be a priority, you’ll need it for all the fun stuff. Think about your size and build and get a rucksack that matches your physique. Do not get a bigger bag ‘just in case’ and promise yourself you won’t use the extra space, because you will use it. A 60 litre bag tends to be a good size but test it out – many of the shops have weighted bags so you can see how it feels on your back before you buy.
Clothes: Argghhh clothes, how are you going to squeeze a year’s worth of clothes into one teensy bag? You’re not! Aim to get a week’s worth of clothes into your bag and two weeks’ of underwear. Extra pants can be a godsend if you can’t find somewhere to wash your clothes and they take up minimal space. Ladies, sports bras are your friend – especially on long travel days, comfort is key! I’m not going to list all the clothes you should pack, but as a rule go for the practical and comfortable options – that’s not to say you can’t look good. Avoid white and light colours as they’re a nightmare to keep clean and think about being able to mix and match everything. I have to be honest I wore a lot of black but had two brightly coloured scarves and a couple of neon vest tops to add a dash of colour.
I mostly chased the sun but I had a few key places I knew I wanted to head to that were going to be cold. Yes cold weather clothes tend to be a little more bulky than your swimmers, but you can usually buy cheap clothes to suit the weather in your destination. Comment below if you want tips for a specific country or continent. If you’re in Asia you can pick up clothes so cheaply and I bet you’ll want to. Australia and New Zealand are expensive, so try and get what you need before you land there! Trainers, flip-flops and hiking boots are the only shoes I travelled with for a whole year. Yes the flip-flops and trainers had to be replaced at times but the hiking boots lasted the distance and multiple hikes, they were invaluable. If you plan to hike invest in some good quality boots before you leave and bamboo socks are fantastic for comfort and smelly feet. Carrying your boots around can be a pain but they don’t have to take up space in your bag. Tie them to the back and they are worth their weight in gold when you need them.
Tech: Most travellers tend to carry a smartphone and/or a tablet. Lots of hostels have PCs you can use though and most have wifi. Phones these days double up as great cameras and means you can save photos in the cloud on the go. As much as completely switching off is appealing, if you’re away long-term the odd whatsapp or Skype conversation keeps the important people back home happy. Tablets double up as e-readers, so to save carrying heavy books they’re ideal – many hostels have book swaps so don’t worry if you’re going the traditional way
Lifesavers: Get yourself a bungee cord! It doubles up as an amazing washing line, surfboard securer, mosquito net tie and hiking boots bag strap. They’re super-cheap and I bet you’ll find a use for it! First Aid Kit – Yup not the most exciting purchase but vital! A sleeping bag liner is such a good investment. You probably won’t need it often as hostel beds tend to be great but every now and again for a bit of home comfort, or warmth they’re a blessing. Sleeping bags are unnecessary and bulky. If you do plan to camp for some of your trip you can often hire one or buy one cheaply. Wet wipes – Handy in so many situations! Burst sunscreen bottles, long bus journeys and jungle hikes were a few key wet wipe moments for me. Torch – It’s a must and you can get tiny powerful torches or head torches that take up minimal room. World-adapter – To charge all your techy bits!
Don’t take: Hair dryers, hair straighteners etc. If you’re ‘flashpacking’ some hostels provide them and these things will be far less important than you think once you’re on the road.
Share: Obviously you can’t rely on people giving you hand-outs but travellers tend to be a friendly bunch willing to share tips and things. As you leave a country or climate think about items you can donate to fellow travellers and I’m sure they’ll do the same. If you’re travelling with people for a long time or for a few week stint, don’t double-up on shampoo and other toiletries – share the load.
When I set off I really didn’t have a clue, but within weeks I was enjoying the travel far too much to worry about what I packed, so don’t panic! If you have any helpful tips for first time, long-term travellers please share in the comments below.
Johanna from www.visionsofjohanna.org spent a year on the road, spanning five continents and 23 countries.