The following is Mike's take on packing for a 12 month trip. For Grace's perspective and to find out what she's been carrying, check out her post here.
There is nothing more fun than getting ready for a trip around the world. The anticipation, preparation, and the epic unknown that is quickly approaching make for a thrilling combination. If you are like me, you have a wicked multi-tabbed Excel sheet in the works, with a tab that reads something like “Pack List” or “What to Pack.”
Before leaving for our trip, mostly for fun, I would Google things like ‘what to pack for a trip around the world’ and then try to put together what I considered to be the best of all worlds. After 11 months on the road I have disregarded quite a bit of it and sent a good bit else home. Below is what is left. Unless you count the surfboard and board bag I picked up last month in Australia, but we will leave that out for now.
Bags & Storage
Everyone has different opinions on what type of bags you should bring with you for long term travel. My original thought was to try and fit everything into one single bag that is as lightweight as possible. That philosophy shifted over time to two smaller bags one with all your important stuff like camera, laptop, medicine that will always be with you and weigh under 7 Kilos. The second bag will have everything else, extra shoes, clothes, etc. This way when you inevitably get to an airport and they finally force you to check a bag you don’t start stressing.
The other key is to have some type of packing cubes of different sizes for clothes, underwear, jackets, charging cables, etc. This way you can keep the bags compartmentalized and packing and unpacking becomes quick and easy.
Lastly, I brought an ultra-light dry bag to put my camera in. I also chose to pick up a lightweight Billabong dry backpack that I could use for day trips. When empty, it fit into into my Ketly backpack without a problem.
- 1 x Kelty Redwing 44 Backpack
- 1 x Dakine Day Pack
- 1 x North Face Basecamp Travel Canister (Toiletries)
- 1 x Billabong Dry Pack
- 1 x Ultralight Dry Camera Bag
- Eagle Creek Packing Cubes
Once you accept the inevitable lack of variety in your wardrobe, clothing ends up being the simplest part of a traveler's day to day. If you pack smart, it will all fit into a couple small packing cubes and leave plenty of room in your pack. With the help of a good lightweight down jacket and some clever layering you can also be comfortable in weather down to the freezing point. Although the majority of our trip was spent in warm weather which really helps cut down on the clutter.
A couple of caveats to this list: My nicest outfit was a pair of patagonia black rock pants and a short sleeve button down shirt, so no clubbing for this guy. That doesn’t include my finest pair of shoes which are dirty sneakers. Also if you are like me, expect to swap out some clothes along the way. Shirts end up faded with holes in them and shorts stop fitting after you shed a few pounds of working man's weight.
Whenever we were in a tropical beach area such as Thailand, Philippines, and Indonesia, the below felt like too much clothing. But when you are on a hike in New Zealand and its cold and starts to rain, the jackets really start to come in handy.
As far as laundry goes, we started the trip with a sink stopper and some detergent. We would wash clothes in the sink then dry outside, which worked pretty well in the dry heat of Africa. Although in Southeast Asia things take forever to dry. It was not long before I realized paying a few dollars for perfectly folded, nice smelling clothes was damn near the best way to spend money on the road. And once you start looking, you realize there is no shortage of people willing to wash your clothes on the cheap all over the world. Just make sure everything can handle high heat and an aggressive tumble.
Below is my optimal clothing set up after 11 months on the road.
- 2 x Wool T-Shirts
- 2 x Tank-Top
- 1 x Button Down Collared Short Sleeve Shirt
- 1 x Micro Fleece Pullover
- 1 x Rain Jacket / Windbreaker
- 1 x Mountain Hardwear UL Down Jacket
- 1 x Patagonia Hat
- 1 x Patagonia Rock Pants
- 1 x Lulu Lemon Kung Fu Pants
- 1 x RipCurl Boardwalk Shorts
- 1 x RipCurl Bathing Suit
- 4 x Exofficio Boxer Briefs
- 3 x Smartwool Running Socks
- 1 x Lightweight Sneaker
- 1 x Chaco Sandals
- 1 x Cheap Flip Flops
* UL - Ultralight
This is pretty straight forward. My only advice is keep it simple and get a quality bag to keep this stuff in and everything else out. There is nothing worse than toothpaste all over the inside of your backpack. The beard trimmer is extremely handy as well, quick trim every couple of weeks and you're golden. I don’t miss shaving every day.
- Beard Trimmer & Charger
- Eye Mask
- Ear Plugs
- Fingernail Clippers
- Tiger Balm
To each his own when it comes to what gadgets you are willing to lug around the world with you. One thing is for sure: if you are a photography junkie like me, your backpack is going to get a lot heavier. You need your camera, a couple of lenses, a computer to edit those photos and hard drives to store them all on. You are talking and extra 10lbs of weight right there. I debated bringing the camera gear for months before I left. My opinion now is that it is definitely worth the effort but try to go as light as possible. I decided to trade in my Canon Rebel about seven months into the trip for a much lighter mirrorless option and I have not looked back since.
I could write an entire blog post on data protection, hard drives, challenges with cloud storage abroad, in fact I probably will. For now know we kept two 1TB hard drives in two separate bags with all photos backed up at all times. I also bought another harddrive about eight months into the trip, loaded all the photos onto it, and sent it home.
The Kindle Paperwhite is underrated. Unlimited variety of books, small form factor, battery lasts for weeks and no glare even on the brightest day.
It is probably pointless to mention the benefits of an iphone or any smartphone considering the entire world is addicted to them. But I will reaffirm that it is still the most valuable device I have on the road. You can pick up a SIM card with lots of data for cheap in almost every country in the world. Which means instant access to internet for planning, booking travel and activities, vetting a restaurant on tripadvisor and so on and so on. Without coverage you can still use GPS map apps like maps.me to get directions everywhere. Not to mention it’s a source of music, audiobooks, banking, social media all with almost zero weight repercussions. Enough said.
- 1 x World Power Adapter
- Iphone 6 with Lifeproof Case
- Macbook Pro 13" with Power Brick
- Bose In-ear Headphones
- Sony A6300 Mirrorless Camera with Extra Battery
- Tamron 18-200mm Lens
- Sony 35mm F2.8 Prime Lens
- Travel Tripod
- 1 x 128gb USB Flash Drive Full of Movies
- 2 x 1TB Seagate Hard Drives
- Cable Bag for assorted charging cables
- GoPro with Red Filter, Handle, 2 extra batteries
- Amazon Kindle
- Suunto D4i Dive Watch
The only thing in the below list that we could not replace (except for in the remotest areas of the world) is the passport and maybe all the signatures in the dive log books. The UL travel towels were used almost every day so don’t forget one. No stress on the rest.
I added the Charles Schwab ATM card to the list because I can not imagine traveling without it. They refund all ATM transactions fees anywhere in the world. Which means you don’t need to carry a ton of cash with you. You also don’t need to worry about getting ripped off at money changers which are notorious for bad exchange rates and scams. There were very few places we visited this year even in Africa that didn’t have an ATM somewhere within range. And when that was the case you made sure to bring enough cash which you got at the last ATM fee free.
- 10 x Passport Photos
- UL Headlamp
- UL Towel
- Travel Lock/Cable
- Permanent Marker and Pen
- batteries (3xAAA, 3xAA)
- Paracord Rope / Clothes Line
- Dive Logbook
- Bug Spray
- Sink Stopper and Laundry Detergent
- Charles Schwab Checking Card
First Aid & Medicine
This is the stuff you hope not to need very often. The below looks like a lot but it all fits into two small pouches and I would not travel long term without them. Often times it’s the simple stuff that saves the day though. Things like Advil, tweezers, Neosporin and bandaids. You would not think it but the thermometer is really helpful in not jumping the gun on antibiotics or vice versa it gives you that last bit of confirmation that it’s time to eat some pills.
As far as medicine goes, sad to say Imodium will be your best friend when traveling in places like Southeast Asia. Also a prescription for a sleeping pill like Ambien will keep you sane when you need a time out. (This will make sense eventually.)
I can’t tell you how many times I started taking our antimalarial pills then just stopped for whatever reason. I paid extra to get Malarone which had no side effects and works almost everywhere in the world. I would spend the extra bucks to get it again if I had to.
- Antibiotics - Ciprofloxacin 500mg - Africa
- Antibiotics - Azithromycin 250mg - SE Asia
- Antimalarial - Atovaquone/Proguanil (Malarone)
- Sleeping Pill - Ambien 5mg
- Laxative - Sennosides 25mg
- Acid Reducer - Ranitidine 150mg
- Anti-Diarrea - Loperamide HCI 2mg
- Antihistamine - Diphenhydramine HCI 25mg
- Anti-Nausea/Motion Sickness - Meclizine HCI 25mg
- Electrolyte Tabs
- Yellow Fever Card
First Aid Pouch
- Bandaids (Large, Medium, Small)
- Survival Bracelet
- Medical tape
- Zip Lock Bags
- Rubber Gloves
- Eye Drops
- Wound Clot
- 3ml Water syringe
- Alcohol wipes
- Steri strips
- Bandage Scissors
Some of the stuff that I sent home, got rid of or would like to toss:
- 1 x Long Sleeve Button Down Shirt
- 1 x Beanie
- 1 x Smartwool Long Underwear
- 1 x REI Event Rain Pants
- JBL Clip Mini Speakers
- UV Water Sterilizer Pen
- Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Pack Cover
- Sewing Kit
- Premium Silk Travel Bed Liner
- Hacky Sack