Aaron and I love to travel (clearly). With so many trips to places near and far, we’re no strangers to packing bags. However, packing for a one- or two-week vacation is vastly different than preparing for a year or more overseas. We can no longer think in terms of packing enough to get us through every day of the trip; we have to focus instead on what we really need and what we’re willing to carry on our backs for fourteen months.
We’re three months from departure, and we’ve finally gotten these details mostly figured out. Read on to see what you should include for a long-term trip.
Areas to consider
There are five main categories to what we need to pack: clothing, toiletries, camera gear, living essentials, and travel essentials. Our camera gear is probably the only thing that won’t be much different from a shorter trip (with maybe a few minor cutbacks), but there are certainly variances on the others.
Just behind camera gear, we thought about clothing. Instead of packing 10 unique outfits and doing a massive load of laundry upon our return, our mindset has shifted to the minimum articles of clothing absolutely necessary to get us to the next sink for hand-washing. We also want each item to be durable and useful in multiple situations – mix and match are great! And bonus if they don’t stink between washings, because who knows if we’ll need to wear them more than once before we can do laundry?
Therefore, our go-to is merino wool. It’s anti-microbial, so it doesn’t stink, it washes easily, and it’s super quick to dry.
When selecting clothing, we want it to be:
The key to clothing is layers. Have lightweight layers for the warmer days, with warmer layers available for the colder ones. Mix and match as necessary.
- 2 lightweight wool t-shirts
- 2 mid-weight, long-sleeve shirts
- 1 thick, long-sleeve shirt (a warm layer)
- 2 wool sweaters/vests (mix and match possibilities)
- 1 pair ultralight convertible pants
- 1 pair sweatpants (can double as PJs!)
- Lightweight, buckle-less belt
- Compact down jacket
- Waterproof shell (outer layer)
- Pair durable, multi-purpose shoes
- Beanie cap (with a built-in headlamp!)
- Pair lightweight gloves
For the Ladies (or those otherwise in need)
- 1 sarong/wrap-around skirt (can also be used as a summer dress in warmer climates or as a headscarf in muslim countries)
- 1 thin-profile sports bra
- 3 pairs period-proof undies (waste-free!)
- Pair casual sandals/Tevas
- Pair compact slippers (for cold toes and in-the-house wandering)
- 1 compact swimsuit
- 1 pair base layer leggings (long johns) (for extra warmth)
- 1 pair rain pants (for rainy climates; can double as slacks)
- Floppy/collapsible sun hat
- Mosquito net (for buggy/tropical countries)
- 1 pair sunglasses (indestructible!)
We can’t just fill a few travel-size bottles with soap and shampoo and be set. And since we’ll be on the road, we don’t want to lug around giant bottles that we buy after we arrive. We also have to consider frequent flights and going through airport security. And we care about sustainable and eco-friendly travel. Therefore, we’re focusing on solid toiletries and waste-free bars.
- Solid shampoo bars (we can share)
- Solid bar soap (we can share)
- Breathable, waterproof soap pouches for our bars (we can share)
- 1 jar toothpaste tabs (refillable!)
- 1 jar mouthwash tabs (also refillable)
- Refillable floss (we can share)
- Compostable deodorant
- Razor + spare blades
- Nail clippers
- 2 handkerchiefs (no need for tissues!)
- Large roll-up toiletry bag (we can share)
- Small first-aid kit
For the Ladies
- 2 menstrual cups (one small for lighter days and one large for heavier; zero waste!)
For the Gentlemen
This really won’t be too different from ordinary vacations, except perhaps for the fact that we won’t want to bring large tripods or 5 prime lenses. We’re striving to keep only the items that are multi-purpose so we can carry as little as possible. Understandably, camera gear will likely make up the most of our weight, so we have to be careful.
Aaron and I are a videographer and photographer, respectively, so we have different needs. Theoretically, we could share lenses, as we both shoot Canon. However, Aaron is taking a leap of faith and is planning to bring only his phone for all his video work. He has one of the newer models, and he has invested in some rather nice lenses to affix to the phone, so he could get away with this ultralight setup. Paired with his GoPro and his drone, he should be able to get a wide variety of shots.
As for me, I’m very particular about my photos, and I insist on having everything I need. I actually wrote a full post, diving into the details of which lenses I’ve chosen, the cameras I’ll be using, etc., over on my photography blog. Check it out here!
- Mirrorless full-frame camera
- Mirrorless crop-sensor backup camera
- Wide-angle lens
- Mid-range zoom all-purpose lens
- Telephoto lens
- Fast prime lens (for low light)
- Hard drive
- Spare batteries and SD cards
For the first time, we have to be able to actually live abroad. We’ll do laundry and cook, work and sleep. We won’t always have sheets on our beds (or even beds for that matter) or be able to rely on having towels. For the first time, we’ll actually want to plan on downtime entertainment. We won’t be staying in hotels, so we’ll have to consider the implications of sharing a room with other people.
- Sleeping bag liner (serves as portable sheets and an extra warm layer where needed)
- Lightweight clothesline (for drying clothes anywhere)
- Sink plug (for washing clothes, etc.)
- Lightweight microfiber bath towel
- Inflatable pillow (for planes and hostels)
- Pair of reusable earplugs
- Blackout eye mask
- Universal power adaptor
- Computer + accessories
There are some new travel accessories that we’ll need – passports and immunization records and visas and proof of marriage. We need to consider security for our stuff and storage for our media.
- 5 travel locks of various sizes
- Money belt
- Fake/decoy wallet
- 2 copies of our passports
- 1 copy of our marriage license (needed in some countries)
- 2 travel rewards credit cards
- Motion sickness wristbands
- 1 microfiber hand towel (for public bathrooms, etc.)
- Collapsable water bottle
- GPS (for when we don’t have cell coverage)
- Important local phone numbers (embassy, 911-equivalent, etc., printed)
- Emergency contacts
- Small notebook and writing utensil
And then, of course, we need a way to pack it all! We wanted to keep all our stuff to carry-on – crazy, right? – so we have travel backpacks that fit in the overhead bin. We also need to consider daypacks and security for our gear while out and about.
- 46L travel backpack
- Reinforced daypack (slash- and tamper-resistant)
- Packing cubes – a must!
- Camera bag insert (to protect the gear and turn any pack into a camera bag – without looking like one)
- Ziplock bags (multi-use and helpful with organization!)
We will no doubt make some minor changes to our pack list. I’m sure it’s already too much, and we might end up shipping some things home. But this is a solid start! We just have to remember that we can buy things as we need them (we will stop into civilization from time to time), and things we consider essential now might be rendered unimportant with enough weeks on the road.
Either way, we’ll be ready!
What do you absolutely have to have while traveling?
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