How to Pack for a Trip Around the World
Creating a packing list and knowing what to bring for a world trip are probably the biggest challenges for anyone who has never been on an extended trip before. So many things seem useful that you constantly wonder if this or that item might come in handy in a certain situation. While reading different travel blogs and getting a wide range of input on this topic might help, the down side is that every single person has some very unique recommendations which, at least on the surface appear reasonable if you are fresh to long-term travelling.
For me personally this was quite a dilemma because the more I kept looking at other peoples’ packing lists the more items I kept adding to my own. Once I considered my list complete I did a little test pack, only to realize that all the wonderful items that I deemed necessary did not even fit into my backpack. After visiting an outdoor equipment store to get lighter and more efficient gear, I actually ended up finding new and seemingly very important items that had not even found their way onto my packing list yet.
After cutting down on as many things as possible, I still had to realize that my ambitious goal of just using my 50+ liter backpack and keeping the weight under 12kg was not achievable for me. This realization lead me into using the old 80+ liter backpack which I had used on previous short trips before and which I managed to fill up to about 20kg. In retrospect, this seems absolutely crazy to me, but in reality it can take quite a while to learn how to live with less. It can also take you some time to realize what is really useful on a world trip and what is not. Once on the road, it is definitely good practice to implemented regular purges of the backpack. This makes a lot of sense especially before boarding an airplane and crossing borders into a new country.
During my trip I implemented the so-called Travel Sunday or organizational day which I used many times to evaluate and purge the content of my backpack. The very first purge of my trip happened already on day 6 when I was about to leave Puerto Rico and was trying to figure out How to Travel light with a Backpack. On this day I lost many duplicates and heavy items. Later on I got rid of things that had not been touched since the beginning of the trip and next were the unused items from the last two or even three months. This always seemed to be a strong indicator that those items would probably not be needed in the future as well. Finally, I got rid of some rarely used things that did not seem worthwhile carrying around all the time.
What to bring on a World Trip
Where you want to go is probably the most important factor when trying to figure out what to bring. If you are truly travelling around the world and through different climate zones, then you clearly have to bring clothes for colder, warmer and for hot weather, for rain, for wind and for sunshine. When you are forced to pack for extremes, it is always those clothes that you don’t need right now that annoy you the most, because you are just carrying them around with you.
Backpacking can be a whole lot easier if you know that you are just going to Southeast Asia and all you need to bring is flip-flops, shorts and t-shirts. But if you know that you are going to be in the Andes region for example, then you want to make sure to have something warm to wear. Also if you are going for a hike in Patagonia or in the Himalayas, then you clearly want to have decent shoes with you. Sometimes it is better not to bring everything and just buy things as you need them along the way. This might be ok for items like long underwear, a warm hat, or a sleeping bag, but don’t count on finding well-fitting shoes in your size everywhere you go.
I once read: “The best time to pack for a world trip is right after a world trip”. While this is certainly true, it was absolutely not helpful at all when I tried to figure out what to bring on my first world trip. But in order to help you learn from my experience, on the next page in the Packing List you will find an outline of what I took with me in the beginning and what I ended up with after two years on the road. Although this is obviously just a personal list, it might not necessarily be the best list for you, but it should at least be a good starting point.
On a personal note, whatever you do, don’t bring jeans with you. They are a pain to wash in a sink, they don’t ever dry in humid weather and they are way too heavy to carry around. I usually timed my travel in such a way that I always followed the summer around the world, meaning most of the time I was wearing shorts and just carrying my long pants with me. On the other hand, please don’t bring the fancy outdoor zip-off pants and high tech stuff like that, it just makes you look like a touristy alien, not only in the local community but also in the bar or restaurant in the evening.
My general rule of thumb is, if you wouldn’t wear it at home, don’t bring it with you. Rather bring your favorite and most comfortable stuff, because you will be wearing it all the time. But make peace with everything before you leave since it will most likely be ruined after a year of constant wash and wear. With that in mind, try to dress smart and not like a typical tourist… : )
- What I took
- My Comments
- List of categorized items
- Most overrated and most useful