Packing for a long-term trip is definitely different than packing for a weeks vacation. Sure, there are a lot of similarities, but traveling around the world requires a very different packing list with things in your backpack you normally won’t need on a vacation. It also requires more thinking and being pickier about what to pack. The key is to travel light but still making sure you have all the essentials you need. However, sometimes that’s easier said than done!
As you can see, we also don’t always know how to pack light 😉
Our packing skills were pretty disastrous when we first started traveling. When I went on my first internship in Curacao, I brought way too much and our first world trip together wasn’t any different. We were seriously anxious about how everything was going to fit in our backpacks! In the end, it did fit, but don’t ask us how… leaking shampoos, squeezed stuff, a hotel room that exploded with our stuff after we only needed one thing and hours of packing and unpacking. We didn’t want to do that again! Packing for our second world trip went already much easier, and after so many years of full-time travel, you can say that we are experts in packing and know what to pack and especially, what not to pack!
Therefore, we created this ultimate packing list for long term travel to show you everything we packed for our second world trip and to help you save time, stress and other packing disasters when you’re packing your whole life in just one bag for your next long-term trip. Don’t make the same mistakes as us, and use this packing list!
We even included a FREE printable PDF version of the packing list at the bottom of this blog, so you can use the list while you’re packing and immediately thick off what you’ve already packed!
At the start of our second world trip
Things to consider
Of course, there is not a ready-to-go packing list for everyone. What you exactly need to take, depends on a lot of things. A trekking to the Himalaya, for example, is way different than chilling on the beaches of Thailand and both require very different stuff.
You might consider the following things when packing your bags:
- In what climates are you traveling?
- How long are you going away?
- Will you go to fancy places or just stay casual?
- Think of the cultural aspects in some countries – take the proper clothes.
- Are you into outdoor activities – for example, are you going to walk a lot?
- Are you going to work during your trip?
Why a backpack?
Why should you choose a backpack instead of a suitcase? Because it is way easier to get around with. Hopping on and the boats while exploring tropical islands or when you have to walk unpaved roads to your hostel/hotel etc. It is often easier having all your stuff on your back than in a suitcase. Ok, if you are only going for city trips then it doesn’t really matter, but when you are going to travel long term, you will be in many situations where a backpack is way easier.
It is important to choose the right size. If it is too big it will be less comfortable on your back. If it is too small you won’t be able to fit everything in there. Of course, you must be able to carry it too! If you are visiting only warm countries you could probably fit everything in a 50L to 60L backpack, and it won’t be too heavy. If you are visiting some colder countries too, you better choose for a 60L to 80L backpack. If you pack it right, you will be able to fit around 20kg in there.
There are many brands, and our advice is to invest in a good backpack! It will last for a long time, and it will be way more comfortable. Brands like Osprey, Lowe Alpine and Deuter are always a safe choice. A good price range is between €150 to €200 or $175 to $235 USD.
Next to your backpack, you will definitely need a flight bag too! It’s a lightweight bag for your backpack during flights. You will need to make sure that there are no loose straps hanging around when checking in for your flights. One option is wrapping it, but a flight bag is way better in our opinion. It protects your backpack and will keep it clean too. It is also easy to lock since it will only have one zip instead of all the zips and openings in the backpack itself.
Another useful add-on is a rain cover. Most good backpacks have a built-in one underneath. Nobody likes rain, but you better be prepared 😉
- Daypack for hikes and valuables 20-30L
- For the photographers: daypack specially designed for camera gear 20-30L
- Another amazing photography daypack from Bagsmart – especially for all your camera gear!
Besides your backpack, you will need a daypack. You can take it as your carry-on luggage in the plane with all your valuables and thing you don’t like to get thrown around with. And of course, when you are at your destination, it is way easier to walk around with a small daypack than a big backpack. Between 20L and 30L will be a good size. You also have some with ventilated backs which is really nice when walking in warmer weather.
If you have a big camera and lots of camera gear, then we definitely recommend the backpacks from Lowepro and Bagsmart where you have a separate compartment for your camera and the rest of the backpack for more gear and your valuables.
- Copies of your passport
- Drivers license
- Bank cards
- Copy of travel insurance policy
Tip: Make scans of all your important papers like your passport, drivers license, and bank cards and keep a copy online (for example in your e-mail), so you always have the copies in case of losing them.
Ok, the hardest part. You simply can’t take all your favourite clothes, so how do you choose just a few. Well, that is pretty hard haha, but try to choose mainly lightweight clothes and mostly darker color. Truth is that white clothes get dirty quickly while traveling, so only take a few of those and don’t wear them too often.
We always take one comfy pants with us, for in the airplane or just when chilling after a long day. Also, we think a sweater is a must, even if you’re only traveling to warmer destinations. It can still get chilly during the night or when you’re going to climb that mountain.
If you’re travelling to colder climates, then the merino wool thermal shirt is ideal! During winter in New Zealand, we wore thermal shirts often and it kept us nice and warm.
Of course, you need flip flops when you’re traveling! As you know, we always walk on them and literally do everything in it. We really love Havaianas!
For the really tough hikes, where flip flops are impossible, we use simple sneakers (vans are a favourite of Manon!) or our walking shoes. Decide on whether you need walking shoes or not. If you’re going to walk a lot then we really recommend it!
Before we left for our second world trip, Manon bought a buff and she loves it! This thing can be used in many different ways: as a shawl, dust mask, sweat band, eye cover and as head decoration.
Another thing that’s multifunctional is the sarong. You can use it as a towel, skirt or blanket.
Tip: don’t take too many toiletries with you! You can never pack enough for your whole trip, so just buy it along the way. It might not always be the brand you love but that’s part of the flexibility needed while traveling.
We love all these travel items! They come in very handy while traveling, and we used every single item. In our opinion, every backpacker needs a money belt. It’s much safer for your passport and money and we even have one with a steel wire, so they can’t cut the money belt.
The travel locks are just for safety, to lock our backpacks.
Since we travel with a backpack, we always use vacuum bags for our clothes. It’s so easy to keep your backpack organised and it saves room too.
And for those dirty clothes, you definitely want to have a laundry bag! It’s not nice to have your smelly clothes all spread out through your bag.
We also really love our dry bag, to keep our camera and other valuables safe when we’re going on a boat trip, diving or kayaking. It has saved us a few times already!
Another thing we absolutely love is the head torch. We think that a normal torch is so clumsy because you can never have your hands free. A head torch is much easier! Oh, and a multi tool always comes in handy as well 😉
On our second world trip, we ditched the lightweight towels though because they didn’t really dry our body well, and instead started to use a small size Hamam towel. This one dries much better and it’s lightweight as well. We also use a bigger one as a beach towel!
The Scrubba washing bag is the handiest portable washing ‘machine’. It’s definitely the best solution in case you need to hand wash some clothes.
And then another one of our favourites: the sleeping bag liner. In our own van we never use it of course but whenever we’re sleeping in some dirty backpackers or hut, we always use them! It’s just nice to have your own sort of ‘blanket’ with you and keeps you clean.
Also, as divers and water lovers, we can’t live without our snorkel sets! We made the mistake on our first world trip to not take our sets with us but on the first tropical island we immediately bought new ones 😛 So while it takes some space in your backpack, we always travel with it!
- Camera: You can’t go on a trip without a camera! You will make so many memories, which you simply can’t remember all unless you take photos! For some, a phone will be enough, but I can’t imagine going without a camera. We currently use the Nikon D750.
- Tripod: If you’re into photography, this is going to be your best friend! It really helps if you want to use the long shutter, but also when you want a photo of yourself and there is nobody around or nobody that can make decent photos.
- Phone: Of course you need your phone. For keeping in touch with your family and friends, to make arrangements during travelling and in case of emergencies. Make sure it is sim-lock-free so you can buy a sim-card at your destination. It saves a lot in costs!
- Laptop: You definitely need a laptop when you’re traveling full-time! A lot of people say you could also do it with a tablet or even only a phone, but trust us: you really need this. Where else are you going to store all those GB’s of photos and videos?! Of course, you can only take a hard drive and go to an internet cafe, but these are becoming less and less. Especially if you want to start working online you can’t live without a laptop. When deciding on what laptop to pack, it’s important to take a light and thin one. That’s why we definitely recommend the Macbook Pro. A powerful laptop but ideal to take traveling. Yes, it is a bit more expensive than a Windows laptop, but in our experiences, a Macbook lasts waaaay longer. Ours is 4,5 years old but still going strong!
- Universal adapter: Check out what kind of power plugs they use at your destinations. You can choose between a universal adapter or a single adapter for each destination.
- External hard drive: If you take as many photos as us, you will need a few. But even if you don’t, use one as a backup! You will regret it when something happens and you don’t have one! We shoot in RAW which takes a lot of storage but nowadays there are even 5TB external hard drives without the need of their own power source, just on USB.
- Power bank: This comes in really handy and can save you when your battery just died when you didn’t want to! Especially when camping or trekking where there is no electricity it is great to have your own power source with you. We recommend you buy one with lots of MaH, so you can charge your phone or camera a few times. Ours can charge an iPhone up to 8 times!
- GoPro: The ideal camera for outdoors and adventures! Because it is small and water- and shock resistant you can take it with you while diving and snorkelling or other activities.
- Headphones: To listen to your favourite tunes.
- Tablet: This is a nice extra, to watch movies and play games while travelling. Or you can use your tablet for reading ebooks. You can do all this on the laptop too but a tablet is smaller and sometimes easier, especially on the airplane or bus. We currently have an iPad Mini.
- Bluetooth Speaker: a great addition to listen to music with your new-made friends!
- Power strip: With all these electronics a power strip comes in handy, so you only have to bring one universal adapter 😉
Health / Medical
As for books, we still take real, paper books with us. Yes, this might be stupid and take a lot of space but Manon is a booknerd and loves the real feel of paper. She couldn’t travel with only an ereader! With that being said, we also have plenty of ebooks on our iPad because otherwise, it would get too heavy in our backpack 😉 Of course, traveling with only an ereader would be the best way so we definitely recommend that!
For guidebooks, we really love the Lonely Planet and buy them for every place we go. We also love some good travel-themed books.
Things we brought but never used
Unfortunately, there are also many things that we brought with us on our trips but never used. Some of those items stayed in our backpacks for the whole trip, which is definitely a shame of the space! Those items are:
- Spork: a plastic spoon, fork, and knife in one. Seriously never used it because it wasn’t easy to use and we never needed it anyway. You can always get cutlery somewhere.
- Foldable plate: same story. We never needed it, as we always got a plate somewhere and while we were traveling in our campervan we immediately bought a few normal ones.
- Playing cards: a lot of people love taking this and play it a lot, but we do not really game people and never used them.
- Washcloth: the Dutch ‘washandje’, to wash your face with. Never used it and especially not because the fabric was the same as the lightweight towel.
- Pocket body wash: we mean those small soap papers so you don’t have to take liquid with you. We found these things so annoying to use so we never used them again!
- Earbuds: ok, sometimes these might come in handy when someone is really snoring in your hostel but I personally can’t stand to have them in my ear and I think they won’t help anyway.
- Point it book: a book with pictures so you can point at them when you want to make something clear if people don’t speak English. We literally never needed this book, as everybody spoke English or we could figure it out with hands and feet. If you’re going to really remote places in a non-English country it might be sometimes handy though.
- Foldable drinking bottle: in essence a good concept but we just didn’t use it because we mostly took a big bottle of water on our hikes.
- Binoculars: this is actually pretty funny because Bram was really enthusiastic to take these binoculars with him on our first world trip but in the end, we never ever looked through them 😛
Of course, it is possible that you will use these items on your travels, so if you’re packing them or not depends on you. This is just to show you what we didn’t use.
During our first world trip: too much stuff haha. We learned to pack better now 😉
Still finding it really hard to pack everything you need in one backpack? Then there are some other things you can do, which we did often as well!
- Send things home when you don’t need them anymore: we do this all the time! Especially after a year in Australia, we collected way too much stuff and of course couldn’t take it all with us to the next country. We therefore gave a lot away but sent the stuff we wanted to keep home. We also do this with finished books we don’t want to throw away and with souvenirs we collected during our travels.
- Other way around: let your parents send you stuff you might only need later in the trip. For example, if you’re only going to warm destinations for the first half year of your trip and only after that are going to a winter destination, then it seems pointless to carry all that stuff around for a half year for nothing. It would be smarter to let someone at home send you your winter clothes only at the time you need them.
- Consider taking an extra suitcase: yes, officially this is cheating, but when you know that you’re gonna stay for a year in one country and are living in an apartment there or have a campervan, then it doesn’t hurt to take one extra suitcase. We did this after we stayed for a year in Australia (where we collected too much stuff) and knew we were going to stay for a year as well in New Zealand. A lot of stuff we bought in Australia were for working and camping and as we were going to work again in New Zealand and buy a campervan, it was cheaper to take all this extra stuff with us than to buy everything new! Of course, we won’t take an extra suitcase when we’re going backpacking in Asia after NZ (imagine that :P), but yes, an extra suitcase could be an option sometimes.
- You don’t have to be a minimalist: if all the tips before fail then remember: you certainly don’t have to be a minimalist. We are definitely not like that and seriously stuff as much in our backpack as we can. Yes, that sometimes means that Manon almost falls over and it isn’t the most ideal thing to do but hey, if you like to have enough clothes to wear, then that’s totally fine 😉
How to pack your backpack
Ok, so now you have a whole list of things you really need to take on a long-term trip. What is the best way to fit it all in your backpack? We’ll talk about that soon in a new blog post on our website!
Packing our bags before our second world trip
All of this is a pretty long list and you’re probably wondering now: how am I gonna remember this all? Do you prefer a clear overview of all the things you need to pack and would you like to print it out? We thought of that! Just to make sure that you won’t forget what you need to pack and have everything on one clear list, we made a FREE printable PDF version of the packing list. Keep the packing list with you when you’re packing and you will never forget anything! It’s easy: just enter your details in the form and you’ll immediately receive the packing list in your mailbox from us!
So that was our ultimate packing list for long-term travel! We hope you find this blog useful and of course, we hope you can now create your own packing list much easier! Let us know in the comments what you think and if you have any other useful additions 🙂
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